August 2020

Vol. 48, No. 4

Zaps 48.4

Zaps are notes of awareness and pleas for action that appear in the corresponding print edition of Bird Observer. Here they are from the current issue.

The Birding Community E-Bulletin June 202.

Birding While Black

Just in case you haven't heard the story of Christian Cooper, African American birder, and his experience in Central Park, New York City, last month, here's a short summary... and a lesson.

On 25 May, Chris Cooper, an avid birder, asked a white woman, Amy Cooper (no relation) to control her dog while in the park. Her dog was running unleashed at the Ramble, the most densely vegetated section of Central Park. This is also the most popular section of the park for birding during migration, and there are clearly posted park instructions at the Ramble concerning the leashing of dogs.

"It's posted all over the Ramble: dogs are supposed to be on a leash at all times, but unfortunately, we've had a problem with this for many, many years. A lot of us have been recording these incidents," Chris Cooper said, noting that these recordings could be used as evidence for why the rule must be enforced.

The woman refused to leash her rogue cocker spaniel that was tearing through the plantings. Then the encounter took an ugly turn.

As the birder, Chris, filmed on his phone, the woman, clutched her thrashing dog and called the police, her voice rising in near-hysteria. "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she said to him while dialing, then repeated to the operator, twice, "African American."

Chris Cooper, in a calm voice, encouraged her to make the call.

The video, posted to Twitter on Memorial Day by Chris Cooper's sister, has been viewed more than 30 million times! This has touched off intense discussions about the history of false accusations made to the police against black people, including putting their lives in danger. This also helps to accentuate the risks that some of our fellow birders experience in the context of "birding while black."

The police said when they arrived at the scene, neither party was there, so it led to no arrests. But, after further investigation, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City called the event an example of "racism, plain and simple."

You can access a summary of the event here from Now This:

And here, from The View

MassWildlife July 2020

Peregrine Falcon Restoration Reaches New Heights in Massachusetts

As part of routine summer monitoring, MassWildlife biologists criss-crossed the state visiting nest sites to band Peregrine Falcon chicks. Thanks to enthusiastic volunteer observers and other conservation partners, a total of 46 territorial pairs were documented statewide. Most pairs are nesting on man-made sites such as buildings, bridges, and quarry cliffs. A few pairs are raising young on mountainside cliffs in more remote parts of the state. Two new nests were confirmed in Springfield and three historical nests have been reconfirmed in Bourne, Sandisfield, and Worcester..

MassWildlife biologists successfully banded over 40 chicks with small metal leg bands inscribed with a unique identification number. Staff use this information to track individual peregrines through observations reported by the public. This helps biologists learn about these protected birds' movements, life span, and breeding activity. Web cameras are another useful tool to monitor peregrine nests for eggs, hatched chicks, and fledged chicks. A new Peregrine Falcon nest camera was installed by MassDOT this year at the Gillis Bridge in Newburyport. Get an inside look at the nests of the fastest birds on Earth through one of the live peregrine nest cameras before the young ones leave their nests!

Other highlights from this year's monitoring include identification of a Peregrine Falcon at a nest site in South Hadley. This male was banded 17 years ago as a chick in Fairlee, Vermont on May 29, 2003. Peregrine Falcons from Massachusetts have dispersed far and wide. A female peregrine banded in May of 2013 in Cambridge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus has now established a nest at the University of Montreal. (Hopefully her college credits from MIT transferred!) This female, lovingly referred to as Spirit, can be seen on this live nest cam.

Before restoration efforts, the last active Peregrine Falcon nest in the Commonwealth was documented in 1955. Nesting failures were due mostly to the eggshell thinning effects of DDT and similar pesticides. The Peregrine Falcon was listed as endangered in 1969 under the federal Endangered Species Conservation Act and the use of DDT in the United States was banned in 1972. Peregrine Falcon restoration became MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program first restoration project in 1984 and is its longest running project to date. The first successful nesting pair in Massachusetts occurred in 1987 on the Custom House Tower in Boston. The Peregrine Falcon was removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species in 1999. In Massachusetts, the Peregrine Falcon's status under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) has improved over the decades. In late 2019, due to continued conservation efforts, the bird's MESA status was improved from threatened to special concern..

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