Saturday, January 31, 2004

I just got back from an amazing landscape architecture symposia sponsored by the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. There were some amazing presentations, including a talk on urban ecology by Steward Pickett, head of the Baltimore Long Term Ecological Research project and a talk by Ann Whiston Spirn, author of the classic urban environmental design text The Granite Garden--see her work on the West Philadelphia Landscape Project. William Mitchell, Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT talked about telecommunication networks--great stuff that brought to mind the problems birds have with powerlines and communication towers and the work to deal with this problem at www.towerkill.com.

One of the most inspiring talks was by veteran landscape architect Grant Jones, founder of Jones & Jones landscape architecture firm in Seattle--looking at poetry and landscape--including designing for the four worlds of animals, nature, humans, and spirit. I'm sure I'll have more on this later...but very fruitful conversations and presentations.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

This past weekend I conducted an owl ecology and nest box workshop at the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in Austin, Texas. We had 60 participants and created an online notebook to share ideas and information about owls using human-constructed nesting and roosting boxes. In many parts of the country, urban screech owls will readily nest in boxes provided for them...as will Barred Owls and Burrowing Owls. Check out this nest box cams for Barred Owls, information on artificial burrows for Burrowing Owls, and links for info on owl nest boxes.

If you have an owl box, please share your experiences and expertise hosting owls at the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory Owl Monitoring Website.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

This from the latest Audubon Advisory, Audubon's Twice-Monthly Legislative Update, January 16, 2004, (Vol. 2004, Issue 1) online at
Audubon: Issues & Actions:

On November 12th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee allotted $958 million dollars over six years for nationwide efforts to control pollution from roads, buildings, driveways and lawns - referred to as 'urban stormwater.' As you know, urban stormwater is the technical name for rainwater washing over dirty surfaces like roads and sidewalks, flushing cigarette butts, pieces of paper or plastic bags, detergents, oils and fertilizers, and drips of gasoline directly into our streams, rivers and beach areas, after traveling through stormwater drains. Stormwater runoff causes impaired water quality and nutrient pollution in the bays or estuaries that the runoff flows into. Nutrient pollution can result in low levels of dissolved oxygen that result in fish kills and die-offs of submerged aquatic plants that are vitally important to the survival of so many aquatic species and waterfowl. It's a growing problem local and state governments are beginning to face. Setting aside new federal dollars for stormwater programs is a big first step! The full Senate is expected to take up the measure in 2004 - and we'll be counting on your support to help encourage the Senate to push this through! "

Besides increasing runoff or stormwater, higher levels of impervious cover in cities also limits bird habitat. By decreasing the area of impervious surfaces, more land is available for vegetation and bird habitat. The creation of rain gardens--vegetated areas to trap runoff--in place of storm drains, is a viable strategy for both improving water quality, reducing flooding, and creating bird habitat. There are excellent web resources on rain gardens, including this neighborhood site from Minnesota, with valuable links.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Conservation Ecology: Biodiversity, Urban Areas, and Agriculture: Locating Priority Ecoregions for Conservation

This recent article by Taylor Ricketts of the World Wildlife Fund and Marc Imhoff of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center combined remotely sensed data on urbanization with species richness measures to determine where urbanization may pose the greatest threats to biodiversity in North America. They found high levels of biodiversity and urbanization in the southeastern U.S., California, the U.S. midwest, the Atlantic Coast, and south Texas. Since the authors find that "urban cover is positively correlated with both species richness and endemism," they conclude that "conservation efforts in densely populated areas therefore may be equally important (if not more so) as preserving remote parks in relatively pristine regions."
Welcome to Urban Birdscapes...musings on wildlife and nature conservation in North American cities from a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Texas-Austin. This blog is dedicated to urban birds and the people who study, enjoy, and work to protect them.

© Copyright 2004 Rob Fergus All rights reserved.