Tag Archives: American Avocet

Fewer Birds – Follow-up

NOTE: This post is a bit of a downer. If that’s not your thing today, feel free to look at the photos and move on. But if you’re interested in nature, wildlife, and conservation – please read.

Back in March, I wrote this post about using eBird.org to try to figure out whether there are fewer American Avocets at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge now than there used to be.

Good MorningGood Morning*

I enjoyed doing the research and learning more about how to use eBird. But my conclusion at the time was:

“Is there a way to determine the accurate numbers? Sorry – I couldn’t find one. But I’ll keep looking and let you know.”

Well I kept looking and I’ve found some things to share. A while back, MK told me about a report she heard on NPR’s Fresh Air – Dave Davies interviewing Scott Weidensaul about his new book A World On the Wing. It sounded interesting and I was excited when MK got me a copy of the book for my birthday. I’m about a third of the way through it now. I like the book and the writing, although much of the data it presents is disturbing.

Starting on page 146, Weidensaul describes finding out about a blockbuster analysis published in the September 2019 issue of Science magazine: Decline of the North American avifauna (the article is paywalled, but if you sign up for a free account you can read it). I’ll quote here from the abstract:

“Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, we report population losses across much of the North American avi- fauna over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance.”

Abstract, Decline of the North American avifauna, Science, Vol. 366, No. 6461, 19 Sep 2019, pages 120 – 124

The article doesn’t speak specifically of Avocets, but does say that shorebirds “are experiencing consistent, steep population loss.” So I think that probably answers my original question.

Clouds over Gator CreekClouds over Gator Creek*

And it raises many more questions. These losses are massive and the causes are varied and complex. They range from climate change impacts along migration routes, to land development. What can we do about it? I hope we’ll figure that out and make sure all of our decisions account for future impacts. Then maybe someday our grandchildren will see at least as many Avocets as we do.

*These two photos don’t have much to do with the subject. But since this is a photo blog I try to always have some in each post. I guess you could say they do illustrate the idea though – there are no birds in them.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And support conservation efforts, so we can still make some bird photos in the future.

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Fewer birds?

I was browsing through my photo archives last week and came across an unprocessed RAW image of an American Avocet and its reflection. I thought it had potential so I went ahead and worked on it.

American AvocetAmerican Avocet

I made this in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on March 3, 2015. It got me thinking – I know, proceed with caution, right?

The last time I was over there, I spent a few minutes talking to someone and he mentioned that there are fewer birds there now than there used to be. I hear comments like that a lot when when I’m out photographing. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen an Avocet but I knew it’d been a while. Maybe there are fewer of them around. When I went back into my archives in Lightroom, it turned out my most recent photo of one is from January of 2021.

I don’t see too many of them, and they’re distinctive enough that I’m sure I’d notice them if they were there. But my data is sparse and can’t really say if these birds are getting less frequent around here. So how can I tell?

I’ve mentioned eBird.org before. It’s managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and collects data on bird sightings from all over the world to “document distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends”. Maybe if we look there we can see if there are fewer Avocets now at MINWR.

There’s a tremendous amount of data and science resources on eBird. But I couldn’t find specific information on year to year trends. So I looked at the specific page for MINWR bird observations: https://ebird.org/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2022&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L123565. If you search for American Avocet on that page and click on the little graph symbol next to the name, it opens this page: https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L123565&bmo=1&emo=12&byr=1900&eyr=2022&spp=ameavo

Then you can select different metrics and date ranges. I chose to look at the “Totals” tab, which is the “sum total of all counts from all observations for a species within a specified date range and region”. I picked two date ranges: 2007 – 2014, and 2015 – 2022 to compare and see if I could tell if there are fewer avocets now than when I first started going over to MINWR.

American Avocets: Total observations by month at MINWR, 2007 – 2014. Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 3/26/22.
American Avocets: Total observations by month at MINWR, 2015 – 2022. Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 3/26/22

This seems to say there are about twice as many American Avocets seen at MINWR recently than there used to be. But… it isn’t normalized to account for the increased reporting by more birders as time goes on. So I don’t think these numbers are an accurate representation of the number of Avocets actually there. Is there a way to determine the accurate numbers? Sorry – I couldn’t find one. But I’ll keep looking and let you know.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some bird photos now – in case their are fewer opportunities in the future.

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Avocets and Cedar Wax Wing at Black Point Wildlife Drive

Lynn and I went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge this morning and drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Water is very low and much of the bird population seems to have gone elsewhere. But we did see the regulars, including Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Great Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Kingfishers, Black Vultures, Blue Wing Teals, and Red Wing Blackbirds.  We saw only a few Coots and Moorhens – nowhere near the hundreds that are typical.

The highlights of the trip for me were:

American Avocets
American Avocets in breeding colors: We saw a few of these and heard many others. They’re much more fancy at this time of year than with their normal black and white coloring.

Solitary Cedar Waxwing
Solitary Cedar Waxwing: I usually see these in flocks. This one just sat there looking around. It’s the clearest photo I’ve made of one.

There was a Northern Bobwhite male near the restroom parking area, but it moved into cover before I could raise my camera.  I also added an Eastern Kingbird to my life list.  And I saw a Swallow Tail Kite on the way home along State Road 50, but again was unable to get a photo.  Something about me driving and photographing at the same time seems to make Lynn nervous.

It was a very pleasant trip — especially with Lynn along!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island Scouting Report – Saturday, December 10

Lutfi, Kevn M., and I set off for Viera Wetlands last Saturday, but on the way we kept passing through light rain showers.  Since it’d rained off and on for the past week, we worried they’d close the area to cars, so we switched destinations and decided to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge instead of Viera.

We got to East Gator Creek Road in time for sunrise, but the cloud cover was too dense for any blog worthy photos.  After sunrise, the gloomy light made bird photography difficult too – it was a good thing I brought my flash along to help.  We’d seen some reports of Horned Grebes at MINWR on Flickr, and sure enough one showed up almost right away.  She wasn’t shy and swam right up to us.

Horned Grebe Female
Horned Grebe Female – My first photo of one.  MINWR has been very productive for me as a source of “life birds”.  These are winter visitors.  Hopefully I can sight a male in breeding colors later this season.

Next we went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

It was a little cloudy this morning
It was a little cloudy that morning: Infra-red capture can really bring out the details and contrast in a somewhat gloomy scene.

Unlike some previous trips to BPWD, there are huge numbers of birds there now.  It’s a great time to visit – The water levels are high and the winter visitors have started to arrive!

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark – another life bird for me.  These are year round residents in Florida, but I hadn’t photographed one before.

We saw large flocks of Coots, Pintails, and many Grebes.  There were a variety of shorebirds too.  We saw Reddish Egrets, Belted Kinfishers, Great Blue Herons, Tri-Colored Herons, Little Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Savanah Sparrows, Lesser Yellowlegs, Green Wing Teals, Eastern Meadowlarks, American Avocets and others.  There were also many spoonbills flying around (but none seemed to want to land near us).

Follow the leader: American Avocets, winter plumage
Follow the leader: American Avocets, winter plumage – not my first sighting of these, but one of my best photos of them.  These are also winter visitors to Florida.

Before heading home, we went by the MINWR Visitor’s Center to check on the Painted Buntings. Unfortunately, there weren’t any around this time – although the rangers told us they’d seen them that morning.

If you’ve wanted to visit MINWR, now’s a great time.  For a preview of some of the things you might see, take a look at  my MINWR set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved