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With lots of Bald Eagles, less Florida Jays, and 1 Wolverine  

Armas Hill has presented the "Birdline", originally from Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for over 3 decades, and on the radio in Delaware for about 10 years.


A List & Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts

A List & Photo Gallery of North American Mammals

An adult Bald Eagle

The Birdline & Natureline for December 4, 2011:

In Duluth, Minnesota, on November 25, a large number of BALD EAGLES flew by the hawk watch at Hawk Ridge, 453 that day, bringing the season's total, as of then, to 5,301, a new record for BALD EAGLES there.
The previous seasonal record of BALD EAGLES there was 4,519, and that last year, during the 2010 southbound migration.  

At a couple of the hawk watches in Pennsylvania, this season, numbers of BALD EAGLES, as of December 2, have been 418 at Waggoner's Gap, and 287 at Hawk Mountain.
Numbers of GOLDEN EAGLES at those two hawk watches so far this season have been 188 at Waggoner's Gap and 106 at Hawk Mountain. 

A good place to see a large number of BALD EAGLES lately has been the Conowingo Dam in Maryland, where US Route 1 crosses the Susquehanna River. On the west side of the river, go south to the Fishermans Park by the river, below the dam.
Last weekend, counts of BALD EAGLES there ranged from 60 at once to about twice that, 125. Another tally there recently was of about 200 BALD EAGLES, on the rocks, in the trees, on the power line towers, or in the air.    

A good place to see GULLS lately has been Niagara Falls, New York, with 12 species of GULLS in recent days.
1 or 2 CALIFONRIA GILLS were observed there on November 26 & 27, at the lower river power plants, or above the falls off the Three Sisters Islands.
A FRANKLIN'S GULL has been at the power plants, or upriver at the Devil's Hole State Park.
A BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE has been by the Whirlpool.
And other GULLS that have been at the falls and lower river have been: LITTLE GULL, BONAPARTE'S GULL, RING-BILLED GULL, HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, and a probable THAYER'S GULL at the power plants.

Unusual away from the ocean, a RAZORBILL has been in that area, at the Niagara River currents off the Fort Niagara State Park at Lake Ontario. As of at least, November 26.

A "mystery hummingbird" that's been visiting a feeder in Oak Park, Illinois, recently, thought by some to be a BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, has been said to be rather a RUFOUS x CALLIOPE HYBRID. 
Something related to this occurrence is interesting: according to Sheri Williamson (the author of the Peterson Series Field Guide to Hummingbirds), a hummingbird that occurred previously in Illinois that was said to have been a "BROAD-TAILED" was not (it was misidentified and included on a range map in the book just mentioned), and another "BROAD-TAILED" that was in California is now said to have been misidentified, having probably also been a hybrid.

Two notable birds at Cape May, New Jersey, during recent days, have been a BELL'S VIREO and an adult male PAINTED BUNTING.
A week or so earlier, an adult male PAINTED BUNTING made a brief appearence in Connecticut.

Among the places where PAINTED BUNTINGS normally occur this time of year is Florida.
And that's where we'll now shift our attention, but relating to another bird, the only bird species that occurs only in Florida, the FLORIDA SCRUB JAY.
There has been a study of that species lately by the Avian Ecology Program, of the Archbold Biological Station.
And, from it, the unfortunate news is that the population of the FLORIDA SCRUB JAY has dropped significantly during the last 2 decades. and that has been even with significant efforts to protect the species.
In managed "study areas", the population has fallen by as much as 25 per cent. It is likely that throughout Florida the total population has declined by as much as 35 to 40 per cent.

The FLORIDA SCRUB JAY is classified as "vulnerable to extinction" by Birdlife International. It is listed as a "threatened species" by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
In 1993, there were an estimated 4,000 breeding pairs.
In Brevard County, the county where the species has been the most numerous, the decline, since the 1993 census, has been about 33 per cent.  
The recent (and still ongoing) study, noted above, has looked at FLORIDA SCRUB JAY populations at 198 different sites. At 178 sites, the population declined by 25% from 1992-93 to 2009-10.   
Notable among the managed sites experiencing declines has been the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which has lost 109 "groups" of jays.
At the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area, 35 "groups" of jays has dropped to 3.
At 54 managed areas where FLORIDA SCRUB JAYS occurred in 1992-93, they no longer do.
On the other side of the coin, now, at 15 managed sites where FLORIDA SCRUB JAYS were not present in 1992-93, they now are.

Also positive, there has been in Florida the state-funded acquisition of 280,000 acres of scrub habitat in recent years. So, with attention from the continuing study, and with conservation efforts, the story for the FLORIDA SCRUB JAY could change for better. And, thus, the species would not follow the path of the DUSKY SEASIDE SPARROW, the last bird in Florida (a subspecies) to have gone extinct, back in 1975.
An attempt to conserve the FLORIDA SCRUB JAY, and to give it more publicity, is a current campaign to name it as the new state bird. The current state bird of Florida, the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, is also the state bird of several other states.

Recently, on the Birdline, we've told of birds such as OSPREYS and EURASIAN CUCKOOS being tracked by radio transmitters. Now, here, on the Natureline, a species of mammal that's being so-tracked, the WOLVERINE.

A lone WOLVERINE that arrived in Colorado in early June 2011 was the first confirmed WOLVERINE in Colorado since 1919.

Late the previous year, in December of 2010, and further north, biologists outfitted a young WOLVERINE with a tracking collar, as part of a reintroduction program.
That animal made a 500-mile journey from where it has been caught in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It was tracked as it crossed rugged terrain and some busy highways in Wyoming, from the Togwotee Pass to the Wind River Range and across sagebrush areas. The lone animal traveled until it entered Colorado on June 1.

The Wolverine reintroduction program, just referred to, began in 2001.

Most WOLVERINES live in Alaska and Canada. But formerly the animal did range in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, California, and Washington State.

The WOLVERINE is one of the most elusive of mammals, a mysterious creature. It is known as being fearless and aggressive. It is strong, tenacious, sharp-toothed, and cunning.
Although adult WOLVERINES typically weigh about 30 pounds, they are stocky and "bear-like", and they prey on animals larger than they are. Even though the WOLVERINE is not a big animal, it is the largest land-dwelling member of the weasel family.

WOLVERINES have evolved to require huge territories for roaming. A male's territory might be as much as 500 square miles, and he might share the landscape with 2 or 3 females that breed every other year, and usually produce a litter of two. Thus the species has a slow reproduction rate.

Although a good survivor in nature, the WOLVERINE could not survive the trappers who prized its almost waterproof fur, and the ranchers who killed it with poison bait. So the animal pretty much vanished from the lower 48 states about a century ago.

The WOLVERINE in Colorado in 2011 was the first known to be in the state in 90 years. And, thus far, the only one.

As noted above, a tracking program of the elusive WOLVERINE began in Wyoming, in the area of Yellowstone Park, about 10 years ago in 2001. Since then, some other interesting findings, in addition to those already mentioned here, were noted in the first of a series of papers published this week, in the Journal of Wildlife Management, by scientists in the Wildlife Conservation Society and their state and federal partners.
Such noted things are that WOLVERINES were born during February in snow-caves at 9,000 feet above sea-level on the slopes of craggy peaks in the Rocky Mountains. Adults lived year-round in the high mountains, near the alpine tree-line.
The WOLVERINE'S capability for movement is stunning, to say the least. Their large feet allow them to "float" on the top of deep snow.
Unfortunately, two of the radio-collared WOLVERINES were killed by avalanches.
And it has been noted that WOLVERINES can be a fierce competitors. One was documented as challenging a BEAR about 10 times his size over an elk carcass.

Historically, the WOLVERINE occurred in eastern North America. In the book, "The Mammals of Pennsylvania & New Jersey - A Biographic, Historic, and Descriptive Account of the Furred Animals of Land and Sea, both Living and Extinct, known to have Existed in These States" (now truly that's a title !), by Samuel Rhoads, published in 1903, reference is made to the WOLVERINE.

It was also called the GLUTTON, or CARCAJOU, by Rhoads in the book just mentioned. The species, by the way, was described by Linnaeus in 1766, when it was said by him to be in genus URSUS, that of the BEARS.

Rhoads (in 1903) stated that the WOLVERINE was the rarest animal in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, when it was only found in the most boreal localities in the state as a straggler. The very few records were of animals that had been caught in traps.  

Today, in eastern North America, the WOLVERINE is only found in northern Canada. It has generally been in the Hudsonian and Canadian Zones, but historically it was found as far south as Pennsylvania and Colorado.         

There's an interesting file, with the link below, in the FONT website, listing the mammals of eastern North America, with some photos. Reference is made to the 1903 book by Samuel Rhoads.

In that Mammals of eastern North America file, among the interesting notes are these:

About the native ELK, that were once numerous in Pennsylvania, up to the early 19th Century, in the Allegheny Mountains. 

About the AMERICAN BISON that "was once found in Pennsylvania in the valleys and mountain glades of the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny Rivers, whence it passed sparingly eastward across the Allegheny passes into the tributary valleys of the Susquehanna, thence reaching the Delaware Valley only as a straggler." (In 1903, in addition to long titles, there were words such as "whence" and "thence".)

About the single BELUGA that was in the Delaware River (between Pennsylvania & New Jersey) in April 2005.
It traveled as far north in the river as the fall line at Trenton, spending the week of April 11 in the river between Trenton and Philadelphia, before last being seen in the middle of the Delaware Bay on April 18.    

About a PUMA, that was first noted in Greenwich, Connecticut on June 20, 2011, and was later roadkilled one month later, on July 20, 2011 in Milford, Connecticut.
That animal went to Connecticut on its own from the Black Hills of South Dakota. In June 2010, it was in Minnesota and Wisconsin. To get to Connecticut, it traveled 1,500 miles (without getting killed on a highway).

About the WEST INDIAN MANATEE that was present in Calvert County, Maryland on July 15, 2011. 

And, lastly, and most recently:

Noting the disease, identified this past year, affecting a large number of LITTLE BROWN BATS.
Called WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME is has been deadly for those bats. The disease has spread rapidly since its discovery in 2006 in New York State. Thus far, BAT DECLINES in the northeastern US have exceeded 80 per cent.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and partner institutions have identified the cause of WHITE NOSE SYNDROME as a fungus appropriately known as GEOMYCES DESTRUCTANS.
The research has shown that the fungus can be spread through contact between individual bats during hibernation.

We anticipate having more information here about the BATS and this disease sometime in the future, with data from some surveys. 

The Birdline (and the Natureline) are affiliates of Focus On Nature Tourswww.focusonnature.com

The WOLVERINE in Colorado was referred to this time. Next spring, there will be a FONT tour in Colorado, and some adjacent states, April 13-22, 2012
Primarily to be seen will be the GROUSE: including the SAGE, GUNNISON, DUSKY and SHARP-TAILED, and the PRAIRIE CHICKENS, the GREATER and the LESSER, as they display. But also there will be an assortment of other BIRDS and MAMMALS, but be assured the WOLVERINE most likely won't be among them.

Also the FLORIDA SCRUB JAY was referred to. A tour in Florida, for BIRDS & BUTTERFLIES, is being added to the FONT schedule this upcoming spring. 

Armas Hill has presented the Birdline, originally from Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for decades (3), and on the radio in Delaware for years (10).

Past Birdlines and Naturelines can be found at:   http://www.focusonnature.com/Birdline.htm


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