Technical details

I’m in the middle of moving this website to a new server. The new server will get rid of the ads, which were never a part of this blog, but something added by WordPress. If you have this site bookmarked as “” there should be no change. There will also be no change if you get a weekly email through MailChimp.

The move is taking longer than I expected, but it is not taking a month and a half. The big gap in posts is due to other things, and I took advantage of the hiatus to make the server change. I will start posting again as soon as I’m functional on the new server.

Also as soon as the site is functional on the new server, I’ll work on getting the people who have email subscriptions through WordPress moved. There are just a very few of you.

Thanks for your patience. Looking forward to seeing you on the new server.

Lost in Migration

European_Robin_2German scientists have found that radio waves can throw birds off their migration paths. The phenomenon is most acute in cities. The paper was published in Nature last week.

The scientists discovered the issue when trying to research the impacts of subtle magnetic fields on bird migration in their lab in Oldenburg, Germany, a BBC article reports. A much-replicated method of studying bird migration and magnetic fields didn’t work until the scientists shielded their experiment from radio waves of a certain frequency.

They study found that birds are adversely affected by EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation and levels much lower than humans are. So low, in fact, that the BBC article says only quantum level phenomena can explain it.

The research was conducted for seven years. In the BBC article, a scientist explained that the team wanted to be extra careful before reporting the unexpected findings, which they knew would be controversial.

Read the Nature article here. (Subscription or fee required for full article.)
BBC article here.
Article in The Australian, here.

Photo: European robin, the subject of the lab experiments. By Sunnyjim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-uk (, via Wikimedia Commons

First Wild CWD in Iowa

Late 2012 saw first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive deer in Iowa, and there has been chronic wasting disease in wild deer in every state bordering Iowa, but Iowa only recorded its first case of CWD in a wild deer in the state in an announcement on April 9.

According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release, “The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County during the first shotgun season in early December.”

The state is formulating a response plan and coordinating efforts with nearby Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A report by KTVO says that the gates of the hunting facility in Davis County where the first case of CWD was found two years ago were chained open when the facility was supposed to be quarantined to protect local deer from the disease.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release is here.
A Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about the finding is here.
A Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin article is here.
The Des Moines Register article is here.
And the KTVO report is here.

White Nose in Michigan and Wisconsin

Bat_Skulls_and_Bones_on_Cave_FloorOn April 10, both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced confirmation of white nose syndrome in bats in each of their states.

The Michigan DNR press release said: “Five little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) showing disease characteristics were collected in February and March during routine WNS surveillance by Dr. Allen Kurta and Steve Smith, researchers from Eastern Michigan University.”

In Wisconsin, a DNR press release said: “Results from visual inspection and genetic and tissue tests completed earlier this month showed that 2 percent of bats in a single mine in southwestern Wisconsin had the disease, named for the characteristic white fuzz on their nose, wings and tails, according to Erin Crain, who leads the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program.”

More details are available in this article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune also did a story.
Here’s the Michigan DNR press release.And here’s the Wisconsin DNR press release.

Photo: Bat skulls and bones on the floor of Mount Aeolus Cave in Vermont, courtesy of Michigan DNR, photo by Ann Froschauer, USFWS

Low Lead in Arizona Condors

Condor_bloodwork_webIt’s been a good year for lead levels in condors in Arizona and Utah. While last year saw the second worst levels on record, this year saw the lowest level in a decade, says a press release from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“The ups and downs of lead poisoning over the years demonstrate that any single season does not make a trend, but our test results are encouraging,” said Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund’s condor project in the release. “If this ends up being the beginning of a trend, we hope it will continue.”

Arizona Game and Fish, as well as the Peregrine Fund, which also distributed the release, believe that voluntary lead ammunition measures in the two states has contributed to the lower lead levels in condors there. Another factor may be the unseasonably mild winter, the release says.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Chris Parish, condor program coordinator for The Peregrine Fund is quoted as saying, “The half life of lead in blood is a very short period. That gives us a relatively good indication of where and when exposure may have happened.”

The Tribune article also says that 78 percent of hunters in condor country who were contacted were voluntarily using non-lead ammunition. In 2011 the number was 10 percent.

More details in the Arizona Game and Fish press release here. (Halfway down the page.)
The same press release is here on its own page at the Peregrine Fund website.
The Salt Lake City Tribune article is here.

Photo: Courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department





Lyme Ticks Don’t Harm Mice

cary institute mouse taggingThe ticks that carry Lyme disease, black-legged ticks or deer ticks, do not appear to harm their white-footed mice hosts, a paper in press in the journal Ecology says. In fact, the research found, a larger tick load correlated with a longer life in male mice.

The mice are a reservoir for Lyme disease, a report on the study in Entomology Today notes. “Deer and other mammals can spread tick populations, [but] they do not carry the disease,” the report says. “Instead, ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from white-footed mice.”

In a press release from the Cary Institute, paper co-author Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, says, “From a human health perspective, the indifference that white-footed mice have to black-legged ticks…. signals a positive feedback loop that favors the proliferation of parasites.”

Lots of details in the Cary Institute press release, here.
And in the Entomology Today article, here.

Photo: The study drew on 16 years of white-footed mouse mark-and-recapture data collected at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. Photo credit: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies/Sam Cillo.

Idaho Receives Permit to Kill Ravens

Raven“The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will conduct lethal control actions on ravens in three study areas in southern Idaho beginning this spring, and evaluate whether the removal improves sage-grouse populations,” a department press release says. Sage-grouse are a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the press release notes.

A Reuters article that ran in the Chicago Tribune points out that the department has ranked predation 12th out of 19 causes of the sage grouse’s decline. The Reuters article also notes that because ravens are protected under federal law, the state needed, and received, a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Department for the lethal control study.

The Reuters article also notes that Nevada has already killed thousands of ravens in recent years in an attempt to save the sage grouse.

The Idaho press release says that raven populations have risen dramatically in the West. It also says that it will “work with landowners and land management agencies to implement non-lethal control of raven populations into the future. The goal will be to limit the ability of ravens to nest on artificial nesting structures, such as water towers, old buildings and transmission structures, and reducing or eliminating attractants such as dead livestock and garbage.”

Read the Idaho Department of Fish and Game press release here. It contains a link to a map of the study area.
Read the Reuters story in the Chicago Tribune here.

Photo: Raven, by Gary Stolz, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Toilet Vent Screens Save Birds

owl toiletA vault toilet is a more or less a permanent porta-potty, used in places without running water. Many state and federal agencies are fond of them. I’m fairly certain that I’ve used one in a National Forest recently.

The problem is small, cavity nesting birds. They see that pipe, think it’s a cavity, slide down into the pit and are unable to get out. At particular risk are western screech and northern saw whet owls, says a recent USDA blog post.

Recently, the Forest Service’s Wings Across America gave an award to the Teton Raptor Center for its Poo-Poo Project. According to the project’s website: “In 2010, Teton Raptor Center initiated a community driven project to install 100 screens on the ventilation pipes of toilets throughout Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.”

Problem solved. Are the vault toilet vents in your state capped?

The Poo Poo project sells the screened vent caps for about $30 each, including hardware and shipping and handling. They offer a bulk rate too. The order form is here.

Here’s the US Forest Service blog post.
Here’s the Poo Poo Project website.

Photo: This is what an owl stuck in a vault toilet looks like. USDA Forest Service photo.

Elk Update

More Cervid Contraception: GonaCon and ElkIn February, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission collared 11 elk for a study in north-central Nebraska. There are a few more details in this brief KOLN-TV report.

A new elk study in Montana got more coverage. There, 45 cow and 20 bull elk were fitted with tracking collars. Five of those were traditional radio collars, the rest were GPS collars. The two year study will investigate elk movement patterns and food. Read about it in the Ravalli Republic.

In Wyoming, the concern is the potential to spread of chronic wasting disease at the 22 artificial feeding stations run by the state and one at the National Elk Refuge. Read the opinion piece in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.

An opinion piece that is getting a lot of buzz ran in the New York Times recently. It says that wolves did not fix the Yellowstone ecosystem by preying on elk and allowing aspen to grow. No, the article says, the Yellowstone ecosystem is broken, and mere wolves can’t fix it. Read the article in the New York Times, here.

Photo of bull elk courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Asian Carp Head North

asian carp map 4-13“Asian carp have harmed the ecosystem, the economy, property, and boaters in the Mississippi River system. The diet of Asian carp overlaps with the diet of native fishes in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, meaning the carp compete directly with native fish for food,” says the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee website.

That website, and other information on Asian carp, emphasize the danger to humans from the carp. The carp are large and jump as high as 10 feet out of the water when startled. Since passing boats startle the fish, they injure boaters.

The focus has been on keeping Asian carp, a term that includes both bighead carp and silver carp out of the Great Lakes, which already has enough invasive species, thank you, and where the carp are expected to do horrible things to the food chain.

This week, however, the bad news is that Asian carp have spread farther north in the Mississippi River. Their eggs have been found as far north as Lynxville, Wisc.

“This discovery means that Asian carp spawned much farther north in the Mississippi than previously recorded,” said Leon Carl, US Geological Survey Midwest Regional Director in a USGS press release. “The presence of eggs in the samples indicates that spawning occurred, but we do not know if eggs hatched and survived or whether future spawning events would result in live fish.”

Read the USGS press release with all the details, here.
Read an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, based mostly on the press release here.
Another article, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, also leans heavily on the press release. Read it here.

Map: Asian carp distribution, as of April 2013. Map courtesy of Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee