Tag Archives: Birds

Judge’s Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Judge’s Decision on Cormorants Leaves Biologists Feeling Helpless

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Biologists have been working to reduce the populations of the birds in the nesting grounds on the islands in the lake. But a federal judge’s decision suspended efforts to control the bird on Lake Champlain and in 24 eastern states.

Biologists are worried that a federal judge’s decidion to block programs that control double-crested cormorants in 24 states could set back their efforts on the birds, blamed for despoiling islands in Lake Champlain where they nest.

In other areas of the country, cormorants — sea birds with long necks and hooked bills — are blamed for eating thousands of sport fish favored by anglers and preying on fish in farms.

Vermont officials, who this time of year are usually overseeing control programs that include oiling eggs to prevent them from hatching, and shooting the birds or scaring them away, worry that even one year without the control program could see the number of cormorants on the lake increase by 21 percent.

“It will not take very long for that number to double without some active management,” said Mark Scott, wildlife director for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages about 20 islands and some sections of shoreline that have been known to host cormorants.

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless


The March decision by a judge in Washington determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t do its homework before issuing a pair of orders that let people kill thousands of cormorants each year to preserve vegetation in some areas and protect sport fish in 24 states and farmed fish in 13 of those states.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Laury Parramore said the agency is studying its next step.

Cormorants, which winter in the South and spend summers on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, have nested on Champlain for at least a century. They were brought to near-extinction by the pesticide DDT, and no one is sure why the numbers have increased dramatically over the last quarter-century.

Dave Capan, a retired University of Vermont biologist who is managing a cormorant program on the Four Brothers Islands, estimates there are about 1,600 breeding pairs of cormorants on the lake, down from a peak of about 4,000 about 15 years ago. The islands lie in the middle of the narrow, 120-mile long lake, are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are off limits to the public.

“They nest in very large numbers, and they kill trees on islands in the lake,” Capan said. “There are at least five or six islands in this lake that have lost most of their trees and vegetation.”

Capan disagrees with Scott’s assertion that the birds would increase by 21 percent in one year without control. He said he feels that as long as the control programs resume by next spring, there shouldn’t be any long-term setback to the control efforts.


Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Cormorants have a long history of being hated by humans, said Ken Stromberg, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist from Denmark, Wisconsin, who was among those who filed the lawsuit against the service that led to the March decision blocking the control programs.

“A cormorant is a scapegoat for everything that consumers are unhappy about,” said Stromberg, who isn’t opposed to cormorant control programs but feels the Fish and Wildlife Service must do the required studies before issuing orders.


Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain’s Young Island

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain’s Young Island

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Biologists from Vermont’s Department of Fish & Wildlife have been working to rescue a state-owned island from the brink of destruction by birds.

“It’s quiet compared to the way it used to be here,” said biologist John Gobeille as he stepped from a boat onto Young Island in Lake Champlain. “You used to need earplugs.”

Now grassy and green, Young Island was barren and rocky because its surfaces had been denuded. The island was infested with shrieking ring-billed gulls and cormorants, whose toxic droppings killed vegetation.

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

“It’s coming back,” Gobeille said, observing plant life on the island.

By applying cooking oil to the gulls’ eggs so they can’t hatch, over the past 15 years the population of ring-billed gulls is less than a tenth of the 15,000 that once dominated the island. They would bully other birds, keeping species away, Gobeille explained.

The species diversity here had declined to only, like, two [bird] species,” Gobeille said.

For cormorants, the oil work, combined with shooting the birds in a prescribed process more than ten years ago, dramatically minimized numbers on Young Island, accorfing to fish and wildlife officials. Visitors to the lake will see cormorants at many other locations on and around the water.

Now, with the gull numbers down on Young Island, Mark Scott, the wildlife director of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said birds including the black duck and the common tern have been able to nest on the island again. The common tern, despite its name, is listed as a state-endangered species in Vermont.

Scott and Gobeille noted the department has planted trees and ground-covering plants to replace what the invaders killed. Not only would the birds’ acidic waste prevent plants from growing, but the birds would also defoliate trees and shrubs to build nests, Gobeille explained, turning the island into something resembling the surface of the moon.

Despite the turnaround in Young Island’s appearance, there is a lot more habitat restoration work that needs to be done on Lake Champlain. The department said it is currently watching five other state-owned islands, one private island through financial backing of the landowner, and another private island where the state deters birds that may interfere with nesting of the common tern.

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Thousands of cormorants are still damaging other land, boaters and fishermen have reported in recent years. Many sportsmen also believe the cormorants are robbing the lake of fish by gobbling up perch and smelt.

Fishermen have long complained about the cormorants, insisting that more needs to be done to control cormorants.

“The challenge comes down to money; you know, economics,” Scott told necn. “People say, ‘Well, why don’t you just let people go out and hunt [cormorants] on their own? Well, they’re not classified as a game species under federal law.”

Even with more challenges ahead, the transformation of Young Island has left the department optimistic that habitat management can work.

Scott said the department does its gull and cormorant work with just over $40,000 in state funding, but to be more effective, the team would need $100,000 in additional monies from federal grants, state appropriations, non-profit support, or other sources.

Other Articles About Lake Champlain Islands:   List of Lake Champlain's Islands

Crown Point State Historic Site Museum, Bird Banding Station open

Crown Point State Historic Site Museum, Bird Banding Station  open

The Crown Point State Historic Site Museum and Bird Banding Station will open for the 2016 season Saturday, May 7.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.suncommunitynews.com

The Crown Point peninsula, jutting northward into Lake Champlain, serves as a trap for birds migrating north making it an ideal location for the banding station. 18,604 individual birds have been banded at this station since 1976 representing 106 different species of birds including 28 different species of colorful warblers. The Museum will be open from Saturday, May 7 to Monday, Oct. 17, Thursdays to Mondays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

See on Scoop.itLake Champlain Life

2015 Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring Results  

Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring Results

2015 Eastern Adirondack/Lake Champlain Region Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring report 

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued their annual report on peregrine falcon nest monitoring in the Lake Champlain and Eastern Adirondack regions.

DEC wildlife staff and volunteers monitored 26 peregrine falcon nesting sites during the 2015 breeding season. The sites were located along Lake Champlain and Lake George and throughout the Adirondacks.

According to  the report, they confirmed 16 of the 26 sites were occupied by territorial pairs of falcons and all but one of those pairs actively undertook nesting. Of the 15 confirmed active nesting pairs, nine successfully produced a total of 18 chicks. This equates to 1.2 young/breeding pair and 2 young/successful pair – an average level of production for this region. 2015 was slightly more productive then the last few breeding seasons.

Some highlights of the 2015 breeding season include the discovery of a new nesting site on Crane Mountain, from which 2 young peregrines fledged. Also, a single nest along Lake George produced 4 young peregrines (2 young is average for the Adirondacks), and another new nesting location along Lake George may have been discovered.

Some peregrine nests on rock climbing routes were successful this year, especially in the southern part of the region. Nest failures on other rock climbing cliffs were thought to be from factors other than human disturbance, such as the above average precipitation received during the month of June, and the presence of young or inexperienced falcons in some locations. DEC officials report that the cooperation of rock climbers has been important to the success of the monitoring effort.

2015 Eastern Adirondack/Lake Champlain Region Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring report 

The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the peregrine, or duck hawk is a bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It has a blue-grey back, barred white underparts, and a black head. The peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching over 200 mph during its characteristic high speed dive, or hunting stoop, making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.

The peregrine can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests. This makes it the world’s most widespread raptor.

A copy of the full 2015 Eastern Adirondack/Lake Champlain Region Peregrine Falcon Nest Monitoring report can obtained by e-mailing a request to info.R5@dec.ny.gov.


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