Was the rat brought to the WRDC nest poisoned?

Last season, a rat was brought on as prey to the Bald Eagle nest at Captiva on Sanibel Island. It was fed to Peace and Hope. Both died of rodenticide poisoning. There have been far too many deaths due to rodenticide. The list is too long for me to type but every wildlife rehabber will tell you that everyone of those deaths was preventable!

Today a rat was brought to the WRDC nest of Ron and Rita and the eaglets, R1 and R2, ate it. The following was posted on a FB group that I belong to. Rodenticide is meat for rats and mice but it often causes the secondary poisoning of raptors as well as domestic cats or dogs. Everyone is working very hard to get this designer poison banned.

The rats are so easy to catch once they have eaten the poison. They become sluggish and are easy to catch.

Please send your positive wishes to this nest and help the raptors by not using rodenticide and telling everyone you know to not use it and why. I have first hand experience with our lovely cat, Duncan, dying from this. It is a horrific death. Agonizing.

Ervie had two fish deliveries so far. One was at 10:24 and the other was at 12:47:44. Ervie has also been off the nest exploring the area which is wonderful news.

Port Lincoln also zoomed in the camera on Ervie eating his fish. The result was some beautiful portraits of my favourite Osprey fledgling. Told you I was biased!

In the image below, Ervie is giving the ‘snake eye’ look that many Ospreys, like Iris at the Hell Gate Canyon Nest in Montana is so famous for.

Ervie loves to eat! He is really doing a great job eating this nice fish!

The hatch at Berry College is progressing. The extra shell was over the smaller end of the egg. One small victory! B15 is doing very well, too. Let us all hope that B15 is very nice to its sibling once it has hatched.

By 16:00, the little one at the KNF nest was chattering away wanting more fish. Anna waited a couple of minutes and got up and gave that sweetie a really nice feeding. I was surprised that it could hold any more fish after the previous meal but, there was room for a few nice size bites. At that time, 5 fish or parts of fish could be seen on the camera. The one that Anna is feeding yet-to-be-named eaglet had just been brought in by Louis. This baby will never have to worry about there not being enough fish! Last year Louis brought in a turtle but, as far as I know there are no worries about rats coming on to this nest as prey. Lake Kincaid is right out the front door!

I went back to check the WBSE nest and Daisy has not returned since she was there in the morning. There is still much time left in the day, however.

I am so sorry to worry anyone about the eaglets on the WRDC nest. It is reassuring that they are being monitored and I hope at the first sign of a problem they will be removed from the nest and taken into care — with positive results! Three things that would really improve the lives of the raptors ——- ban rodenticides along with lead in hunting and fishing equipment.

Thank you so much for stopping by to check on the latest comings and goings. This is brief because I wanted to alert you to the issue at hand. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams or FB pages where I took my screen captures: WRDC Bald Eagle Nest, Port Lincoln Osprey Project, Berry College Bald Eagle Cam, KNF Bald Eagle Cam, Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre Sydney Olympic Park, and Bald Eagles Rodenticide and Lead FB page.

Thursday in Bird World

I genuinely hope that the Bird World community does not have a fright like it did this morning when Gabby had not returned to relieve Samson of incubation duties for nearly 24 hours. Samson seemed nonplused by it all and maybe he knew where Gabby was. She has been known to disappear for a bit in the past but it seems unusual rip before pip. At any rate, all is well at the NEFlorida Bald Eagle nest outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

A video has been posted of an intruder chase at the NEFlorida Bald Eagle nest around the time that Gabby returned to the nest at 11:53. It would, thus, appear, as I thought, that her absence was based on a territorial issue rather than one of her ‘disappearing’.

B15 hatched this morning at 07:57 at Berry College. Everyone thought Missy might not ‘know to feed it’. She was up eating and looked over several times to see if its head was up and beak open. She knows what to do! Like the KNF eaglet, this little one is pooped from hatching.

B15 is a real little cutie! It looks very strong.

I sure wish Missey had gotten rid of those egg shells when B15 hatched. You will note that one has slipped over the end of the second egg. Hopefully this will not cause B16 trouble when hatching!

B15 looks so tiny compared to Harriet and Mitch’s eaglets at the Hilton Head Island Trust Bald Eagle Nest. Their feathers are starting to come in. Poor things. They are always preening and we think that they must be itchy.

I think this is a new take on ‘Sleeping with the Fishes’. Ron has been keeping the nest full of fish for Rita and the babies. He can often be seen feeding the little ones himself. They are doing nicely and this human-made nest seems to be working out well. Perhaps this design will be needed in areas that lose trees in big storms or fires.

The two of them are adorable. They scoot around all over the nest.

Bingo! Anna and the baby finally got feeding worked out. The little eaglet is going to have a nice crop. Louis is already beginning to fill the nest up with big fish.

I love seeing Louis and Anna on the nest. Look at that nice Pike that Louis brought in for lunch! And there is the little one with its crop holding its head up pretty good. It was so full it just fell over into food coma.

Louis has brought in more fish! No shortage of things for the family to eat. Louis is one of the most enthusiastic fisher-dads I have ever seen.

Anna and the yet to be named baby eaglet have figured all of this out! Just look there is a little tail!

This eaglet is seriously cute. The Rangers are looking for a name. Anyone can send in a suggestion. It should be gender neutral. Send name in an e-mail to: nameknfeagle@gmail.com Send it by 30 January.

You can see the tail and the strong wings below. Oh, adorable. This eaglet is going to be like Kisatchie – there were days you would think s/he was going to pop they had been fed so much. Anna is the kind of Mum that wants you to ‘take just one more bite, pleaseeeee’.

Just doing a quick check on the Port Lincoln Lads. Ervie was, of course, on the nest last night and Mum brought him a fish before bedtime. There are fewer and fewer fish deliveries indicating that the parents want all the boys to be out fishing themselves.

At 07:33:57, someone did, however, deliver Ervie a nice big chunk of fish!

Ervie has the fish.

That fish is under his talents but he is still mantling and flapping and prey calling. Just eat and enjoy it, Ervie.

An hour later Ervie is still eating his fish. His ‘gas tank’ is full!

I have been thinking about Ervie a lot. I have to tell a story to make my point. Years ago we had a black and white cat called Melvin. It was a time when cats could be outside where I live. Melvin loved nothing more than to roll in the dirt! He was always dusty. One day, when he was 2 years old, he disappeared. We looked and called but, nothing. Four days later Melvin was at the door crying to get in. We noticed some strange marks on his paws. It looked like thin wire had worn the fur off and there were a couple of holes. Had he gotten caught in a barbed wire fence? The result of his misadventure was real trauma. Melvin hid in the bedroom and walk-in closet. He rarely came out into the other areas of the house. When we had our cat sitter, Heather, she would take a flashlight to check he was OK under the bed and put his food there. Over the decade she helped us, she never actually saw Melvin, not once, just his eyes. Melvin lived 15 years in hiding, more or less. He would come out with us but no one else. While we will never know what happened to him, that event changed his life. This brings me to Ervie. If you remember, Ervie was the one going everywhere and being independent. It was Bazza on the nest. Then Ervie was away flying south of Port Lincoln. He has not left the nest since except to chase Falky. His behaviour has changed dramatically. Did he try to catch a fish and couldn’t get out of the water easily? We will never know what he experienced. I hope to goodness I am wrong about something traumatic happening to Ervie. He is clearly the dominant bird but why isn’t he out exploring?

The Audubon Society has announced today that the Migratory Bird Act has been brought back and will be strengthened in the US. Here is that information.

And, last but never least, the Kakapo Recovery. Today’s report on the breeding attempts and eggs. This is great news coming out of New Zealand.

It’s an exciting time full of ups and downs. We are on pip watch for Captiva and NEFlorida and with two recent hatches at Berry and KNF – well, it is difficult to keep track of all of them! I am really pleased at Anna and the eaglet getting the feedings worked out. It is all good down in Louisiana. I look forward to tomorrow. Think about a name for this cute eaglet and send it off!

Take care everyone. Thank you for joining me today. Take care.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams or FB pages where I took my screen captures: KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Berry College, Kakapo Recovery, Port Lincoln Ospreys, WRDC Bald Eagle Nest, and Hilton Head Island Trust.

The Plight of the Adjutant Storks

Everyone reading my blog knows that I believe wholeheartedly that individuals can make a huge difference to our planet and to the lives of our beloved birds. You do not have to be a movie star or a business tycoon with lots of money, you just need to find ‘something’ that you feel is really important. Your belief, your dedication, and your enthusiasm will influence others if your cause is sound.

@Cornell University Bird Lab

The Hargila have the most magnificent, yet piercing blue eyes.

copyright Cornell Bird Lab

I have previously reported on the work of Dr Purnina Devi Barman of Assam, India. Dr Barman was determined to make the Adjutant Storks, known as Hargilas in Assam, important — important enough that people would stop cutting down trees, building structures on the few remaining wetlands, to help with the chicks or the adults if they were injured. She wanted to engrain the importance of these critically endangered birds whose population (50%) lives in Dadara, Assam to the people of that village. She has spent a decade fighting for the Hargila raising the numbers of nests from 28 to over 200 today.

Dr Barman was smart. After finding out what was causing a loss of population, she took that knowledge and approached the women and the children to protect these amazing birds that live in the forest canopy. She set up the Hargila Women’s Army. Her story and the plight of these amazing storks was recently captured and told by the Cornell Bird Lab in a 28 minute documentary. I have now watched it twice. It is so well done. Please do have a look and as you are watching realize that every little thing we can do to help our birds also helps us!

It is a beautiful inspiring film.

I just had to share this with you. I spent many years in India, some years more there than home. I know how difficult it is to get things done there. These women are very courageous. This is a really good documentary —–it is so well done. Thank you Cornell! I would Cornell takes those beautiful images and make it into a book on these General Adjutant Storks. Part of the proceeds could go to the Hargila Army!

Thank you for joining me! Ervie just got a fish delivery so I am happy. Take care everyone. See you soon!

If you are looking to purchase some of the items the ladies in Assam make to raise money for the education and protection of the storks, please go to Pashoo Pakshee. Their prices are in Indian rupees. The current rate is 1.70 CDN for 100 rupees.

Late Monday and early Tuesday in Bird World

Oh, goodness. Bazza spent the night on the nest in the same spot as Ervie did. Bazza has been there all day waiting for a fish delivery. No one thinks this is unusual – it is Bazza! But, when Ervie did the same thing, we worried. It was out of character for him.

It is windy and the water is choppy today, too. Falky and Ervie are no where in sight. It is Mum and Bazza on the barge. Maybe Ervie and Falky are out trying their luck fishing with Dad.

Ervie will eat that fish tail that he left last night when he wakes up.

Bazza is certainly a handsome Osprey.

Sometimes Bazza hunkers down duckling style on the nest when it is windy or he is tired of standing up. You can just see Mum on the ropes at the right near the bottom of the image.

No fish deliveries so far despite Bazza’s fish calling.

In the video clip below, Xavier calls Diamond up to their scrape box on the water tower at Charles Sturt University at Orange today. Their bonding ritual with its bowing and eh-chupping is fascinating. It took place a few minutes ago. What a beautiful couple they are!

Right now OGK, the male Royal Cam Albatross parent, is incubating his egg for a straight 13 days, 14 tomorrow. His mate YRK has not returned. There are two possibilities: she has had to travel so far to find enough food to eat to sustain her on incubation duties or she has been caught and killed by the long lines on the fishing trawlers. As we are aware, the oceans are warming. At the same time there are countries who have huge trawlers scooping up the fish 24/7. Each are causing havoc for our sea birds and it will get worse. Let us all hope that YRK is alright. The NZ DOC rangers have already removed the fertile egg from under OGK and put it in the incubator. OGK is incubating a dummy egg in case he has to leave to save his life before YRK returns, if she does. The rangers are also prepared to give OGK supplementary feedings. In terms of their birds, NZ is enlightened. They recognize what climate change and humans have done to destroy the environment for the animals and the birds and they are doing something positive for them. I hope that YRK shows up while I am writing this. It would be the best thing!

I have been trying to find live bird cams in Japan for one of my readers, ‘A’. I found this one that has three different cameras for three different wildlife or bird boxes. The boxes are located at the base of Mount Lizuna which is northwest of Tokyo. One is for Mandarin Ducks, another is for Ural Owls, and another is a wild bird feeding station. Please enjoy and if you know of other streaming cams in Japan, please let me know so I can spread the news!

It is the beginning of a new year for all of us and what could be a better time than now to reflect on the beauty, the inspiration, and the sheer joy that our feathered friends brought to us over the past year. They taught us so much. How many times would we be able to see a Peregrine falcon couple bonding? or a Bald Eagle tenderly feeding its chick? or a third hatch be clever and courageous? We are so blessed. I am starting to make a short list of resolutions for this year and they include writing to everyone I know to try and end the harm that longline fishing is doing. I also want to work towards a ban on the manufacture of rodenticide, which causes secondary poisoning to birds, and lead in hunting and fishing equipment. All of those require persistent e-mail mails. Protective covers for power poles need to be put in place and there needs to be awareness of the dangers of monofilament line and a clean up of the shores of lakes and rivers. That is a start! I am certain that you can think of many more ways to make the lives of our birds better. Maybe you have made some resolutions, too. I would love to hear about them!

Thank you so much for joining me. It is always a pleasure to have you with me. Take care everyone!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures and video clips: Port Lincoln Osprey Project, the Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, and Cornell Bird Lab and the NZ DOC.

Late Late Thursday in Bird World

Since the Melbourne Peregrine Falcons fledged along with dear little Yurruga a week later, many of us have been really wanting to see some more falcons. What is so wonderful about falcons? is it the cute antics of the little dads? the gentle but stern look but deep affection by the Mums? is it that there is no sibling rivalry? or is it everything rolled up into a cute fuzzy white ball with a pink beak and legs that turns into the fastest bird in the world in 37 days?

I have been upset about the behaviour of the Ravens on Daisy’s nest today. They returned for a third time at the eggs. The pair of them began rattling and pecking at sticks on the nest. It was a very threatening performance. So, I needed something to divert my attention for awhile. As it happened, the streaming cam went off line and has been off line for more than 7 hours now. Like magic, however, a video that I had bookmarked on 29 November popped open.

Daisy right before the camera went off line on 10 November around 11:49.

On 29 November I wrote a blog about these little falcons. I have included some information for you in case you missed that one but I have added a number of videos for those that did read about New Zealand’s smallest raptor. With winter here it was even nice just to see some green plants!!!!!!

Here is the link to the streaming cam:

The Karearea is the smallest falcon found in New Zealand. Its other names include Bush Hawk, Sparrow Hawk, Bush Falcon, Southern Falcon, Western Falcon, or Quail Hawk. It is also called the New Zealand falcon. It measures 40-50 cm in length. Males weight 205-340 grams (a half to 3/4 of a pound) while the females exhibit reverse sex dimorphism and weight 420 to 720 grams (or nearly a pound to 1.7 of a pound).

At first glance, the Karearea might look like a Peregrine Falcon.

They have “broad wings, long tail, long yellow legs and toes, yellow eye-ring and cere, dark eyes, and a distinct moustache stripe from the base of the strongly hooked bill down the face. Adults are brown-backed with a streaked cream breast and a rufous under tail and thighs; fledglings and juveniles are dark brown, lack cream streaking, with blue-grey legs, eye-ring and cere.” (https://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/new-zealand-falcon) I will also add they have a tomial tooth.

The falcons are listed as being ‘rare’. The most common threats include habitat destruction, degradation, or modification, cats, other animals including pigs and possums that take their eggs and chicks as well as hedgehogs. Electrocution due to uninsulated power lines as well as shooting by humans are common. We had hedgehogs in our garden when we lived in England. They ate the fruit that fell from the apple and plum trees in our garden and had lots of fleas but I have never thought about them as predators. Have a look:

The chicks have begun taking short flights so the camera operators have some trouble finding them. Soon they will be gone but for now, we can enjoy them a bit. Be patient. Here are some video clips of earlier feedings, etc. Enjoy!

These very small falcons are adorable. I hope you enjoy spending some time with them.

Sometimes it seems that everything is going ‘wrong’. That nothing positive is happening. Everyone reading my blog loves birds – birds of all species. And we are all aware of some of the human created ‘things’ (for a better word) that cause great harm. These include longline fishing, rodenticide, monofilament fishing line, and lead in hunting and fishing equipment. There is some great news coming out of Hawaii, SW Florida, and Massachusetts that is positive. First to those beautiful islands in the Pacific who voted to save the sea birds like the Albatross from longline fishing boats by using torii lines.* Have a read. This is just wonderful news because it might influence everyone else to join in.

Because of the large number of sea birds including the American Pelican, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is moving on several interventions to stop the birds from getting tangled in monofilament line from fishing. These include patrols, cutting down on the places and times and dates that people can fish, etc.

In Massachusetts, State Representative Jim Hawkins is introducing a bill to ban rodenticide use in the state. Fingers crossed after hearings, it will pass. It is a beginning for a huge problem. The raptors taken into care that are poisoned will definitely consume more rats and mice than the poison kills.

These are just incredibly positive steps that can give each of us hope that we can make the world a safer place for our feathered friends.

I will be sending a report on Daisy some time tomorrow but it will probably be 18:00 CDT – very late for me. The streaming cam remains offline. There is very little that we know: it is currently raining, Daisy is unable to cover the eggs properly so they will get wet which could damage the pores, the Ravens know there are eggs, and Daisy has to eat. It is not clear if Daisy is finished laying eggs or if there will be another in the morning. I know that each of us wants Daisy’s little ducklings to jump off and everything to be right with the world but I fear that will not happen. My hope is that Daisy is not harmed in the process of her trying to protect her eggs. And on that note, I will say goodnight. It has been a worrisome day.

Thank you so much for joining me. Take care everyone. Stay safe!

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Falcon Cam NZ and Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre.

Victor Hurley answers your questions

If you missed the Q & A with Dr Victor Hurley, the researcher for the Victoria Peregrine Falcon Project, was live last week but if you missed it, here it is on YouTube. It is only audio- great presentation. There are some very good questions and answers that apply to the general population of peregrines.

My interest is in a small part of this discussion whereby corporations would be bound by a simple change in the wording of the law to protect the birds. Listen carefully. Check out your local situation if you can. See if you can help amend laws so that our lovely birds are protected.

There are some lovely books on Peregrine Falcons. Several in paperback. I highly recommend these:

  • The Peregrine by JA Baker
  • Falcon by Helen MacDonald
  • On the Wing. To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon by A Tennant
  • Peregrine Falcon by Patrick Stirling-Aird
  • The Peregrine’s Journey. A Story of Migration by Madeline Dunphy.

There are many others. Some better than others. The top three are my favourites.

For those of you that might have missed it, our darling Osprey, Ervie – the Little Bob who became the Big Bob – continues to be the ‘biggest’ and the leader. Ervie fledged yesterday at 13:17:38. Here it is:

What an amazing bird you are, Ervie.

I am outside for the rest of the day trying to make the garden inhabitable for the birds. The woodboxes have more than 45 cm of snow on top of them and so does the deck and the lawn. I will be checking on our bird families much later.

I hope that your Sunday is a good one. I do urge you to listen to Victor Hurley. It is a great discussion. You can turn it on and cook your dinner or have your tea and listen. Take care everyone! Thank you so much for being here.

A Visit to Oak Hammock Marsh

My Hibiscus and the Vermillionaires for the hummingbirds continue to think it is summer. And why wouldn’t they with blue skies, sun, and 24 degrees C. The only things that seem to be on track for autumn are the trees and Virginia Creepers that are changing colour daily.

Today was a bit of an outing. Located about 20 km north of Winnipeg, the Oak Hammock Marsh is home to an Interpretative Centre, third floor viewing area, a marsh boardwalk and several trails through the marshes. Oak Hammock Marsh is a joint project between the Province of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The marsh covers a 3600 hectare restored wetland area in the Interlake (between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba) area of our province. The marsh supports 300 species of birds as well as a myriad of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects. My interest is, of course, in the birds.

There are daily tours of the grounds, special education programmes for schools, early bird breakfast and migration fests, and a Goose Flight dinner which is completely sold out.

It was a wonderful day – short sleeve weather with plenty of birds and lots of places to stop and catch your breath along the trails.

Tip: If you were going to visit Oak Hammock Marsh and you just want to walk the trails and not go inside the building, you do not pay the entrance fee.

One of the things that I like about Oak Hammock is that at each trail there is information on the wildlife that you ‘might’ see there. Of course, there are no promises that the Yellow-headed or Red Winged Blackbirds will be there when you are but, in general, these are areas where certain birds congregate if at the marsh.

These are a great help to me – I am a raptor person who is just beginning to learn about waterfowl and shorebirds! I would have loved having Ferris Akel with me telling me which was the Greater Yellow Legs and which was the Spotted Sandpiper. There are a stack of books open surrounding me right now and the images are disappointing. That said, let’s give it a try and see if some of these bird identifications work – and if you spot an error, tell me! Do not be shy about it.

The images are not great. This beautiful raptor soared for so long in the warm thermals coming off the prairie landscape. She was obviously hunting. She would come down and bank and then go so high she was like a speck of dirt. You wanted to rub the lens of your camera to see if she was real. This is an adult female Northern Harrier. Notice how slim the body is with the long tapered wings and tail.

In the image below she is gliding – holding her wing tips higher than the body. Northern Harriers is one of the easiest members of the hawk family to identify because they glide so close to the ground. They have excellent vision but are known to also hunt by sound

She has soared above the marsh and glided down for a closer look for her prey. In the image below she was banking but also pulling up. You can see that distinct white upper covert.

It was simply mesmerizing watching her hunt and then go back to soaring in the thermals of a beautiful fall day.

Did you know that Northern Harriers were once called Marsh Hawks? In Europe they are often called Hen Hawks. This marsh is a perfect place for our Northern Harrier female to have her nest. She will build it on the ground usually in long grasses or cattails. These hawks line their nest with cattails – and all over the marsh were cattails and other soft prairie grass.

It was quite difficult to actually hear any of the other bird voices (or calls). The Canada Geese were flying overhead, landing on the ponds, and in the fields surround the marsh.

This adult male Yellow Headed Blackbird paid no attention to me. He was foraging for insects, seeds, beetles, on the ground. They apparently also eat dragonflies and there were a lot of those on my walk today. Here he is with his distinctive yellow head and chest with white patches on his black wings. He has a black bill.

There is an understanding that if Yellow-headed Blackbirds are in the same area as Red-winged Blackbirds then the Yellow-heads will be dominant. I do not know if that is the case at Oak Hammock Marsh because the numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds seem to really outnumber the Yellows.

It’s a male Red-winged Blackbird, below. I think it is a juvenile male because the red patch above the yellow is faint. They are covered by thousands of the most beautiful ebony feathers. Their black eye and beak disappear in all the dark plumage.

The Red-winged Blackbirds also have their nests on the ground which they line with dried cattail leaves, reeds, and grasses. The marsh is a perfect place for them to nest, too, with all those cattails!

This Greater Yellowlegs was quite busy foraging in the mud. Because of its streaked neck, this should be a juvenile. The Greater Yellowlegs is larger than the Lesser and has a longer bill with longer legs and noticeable knees. These birds also nest on the ground near water making Oak Hammock Marsh a perfect nesting area.

It looked so small walking along the soft mud of the marsh.

Two female Blue-winged Teals. We have Blue-winged teals throughout our province but they prefer, like so many of these birds, the marshes. Sadly, many marshes have been drained for farming over the past 60 years and then turned into housing estates leaving the Teals to have to adapt to living in ditches and dugout ponds. Their dark beaks are quite wide and flat. The females are a mottled brown.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

A pair of American coots diving and dabbling like ducks in the waters of the marsh today. American Coots can forage for food on land as well. Some people call them ‘Mud Hens.’ They eat insects, worms, tadpoles and fish as well as land and water plants. Their white bill with the black plumage helps to identify them.

As I was leaving, more and more Canada Geese were arriving in their typical ‘V’ formation. The fields were filling up and so were the ponds. It was 15:00. Must go back out closer to dusk! There is something energizing about seeing all of those geese flying in – and the only sound being heard was not the noise of the city but the honk of the goose. Just lovely.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I know that most of my readers live in places around the world far away from Manitoba. Please do check out your local nature centres. There are wonderful surprises awaiting you. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Women in Assam save Greater Adjutant

The Greater Adjutant is a stork. It has long spindly legs, a strange pouch hanging from its neck, gorgeous blue eyes, an orange-yellow neck and bill. There are no feathers on its head; instead only a few black hairs. It has large black and white wings when an adult with a white underneath.

T“Greater Adjutants” by Mike Prince is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The General Adjutant is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the world. Standing as tall as a 1.5 metre person (or 5 feet) the birds survive on whatever food is available – fresh fish, scraps, and carrion. They are often seen foraging in the landfills alongside people trying to find items of value to sell. In the 19th century, the bird was found all across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. In Calcutta, its image adorned many of the colonial public buildings because it was a respected cultural symbol. The loss of habitat in the twentieth century brought the numbers into decline. Of the 800-1200 Greater Adjutants known to exist, the majority live in one province of India, Assam. Assam is in the Northeast of India.

For the general population of Assam, the birds are called hargilas or ‘bone pickers.’ Few considered them beautiful. Instead, ordinary Assam citizens were repulsed by the birds because they often have to survive on carrion (the dead). As a result, people cut down the trees that contained their nests not recognizing that the storks were vital to cleaning up the environment.

“Greater Adjutant” by Mark Gurney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A woman, Purnima Devi Barman, was conducting research on the Adjutant Stork for her PhD at Gauhati University in Assam. She is a conservation biologist. She knew the value of the storks to the eco system and set about to teach the people of Assam to respect the birds, to love them, and, most of all, to protect them. She put her PhD on hold while she worked on her project. Barman decided to start in Kamrup where the majority of General Adjutant nests existed. Barman believed that if she could create a sense of pride in the rare birds she could save them.

Its tree nest was destroyed. “Prodigy of Ugliness” by Pandiyan is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Barman worked tirelessly. She gathered up an army of women to help her. They became known as the Hargila Army. They created puppet shows, cooking and baking contests, songs, dances, and drawing contests to help instil in the minds of the people the value of the stork. Women began to sew images of the bird on cotton bags, then on their clothing, and, as a real tribute to the change in attitude, they created henna designs for their hands and arms, especially for weddings. There are modules on the conservation of the General Adjutant in the schools in addition to ecology and the environment. Special awareness workshops are held that focus on every level of society and the role they can play in preserving this important bird. Today, the number of nests has grown from 27 to more than 210 in just thirteen years. Where the habitat is lost, there are now artificial platforms being built for the storks. Barman continues to work with her Hargila Army. She believes that social change and the empowerment of women rather than laws are the best model for conservation.

To further encourage continued protection of the birds and their nests, a scholarship program for the children of people who own General Adjutant trees with nests has been established for those wanting to work on the conservation of the General Adjutant. There are also certificates for those protecting nests. The entire community has become involved working with the Hargila Army of Women. A Hargila Learning Centre, a museum, and more rewards – large and small – are planned for the future. As hoped for, the Hargila has become a symbol of pride for the people. At the same time it has empowered a group of women who were otherwise invisible within their communities. Now, other conservation biologists are looking to Barman’s model to help the elephant and the tiger.

“Prodigy of Ugliness” by Pandiyan is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. This credit also applies to the featured image.

If you look at the image of the bird above, it is beautiful. Look at its beautiful plumage and those amazing ice blue eyes.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope that you have been inspired by Barman and her Army of the Hargila. It takes one clear idea, a determined individual, and a supporting group but what seems hopeless at first can become a glowing reality.