Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Thanks to Mike Sefton for sending us the following photos (and giving us permission to post them here!)IBA Coordinator Caleb Putnam addresses the crowd. ©Mike Sefton 2008
Left to right: Tracy Casselman (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), Terry Begnoche (Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society), Caleb Putnam, Marc Snyder (WPBO board), Jack Lapinski (MI Audubon president), Les Homan (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) ©Mike Sefton 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Huge numbers of Red-necked Grebes fly by the point into
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Audubon was recently contacted by the clerk of Lake Township, Huron County, to advise its planning commission on how to write a good ordinance for the siting of wind turbines. On March 26, 2008, Tom Funke (director of conservation for Michigan Audubon Society) and I presented at a publicly-attended planning commission meeting which was attended by DTE Energy officials and elected officials of the township. On the way, we decided to stop at Michigan's first large wind farm, the Harvest Wind Farm, operated by John Deere, Inc. This windfarm, we had heard, was located between the small towns of Pigeon and Elkton in Huron County near the tip of the thumb:
We had asked for directions for finding the windfarm, so imagine our surprise when we saw this from a distance of 8 miles:
There would be no problem locating this windfarm. From 3 miles away it was becoming apparent how large these turbines were:
Up close, these machines were huge and impressive. There was a strange sensation of near awe at the spectacle of it. There are 32 turbines spread out over an area of perhaps 10 square miles, each approximately 350-400 feet tall at the highest, with deceivingly fast blades which appeared to be spinning rather slowly at first glance.
The size of the housing was nearly that of a small bus:
It may not yet be widely known, but wind power is no longer a thing of the future. It is a force of the present. Indeed, Governor Granholm's strong push for increased alternative energy in Michigan is well underway, with several more projects in the planning stages. The challenge as we move forward, including potential projects such as this one by DTE Energy in the thumb, is to do our best to prevent large mortality events at all wind farm sites. There are very few data to tell us how many birds will be affected by any given windfarm, so it is essential that sites be monitored for at least 3 years in advance of construction, and several years following construction. If large mortality events are noted, some effort must be put forth to mitigate the problem. The details of such mitigation are, in part, what local officials can consider as part of their ordinance.
Existing voluntary guidelines have already been put forth by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, the American Wind Energy Association, and the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative. The Fish and Wildlife Service calls for no turbines within 3 miles of the lakeshore and at least 5 miles from any known active Bald Eagle nest. Although the numbers may be somewhat arbitrary, we do agree that shorelines often attract large concentrations of migrant and wintering waterbirds, raptors, songbirds, and other species, and should be avoided where possible.
In the case of Lake Township, the entire township is located within 3 miles of the shoreline, which borders the Coastal Saginaw Bay IBA. This IBA supports up to 4% of the known population of the Tundra Swan during spring and fall migration, as well as large numbers of ducks and migrating raptors. We simply do not yet know how vulnerable these groups of birds would be to wind development at this location. To follow this developing story check the Lake Township wind page.
Friday, February 15, 2008
The IBA program requires solid bird data for the identification of all IBAs, for example. This information comes from all kinds of sources (scientific literature, publications, birder data, eBird, etc.) and requires lots of time and effort to locate and compile. This time commitment is a limiting feature for many conservation organizations, including government agencies.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, for example, relies on the Natural Heritage Database maintained by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) for guiding its management decisions. If they are going to know about a rare species they need to protect, this is where they'll find out about it. As it turns out, they just do not have time to query other sources of information. You may assume that because you entered your observations into eBird and the Michigan Audubon Seasonal Survey compiler that the DNR would have full access to it, but it's not currently true!
There are many reasons why these and other biological databases do not share data freely. But my point here is that we really need to make sure our observations of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern species (and not just birds!) are submitted to the right places and are thus utilized to the fullest extent. In the case of the DNR, please download the appropriate MNFI form and see to it that it is submitted. It may be extra work on our part, but this will go a long way to guiding good conservation in our state!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
This Saturday Jan 5, a committed group of birders will attempt the first-ever organized count of these birds, standing guard at six locations including Manistee, Ludington, Little Sable Pt (Oceana County), Muskegon, Grand Haven, Saugatuck, and South Haven. Coordinated by Chip Francke (Grand Haven Parks) and Kip Miller (leader of the Berrien Birding Club), the January 5 count will involve the first known attempt at quantifying these large flocks. If enough birds are found, this information could be used to help delineate an Important Bird Area.
We plan to attempt a second, follow-up, count in March. If you would like to join the efforts, or start a similar effort at a local site, please email the Michigan IBA Coordinator, Caleb Putnam.