News / USA

    Backyard Birders Help Monitor Oil Spill Impact

    Oil-soiled Gulf is major flyway for shore and migratory birds

    Tree swallows are common backyard birds that nest across North America and migrate through the Gulf of Mexico.
    Tree swallows are common backyard birds that nest across North America and migrate through the Gulf of Mexico.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    Barbara Vinson has a backyard of birds.

    Some of them, like the Purple Martin, nest on her property in Central Texas and spend the winter in South America.

    Their journey takes them through the Gulf of Mexico. Vinson is heartsick about the oil contaminating the Gulf of Mexico and the fate of her Purple Martins and other migrants.

    "I'm afraid that for the next 20 even maybe 30 years we are going to be looking at some really horrific results, particularly for the shore birds, that also migrate," says Vinson.

    Citizen scientist Barbara Vinson lowers plastic gourd nests to check on her Purple Martins or to clean their cavities after they've left for the season.
    Citizen scientist Barbara Vinson lowers plastic gourd nests to check on her Purple Martins or to clean their cavities after they've left for the season.

    Call-out for birders

    Wildlife biologists continue to monitor species adversely affected over the past three months by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Since 1965, Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology has collected over 400,000 records on most of North America's breeding birds.

    Now, the lab has put a call out for bird-watchers across North America, like Vinson, to keep a special eye on nests in their own backyards. Birders provide data on birds in their local environments, species which can include birds that migrate through the Gulf of Mexico, a major flyway.  

    "We may see effects from the Gulf oil spill on birds, likely far into the future. So it's really important to get information on nesting birds this year and in future years," says NestWatch Project leader Laura Burkholder.

    Keeping track

    Vinson is one of those citizen scientists who logs data into the lab's online database. Vincent runs a small map publishing business from her home outside of Austin.

    Over the past 20 years Vincent and her husband have transformed their 1-hectare backyard into a wooded wildlife habitat to attract birds and butterflies.

    She says it's been a good year for her colony of Purple Martins. Twenty-three pairs nested in special aluminum boxes and hanging gourds on her property.

    Barbara Vinson has Purple Martin nesting cavities on her Texas property, where she says 40 different types of birds can be found.
    Barbara Vinson has Purple Martin nesting cavities on her Texas property, where she says 40 different types of birds can be found.

    "We monitor how many birds come in. We check every two to five days to see how the nest is progressing, how many eggs are laid, how many eggs hatch and then how the pairs are doing as far as feeding their young and how many actually fled."

    Vinson, who watched the last Purple Martin fledgling leave its nest this week, says naturalists like herself, have an important role to play.

    "I truly feel that we are not separate from nature, that we are an integral part of nature and that my love of the wilderness and the world around me, tells me that as an integral part of it, I need to respect it and understand it and do what I can to support it."

    Vinson hopes the work that brings her such joy will lead to better safeguards for the birds whose survival is threatened by oil spills and other human activities.

    You May Like

    Brexit Vote Triggers Increase in Racist Attacks

    Britain's decision to leave European Union seen by some as 'permission' to unleash anti-immigrant resentment

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    AIIB Takes Big Strides Amid Fears About China's Dominance

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says it is independent, but concerns persist; China holds 20.6 percent of bank's shares, others have less than 7.5 percent each

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmarki
    X
    John Owens
    June 26, 2016 2:04 PM
    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora