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Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Category

On a Thursday!

  • First, something that put a smile on my face. One of my posts was included in the most recent edition of Scientia Pro Publica (Science for the People) blog carnival! There are plenty of great blog posts about science in this edition about everything from drunk bats and venomous mammals to discussions of the peer-review process. So go check it out!
  • Cosmic curiosity reveals ghostly glow of dead quasar– discovered through the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo!
  • Do you ever get sad from reading about endangered species and losses of biodiversity? Then you must read Back from the Brink: Victories in Conservation over at Southern Fried Science. It discusses a recent paper in Science which shows conservation efforts are helping to slow extinctions. I couldn’t help but notice that a few of the success stories they highlighted are in part thanks to zoo breeding programs, including that of the the Asian Wild Horse. The Minnesota Zoo played a significant part in their recovery, and here’s a great video on that story.
  • And related to my rant yesterday, I think the paper mentioned above supports how important scientific publications can be, especially considering the paper provides evidence that conservation efforts work and need more support. In addition, one of the co-authors is none other than the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Bear Biologist David Garshelis. He is also co-chair of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group, and was recently on The Colbert Report sticking to his story that he’s not afraid of bears. Videos below!

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For a while now, I have considered writing about the controversy surrounding Dr. Lynn Roger’s black bear research and whether collared bears should be protected from hunting. I haven’t done so yet because I haven’t formed a solid opinion, can see both sides of the argument, and am not a bear hunter. But recently, Lynn Rogers made some comments that I can’t ignore.

Lynn Rogers and Black Bear

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Male (right) presenting grasshopper to female

Image via Wikipedia

 

Kestrel Watch of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center is trying to solve a mystery:     

Since about 2000, The Raptor Center has seen a precipitous decline in the number of kestrels admitted to the center; from 107 admissions in 2000 to only 22 last year (see chart in Statistics).  At the same time, admissions of Cooper’s hawks have doubled, from 54 admissions in 2000 to 114 last year.  At this point, no one knows whether these findings are correlated, or even whether the reduction in kestrel admissions represents a decline of the species in the wild…     

Graph From Kestrel Watch

    

Through Kestrel Watch, The Raptor Center hopes to decode the rapid decline in American kestrel admissions.  To join Kestrel Watch, all you need to do is brush up on your observation and reporting skills.  When you see a kestrel, record the day and time of your observation.  Make note of what the bird was doing.  Was it hunting? Perched? Feeding?  How many kestrels were there?  If you feel comfortable identifying the bird’s gender, report that, too.   

You can submit your observations and photos on the Kestrel Watch website. They also have great information on identification and natural history. You can even see on a map where others have spotted Kestrels.    

    

I checked out the HawkCounts for Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN, and it looks like Kestrels should be migrating through that area until early November. Kestrels also stay year round in southern Minnesota. But you don’t have to be in Minnesota to participate. Observers have been reporting in from all over the Midwest.     

  

While I was at the Hawkcount website, I also checked out the number of Kestrels seen migrating through Hawk Ridge since 2000. I even made a quick line graph because I’m a dork cool like that.    

   

From the graph, it seems that the number of observed American Kestrels migrating through is decreasing. However it is variable and dependent on the number of hours of observation, weather, ect. Their data goes all the back to the 70’s, but I wasn’t feeling that ambitious (all the data is online though if you are interested).  I was going to also graph the number of Cooper’s hawks observed to compare with the Raptor Center’s data. However, Cooper’s Hawks don’t  migrate much to the north of Lake Superior so they only see up to a couple hundred per year at Hawk Ridge.   

  

So, Are American Kestrels being taken over by Cooper’s hawks, or are Cooper’s hawks just becoming more accident prone while Kestrels are getting smarter? What do you think? Whatever the case, The Raptor Center doesn’t know and needs your help to find out.    

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On Saturday, I went to Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge to help with their annual, open to the public duck banding. The refuge is on flat terrain and is mostly wetlands because it lies on the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz (named after Louis Agassiz: the original glaciologist).

Banding programs for waterfowl help scientists and managers make decisions on hunting regulations and estimate survival rates, migration routes and other biological information. Because of the wet conditions in the region, there was an above average number of ducklings hatched this year. Agassiz is one of Minnesota’s Important Bird Areas with 294 species of birds.

 

Overlook at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge- very flat

 

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Yesterday, Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely, MN was announced as America’s Favorite Park through online voting at Coca-Cola’s Live Positively campaign. As the winner, Bear Head received a $100,000 donation that they will use to build a new three season trail center. Up against state and national parks across the nation, Bear Head beat out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by over a half a million votes. In comparison, Bear Head receives about 100,000 visitors annually while the Great Smoky Mountains receives more than 9 million!

So what makes Bear Head so special? I have been there many times and can tell you that it is a great park. The lakes and trails are beautiful. the fishing is good. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and it is close to Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But the real reason is the wildlife. Some of the more common sightings include white-tail deer, red fox, common loons, and bald eagles. In fact for many years, a pair of bald eagles had their nest right in the picnic area. If you are lucky you might even see a wolf, moose, or bear.

But it is two particular bears that occasionally use the park that helped Bear Head win this contest. Lily and Hope, a female black bear and her cub became internet sensations when a camera placed in Lily’s den allowed Hope’s birth to be viewed live on the internet. On Lily’s facebook page, fans of the bears coordinated voting efforts so that Bear Head (a.k.a. Lily’s Park) would win the grand prize. Some fans reported voting over 1000 times throughout the contest and over 300 times in one day (there were no limits on how many times one person could vote).

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