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Sanderlings / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Sanderlings / © Bryan Pfeiffer

ON THIS LABOR DAY, you need not labor over shorebirds. As sandpipers and plovers head south this month, I’ll remind you of my Solving Shorebirds post – a guide for landlocked birdwatchers. For those of you already skilled at shorebird identification, take my Shorebird Challenge – a half-dozen quiz photos. Some are tough.

Meanwhile, to mark the 100th anniversary of the demise eradication of the last Passenger Pigeon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s John Fitzpatrick writes in The New York Times about birds and people at risk. Here’s an example of what he means:

“Why should we care about these aridland birds, or any birds? It’s a common question, as elected officials and voters weigh conservation investments alongside health care, immigration and economic issues.

Besides our moral imperative to maintain the earth’s beauty and bounty for future generations to enjoy, it is important to view birds as accessible indicators of the health of our lands and waters. Take those declining meadowlarks as one example: In my home state of Minnesota, where meadowlarks commonly sang atop utility poles back in the 1950s, the patches of wild grasslands they depended on are now horizon-to-horizon farm fields. As a consequence, barges now get stuck in sediment-filled portions of the Mississippi River because grasslands no longer intercept silt-laden runoff waters from farms. The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that recently rendered Toledo’s water supply undrinkable had a similar origin. In short, healthy bird habitat makes for healthy human habitat.”

Next, you can set your calendar to hawks. They’ll be on the move soon. Here in Vermont, the first wave of southbound Broad-winged Hawks usually happens on the first cool, clear day during the second week of the month, usually after September 9 or so. When the north winds blow, be ready with help from my Hawkwatching Confidential.

Finally, below this immature Red-tailed Hawk, we’ll cling to summer with a slide show of images.

Red-tailed Hawk (without a red tail) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Red-tailed Hawk (without a red tail) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

  1. jeff says:


    “Demise”is not the word I would have chosen for what happened to the Passenger Pigeon. “Extermination” comes closer to the mark of what happened.

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