Bird watching continues to be a popular hobby. Now a recently upgraded website can help people track where the birds are.
The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Bird watching continues to be a popular hobby. Now a recently upgraded
website can help people track where the birds are. The GLRC’s Chuck
Cornell University and the National Audubon Society have set a website
called eBird.org. The site has compiled years of observations
from amateur birdwatchers across North America. Chris Wood is Cornell’s
eBird project manager. He says the site could help people who want to
see birds while traveling.
“If you’re planning to take to a trip really anywhere in the U.S. or
Mexico, you can use eBird. There’s a tab that says view and explore
data and you can get a bar chart to show the distribution of birds that
have been seen there.”
Wood says having all the data in one place can also help scientists as
they try to learn more about bird migration patterns. He says nowadays
that could be useful in the effort to block the spread of avian flu.
Researchers have studied where a very rare bird spends the summer, but now they’re learning they might need to pay more attention to where it spends the winter. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
Researchers have studied where a very rare bird spends the summer, but
now they’re learning they might need to pay more attention to where it
spends the winter. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
The Kirtland’s warbler is one of the rarest songbirds in North America.
It spends the summer near the Great Lakes, mostly in Michigan, and the
winter in the Bahamas. The bird’s been on the endangered species list
since 1966. Efforts to control predators and manage habitat in
Michigan have helped the warbler recover, but scientists haven’t known
much about what the warbler needs in winter.
Dave Ewert is the director of conservation science for the Nature
Conservancy’s Great Lakes program. He says his team’s research
indicates that warblers are fattening up on fruit right before they
leave the Bahamas in the spring.
“So if we can identify these sites that produce a lot of food just
before migration, we think that may be a really important key for
conservation implementation in the Bahamas in the future.”
Ewert says the team will need a few more years of research before
recommending specific sites to preserve in the Bahamas.
Seven years ago a Canadian company applied for a permit to export Great Lakes water to Asia. That plan was scrapped after a public outcry. And officials realized they needed to update the standards on Great Lakes water diversions. Now, the eight Great Lakes governors are expected to sign off on the new water diversion standards. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
Seven years ago a Canadian company applied for a permit to export Great
Lakes water to Asia. That plan was scrapped after a public outcry, and
officials realized they needed to update the standards on Great Lakes water
diversions. Now, the eight Great Lakes governors are expected to sign off on
the new water diversion standards. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Christina Shockley reports:
The so-called “Annex 2001” document has been years in the making. Its main goal
is to protect the Great Lakes from thirsty communities outside the Great Lakes basin.
Todd Ambs is a water expert. He’s working on the Annex on behalf of Wisconsin
Governor Jim Doyle.
“This is not just about diverting water out of the basin. It’s also about
how we manage consumptive use of water within the Great Lakes basin,
obviously the most significant fresh water resource in North America.”
Ambs says the document will require states to keep better track of where
water within the basin is going, and who’s using it.
Under the latest draft, some communities that sit outside the basin can
request Great Lakes water, but those communities would need to return used water back
to the basin, and any request would need approval from all eight Great Lakes governors.
The governors are expected to sign the document at a meeting in Milwaukee on
For the GLRC, I’m Christina Shockley.
If all eight Great Lakes governors sign the ‘Annex 2001’ document, it would
still need to be ok-ed by each state’s legislature, and Congress before going into
A baby whooping crane walks toward the camera. (Photo courtesy of the USGS)
Wildlife experts hope an experimental flock of whooping
cranes will lay more eggs this spring. The first egg produced during the experiment was recently found damaged. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Wildlife experts hope an experimental flock of whooping cranes
will lay more eggs this spring. The first egg produced during the
experiment was recently found damaged. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Scientists working on the project to develop 25 nesting pairs of
migrating whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. hope this is the year the
young cranes start to produce offspring.
But Michael Putnam of the
International Crane Foundation says one obstacle to the hatching of
crane eggs may be inexperienced parents.
“Once they do produce a fertile egg, then the birds have to exhibit the
right behaviors to tend the nest, incubate… and we’ve found some of
our birds- The females might be very good incubators at the
beginning, but it may take the male a year or two to catch on that’s
supposed to take a turn sittin’ on the egg.”
Putnam says other difficulties may include predators eating the eggs.
if the birds are successful, it’ll be the first whooping crane egg to
hatch in this part of North America in more than a century.
Some people use chemicals on their lawn to fertilize or kill weeds. But many cities are now restricting use of lawn chemicals because they are concerned about the safety of these chemicals. (Photo by Ilja
As the weather’s heating up… so are ad campaigns on the use of lawn pesticides and fertilizers. The campaigns are responding to a growing number of local restrictions on the use of these lawn chemicals. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has more:
As the weather’s heating up, so are ad campaigns on the use of lawn
pesticides and fertilizers. The campaigns are responding to a growing
number of local restrictions on the use of these lawn chemicals. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has more:
Dozens of cities in North America, mostly in Canada, now have restrictions
on using lawn chemicals. In response, lawn care and chemical companies
formed a PR group called Project Evergreen.
The group is producing ad campaigns targeted to landscape companies. One ad
warns that the industry will lose money because of the regulations. Den Gardner directs Project Evergreen.
“We felt it was important that there be another side to that story, and all
the products that are used and are being recommended for elimination all
have been approved by the EPA and have gone through years and years of study
Critics of lawn pesticides argue that the chemicals have not been thoroughly
In a brochure published on its website, the EPA states that although all
pesticides legally sold in the U.S. must be registered by the agency,
“registration is not a guarantee of safety.”
Cars can contribute greenhouse gases in many different ways. However, California's stricter law on cutting these emissions is starting a trend. (Image courtesy of the EPA)
U.S. automakers are under increasing pressure to reduce
harmful emissions. Now, to meet its obligations to the Kyoto Protocol, Canada says it might partner with several U.S. states to demand cleaner cars. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer has more:
U.S. automakers are under increasing pressure to reduce
harmful emissions. Now, to meet its obligations to the Kyoto Protocol,
Canada says it might partner with several U.S. states to demand cleaner
cars. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer
Eight states have already signed on to a law that was first passed in
California. That law calls for automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions thirty
percent by 2016.
Now, officials in Canada say they may also adopt a similar law. That would
put almost a third of the North American car market under the California
rules. And analysts say it could force a change in how all cars are made.
Stéphane Dion is Canada’s Environment Minister. He says he’s still
working with automakers to get a voluntary reduction in emissions, but he
says time is running out.
“We’ve are talking with them since years, and now it’s time to conclude. And
we hope the conclusion will be an agreement. If it’s not an agreement,
California has shown that something else is possible.”
Automakers have filed a lawsuit in California to block the law. They say it uses
powers reserved for the federal government.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Dustin Dwyer.
The costs of hiring biologists to do a bird count across the U.S. would be astronomical. (photo by Deo Koe)
Every year, tens of thousands of avid birdwatchers wander through frozen fields and marshy swamps. Their job is to record as many birds as they can find in a given area. For birders, it’s a day to enjoy the outdoors while doing what they love most. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, that passion serves another purpose – it helps scientists:
Every year, tens of thousands of avid birdwatchers wander through
frozen fields and marshy swamps. Their job is to record as many birds
as they can find in a given area. For birders, it’s a day to enjoy the outdoors
while doing what they love most. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports, that passion serves another purpose – it helps scientists:
(sound of footsteps)
Georgina Doe: “There’s five robins right there and there’s three common mergansers,
Georgina Doe scans the shoreline with her binoculars. Within seconds,
she spots a tiny glimpse of a bird and names it.
She knows them by the way they dive in the air, and the way they thrust
their chests out.
Doe has been scanning the treetops of Carleton Place, Ontario for
more than 30 years. She says she loves the chase and the element of surprise.
And over the years, birding has also been her escape.
She remembers watching a robin build its nest when her grandson
was seriously ill.
“So I used to count the birds every morning before I went off to
the hospital. And then after that, you come back to reality. Somehow a
little bird can just make you feel better.”
Birds have been a part of all of our lives. We might not know their names.
But we can remember holding a baby chick. Or hearing a cardinal on a crisp cold day. But now, many bird species are dwindling. And scientists are
counting on birders like Georgina Doe to help them find out why.
Doe is one of many birders in North America who collects
information for scientists. Jeff Wells works with that information
at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.
“There’s no way that we could ever pay the tens of thousands of
trained biologists that would be necessary to gather this kind of
information. It’s only possible when we can engage volunteers like
we do in citizen science projects.”
Cornell runs at least a dozen programs that rely on information
from average birders.
There’s the Christmas Bird Count. About 50 thousand people participate.
Another 50 thousand track species during the Great Backyard Bird
Count in February.
The volunteers reported that wood thrushes are disappearing in
many areas. And they’re tracking the effect of the West Nile Virus
on bird populations.
“If a little bird dies, usually it just disappears quickly
and no one ever sees it. So we don’t really know the impact.
And so looking at the differences in the numbers and distribution
might give us some sense of when the disease was rampant in the summer,
whether it killed off enough birds to make a noticeable
difference in our count.”
(sound of quiet footsteps)
Robert Cermak: “You can see it’s about 10 inches high. It’s all fluffed
up right now…”
Birder Robert Cermak tiptoes closer to a barred owl sitting in the
crook of a tree. We’re in Ottawa, Canada’s capital and a city of about a million
people. When it comes to bird counts, this is Cermak’s territory.
“It’s not often that you see a barred owl, any owl, during
the day. They’re usually more secretive. This one is not too
afraid to be out so it’s probably more accustomed to having people
around it, since this is the center of the city.”
Like Georgina Doe, Cermak has been birding for years. But even with
veterans, there’s always concern about their accuracy. Cermak
discovered this firsthand when he reported seeing a rare
harlequin duck last year.
“I sent it in and a few hours later, someone from Cornell –
very politely because it’s a delicate subject to question
someone’s sighting of a rare bird – but they very delicately
indicated that a harlequin duck is extremely unusual in Ontario and
could I please provide a few extra details.”
Cermak sent them a published account of the sighting. He also
gave them the number of a local expert.
Jeff Wells says researchers check their facts carefully. They look
for reports that don’t match others in the surrounding area. Sometimes
an investigation turns up a trained ornithologist… and sometimes not.
But overall, Wells says the information has formed the basis for
hundreds of published studies.
That’s something that makes birders like Robert Cermak and
Georgina Doe feel proud.
“It’s nice because you’re contributing. You’re doing a
lot of hours, it uses a lot of gas, you go around a lot of blocks
but we just think it’s important.”
(sound of Georgina Doe walking)
Georgina Doe says she doesn’t really think of herself as a
scientist. But she’s out there every day, with her ear to the wind. And that’s
what the scientists are counting on.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
A growing number of electricity customers in Ontario are
using so-called smart meters, which will charge more for electricity
used during peak hours of the day. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports:
A growing number of electricity customers in Ontario are using so-called smart
will charge more for electricity used during peak hours of the day. The Great Lakes
Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Right now, electricity customers in Ontario pay the same amount to run their
dishwasher at 6 p.m.
– during peak hours – as they do at ten in the morning. But it costs the province
more to produce
that power during peak times.
The heavy demand is a strain on Ontario’s aging electricity plants. So, the
province plans to
install smart electricity meters in every home and business over the next five years.
Ted Gruetzner is with the Ontario Ministry of Energy.
“It allows people to track their energy use depending on the time of day and monitor
using power so they can turn their lights off at certain times or use their ovens or
different times of day.”
That’s because electricity used during peak hours will cost consumers more. Ontario
is the first
jurisdiction in North America to use this system.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
An invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer is spreading. It has already killed millions of trees in Michigan and Ontario, and the bug is continuing to spread into parts of Indiana and Ohio. Now, a team of scientists in Ohio has endorsed a new plan to counter the ash borer’s attack. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
An invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer is spreading. It has already killed millions of
trees in Michigan and Ontario, and the bug is continuing to spread into parts of Indiana and Ohio.
Now, a team of scientists in Ohio has endorsed a new plan to counter the ash borer’s attack. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
Some ash trees in northwest Ohio have been infected with the ash borers… so the scientists are
supporting a plan by agriculture officials to order that ALL ash trees within a half mile radius of
the stricken trees be chopped down. Ohio insect expert Dan Herms is on the scientific panel
that’s urging quick action…
“12 million ash trees have already died in southeast Michigan, and so all these ash trees in Toledo
are inevitably doomed anyway. So the key is to try to get in front of this to prevent it from
spreading into the rest of Ohio and ultimately the rest of North America.”
Herms expects Ohio’s cut-down project to begin this winter. He notes ash trees are valuable as
timber… with Ohio’s crop having an estimated worth of one billion dollars.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.
Trash and toxic waste cross the U.S.-Canada border every day, and untreated toxic waste often ends up at the Clean Harbors facility. Some are trying to restrict this practice and purge the idea that waste is a commodity.
There’s only one place in North America that still dumps
toxic waste straight into the ground without any kind of pre-treatment. A legislator from Ontario, Canada wants this landfill to clean up its act. But trade in toxic waste is big business. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan follows some trucks to learn more:
There’s only one place in North America that still dumps toxic waste straight into the ground without any kind of pre-treatment. A legislator from Ontario, Canada wants this landfill to clean up its act. But trade in toxic waste is a big business. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan follows some trucks to learn more:
(Sound of trucks)
6,000 trucks cross the Blue Water Bridge every day between Canada and the United States. Just under the bridge, Lake Huron funnels into the skinny St. Clair River on its way to south to Lake Erie. The Blue Water Bridge connects Port Huron, Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario. This is the second busiest truck crossing between the United States and Canada. With post 9/11 security, the border can get backed up for miles in both directions. A lot of these trucks are carrying garbage back and forth across the border. Canadian trash and toxic waste is going to the U.S. and American toxic waste is going to Canada.
During her first month in office, Ontario Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton, Caroline Di Cocco, found out just how much toxic waste was coming into her district.
“In 1999 that year, it was over 450,000 tons. To put it in perspective, the Love Canal was 12,000 tons.”
Di Cocco went on a five year crusade to change the Ontario laws that govern the trade in toxic waste. She adopted the U.N. resolution known as the Basel Agreement, as her model.
“The notion from that Basel Agreement is that everybody should look after their own waste and it is not a commodity.”
Di Cocco is not alone in her fight to slow or stop the flow of garbage and toxic waste from crossing the border. Mike Bradley is the mayor of Sarnia, Ontario. He can see the backup on the Blue Water Bridge every day from his home.
“One of the ironies on this is that while Michigan is very much upset, and rightly so, with the importation of Toronto trash, there are tens of thousands of tons of untreated toxic waste coming in from Michigan crossing the Blue Water Bridge into the Clean Harbors site.”
The Clean Harbors facility is the only place in North America that does not pre-treat hazardous waste before it dumps it into its landfill. Frank Hickling is Director of Lambton County Operations for Clean Harbors. He says imports from nearby states in the U.S. accounts for about forty percent of its volume.
“It’s from the Great Lakes area. We do reach down and take waste that our facility is best able to handle. We’re right on the border.”
Rarely do lawmakers on both sides of the border agree on an environmental issue. But pre-treatment of hazardous waste is the law in all fifty states, Mexico and every other Canadian province and territory except Ontario. Pre-treatment reduces the amount of toxic waste or transforms it into a less hazardous substance. But Hickling says disposing hazardous waste in Clean Harbors is a better economic bet.
“Obviously, if you don’t have to pre-treat it, it is cheaper there’s no doubt about that. But what isn’t obvious is the security of the site. Pre-treating waste doesn’t help immobilize the material forever.”
Clean Harbors’ company officials say their landfill won’t leak for 10,000 years. They say that the U.S. pre-treats hazardous waste because they expect their landfills to leak in hundreds of years or less. Hickling says the blue clay of Lambton County that lines Clean Harbors landfill gives them a competitive edge as a toxic dump.
“The facility is in a 140-foot clay plain and we go down about 60 feet. So there’s 80 feet below.”
But Clean Harbors has had big environmental problems. When volume was at its peak in 1999 the Clean Harbors landfill leaked methane gas and contaminated water. Remedial pumping of the landfill is ongoing.
Caroline Di Cocco found other ways to deal with toxic waste rather than simply dumping it in her district.
“First of all, there has to be a reduction of the amount of generation of this hazardous material. The more expensive you make it for industry to dispose of it, the more they are going to find creative ways to reduce it. Then there are what they call on-site treatments and closed-loop systems. You see technology is there but it’s expensive and again we go to the cost of doing business. And so a lot of the hazardous waste can be treated on site in a very safe way. And then what can’t be, well then you have to have facilities to dispose of it. But I believe that the days of the mega dumps have to end.”
Meanwhile, Clean Harbors looks at what the new Ontario regulations for pre-treatment will cost them.
“Certainly when you’re making the investment in pre-treatment and you’re adding all that cost for no additional environmental benefit we’re going to have to be getting larger volumes to ensure its profitability.”
Until we see a reduction in the loads of toxic waste that need to be dumped in Clean Harbors, it’s likely the trucks will roll on down the highway.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Ann Colihan.