Audubon Christmas Bird Count issue: Eagles did not prosper during the ‘time of DDT’

August 26, 2015

Still photo captured from the film,

Still photo captured from the film, “Christmas Bird Count,” by Chan Robbins; photo shows a group counting birds, probably in the 1940s or 1950s. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count got its start in 1900.

In the notoriously wrong and misleading “100 things you should know about DDT” posted by pro-DDT, anti-wildlife Steven Milloy of “Competitive Enterprise Institute” and Fox News fame, based on the foggy rant of Dr. Gordon Edwards, we get these two misleading claims:

69. After 15 years of heavy and widespread usage of DDT, Audubon Society ornithologists counted 25 percent more eagles per observer in 1960 than during the pre-DDT 1941 bird census. [Marvin, PH. 1964 Birds on the rise. Bull Entomol Soc Amer 10(3):184-186; Wurster, CF. 1969 Congressional Record S4599, May 5, 1969; Anon. 1942. The 42nd Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Magazine 44:1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942; Cruickshank, AD (Editor). 1961. The 61st Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2):84-300; White-Stevens, R.. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas Bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

99. The Audubon Society’s annual bird census in 1960 reported that at least 26 kinds of birds became more numerous during 1941 – 1960. [See Anon. 1942. The 42nd annual Christmas bird census.” Audubon Magazine 44;1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942), and Cruicjshank, AD (editor) 1961. The 61st annual Christmas bird census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2); 84-300]

100. Statistical analysis of the Audubon data bore out the perceived increases. [White-Stevens, R. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

Those claims are false with regard to bald eagles.

The careful citations offered by Milloy and Edwards simply do not exist; if the source exists, the source does not say what is claimed by these guys.  (Don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself.)

Audubon never suggested, in any forum, that their famous Christmas Bird Count had shown increases in eagles. Most other species showed no increases, either. I spent a couple of days at the library of Southern Methodist University reviewing every issue of Audubon Magazine from 1941 through 1974, and found not a single article suggesting anything other than declining eagle populations in the lower 48 states (Alaska eagles were not untouched by DDT, but were not so seriously affected; and as you will see below, the first counts of Alaska’s eagles did not occur until after 1950, so the addition of numbers from Alaska counts do not indicate an increase in U.S. population of eagles.)

I also reviewed each bird count, usually published in a separate booklet with the March issue of Audubon in that time. While raw numbers increased, that was clearly due to increases in people observing. At no point did any ornithologist or Audubon member suggest eagles were in recovery, from 1941 through 1972.

That’s a long explanation, unsuitable for quick discussion on blogs, and wholly too much for a 140-character Tweet. My experience with Milloy and his followers is that they will say my analysis somehow errs, though they cannot offer any real analysis from any other source that isn’t just a misreading of the raw bird count.

I wrote the Audubon Society, and asked them to respond to the claim. At first the press office thought the claims so bizarre that they didn’t think a reply necessary.  I sent them a half-dozen links to other documents that cited Milloy and Edwards.  Delta Willis at Audubon took the claims to officials of the bird count.

Geoff LeBaron, Director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count sent the following reply (posted without correction).

See also the footnote from Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham appended to the end of the e-mail.

LeBaron, Geoff
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 10:21 AM
To: Willis, Delta; Langham, Gary; Dale, Kathy
Subject: RE: DDT and effects on birds, and Audubon Christmas bird count

Hello Delta,

From the 1930s through 1970s there was a tremendous growth in the number of Christmas Bird Counts, from 203 total counts in the 30th CBC to 1320 counts in 80th CBC.  The number of observers on those counts rose from 679 in 30th to 32,322 in the 80th Count.  That is a tremendous increase in effort as well as geographic coverage, and more people in more areas are going to count more Bald Eagles, even if the populations are [were] declining.

A second major factor is that during that period many CBCs were started with the specific goal of censusing wintering Bald Eagles.  Thus we were targeting the areas where eagles were wintering, and thus tallying a much greater percentage of the total population.

Thirdly, there were only two individual CBCs conducted in Alaska prior to the late 1950s.  Bald Eagle populations never suffered dramatically in Alaska [from DDT?], and their numbers were always much higher there.  Since the late 1950s there has been a tremendous growth in the number of counts in Alaska—again, with some of these counts targeting areas where wintering eagles congregate even in the thousands.  These counts added in Alaska can contribute greatly to the total number of Bald Eagles in each season’s CBC.

Thus even while Bald Eagle populations were plummeting in the lower 48 states (outside of Florida) CBC [Citizen Science] efforts were greatly increasing, and in fact targeting monitoring Bald Eagles.  That is why both the raw number of eagles and the numbers when weighted for observer effort went up when you pull CBC data for Bald Eagle during the decades of heavy DDT use.

It’s still educational to look at raptor numbers in CBC data in the years following the banning of the use of DDT in the US.  Many species of raptors show a rapid rebound in numbers after the mid-1970s…and Bald Eagles also dramatically increased.

Per Dr. Gary Langham, Audubon Chief Scientist:   Audubon scientists are careful to include levels of participation and geographic coverage in all analyses. Fortunately, we have tracked both of these aspects since the CBC was started and so it is straightforward to adjust for their impacts.

Bird counts do not show that eagles were out of trouble during DDT years, roughly 1946 through 1972; especially they do not show that bald eagle populations increased.

More:

Explanation of the Christmas Bird Count in four minutes, by Chan Robbins.

Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film

Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film “Christmas Bird Count.”

Nota bene: Yes, this has sat in my “to be published” box for too long. It was scheduled for publication, but it appears I had not hit the “publish at scheduled time” button. My apologies to readers, and especially to Audubon’s scientists and press people.


1st National Parks Director Stephen Mather, memorial at Teton NP

August 26, 2015

Stephen T Mather Plaque in GrNd Teton National Park….first National Park Director. #99years

A photo posted by Terry Tempest Williams (@ttwillet) on

Photo from the poet and muse of the National Parks and wild places, Terry Tempest Williams (at least, she posted it on Instagram).

Don’t you love the way the Tetons just peak over the fence?

U.S. National Park System just celebrated 99 years. Williams works on a book for the centennial in 2016.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do 100 parks in the 100th year? Anybody up for funding me to join them?


Annals of Global Warming: A roadmap to the UN climate change treaty process

August 25, 2015

Alas, the U.S. has led a large contingent off-road.

From the Cut the Fluff blog:

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

If you stop the average climate change action opponent on the street (as many as 25 out of every 100 people, or every other person in Texas in my unscientific sample) they will be able to tell you they think scientists are all liars making big money off of scamming citizens and businesses, and that there is big money to be made in faking research. But they cannot seriously describe evidence to back their claims, nor can they describe the history of international work to stop human-caused warming.

As you might imagine, they cannot discuss the pending meetings in Paris, either. Heck, most scientists and well-informed people can’t explain the meetings, either.

I hope this helps.

“COP” and “UNFCC” are UN acronyms for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Sustainable Information Forum (SIF15) explains the Paris Conference In not-too-turgid prose:

COP – What’s it all about?

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UNFCCC. This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realised and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Now you know, I hope.

More:


August 25, 1944: Liberation of Paris

August 24, 2015

Front page of the New York Times on August 26, 1944, noting the liberation of Paris after Allied troops reached there, following D-Day.

Front page of the New York Times on August 26, 1944, noting the liberation of Paris after Allied troops reached there, following D-Day.

On August 26, 1944, on a front page filled with other news from the war in Europe and the Pacific, the New York Times carried the story from the Associated Press:

Allied Forces Help French to Rid Capital of Nazis


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS, Allied Expeditionary Force, Aug. 25 — The Paris radio announced late tonight that the French capital had been liberated and that the German commander had signed a document ordering his troops to cease fire immediately.

The announcement followed entry of American and French troops into the capital during the day. There was no immediate confirmation here.

The latest word at headquarters was that American and French troops had joined Fighting French patriots on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of the capital after bitter fighting with Germans and French collaborationist militiamen.

Gen. Charles de Gaulle, President of the French Committee of National Liberation, said in a speech broadcast from Paris:

“France will take her place among the great nations which will organize the peace. We well not rest until we march, as we must, into enemy territory as conquerors.”

Allies invaded Europe at Normandy the previous June.

August, 1944: American soldiers watch as the Tricolor flies from the Eiffel Tower again. (Image: National Archives), via Brain Pickings

August, 1944: American soldiers watch as the Tricolor flies from the Eiffel Tower again. (Image: National Archives), via Brain Pickings

Wikipedia gives the unadorned, but detail-rich version of the story; note the vast array of national forces who joined to oust the Germans, including Spanish Republicans-in-exile:

The Liberation of Paris (also known as the Battle for Paris) was a military combat that took place during World War II from 19 August 1944 until the German garrison surrendered the French capital on 25 August 1944. Paris had been ruled by Nazi Germany since the signing of the Second Compiègne Armistice on 22 June 1940, after which the Wehrmachtoccupied northern and western France.

The liberation began when the French Forces of the Interior—the military structure of the French Resistance—staged an uprising against the German garrison upon the approach of the US Third Army, led by General George Patton. On the night of 24 August, elements of General Philippe Leclerc‘s 2nd French Armoured Division (the Régiment de marche du Tchad, a mechanised infantry unit led by Captain Raymond Dronne and composed primarily of exiled Spanish republicans), made its way into Paris and arrived at the Hôtel de Ville shortly before midnight. The next morning, 25 August, the bulk of the 2nd Armored Division and US 4th Infantry Division entered the city. Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison and the military governor of Paris, surrendered to the French at the Hôtel Meurice, the newly established French headquarters, while General Charles de Gaulle arrived to assume control of the city as head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic.

Victory parades followed on August 26 and August 29. Paris was spared destruction ordered by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler when his commander simply failed to carry out the destruction, perhaps because his forces had been overrun more quickly than he’d imagined, perhaps because French underground and other resistance fighters simply prevented it.

From Wikipedia, a rare color photograph:

From Wikipedia, a rare color photograph: “Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elysees to view Free French tanks and half tracks of General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division passes through the Arc du Triomphe, after Paris was liberated on August 26, 1944. Among the crowd can be seen banners in support of Charles de Gaulle.” Jack Downey, U.S. Office of War Information – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID fsac.1a55001.

More:


August 24, 79 C.E.: Vesuvius spoke, with thunder

August 24, 2015

Much as the GOP Caucus and other climate-change deniers, Roman officials in Pompeii and Herculaneum refused to be alarmed at the ground shaking, and obvious eruptions from Mount Vesuvius, on August 24, 79 C.E.

In the past week we have earthquakes in California, Nepal, British Columbia, and other places. The old Earth keeps rumbling.

Oddly, we now pay more attention to earthquakes than to other things that can cause greater, rolling disasters.

Santayana’s Ghost wonders if we ever learn from history.

Vesuvius, asleep for now. National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

Vesuvius, asleep for now (2013). National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Fly your flag August 21, for Hawaii Statehood in 1959

August 21, 2015

It’s been 56 years since the youngest state entered the union — the longest stretch in which the U.S. has not added another state.

"On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood." Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

June’s plebiscite smoothed the path for statehood, declared two months later.

A newsboy happily hawks the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood, August 21, 1959. Star-Bulletin photo

13-year-old paperboy Chester Kahapea happily hawks a commemorative edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the law authorizing Hawaii as a state. Star-Bulletin photo by Murray Befeler.

Hawaii’s official statehood day is August 21, commemorating the day in 1959 when Hawaii was recognized as a member of the union of the United States of America.  Hawaiians should fly their flags to day in honor of the date (you may, too).

Hawaii formally celebrates the day on the third Friday in August, this year coincidentally on the 21st.  I hope you joined in the festivities (it’s a holiday in Hawaii) — but under the U.S. Flag Code, you may certainly fly your flags on August 21, regardless which day of the week that is.

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

After the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 (in action separate from the Spanish-American War) attempts at getting Hawaii admitted as a state got rolling.  After World War II, with the strategic importance of the islands firmly implanted in Americans’ minds, the project picked up some steam.  Still, it was 14 years after the end of the war that agreements were worked out between the people of Hawaii, the Hawaiian royal family, Congress and the executive branch.  The deal passed into law had to be ratified by a plebiscite among Hawaiian citizens.  The proposition won approval with 94% of votes in favor.

Some native Hawaiian opposition to statehood arose later, and deference to those complaints has muted statehood celebrations in the 21st century.

Other than the tiny handful of loudmouth birthers, most Americans today are happy to have Hawaii as a state, the fifth richest in the U.S. by personal income.  The nation has a lot of good and great beaches, but the idea of catching sun and surf in Hawaii on vacation might be considered an idealized part of the American dream.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

More:

From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's admission to the union.

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission to the union.

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood C55 26432. Wikipedia image

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood stamp. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


Malaria No More notes milestone: Malaria at all time low

August 20, 2015

Remarkable progress against malaria marks the 21st century — but there was even more progress between 1960 and 2000. This progress usually is not noted in screeds against the World Health Organization (WHO), or Rachel Carson, or “crazy environmentalists.”

Through the 1950s, WHO estimated malaria deaths worldwide at about 5 million people each year. In about a decade of WHO’s malaria eradication campaign in temperate zones, the toll is estimated to have dropped to about 4 million dead each year.  WHO suspended the eradication campaign in 1963 when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa were already resistant and immune to DDT, which was the chief pesticide used for Indoor Residual Spraying to temporarily knock down local mosquito populations. WHO tried to find substitutes for DDT, but by 1969 formally ended the program and stopped asking for money for eradication.

The fight against malaria continued, however. In 1972 the U.S. flooded malaria-prone nations with DDT which had been intended for use on U.S. crops, after the U.S. prohibited DDT on U.S. crops. For a dozen years all U.S. DDT production got channeled into Africa and Asia to fight disease.  U.S. makers had gotten out of DDT production by 1985 as production shifted to other nations.

Despite DDT’s failure, progress was made in medical care and especially in education on how to prevent mosquito bites.  The death toll dropped toward 1 million annually until about 1990. In the late 1980s, the medicines used to cure humans from malaria parasites failed, as the parasites developed their own resistance to the drugs. Through the 1990s, malaria deaths remained constant, or even rose.

A flood of concern in the late 1990s produced a coalition of malaria fighters with funding through the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust. In 1999, most of these groups agreed to fight harder, using “integrated vector management,” a variety of methods calculated to prevent mosquitoes from developing resistance to new pesticides, and prevent the malaria parasites from developing resistance to pharmaceuticals.

Plus, in nations where houses often were leaky to mosquitoes, these agencies provided bednets to prevent bites of malaria-carriers at peak biting periods, when people slept. By 2008, deaths dropped below a million each year for the first time, and progress has continued.

Beating malaria is a top goal of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); Malaria No More reported on a recently-completed report on those goals, which noted the progress against malaria.

Here is the press release from Malaria No More.

Malaria Deaths Reach All Time Low, U.N. Secretary General’s Final MDG Report Shows

NEW YORK, NY – July 6, 2015 – Malaria deaths have reached an all-time low and 6.2 million lives have been saved from the disease between 2000-2015, according to a new United Nations report announced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office today. The final report on progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are set to expire this year, highlights an historic 69 percent decline in the rate of child deaths from malaria in Africa.

The report provides an update to all eight MDG Goals. The unprecedented global leadership over the past ten years to combat malaria has not only surpassed the disease-specific MDG target (Goal 6, Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases), but those efforts also contributed to critical progress toward achieving Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health).

“Malaria is one of the standout successes of the MDGs thanks to continuous innovation, bold endemic country leadership and steadfast donor commitment,” said Ray Chambers, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and Financing the Health MDGs. “We need to build on this success to ensure no child, woman or man dies from a mosquito bite and that we ultimately eradicate this disease.”

Thanks to the leadership of the United States, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international donors, malaria financing has grown dramatically from 2000-2015 to more than $3 billion annually, and political leadership has fueled the delivery of more than 1 billion mosquito nets to Africa along with hundreds of millions of effective tests and treatments.

Although these results have successfully surpassed the MDG target, the fight against malaria is not finished. Malaria remains a major global health security challenge with an estimated 3.3 billion people at risk globally. Thanks to recent success in achieving real and measureable progress, coupled with steadfast political leadership and a promising pipeline of transformative new technologies, malaria-affected regions have set ambitious goals for elimination including transformative 2020 targets in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

“Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history,” said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More. “For the first time in history we have the opportunity to capitalize on our success and end malaria within a generation; we can’t afford to miss that opportunity.”

Click here to download the full report.

Chart from USNews.com:

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. USNews.com chart, based on MDG report.

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. USNews.com chart, based on MDG report.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,797 other followers

%d bloggers like this: