Big City, Bright Lights

By Hugh Powell
map showing bright lights at night over North America
Bird image by Laura Erickson. Satellite image courtesy NASA.

It’s about time for new issues of BirdScope and Living Bird to be hitting members‘ mailboxes, so today I thought I’d point out the cover image from summer’s BirdScope. With fall migration in full swing, this nighttime satellite photo is a stark reminder of the hazards birds face during their midnight flights.

I’m posting this after running across a gorgeous National Geographic slideshow about light pollution called “Our Vanishing Night.” The photos begin with an apt observation: “For most of human history, the phrase ‘light pollution’ would have made no sense.” And now, just 130 years after the invention of the light bulb, the continent is a cluttered canvas of artificial stars.

The photos are must-see: 12 imaginative takes on city light, from searchlights on a Las Vegas casino to a surreal look up at the St. Louis arch – to a Torontoan collecting a window-killed Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The man is a member of FLAP, the Fatal Light Awareness Program.

Check out the FLAP site to learn how you can help reduce fatal window strikes in your area. Just steel yourself for the page’s opening image: window-killed birds collected from a single Toronto migration season and arrayed on the floor for cataloging. Each spring and fall the group gathers some 1,000 fallen birds of up to 90 species. Window kills are responsible for even more bird deaths each year than outdoor cats are, according to the group. Maybe it’s time to join the Lights Out movement.

Now, a couple of unrelated links worth a visit:

Corey of 10,000 birds has some incredible photos of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. And I don’t just mean good. I mean incredible.

I got a chance to help band some Saw-whet Owls in Williamstown, Massachusetts, this weekend (thanks, Drew!), where I happened to meet Hope Batcheller, a high-school junior who spends her time documenting the sounds of fledgling birds, working with folks at the Lab’s Macaulay Library and Vermont Institute of Natural Science. Follow her exploits at Fledgling Birding and join her Young Birders Club if you’re young enough.

Anyone seen anything else cool in the birdosphere? Let us know in Comments.

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