In 1954, Lewis Strauss, then chairman of U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, famously predicted that "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter ... ” Of course he also (in the same speech) predicted that world hunger would disappear and that we would find a cure for aging. Not surprisingly, folks didn't pay much attention.
Then in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced a major “breakthrough” in nuclear energy. It seemed, due to this breakthrough, that Strauss' vision of a nuclear-powered world was just around the corner. The fact that there had been no breakthrough did not stop the press (around the globe) from reporting this “fact”—and as a result, orders of nuclear power plants surged.
Just the “idea” of an abundant supply of low-cost fuel was enough. The fact that the idea was a myth, would not affect governmental decision making for another decade or so.
Now, fast forward to 2011. Amid tremendous fanfare, the natural gas industry has announced the “discovery” of vast, enormous, huge, unlimited gas deposits located in the Northeastern U.S., locked in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques—it will now be possible to tap these vast resources, effectively doubling our nation's natural gas reserves.
As a result of these announcements, state legislatures across the region have moved quickly to eliminate regulations and barriers that might otherwise delay access to this energy resource. State parks have been opened to allow drilling. Community colleges rush to provide training to support this new and expanding “career path.”
As with nuclear power, it may be decades before we come to understand if this is truly a “breakthrough,” or simply another announcement of a breakthrough that wasn't.
How much gas is there, anyway?
In August of 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a report where they lowered previous estimates of recoverable natural gas located in the Marcellus shale deposits from 410 trillion cubic feet, to 84 trillion cubic feet—a reduction of 80 percent of the earlier estimate that caused all the excitement.
Now, 84 trillion cubic feet is still a lot of gas, but many geologists have since begun to express doubts about even these projections. They cite the fact that the methods of extracting the gas (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) are relatively new and untested. They also note that wells of this type seem (where they have been used) to produce for only a very short period of time.
In fact, industry experts estimate that output from fractured wells drops by 81 percent after just two years of production—a much faster rate of decline than is seen in traditional natural gas wells.
Even internal U.S. Energy Information Administration documents released by the New York Times indicated that officials within the government were concerned by the “irrational exuberance” of the gas industry regarding these deposits. They note that the profitability projected by the well fields reflect those found in only the most productive wells, and that the industry is using “overly optimistic models” for their projections.
Noted oil-industry geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, in his book Beyond Oil, observed that naturally fractured shale gas deposits have been a source of natural gas since the early 1800s. These are not new sources. But, he argues, that the very nature of the rock makes it a much less efficient storage device of natural gas than, say, sandstone. This is why they have not been widely developed before now.
Given the stone's inherent structural limitations, Deffeyes states simply that “fractured shales are not a candidate for solving a major portion of our energy needs."
How much does it cost to get at the stuff?
Those who advocate hydraulic fracturing as the future of natural gas will face further problems.
The international financial services company Credit Suisse conducted a detailed study to find just how much it costs to produce natural gas in North America. They found that production costs have more than doubled over the past decade (still looking primarily at “conventional” sources), topping $8 per MMBtu (million British Thermal Units of energy) in 2008.
At the same time, the natural gas industry has argued that recent “innovations” have dramatically reduced the cost of getting gas out of the ground. But what has been innovative, it appears, is their method of accounting.
When the government relaxed rules stating that gas reserves no longer needed to be independently verified—most gas producers instantly doubled their stated reserves. On paper it appeared that the cost of getting the gas was cut in half. In reality (as Credit Suisse found), the costs (that were actually increasing) just appeared to be lower as they were spread over larger (and yet to be seen) estimated amounts of natural gas that might one day (fingers crossed) be extracted from each well.
Another study, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, found that gas obtained from wells that use hydraulic fracturing costs approximately 90 percent more than gas from more traditional wells. Other industry analysts simply state that the cost from these “unconventional” sources will add a dollar or two per MMBtu to production costs.
The Pitt study found that the average cost of developing a well that utilized hydraulic fracturing was approximately $7.6 million in direct costs (others place that cost as high as $10.5 million per well)—as compared with $4 to $5 million for more traditional wells.
If these non-industry numbers are to be believed, it appears that the cost of producing natural gas from a new well using hydraulic fracturing will average around $9-$10 per MMBtu. Yet, for the past two years the wellhead price of natural gas (the price producers get) has hovered below $4 per MMBtu.
So if the price of natural gas is only $4 and the industry needs to sell the product for over $10 to make any money—how can this be? Aren't they loosing $6 on every sale? Won't they go out of business?
Ah, if only business were that logical.
Not all Gas is created Equal
First, it is important to understand that the $10 plus price point is for every NEW (marginal) bit of gas produced. Existing wells that were constructed when costs were much less are still producing relatively cheap natural gas. Some older well fields are still producing at costs less than $1 per MMBtu. Others are producing in the $2-$3 range. So those operations are still profitable, even at $4 natural gas prices.
In for a Penny, in for a Pound
Another complicating factor is that gas field speculators may already have spent a great deal (sunk costs) on a well field back when prices seemed to justify the investment. The cost of lease rights, geological surveys, infrastructure development (such as roads and rigs) and the like may already have been spent. So looking at the situation today, the investor is faced with a couple of choices.
She can abandon the project and simply write off her investment (which might be substantial)—or go ahead and finish the project. If she only needs to invest another $3.50 per MMBtu to begin producing, then it may make sense (from today's perspective) to continue even if she has to sell the gas at $4 per MMBtu (of course, hoping the price will go up over time).
I'll Gladly Pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger Today:
Natural gas is a commodity, and as such, is bought and sold in future's markets (such as Henry's Hub).
Within these markets, you could, for example, purchase gas that you intend to use right away (called the “spot market"). This would be similar to buying a loaf of bread at the grocery store. They tell you the price, you pay it—then take the bread home and eat it.
Or you might try to lock in a price for some date in the future. For example, currently the price of natural gas is under $4 per MMBtu. If you feel that price is going to go up, you might contract with a supplier to buy his gas in 2014. You haggle a bit (because at this point you are both just guessing as to what the “spot” price will be in two years). Perhaps you settle on a price of $5.50 per MMBtu. If the price in two years is higher than that—you win (and make some money). If it is lower, you end up paying a higher price for the gas than you would have if you had waited and paid the spot market price.
Large consumers and suppliers of natural gas use this system to protect themselves against wild swings in prices (“hedging” their bets, so to speak). For example, a steel mill that consumes vast amounts of natural gas may be willing to pay a bit of a premium to lock in costs for several years—because rapid price increase might put them out of business (and besides, it makes accounting so much easier).
Sellers may also want to lock in future prices. Back during the summer of 2008, the price of natural gas approached $12 per MMBtu. A smart supplier at that time might have signed contracts for delivery in 2011 at a price of, say $8 per MMBtu. The buyer may have felt she was getting a great deal, locking in a price at two-thirds the then current market price.
The seller delivers the contract (the gas) in 2011 and is paid $8 per MMBtu at a time when the spot price is only $4 per MMBtu. Well done you. And this was in fact done (or variations of this dance) many times over. But these contracts last only a few years (nobody is willing to speculate too far into the future), so these lucrative futures contracts are expiring.
So a well that was producing at a breakeven cost of $7 per MMBtu might still be profitable (if the owner had locked in a good futures contract), even though the spot market price is well below the breakeven cost. But now that the futures contract has been filled—the well may no longer be profitable.
Dare I say it? The Gas Bubble
As we have seen recently with the Internet Bubble and the Housing Bubble—irrational exuberance that is not based on sound economics leads, eventually, to some pretty ugly outcomes. But trying to convince someone who is completely caught up in the moment is (at the risk of another pun)—like shouting down a well.
But clearly, if you are really losing $4 to $6 on every sale of natural gas—in the long term, you simply cannot sustain that business (and no, you can't make it up in volume). So, what will be the result?
Well, traditionally, gas companies have simply shut down wells until the price rises to profitable levels. And we may see some of this happening. However, much of the current stock value of these companies are tied up in their rosy projections. Cutting production may dim their appeal and nobody whose quarterly bonus is tied to stock performance wants to see that. So, production may stay strong until the economics force it to collapse under its own weight.
Also, at the moment many large oil companies have determined that natural gas is the fossil fuel of the future. They are investing literally billions of dollars in this “new” industry—so may be willing to take a loss ... for a while.
Inevitably, we will see a dramatic rise in gas prices. If prices rise once again to the $12 per MMBtu level last seen four years ago—then, problem solved (for those producing gas through hydraulic fracturing). Except ... is it really?
Natural gas does not live in a vacuum.
In recent years, the cost of renewable energy has decreased dramatically. In 2010 the average cost of a photovoltaic (PV) installation dropped 30 percent. In 2011 it did it again. What was once a high-cost energy alternative is becoming increasingly affordable. Today, for the first time, it is cheaper in much of the nation to install solar panels on your home than to continue to pay the retail cost of electricity.
Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens famously (over the past several years) first announced plans for a huge wind energy farm in Texas—then dropped those plans when natural gas prices plummeted. He stated before a Senate hearing that his wind energy project was simply uneconomical when natural gas cost only $4 per MMBtu. But when the price rises to $6 per MMBtu, he stated—then wind energy becomes the low cost alternative.
Should natural gas prices rise—at $10 per MMBtu (the price at which new hydraulic fracturing wells become economic), natural gas becomes a very expensive energy alternative. Over the long haul—will people continue to use it?
So the U.S. natural gas industry is faced with some difficult alternatives and an uncertain future. Traditional supplies are rapidly running out. Many industry experts point to data that indicates that as much as 70 percent of the conventional U.S. natural gas reserves have already been exhausted. So the industry's only alternative is to tap into the unconventional (and vast) reserves such as those found in shale deposits.
However, this unconventional gas is difficult and expensive to recover. So in order for it to be profitable, gas producers must either reduce costs or increase the price for their product.
Reducing the cost of production (in reality, not on paper) is difficult given the nature of how this gas must be extracted and will likely be made even more difficult as increasing environmental regulations and restrictions are put in place.
And increasing costs (which will be the inevitable consequence of a declining supply) will make natural gas less and less appealing to consumers who will turn to lower cost alternatives (such as wind and solar). awmakers might want to take a closer look at the economics of the industry before betting our energy future on shale gas.
By Sharon Buccino
This week, Secretary Haaland chose a visit to Bears Ears National Monument as her first trip as Interior Secretary. She is spending three days in Bluff, Utah, a small town just outside the monument, listening to representatives of the five tribes who first proposed its designation to President Obama in 2015. This is the same town where former Secretary Sally Jewell spent several hours at a public hearing in July 2016 before recommending the monument's designation to President Obama.
By Anthony Richardson, Chhaya Chaudhary, David Schoeman, and Mark John Costello
The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life on Earth, with vibrant coral reefs and large aggregations of tunas, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. The number of marine species naturally tapers off as you head towards the poles.
The Bell Curve is Warping Dangerously<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNjAzODUwNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NzE1OTU4N30.qQL3P1IvA7Cwj_UbsrAL6MVZvafXGZc7hlAFieLPvso/img.png?width=980" id="9bbfd" width="1580" height="872" data-rm-shortcode-id="16ca57badee20ad55037706875f813f4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
If you look at each line in this chart, you can see a slight dip in total species richness between 1955 and 1974. This deepens substantially in the following decades. Anthony Richardson, Author provided<p>This global pattern — where the number of species starts lower at the poles and peaks at the equator — results in a bell-shaped gradient of species richness. We looked at distribution records for nearly 50,000 marine species collected since 1955 and found a growing dip over time in this bell shape.</p>
This Has Happened Before<p>We shouldn't be surprised global biodiversity has responded so rapidly to global warming. This has happened before, and with dramatic consequences.</p><p><strong>252 million years ago…</strong></p><p>At the end of the Permian geological period about 252 million years ago, global temperatures warmed by 10℃ over 30,000-60,000 years as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from volcano eruptions in Siberia.</p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/117/30/17578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 study</a> of the fossils from that time shows the pronounced peak in biodiversity at the equator flattened and spread. During this mammoth rearranging of global biodiversity, 90% of all marine species were killed.</p><p><strong>125,000 years ago…</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/109/52/21378" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2012 study showed</a> that more recently, during the rapid warming around 125,000 years ago, there was a similar swift movement of reef corals away from the tropics, as documented in the fossil record. The result was a pattern similar to the one we describe, although there was no associated mass extinction.</p><p>Authors of the study suggested their results might foreshadow the effects of our current global warming, ominously warning there could be mass extinctions in the near future as species move into the subtropics, where they might struggle to compete and adapt.</p><p><strong>Today…</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/117/23/12891" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">During the last ice age</a>, which ended around 15,000 years ago, the richness of forams (a type of hard-shelled, single-celled plankton) peaked at the equator and has been dropping there ever since. This is significant as plankton is a keystone species in the foodweb.</p><p>Our study shows that decline has accelerated in recent decades due to human-driven climate change.</p>
The Profound Implications<p>Losing species in tropical ecosystems means ecological resilience to environmental changes is reduced, potentially compromising ecosystem persistence.</p><p>In subtropical ecosystems, species richness is increasing. This means there'll be species invaders, novel predator-prey interactions, and new competitive relationships. For example, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-13/sydney-growing-own-coral-reef-with-help-from-tropical-fish/11466192" target="_blank">tropical fish</a> moving into Sydney Harbour compete with temperate species for food and habitat.</p><p>This could result in ecosystem collapse — as was seen at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods — in which species go extinct and ecosystem services (such as food supplies) are permanently altered.</p><p>The changes we describe will also have profound implications for human livelihoods. For example, many tropical island nations depend on the revenue from tuna fishing fleets through the selling of licenses in their territorial waters. Highly mobile tuna species are likely to move rapidly toward the subtropics, potentially beyond sovereign waters of island nations.</p><p><span></span>Similarly, many reef species important for artisanal fishers — and highly mobile megafauna such as whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles that support tourism — are also likely to move toward the subtropics.</p><p>The movement of commercial and artisanal fish and marine megafauna could compromise the ability of tropical nations to meet the <a href="https://sdgs.un.org/goals" target="_blank">Sustainable Development Goals</a> concerning zero hunger and marine life.</p>
Is There Anything We Can Do?<p>One pathway is laid out in the Paris Climate Accords and involves aggressively reducing our emissions. Other opportunities are also emerging that could help safeguard biodiversity and hopefully minimise the worst impacts of it shifting away from the equator.</p><p>Currently 2.7% of the ocean is conserved in <a href="https://mpatlas.org/" target="_blank">fully or highly protected reserves</a>. This is well short of the 10% target by 2020 under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.</p><p>But <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/global-ocean-alliance-30by30-initiative/about#global-ocean-alliance-members" target="_blank">a group of 41 nations</a> is pushing to set a new target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.</p><p>This "30 by 30" target could ban seafloor mining and remove fishing in reserves that can destroy habitats and release as much carbon dioxide as <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03371-z" target="_blank">global aviation</a>. These measures would remove pressures on biodiversity and promote ecological resilience.</p><p>Designing climate-smart reserves could further protect biodiversity from future changes. For example, reserves for marine life could be placed in refugia where the climate will be stable over the foreseeable future.</p><p>We now have evidence that climate change is impacting the best-known and strongest global pattern in ecology. We should not delay actions to try to mitigate this.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anthony-richardson-100303" target="_blank">Anthony Richardson</a>: Professor, The University of Queensland. <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chhaya-chaudhary-1223419" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Chhaya Chaudhary</a>: University of Auckland, <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-schoeman-111544" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">David Schoeman</a>: Professor of Global-Change Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast, <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-john-costello-1223418" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mark John Costello</a>: Professor, University of Auckland</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Anthony Richardson receives funding from the Australian Research Council.</em></p><p><em>Chhaya Chaudhary works for Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. During her PhD studies (2014- 2019), she received part- funding from the European Marine Observation Data Network (EMODnet) Biology project funded by the European Commission's Directorate—General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), and received U21 Doctoral Mobility Scholarship from the University of Auckland in 2016.</em></p><p><em>David Schoeman receives funding from the Australian Research Council.</em></p><p><em>Mark John Costello does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-life-is-fleeing-the-equator-to-cooler-waters-history-tells-us-this-could-trigger-a-mass-extinction-event-158424" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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In celebration of Earth Day, a star-studded cast is giving fans a rare glimpse into the secret lives of some of the planet's most majestic animals: whales. In "Secrets of the Whales," a four-part documentary series by renowned National Geographic Photographer and Explorer Brian Skerry and Executive Producer James Cameron, viewers plunge deep into the lives and worlds of five different whale species.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b102b19b2719f50272ab718c44703dd0"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xOySOlB78dM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Herring are a primary food source for Norway's orcas. Luis Lamar / National Geographic for Disney+
Belugas are extremely social creatures with a varied vocal range. Peter Kragh / National Geographic for Disney+
A Southern Right whales is pictured in the accompanying book, "Secrets of the Whales." Brian Skerry / National Geographic
The coronavirus has isolated many of us in our homes this year. We've been forced to slow down a little, maybe looking out our windows, becoming more in tune with the rhythms of our yards. Perhaps we've begun to notice more, like the birds hopping around in the bushes out back, wondering (maybe for the first time) what they are.
A Coeligena helianthea hummingbird is photographed during a birdwatching trail at the Monserrate hill in Bogota on November 11, 2020. Colombia is the country with the largest bird diversity in the world, home to about 1,934 different bird species, a fifth of the total known. JUAN BARRETO / AFP / Getty Images
1. Choosing the Right Binoculars<p>Binoculars are a relatively indispensable tool for most birders – but, for those just starting out, it might not yet be worth the several-hundred-dollar investment. If you aren't able to scour the attics of friends or borrow a pair from a fellow bird watcher, some local birding and naturalist groups have <a href="https://vashonaudubon.org/all-about-vashon-birds/binoculars-check-out/" target="_blank">binocular loaning programs</a> for members, allowing you to plan ahead for a day (or week) of birding.</p><p>When you're ready to take the plunge, choosing a pair or binoculars should take some careful deliberation based on your needs and preferences; some <a href="https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/explore/optics/top-10-tips-buying-binoculars-bird-watching.php" target="_blank">major considerations</a> might include size, ease of use, <a href="https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/binoculars.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">magnification</a>, and price. While professional binoculars can easily run north of $1,000, there are plenty of perfectly suitable entry-level binoculars under $200. You might not get the perfect precision and clarity of more elite models, but a less expensive pair will allow you to strengthen your birding skills while deciding if you're interested in investing in a premium pair.</p><p>For a budget-friendly option, check out resale options on eBay, Facebook marketplace, or neighborhood yard sales: you might find a nicer pair whose retail price isn't within your budget.</p>
2. Know What Birds Are in Your Area<p>When I began to pay more attention to the birds just outside my apartment building, I started to learn what species have always been around me: European starlings, house sparrows, blue jays, black capped chickadees, and the occasional red-bellied woodpecker. They had always been there, but I hadn't ever taken the time to identify them. Once you learn to <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/get-know-these-20-common-birds_" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recognize common birds</a> in your area, you'll be able to identify the typical species right outside your window and in your community. Of course, permanent residential birds in your neighborhood will <a href="https://nestwatch.org/learn/focal-species/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vary by region</a>, as will those migrating through it.</p>
3. Get Out and Explore<p>Venturing elsewhere might allow you to spot some different species beyond those frequenting your backyard. Anywhere with water or greenery offers a place for birding; as an urbanite myself, I've found that even small- and mid-sized parks in New York City allow me to find more elusive birds (although Central Park takes the crown for an afternoon of urban birding).</p><p>If you are able to travel a bit further from home, <a href="https://www.fws.gov/refuges/" target="_blank">national wildlife refuges</a> and <a href="https://www.americasstateparks.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">state/national parks</a> are excellent places to explore bird habitats and perhaps log some less-common sightings. The American Birding Association also lists <a href="https://www.aba.org/aba-area-birding-trails/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">birding trails by state</a>, and Audubon and BirdLife International identify <a href="https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Important Bird Areas (IBAs)</a> across the country – important bird habitats and iconic places that activists are fighting to protect – where birders can spot birds of significance.</p>
4. Finding a Bird: Stop, Look, Listen, Repeat<p>The National Audubon Society recommends the "<a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-find-bird" target="_blank">stop, look, listen, repeat</a>" mantra when seeking and identifying birds.</p><p>First and foremost, spotting birds requires attention. Stopping – getting out of the car, pausing on the sidewalk, trail, or in the backyard to look up – is the most important step.</p><p>When looking for birds, try to avoid gazing wildly around; rather, scan your surroundings, focusing on any odd shapes or shadows, trying to think about where a bird might perch (power lines, fence posts, branches), or keep an eye on the sky for flying eagles and hawks. In open areas like fields and beaches, you might have a more panoramic view, and can take in different sections of the landscape at a time. Look around with the naked eye before reaching for the binoculars to hone in.</p><p>While it can be hard to sift through the noise, listening for birds is perhaps an even more important element of bird watching than looking. Once you spend more time in the field, you'll be able to parse apart the racket and identify specific species, especially aided by Audubon's Bird Guide app or by learning from their <a href="https://www.audubon.org/section/birding-ear" target="_blank">Birding by Ear series</a>.</p><p>Repeat this pattern as you continue on your way, stopping to look and listen for birds as you go, rather than waiting for them to come to you. </p>
5. Identification<p>When you head out for a day of bird watching – especially when you're hoping to spot some new species – you'll want to be armed with the tools to identify what you see. <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-identify-birds" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Major considerations when identifying birds</a> are their group (such as owls, hawks, or sparrow-like birds), size and shape, behavior, voice, field marks, season, and habitat.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.sibleyguides.com/about/the-sibley-guide-to-birds/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sibley Guide to Birds</a> and the <a href="https://www.hmhbooks.com/shop/books/peterson-field-guide-to-birds-of-north-america-second-edition/9781328771445" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Peterson Field Guide</a> are widely considered the best books for identifying birds in North America, although many <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/what-bird-guide-best-you" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">specialized guides</a> focus on specific species or regions as well.</p><p>Plenty of <a href="https://blog.nature.org/science/2013/05/27/boucher-bird-blog-apps-smart-birder/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bird identification apps</a> have popped up in recent years – including National Geographic Birds, Sibley eGuide to Birds, iNaturalist, Merlin Bird ID, and Birdsnap – which are basically a <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/the-best-birding-apps-and-field-guides" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">field guide in your pocket</a>. I'm partial to the Audubon Bird Guide, which allows users to filter by common identifiers, including a bird's habitat, color, activity, tail shape, and general type, adding them all to a personal map to view your sightings.</p>
6. Recording Your Sightings<p><span>As you deepen your commitment to birding, you might join the community of birders that track and quantify their sightings, building their </span><a href="https://www.thespruce.com/what-birds-count-on-a-life-list-386704#:~:text=A%20life%20list%20is%20a,which%20birds%20you%20have%20seen." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">life list</a><span>.</span></p><p>While a standard notebook noting the date, species name, habitat, vocalizations, or any other data you wish to include will suffice, some birders opt for a more <a href="https://www.riteintherain.com/no-195-birders-journal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">structured birder's journal</a> with pre-determined fields to record your encounters, take notes, draw sketches, etc.</p><p>Many birders also choose to record their sightings online and in shared databases (which include many of the field guide apps), often pinpointing them on a map for others to view. Launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, <a href="https://ebird.org/home" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird is one of the largest databases and citizen science projects around birding</a>, where hundreds of thousands of birders enter their sightings, and users can explore birds in regions and hotspots around the world. Users can also record their sightings on the <a href="https://apps.apple.com/us/app/ebird/id988799279" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird app</a>.</p>
7. Attracting Birds to Your Own Yard<p>Feeding birds is a common phenomenon: more than 40% of Americans maintain a birdfeeder to attract birds and watch them feast.</p><p>Not all birdfeed is created equal, however. Many commercial varieties are mostly made with "fillers" (oats, red millet, etc.) that birds will largely leave untouched. After researching what birds to expect in your area – and which ones you want to attract – you can create your own birdfeed with <a href="https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/?pid=1142" target="_blank">seeds that will appeal to them</a>.</p><p>Beyond filling a birdfeeder, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/eco-friendly-lawn-2651194858.html" target="_self">transforming your yard into an eco-friendly oasis</a> is by far the best way to attract birds. Choosing to forgo mowing your lawn, planting native flowers and grasses, and ditching the pesticides will bring back the bugs that birds feed on, and provide a safe haven in which birds can happily live and eat.</p><p>While it's widely considered acceptable – and even beneficial – to feed birds with appropriate seeds, communal birdfeeders often <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/to-feed-or-not-feed" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foster unlikely interactions between different species</a>, who can then transmit harmful diseases and parasites to one another. Maintaining several bird feeders with different types of seeds might keep different species from coming into contact, and feeders can be <a href="https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/how-to-clean-your-bird-feeder/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cleaned to prevent the spread of infection</a>.</p>
8. Inclusivity and Anti-Racism in the Birding Community<p>Like all outdoor activities and areas of scientific study, birding communities are subject to racist and discriminatory ideologies. Black birders have long experienced discrimination and underrepresentation in outdoor spaces. The work of organizations like the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/birdersfund/" target="_blank">Black & Latinx Birders Fund</a>, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/birdability/" target="_blank">Birdability</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/feministbirdclub/" target="_blank">Feminist Bird Club</a> highlight the contributions and importance of birders of color, birders with disabilities, and women and LGBTQ+ birders to the birding community, as do activists and naturalists like <a href="https://www.instagram.com/hood__naturalist/" target="_blank">Corina Newsome</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/tykeejames/" target="_blank">Tykee James</a>. The work of <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/its-bird-new-comic-written-central-park-birder-christian-cooper" target="_blank">Christian Cooper</a>, <a href="https://camilledungy.com/publications/" target="_blank">Camille Dungy</a> (read her poem <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/58363/frequently-asked-questions-10" target="_blank">Frequently Asked Questions: 10</a>), and <a href="https://orionmagazine.org/article/9-rules-for-the-black-birdwatcher/" target="_blank">J. Drew Lanham</a> – including his essay "<a href="https://lithub.com/birding-while-black/" target="_blank">Birding While Black</a>" – are a great place to start.</p><p>Getting involved in birding means educating ourselves on these issues and taking meaningful action; the work of <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/its-bird-new-comic-written-central-park-birder-christian-cooper" target="_blank">Christian Cooper</a> and <a href="https://orionmagazine.org/article/9-rules-for-the-black-birdwatcher/" target="_blank">J. Drew Lanham</a> – including his essay "<a href="https://lithub.com/birding-while-black/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Birding While Black</a>" – are a great place to start. Just as birders are activists for protecting habitats and natural areas, we must also be active and aware of inclusivity in these spaces.</p>
9. Get Involved<p>To learn from and enjoy the company of other birders, check out local birding groups in your area to join. Many Audubon chapters host trips, meetings, and bird walks for members. The American Birding Association even maintains a <a href="https://www.aba.org/festivals-events/" target="_blank">directory of birding festivals</a> across the country.</p><p>Volunteering for birds is also a great way to meet other birders and take action for birds in your community; local organizations might have opportunities for assisting with habitat restoration or helping at birding centers.</p><p>Like all wildlife, climate change and habitat destruction threaten the livelihood of birds, eliminating their breeding grounds and food sources. A <a href="https://www.audubon.org/climate/survivalbydegrees" target="_blank">2019 report released by the National Audubon Society</a> found that two-thirds of North American birds may face extinction if global temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Staying informed about and taking action for legislation designed to protect birds and our climate – such as the recent <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5552/text" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Migratory Bird Protection Act</a> – is important for ensuring a livable future for wildlife and humans alike.</p><p><em>Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC. </em><em>Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.</em></p>
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