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Audubon Program Features Birds And Climate Change Study

What would our world be like without birds? Not only do they delight our eyes and ears, but they are integral to this planet’s environmental health and sustainability.

Their diversity astounds the human imagination and tickles our sensibilities. Their ability to fly symbolizes freedom to us, and their behaviors and interactions fascinate us. One doesn’t have to be an avid birder to enjoy and appreciate the pleasure birds bring us or their ecological, esthetic and economic importance in our lives.

Birds face many daily perils that make survival a continuing challenge. Perhaps the severest contemporary threat to their future is climate change.

This past September the National Audubon Society (NAS) released a landmark report, “Birds and Climate Change,” that culminated a seven-year study on the long-term impacts of climate change on the numbers, dynamics and distribution of bird populations. The Yosemite Area Audubon Society (YAAS), the local chapter that serves Mariposa and eastern Madera counties, will feature a slide presentation on this study and report by Audubon California Director of Public Policy Mike Lynes at its monthly meeting Thursday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Oakhurst Methodist Church on Road 426 in Oakhurst.

Audubon scientists, according to the NAS website, “analyzed more than 40 years of historical North American climate data and millions of historical bird records from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count to understand the links between where birds live and the climatic conditions that support them. Of 588 bird species examined in the study, 314 species are considered at risk. Hundreds of species not previously considered at risk will be challenged to survive in a climate-changed future. Understanding those links then allows scientists to project where birds are likely to be able to survive – and not survive – in the future.”

The 314 at-risk species identified in the report include 170 California species that include, among many others, the iconic bald and golden eagles, American kestrel, long-billed curlew, great gray owl, brown pelican, Allen’s hummingbird and yellow-billed magpie. Lynes’ presentation will highlight a number of species familiar to Sierra and Central Valley residents.

Audubon is addressing the challenge of climate change by working with conservation partners and legislators to promote protection of habitats that birds need both now and in the future, and to curb global warming and reduce its severity.

Audubon emphasizes that “we won’t be able to rise to this challenge without the involvement of California residents who care about birds. We need people not only to join us in this important work, but to also raise their voices to call for meaningful policy and legislative action on global warming.”

Like all YAAS programs, Lynes’ presentation on January 8 is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter’s local activities are appreciated.

YAAS will also lead its monthly field trip Saturday, January 10, to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Participants should meet at 7:45 a.m. at the Mariposa rest area adjacent to the history center and museum just off Highway 140 to carpool. The trip is free and the public welcome. Bring binoculars, field guides, lunch, beverages and wet-weather gear. Dress in layers and waterproof footwear.

Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about either the program or the field trip.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. The YAAS is dedicated to educating and inspiring others to help protect those resource values.

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