Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bird Songs has a special section on Nature Watching, which includes a birding column by Herb Wilson. This week's column is Learning to identify birds by ear. He includes links to a number of helpful websites, so it is worth a look, even if you do not bird in Maine. I am not entirely sold on the Feith CD. The audio samples seem very short, and many species fly past without making a lasting impression on my brain. I much prefer the Birding by Ear CDs by Walton and Lawson for learning calls. Still, the Feith CD can be a useful resource to have while travelling, as it gathers 189 species on one disk that is easily transported.

Wind Farms and Birds

One problem that has emerged in the search for alternate, renewable energy sources is that wind turbines kill birds, especially when the turbines are placed on migration corridors. A new Dutch study suggests that the death toll may not be as high as previously estimated. That study found an average of 28 deaths per turbine; earlier studies predicted about three times that figure. This is good news for renewable energy fans, but there is still cause to worry. I am a little concerned that this study was co-sponsored by an energy company; that makes it difficult to trust the results. And even 28 deaths per turbine is high, considering that wind farms have hundreds of turbines each. Wind power is a promising energy source, but bird mortality still needs to be reduced before it is truly environmentally friendly.

On the subject of wind power, the new design for the coming replacement for the World Trade Center in New York has eliminated the wind turbines envisioned for the upper stories in earlier designs. It is unfortunate that this element of green design was lost in the midst of political haggling over the project. The planners had an opportunity to set an example for future building projects, but it appears that this opportunity has been lost.