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snowy egret, osprey, red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, gambel's quail, American coot, killdeer, black-necked stilt, western sandpiper, northern flicker, curve-billed thrasher and great-tailed grackle.
Endangered birds find a 'Safe Harbor' in around Town Lake
by Dianna M. Náñez - Oct. 9, 2009 05:40 PM
The Arizona Republic
A juvenile bald eagle roosting at Tempe Town Lake has charmed workers involved in the Red Mountain Freeway expansion project.
"Who would have thought it (the eagle) would be here so close to the town," Joe Dominguez said. "It's really neat to have seen."
"It perches on the cranes and power lines . . . like it's king of the water," Greg Werlinger said.
The eagle's birth is a first for the area, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials in Arizona.
The bald eagle is benefiting from a conservation effort to restore desert and Salt River bottom areas around Town Lake. It feeds and rests with its mother in wetlands just east of Town Lake that are protected through a "Safe Harbor Agreement" between Tempe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although development along Town Lake has caused an overall decline in the area's bird population in the past few years, the conservation agreement approved in April 2008 has created a 146-acre wildlife refuge.
Tempe's "Safe Harbor" agreement covers land bordering Town Lake's east and west dam as well as desert areas in Papago Park north of the Red Mountain Freeway.The city applied for the agreement after realizing that ongoing efforts to restore the Rio Salado to its natural habitat could draw endangered species.
As part of the agreement, Tempe must enhance its safe harbor area with vegetation benefiting the Yuma clapper rail, Southwestern willow flycatcher and the bald eagle, which are all endangered or threatened species.
In return, Tempe is shielded from regulations and fines related to the Endangered Species Act.
Once Tempe has met its conservation goals, the city has the option of returning the habitat to the condition it was when the agreement was initiated. Those concessions allow private landowners to develop the land.
The agreement also expands conservation efforts beyond the nation's federally protected land, which conservationists acknowledge is not sufficient for the recovery of endangered species.
Although there was little expectation that the Yuma clapper rail, Southwestern willow flycatcher and the bald eagle would nest within the safe-harbor boundaries, Mike Martinez, of the Arizona Ecological Services, a branch of the federal fish and wildlife services, said the habitat improvements will provide feeding and resting areas during migration.
The city has completed several enhancements on the west end of Town Lake and is readying for projects on the east side, said Nancy Ryan, who manages Rio Salado projects for Tempe.
To advance the habitat west of Town Lake, Tempe has planted mesquite, ironwood and paloverde trees. The addition of a low-flow channel created swimming and marsh areas for birds. Cottonwood, desert willow and cattail were also planted.
Native trees were also planted in the protected area north of the Red Mountain Freeway in Papago Park.
Within the year, Tempe will plant trees and build a viewing area on the south bank of the eastern side of Town Lake. So that residents can take in the scenery without disturbing the wildlife, Tempe will plant catclaw, brittlebush and other vegetation along the bank.
A recent wildlife survey to monitor Tempe's safe harbor wildlife showed that there were thousands of birds soaring or swimming in the area. Among them are snowy egret, osprey, red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, gambel's quail, American coot, killdeer, black-necked stilt, western sandpiper, northern flicker, curve-billed thrasher and great-tailed grackle.
The summer birth of the bald eagle is the first sign that the enhanced habitat is benefiting threatened species, Martinez said.
"If these areas are used by these species it can contribute to their ultimate recovery, which is the ultimate goal of our agency - not to keep these species on the list but to recover them to get them off the list," he said.
Endangered species covered under Tempe's 'Safe Harbor' agreement
"Safe Harbor" agreements are supposed to cover areas where habitat improvements could benefit the recovery of an endangered species. Tempe's improvements are aimed at helping the endangered Yuma clapper rail, endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher and threatened bald eagle. Should other endangered species not covered under the agreement appear in the safe harbor area, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can request that the agreement be amended to add that species.
Yuma clapper rail: It's a medium-size marsh bird with mottled brown or gray on its rump, dark gray sides and belly, and a long, down-curved beak.
It was listed as endangered without sufficient habitat in 1967. The listing was prompted by a small population, which was tied to a loss of breeding habitat along the lower Colorado River. The habitat was lost to the building of dams, water diversion and channelization on the Lower Colorado and Gila rivers.
Although there are no known Yuma clapper rails living in the Tempe project area, historically there have been sightings of the bird west of Town Lake along the Gila River. In 2001, a total of 529 Yuma clapper rails were detected in U.S. wildlife surveys.
Southwestern willow flycatcher: It's a small passerine bird, about 6 inches long, with a grayish-green back and wings, olive-gray breast and pale-yellow belly.
It was listed as endangered without sufficient habitat in 1995. Marsh destruction and channelization are the primary reasons for habitat loss. The bird breeds in dense riparian environments of the Southwest and winters in Mexico, Central America and northern South America.
Although there are no Southwestern willow flycatchers in the Tempe project area, the bird was detected in a 2002 survey along the Gila River downstream of Town Lake during breeding season.
About 900 to 1,000 pairs of flycatchers remain in portions of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
Bald eagle: It's unique to North America. It has a wingspread of about 7 feet. Adults have a dark-brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. Juveniles are mostly brown with white mottling.
It was listed as endangered in most of the U.S. in 1967 and reclassified as threatened in 1995.
In 2007, recovery efforts were considered successful, as more than 9,789 breeding pairs were reported in the Lower 48 states. The bald eagle was removed from the threatened and endangered wildlife list in every state except Arizona.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
I live @ 18th Avenue/Thomas, and I frequently see in my yard northern flickers (very rarely see acorn and gila woodpeckers), curve-billed thrashers, lots of grackles (the only birds I see more than grackles are pigeons, doves, sparrows, Euro blackbirds, and finches (in the summer)), the occasional Harris hawk, nighthawks, peach-faced lovebirds, and my favorite the northern mockingbird. Love those mockingbirds. The mockingbirds look to be mating or fighting or some sort of craziness right now. Great singers, and I love how they trot through my yard step-by-step, raising their wings bit-by-bit for some reason.chumley wrote:I just looked up that article I was referencing, link to it is here:
http://www.azcentral.com/community/temp ... r1010.html
here's an excerpt of the other birds that are known to be nesting in this not-so-serene spot in the center of townsnowy egret, osprey, red-tailed hawks, American kestrel, gambel's quail, American coot, killdeer, black-necked stilt, western sandpiper, northern flicker, curve-billed thrasher and great-tailed grackle.