Take a plastic pledge for Migratory Bird Day in the Americas

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By Becky Ewing
    I recently traveled to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, to visit with Dr. Cary Chevalier’s Renewable Resources Policy and Administration class. The students were exploring environmental laws and policies that address contemporary natural resource management issues at the state and national levels.


    To supplement their learning, Dr. Chevalier invites resource professionals from various agencies to meet with the students and discuss examples of real-life projects and how laws and policies figure into the planning and implementing of them. It is always a pleasure to interact with students who are contemplating a career in natural resources management.
    While up in the St. Joseph area, I took some personal time and drove over to Grand Island, Nebraska, to experience the annual sandhill crane migration. Each spring, the cranes migrate from the Gulf Coast area and stop along the Platte River to rest and feed before heading north. As luck would have it, I picked the week when a record number of sandhill cranes were present – over 600,000 birds were in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska.
    I stopped in at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center and learned that the cranes roost on the river at night and head out to nearby fields to forage for leftover grain, earthworms, and other invertebrates during the day. One can drive slowly along the county roads and watch the cranes feed and dance. Road pull-offs are signed to encourage birdwatchers to use those areas to stop, watch and listen to the cranes. Interestingly, the cranes I saw that week were mostly headed to Siberia to nest and raise their young.
    Bird migration stories like that are amazing. In our neck of the woods, we have our own interesting migration stories. One of our favorite visitors is the ruby-throated hummingbird. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it spends the winter in Central America. Most get there by flying across the Gulf of Mexico. Some birds stay in North America along the Gulf Coast, parts of the southern Atlantic coast, and at the tip of Florida; these are usually birds from farther north. I noticed my first hummingbird on April 27th, but they are usually in our area in early-mid April.
    Saturday, May 11, 2019 is World Migratory Bird Day in the Americas and the theme for this year’s event is: Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution (https://www.migratorybirdday.org/). Did you know that plastic poses a risk of both ingestion and entanglement to migratory birds, which can lead to illness, entrapment and serious injury? Scientists estimate that 80% of seabirds and shorebirds have ingested plastic.
    To celebrate World Migratory Bird Day 2019, plan to do a little bird watching and take the plastic pledge. Pledge examples include: I pledge to say no to at least one single-use plastic item per week; I pledge to pick up plastic pollution and dispose of it properly; or, I pledge to recycle/dispose of any plastic item I use. Doing just one of these things can help our feathered friends that bring us so much enjoyment.
    The Potosi Ranger Station is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. You can reach us by calling (573) 438-5427. To receive updates on Mark Twain National Forest events and happenings, follow us on Twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest.
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Becky Ewing is a district ranger for the Mark Twain National Forest in Potosi, Mo.