Date: 10/17/18 9:51 am
From: Frank Enders (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Re: Proposed threatened listing of eastern Black Rail
I searched the internet a few weeks ago.
The "eastern" Black Rail is everything east of the Rockies. There are many records of this species west of the Mississippi, reported in birdlines and not in eBird. There are many NWRs which do not allow people to survey at night for Black Rails, more records not available.
Maybe the problem is that the "eastern" Black Rails is not going down the tubes in the central US. If you look at the work by the Center For Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, you will see the coastal birds ARE in very bad shape (though I wonder if anybody has looked at the marshes bordering the Choptank River in Maryland---which only had e-Bird records on the north side, at a seep from a water treatment plant.)
What I recently saw in Colfax County, NM was a promising marsh, and then a local birder posted Black Rail from the area. Many reservoirs in the west have seeps/drainage where Black Rails are found by "hotshot birders", just as records in the east are available in Clemson, SC, Raleigh, NC area, and Blacksburg, VA area, i.e., the birds is found where birders are active. The many alkali lakes in the west may have potential habitat. I believe O'Brien with another (now at Cornell) recorded many Black Rails flying north near the Gulf Coast in spring; there are salt areas inland which are known to have breeding Black Rails, and the species simply is using ephemeral habitat which is often not surveyed. (In peninsular Florida, an inland salt marsh was key to finding nests.)
The birds in California have lost habitat (south S.F. Bay). And use habitat with woody stuff as well as the open Salicornia-type and shortgrass marsh areas. But, not only has a population been discovered near Marysville in oak parkland, but a population is also described between that and the salt marshes of S.F. Bay (in Sacramento delta).
I do not know what to think of a map showing the species between the Coast Range and the Sierras, except to repeat what I said above about the species in the Great Plains: the species probably finds seeps from irrigation and definitely there are records from Salton Sea---and how does that not
connect with the breeders where the Colorado River dries up near Mexico? How that map got on the internet, and I had not noticed actual records of calling birds except for Salton, I do not know.

If the endangered listing brought money and studies, that would have to be OK, but the ESA is a lot like many laws passed by Congress but not funded. I have this nagging feeling that the biologists in state and federal agencies are part of the problem. It may be that they are not properly funded, nor properly supervised, just not motivated to do things which might put their "careers" at risk. All of us are time-servers, wage-slaves. I am out here working for 40 years just to make ends meet. Talk is cheap.

A new ESA, which stops focussing on nitty gritty legal issues (which are, in fact, sometimes significant) and started actually putting out contracts for private groups to recover species might work better. You cannot get money for what is needed by just cutting taxes and giving money to a military-industrial complex which is just as incompetent as the rest of us. This goes back to the poor governance of the USA.
(Maybe I should be hopeful that reduced taxes will give birders/scientists enough money to do the work themselves?)

A broken record: if we started requiring sewage to be run through a marsh (tertiary treatment), we would have a lot of grass and sedge as rail habitat (plus cleaner waterways--two birds with one stone).

Also, who raises Black Rails in captivity? I know captive-reared Bobwhite have not worked out so well, to bolster their populations, but who really knows? At least, captive-reared Black Rails released with radio transmitters might give us very interesting data to understand the species.

Frank Enders, Halifax, NC
From: <carolinabirds-request...> <carolinabirds-request...> on behalf of David Campbell <carolinabirds...>
Sent: Friday, October 5, 2018 1:09 PM
To: Carolina Birds
Subject: Proposed threatened listing of eastern Black Rail

There is a proposal to list the eastern subspecies of Black Rail as threatened. Among other topics, they want feedback on possible impacts of overattention by bird listers. My guess is that the number of people who are careless about their impact, yet are willing to hang out all night in a marsh in hopes of adding a species, are relatively few, but that's my guess - some of you have a much better idea of the situation.<>

Dr. David Campbell
Associate Professor, Geology
Department of Natural Sciences
Box 7270
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs NC 28017

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