Here’s a recap of the most important stories that we tweeted and retweeted over the past two weeks:
1. Great news for shorebirds: We learned early in the month that the Supreme Court of Panama, in January, had reinstated the protected status for wetlands in the Bay of Panama, saving it from destructive development. Upper Panama Bay, designated as a WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance in 2005, supports more than a million shorebirds annually, including large concentrations of Western Sandpiper. February 7.
2. A new bunting? The American Ornithologists’ Union is weighing a proposal to split Painted Bunting into two species — one that resides in the southern Great Plains, and another along the southeastern Atlantic coast. The AOU is expected to announce its decision this summer. February 10.
3. And a new hummingbird? A paper published in the January issue of The Auk argued that the two subspecies of Bahama Woodstar should be recognized as distinct species. Suggested names are Bahama Woodstar for the birds in the northern population and Inagua Sheartail, Inagua Lyretail, Inagua Hummingbird, or Lyre-tailed Hummingbird for the southern birds. February 12.
4. The continent’s greatest wildlife spectacle has already started: The education director at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, Nebraska, reported that a small flock of Sandhill Cranes arrived on the Platte River on February 7, signaling the start of the annual migration of more than half a million northbound cranes. Crane watching along the Platte is the cover story of the April issue of BirdWatching. February 13.
5. Keep your fingers crossed: The Peregrine Fund announced that captive California Condors produced the first eggs of the new breeding season on February 14. The critically endangered birds laid three eggs at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. They will produce up to 20 eggs over the next several weeks. February 18.
6. Backyard success: Team eBird tweeted that birdwatchers around the world submitted over 100,000 checklists during the Great Backyard Bird Count, which took place February 13-16. Incredibly, over 12 million individual birds, more than 42 percent of the world’s species, were tallied. February 16.
— eBird (@Team_eBird) February 17, 2015
7. You have to watch this video: A Snowy Owl took possession of an Osprey nest in Collins Marsh, near Manitowoc in eastern Wisconsin, as thousands watched via a nestcam operated by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. February 16.
8. A new challenge for eagles: Bald Eagles across the southeastern United States are being stricken by a deadly neurotoxin produced by a bacterium that grows on the underside of a widespread invasive aquatic plant. The researcher who discovered the bacterium named it Aetokthonos hydrillicola. The Greek word means “eagle killer.” February 18.
9. Here we go again: Ice coverage on the Great Lakes reached 85.4 percent on February 18. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the lakes hadn’t reached the 80-percent landmark in consecutive years since the 1970s. As we reported in the cover story of our February issue, last winter’s ice caused a massive die-off of diving ducks. February 18.
10. A year of free access: The White House announced on February 19 that, starting in September, every fourth-grader will receive a pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for him or her and for his or her family — for a full year. The initiative is called “Every Kid in the Park.” We’re preparing articles about birding with children for our upcoming August 2015 issue. February 19.