Thursday, December 30, 2010

Finding the Harlequin

A few days ago, I checked the Pennsylvania Birding Listserv and saw that a Harlequin Duck had been reported from northern Northampton County. After a day or two, birders began posting photos of this beautiful male Harlequin Duck which represented the first documented record for the county. Today, my dad and I traveled to the Delaware River near the Belvidere bridge in order to see this duck.

Harlequin Duck
The beautiful, unique pattern and dark color of the Harlequin Duck distinguished it from the Common Goldeneyes

When we arrived at the location, we saw the bird down the river with a small group of Common Goldeneyes. We thought that a spot down the road would have a better vantage point, so we headed back the car. As we were about to leave, we ran into local birder Dave DeReamus who was also looking for the duck (although he had already seen it the day before). We talked with Dave for a while and decided to try the New Jersey side, since the Harlequin had been hanging out primarily on that side of the river.

We drove across the bridge and walked down the railroad bed until we got a clearing where we spotted the group of ducks. As we watched and photographed the rare bird, the group flew off. We walked back to the car, which was also the direction that ducks flew. When we got to where the ducks were, we were able to take several photographs before the birds swam towards the middle of the river.

The Harlequin Duck with a group of Common Goldeneyes

This beautiful bird was a lifer for my dad and only the second that I had ever seen (the first was during the World Series of Birding).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Early during the morning of Tuesday, December 21, I witnessed a lunar eclipse. The combination of the eclipse and the solstice is a very rare coincidence and was a beautiful sight.

Lunar Eclipse

Friday, December 3, 2010

More on the Youth Involvement at COP16

This morning started off with another early meeting of the youth organizations. The meeting got off to a quicker start than the day before, as the issue of language had been solved and the translators were ready in the back of the room. The meeting began with announcements and went into discussions about presenting a report to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. Announcements about the upcoming YOUNGO focal point elections were also given at the meeting. The meeting was going to be long (for the second day in a row), but students were began heading to the meeting for the contact group on Article 6 of the Convention. This article focuses on public awareness and youth involvement in the UNFCCC process which made it an important event for YOUNGO members to attend.

Contact Group on Article 6 of the Convention with party members and observers

There was a very good turnout at the contact meeting. Many of the non-negotiating attendees were members of youth organizations that showed up to remind those making the decisions why these negotiations were being held in the first place. To me, it felt as though little came out of this contact group meeting. Much of the time was spent discussing the wording of the document rather than content. However, mention of youth was included into the Article 6 document.

Young people are now included in the treaty document

When Section 6: Paragraph (e) was being discussed, the chair of the committee decided that this section should be deleted, despite the recommendations of the United States and the European Union. This section is the portion of the convention treaty that suggests that the Secretariat of the UNFCCC consider the integration of youth delegates into the negotiation process. The chair decided that this paragraph was inappropriate for Article 6 of the document and therefore was placed aside to be discussed at another time by a separate committee. Although some people that I talked to were disappointed as a result of the deletion, some were still hopeful that something good will eventually come out of this COP meeting.

I attended various side events for the remainder of the day including panels on urbanization, indigenous peoples, and impacts of climate change on human health. Also, I met the rest of the Moravian College delegation, many of which arrived yesterday. I have one more day to attend COP16, so I am hoping that I will make the best of tomorrow with my final YOUNGO meeting of the conference. I also plan on attending more side events and hopefully getting in contact with another Inconvenient Youth member who is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Red Cross/Red Crescent panel

I added this photo to highlight some the technology being used at the COP16 meeting. This display is an eight-screen interactive Google Earth exhibit.

Moravian College students, professors, and alumni in Cancun

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day of Youth and Future Generations

Today was the Day of Youth and Future Generations at COP16, a day dedicated to the youth that are involved in the UNFCCC process and the delegations of young people in Cancun. The day started with a meeting of the Youth Non-governmental Observers (YOUNGO). Although an hour and a half of the meeting was spent deciding what language the meeting should be in, several good discussions came out of the YOUNGO meeting. Members of the group gave policy reports from the UNFCCC negotiations that occurred the day before and these members of the YOUNGO policy working group gave responses to what had been decided in the negotiations. The group also discussed the various youth-related activities that would be taking place during the day.

Members of the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition

Although there were many young people in the room, I was shocked at how few were from the United States. I had hoped that there would be many youth from the US involved with UNFCCC, but unfortunately that did not happen. The only others from the United States were from the organization SustainUS. The majority of the people in the room were from Europe, primarily the United Kingdom, but other continents and countries were represented as well. While the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition only included members from their own county, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts had representatives from several countries.

In order to make the meetings fair to different delegations around the world, a survey was taken as to how many of the young people in the room were from global north versus global south countries. These are socio-economic classifications given to each country. The global north countries are developed countries including the United States and many countries in Europe. Unfortunately for the diversity aspect of the meeting, very few delegates were from countries in the global south.

After the meeting, I attended a side event on the ways youth organizations are reaching out to youth in the community to help fight climate change. The panel members focused primarily on encouraging people to vote in order to bring change through politicians—“change politicians, not climate”. Rather than spending time on educating people about the issue of climate change, the organizations that spoke were focused primarily on electing “green” representatives.

These groups are indeed able to make a difference through the politicians they elect to office, but their actions do nothing to educate people about the issue. The fact that they can get people to vote for the politician that agrees with clean energy does not ensure that the voter fully understands why voting for such a person is important nor does it ensure that the voters comprehend the severity of the impacts of climate change.

From here, I headed to the “Youth Market”, a demonstration organized by the various youth groups attending the conference as non-governmental observers. The youth involved had a mock “sale” of various natural resources and vulnerable places. The “action”, as it is called at the COP meetings, attracted the attention of many people in Cancunmesse including a good number of reporters. Although I was there to watch, I was somehow dragged into the “market” since I was a youth in the area. I ended up holding a sign that read “Home and Future”, signifying the fact that these two important aspects of life are being “sold” as a result of climate change.

This demonstration was a success in many ways. Although it did not have a specific “cause” (since many separate organizations were involved), it showed that the planet cannot wait much longer for an agreement before all of the Earth’s natural resources are “sold”. Perhaps the most important part of the action was to highlight the presence of the youth at COP16. The youth are often forgotten about since they cannot take part in the official negotiations, however, they serve an important part in education and outreach for the issue.

Time is on sale at the Youth Market; unfortunately, it appears that time is running out

This day, filled with youth panels, meetings, and actions, successfully brought the youth of UNFCCC to the front of the climate conference. Hopefully through future events, similar to those that happened today, the youth will gain higher status and members of the YOUNGO will be allowed into the climate negotiations.

I cannot post all of the photos here, so please visit to view more images from today and the rest of COP16 in Cancun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

COP16: Building the Foundation

While attending events at the Moon Palace, I had several chances to hear the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. Although she talked to very different audiences throughout the day (ranging from the Associated Press to a large group of non-governmental observers and party members), Ms. Figueres had a few main points regarding the climate negotiations taking place. The first of these is that COP15 in Copenhagen was not a failure. Many say that COP15 was a “failure” due to the fact that nothing major came out of the meeting that was hoped to result in an agreement. Secretariat Figueres believes that Copenhagen was important as it brought international attention to the issue of climate change. Although no major agreements came out of the conference in 2009, the media attention brought the issue to the public, who may have ignored the issue of climate change.

Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres

The second major issue according to the Secretariat is the fact that a major, perfect agreement will not come out of COP16. No one can expect an agreement when three countries have decided that they will not agree to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. According to Ms. Figueres, we should not be aiming for an ultimate agreement this year, as “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. Secretariat Figueres also warned that we should aim for the "good" and not complain if Cancun indeed leads to an imperfect agreement. Cancun is merely building a foundation on which a fuller, better agreement can be built. If the world sees what comes out of COP16 in Cancun as a failure, we will get nowhere on our goal of reaching a better planet. Although we cannot save the planet overnight (or even the course of the COP meeting), we can hope that a plan to save our planet will be reached within the next few years.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sorry for the late post. This was written yesterday, November 30, 2010:

Today was my first day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties sixteen (COP16). As soon as I got here, I received some information and learned the layout of the conference. There are three main locations where the conference activities are taking place. The first is the Climate Village, which I have not yet visited. This area is open to anyone, and is targeted to the locals who are not involved with UNFCCC. The second place is the Moon Palace. This is where all of the major negotiations are taking place. Unfortunately, many of these negotiations are closed to the public, although many are displayed on screens throughout the conference buildings. The third location is CancĂșnmesse, which is where I will be spending most of my time. This is where observers put up displays and booths. Talks on various climate change related talks take place at this location.

Booths at Cancunmesse

By the time I was able to get to the convention, it was already mid-afternoon. Upon arriving, my mom and I had to go through security, which was much like an airport security system. After going through, we headed to get our credentials. This was fairly painless, but was easier for my mom as she had previously received credentials last year at COP15 in Copenhagen. My mom and I are considered non-governmental observers (NGO) as are the other members of the Moravian College with which I am involved.

The first exhibit hall was made up primarily of booths run by observer organizations. The booths ranged from Ukraine to the World Health Organization, almost all of which had handouts to teach about the organization’s connection to the central issue of climate change. Since I had only a little time and since many of the booths are not completely set up yet, I only spent a little time at the booths, but learned a lot and met a few people along the way. The second part Cancunmesse is where countries have set up large displays or “centers” which highlight issues that affect their primary climate change-related issues. The largest was the United States, followed closely by Mexico. South Africa, which will be hosting COP17, also had a center encouraging participants of this year’s conference to attend next year’s.

The computer center at Cancunmesse

From Cancunmesse, my mom and I headed north to downtown Cancun, a part rarely visited by tourists who primarily stay in Zona Hotelera. I had read an article about a climate prayer which was taking place in front of Palacio Munincipal, which was something that I wanted to visit. When we arrived, we watched as several actors acted and danced to music on the stage. This was followed by a speech by a guy promoting good actions toward the Earth. After that, a major bishop from Quintana Roo gave a wonderful prayer asking God to help us, the people fighting climate change, and to help the leaders negotiating plans to help the planet. Following are some quotes from the speech translated with the help of Father Mario Gonzalez:

Lord God, you created nature and the Earth. You then gave us the difficult challenge of protecting it.

Lord almighty, teach us what we should do and should not do.

God, give us the power to save the planet with the help of COP16 through the leaders who have gathered here in Cancun.

People gather to pray for the planet in the square in front of Palacio Munincipal

People sing to God, asking for him to bless the Earth

After the bishop, a local childrens' choir led a song which the audience clearly knew. After a few verses, everyone in the square was singing to God.

The children sing and release doves at Palacio Munincipal

Tomorrow, I will probably head back to Cancunmesse and possibly the Moon Palace. I will be attending several side events and paying more attention to the negotiations that are taking place nearby.

UNFCCC, Cancunmesse

I am currently sitting in Cancunmesse, the location of the exhibits, displays, and side events of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP16. It is incredible to see all of the organizations and countries represented by observers, negotiators, and speakers. I will post more information and photos this evening.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

UNFCCC in Mexico

From November 30 to December 6, I will be in CancĂșn, Mexico attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties 16 (COP16). I am attending the conference with the Moravian College delegation from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While in Mexico, I will be blogging back through this blog and hopefully the Inconvenient Youth website. Please continue to read my blog and if you are not already a follower, you can become a follower by using the form on the column on the right side of the page.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October Butterflies

While summer is known as the best time to look for butterflies, the fall months can be rewarding as well. Although the butterflies are less common and less numerous, unusual butterflies often show up. Today, I found five butterfly species in the yard. The first of these, a Cabbage White, is a very common butterfly during the warmer months. This species is often one of the first butterflies in the spring, so I was not surprised to still find a couple of these.

The second species was the Monarch. Several of these passed through the yard today, a few of which stopped to nectar on the various flowers that are still blooming. I also managed to tag two individuals, one male and one female.

The third species was a bit of a surprise to find. The Gray Hairstreak is a very common butterfly in August and September, but it does not usually stick around into October. I found one very worn individual on the various Asteraceae that are still in bloom.

The Gray Hairstreak wasn't the only hairstreak around today. While watching the Gray Hairstreak, I saw a flash of blue in the corner of my eye. I followed the small butterfly, thinking it was an Eastern Tailed-Blue, a common butterfly during the warm months. However, when the butterfly landed, I noticed that it was larger and grayer than a blue. The butterfly, similar in size to the Gray Hairstreak, was grayish and had a distinctive white spot near the base of the wing. This butterfly turned out to be a White M Hairstreak. This is a fairly uncommon butterfly in the region(especially this late), which I have only seen twice before.

White M Hairstreak

The final species, which is by far the most beautiful butterfly of the day and maybe the prettiest butterfly in Pennsylvania, was the Milbert's Tortoiseshell that spent the day on the blooming Chrysanthemum. This gorgeous butterfly shows up every year in October and sometimes stays until December. Since this is also a fairly uncommon species, I was excited to find and photograph it!

Milbert's Tortoiseshell

Be sure to check your flowers for any late-season butterflies!

Big Sit Report

A few weeks ago I did a big sit here in Kunkletown. Below is the report from an awesome day of birding:

Around 11:50pm on October 9, 2010, my family and I headed out to The Big Sit! spot as the Shadow Mountain Sharp-shins. At midnight, we began listening for any birds that might be calling at that early hour of the morning. In a matter of minutes, we heard the first species of the day, Canada Goose. After about ten minutes, my tired brother and mother headed back to the house. My dad stayed out long enough to hear a Great Horned Owl calling to the east. Not long after, my dad retreated to the comforts of a heated house. Now I was alone in the pitch-black darkness. I could hear several large groups of deer walking around me, but all I could see were the gorgeous stars including 18 shooting stars.

For over an hour and a half, my list stood at two species (and the temperature dropped to 34 degrees). In the days before, flight calls had been fairly audible and numerous. Apparently this morning was different despite the nice northwest breeze. At one point, just as I was slipping off into sleep, I heard a flight call from somewhere overhead. As I jumped up and listened intently, I heard the short, descending call again. Savannah Sparrow! As I was up, I heard a cardinal that must have been disturbed from its roost. Just before I sat down again, I heard a fairly close flight call. A soon as my brain could comprehend what I had just heard; I knew that the high-pitched rising call was that of a Grasshopper Sparrow.

The next few hours were slow, but I managed to get several Eastern Screech-Owls. At one point, I heard the Whoooo? of a Barred Owl in the valley below. About ten seconds later, another owl responded with a full Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you alllll? Soon, both owls were in a frenzy, each trying to figure out who was preparing the other’s meal. Not long after the Barreds started up, three Great Horned Owls also began hooting. For about ten minutes, a cacophony of owls arose from the foggy hollow and drifted up to the ridge top.

As the sky began to brighten, I was awaiting a large number of flight calls like I had heard the morning before. Although I did hear several Hermit Thrushes and one Swainson’s, I did not hear a single Gray-cheeked Thrush or anything else for that matter. Before long, the birds in the bushes around me began to wake up and start chipping. Between this time and sunrise, the Autumn Olives to the north of the spot were filled with sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and various other songbirds.

This is the meadow where the Shadow Mountain Sharp-shins The Big Sit circle was located.

Not long after, I began seeing the first signs of “morning flight”, which is when nocturnal migrating birds continue flying for some reason. Some other birds, especially the finches, began their diurnal migrations at this time. American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Purple Finches dominated the flight, with Blue Jays and Cedar Waxwings also showing strongly. A few surprises flew over during morning flight including the day’s only Blackpoll Warbler and one of only two Pine Siskins seen during the day. These songbirds were not the only birds flying early in the morning. Several raptors, including a Merlin and several Sharp-shinned Hawks, also got an early start to their migration.

While the birds were active in the sky, there were also lots of birds on the ground. Around 7:30, a few family members joined me in the circle to enjoy these birds. As soon as my mom arrived, I noticed a small group of sparrows in the goldenrod a few yards from the circle. We watched as several Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, and two Swamp Sparrows ate seeds from the large patch of Solidago. Soon after, I spotted a sparrow sitting on a small shrub. My mom and I got on the bird, which turned out to be a Lincoln’s Sparrow. This was not only an exciting species to find for The Big Sit, but also a “lifer” for my mom. After calming down from the excitement of a good bird, my mom spotted a flying woodpecker. I am not sure how she managed to see the bird, as it was across the field. However, I managed to get on the bird and followed it as it flew from east to west. Without my mom’s keep eyes, I may have missed that Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

These bushes were filled with White-throated Sparrows during the early morning hours.

For the rest of the morning, I was alone in the circle. I tried to pick out new species, but the birds seemed to have stopped. However this was short lived. Around noon, Brandon Everett, a fellow young bird enthusiast, arrived to help look for birds. Not long after his arrival, we spotted a small raptor overhead. We (which included me, Brandon, and my brother, Joren) all got on the bird and identified it as an American Kestrel, a new bird for the day. Within a few minutes, several more new species showed up including Cooper’s Hawk, Black Vulture, Northern Harrier, and a distant immature Bald Eagle.

Not long after we had spotted the eagle flying along the Kittatinny Ridge, birder and friend Barbara Malt arrived. She was interested in finding raptors, so we scanned the sky in hopes of finding some. Sharp-shinned Hawks were numerous and fun to watch as they flapped, glided, and soared their way down the ridge. We managed to find several more Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks. With a spotting scope, I scanned the Kittatinny, and found a Red-shouldered Hawk and another immature Bald Eagle. The others were able to get on the eagle as it soared our direction than turned and headed back towards the ridge.

This is the south view from The Big Sit spot. The mountain in background is the Kittatinny Ridge.
Since the birds slowed after the push of raptors, a large part of the afternoon was spent talking rather than birding. However, despite our intellectual conversations, we were still able to catch Hairy Woodpecker and a Rock Pigeon as they flew past. As the sun started to sink behind the trees, everyone left me. Almost immediately after the others were out of shouting distance, a group of three Common Ravens flew past me. My dad, who had wandered back to me, got to see the large corvids as they glided along the mountain.

As the sun set, I hoped for another push of birds. My mom joined me around this time, and soon spotted an Osprey directly overhead. After the excitement of getting a great look at the large raptor, my mom headed inside. Since I was tired from being awake since midnight, I only stayed out for another hour and a half or so. However, this time period was fairly productive. At one point, I spotted a pair of flying Mallards, a species I had missed earlier in the day. After the Mallards, large flocks of American Robins and American Crows began grouping up and flying around. In one large robin flock, I spotted a single Red-winged Blackbird, another bird I had somehow missed earlier. As I was packing my backpack and getting ready to head inside, I saw two more blackbirds flying overhead. With only a quick glimpse, I assumed they were more Red-winged Blackbirds, but I decided to take a closer look. However, I was wrong with my initial identification. Instead, the two birds were Rusty Blackbirds! I snapped a few pictures then headed inside.

I had finished with 66 species, only four short of last year’s record. During the day I tallied 1,132 individual birds including an impressive 113 Purple Finches and 104 Yellow-rumped Warblers. Below is the total list of birds found during The Big Sit:

Canada Goose     50
Mallard     2
Wild Turkey     1
Black Vulture     5
Turkey Vulture     42
Osprey     1
Bald Eagle     2
Northern Harrier     1
Sharp-shinned Hawk     25
Cooper's Hawk     3
Red-shouldered Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     23
American Kestrel     1
Merlin     2
Rock Pigeon     1
Mourning Dove     2
Eastern Screech-Owl     3
Great Horned Owl     3
Barred Owl     2
Red-bellied Woodpecker     7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     2
Downy Woodpecker     2
Hairy Woodpecker     2
Northern Flicker     4
Pileated Woodpecker     4
Eastern Phoebe     2
Blue-headed Vireo     4
Blue Jay     156
American Crow     85
Common Raven     3
Black-capped Chickadee     12
Tufted Titmouse     2
Red-breasted Nuthatch     1
White-breasted Nuthatch     6
Carolina Wren     3
Golden-crowned Kinglet     2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     5
Eastern Bluebird     9
Swainson's Thrush     1
Hermit Thrush     10
American Robin     169
Gray Catbird     6
Northern Mockingbird     4
European Starling     15
Cedar Waxwing     116
Yellow-rumped Warbler     104
Palm Warbler     1
Blackpoll Warbler     1
Eastern Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     16
Field Sparrow     4
Savannah Sparrow     1
Grasshopper Sparrow     1
Song Sparrow     9
Lincoln's Sparrow     1
Swamp Sparrow     1
White-throated Sparrow     18
Dark-eyed Junco     11
Northern Cardinal     8
Red-winged Blackbird     1
Rusty Blackbird     2
Purple Finch     113
House Finch     18
Pine Siskin     2
American Goldfinch     12
House Sparrow     4

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big Sit, 2010

Yesterday, I conducted a Big Sit in my yard. I was out from midnight to 7pm and had a few visitors throughout the day. The birding was good, and we ended up finding 66 species, only 4 less than last year. Below is the entire list. Some highlights include 113 Purple Finches, two Pine Siskins, two Rusty Blackbirds, and Savannah, Swamp, Lincoln's, and Grasshopper Sparrows.

Canada Goose     50
Mallard 2
Wild Turkey 1
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 42
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 25
Cooper's Hawk 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 23
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 2
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 2
Eastern Screech-Owl 3
Great Horned Owl 3
Barred Owl 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 4
Pileated Woodpecker 4
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue-headed Vireo 4
Blue Jay 156
American Crow 85
Common Raven 3
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 6
Carolina Wren 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Eastern Bluebird 9
Swainson's Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 10
American Robin 169
Gray Catbird 6
Northern Mockingbird 4
European Starling 15
Cedar Waxwing 116
Yellow-rumped Warbler 104
Palm Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 16
Field Sparrow 4
Savannah Sparrow 1
Grasshopper Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 9
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 18
Dark-eyed Junco 11
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Rusty Blackbird 2
Purple Finch 113
House Finch 18
Pine Siskin 2
American Goldfinch 12
House Sparrow 4