Archive for January, 2021

Bee populations have been having a hard time for a while now. Species of bee all around the world have experienced significant population declines that have persisted for decades. But it has been difficult to get a sense of the full magnitude of the issue since so many of the bee population studies focused on a single species, or a relatively small geographic area.

In 2020, researchers at the National University of Comahue in Argentina took a more global look at the loss of bee diversity. These researchers published a paper used data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility which is a platform where researchers and citizen scientists can record sightings of bee species, and that is available to the public.

By examining observations of bees around the world they found that the number of bee species observed from 2006 to 2015 was only about 75% of the number of species observed before 1990. That is not a very long period of time, and these declines were despite the fact that more and more observers are adding more and more observations to the platform each year. To clarify, this does not mean that 25% of the world bee species have gone extinct, but it does mean that they have become so rare that people are not encountering them. Although, becoming extinct is one potential reason for no longer being observed.

One of the bee species, in particular, that has declined rapidly is the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) which was once found across much of the mid-western and northern USA. This species has declined by nearly 80% since the late 1990s. This decline lead the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species as federally endangered in 2017. This was the first species of wild bee in the continental USA to ever be federally listed and so gain the protection of the Endangered Species List (several species of bee native to Hawaii have been given this status prior to the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee).

Rusty-patched bumble bee on culver’s root at University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum. Photo: Susan Day/UW–Madison Arboretum.

The listing of the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee and the research on the dramatic and sustained reduction in abundance of global bee biodiversity both serve to highlight the loss of bees and other insects. This is an often overlooked section of lost biodiversity. The extinction of a rhino species is much more eye-catching than the extinction of a bee species. But loosing bees and other insects is having, and will continue to have, profound impacts on the natural world around us, and so should not go unnoticed!

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What follows is a series of interactions between myself and a publishing company called Best Version Media (BVM) that I found to be unsettling and distasteful. It has resulted in me withdrawing my contributions to BVM publications. This story gets a little long, so I will be posting it in several parts. Here is part 5.

After reading the letter in part 4 of this series from PERSON 3 (name not included for sensitivity reasons), I wrote a response to him on 9/15/2020. Here is my letter to PERSON 3.

Dear PERSON 3,

In reading your response to my letter from the company perspective, it seems I need to clarify the point of that letter. My hope was that Best Version Media (BVM) would reconsider the blanket policy of never discussing racial or social issues. That is still my hope.

In response to your personal comments, I have a few personal comments of my own.

Reading your responses, personal though you stated them to be, I was surprised at how unprofessional you were. In my article and letter, I do not attack BVM, you, or any other individual. I did not call BVM names, nor did I do so to you or any other individual. I would expect that you would extend the same basic courtesies to me.

You claim that I advocate that birds should be named for people solely based on skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. This is simply false. Nowhere in either my article or letter do such statements appear. I do advocate for greater diversity and representation in bird names and for greater inclusion in the birding community. I disagree with you that calling for greater diversity, inclusion, and representation can be classified as racist or sexist.

I have been a regular contributor to four different BVM publications over the past four years with no compensation. Given this, I was surprised by your responses. It seems a poor business decision, and again very unprofessional, to attack your own contributors.

I will end by saying that I hope your responses to my article and letter do not represent the “best version” of individuals that your company claims to promote.


Aaron N.K. Haiman

PERSON 3’s second letter to me will appear in part 6.

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Have you ever seen a v-shaped flock of geese fly overhead and wondered, why do they do that? In this video I share some information explaining this interesting behavior. I also talk about the other species that also fly in v-shaped flocks, and dispel an oft repeated myth.

If you enjoy the videos I am creating, two ways to stay informed would be to subscribe to the A Birding Naturalist channel and/or become a follower of this blog.

Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus) flying a v-formation (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

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What follows is a series of interactions between myself and a publishing company called Best Version Media (BVM) that I found to be unsettling and distasteful. It has resulted in me withdrawing my contributions to BVM publications. This story gets a little long, so I will be posting it in several parts. Here is part 4.

In part 3, I wrote a letter of concern to BVM hoping that they rethink their stance that they simply will not publish materials that discuss race or racism.

I received a response from PERSON 3 (name not included for sensitivity reasons), an individual very high in the management of BVM. This is not the individual that I originally addressed my letter of concern to. Here is PERSON 3’s response to me on 9/11/2020.

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for reaching out. I am more than happy to address your article and letter of concerns from the company side of things. BVM is not a news source nor are we a platform for people’s personal social convictions. There are other places for that and we are not it. We do not cover the topic of race in any way either. It is not part of our company’s business model to “discuss” race in our magazines or online.

On the personal side, I find both your article and letter disturbing. Your article advocates that a bird be named after someone purely due to how they identify their sex or what race they are? No mention of education on the topic or identifying species or anything.  These are extreme sexist and racist views to have in 2020. To promote that anyone should have or not have honorable mention purely due to the shade of skin color they have is disgustingly racist and insulting to those of any race. 

To promote a view that someone should also be elevated this way purely because of gender (or gender identification) is equally wrong and insulting to women. Furthermore, to imply that others should not have a bird named after them for no other reason than there are too many “white men” with birds named after them is appalling.

I encourage you to see people for the human dignity they all have and not the way they identify as or their shade of skin color. Respect everyone, love everyone and see everyone as a person not a demographic. Only then will everyone be treated equal. Please learn to treat everyone equal.

Thank you     

PERSON 3 name and title

My response to this letter will appear in part 5.

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This video is from a recent visit my family and I made to Staten Island in the central Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Staten Island is a 9,200 acre reserve owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy specifically to provide foraging and roosting habitat for Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) and also waterfowl, shorebirds, and many other species.

If you enjoy the videos I am creating, two ways to stay informed would be to subscribe to the channel and/or follow this blog.

Sandhill Cranes (Photo courtesy of the USFWS – John Magera)

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This video is on Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria sp.). I found this beautiful cluster of Honey Mushrooms and while an Oak Titmouse called away above me. While the mushrooms we are familiar with only last a few days, they are only the fruiting structure of a much larger and more complex organism that spreads below the surface.

If you enjoy the videos I am creating, please subscribe to the channel and share a video with a friend.

Armillaria sp.

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With the opening of 2021, I am excited to share the news that I am starting a new project. In addition to continuing this blog, I am launching an “A Birding Naturalist” YouTube channel!

This blog has been a really rewarding experience to write over the last eight years, and I want to continue to grow this blog and the spread and sharing of knowledge that is its core. One way that I have decided to do that is to branch out to a new platform and medium. My hope is that the YouTube channel and video format will add to the ABridingNaturalist community and provide an additional way to learn about birds, birding, and the natural world in general.

You can check out the channel here. So far, I have a small number of videos posted, but more will be coming!

I hope you enjoy the material I have, and will, post and that you subscribe to the channel and join me on this new adventure.

Special thanks to my amazing wife who is doing all the video editing and production, without whom, this project would never have gotten off the ground!

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