- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HARPER’S FERRY, Iowa (AP) - Officials and bird lovers will gather later this month in northeast Iowa to officially designate the state’s first “globally important bird area.”

The Effigy Mounds-Yellow River Forest Bird Conservation Area will receive the designation May 31. The area includes 135,000 acres along the Mississippi River in Allamakee and Clayton counties, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1giFDtb ).

Much of the credit for the designation goes to Jon “Hawk Man” Stravers, who has spent years documenting that habitat and birds in the conservation area, which the Iowa Department of Natural Resources calls the “largest unfragmented forest remaining in Iowa.”

Stravers has focused his study on the red-shouldered hawk and the cerulean warbler, a small bird with a buzzy chirp that winters in eastern Peru and southern Venezuela.

“It’s one of the rarest birds in the U.S. and least understood,” Stravers said of the warbler. “It’s one that’s missed a lot.”

Great Britain-based BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society teamed up for the “globally important” area designation, which requires extensive documentation. It’s intended to help protect critical habitat for declining bird species to nest or use when migrating.

It’s the cerulean warbler that prompted the designation. Populations of the bird, which grows to about 4½ inches long, have dropped by 70 percent nationally since the 1960s.

Stravers found pockets of cerulean in deep forests and steep canyons along the river.

He joked about his role in gaining the designation.

“I like to tease everybody that now, I’m globally significant,” Stravers said. “I used to be a regional fool.”

The Iowa DNR said the designation will help ensure effective management of the woodlands.

“Now we have good reason to assist with more protection and better management of woodlands, both on public and private lands,” said Bruce Ehresman, a DNR wildlife diversity program biologist and avian ecologist. “International recognition should also result in a tourism increase - especially by birders -for northeast Iowa. That will, in turn, benefit the local economy.”


Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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