Thursday Jan 1, 2015 news Volume 13 Issue 12



The population of migrant coots at Marina View Park grew slowly in December, and an estimated forty coots appear for feeding every morning by the end of the month. A quick look at the other parks does not indicate a normal count of a hundred to one hundred fifty coots in winter residence.

This accelerated loss of fifty to seventy five percent of the winter flock calls suspicion to the extermination of a few thousand coots by the US Department of Agriculture in the past few years.

New Coots

December coot flock

As reported by Voice of San Diego the USDA Wildlife Services has killed 2608 American Coots under San Diego County's contract since 2005. Two former Wildlife Services trappers said the agency deliberately withholds information, despite open government laws — and a memorandum from President Barack Obama — forbidding it. “If they told the truth, and gave the documents that news reporters and others asked for, they’d be out of business,” said Gary Strader, a former trapper. “The public wouldn’t put up with it.”
Also the widespread drought in California must be having an effect on migratory birds.

December coot flock

Feeding a small number of birds once a day probably has little impact on their population as a whole. If allowed to eat nutritious food freely, they will eat a small amount every 45 to 55 minutes. They are certainly starving within an hour of feeding and they wander out on the lawn, eating the grass. However, daily morning feeding may give the birds a reason to be active in the morning, and allows close observation and interaction with them. If more people have the opportunity to learn about coots, there may be less chance of their being exterminated by government agencies.

So far this winter there have been no coots killed by the hawk; or by cars and dogs in the street. The coots don't cross the street in search of food since there so few of them. Forty or fifty coots may be the maximum number that Marina View Park can support safely. We shall know in March as the coots begin to fly back home.

The Crows

Seagulls at the parks are the greatest problem preventing interaction with the helpful and friendly crows. They physically dominate over the crows, but are not very smart. At first they don't understand the peanuts, and drop them. They have no taste.

But it only took a minute of watching the crows, and the gulls soon overcame this problem. Peanuts must be some sort of food, so they either swallow them whole, or crush them and eat them (below).


nasty gull

The crows are shy and wary of the gulls, and need some coaxing to bring one of them up on the picnic table. The crows can be coaxed to stand on a table and share a peanut, but they know that a seagull beak could easily snap crow bones.

These crows are not at all afraid of the camera.

The crows caw loudly and chase the hawk, then they come to the picnic table for a treat.

wary crow
friendly crow

friendly crow with worm

crow chasing hawk


By the end of the month, it becomes difficult to identify the two friendly crows. It seems that more of them want the advantages of being "tame" and stay nearby waiting to be fed. Generally all birds look the same, but are distinguished by their behavior. Now they all stay near and pay attention to the possibility of being fed.

Big Boy Returns

On December 15, I was off my usual schedule, returning to the marina after feeding the coots (and helpful crows) at the park. Now it was full daylight and this friendly coot hopped up out of the water onto the dock and stood in front of me. Once more this year I recognized the piece missing from his toe, as I did a couple years before when Big Boy Returned on winter migration and was reported in Coot News for January 2013. I had assumed that he was dead, along with all the other funny little characters of our monthly coot drama.

Big Boy's Story relates how he was first befriended in years that may go back to 2007 and named "Hopper". When the boat was moved to escape the Chula Vista Marina, he simply came along and was thought to be a new unknown coot named "Bigboy".

BigBoy 2015

Bigboy is in fact, a remarkable bird, considering his survival as a migratory coot. His foot colors in the earliest photographs show that he was fully mature and probably at least a few years old then. So now he is probably seven or eight years old. He and I are the only survivors who knew the three central characters of our coot story at the marina. Sadly, he is alone this winter, and his mate Rachel has not been seen for the past three years. He is most likely staying at the Chula Vista Marina later in the day, and only comes over to the California Yacht Marina occasionally in the morning.


At the end of December, he doesn't appear to have any fixed itinerary, and may appear anywhere along the docks in the morning.

bigboy and wild coots

Several years ago only one or two coots in ten could "hop up" from the water to the dock. Now it seems that most of them can. Bigboy watches as other coots hop up to be hand fed.

bigboy and female

This female coot joins him for feeding on the dock by the boat. Evidently she is not his mate because he threatens her away from the dish of worms as she cackles indignantly.

News Links

This section presents links to news agencies with the intent of showing news articles as they were written by the originating author. Websites using obnoxious popup advertising or employing HTML tricks to discourage taking quotes, protected by US Code Title 17, will not be referred here. The first news story links will be presented somewhat differently since they are all related.

News Story: Nonprofits in Battle

This is about complaints against People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA).PETA is a huge nonprofit corporation that many think has run right off the mainstream track of ethics in this case. Read the news storys linked below. Nonprofit corporations are often not what people think they are. The fact of life is that there is a strong conflict of interest designed into every nonprofit. They need money to survive and they don't get paid for keeping animals alive. They depend on charity; grants, donations, gifts, fund raising programs and all sorts of shenanigans and hijinks. Stealing a legally owned family pet on private property, and taking it away and killing it (as reported in the news articles below) is the latest incident. In fact, if you gather all the related information readily available from the internet, it becomes harder to make any sense of it. It's not always based on a simple statement or assertion of fact. Read with caution.

Man says PETA took his dog from porch, killed her PilotOnline "Video shot by a security camera six weeks ago shows a woman identified by authorities as a PETA worker scooping Maya off the porch of her owner, a Mexican immigrant named Wilbur Cerate, who lives outside Parksley in a run-down trailer park "

PETA Reportedly Steals and Kills a Family Dog Huff Post "PETA reportedly stole a family's pet chihuahua from their porch, and killed it."

Man claims PETA stole, killed family pet WAVY TV "10 On Your Side looked in the Code of Virginia and learned stealing a dog is a Class 5 felony. Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin told he charged the PETA workers with larceny. He said pets are considered personal property. But the local commonwealth’s attorney told he dropped the charges because there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. He said the video does not show criminal intent, so he declined to take the case to court. Now, the Cerate family may never get closure." “We don’t have an answer about why,” Cerate said.

December 13 Facebook statement by Nathan J Winograd:

(Nathan J Winograd is a lawyer and vegan from Virginia who has taken umbrage with PETA and other agencies that euthanize a large percentage of animals. )

"Senator asks Commonwealth of Virginia for investigation of PETA, calling their actions “worthy of intense review & scrutiny”

"Yesterday, I posted a copy of the No Kill Advocacy Center’s petition asking the State Veterinarian at the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) to revoke PETA’s status as a “shelter” for violations of law including larceny, state holding periods, and state regulations regarding the killing of animals in shelters. Although the theft and killing by PETA of Maya, a 9 year old girl’s dog, precipitated the petition, that was merely the latest in a long line of untoward actions on the part of PETA which uses its status as a shelter to acquire animals for the purpose of killing them and to have access to sodium pentobarbital, the controlled substance used to poison the animals. Since the late 1990s, PETA has killed over 30,000 animals, roughly 2,000 animals a year including kittens and puppies. Like Maya, many of these animals were healthy, but PETA killed them without making any attempt to find the animals homes first. Revoking PETA’s status as a shelter would bring such atrocities to an end and be an important step in protecting the pets, often cherished family members, of the people of Norfolk, Virginia (where PETA is located) and surrounding communities. Here is a copy of NKAC’s petition. The No Kill Advocacy Center is not the only organization which has called for such an investigation of PETA’s nefarious activities. The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies has also, writing last year that “PETA is ‘using’ its status as a ‘shelter’ to the great detriment of animals in the Commonwealth [of Virginia].”

Now, a Virginia State Senator is asking VDACS, the regulatory agency in charge of “shelters,” to investigate PETA following the theft and killing of Maya. He writes that “they are worthy of intense review and scrutiny.” His letter is here:

Editor's Note (Maybe I am missing something, but there is a reluctance on the part of the county attorney and other Virginia authorities to take any action against PETA.)

Photo: A puppy PETA has killed in the past after promising to find him a home, only to put him to death in the back of a van within minutes, a donor-funded slaughterhouse on wheels. PETA admitted that it kills healthy animals, calling this puppy “adorable” and “perfect.” Learn more:

"(I apologize for posting such a photo. I know it upsets some people. But this is PETA and I want those who continue to defend them to look at the photo and see exactly what it is they are defending and to those who donate, exactly what they are paying for.)"

Links supporting the No Kill Advocacy Center and Nathan J Winograd:

Nathan J Winograd leads the No Kill Advocacy Center Based in Oakland, California, dedicated to expanding no kill animal sheltering across the United States." The HuffPost BLOG shows Shocking Photos: PETA's Secret Slaughter of Kittens, Puppies and news articles about pets killed by PETA. Winograd posted the above photos and news articles about PETA in the Huffington Post BLOG, attacking PETA for killing so many adoptable pets saying: "These pictures reveal the truth about PETA, a reality that is deeply at odds with the public's perception of that organization as a radical animal rights group. In practice, PETA is the functional equivalent of a slaughterhouse, while their efforts to undermine the lifesaving work of animal lovers throughout the country continually derail urgently needed reforms that would further the rights of our nation's homeless dogs and cats." The following link about the Madison Co. Pet Shelter is supposed to show how animal shelters can reduce their euthanasia counts to a reasonable number.

Madison Co. Pet Shelter Drops Euthanasia Rate to 2% nwa " "The euthanasia rate...I was told was at 74% and we've been able to decrease that to 2%," says Shonna Harvey, Director of the Madison County Pet Shelter. " The No Kill Advocacy Center filed the following petition for removal of "animal Shelter" designation for People for the ethical treatment of animals in the department of agriculture & consumer services for the common wealth of virginia.

The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies letter supporting removal of PETA's designation as an animal shelter is linked here.

The PETA's policy of killing pit bulls By Ingrid Newkirk

The Virginia Animal and Food Industry Services inspection of PETA

The Testimony in PETA's trial for cruelty to animals

Links supporting the position of PETA in response:

Meanwhile a PETA spoksman responded to the kill rate in the following article in International Business Times linked below. The fact is that PETA doesn't say much and the article is more than a year old. PETA Responds To Animal Cruelty Charge From No-Kill Shelter Advocate, With An Expose Of Its Own from international business times. PETA's actual response is based on this video at PETA video "Turned Away" That depicts various animal shelters with actors' faces concealed, as "no-kill" shelters unable to take any more animals. The following website run by PETA: ‘No-Kill’ Label Slowly Killing Animals "When “no-kill” animal shelters and rescue groups are filled to capacity, which is almost always, they are left with two options: turn away more animals than they take in or warehouse animals, often in substandard, filthy, and severely crowded conditions, ”

Other News Links

SeaWorld President: ‘We’re Not Backing Down’ Amid Calls for Closing Times of San Diego "a SeaWorld executive told business and political leaders Friday that the landmark San Diego park is the real friend of animals in today’s world. ”

A dynamite idea: Chinese fishermen under fire for using home-made BOMBS to blast their catch out of the water – and turning the spectacle into a tourist attraction Daily Mail "the practise is nonetheless thriving in Dayawan Bay, by the city of Huizhou, on the South China Sea coast of Guangdong province, south-east China. Visitors there can even pay to go out with the fishermen and throw a few bombs in the water themselves. ”

San Diego boaters find eco-friendly resources at annual Hull Paint Exp The log The Port has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars "testing" bottom paint without producing any data on toxicity or long term emissions of any paint.

'Amnesty Pond' for Unwanted Goldfish in San Francisco Breitbart "The creation of the amnesty pond is meant to deter people from dumping goldfish or other species of fish into neighboring Mountain Lake, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. ”

Family offer £50 reward for missing Jackdaw 'Izzy' with liking for burgers Lincolnshire Echo "An adventurous Jackdaw with a liking for burgers and making friends with children and elderly ladies has gone missing. ”

Duck Invasion Terrorizes Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula Huffington Post Canada "At one point, the ducks were a pleasant spectacle in the tiny tourist town, but their numbers have grown, and they have been pestering residents, blocking traffic and harassing people for food. ”

California drought most severe in 1,200 years, study says Los Angeles Times " “One thing is clear,” said Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's department of geography. “Drought is going to continue to happen. This is the kind of thing we get to see in the future.” "

The Return of Wisdom USF&WS"Wisdom, the world’s oldest living, banded, wild bird has returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge! "

Cruise ship moors in wrong spot AU News"Recreational fishermen claim Diamond Princess moored above reef, potentially damaging the marine environment."

Santa Barbara fisherman sentenced to 6 months in jail FishRap"SANTA BARBARA – A Santa Barbara fishermen who pleaded no contest of grand theft was sentenced on Nov. 20 to serve six months in county jail and three years of felony probation."

Canada fumbles on fin whales, sits out on CITES, and stalls on SARA Hill Times "Government rhetoric about standing up for endangered species needs to be backed up with decisive action, both at home and abroad."

DFW planning to violate trout stocking mandate again, reducing plants by 50 percent Fish Rap "the agency will only plant 1.6 million pounds of trout statewide in 2015, violating a state law passed in 2006 that mandates the agency plant 2.75 pounds of trout per fishing license sold in the state."

New research reveals how orcas attack baleen whales, and how the whales fight back BBC"Now for the first time, scientists have recorded orcas attacking and killing humpback whales, specifically young calves.."

Cruise ships dump 1 billion tons of sewage into the ocean every year Q Z"Some 20 million people board cruise ships every year. And while they might return to land with fond memories of umbrella drinks and shuffleboard, they leave a lot at sea. About a billion tons of sewage "

Funding a challenge for would-be national US aquaculture campaign to address public concerns KPBS"The new vessel is paid for through a federal port security grant." The harbor police are not part of San Diego or any other government agency.

Funding a challenge for would-be national US aquaculture campaign to address public concerns Undercurrent news"The US aquaculture industry continues to struggle with negative public perceptions about farmed seafood"

Dunedin to take longer look at banning longer snakes Tampa Bay Times"Adding the restriction, they said, would violate Florida's Constitution, which already regulates large, dangerous snakes through licensing, disaster plans and more. Only the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has authority to write laws regarding native and nonnative wildlife"

Genes tell story of birdsong and human speech Science Daily "the set of genes employed in each of those song innovations is remarkably similar to the genes involved in human speaking ability."

American Criticizing Taiji Dolphin Slaughter Expelled From Japan the Dodo "Melissa Sehgal, an activist affiliated with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who has documented the slaughter for four years now, says that she was questioned for nine hours and detained for 24 hours in a holding cell. She was then reportedly escorted onto a flight and forced to leave Japan."

Butt-Breathing Turtle Now Critically Endangered Scientific American "Few reptiles can breathe underwater. Australia is home to one of the exceptions, the white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula), which can extract oxygen from water through its backside."

The deep-diving insect that conquered the sea BBC "Almost no insects survive in the sea, apart from seal-hugging lice"

Lab tests: pesticide killed Portland crows Associated Press " a pesticide killed more than two dozen crows found in downtown Portland, but investigators still can’t say whether the birds were poisoned intentionally.

Scientists fear dolphin population die-off keys net "News that the morbillivirus outbreak area spread from Brevard County to the Keys this week is almost a worst-case scenario, scientists say."

Flock of ducklings melts hearts at Chesapeake school PilotOnline "In 2010, a female duck found her way to a courtyard near the center of the school on Gilmerton Road in Deep Creek. Donna Sheffer, a reading specialist with a green thumb, decided to create a garden for the duck to enjoy."

Legal question over Sea Shepherd's campaign against Antarctic 'poachers' ABC Au "Sea Shepherd is targeting six ships they say are illegally taking Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish with a promise they'll act unilaterally and confiscate gear like long lines."

Naomi Klein on her new book: 'This Changes Everything" Charlie Rose PBS The facts are clear, but nothing is being done.

Bird flu confirmed in wild birds in Whatcom County" Bellingham Herald "Two strains of bird flu have been confirmed in wild birds in Whatcom County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday, Dec. 16."

A review of the impacts of corvids on bird productivity and abundance Wiley "Combining all studies, no negative influence of corvids on either abundance or productivity of prey species was found in 81% of cases. Negative impacts were significantly more likely in cases examin- ing productivity rather than abundance (46 vs. 10%). "

Seafood fraud cases plummet as NOAA cuts investigators Baltimore Sun "Despite increases in fish importation and consumption, in the U.S., fraud cases have plummeted as NOAA cuts investigators. A look at the methods used to find and catch fraudulent fish. (The Baltimore Sun)"

Feathered Forecasters? Tiny Birds Knew Killer Tornadoes Were Coming NBC News "A new study of migrating birds adds to signs that animals may make better meteorologists than humans do. "

Wildlife groups say spotted owls thrive in burned forests, seek protection Global News Canada"That finding contradicts current common practice of the U.S. Forest Service, which opens up some burned forests to loggers, the petition states."

21 Reasons You Should Appreciate Pigeons The dodo "despite their typically unflattering (and unfounded) reputation as pests or "rats with wings", there are plenty of wonderful reasons to appreciate pigeons. "

Why I’ll talk politics with climate change deniers – but not science the conversation "Climate scientists, myself included, and other academics have strived to understand this reluctance. We wonder why so many people are unable to accept a seemingly straight-forward pollution problem. And we struggle to see why climate change debates have inspired such vitriol."

Voyage finds plentiful, unusual sea life (Ocean Starr) UT San Diego "The waters off California are unusually abundant with dolphins, whales, loggerhead turtles and other marine life — including species typically not seen north of Mexico, said scientists who just returned to San Diego after a four-month voyage.."

Regulations would expand coastal California sanctuaries Associated Press " National marine sanctuaries off Northern California are due to double in size early in the new year in order to protect a massive underwater nutrient flow that biologists say makes the coast's salmon and seabirds thrive and sea lions fat and yappy."

Whales spotted off Los Angeles coast breaking records Contra Costa Times " The number of whale sightings off the Southern California coast are up, way up, and the chances of seeing one on an excursion this winter are 90 percent"

Boating safety course becomes mandatory in California in 2015 Trade Only Today There is some question about how this would be accomplished and enforced in zero time. It is already 2015.

Note: linking to these sites listed above does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of any product, services, or information found there. (Especially of government and nonprofit agencies)


(Use your mouse cursor to read the titles)


crow, watching for hawk

wary wild coots at the boat



coot and water



"Zuzana was pretty sure it had left scorch marks on her soul, 
and it was hard to imagine ever feeling normal again.."

  Laini Taylor 

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

(Like dealing with the Port of San Diego)


Beaky the Coot
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