Saturday, December 13, 2014

This week in birds - #137

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:


One of my very favorite winter visitors - yes, I have many! - is the little Chipping Sparrow, seen here in a picture from last winter. They are said to be in the area already but I haven't seen any in my yard yet.
*~*~*~*

Part of the proposed wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico has been built and, just as conservationists feared, it is having a devastating effect on the wildlife there. Habitats are being destroyed, migration routes blocked, and some species cut off from their sources of food and water. In an effort to get the wall built, environmental laws were waived. Just as in the effort to combat terrorism, laws protecting human rights were waived. It seems we are a people who only adhere to our principles when absolutely convenient.

*~*~*~*

Evolutionary geneticists have published a new study which confirms that a "big bang" occurred in avian evolution after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Their findings redraw the avian family tree and throw new light on such topics as the loss of teeth in birds, the development of birdsong, and cold-weather adaptations in penguins. 

As to the loss of teeth, yes, birds did once have them, but they seem to have lost them around 116 million years ago.

*~*~*~*

For 10 of the last 14 years, California has been in drought conditions. These have been most severe, of course, in the last three years. The recent storms that have dumped a lot of rain will no doubt help, but they are insufficient to reverse the dry conditions. Climate scientists believe strongly that global climate change is exacerbating the drought.  

*~*~*~*

One of the riders on that omnibus budget bill that Congress passed this week and that the Senate is now considering will prevent funding that would make possible the listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse as an endangered species. It will also hamstring conservation efforts for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse that was just recently given endangered status. It is likely that we will be seeing a lot of this sort of thing over the next couple of years.

*~*~*~*

Conservationists fear that we could be facing the loss of up to one-half of our bird species because of climate change. Losing half our birds isn't just about missing them at the bird feeder. It's also about the cost of allowing North America’s climate to shift so radically that it’s fundamentally changing the environment for hundreds of plants and animals. And it’s about the snowballing results of these changes well into the future.

*~*~*~*

The preservation of natural areas has a measurable effect upon the quality of tap water in urban areas.

*~*~*~*

The Salton Sea in California is critical habitat for migrating birds, especially water birds, but it may be doomed unless the state takes action to save it.

*~*~*~*

Hydropower from the Amazon would seem to be a natural - a no-brainer - but there are indications that it might not be as sustainable as once thought.

*~*~*~*

The Audubon Society of New Jersey reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to list the declining Red Knot as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

*~*~*~*

The largest Pygmy Cormorant roost in the world is on the Sava River in Belgrade.

*~*~*~*

The release of methane gas, a byproduct of present oil and natural gas drilling practices, remains a serious contributor to the greenhouse effect that is warming the planet. It is a problem which the EPA must find a way to combat.

*~*~*~*

Cackling Geese look a lot like Canada Geese except they are a LOT smaller, in effect looking like miniature Canadas. They often flock together so if you happen to see a really small Canada Goose in a flock, most likely it's a Cackling.

*~*~*~*

Environmentalists in this country face a lot of challenges including often being denigrated and called some pretty awful names, but at least (Knock wood!) they don't face the violence that is often the case in South America where in Ecuador recently, an indigenous leader was killed just before a planned public protest in Lima, Peru.

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:


Although the yard is still pretty quiet, the Yellow-rumped Warblers, affectionately called "Butterbutts," were doing their best to liven things up this week. Their efforts were much appreciated. Wonderful little birds!



4 comments:

  1. Hi, Dorothy,
    I'm liking these status updates on the conservation and environmental science...and birds!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unlike most birds, penguins have solid bones to help them swim underwater, to me that is evidence of design. Cute shots of the little birds!

    ReplyDelete