Saturday, January 17, 2015

This week in birds - #141

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

FINALLY!

For the last two days, I have begun seeing birds in my yard once again and even at my feeders. 


Well, the Carolina Chickadees never really left. They have been my most faithful visitors throughout the Great Absence.

But now they are joined by Tufted Titmice. ( He wouldn't turn around to give me a shot of his face.)

Downy Woodpeckers. The Red-bellied Woodpeckers, like the chickadees, never really left, but the downies haven't really been around lately.

The Boss of the Backyard, the Northern Mockingbird.

Pine Warblers. Their cousin, the Orange-crowned Warbler, has been a faithful visitor all along, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere in the trees and shrubbery but they haven't started coming to the feeders yet.

The American Goldfinches have been feeding on the crape myrtle seeds - a very good reason not to be hasty about pruning your crapes.

But now the goldfinches are visiting the feeders as well.

Even my beloved Chipping Sparrows are back. A small flock of 10-15 birds can be seen foraging in the garden.

And now chippies are visiting the feeders, too.

And most hearteningly, a pair of Northern Cardinals have been visiting the shrubbery around the garden. I haven't seen them at the feeders yet, but I'm just glad they are around.

The female cardinal keeps an eye on things from a tangle of vines. Is it my imagination or are these cardinals particularly bright in color? Maybe I've just missed them so much that they now appear brighter to me!
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The big news from the environment this week was the announcement that 2014 was the hottest year on Earth since humans have been keeping records. Although the eastern part of the United States had a somewhat cooler than usual year, the rest of the world, including the western United States and especially Alaska, was baking for the entire year. Records were set throughout large areas of every inhabited continent and the ocean's surface was unusually warm everywhere except around Antarctica. None of these facts will make any impact on the thinking of Sen. James Inhofe and others of his ilk, of course. 

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Mexican wolves, the smallest and rarest of North American wolves will finally receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week.

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Bar-headed Geese are famous as the birds that migrate over the highest mountains on Earth, the Himalayas, where the oxygen is very thin. A new study shows how they are able to perform that amazing feat.

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Plants are responding to the warmer temperatures on the planet by blooming earlier and earlier. A survey in England and Ireland in early January showed that an unprecedented 15 percent of wild plants were already in bloom.

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Coastal developments in northeast Asia are threatening the survival of migratory shorebirds that fly between Asia and Australia. A new study reveals that some species are experiencing declines of up to 75 percent over the last two decades.

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One can see some pretty outrageous stories about gigantic squid in the oceans of the world, but how big are the biggest squid, really? 

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Le Conte's Sparrows and Rustic Buntings, two rare (for the area) members of the sparrow family are making birders in the Bay Area of California happy with their visits this winter.

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Another part of the "Sizing Ocean Giants Project" that is putting a virtual measuring tape to giant squid is the effort to find the biggest snail in the world. You can read all about it at Deep Sea News.

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We are learning that, in order to help the Monarch and other native milkweed butterflies, we need to be planting native milkweeds rather than the tropical varieties. Finding sources of the plants can be a problem, but here is information about milkweeds native to California

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Brown Creepers are fascinating little birds, but they are easy to overlook in the wild. I've only ever seen one in my yard, even though I know they are in the area.

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Another interesting species is the Hoopoe, which has the unique practice of painting its eggs with a secretion from its body. The secretion contains bacteria that apparently protect the eggs and increase the chance that they will hatch successfully. Clever little Hoopoe!

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The emerald ash borer, a invasive pest from Asia that has destroyed millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada, has moved on from the ash and is now attacking white fringetrees

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Coyotes are survivors of the Ice Age. The extinction of such larger carnivores as dire wolves and saber-toothed cats left the field more open to them. They adapted and survived. They are still adapting. Ask any city-dweller in the U.S. 

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Around the backyard:

I leave you with this picture, taken this morning in my backyard. It gladdens my heart!


American Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows feeding peacefully together.

8 comments:

  1. I saw the study on the bar headed geese, they are quite something aren't they. It is really weird how plants are responding to the changing climate in England and it's happening in front of our eyes, in our own gardens.
    So glad to see your birds are back!

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    1. Those geese truly are amazing in their adaptations. As for the early-blooming plants, one has to wonder what implications that has for the animals that depend on them - insects, birds, even small mammals. Will they be able to adjust the cycles of their lives to fit the plants' bloom cycle? Nature is such a jigsaw puzzle where everything must fit together just so.

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  2. I heard birds singing this afternoon where I live in upstate New York. This is not a usual thing for the middle of January. And, this morning, we started at 2 above zero, which is not exactly mild, so it isn't because it is mild. I am not a birder but something unusual is happening. And I don't know why. Alana

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    1. There is substantial evidence that many birds are changing their ranges - generally expanding northward - in response to the changing climate. Here in Southeast Texas, we now see many Mexican birds that are making their way farther north. It's certainly an interesting phenomenon, but is it a good thing? I guess time will tell.

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  3. Your birds are different from the ones here, so it's fun to see them, particularly the Cardinals and Mockingbirds which I miss from my Houston days. The environmental news is interesting, though not good, I saw an interesting You Tube today on the huge impact whales have on the health of the ocean plankton and fish.

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    1. Unfortunately, the news of the environment is almost never good these days. It always interests me that all of Nature is so closely interlinked and everything affects everything else. Whales certainly have a large impact on their environment as well.

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  4. Informative as usual, Dorothy. And I'm glad to see your birds are back. Lately, every time it is very cold (below 32 F) there are chubby little birds (I think they are sparrows because they look similar to the ones in your picture) on the edge of my window, probably getting some remaining heat from the house. I feel so bad for them! :-(

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    1. Birds are actually very well insulated against the cold. They can survive quite well as long as they can find food. Moreover, they are opportunists and they will definitely take advantage of any available shelter or warm spot in the cold - like the edge of your window.

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