Saturday, April 4, 2015

This week in birds - #151

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

It's warbler season. The migrating warblers, buntings, and, soon, orioles will be passing through my yard on their way farther north. This is a Black-throated Green Warbler that paid me a visit during the last migration season, last fall. He was a beauty. I hope to see him or some of his relatives in the coming weeks as they make their way back to their nesting ground.

*~*~*~*

California is in dire trouble because of its ongoing drought that has lasted now for years. Their situation could have been alleviated somewhat if they had had the kind of snowfall during the just past winter that our friends in the Northeast had, but it was not to be. Instead, they had much the same kind of winter that we here near the Gulf Coast had, which is to say not much of a winter at all. They depend on the melting snowpack in their mountains to provide much of their water, but that snowpack hardly exists this year. For that reason, this week Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating cuts in water use throughout the state.  

*~*~*~*

Northern Bobwhites have had disastrous declines in their population over the past forty years, mostly because of lost or degraded habitat. Efforts are being made to restore the bird to some of the areas where its population has crashed or has disappeared entirely. New Jersey is one of the states making such an effort. This week, eighty of the birds were released in a protected area in Chatsworth.

*~*~*~*

Mild winters have been blamed for the increase in pine beetle outbreaks in the West, but a new study finds that, while mild winters are a factor, they are not the only reason for the expansion of the pest.

*~*~*~*

Remember this picture from back in February?

It shows a Bald Eagle nest at a park in Pennsylvania with the parent bird on the nest completely covered in snow up to his/her head. There was concern that the cold weather and extended snow season would be the death of the eggs in the nest. Those who worried did not take into account the persistence of nesting birds. They never left the eggs uncovered for more than the few seconds that it took for the regular changing of the guard and their faithfulness was rewarded.

 
And here's the proof: Two healthy chicks!

*~*~*~*

A new genetic study indicates that two seldom-seen finches, the Common Redpoll and the Hoary Redpoll, are probably actually the same species.

*~*~*~*

An unprepossessing Mediterranean shrub, Ephedra foemicia, attracts its pollinators by sparkling in the moonlight. During the full moon in July, it releases droplets from its cones that glitter like diamonds under the light of the moon, thus signaling pollinators that a meal awaits them. And how does the plant detect the moonlight and know when to release the droplets? A scientist studying the phenomenon says, "Short answer, we don't know." Nature still has some secrets.

*~*~*~*

The American Woodcock is an interesting member of the sandpiper family that is adapted to live in deciduous forests that are at least 30 years old. They have a dizzying courtship display and if you live in an area with appropriate habitat for the birds, now is the time to see it.

*~*~*~*

The changing climate that is melting the Arctic ice is causing polar bears to have to find new food sources. Unfortunately for the nesting birds in the area, that means them. The bears are increasingly raiding the nests for eggs or chicks.

*~*~*~*

Australian conservationists are expressing extreme concern about the fate of the Cassowary, a large ground-dwelling bird. The bird is already in threatened status but needs more protection, they say, because many of them are still being killed by dogs or by collisions with vehicles on roadways.

*~*~*~*

Simon Barnes, back from a recent trip to Spain where he viewed magnificent Griffon Vultures and Lammergeiers, laments England's shortage of vultures.

*~*~*~*

A report released by the New England Wild Flower Society has determined that 22 percent of known native plant species in the area are rare, in decline, endangered or possibly extinct.

*~*~*~*

A study using geolocators has confirmed that the tiny Blackpoll Warbler flies from the northeastern United States and eastern Canada nonstop straight across the Atlantic Ocean to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Greater Antilles, where they make landfall before continuing on to Venezuela for the winter. In spring, they return by the same route.

*~*~*~*

As the climate warms, seeds are germinating earlier and plants are therefore blooming earlier. This has implications for the wildlife that depend upon these plants and must adjust their own schedules accordingly or find new sources of food. 

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:

A few American Goldfinches are still straggling through the yard and, as noted in my earlier post, the Chimney Swifts arrived this week, as did the first White-eyed Vireos

The Eastern Bluebird female is brooding five beautiful blue eggs in the bluebird box in the vegetable garden. I'm not sure when the brooding started so don't know when hatching is expected, but sometime within the next couple of weeks, I hope to be the proud godparent of five new bluebird hatchlings.

The promise of new life is everywhere, even on my back porch. One of the baskets which hangs there, I discovered today, holds a Carolina Wren nest, and Mama is brooding there as well. Cheeky little birds! 

4 comments:

  1. That's sad that California is having a drought. I was happy to see the cute warbler, I wish I could see such interesting birds here. The story about the eagles enduring the snow storm is heart-warming, but it seems like birds are having a hard time in many places around the world. Your wildlife news is interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, with the precarious state of the environment today, things are difficult for birds pretty much everywhere. But they are tough critters and very resilient.

      Delete
  2. I was happy the eagles finally got chicks. :-)
    I liked the snippet about the Ephedra shrub glowing in the moonlight. How cool is that?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That shrub is amazing. I like the fact that we really don't know how it does it!

      Delete