Saturday, May 9, 2015

This week in birds - #156

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

In news of my own backyard, I've had a plethora of Ruby-throated Hummingbird visitors this week. It's almost impossible to get an accurate count as they zip around, chasing each other from favorite blossoms or feeders, but I think I have at least five of the little birds. 


This is a favorite perch for this female, a crape myrtle twig. There is a nectar feeder hanging from the tree and from this vantage point, she is able to guard and defend it from other hummers.

She sometimes has to share her feeder with a few bees.

And so does this male RTH feeding from a feeder hung in the redbud tree. Although the feeders have beeguards, they have drips of the nectar that escape and attract both bees and wasps.

At other times, he has the feeder to himself. 

I have a feeder in the front yard that hangs just outside my office/library window and this little guy has claimed it as his own. All day long, he sits on the crook that holds the feeder, guarding it and chasing away any intruders.

 
*~*~*~*

Although a country that has been obsessed with deflated footballs, multimillion dollar boxing matches, and the imminent invasion of Texas by the dastardly U.S. military forces has hardly seemed to notice, there is a killer bird flu sweeping the Midwest. More than 20 million turkeys and chickens have died or been culled, and Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have declared states of emergency because of the epidemic. Teams of experts are trying to figure out how the new virus is spreading. So far, it has not made the jump to human beings, but that possibility exists and public health entities are making plans to combat it.  

*~*~*~*

A newly discovered fossil species is now the oldest known example of Ornithuromorpha, the evolutionary branch that hosts all living birds. The newly discovered species, named Archaeornithura meemannae, lived 130.7 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period in what is now the Sichakou basin of northeastern China. This fossil is about 6 million years older than the previously oldest known bird.  

*~*~*~*

Today is the Global Big Day! Are you counting birds? Around the world today, people are observing and counting birds and reporting their findings to eBird. The goal is to document as many as possible of the world's 10,000 species of birds on one day. 

*~*~*~*

According to a new study led by researchers at Syracuse and Harvard Universities, the new carbon emission standards proposed by the E.P.A. for coal-fired power plants in the United States would substantially improve human health and prevent more than 3,000 premature deaths per year.

*~*~*~*

And speaking of carbon emissions, the newly elected premier of the province of Alberta, who ran on an environmentally friendly platform, has promised to take steps to reduce carbon emissions in her province and also has pledged that the province will stop lobbying Washington to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

*~*~*~*

Researchers sequencing the genome of the woolly mammoth have concluded that the last of the species lived on Wrangel Island, a Russian territory in the Arctic Ocean that was separated from the mainland by rising sea levels 12,000 years ago. Their isolation on the island probably led to inbreeding which may have contributed to their eventual extinction between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

*~*~*~*

Prolonged drought is having a devastating effect on many species of animals both large and small in the western United States.

*~*~*~*

Another effect of the drought is seen at Lake Mead in Nevada which has now recorded its record low level. The lake is presently at 38 percent of its capacity and scientists warn that it will continue to fall throughout the summer resulting in an estimated elevation of 1,073 feet by September.

*~*~*~*

The bombardier beetle is well-named. When it is alarmed, it ejects a toxin from its abdomen in a kind of explosion. New x-ray technology shows exactly how the process works. 

*~*~*~*

Vulnerable grassland birds, including Greater Prairie Chickens are more likely to abandon their mating areas if they are located near wind turbines, a new study finds.

*~*~*~*

There is tremendous diversity among the nests of birds, in the materials used to construct them as well as their shape and location. Researchers have been studying just how these differences evolved and have published new information on the subject.

*~*~*~*

Regarding diversity in Nature, there is also a new study of the different bees which live in urban settings. "Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog" addresses the new findings.

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:

Photo courtesy of All About Birds.

In addition to all the hummingbirds in the yard this week, another of my summer favorites has arrived - the Great Crested Flycatcher. All week long their distinctive whee-eep calls have resounded from trees around the neighborhood. If the Great Crested is here, then summer cannot be far behind.

11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, TR, and thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. The hummingbirds and flycatcher make for interesting bird watching, so cute. It seems like the drought is severe, I hope there will be a change in the weather patterns to alleviate it. Thanks for all the nature news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The drought is severe and may get more severe as well as more widespread before it ends. Makes you appreciate living in the rainy Northwest, doesn't it?

      Delete
  3. I've seen several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at our feeder as well. Are they still migrating or have they already established their Spring / Summer territories?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The migration continues. In fact, I noticed today that most of my visitors seem to have absconded overnight. I have at least two females left, but I think the males have moved on.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for answering my question regarding migration. Looks like the RTH moved on. Does migration continue into June or do hummingbirds start establishing their territories the end of May. Sorry for all the questions:) I'm just curious which birds will be sticking around.

      Delete
    3. Well, birds don't read calendars so a lot depends on weather conditions and, of course, their instinct to get to their breeding grounds. RTHs could still be on the move as late as early June, but it's likely that most of them going farther north will be gone by then. I do have RTHs that nest in my yard, at least one every year, and it looks like there might be two this year, so you could potentially have a summer resident as well.

      Delete
    4. I really appreciate the info! Thank you:)

      Delete
  4. Great pics, Dorothy! It must be lovely to have so many birds around. :-)
    I have two adorable cockatiels with the most attractive and funny personalities; they are my sunshine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cockatiels are wonderful birds and can be terrific companions. Birds, in general, have a lot more personality than many give them credit for. This is true of wild birds as well as pets.

      Delete