Saturday, June 13, 2015

This week in birds - #161

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

Image courtesy of the Glacier Institute and Glacier National Park.

Since the outlawing of DDT and related pesticides in 1972, this has become an increasingly familiar sight around the country, wherever there is a body of water large enough to support their fishing habit. It is a nesting pair of Ospreys with mom sitting on the nest and pop hovering overhead and about to land. Mated pairs return to the same nest year after year, often adding new materials to it to enhance or repair it. Mom stays with the newly hatched chicks at first while dad does the fishing and delivers the food to her. She then feeds the chicks. Although their numbers are increasing, they are still considered uncommon in most areas, so count yourself lucky if Ospreys nest near you. 

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Just when you think our Congress cannot sink any lower, they go and do something like this. The House of Representatives has passed an appropriation bill that would defund enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

The MBTA was enacted in 1918 as a treaty between the United States and Canada. Its aim was to stop the commercial taking of birds, including bird feathers. There are exceptions in the law for hunting game birds, bird banding, and falconry, but the reach of the law is vast, protecting essentially every native bird on the continent. It is the main protection that birds have. Without it, they could be killed indiscriminately. This, however, is not a concern of the odious majority in Congress. 

Please contact your congressional representative and let him or her know that you do care about birds and you vote! And then don't forget to do it in the next election and please vote for people who will pledge to protect the environment.

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Warmer weather in the Arctic has made drastic changes in the environment there and in the eating habits of polar bears. Bears that, in the past, have made their living on eating seals no longer have seals available because the waters have become too warm for them. But another source of food has turned up, lured by those same warmer waters. The bears are now eating dolphins that have been lured farther and farther north. Scientists speculate that the dolphins get trapped under the ice and the bears kill them when they find a hole to come up for air. 

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We know that all of Nature is interrelated and if a change comes in one aspect, it will likely have a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. So, as birds change their ranges in response to global warming, scientists speculate and try to predict what other changes that might precipitate in the environment.  

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In yet another dissertation on the interconnectedness of Nature, "Arthropod Ecology" writes about the effects of insects on the landscape. The blog post announces a new publication that explores landscape structure, insect herbivory, and ecosystem services.

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The large flowers of flame azaleas, those popular springtime bloomers, are pollinated by butterflies, specifically by butterfly wings. 

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Gray Catbirds, it turns out, are very much creatures of habit. Not only do individuals tend to return to the same nesting areas year after year, but they also migrate to the same wintering sites. 

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A new study published in the journal Conservation Biology makes a strong case for using data for wildlife density as a predictor of conservation success, rather than focusing on the absence or presence of individual species. The authors argue that diversity and density are better measures of the health of an ecosystem. 

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Do you see insects around your yard that you can't identify and you'd like to know who they are? Well, "Bug Eric" has some helpful suggestions as to how you might get a name assigned to your insect through the Internet.

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Is "Mexico's Mystery Owl" a subspecies of the Barred Owl, the Fulvous Owl, or is it a unique species all on its own? "Earbirding" presents the evidence and comes down on the side of uniqueness, calling the bird the Cinereous Owl.  

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The U.K. held a National Bird Vote to determine the country's national bird and more than 224,000 people voted. And the winner was - ta da! - the European Robin which got 34% of the vote. The Barn Owl came in second with 12%.

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There's a new corollary to that old saw about "early to bed, early to rise." Apparently it makes one more prolific as well. At least that's how it seems to work for male birds. The early risers are more likely to be successful procreators.

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"10,000 Birds" writes about the first Common Ravens to nest in Manhattan, the densest metropolitan area in the nation.

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In general, birds prefer to nest in native shrubs and trees with which they have ancestral familiarity, but as introduced non-native shrubs and trees are becoming more common, some birds are adjusting to the new scene. Veeries, that lovely member of the thrush family, for example, have been found nesting in non-native shrubs.

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The U.K. has a new citizen science project which readers there can participate in. Its aim is to discover what impact climate change is having on the nation's wild orchids.

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Did you ever notice that some ants have a distinct and peculiar scent? Do they smell like blue cheese? Pine-Sol? Citronella? Coconut? Well, a pair of enterprising ant researchers used a public sniff test to explore the odors of the "Odorous House Ant." Read all about it.


2 comments:

  1. I hate to think that bears are killing dolphins.
    BTW, that picture of the Ospreys is awesome! Impressive birds.

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    Replies
    1. We empathize with the dolphins, but bears gotta eat! Many of them are, in fact, starving for lack of a source of food with the changing climate.

      Ospreys are magnificent, really one of my favorite raptors, and I loved that picture. That's why I grabbed it from the national park website.

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