Friday, July 10, 2015

This week in birds - #164

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


The sentinel of the backyard - the Blue Jay. Jays are noisy, rambunctious birds and some people find them obnoxious, but they are beautiful and intelligent and of great benefit to other birds in their ecosystem because they are always on the alert for predators and are quick to give the warning when they spot one.
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The idea that walking in the woods is good for your physical and mental health seems like a no-brainer, but if we needed confirmation, we now have it. A new study conducted by Stanford University compared ninety minutes of walking in natural areas to the same period of time walking in urban areas and discovered that the body and mind get more benefits from Nature walks. Perhaps we should consider the National Park Service as part of the public health service.

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The American Birding Association has announced through Twitter that it believes that the amendment that would have stripped the protection of birds through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is now dead, after massive protests from across the country from people who care about birds. It is best to remain vigilant for other such efforts, because the people who would kill that law are implacable. And very, very rich.

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In the last 15-20 years, Texas has seen a massive relocation of many Mexican species of birds. We are seeing more and more of those species moving into our area and even farther north. A wide-ranging study indicates that changes of temperature due to climate change are the main reason for the redistribution of species. 

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One of the problems of implementing wider use of solar power has been its cost and accessibility. The Obama Administration has come up with a plan to address that and to try to make solar power more affordable and accessible to lower and middle income households.

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Did you ever wonder why birds will accept the eggs of nest parasites like the Brown-headed Cowbird into their nests? It seems like they would simply push the egg out of their nest. Problem solved! But a new study seems to confirm that birds that accept the eggs generally cannot tell the difference between their own and the parasite's egg. Birds whose eggs are much different in appearance are more successful in rejecting the interloper's egg. 

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Bumblebees are rapidly declining in numbers in both North America and Europe. A comprehensive analysis published in Science magazine this week finds that the main culprit is - no surprise, really - climate change. The complicated domino effect on ecosystems that is started by a change in climate is difficult for a creature like the bumblebee to make adjustments for survival.

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The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a critically endangered Asian species. A recent survey of the bird along the mudflats of the Yellow Sea coast in Jiangsu Province in China found 62 of them present among the flocks of birds there.

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The blacklegged tick, carrier of Lyme disease, has been present mostly in the Northeast and portions of the Midwest. It has now been found to be moving into new areas in the Northeast through short-distance migrations.

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The story of Charles Darwin's observation of the finches of Galapagos and how that helped him reach his conclusions about evolution is well-known. If he had been making observations in the Hawaiian Islands, he could have reached the same conclusions while looking at the differences among honeycreepers there

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Most birds do not have a strong sense of smell, but new observations of seabirds called Shearwaters indicates that these particular birds are an exception to that rule. They appear to navigate at least partly based on scent.

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Leafroller caterpillars can be the bane of the gardener's existence in summer. Especially if that gardener has cannas in her garden as I do. These plants are magnets to the critters that lay the eggs from which those caterpillars hatch and they can make a real mess of a nice stand of plants. The caterpillars have their enemies, of course. Wasps are among them. "Bug Eric" recently made a video of a wasp capturing a leafroller caterpillar.  

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The Chinese Crested Tern has been driven to the brink of extinction by a combination of factors, both natural and man-made. At present, there are only 50 of the birds known to exist in the world.

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The Piping Plover is another bird that faces threats to its continued survival. Recently, "Birding Dude," a beginning naturalist, had the thrill of observing a banded female with two chicks at a beach on Long Island, New York.

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An example of beating swords into plowshares: Germany is turning 62 former military bases from the Cold War era into wildlife sanctuaries. Good for them!

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Around the backyard:




I had thought that all hummingbirds had abandoned my yard for the summer, but this week I observed two feeding from flowers and from this feeder - which also attracted bees. They were both Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. One was an adult female and the other appeared to be an immature bird. I made the rash assumption that they were mother and chick because they seemed to exhibit a rare tolerance for the presence of each other that I don't often see in hummingbirds. 

10 comments:

  1. Cute pics, Dorothy...And the weather keeps causing havoc.

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    1. The weather and the climate - that about sums it up.

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  2. I spotted a female ruby-throated hummingbird in the garden this week. She was feeding from the Turk's Cap. I don't have any feeders out at all at the moment.

    I'm glad to hear the amendment to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is not going to happen - at least for now. I was one who signed a petition to stop that.

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    1. Thanks for signing the petition. Thousands of people did, as well as personally contacting legislators. I think it made the difference.

      Turk's cap is a wonderful hummingbird/butterfly plant. Whenever mine is in bloom I can count on seeing visitors there.

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  3. I try to plant flowers that hummingbirds like, especially the red-flowered runner beans, which they love, and I like the beans. I enjoyed your news articles and cute hummingbirds.

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    1. I used to plant scarlet runner beans and you are right - hummers loved them. Maybe it's time for me to plant some again.

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  4. I am so impressed what Germany decided to do with their military bases. I hope other countries will follow their lead!

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    1. Indeed! That would be a great use of those places - returning them to Nature.

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  5. Love the hummingbird! Check out what is in my backyard in my part of the world! :) http://rocketcitygandh.blogspot.com/2015/06/backyard-avians.html?m=1

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    1. I just visited your blog, Glenna. Thanks for dropping by and I'm very glad to find you.

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