Saturday, July 25, 2015

This week in birds - #166

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

The Cactus Wren is an especially raucous member of that large and raucous family.  It favors hot, dry, rocky habitats, the same kinds of places where cactus is found.  

The wren is well-named for it builds its large, untidy, distinctively wren-like nest in cacti, where it should be well-protected from most predators. Clever birds!

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A study of Cooper's Hawks that is under way in New Mexico is showing that the abundance of these hawks that prey on birds is tied to the availability of prey, not exactly an earthshaking conclusion I would think. The type of prey that they favor is exemplified by birds like the White-winged Dove. This explains why I have a Cooper's Hawk year-round in my yard and I see it most often when White-wings are prevalent in large numbers.


My resident Cooper's Hawk waiting in hiding (he thinks) for an unwary dove.

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National Moth Week is winding down but there is still time for you, the citizen scientist, to participate and report on the moths in your neighborhood.

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More than 70 percent of pollen and honey collected from foraging honeybees in Massachusetts showed contamination by pesticides containing neonicotinoids, the type of pesticide that has been linked to colony collapse disorder. 

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Bald Eagles, which had been extirpated on California's Channel Islands, have now been reintroduced there. A study of their diet found that they were preying heavily on seabird colonies on the islands in addition to taking fish. Efforts to conserve the seabird colonies have also apparently aided the eagles.

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And in other eagle news, a study of White-tailed Eagles in Germany shows that they do not compete with the fishermen of the area. The types of prey which they take are not the same as those sought by humans who fish. 

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The usual American summer hysteria about sharks has been fed by some unusual attacks on humans off the Atlantic coast. This latest find may provide an antidote.

This new species of shark, called a pocket shark, measures only six inches long and has been found by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists in the Gulf of Mexico. It fits easily into one human hand. In the words of The New York Times headline, "You're going to need a smaller boat!"

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Snakes haven't always slithered. Their ancient ancestors had the ability to walk, as shown by a fossil snake found in a museum in Germany. This snake had four legs

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Dark plumage can make birds harder to see and increase their chances of survival in certain habitats. It is not surprising then to find that darker plumage is more prevalent among birds that are found on small islands.

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The orcas of Puget Sound are still endangered, but the latest count shows that their population has increased slightly.

Here's part of that increase. A baby orca leaps out of the water as shown in this picture from AP that made the rounds on the Internet this week.

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Horseshoe crabs are an ancient species, older than dinosaurs, and so they have survived much that Nature has thrown their way. Their biggest challenge, though, is humans and we still don't know if they will survive us. The survival of many migrating shorebirds is linked to them, so it is important that we do everything possible to see that they do survive, for their own sake as well as for the birds.

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Science continues to make progress in sequencing genomes of various animals. One of the latest to be sequenced is that strange little bird of New Zealand, the Brown Kiwi

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Offshore wind farms are raising hopes for a new dawn of clean energy production in the country.

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The emerald ash borer is an invasive green beetle that is laying waste to ash trees on the continent. It has spread to white fringetrees and entomologists believe its impact on them will be widespread.

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Barnegat Bay's Sedge Island State Wildlife Management Area, off the coast of New Jersey, is home to 25 to 30 nesting pairs of Ospreys this summer. 

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Shorebirds are well known for wandering far and wide across the planet and often turning up in unexpected places. This summer, some American shorebirds are showing up on the south coast of England. 



4 comments:

  1. That's a cute shark there, and love the pic of the orca calf breaching.

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    1. The baby orca leaping just seems like the definition of joy.

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  2. What a cute little Pocket Shark. I think the last time I saw a Cooper's Hawk was in New Mexico. (The Bosque del Apache Ntl Wildlife Refuge)

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    1. One of my very favorite wildlife refuges. I love to go there to see the cranes in the fall.

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