Saturday, September 12, 2015

This week in birds - #173

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

A shorebird that is frequently seen far from the shore - the Killdeer.

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The big news this week in the world of science and the environment from long, long ago was the discovery of a previously unknown hominid species. The fossils of the species were found in South Africa at a place called Rising Star Cave. There were lots of bones which scientists believe were from individuals that were alive some 2.5 to 2.8 million years ago. The individuals had brains the size of an average orange and were named Homo naledi, referring to the area where they were found. 

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Last week I showed you some pictures of my backyard birds that are molting. All About Birds has an article that tells you everything you need to know about this phenomenon.

And now comes word that some birds, like Bullock's Orioles, stop for a while during their migration to complete their molt. 

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Sometimes Nature interferes with our belligerent species' ability to kill each other. So it was in the Middle East this week when a deadly sandstorm engulfed the area slowing, if not temporarily stopping, the various wars raging there. 

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An ambitious environmental bill in California that attempted to legislate up to a 50% reduction in gasoline use by 2030 was derailed by lobbying by the oil industry in the final week of the legislative session.

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Burning all the world's deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas would raise the planet's temperature enough to melt the entire ice sheet covering Antarctica and driving the sea levels up by more than 160 feet, according to report released on Friday.

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Female cowbirds might seem to be the most uncaring of parents, since they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and leave the chicks for the foster parents to raise, but it seems that they do make some effort to ensure that those foster parents are good. They tend to lay their eggs in the nests of birds where cowbird chicks have been successfully raised in the past. 

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As if honeybees don't have enough problems, scientists have found that Argentine ants, one of the world's most widespread and damaging pests, may be infecting them with a deadly virus

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The thylacine, commonly called the Tasmanian tiger, is well-known as an example of a species whose extinction was human-caused. The animals were hunted to extinction and the sad thing is that there was no good reason for it. They were not a threat to humans or their domestic animals. 

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A federal judge in Midland, Texas, this week stripped the Lesser Prairie Chicken of Endangered Species Act protection, a victory for oil and gas companies that argued that conservation efforts are working and are sufficient. 

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The El NiƱo system that is gathering steam in the Pacific is forecast to be one of the strongest on record. It will hit the North American continent hard, bringing rains, but it is not anticipated that those will be sufficient to break the drought in the West.

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Meanwhile, California continues to practice mandatory water conservation. The state beat its goal for the second straight month, cutting water use by more than 31% in July.

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A big wildfire in the Pinelands of New Jersey was apparently caused by charcoal briquets that were carelessly disposed of. The fire has burned more than 1,000 acres of forest. 

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Kuwait has become the 169th signatory to the international treaty for the conservation of wetlands and has designated its Mubarak Al-Kabeer Reserve as its first Wetland of International Importance.

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How do migrating songbirds avoid predators during their long treks? Well, they pick places to stop to rest where there are good hiding places. Whoever said these birds were birdbrains? 

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Unfortunately, that can be said for most weeks of environment news. The story about the discovery of a new human ancestor is exciting, though.

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