Saturday, November 14, 2015

This week in birds - #182

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


Pine Warblers, one of our three winter warblers, are allegedly back in the area, although I can't actually claim to have seen one yet. They are typically one of the most faithful avian visitors to my feeders during the winter.
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The headlines this week about Sea World "phasing out" its orca shows were apparently misleading. A closer reading of the stories reveals that the "entertainment" shows will be ending but they will continue "informative" shows in a "more natural setting" that will "carry a conservation message inspiring people to act." Evidently, that "conservation" message hasn't quite gotten through to Sea World which will still have these large sea mammals in captivity in big tanks - which is what people object to.

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The future of bats in this country, especially in the Northeast, continues to look very bleak as populations are still being decimated by white-nose syndrome. The little brown bat, once one of the most prolific in that area, has been in steep decline now for years because of this dread disease.

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The boreal forests of Canada are breeding grounds and summer homes to many of our most-loved birds. As such, Americans as well as Canadians have a vested interest in protecting those forests

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There are trees that seem to magically attract a wide variety of bird species and so they are favorites with birders. A close inspection of birders' preferences will generally reveal that their favorite tree is some species of oak. Oaks offer food, shelter, and handy nesting spots for many birds and so they flock to them.

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Here's an interesting twist on turning swords into ploughshares. In this case, it's a matter of turning a manicured golf course into the more natural setting of a park.  

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RealClimate has a further examination of what a new study showing that Antarctica has gained mass really means.

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The Houbara Bustard, a bird of Southeast Asia, is on the "red list" of threatened species. There are thought to be about 97,000 of the birds left in the world. In August, the Supreme Court in Pakistan banned hunting of the bird, an action praised by conservationists. But this has caused problems between Pakistan and its close Arab neighbors because many in that culture consider the flesh of the bird to be an aphrodisiac, and they want to be able to hunt it. Now, Pakistan has asked the court to revisit its action, with a view to overturning it.

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The dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010 may have done more long-term harm than short-term good. In fact, they killed off oil-digesting microbes that have naturally evolved to consume the hydrocarbons that seep through oceanic vents.

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If you've ever watched scenes at a bird-banding station, the images can be pretty disturbing. It is viscerally upsetting to see birds caught in a mist net and unable to escape. But, in fact, this is all in aid of science and the birds are not harmed. They are soon released in good shape with just a bit of jewelry on their leg. 

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A glacier in northeast Greenland that holds enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 18 inches has come unmoored from a stabilizing sill and is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean. It is losing mass at a rate of 5 billion tons per year.

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NPR has been doing a feature on the disappearing rainforests of Brazil. You can read about it and see images here.

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New genetic divergence analyses of the Common Barn and the Short-eared Owl populations from southern Chile, comparing them with those from other geographic areas, suggests that each of the species may be splitting in two - becoming two separate species of Barn Owl and Short-Eared Owl.

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Poison ivy may be anathema to birders but many birds appreciate its berries.

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The former conservative government of Canada had sought to silence scientists who did not agree with its position, especially its position on climate change. The newly elected government has removed the restrictions that had been put in place. 

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Are drones a danger to birds? The 10,000 Birds blog considers the question.

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Around the backyard:

No sooner had I written about American Goldfinches in last week's Roundup than they showed up in my backyard. They've been visiting the crape myrtle trees and eating the seeds there. I haven't seen them at feeders yet and, actually, I haven't yet put up my thistle feeders. Usually though, I have noticed that the finches start by visiting the black oil sunflower seed feeders and gradually move to the thistles.

Winter birds are slowly showing up. I have, in addition to the goldfinches, Yellow-rumped Warblers which I told you about earlier and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I know there are others in the area but I haven't seen them yet. Maybe they'll show up this weekend when I'm doing my first survey of the season for Project FeederWatch.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for rounding up all this info. Yesterday on Twitter I saw an article about a study of the effects of climate change on Syria contributing to the conflict there. It's all connected!

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    1. There are theories that much of the unrest in the Middle East is just the beginning of conflict attributable in large part to the effects of climate change. A scary thought. But you've nailed it - it is all connected. We are all connected.

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