Saturday, November 21, 2015

This week in birds - #183

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

Image courtesy of nwbackyardbirder.blogspot.com.

I saw my first Orange-crowned Warbler of the season in my backyard on Wednesday. That makes two of our three winter warblers accounted for - the Orange-crowned and the Yellow-rumped. Still waiting for the Pine Warbler to show up.

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Congress is set to vote on a bill that has bipartisan support. That deserves a headline! Furthermore, the bill is an important one for the environment. It would phase out the use of microbeads in cleaning and hygiene products. Those minuscule pieces of plastic wind up in our waterways and do untold damage to the environment. Their banning would be very good news.

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Animals - and plants - survive by being adaptable. The biggest thing they have had to adapt to since the beginning of the Industrial Age has been human beings and their building of cities on formerly pristine lands. Perhaps it is not so surprising that many animals, including many birds, have learned to adapt to and make their livings in those cities.

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Hawk moths are fairly common in our area and their larvae typically feed on members of the nightshade family, including tomatoes, as many gardeners learn to their chagrin. The Bird Ecology Study Group has a feature on the pupa development of these interesting critters.

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Egrets and herons of many species are common sights throughout the South. A study has found that natural wetlands are much better for these birds than human-made areas like flooded rice fields.

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Here's a shocker for you: The senators who vote against EPA rules are well funded by companies in the coal industry. Honestly, who would ever have thought such a thing would happen?

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The Snowy Owl projection for this winter is that the irruption south of the Canadian border will be slower than it has been in recent years. The projection is based on the findings that there was a low density of Snowy nests in the Arctic this spring and summer.

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The Prairie Ecologist has an appreciation of the much-maligned coyote, a predator that plays an important role in keeping the ecology in balance. 

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A fossil of a previously unknown diving bird from North America in the Cretaceous Period has been identified.

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There have been five known great extinctions in the history of our planet. The sixth is coming and many scientists believe it is already well under way. What is it like to be present and an observer of that extinction? What, if anything, can we do to prevent or ameliorate it?

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Here's how the tiny Anna's Hummingbird uses its raw muscle power rather than physique to outmaneuver its rivals.

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It isn't just the heat of global climate change that birds have to worry about. In South Africa, in particular, scientists find that the changing rainfall and fire patterns are contributing more to the decline of its birds.

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In the Great Plains, the threatened Piping Plover is losing breeding areas due to the draining of wetlands. But in New Jersey, the population of the little shorebird has rebounded from its historic low.

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The groundwater that supplies aquifers and which millions of people around the world rely on for their water supply takes more than the average human lifetime to be renewed, making it, essentially, a non-renewable resource - at least for the current population.

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The Birds and Windows Project compares different data collection methods to try to better understand those often fatal collisions between birds and windows. The hope is to find more effective ways of preventing them. 

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What is the most overrated bird by birders? Well, in California, "Seagull Steve" thinks its the Pine Siskin. Sorry, Steve, I love Pine Siskins, too, and I only hope we get some this winter.  

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The U.S. and Cuba have signed an agreement to cooperate in doing marine research and conservation. It's nice to have that bit of good news with which to end this roundup.

5 comments:

  1. If we are part of the sixth extinction, it doesn't bode well for us considering most of the animal and flora of the five previous eras were wiped out.

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    1. Ultimately, we could be the agents of our own extinction. Nature and the planet will survive. We might not.

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  2. Thoughts on your post this morning: Barbara Kingsolver and her novels about the sixth extinction--Prodigal Summer (coyotes) and Flight Behavior (butterflies). Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, a book I will not ever probably read but one that kept coming up in my morning internet survey and that is apparently a grim look at the destruction wreaked by our belief in "progress." I am currently putting my money on the Paris Climate Change Conference at the end of this month.

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    1. Let's hope the conference is able to achieve something constructive. Of the books you mentioned, I loved Flight Behavior, as I love most of what Kingsolver writes. I would add that The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert was very informative and gave me a lot to think about.

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    2. Thanks for the tip on The Sixth Extinction. Here is a good overview of what certain people hope for at the Paris Conference. http://www.themorningnews.org/article/save-the-humans

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