Saturday, December 5, 2015

This week in birds - #184

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

The Chipping Sparrows are back! That's reason to celebrate for these are among my favorite winter visitors. I saw my first one in the yard yesterday, but I've been hearing their "chips" all week.  Sweet little birds!
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Wisdom, the Laysan Albatross, oldest known banded bird in the wild, has returned to her home on the Midway Atoll. Wisdom was banded in 1956 and she is estimated to be 64 years old, and she's still breeding! She and her mate were seen around their nest in November and soon she laid her egg - albatrosses generally only lay one - and began incubating. Albatrosses spend most of their life at sea and on the wing (think The Ancient Mariner) and only spend time on land during their breeding and nesting season. In the fall of every year, there is suspense on Midway as to whether Wisdom will make it home again. Inevitably, one year she won't. But not this year!

Here's a picture of Wisdom and her mate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



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As often noted here, migrating birds sometime go astray on their trips, especially in autumn, and when they do, they can wind up in some very strange places. This is certainly the case with the Painted Bunting that has been wowing birders in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Keep in mind that this is a species that normally doesn't get much north of Arkansas, but there it is in all its colorful magnificence. Here's a photo of the bird taken by Tom Stephenson, who writes books about birds, some of which are on my bookshelves.



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One of the world’s most endangered birds faces an uncertain future this month after massive bushfires in Australia destroyed at least 90 percent of the species’ habitat. Only about 140 Western Ground Parrots remained in the wild before the fire. It is unclear how many survived.

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Chemicals we unthinkingly pour into the ocean don't stay in the ocean. They are coming back to pollute the land via the feces of seabirds. The seabirds take in the chemicals as they feed and then defecate in their onshore colonies spreading the pollution.

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The British Trust for Ornithology released its "red list" of threatened and endangered birds this week and there was just a bit of good news. Two species, the Nightjar and Bittern, had improved their situation to the point that they were delisted. Unfortunately, there were five species that were added to the list for the first time.

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And in good news for the gray wolf, the population of that predator in Yellowstone National Park has reached a new high since they were introduced back into the park, using Canadian wolves, in 1995.

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In China, a college student and his friend have been fined and sentenced to ten years in prison for selling protected species of birds. One of the birds they were selling was the Eurasian Hobby, a small falcon similar to our American Kestrel

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Research from the University of Southern Denmark has established that although when birds and humans sing it sounds completely different, the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.

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As climate talks proceed in Paris, new research has found serious flaws in studies about the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate. The bottom line is that carbon capture may not be the answer. The best solution may be to just keep coal in the ground.

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It's often hard to pick out individuals in a big flock of geese, but a patient birder may be able to pick out the occasional rare bird among all those Canada Geese.

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Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and universities in Australia, California, and England are calling for greater international collaboration to save migratory birds, many of which are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitat along their flight paths. The groups' research has shown that Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that are essential sanctuaries for migrating birds are not always given the protection that they need.

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Habitat gardeners know very well that honeybees are not the only - or maybe even the most important - pollinators that visit our plants. So, using pesticides labeled "bee friendly" may not be enough to protect the environment because those pesticides may well still be lethal to other pollinators. Better to forego pesticides altogether, if possible.

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"Dead as a Dodo" was a well-known catchphrase when I was growing up, but new research on the big bird indicates that it needn't have gone extinct. It was overcome by ecological disaster, not just the coming of the Dutch to their island home but all those non-native species that came in their wake.

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Swifts and Jackdaws nesting in a Russian church gathered papers to make their nests. Those papers have been found to be historical documents - money, contracts, and letters - dating back as much as 200 years.

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Ending on a sad note, one of the largest beachings of whales in history has been reported from the Patagonia region of Chile. There were 337 sei whales found dead on a beach there. The cause of their deaths is under investigation. Human intervention has not been ruled out.

4 comments:

  1. Good news for the gray wolves in Yellowstone, not so much for birds the world over.
    I was heartbroken about the mass beaching of whales in Patagonia; I heard scientists needed satellites to locate them all because it was in an inhabited area.

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    1. The beaching was a truly unusual event and it will be very interesting to see what the scientists discover as to its cause.

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  2. I grew up in New York City and still have family and friends in Brooklyn. I heard about the painted bunting only today. What a beautiful picture you posted. I used to live in Arkansas but I don't know if I ever saw one. The world of birds is so fascinating - I sometimes wonder why I never did take the first steps to learn more about them. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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    1. Getting to know the birds from your area is a very rewarding activity. In learning about them you learn so much about the ecosystem in general. You live a very busy life - so I gather from reading your blog - but perhaps when you have more time, you will spend some of it getting to know your birds.

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