Saturday, January 9, 2016

This week in birds - #188

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


Blue-winged Teals are one of the more common ducks seen in this area in winter. Here, a pair posed for me at Brazos Bend State Park. As with many species of ducks, as well as birds in general, the males and females look quite different.
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The occupation of our Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed and petulant insurrectionists continues. The refuge is a major stop on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds and its Migratory Bird Festival in April is a very large attraction for birders and those who love birds. The festival is also a big source of revenue for the small community of Burns. The community wants these interlopers out yesterday and they are joined in that wish by birders everywhere. 

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Why do we feed birds and other wild animals? Is it really for the animals or is it for ourselves? It certainly gives us pleasure, but it provides the animal with the sustenance it needs. Nature writer Helen Macdonald suggests that it is an affirmation of life and is both altruistic and selfish.

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Birders have been buzzing over the last couple of days about some remarkable footage captured by a traffic camera over a busy highway in Montreal. It features a magnificent Snowy Owl in flight. The bird seems very curious about that camera.



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2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Canada. That act, along with three others that followed, form the basis for all of our efforts to conserve the bird life of our continent.

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The Painted Bunting that had caused such a stir around Brooklyn's Prospect Park this winter disappeared this week. It was last reported in the park the day before the weather there turned really cold. The bird may have sensed the coming of colder weather and moved south or it may have stayed and been killed by the cold. We will likely never know.

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Sea otters have those short, round faces that always seem to be smiling benevolently. It's the faces and the animal's furry roundness that makes them so appealing to humans, but, in fact, the otter's smile hides a crushing bite.

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Birders around Edmonton, Canada, have been treated to the sight of a rare Gyrfalcon hunting in a rail yard there.

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The EPA  has completed a risk assessment that highlights the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides to honeybees. Unfortunately, the study failed to take into account the dangers to native bees and other pollinators.

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Our throw-away society is having an unnatural effect on the balance of Nature. For one thing, in some areas, it is encouraging overpopulation by gulls who feed on our discarded food. 

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The conservation plan for the Greater Sage Grouse does not fully protect the birds' wintering grounds. Research by the University of Wyoming indicates that at least 18% of the birds travel outside the protected area in winter.

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Images of a nursery of elusive narwhals - that's the whale with the unicorn horn on its nose - has been captured by aerial photography in the seas off Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

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Unusual numbers of wind-blown Little Auks (Dovekies) have been driven from their Scandinavian wintering grounds into the waters and shores of Scotland.

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A 10.5-year-old Glaucous Gull (age determined by the band it was wearing) has been reported in Labrador. That's not any unusual age for a gull; still, it's nice to know that this one is still flying.

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I think we tend to have the idea that we are protected from the effects of dangerous chemicals, but, actually, many of them are virtually unregulated. (Thank you, Congress!) Consequently, people and the environment at large may be exposed to them over many years, resulting in almost incalculable damage. 

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Americans love their parks and wildlife refuges. In fact, sometimes we almost love them to death. The Park Service charged with protecting them occasionally has to limit access in order to preserve them. Muir Woods National Monument is one such extremely popular spot. So popular that in 2017, you will have to make a reservation to enter

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Around the backyard:


The expected onslaught of Pine Siskins that I was anticipating earlier in the week has arrived. There are now dozens of the little birds in my yard, joining the scores of American Goldfinches that were already here. With the coming of the siskins, traffic has definitely picked up at the feeders. I'm now seeing more of our winter warblers, chickadees, and titmice, as well as large flocks of White-winged Doves. Yes, winter feeding is well underway.

6 comments:

  1. I am starting to look forward to this weekly post. You keep us informed and conscious about the environment. That snowy owl footage was really something. I got mesmerized by it. Such a graceful looking bird!

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    1. I am a dedicated birder and environmentalist so I enjoy doing this post, even though often the news I have to report is distressing. We need to know.

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  2. Yes, I agree with Judy that the snowy owl was quite something.
    I was surprised also about the viewing of narwhals; they are as elusive as they come.
    Heavy traffic on your feeders is so exciting! The naked bush in my backyard is full of little fatty birds singing as if it were springtime. They are totally confused, as is everyone.

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    1. You've had a weird winter so far, haven't you? Same here. No frost so far. Maybe tonight will be the night.

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  3. Enjoyed this thank you for sharing

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    1. And thank you for the comment and for following the blog.

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