Saturday, January 16, 2016

This week in birds - #189

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

The Sora is a small member of the secretive rail family that winters along the southern tier of states, including South Texas. I photographed this one last March along one of the trails at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. We saw several species of rail on that walk, but this was the only one that was cooperative enough to pose for me.

 
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Threats and intimidation are something that federal employees who are caretakers of public lands throughout the West have to deal with on a regular basis. In that regard, the actions of the armed domestic terrorists still occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon after two weeks are nothing new. They are just a piece of a much larger picture. This week the usurpers took down a fence, supposedly to allow cows to come onto refuge grounds and graze, and they cleared a new road on refuge property. How long will this damage to our public lands be allowed to continue? 

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Clouds help amplify El Niño’s effect on the atmosphere to a greater degree than once thought, a new study reports. As the surface of the Pacific Ocean warms in 
El Niño conditions, tall thunderheads, cumulonimbus clouds, form over the water, and, above them, a layer of colder cirrus clouds appears. The cirrus clouds trap the heat and help to warm the planet. 

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El Niño has brought unusual winters to many places. One of them is the Galapagos Islands where the wild weather has meant starvation to some of the local species and a booming population to others. 

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While we celebrate the centenary of the Migratory Bird Treaty between Canada and the United States and pat ourselves on the back for the species that have been protected and saved as a result of that treaty, we must not become complacent. The birds of North America are still being damaged by the actions of human beings and we need to look for ways to strengthen protections for them.  

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In many, probably most, species of birds, the females seldom, if ever, sing. Why? The theory has been advanced that it is because the females, for the most part, incubate the eggs. They remain silent so that they don't draw the attention of predators to themselves and their nests. 

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I guess you can file this under the heading of "Well, duh!" A study of Savannah Sparrows found that young and inexperienced birds were more likely to take flight in migration in less than ideal wind and weather conditions. Mature birds were more likely to wait out the bad conditions. 

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The fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has been devastating to many species of bats in the northeast. This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued rules designed to help protect the Northern Long-eared Bat, one of the species that has suffered steep population declines because of the disease.

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The comeback of the Bald Eagle from the path to extinction continues. This week, New Jersey conservation officials reported that that state's population of the birds had increased slightly to 161 pairs in 2015 and those birds raised about 200 chicks. 

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The Obama administration announced on Friday that it will halt the issuance of new coal mining leases on public lands while it considers an overhaul of the program. The move could lead to increased costs for energy companies and a slowdown in extraction, making the mining of coal less attractive in the future. That would be a good thing for the climate.

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The giant Moa of New Zealand has long been extinct. A plan that involved the importation of Cassowaries and Emus from Australia to fill the vacant environmental niche left by the loss of the Moa would not work according to researchers because the birds specialized in different feeding techniques.

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The Northern Fulmar is one of the "tubenose" family of birds. Its habitat is the skies over the cold northern ocean where it seems to glide effortlessly. "The Rattling Crow" has ten cool facts about this interesting bird.

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The Fish and Wildlife Service has barred the importation of 201 species of salamanders in an effort to control a fungal disease that is deadly to amphibians.

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An Ivory Gull has been spending its winter in Canal Park in Duluth, where birders, excited by its presence, have been feeding it fresh salmon. Ivory Gulls are attracted to the color red; the salmon is red or bright pink, so it is happy to take the birders' offerings.

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Unusual numbers of seabirds called Common Murres have been stranding themselves inland in South-central Alaska. The birds are starving, exhausted, and unable to fly. They are taxing the resources of wildlife rescue groups in the area.

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We've heard of the Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods in our planet's history, but many scientists argue that we are now in the Anthropocene Age - the Human Age. This, they say, is thanks to the colossal changes wrought by humans on Earth since about mid-20th century. We'll see whether this turns out any better for the planet than those earlier ages.

4 comments:

  1. Informative as usual.
    I would give almost anything to see a live eagle and photograph it. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Well, just keep your eyes open and your camera handy! There are eagles in Connecticut. Maybe you'll encounter one.

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