Saturday, January 23, 2016

This week in birds - #190

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


Ring-billed Gull in flight over Galveston Bay.
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The big news of the environment this weekend is, of course, the big snowstorm that is covering most of the eastern United States and bringing things pretty much to a standstill over the most densely populated area of the country. No doubt there will be snowballs on the floor of the Senate next week.

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Meanwhile, scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2015 was the planet's hottest year on record, easily breaking the record set just one year earlier. 

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A new species of bird has been identified in northeastern India and adjacent parts of China. It is a member of the thrush family and has been named the Himalayan Forest Thrust. The bird had previously been lumped in with the Plain-backed Thrush of that area, but it has now been established that they are actually different species.

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Matthew Wills of "Backyard and Beyond" has published a very thoughtful essay on the illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed insurrectionists. The people of Oregon are fed up with the whole situation and their governor has called for the terrorists to be removed. There is increasing concern about the damage that they are doing to the refuge as well as to the economy of this already poor area.

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Data collected by eBird citizen scientists has been used to create an animated map showing the migration of birds from South to North America and back again. It is fascinating, mesmerizing even.

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And speaking of citizen science, Discover magazine has an appreciation of it, revealing just some of the things that it is good for and has helped to accomplish.

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And here's another use of citizen science: The "Birds and Windows" citizen science project has been busy collecting data on bird collisions with windows in residential areas. The aim is to identify factors affecting those collisions and perhaps help to prevent them.

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We are not alone and there's no way we ever can be; no reason why we should even try. We are colonies of life forms at best and so are our houses. A recent survey of 50 houses in North Carolina identified some 10,000 species of arthropods present. There was an average of 93 arthropods per home. The vast majority of these were totally harmless and, in many cases, actually beneficial to humans. 

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The Obama administration will impose increased efficiency standards on residential air conditioning systems. The standards will save an enormous amount of energy over 3o years of sales.

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Conservationists in Ireland are fighting against a proposed change in rules that would allow hedge cutting in August and vegetation burning in March during times when rare birds are nesting in the area.

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Selective logging in California has been proposed as a way of helping to increase the water supply there, but a new study released this week shows that the proposal got it all wrong. There would also be a high price to pay in terms of water quality, forest biodiversity, and even public safety.

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There is concern everywhere about declines in bird populations. That includes Britain where a new study shows that the decline in breeding bird populations there is continuing.

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A research team is studying Sandhill Crane migration at New Mexico wintering locations. Satellite transmitters are affixed to the cranes and provide 12 GPS fixes per day and last 3 to 5 years. The study began solely on the cranes’ wintering grounds in the Middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico but has since expanded. (The picture of the pair of cranes was taken at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.)
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"Bug Eric's" always interesting blog about the world of insects has some fascinating images and information about cuckoo wasps. 

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Here's yet another example of a normally benign species that can become deadly when introduced to an area where it doesn't belong. This time it is our North American goldenrod. It has been introduced to Europe and Asia and has become an invasive species, taking over many fields and crowding out native species. This has had a detrimental effect on those native species of insects that depend on the disappearing plants, such as bees, butterflies, and ants, in some cases actually causing their death.   







9 comments:

  1. I saw some cranes in the Brazos Bend State Park when I was in Houston. Don't know if they were Sandhill or not but so lovely. Did you ever read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver? It is centered around butterfly migration. Here is my review: http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2013/09/flight-behavior.html

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    1. If you saw cranes at Brazos, they would have been Sandhills. Many of them do winter in this area.

      I read Flight Behavior just about three years ago and greatly enjoyed it. Gave it five stars, in fact. I really love Kingsolver's writing. I think The Poisonwood Bible is still my favorite.

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    2. Yes Poisonwood Bible was her masterpiece. But I love all of her novels.

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  2. Enjoyable post thank you for sharing

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    1. And, as always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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  3. Love the news; always learning something new. Great pics by the way.

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    1. Thank you. I'm trying to get better with my bird pictures, but my subjects don't always cooperate.

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  4. Lots of interesting nature news, Dorothy, a lot of it distressing, unfortunately. I'm not aware of any regulation at all about hedge trimming or any other activity that could affect bird nesting in the USA. Hopefully the people of Ireland would be educated about the rare birds and their nesting habits?

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    1. In North America, native birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty for which 2016 is its centennial. It basically makes it illegal to do anything that would harm migratory birds in their nesting or migration. It is illegal to mess with the nests of any of those birds. I'm not sure if Ireland has anything comparable but no doubt the conservationists fighting these regulations would like such protections for their birds.

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