Saturday, February 20, 2016

This week in birds - #194

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


This Red-tailed Hawk, caught in a sudden shower, got a refreshing bath! Not that he seems too happy about it.
*~*~*~*

Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth and we do not think of it as being covered in wildflowers, but El NiƱo has the power to change all that. The big weather system from the Pacific created unusually wet conditions and that has resulted in a remarkable wildflower bloom in the normally unforgiving landscape.

*~*~*~*

Wild Turkeys were extirpated in New Jersey in the 1800s, but, after being reintroduced to the state in the 1970s, they have made a remarkable comeback. So much of a comeback that they have become a hazard in some parts of suburbia where the large territorial birds have been known to threaten and attack humans. I don't know - Wild Turkeys run amok somehow seems a bit of poetic justice. 

These Wild Turkeys are not running amok. They have hundreds of acres to roam, without conflicts with humans,  in a national wildlife refuge.
  *~*~*~*

Large palm oil plantations are anathema to biodiversity, but the smaller plantations are much more friendly to the ecosystem.

*~*~*~*

The National Park Service is engaged in a large cull of the bison that are the iconic animal of Yellowstone National Park. The herd has grown so large that the park lands may not be able to support it and there are always fears from local ranchers about the spread of disease although there is no evidence of that, so the cull seems to be partly based on sound ecological grounds and part public relations.

*~*~*~*

A newly discovered black tarantula that is found in the area near Folsom Prison has been named for the singer who made the prison famous - Johnny Cash. The tarantula's proper name is Aphonopelma johnnycashi and it is among 14 new species discovered by scientists who studied more than 3,000 of the hairy critters. 

*~*~*~*

The shortest possible migratory route for birds is not necessarily the best or safest to travel. So nocturnally migrating songbirds drift with the prevailing winds when possible and then compensate as needed to correct their path. This may partially account for why some migrating birds occasionally wind up in unexpected places.

*~*~*~*

Earth is covered by a huge variety of ecosystems and the sensitivity of each of them to climate change varies greatly. A new study has delineated the degree of sensitivity in each region and these degrees are made visual by an accompanying map.  

*~*~*~*

Giant flightless birds are extinct in most of the world today, but at one time, they roamed through many areas of the planet - even in the Arctic. About 53 million years ago, the Arctic was a swamp and it was home to a giant bird with a head the size of a horse's. The bird was identified from a single toe bone that was recently found. 

*~*~*~*

The U.S. will have trouble meeting its climate goals with the rules that are presently in effect. More is needed, but the problem is how to achieve the needed cuts in the present political climate when one party denies that any action is needed.

*~*~*~*

News reports have declared that 150,000 Adelie Penguins have perished after an iceberg the size of Rome grounded near their colony, cutting them off from their source of food. However, it is possible that a number of those thought lost have found a way to the sea that will allow them to feed and survive.

*~*~*~*

Did humans kill off the last dinosaur, a seven-foot-tall bird known as Genyornis newtoni that lived in Australia? Scientists speculate that may be the case. The animal became extinct about 40,000 years ago.

*~*~*~*

A new study identifies parrots as the most threatened bird group in the world. At least 28% of extant species are classified as threatened.

*~*~*~*

Researchers are using a trained Bald Eagle named Spirit to help them design wind turbines that will be less deadly to the birds that fly where the turbines are located.

*~*~*~*

The family of birds known as honeyguides is famous for leading humans and other animals to the places where the bees are making honey. A recent study indicates that the relationship between the birds and those that follow them to the honey may be a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface.

*~*~*~*

The warming Arctic has become a friendlier place for algae and its related toxins. A new study has found algae-related toxins in Arctic sea mammals for the first time.

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:

The four-day weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count ended on Monday. I did manage to get some observations in over the weekend and ended with a total of 32 species seen in or flying over my yard. I'll give you a full report on that later. If you made observations for the count and have not entered them yet, you can still do it. Data entry for the project is open until March 1.

6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. As always, thanks for stopping by, Martin, and for taking the time to comment.

      Delete
  2. Haha...The hawk doesn't seem happy at all. :-)
    It's hard to think of wildflowers in the Death Valley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of the pictures from Death Valley are truly amazing. Whole areas are completely carpeted in flowers.

      Delete
  3. Perhaps if I still lived in NJ, I would have wild turkeys in my yard instead of peacocks! My favorite link was the one about the greater honeyguide and nature-faking. Learned much I didn't know before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Peacocks are nice, too, and probably more docile than these Wild Turkeys!

      Delete