Saturday, February 27, 2016

This week in birds - #195

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


Spotted Sandpiper searches for a meal on a mudflat at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

*~*~*~*


Good news about Monarch butterflies: The population of the colorful insects wintering in Mexico has increased significantly this season. They covered more than three and a half times the acreage that they covered last year. This increase comes after several years of setbacks. 

*~*~*~*

Bad news about sperm whales: Mass deaths of the gigantic mammals along the coasts of Europe have scientists stumped. As many as thirty of the animals have been found dead, beached on the shores of several countries. Necropsies are being performed to try to determine the cause, or causes, of the deaths.

*~*~*~*

And yet more bad news, this time about Bald Eagles. Thirteen of the birds have been found dead in Maryland. The cause of the deaths is yet to be determined but scientists suspect secondary poisoning. The birds may have dined on meat that was poisoned.

*~*~*~*

Animals around the world are facing challenges because of climate change. Perhaps none are more urgent than that of the bats of Brazil that could lose up to 98% of their habitat because of the changing climate.

*~*~*~*

The iconic "corpse flower," native of Sumatra, is three feet wide, weights 15 pounds, and reeks of rotting flesh. It is the biggest known flower in the world. Recently, a cousin of that plant has been found in the Philippines. It is the smallest species in that family of giant flowers and, instead of rotting flesh, it smells like coconut!

Picture by Edwino Fernando courtesy of The New York Times.
Rafflesia consueloae,
the newly discovered flower that smells like coconut.
 *~*~*~*

As I reported here a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is abandoning its program of using an ultralight to guide young Whooping Cranes from their hatchery in Wisconsin to a winter home in Florida. They will still be hand-raising chicks to try to increase the population, but now those chicks will be placed with adult Whooping Crane foster parents to make the trip to Florida.

Meanwhile, the wild Whoopers that winter in Texas will soon be thinking about taking off for Canada once again.
*~*~*~*

We know that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 has had still-to-be-determined long-term effects on the ecology of the Gulf region. Research has revealed that one of those effects has been to significantly alter the microbial communities that live around shipwrecks in the Gulf.

*~*~*~*

Many species of wild bees, butterflies and other critters that pollinate plants are shrinking toward extinction, and the world needs to do something about it before our food supply suffers, a new United Nations scientific mega-report warns.

*~*~*~*

Another species sliding toward extinction has been the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, but there is good news on that front. A survey in China has found new wintering grounds for the birds that contained as many as 45 individuals. That actually counts as a significant increase in the population.

*~*~*~*

The FBI finally finished its evidence gathering at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and the USFWS has resumed its guardianship of the lands. The FBI even assisted the Fish and Wildlife Service folks with their annual raptor survey.

*~*~*~*

The National Audubon Society has some new rules for birders.

*~*~*~*

A new study suggests that birds that migrate longer distances may be smarter. They have more new neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, suggests a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

*~*~*~*

Droughts worsened by climate change are not only a problem in the West; they threaten forests right across the continent.

*~*~*~*

A CT scan of a Dodo's skull suggests that the extinct birds might have been quite intelligent. The size of the bird's brain relative to its body would have been on a par with its closest living relatives, pigeons, and those birds tend to be pretty smart. 

*~*~*~*

The natural gas leak in California was the worst man-made greenhouse gas disaster in the United States in history. But even the normal production of natural gas notoriously leaks an enormous amount of methane into the atmosphere. 


8 comments:

  1. informative, thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for making readers aware of the effects of climate and humans on wildlife. It is good news about the Monarchs...so I'll hold onto that thought. I have a friend who is a marine scientist who was just saying the other day that the whale population is in trouble.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The whale deaths so far seem to be a mystery but perhaps the necropsies will reveal their cause or causes. I suspect that they will tell us that the deaths are somehow related to the degradation of the environment.

      Delete
  3. Thank you Dorothy for all the work you put into this weekly roundup. You have become my go to person for this information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy to do it. Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  4. Good news for the Monarchs, bad news for everyone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I think we can say it's good news for the Whooping Cranes and Spoon-billed Sandpipers, too. So, the news is not all dark and gloomy.

      Delete