Saturday, March 5, 2016

This week in birds - #196

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

Great Blue Heron, iconic bird of North American wetlands.

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Very sad news from Honduras this weekBerta C├íceres, the Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, has been murdered, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project. Her death is a stark reminder of the danger faced by environmental rights campaigners in many parts of the world.

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Many conservationists are decrying the federal government's proposed plan for taking the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park off the protected Endangered Species List. The number of the bears has risen to over 700 from the 136 that were present when protection was given in 1975. The Fish and Wildlife Service calls this a "historic success," but the conservationists say it is not enough to warrant delisting.

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It appears that global warming is going into overdrive. Unofficial records indicate that new highs in the temperature of the planet were reached in February. Moreover, the Northern Hemisphere breached the danger level of 2 degrees Celsius above normal for the first time in history.

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Project SNOWstorm is the citizen science project that tracks the travels of Snowy Owls that head south for the winter. An owl that was named Baltimore by the scientists who trapped and fitted him with a transmitter has been providing valuable data about these birds' migration along the East Coast.

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It isn't only birds that migrate, of course. Even some insects follow that life style. We know about the Monarch butterflies, but many dragonflies migrate, also. In fact, there is one called Pantala flavescens that appears to be the animal world's most prolific long distance traveler, flying thousands of miles over oceans from continent to continent. The insect's common name is Wandering Glider, a moniker that seems well-earned.

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The Rusty Blackbird is one of the fastest declining species of birds in North America. The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz is a citizen science project that tracks the wanderings of the birds in order to identify their stops along their migration routes. The hope is that these places can then be protected in order to assist the birds.

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Sandhill Cranes, Red-winged Blackbirds, and other migrating birds are now returning to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the refuge that was occupied by armed militants for several weeks. However, the refuge manager says the place is in such a mess that there is no estimate when it can be reopened to the public. Meanwhile, the FBI continues its own clean-up operation, this week arresting more people who were involved in the occupation and an earlier incident in Nevada.

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Canada's new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and the provincial premiers have reached an agreement for a framework to combat climate change.

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The Heath Hen, an eastern subspecies of prairie chicken, became extinct in the 1930s. Many of its relatives, including Southeast Texas' own Attwater's Prairie Chicken, are in serious trouble, but scientists are hoping that the story of the trajectory to extinction of the Heath Hen may give them clues to help and save its relatives that are still extant.

Attwater's Prairie Chicken photo courtesy of Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Guatemala has designated a new area of protection of the winter habitat of songbirds. The Tapon Creek Nature Reserve will comprise 1672 acres of vital lowland habitat.

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Wetlands in Central California are vital to many species of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, but these areas are disappearing under the pressure of drought and climate change.  

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The last word in technology for tracking migrating birds has been the use of geolocators. Those devices have been used to discover the migration routes of many different species and they are now giving scientists new and valuable information about where Atlantic Puffins go.

Atlantic Puffin

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Bug Eric is not happy with social media's simplistic memes that attempt to be funny about the differences between bees and wasps. He makes the point that they are inimical to public education, often misleading people who don't know better.

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One of the more positive developments in the world of conservation in recent years has been the designation of wildlife corridors that permit wildlife to travel safely over, under, or alongside busy highways and other human domains. There are plans to build what would be world's largest wildlife corridor that would cross the 101 Freeway outside of Los Angeles.

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Louisiana is working to rebuild and conserve some of its wetlands along the Mississippi River Delta. Those areas were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 






6 comments:

  1. Hmmm...Climate change is beginning to take its toll, and the sad thing is it's just starting.

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    1. What's really sad is that we have the power and the technology to stop it in its tracks and yet politics continues to tie our hands, or at least make any progress so much harder than it should be.

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  2. Enjoyed, thank you for everything

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  3. That is terrible about Berta Caceres. A martyr she is, really. I looked up an image of the Wandering Glider. What a beautiful insect. Margaret Atwood has been very active in the Trudeau decision. And finally, some of us are really proud of the Liberty Canyon overpass that will create that corridor over the 101 freeway! At least it is not all bad news.

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    1. Trudeau is a breath of fresh air. Not surprising that Atwood is an influence. And you have every right to be proud of the Liberty Canyon overpass. What a wonderful idea!

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