Saturday, March 12, 2016

This week in birds - #197

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


One of our most common shorebirds, a Willet, stalks over rocks along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston.
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I reported here last week about thirteen Bald Eagles that had been found dead in Maryland, the biggest die-off of the birds there in over thirty years. Necropsies on the birds revealed that they did not die of natural causes - a human agent was involved. Authorities have offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the person or persons responsible.

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Also, last week I reported on the plan to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park. Scientific American has a discussion of the pros and cons.

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Conventional wisdom holds that invasive species are always bad for the environment, but it turns out the issue is not nearly so black and white. Some invasive species are benign or actually have benefits for their new ecosystem. Here's a quick quiz to assess your own knowledge of non-native species.

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During the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week, our two governments announced a plan to cut methane emissions and to lead toward the achievement of the goals set by the historic climate agreement reached in Paris last December.

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Mowing less often along highways can help to preserve pollinator abundance and diversity by providing more variety of available foods for them.

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Even though 2015 was the hottest year on record on Earth and 2016 will probably break that record, if you get your news from television, you would scarcely be aware of it. The issue is seldom mentioned by television news and has hardly come up at all in any of the televised presidential debates. 

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How about the place where you live? How much warmer was it there in 2015? The New York Times has a graph wherein you can enter your city's name and it will show you.

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The charges keep mounting against the occupiers whose armed invasion held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for weeks earlier this year. The latest charges involve desecration of a Native American (Paiute) burial site. The occupiers used heavy equipment on the site and also buried human waste there.

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Over thousands of years, most forests in the eastern United States evolved with frequent fire, which promoted tree species and ecosystems that were both fire and drought resistant. In little more than a century, humans have upset that balance, suggest researchers, which now makes those forests more vulnerable to the effects of drought than they were in the 1800s.

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Snares that were set to catch wolves in Alberta, Canada, have caught a variety of unintended victims instead, including cougars and a couple of Golden Eagles that were maimed. Many of the animals have died agonizing deaths. How can such implements even be legal?

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The Extended Spring Index of the National Phenology Network tracks the progress of spring across the continent. It shows that plants are leafing out and blooming much earlier this year - not surprising given the mild winter across much of the continent.

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Perhaps not all invasive species have negative effects on the environment, but European Starlings are certainly one of those that have given invasives a bad reputation. Their effects on the native bird population in this country have been detrimental and, in some instances, devastating.

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I am delighted to report that the U.S. Forest Service took the unusual step last week of rejecting a development proposal on environmental grounds, blocking a proposal to build a large housing and commercial project near the rim of the Grand Canyon. It seems that development in the Grand Canyon area has proceeded full speed ahead in recent years, but apparently this plan was a bridge too far.

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An analysis of sediment cores in the Antarctic has yielded evidence that the Antarctic ice cover is tied to CO2 concentration.

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We don't usually think of deserts as places with blooming plants, but the deserts of California are covered with blooms at certain times. Botanists are stalking the wildflowers in the area to try to predict when the "Big Bloom" will occur.

8 comments:

  1. Hmmm...Building on the Grand Canyon?! Isn't there enough available land in this country without taking over a national landmark?

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  2. Well done, appreciate you sharing

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  3. "Some invasive species are benign or actually have benefits for their new ecosystem." I learned about this in Silent Spring, the book I will be reviewing on my blog tomorrow.

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  4. Cute willet, I enjoy seeing the shore birds. I enjoy your environmental news. Starlings and house sparrows are a pet peeve of mine. I would like to keep the species and environment as natural as possible, but that is interesting that some foreign species can be beneficial. That should make gardeners feel good. I know the bees tend to like abundant flowers even from introduced plants, maybe the bees are even introduced. I'm always happy when I see the tiny native bees at work, I feel like they are more dependable as pollinators.

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    1. Native bees really do the greater part of pollination on the continent. Honeybees are non-natives but, of course, they, too, do much good and many farmers depend on them.

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