Saturday, March 19, 2016

This week in birds - #198

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


The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are on their way. They've been seen along the Gulf Coast of Texas and some are probably already in our area, although I haven't seen any in my yard yet. I photographed this one in my backyard on March 20, 2015, so I expect to see them any day now. The adult males are always the first to arrive, followed by adult females and the one-year old birds.

 
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Residents of our nation's capital have been in a state of eager anticipation this week and it has nothing to do with presidential primaries or Supreme Court justice nominees. It's all about Bald Eagle chicks. A pair of Bald Eagles nesting at the National Arboretum have been followed by nestcam and this week, on Friday, the first of the two eggs hatched while the city watched. There hasn't been this much excitement since the last panda birth at the National Zoo.

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The news about Monarch butterflies has been very good during the past year. The population of the charismatic butterfly has made a comeback after several years of setbacks, but many other less well-known butterflies are also nearing the brink of extinction. Lest we get complacent about the Monarch, though, a late winter storm hit their wintering grounds in Mexico with snow and ice, killing an estimated 1.5 million of the butterflies. It's not clear how many of them had already left to start their northward migration. I have been seeing Monarchs in my garden this week - whether they are migrants or were hatched here I couldn't say.

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After months of unrelenting bad publicity about the program, SeaWorld has announced that it will stop breeding orcas in captivity.  

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Birds that nest in the Arctic have adapted to the extreme cold of the region. What happens to those birds now that the temperatures there are rising? Will they be able to adapt once again to the stresses of climate change?

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A previously unknown butterfly named the Tanana Arctic has been discovered in Alaska. It is thought that it may be the only kind of butterfly that is endemic to Alaska, meaning that it is found there and nowhere else.


Tanana Arctic butterfly photo courtesy of National Geographic.

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I think of American Woodcocks as usually being found around rather swampy areas of the South, but here's a migrant that has chosen to hang out in the middle of Manhattan!

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A mountain lion in Los Angeles recently killed a koala at the zoo there. Zoo officials are taking extra steps to protect their animals from the lion, but they do not want the animal relocated or euthanized. After all, it was only doing what animals in the wild do. To try to relocate it might encroach on other lions' territories and cause more harm than good.

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There has been an unprecedented seabird die-off in the northern Pacific this winter, apparently attributable to the domino effects of a warming ocean, but recently some 6,000 to 8,000 Common Murres turned up dead at a fresh water lake, Lake Iliamna, in Alaska. Seabird experts are puzzled as to how and why the birds ended up there.

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The Obama Administration has done a 180 and decided not to allow deepwater drilling along the Southeast Atlantic shores.

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Common Ravens are mostly common these days in western states, but now a pair of them are nesting in a rather unexpected place - Washington, D.C. Never say "Nevermore!" to these birds.

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There is a deadly fungus spreading among snakes in the eastern United States, not unlike the fungal diseases that have plagued other members of the reptile and the amphibian families. This has dire implications for the environment since snakes are such an important part of a balanced ecosystem.  

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There is some evidence that trees may not be as negatively impacted by climate change as has been feared and they may be more effective carbon sinks than had been projected.

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A study of Little Blue Penguins in the ocean between Australia and New Zealand aims to zero in on the ramifications of climate change on the aquatic life of the area.

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A previously unknown species of golden frog, scientific name Pristimantis dorado, has been found in the cloud forests of the High Andes in Colombia.


Pristimantis dorado is ready for his close-up!

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Some of the strongest advocates for our National Wildlife Refuge system are birders. Our National Wildlife Refuges are national treasures, not just for wildlife but for those of us who love wildlife and love visiting them in their natural habitats rather than zoos. We are bird lovers, and we vote!

8 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to the arrival of the hummingbirds. Last year I took photos of hummers at my feeders on April 2nd, so it's not going to be long before they are here.

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    1. They generally arrive in late March or early April. I would expect them to be on the early side this year.

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  2. I have seen hummingbirds already this spring but did not observe if they were ruby-throats or not. Today while I am gardening I will watch for the Monarchs. And yes, we do respect our mountain lions around LA!

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    1. As well you should. Would that they were so respected everywhere.

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  3. The video of the chick Bald Eagles in the National Arboretum made me feel excited...And welcomed news from Seaworld!

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    1. That eagle nestcam has been a very popular site. It is mesmerizing.

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  4. I watched that eagle mother brood her young with a look so familiar from when I owned chickens. It's a look like no other. Yes, mesmerizing!

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    1. I think all brooding birds have a lot in common - even chickens and eagles.

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