Saturday, March 26, 2016

This week in birds - #199

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


A Tri-colored Heron with breeding plumes seeks his lunch among the reeds.
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Both of the eaglets have now hatched in the Washington, D.C. Bald Eagle nest that is being monitored by thousands via the nestcams. You can watch, too. The cameras are on 24-7. Please note the disclaimer that this is a wild bird nest and sometimes distressing things happen in such nests. But so far, so good with the little eaglets.

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The transition from living in the sea to walking on land is one of the major stages of evolution. Scientists have long puzzled over exactly how the transition was made. Now, in a cave in Thailand, they have found a fish that may offer some of the answers. It is a blind cave fish that is able to walk on land the way vertebrates do.

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A new paper argues that catastrophic climate shift may not take centuries if we continue on our present path but may in fact take place within decades.

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This is interesting. Research has established that the addition of Prozac to the water that they swim in makes bettas (sometimes called Siamese fighting fish) less belligerent and prone to fight. This has implications for the environment because often our medications do eventually wind up in our water systems with unknown cascade effects throughout the ecosystem.   

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Gulls can be notoriously hard to identify, especially in their winter plumages, but one good tip in learning to distinguish them is to first learn to identify the most common gulls in your area. In many parts of the country, that would be the Ring-billed Gull. Here, it is the Laughing Gull


Laughing Gull in winter.

An "authorized" Laughing Gull in spring. Though their clothes may change from season to season, they may most easily be identified by their loud calls that do sound like raucous laughing.
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What is going on with Bald Eagles on the East Coast? Four more dead eagles have been found in Delaware about 30 miles from where thirteen eagles were found dead in Maryland last month. Investigations as to the cause and to who may be the perpetrator continue.

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Here's an article about why dam removal in the West makes sense in spite of the ongoing drought.

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Birds are known for dispersing seeds of the plants that they love. I have evidence of it all over my yard. But it turns out that migrating birds can disperse those seeds over long distances, thus changing the ranges of particular plants, if the conditions are right. 

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Six Flags in New Jersey is planning to cut down 70 acres of forest to build a solar farm. Environmentalists are mobilizing to stop those plans.

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New Zealand has lost another of its endemic species. The Red-billed Gull is no more. This one was not extirpated like about 60 other species that have disappeared on the island since the coming of humans and their hangers-on (rats, dogs, cats, pigs, etc.). No, the Red-billed Gull was a victim of the lumpers - those ornithologists that from time to time change the names of birds or decide that two previously separate species are actually the same. In this case, it was the Red-billed and the Silver Gull. The taxonomists have decided that they are all really Silver Gulls.


Good-bye Red-billed, hello Silver Gull.
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Researchers trying to study parrots can find the effort very challenging for these are very intelligent birds - sometimes seemingly more clever than those observing them!

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The National Science Foundation is suspending funding support for biological collections. Since the foundation has been the main source of financial support for these collections, this suspension could have dire effects on the ability of researchers to do their work.

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An agreement between New Zealand and China will protect stopover sites for endangered shorebirds, particularly two species - the Red Knot and the Bar-tailed Godwit

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Monarch butterflies could be at risk for extinction within the next two decades unless their numbers increase.

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Texas has a lot of sun and wind (not all of the wind coming from our blathering politicians) and the state will be adding nearly 12,000 megawatts of wind and solar capacity by the end of 2017. Long a leader in petroleum production, Texas should be well-positioned to become a leader in the production of green energy.

6 comments:

  1. Not as many bad news this week.

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    1. Well, I think we deserve a week of mostly good news, don't you?

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  2. Thank you for this enjoyable post

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  3. Thanks for the news. Blind cavefish that walk on land sound like something out of J G Ballard! As far as Prozac in the water goes, that reminds me of our sick humor as hippies when we would joke about putting LSD in the water. Not a joke though when you think of all the crap that is in our water already, most of it probably making us more belligerent.

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    1. One has to wonder about what effect all the stuff in our water has on us. After all, we are mostly water. I think Flint is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

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