Saturday, April 30, 2016

This week in birds - #204

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

Get out the oranges and the grape jelly! The Baltimore Orioles are on their way. Early May is usually when they arrive in my yard. I'm putting my oriole feeders out for them and hoping that they don't pass me by this year.

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Did you hear about how the large hadron collider in Switzerland was brought down by a weasel? Yes, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator was brought to its knees by a beech marten, a member of the weasel family, that chewed through wiring connected to a 66,000-volt transformer. It put the collider offline temporarily, but it was curtains for the poor marten. The collider is expected to be out of action for a week while the connections to the transformer are replaced. Any remains of the intruder are likely to be removed at the same time.

R.I.P., marten. Your last act made headlines around the world.

 
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Nest cams and other types of cameras set up to record and transmit the action of Nature in the raw can sometimes show images that shock the sensibilities of viewers. So it was with a Bald Eagle nest cam in Pennsylvania this week. The video clearly showed the parent eagles feeding their eaglets a dead cat. Whether they killed the cat or picked it up already dead is unknown. Eagles do scavenge as well as hunt. Either way, it is one more reminder if one was needed: Please keep your cat(s) indoors where they are safe from wildlife and wildlife is safe from them.

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Climate change has already disrupted the lives of half a billion people around the planet as drought and heat waves create water shortages and wreck crops, resulting in hunger on a massive scale.

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One area where drought is rampant is in India, which is suffering its worst drought in fifty years. Already, many farms, hospitals, and schools have had to shut down because of water shortages. 

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Thirty years ago this week the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occurred. The human death toll from the disaster is really unknown. People are still dying as a result of their exposure and the site will continue to be a threat for at least another 3,000 years. Nature itself, though, has recovered to a remarkable extent. The area around Chernobyl, essentially devoid of human activity, is being repopulated by plants and animals.

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Summer is cicada season and five states are preparing themselves for an auditory onslaught by the raucous 17-year cycle periodical cicada. After 17 years underground, the adults will be emerging and will be ready to make some noise in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. If you live in one of those states, you might want to invest in earplugs!  

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Good news regarding the Kakapo, New Zealand's extremely endangered ground-dwelling parrot: So far, 37 chicks have survived this year, making it the most successful breeding season for the bird in twenty years. A veritable baby boom of Kakapos.

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The Peacock's tail feathers make a glorious visual display, but it turns out they also create an auditory display. In addition to spreading the feathers to show his lady friends, the Peacock also rattles them to get their attention.

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Migratory shorebirds need protection from human activities on the beaches they frequent and that includes humans walking their dogs - especially letting dogs run free off the leash. The harassment by dogs is just one more stressor that the shorebirds, weary from their long journey, don't need.

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In guidelines released on Monday, China halted plans for new coal-fired power stations in many parts of the country, and construction of some approved plants will be postponed until at least 2018. Coal-fired power plants have been one of the main causes of China becoming the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

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Central Park in New York is a welcome sight for migrating birds and a Mecca for birders who want to see them. This week a Swainson's Warbler, a rare and very shy bird, was causing birders in the area to drop all their plans and converge on the spot in the park where the little bird was hanging out. 

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All animals, most scientists agree, sleep in some way. Some doze standing up; fish sleep while floating; some birds are allegedly even able to sleep on the wing. But until now the stages of sleep experienced by humans have only been documented in mammals and birds. Now, however, researchers have found what they believe to be the same phenomenon occurring in lizards.  

Do you engage in REM sleep, my little green friend?

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New research shows that the evolution of beak shape in birds of prey has been constrained by the birds' skull shape.

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The Black-throated Finch is now extinct in New South Wales. A few of the rare birds still exist in Queensland, but mining activities could push them to extinction there as well.

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Never underestimate the value of even small green spaces. Small urban green areas can be home to a dazzling diversity of vertebrate and invertebrate species, as well as plants. 





9 comments:

  1. Baltimore Orioles, my favorite bird! But I am afraid if I put out oranges and grape jelly, all I would get is squirrels.
    Prayers for the people of Chernobyl. Remember the song Prayer For the Dying by Seal?
    Yes, I know all about those rattling peacock feathers. The over the top mating rituals have calmed down in the past few days. Now I watch for the babies following their moms.
    You are right about small green spaces: mine is full of life!

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    1. I love the orioles, too, and I'm hoping to get some this year. Some years they pass me by, but two years ago, we were inundated with them for the first couple of weeks in May. Every time I looked up during those days there was an oriole. Maybe at least a few of them will find their way here again.

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  2. Thank you for this enjoyable post

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  3. It could have been worse for the weasel. Imagine if he'd found his way into the accelerator. The particle diagrams might have looked a bit odd for a while.

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    1. That's what I call looking on the bright side!

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  4. Love that pic of the Baltimore Oriole!
    The news about the particle accelerator brought down by a marten was very funny.

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