Saturday, May 7, 2016

This week in birds - #205

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

Our resident Cooper's Hawk surveys our yard looking for a likely meal. These hawks have been very active around the feeders this week. Yesterday, I saw one swoop on a bunch of doves and grackles that were enjoying their mid-day meal. On that occasion, the hawk was unsuccessful but a few days ago, I witnessed a Cooper's Hawk snatching a White-winged dove in mid-air right over my head! I was showered with the unfortunate victim's feathers.

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The big news of the environment this week, at least on this continent, has been the massive wildfire burning in Alberta, Canada. The city of Fort McMurray has been evacuated. Enormous damage has been done both to human structures and to the natural environment. A relatively dry El Niño winter, a warm spring that melted snow earlier and years of policies that left forests ripe for burning have contributed to the destructive wildfire, scientists say, and global warming may have played a role, too, although experts cautioned that it was impossible to link an individual event like this one directly to climate change.

It is worth noting that Wood Buffalo National Park where the Texas/Canada flock of Whooping Cranes spend their summers is located in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories.

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The Mexican wintering grounds of migrating Monarch butterflies have faced all manner of calamities in recent year, many of them the result of weather events but some also due to human greed and stupidity. Now the area may be facing another human calamity as one of Mexico's largest corporations is close to winning government approval to reopen a sprawling mine in Angangueo, right next to the most important winter habitat of North America’s most iconic insect.

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The most intense El Niño in 65 years has washed piles of dead whales, salmon, sardines and clams onto Chile's Pacific beaches in recent months.

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Remember the excitement among birders and even the general public a few years ago when it was reported that an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, North America's largest woodpecker and a bird thought to be extinct, had been found living in the swamps of southeastern Arkansas? Unfortunately, the stories could never be proved beyond reasonable doubt and the excitement faded into disappointment. But there is another spot where the big bird could possibly still exist: Cuba. With the thawing of relations with that island country, the Ivory-billed hunters are heading there to continue their quest

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The American Birding Association has added three species to its checklist. They are all vagrants from the Old World: Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum), and Pallas’s Rosefinch (Carpodacus roseus).

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In successfully reestablishing saltwater crocodiles in the Northern Territory of Australia, policymakers and biologists have been careful to ensure that the economic benefits of living with the deadly predators outweigh the risks.

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Antarctica was once a lush tropical environment. Researchers have now been able to chart the slow transition from tropical paradise to icy wasteland thanks to a single maritime sediment core. The core shows more than 50 million years of biological and geological history.

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For the first time in recorded history, a California Condor has been found in New Mexico, in the Los Alamos area. These birds still hover on the brink of extinction but this expansion of their range is one more hopeful sign that they may yet survive.

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Here's good news: Cities are becoming more aware of native plants as a better alternative than some of the imported species that often become invasive pests that the cities have to spend money to eradicate. There is a major push to get cities to use more native plants in their public landscaping.

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A newly discovered fossil of a toothed bird from 120 million years ago has remains of the bird's last meal. Turns out, he was dining on fish. 

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According to a Pew Research Center survey, younger Americans are also more likely to correctly answer that the planet is warming and that this warming is primarily due to human activities. It gives one hope that as this generation takes over the reins of power, they might actually finally take significant action to address the problem. Let's hope it isn't too late by then.

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There are believed to be only three Addax antelopes left in the wild, in a habitat in Niger. The species teeters on the brink of extinction.

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Big cats, like cougars, are strictly carnivorous. Nevertheless, they play an important role in plant preservation in that they reduce the numbers of herbivores that feed on the plants and occasionally scatter, through their scat, the seeds of plants eaten by their prey.

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There is mounting evidence that the ice sheets of Greenland may be melting faster than previously estimated.

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You can add muskrats to the long list of critters that have learned to survive in urban environments. They have recently been found in at least four of New York City's five boroughs.

4 comments:

  1. Love that photo of the hawk. It has a Van Gogh essence.

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    1. That's an interesting perspective. I can see it.

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  2. Good for the resident hawk, not so good for the doves.
    I saw a juvenile hawk once dining in my back lawn. I can't say I liked to see that.

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    1. It certainly can be distressing to witness such events. But it is what happens in Nature.

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