Saturday, May 14, 2016

This week in birds - #206

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

I had my first sighting of the year of a Common Nighthawk over my yard this week, at about 8:00 in the evening. They pass through in great numbers at this time of year and many of them spend the summer with us. I hope to be seeing them  and hearing their calls late in the day all summer long. 

As they cross the Gulf on their way north in the spring, many of them make landfall at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the coast. That's where I took this picture a couple of springs ago.

 
*~*~*~*

Happy World Migratory Bird Day! In 2016, International Migratory Bird Day highlights the importance of international efforts to conserve birds through agreements, laws, treaties, and collaborations. This year also marks the Centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, a landmark agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico to protect our shared migratory birds.

*~*~*~*

Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere. The rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contribute to a growing number of wildfires. The near-destruction of Fort McMurray in Alberta by a fire that sent almost 90,000 people fleeing for their lives is grim proof that the threat to these vast stands of spruce and other resinous trees, collectively known as the boreal forest, is real. Furthermore, scientists say a large-scale loss of the forest could be detrimental to efforts to limit the damage from climate change, creating a vicious cycle of destruction.

*~*~*~*

Two weeks ago we had the story of the weasel that temporarily knocked out the large hadron collider in Switzerland; this week, it's an unfortunate raccoon that cut electrical power to 40,000 homes in Seattle with its capers in a power substation. Power was out for about five hours. The raccoon, like the weasel, did not survive.

*~*~*~*

The woodland caribou, a non-migratory caribou, is an endangered species. They mostly live in the border area between British Columbia and the United States. There are now only a dozen left in the lower 48 states. The caribou are preyed on by wolves whose numbers are increasing. The caribou cannot breed fast enough to offset the predation by wolves and so wildlife officials have made the difficult decision to kill some of the wolves in the area to try to protect the last of the caribou. This has engendered the usual knee-jerk reaction in some quarters.

*~*~*~*

In some good news for leopards and tigers that live on the borders of Russia and China, Russia has constructed a tunnel to allow the animals to cross safely under a busy roadway. The tunnel is designed to help protect Amur leopards and tigers, two of the most endangered big cats in the world. 

*~*~*~*

The warming climate has seen many birds expanding their range northward. One of those is the Purple Gallinule. I can attest that they have become much more common in my part of Southeast Texas in recent years.

They breed in our area now. This is a chick that I captured with my camera at Brazos Bend State Park a couple of summers ago. Love those toes!

*~*~*~*

A new report from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, states that there are over 391,000 plant species on the planet. ( I sometimes think that most of them are growing as weeds in my garden!) Of that number, some 30,000 species have a documented use for humans. Sadly, 1 in 5 of the number is facing extinction. 

*~*~*~*

The study of taxonomy and natural history has fallen in popularity in recent years which is not good news for the struggle to maintain biodiversity on the planet.

*~*~*~*

With California entering its fifth year of a statewide drought, Gov. Jerry Brown moved on Monday to impose permanent water conservation measures and called on water suppliers to prepare for a future made drier by climate change. Despite winter rains that replenished reservoirs and eased dry conditions in parts of Northern California, the governor suggested that the drought may never entirely end, and that the state needed to adapt to life with less water.

*~*~*~*

It seems there is a gender gap in being able to enjoy the outdoors. It is often seen as unsafe for a woman to hike alone, even on well-established public trails.

*~*~*~*

Climate change is not only affecting the ranges of birds, it is also affecting their size. Take the Red Knot, for example. This shorebird is already seriously endangered and now research has shown that the birds are getting smaller in response to climate conditions. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem except that smaller birds with smaller bills may not be able to reach the foods that the birds normally feed upon. 

*~*~*~*

Wolverines are rare and endangered in many areas. Not long ago, the first one to be documented in the state of North Dakota in more than 150 years showed up there. It didn't last long. It was shot by a rancher who posted pictures of his kill on Facebook and insisted that the creature had been harassing his cows. 

*~*~*~*

Migratory birds on their wintering grounds in Africa often sing out of season. The theory is that they are practicing to perfect their skills in attracting a mate when it comes time to nest. 

*~*~*~*

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled the first federal regulations to control emissions of potent planet-warming methane gas that could leach from new oil and gas wells. The methane rules, the final version of draft regulations put forth last year by the Environmental Protection Agency, require oil and gas companies to plug and capture leaks of methane from new and modified drilling wells and storage tanks, not older, existing wells.

*~*~*~*

Staten Island has an out-of-control and expanding deer population and they've come up with a novel plan for getting the numbers in check: birth control for the males. The plan is to trap as many males as possible and give them vasectomies, thus preventing the impregnation of the females and slowly decreasing that exploding population. The plan has to be approved by the state before it can be implemented.



4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the news! I am planting only succulents from now on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are certainly a good choice for dry conditions. I enjoy several that I grow in pots in my garden - pots that tend to dry out fast. For the most part, at most times, our soil would be too wet for them

      Delete
  2. Birth control for male deer...I like that! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly seems a most humane choice.

      Delete