Saturday, May 28, 2016

This week in birds - #208

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


Black-crowned Night Heron fishing at Brazos Bend State Park.
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The Zika virus poses a significant threat to public health and safety and our Congress has responded to that threat just about as you might expect if you've been paying attention over the last ten years. Instead of appropriating more money for research and developing vaccines and therapies to fight the disease, it voted to loosen EPA pesticide rules. If this vote stands, it will allow more pesticides into our waterways and ultimately our drinking water and very likely would do little to actually contain the virus. 

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The catastrophic offshore oil spills which occasionally happen get big headlines, but, in fact, even small amounts of oil in the water can be devastating to seabirds and other sea life. Seabirds exposed to even a dime-sized amount of oil can die of hypothermia in cold-water regions, and research suggests that chronic pollution from many small oil spills may have greater population-level impacts on seabirds than a single large spill. 

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The emerald ash borer is a devastating pest from China that has wiped out millions of trees in Europe and North America. The USDA is fighting back with parasitic wasps. The little wasps are natural parasites of the borers and millions of them have been released into wooded areas in 24 states to try to slow the pest's progress.

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The government-sanctioned shooting of thousands of cormorants on the Columbia River has led to as many as 16,000 of the birds abandoning their nests on East Sand Island in the river, leaving eggs or young to be eaten by predators such as seagulls, eagles and crows. The shooting had been authorized to try to protect the imperiled Columbia River salmon. And the law of unintended consequences strikes again.

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The Pinelands Preservation Alliance, advocates for New Jersey's Pine Barrens, offers ten points to be considered when deciding on tools to be used to manage state forests.

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House Wrens can get a bad reputation with birders because they are known to evict other cavity-nesting birds to take possession of the space. Hannah Waters in Audubon argues that we mustn't judge the birds' actions by standards of human morality. They are simply responding to their survival instinct.

Hmmm...does this mean I have to rethink my attitude toward House Sparrows?

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A Unesco report on the Great Barrier Reef warns that its condition is "poor and deteriorating" and that it is "assailed by multiple threats." The Australian government has tried to suppress the report for fear it will adversely affect tourism.

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At least 13 Indonesian bird species are threatened with extinction because the birds are being illegally trapped for the pet trade.

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Despite fierce protests from environmental groups battling to save a World Heritage site, Poland has started logging in the ancient Białowieża forest, which includes some of Europe’s last primeval woodland. The forest is also home to the continent's largest mammal, the European bison.

Picture courtesy of The Guardian.
A small herd of European bison and the forest that is to be logged.
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The East Coast's Saltmarsh Sparrow is disappearing from its home and could be headed for extinction in as little as 50 years, say scientists whose work could help protect the little birds. The bird is being threatened by a rise in sea levels and by construction along the coasts where it makes it home. 

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The Totten Glacier of East Antarctica holds back more ice than any other, but scientists say it is fundamentally unstable and could eventually collapse in the warming waters, drastically raising the world's sea levels.

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Little Penguins are the only penguin species currently extant in Australia, but some 18 million years ago, things were quite different. At that time, Australia was home to a giant penguin that stood 4.2 to 4.9 feet tall, which is bigger than the biggest penguin alive today, the Emperor.

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In Canada, a rare parasitic wasp that had been being considered for endangered status has been found in several colonies on New Brunswick beaches, making it unlikely that it will have to be protected at this time. 

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Researchers recently reported that a threatened species of Arctic seagull, the Ivory Gull, had made a colony in an unusual place— on an offshore iceberg. This is the first report of these gulls breeding on an iceberg.

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The Trust for the Public Land advocates for parks in neighborhoods across the nation and ranks urban areas according to the access that their residents have to parks. Their latest rankings show the top five as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Washington, Arlington County (Virginia), and San Francisco.  Houston didn't make the top 100 list which surprises me a bit because it does have lots of parks.







6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this enjoyable post
    shared

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  2. So many bad news...When does it stop?!

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  3. I was hoping for another walk in the Brazos Bend park while in Houston but it was just a bit too hot for me after a weekend of celebration, heat, and humidity. Maybe next time. Thanks for the news. Some of it was actually good!

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    1. Well, it would have been an extremely wet walk anyway. The Brazos River is now in at a historic flood stage. Maybe next time you visit will be drier and cooler.

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