Saturday, June 18, 2016

This week in birds - #211

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

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), iconic bird of dry lands in the West, but often seen in our somewhat wetter area as well. I photographed this one in Big Bend National Park in West Texas.

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This year is smashing climate records right around the planet. So far seven climate records have been set in 2016 and since last October, every single month has been the hottest on record.

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In what Australian researchers say is the first documented extinction of a mammal species due to human-caused climate change, rising sea levels have wiped out a rodent that lived on a tiny outcrop in the Great Barrier Reef. The long-tailed, whiskered creature, called the Bramble Cay melomys, was considered the only mammal endemic to the Great Barrier Reef.

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In good news for the critically endangered California Condor, it was announced that more chicks hatched and survived in the wild than the deaths that occurred in 2015; thus, the overall population count increased. The total in the wild is now believed to be 270.

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Imagery from drones and satellites has confirmed that illegal logging is occurring in one of the most important Monarch butterfly overwintering areas, the Sierra Chincua in Mexico. This presents a significant danger to the already stressed butterfly population.

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In the news this morning was the story of a Colorado mother who fought off a mountain lion that had attacked her five-year-old son in their back yard near Aspen. Both mother and child escaped with non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities found the lion still in the area and a forest service officer killed it. The animal was believed to be either injured or ill. Such attacks on humans by a healthy lion are almost unheard of. 

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The San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher of the Galapagos Islands has recently been determined, based on a search of museum samples, to be a genetically and morphologically distinct species, different from its nearest relatives. Not that any of that will matter to the bird which has not been seen since 1987 and is believed to be extinct.

Our own Vermilion Flycatcher, this one photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast, looks very much like its presumably extinct cousin from the Galapagos.

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A Garganey, a very rare visitor from Eurasia, has been exciting birders visiting the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in western New York State. This species of duck has only a few previous scattered records throughout eastern North America. 

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The removal of a dam in the Wynants Kill, a Hudson River tributary, has succeeded in restoring more than a quarter mile of spawning habitat for river herring – reviving a historic spawning run for the first time in 85 years. The project is the first of its kind in the Hudson River estuary and signals the potential for other such projects.

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A report released by the Energy Department on Friday states that coal production in the United States has plummeted to levels not seen since a crippling coal strike 35 years ago. In recent years, the industry has been plagued by bankruptcies as power utilities increasingly moved to replace coal with cheap natural gas and renewable sources, like solar and wind energy. Coal was once the dominant source of the nation’s electricity generation, but consumption of the fossil fuel has declined by nearly a third since its peak in 2007.

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In Peru, an isolated valley carved into the landscape by the MaraƱon River, has served as an evolutionary proving ground for the divergence of traits and the emergence of new avian species.

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The Oystercatcher is a shorebird that might normally be found nesting on a rocky beach, but in the UK, at least some of the birds have made the transition to nesting on the flat roof of a school or other such public building. This has facilitated the spread of the species to new areas.

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Climate change, habitat destruction, and extinctions are not new phenomena for Earth. It has all happened before, thousands of years ago, and humans may have been partly to blame for many of those changes, too, according to a new study published Friday in Science Advances. The study shows that the arrival of humans in Patagonia, combined with a changing climate, led to the extinction of many species of megafauna about 12,000 years ago in the southern portion of what is now South America.

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Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, setting a new high year after year. Now there’s a notable new entry to the record books. The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) reading has reached it. In the remote reaches of Antarctica, the South Pole Observatory carbon dioxide observing station cleared 400 ppm on May 23, according to an announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday.

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Many of the world's vulture species are teetering on the brink of extinction. Audubon magazine has a roundup of the various methods and efforts that are being employed to try to save these essential birds.

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Spiders are our friends, as I think most gardeners are aware, but, admittedly, there are some spiders whose bite can cause humans some serious problems. One of those is the brown recluse. SpiderBytes blog has information on how to identify the brown recluse. Personally, I think the most important information for anyone encountering a spider is to just leave it alone. If you don't bother it, it won't bother you. Live and let live.

4 comments:

  1. The Vermilion Flycatcher is just beautiful!

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    1. They are indeed gorgeous birds. Very flashy.

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  2. Today it is 110 in Sunland, CA! Of course it has been that hot here before. But it is a good exercise in looking at which plants are not totally wilted or fried to a crisp. I just keep planting succulents.

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    1. Succulents are a good choice. They can usually take the heat as well as the drought. Reports of heat records in California and Arizona are amazing. Such high temps and today is only the first day of summer. One fears for what things will be like in August.

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