Saturday, June 25, 2016

This week in birds - #212

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

Another of my favorite backyard birds, the Red-bellied Woodpecker. You can see just a tiny glimpse of his eponymous belly in this shot.

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Citizen science projects have been proved to be a very effective way to collect massive amounts of data that can be collated and analyzed to discern patterns that aid scientists in drawing conclusions and planning actions. Now the National Audubon Society is instituting a new pilot project aimed at tracking how birds are changing their ranges in response to climate change. Initially, participants will be counting Mountain, Eastern, and Western Bluebirds in their wintering and breeding seasons.

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In addition to all the other negative effects of the UK's Brexit vote, it could potentially be extremely detrimental to funding of scientific research in the country. 

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The Center for Biological Diversity has compiled a new "Systematic Review of Bird Recovery under the Endangered Species Act." Their analysis reveals that 85% of continental United States birds protected under the ESA increased or stabilized their population size since being placed on the list. In other words, the ESA works! That is just one more reason, if you needed one, for Americans to be very careful with their votes in November. There are those who will be on the ballot who would gut or scrap the act if given the opportunity. 

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Mountain lions are coexisting with humans in many suburban locations, perhaps most notably in California. Research shows that, even though there may be deer available for the taking, those suburban lions tend to feed most often on raccoons or domestic cats. (And that is another reason to keep your cat inside and safe.)

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Northern Bobwhites are one of the many grassland birds whose population has been under severe stress and that has been declining for years. But the birds are being reintroduced to parts of their former range and that project has been pretty successful. One of those successful reintroductions has been in the Pinelands of New Jersey.

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Did you know that this week, June 20-26, is National Pollinator Week? When most people think of pollinators, they probably think of honeybees, but the category is comprised of many diverse species. The large native bee shown here is only one. There are also butterflies, moths, bats, ants, and hummingbirds, to name only a few. Be kind to your pollinators - don't spray insecticides or other potentially harmful chemicals around your home and garden.  After all, the world would be very hungry without them.

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I have a secret bird passion - I love vultures! I think they are very cool birds. Moreover, they are among the most useful (to humans) of all bird species, helping to keep the land clean and free of disease and pestilence. There are three vulture species endemic to North America: the Turkey Vulture, the Black Vulture, and the California Condor. Audubon has some tips that will teach you how to recognize all three

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Black bears are becoming more widespread on the land and are more often coming in contact with humans. Recently, for example, there have been two sightings of the animals in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

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Clever Cockatoos! Cognitive biologists studying the tool-related decision making in Indonesian Cockatoos discovered that the animals seemed to carefully ponder their choices, assessing details such as the differences in quality between two food rewards and how to use the available tool as a means to obtain the out-of reach food.

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Researchers have discovered that the skin of amphibians might hold the secret to treating antibiotic-resistant diseases, so maybe we should be doing more to protect those critters and ensure their continued existence. And, perhaps, our own. 
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When Emperor Penguins disappear from an area in Antarctica, it may not be an ominous sign. It could be simply mean that they have moved elsewhere. Researchers have established that the birds move all around the frozen continent, making one circumpolar breeding population.

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Did you know that there are such things as fishing spiders? Well, SpiderBytes will be happy to tell you all about them. What a world of marvels we live in! If there is a niche, Nature will have found a way to fill it.

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House Sparrows were first introduced to North America in Brooklyn, NY, in the 1850s, as part of the great importing mania that swept the eastern seaboard in that period. That act had far-reaching and disastrous consequences for many native hole-nesting birds, such as bluebirds, and resulted in the Great Sparrow War of the 1870s. The sparrows won.

 
"Don't blame me! I didn't ask to come here! A human brought me."


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This winter's strong El NiƱo helped to replenish the Sierra Nevada snowpack so vital to the water supply in drought-ridden California. Even so, it wasn't enough and the best scenario is that it will likely take until 2019 to return to pre-drought levels, according to a new analysis.

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Cities across the continent can do much to aid the ecosystem merely by using native plants in public landscapes and by doing everything possible to encourage their use by private landowners. These plants are the backbones of healthy, thriving habitats.  

6 comments:

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    1. You're welcome. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  2. Hurrah for the ESA! I am going more native plants in my yard than ever before. Not as colorful as all the flowers I see at the nursery, but the peacocks just eat those, so I am blending in!

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    1. Native plants are definitely the way to go - good for the environment and easy to care for.

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  3. Black bears are a relatively common sighting in Connecticut as well, but a sighting always makes the local news. One morning I got to work and the place was effervescent with the news (and pictures to prove it) that a bear had wandered through the parking lot towards the tree line in the back. :-)

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    1. Amazing. It is always surprising somehow that even large mammals can learn to survive and thrive in urban and suburban settings.

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