Saturday, July 2, 2016

This week in birds - #213

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

Phoebes are very active members of the flycatcher family, not as flashy as a Vermilion Flycatcher or a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher but interesting in their own right. This is a Black Phoebe that I photographed at Big Bend National Park.  

The Black Phoebes don't typically reach our area, although some might wander this far east, but we can count on winter visits from its cousin, the Eastern Phoebe, photographed here in my backyard during winter.
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Here's some hopeful news: The seasonal hole in the atmosphere's protective ozone layer appears to be mending. Nearly three decades after the world banned the CFCs that were destroying it, researchers say they have found “fingerprints” indicating that the seasonal ozone hole over Antarctica, a cause of concern since it was discovered in 1984, was finally getting smaller. This is further confirmation that intelligent political policies can benefit the planet. We don't have to be helpless victims of our own avarice and stupidity.

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National Moth Week is coming up later this month, July 23 - 31. Visit the website to learn how you can register and participate in the citizen science project by reporting your sightings.

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Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) have survived in Antarctica for nearly 45,000 years, during which they have adapted to glacial expansions and sea ice fluctuations driven by millennia of climatic changes. The penguins remained resilient and thrived through these changes, but new research from the University of Delaware suggests that the unique rapid changes in 21st-century climate may pose an existential threat to many of the colonies on the Antarctic continent.

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Covering themselves in junk is one way that some animals camouflage themselves in order to elude enemies. This is an ancient technique that goes back at least 100 million years. Chinese scientists have found insects that stuck bits from the environment onto their bodies and were then preserved in amber from that long ago.

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American toads are important members of wetland communities, but there is a lot of misinformation floating around about these critters. The Conserve Wildlife blog explodes some of those myths and misconceptions.

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Photo by Mike Morel of USFWS

The Elfin-woods Warbler, a small songbird endemic to Puerto Rico, has been listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act and will be given more habitat protection.
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BugBlog has a portrait of a female stretch spider. Remember the mantra: Spiders are our friends.

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Piping Plovers are small, very endangered shorebirds that construct nests on beaches that are simply a shallow dimple in the sand. They would probably have already been extinct except for the Endangered Species Act. Along the East Coast, they are currently in the middle of their breeding season. Unfortunately, they are forced to share their beaches with large, clumsy, and sometimes callous or downright hostile humans. Recently, in Connecticut, there has been a spate of possibly human-caused deaths among these little birds. USFWS is investigating these deaths as well as ones in Massachusetts. 

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Mountain lakes are an important source of regional water in the western United States, and are known for their historically high levels of biodiversity. Recently, some of these lakes have seen rapid changes because of glacial melt feeding into them. This has sparked concern from the scientific community about the changing nature of the lakes.

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One of the UK's most widespread songbirds, the wren, varies in its resilience to winter weather, depending on where it lives in Britain, according to new research. In general, birds living in more northerly areas are larger and better able to survive harsh winters. Findings published this week in the Royal Society journal Open Science reveal that Scottish wrens, for example, are larger than those living in southern Britain, and more resilient to hard winter frosts.

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Photo by Henri Weimerskirch.

Some large seabirds like albatrosses and this Great Frigatebird spend most of their lives on the wing over oceans. They feed on fish and squid in the open ocean and may fly for weeks without a break, even sleeping while in flight.
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A colony of Spix's Macaws, a beautiful brilliant blue critically endangered and possibly extinct bird, has reportedly been located in Brazil. The reported discovery has not yet been independently confirmed. 

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Physics dictates that water and whatever is in it flow downhill. Since that is the case, it is sometimes true that the headwaters of rivers are leafy and bucolic with farmland and pristine open fields filled with wildflowers, while the downstream areas have picked up pollutants along the way and are considerably less attractive and the water less drinkable.

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Here's a report about Red-necked Grebes in Germany. And then, just for good measure, here is a report with some striking pictures of Slavonian Grebes

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A banded Western Sandpiper, spotted in San Francisco Bay, had apparently been banded in Panama. Birds do get around, don't they?

6 comments:

  1. Great news about the hole on the ozone layer being on the mend. In the 1980s it caused quite a stir.

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    1. It is nice to have a bit of good news to report.

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  2. As I recall, we had to stop using hairspray that came in aerosol cans. What else? Good to know the humans did something effective! I like that Great Frigatebird, asleep on the wing.

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    1. The hairspray was probably the biggest one, although I'm sure there were CFCs in other aerosol products that got cut as well. Yes, that frigatebird is really cool!

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