Saturday, August 20, 2016

This week in birds - #220

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

This is the time of year when we expect to start seeing migrating Rufous Hummingbirds, like this juvenile from last year. So far I haven't seen any this season, although we have several Ruby-throated Hummers in the yard just now. I have cleaned, filled, and rehung all my nectar feeders just in case, and there are plenty of Hamelia blossoms for them to feed on, as well.  

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The major environmental story of the week has been the massive flooding that has hit Louisiana due to torrential rains. Although climate scientists always caution us that we shouldn't attribute any one weather event to the effects of climate change, it's hard to deny that the warming climate is having a rather disastrous effect on weather such as this flood and the earlier one in West Virginia, as well as events related to weather like the wildfires in California.  Meanwhile, none of these stories get the attention they deserve from the national press because they are in all Donald Trump, all the time mode. Even the Olympics struggle for attention.

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As you may have heard, in this 100th anniversary year of our national park system, there is a move afoot in Congress to give it all away. "Privatize everything!" is the rallying cry of a certain segment of our elected representatives. One of the wildlife refuges that they are trying to give away is in Puerto Rico. The authorization to do that was snuck into a supposed aid package for the island. Jamie Williams explains why that is such a bad idea.

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Surprisingly little is known about the world's bat species. We do know that bats in the eastern part of North America have been facing devastation from a fungal disease in recent years, but, in fact, bats all around the planet are facing extinction from a variety of causes.

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Research continues to expose the calamitous effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on the environment. The deadly pesticides have now been linked to the decline in population of native bees.

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Darwin postulated that people, moles, horses, porpoises and bats all shared a common ancestor that grew limbs with digits. Its descendants evolved different kinds of limbs adapted for different tasks. But they never lost the anatomical similarities that revealed their kinship. On Wednesday, a team of researchers at the University of Chicago reported on research that shows that our hands share a deep evolutionary connection not only to bat wings or horse hooves, but also to fish fins.

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Speaking of fish, here's a rather weird fish story: A piranha with human-like teeth is showing up in the Great Lakes, likely dumped there by aquarium owners who tired of them. The fish are sparking new concerns about the effects of invasive species on the lakes. 

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A new study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that female Barn Swallows from North America and from the Mediterranean, although essentially the same species, are turned on by different traits in their males. They all seem to like the brick red breasts but have differing reactions to the length of their mates' tails. 

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We know that plastic trash in the ocean is a major problem, that it is lethal to many of the animals that live there. Here's news about a project that may help to clean it up. 

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Climate change is an overarching threat facing our national parks and the National Park Service is making contingency plans to be able to deal with it.

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So, there is this bipedal bear in New Jersey. Yes, it is a black bear that walks on two legs and it has been observed by residents around Oak Ridge, New Jersey for the past two years. The bear's two front legs have apparently been maimed in some unknown fashion, and he has developed the upright posture as an adaptation. He has sparked a fierce debate about whether he should be captured and taken to an animal sanctuary to live out his life or whether he should be left alone since he seems to be thriving.

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Everything we've read about coral reefs recently has been bad news. Well, here's some good news: A giant coral reef in a remote island lagoon halfway between Fiji and Hawaii that was declared dead in 2003 is now alive and thriving once again. Researchers are now on a quest to find out why this reef came back to life in the hopes that the knowledge might help them aid other suffering coral reefs.

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Ecologists fear any plan to build a wall between Mexico and the United States as such a structure would be devastating to the ecosystem that we share with our neighbor. It would be particularly destructive to the large mammal population, including some endangered species.  

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Rising temperatures in the ocean are leading to increases in a bacteria called Vibrio, which can cause fatal illness in people who eat shellfish from those waters or who swim in them.

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Citizen science projects in all fields of scientific research are very popular. Enthusiastic amateurs in the field get to make observations and report them to the professional scientists as a way to contribute to the expansion of knowledge. They have a long history in this country, going all the way back at least to Thomas Jefferson. Citizen participation improves science; the more data the better.

10 comments:

  1. I had just finished a post (to publish tomorrow) on the situation in Louisiana. We must learn to adapt to climate change, or die (perhaps literally). But too many people still have their heads buried - in the sand, or, perhaps, elsewhere. Shared.

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    1. Indeed. It is very frustrating that our government is hamstrung on the issue and cannot take action that needs to be taken because of a group of science-denying representatives and senators. Let us hope that this year's election will clear away some of the deadwood.

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  2. Interesting news, as always. I liked the tidbit about the coral reef coming back again; that's something that shouldn't be ignored as it may be replicated elsewhere.

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    1. Exactly. I was excited to read that news. Perhaps there is hope for the coral reefs' survival after all.

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  3. I also liked the information about the coral reef coming back to life again. How interesting! I just shared my hummingbird post and saw your pic!

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    1. Well, I shall have to take a look at your post!

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  4. Thanks for the news. Our bee swarm was still with us at sundown. It is said it can take 1, 2 or more days for them to locate their new hive. They are loving the red apple in my front yard. It has been fascinating to learn about how bees move!

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    1. Yes, if you can be patient with them, if they're not presenting a risk, then they probably will move on soon.

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    2. The bees moved on yesterday. I looked at the swarm at 2 pm and it seemed unchanged. I looked again at 4 pm and it was gone! That means they found a new hive. We were happy to host them for 3 days.

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    3. Great! It was kind of you to be their temporary hosts.

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