Saturday, August 27, 2016

This week in birds - #221

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

Dicksissels are birds of the prairie and grasslands and they don't often make an appearance in my yard, but occasionally one will drop in and, if I'm lucky, I manage to record the event with my camera. Even if the pictures aren't very good. 

This one hung around for several minutes, feeding on the ground under the backyard feeders.

Lovely little bird. It's always a treat to see one.

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This week marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and there were special events at parks around the country to mark the event. Americans love their national parks. America's elected representatives in Congress, not so much. The congressional budgeting process leaves the park system chronically underfunded and unable to maintain the parks as they should be as jewels in the crown of the nation. A challenge for the next hundred years will be to change that and, also, to attract a more diverse group of visitors to the parks. At present, the overwhelming majority of those visitors are white.

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Equally important to the nation and even more important to the wildlife is the National Wildlife Refuge system. The 10,000 Birds blogger has information about the system and its comprehensive conservation plans.  

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President Obama celebrated the NPS's birthday on Wednesday by designating the Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine as a national monument. Also this week, the president expanded the Papahānaumokuākea marine national monument off the coast of Hawaii, making it now more than twice the size of Texas. The move quadrupled the size of the site, which was originally designated by George W. Bush in 2006 and was declared a World Heritage site in 2010.

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One of "the cutest little animals in America," the American pika, is struggling to survive as summers get hotter and drier. The little animals are vanishing from the American West as their habitats are lost to climate change.
Photo by Arndt Sven-Erik/BBC
American pika, the charming cutie - will it survive?

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When I was growing up, the Yellow-rumped Warblers in the eastern part of the country where I lived were called Myrtle Warblers. Farther west, they were known as Audubon's Warblers. Then the American Ornithological Union in its wisdom lumped them all together as Yellow-rumps. Well, now on further review and study, that lumping is being reversed. It seems there is sufficient difference in the DNA of the two populations to classify them as two separate species. Meanwhile, another study has shown that the Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers are 99.97 percent alike genetically and their differences seem to be due to dominant and recessive pairings of gene variants.

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The Italian wall lizard was introduced to the streets of New York some 40 - 50 years ago, probably as escapees from pet stores. The lizard has thrived and now that it has made it there, it will test the theory that it can make it anywhere. It's moving out of the city and has recently been seen in Greenwich, Connecticut. 
Photo by Colin Donahue
Italian wall lizard photographed in Connecticut.

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Stokes Birding Blog reports that the fall migration of the Common Nighthawk has begun and tells how and when to look for them in your area.

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Bats, as we know, have a lot of challenges to their continued survival, but they also have some devoted friends who are working to ensure it. One of them is Joseph D'Angeli, the "Batman without a Cape" of New Jersey. 

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The most persistent threat to the continued existence of the Northern Spotted Owl is now the encroachment of the more aggressive Barred Owl into its breeding territories. The effort to save the Spotted Owl now focuses on controlling the Barred Owl

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The endangered mountain yellow-legged frog of California is threatened by that state's drought and wildfires.

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Audubon reports that the survival of the endangered Saltmarsh Sparrow is in doubt because of the rising ocean waters and shrinking habitat that result from climate change.

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There is a widely held assumption that biofuels are inherently carbon-neutral, but a new study challenges that hypothesis. It showed that biofuels, in fact, increase heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions.

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There was exciting news from the world of astronomy this week when scientists announced that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. It appears that the planet exists in that sweet spot known as the "Goldilocks zone" where things are not too hot and not too cold but just right for the possible existence of life forms.

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A new study just published in the open access journal PLOS ONE indicates that Golden Eagles are likely more abundant in undeveloped areas with elevated landscapes.

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Researchers from Stockholm University report that a Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii) growing in the highlands of northern Greece has been determined to be the oldest known living tree in Europe. The tree was dendrochronologically dated to be more than 1,075 years old.

Photo by Dr. Oliver Konter
They named it Adonis.


7 comments:

  1. Wow, that Adonis is such an old tree! 😃

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    1. It's a mere baby compared to the oldest known tree in North America, a bristlecone pine that is 3,640 years old.

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  2. Another informative roundup. Thank you Dorothy. I liked the newly discovered planet in the "Goldilocks zone." Reminded me of 1950s and 60s sci fi.

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    Replies
    1. It seems that a lot of the space exploration of today harkens back to the sci fi of that period.

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