Saturday, September 3, 2016

This week in birds - #221

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

Dove season opened in Texas this week and hunters will be gunning for the lovely, gentle Mourning Dove.

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September is prime time for the fall bird migration and a good time to get out to the woods, the national parks and wildlife refuges, and even your own backyard to see land birds as they make their way south. Bear in mind that birds making the fall trip are not looking for mates and so they are not as colorful or as noisy as spring migrants, but, with a little patience, they can still be found.

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Here's a troubling report concerning ongoing problems at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon as a result of the domestic terrorists' armed occupation there earlier this year. It seems that repairs for the damage done as well as regular maintenance have been very slow to get done and the refuge is still in sad condition. Moreover, six of the staff members have resigned, and, although the terrorists are now in jail, local ranchers continue to allow their cattle to encroach upon the refuge's land.  

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Did you see the story of the lightning strike that killed 300 reindeer in Norway? It was an eerie sight to see the 300 bodies laid out where they fell, and, of course, some suspected some cause other than a natural one.

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President Obama visited Midway Atoll this week. Midway is famous from Pacific battles fought in World War II, but today it is best known, at least to birders, as the home of 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses.

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NASA reported this week that Earth is warming at a faster pace than any time in the last 1,000 years. The rate of warming makes it “very unlikely” that the world will stay within a crucial temperature limit agreed by nations just last year, according to Nasa’s top climate scientist.

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The tiny Coastal California Gnatcatcher caught a break this week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected an effort led by land developers to have the bird delisted from the protection of the Endangered Species List in order to clear the way for their building plans.

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As our nation becomes more urbanized, parks and wildlife refuges tucked into the urban areas become more and more important for wildlife. One example is the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge in New York. It is a 14-square-mile refuge on New York Harbor that offers a quiet and peaceful respite to both humans and wildlife.

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Those who read my post about buttonbush on Wednesday of this week might be interested in the "Capital Naturalist's" post on the same subject. He offers better pictures and much more detailed information about the shrub than I did.

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Utah's Bears Ears region contains more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, making it an unparalleled national treasure. Unfortunately, looting and grave robbing have seriously damaged some sites. The danger of continued destruction and desecration argue the need for the region to be designated for national monument status and protection.

Photo by Mason Cummings
Some of the ancient petroglyphs at Bears Ears, now desecrated by modern vandalism.

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A biologist studying Spotted Owls has published a paper that reveals findings that logging is more detrimental to the endangered owls than forest fires.

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Trying to identify shorebirds, especially in winter, can be a bewildering, frustrating venture. "Audubon" magazine has some hints to help us and the first rule is to start with the most common and ordinary shorebird and thoroughly learn it so that you can unhesitatingly say, "That is a Killdeer!" By learning to see the differences between the familiar Killdeer and other shorebirds, one can begin to identify the less familiar ones. 

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According to a survey published this week, the African elephant population is in drastic decline. It has shrunk about 30 percent in the seven years from 2007 to 2014, and the deterioration is accelerating, largely because of poaching.

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Snowy Owls are among the most charismatic of birds and a species that has been exhaustively studied. A recent study reported that birds that winter on the prairie tend to do well. Some even gain weight in winter.

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Common Ravens are only truly common in the western part of the continent, but they seem to be making a bit of a comeback along the East Coast. One of the birds has spent the summer at the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor where it became quite friendly with some of the natives.

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The current geological epoch is known as the Holocene, but a group of experts presented a recommendation to the International Geological Congress this week that would designate the beginning of a new epoch - the Anthropocene. This designation would recognize the profound impact of humanity upon the planet and it should begin around 1950, according to the recommendation. This epoch would be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, as well as an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken.
 

5 comments:

  1. I would agree that we are in a new geological epoch. The name is apt.

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    1. Yes, humans are now the major agency affecting our world and changing it, for better or worse, so Anthropocene certainly seems appropriate.

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  2. The tidbit about the lightning strike that killed 300 reindeer is disturbing. I hadn't heard about it. I also don't like the news about elephant population declining as result of poaching.

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    1. The reindeer massacre really was a freak of Nature. Unfortunately, the plight of the elephants is all down to humans.

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