Saturday, September 10, 2016

This week in birds - #222

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


American Robins love American beautyberries and there are plenty of them for the birds to enjoy this year.
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Striped skunks are solitary, nocturnal creatures and even though they thrive alongside human activities, they go mostly unnoticed most of the time. But around this time of year, the babies that were born in the spring are starting to disperse to find territories of their own and we may become more frequently aware of a certain aroma in the air.

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A young Bald Eagle has been recently sighted several times around Staten Island in New York leading to speculation and hopes that it may be the first such chick actually hatched and raised in New York City in over 100 years. 

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The giant panda is one of the iconic animals of international conservation efforts and there was some very good news on that front this week. It seems that the effort to protect the habitats of the endangered animal has resulted in it moving back from the brink of extinction. It has bounced back so successfully that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has changed its status from "endangered" to merely "vulnerable." Well, progress is progress.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has analyzed the devastating floods that hit Louisiana last month and has come to the conclusion that global climate change increased the chance of record rains there by at least 40%. There will almost certainly be similar weather events which are made worse by climate change in the future.

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Meanwhile, the oceans have heated up rapidly in recent years and that is contributing to the increased severity of individual weather events. It is also reducing fishing zones and helping to spread disease.

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An interesting new study reported in "The Auk" demonstrates that migrating birds fly faster and tend to stay more on a direct course in spring as they hurry to get to their breeding grounds and establish territories. Autumn migration tends to take a more leisurely and meandering course. Another study, this one by the University of Oklahoma, showed that birds tend to migrate in response to environmental cues

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One of the factors triggering the migration of people from war-torn Syria is the fact that water supplies and access to water have severely deteriorated in many places. Since humans cannot live without water, they have to move, and this, of course, has caused an entire domino effect of problems in surrounding countries, including disease and pollution. There have been warnings from various sources, including the military, that this could be a preview of humanity's future as available water resources are used up. Humans could end up, literally, living on Arrakis - Children of Dune.

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Every dog has his day or so we hear, and so do many birds. Vultures, for example. September 3 was International Vulture Awareness Day. Birdchick writes about why Florida is such a haven for vultures.

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Watching birds can be a gateway to the appreciation of the larger world of Nature. When the birds aren't cooperating, you can always look at butterflies, dragonflies, bees, plants, and all the rest of the parts of the greater ecosystem that supports the birds. 

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Researchers have discovered a link between the tapirs of Costa Rica and climate change: Namely, protecting tapirs and other large seed-eating mammals is a key to the carbon storage ability of the rain forests because the trees rely on those animals to disperse their seeds.

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There are eighteen species of Hawaiian honeycreepers that are still extant on the islands, but all of them are in trouble and at least six of the species could be extinct within a decade due to the effects of climate change and predation by a species brought to the islands by humans - rats. 

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An section of the Earth's remaining wilderness areas that is equal to twice the size of Alaska has been destroyed since 1993. A new study shows that, if current trends continue, there could be no wilderness areas left on the planet within a century.

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In their native range along the western Himalayas, the Kalij Pheasants live in pairs of a single male and single female - occasionally, the social group may contain more than one female. But when the birds were introduced into Hawaii, they developed a quite different pattern. These birds live in large social groups - flocks - thus proving once again that birds are very flexible, adaptable creatures.

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The African Penguin, one of South Africa's most beloved birds, is vanishing from the coastlines of that country and the population of the birds is declining. Scientists believe that the cause of the decline is a combination of climate change and commercial fishing.

 
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When will the colors of autumn foliage be at their peak in your area? Smoky Mountains National Park has a fall foliage map with a sliding indicator that shows when the colors should be at their best in various parts of the country. Southeast Texas will have to wait awhile. According to the map, our colors will be at their peak - such as it is - on November 4. Unfortunately, living in a subtropical climate is not conducive to being able to enjoy a colorful fall. 

8 comments:

  1. Excellent round up of news. This time of year I enjoy hearing bird calls I don't hear at other times. Now, if I only knew what birds they were...

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    1. You need a field guide and perhaps one of the apps that identifies bird songs.

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  2. Among such bad news about weather change, there seems to be some good news for some animals.

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    1. Yes, it's good to know that laws like the Endangered Species Act do work and some animals are making recoveries from near extinction.

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  3. Interesting news as usual, Dorothy. I have some relatives along the Gulf of Mexico border that will be impacted, maybe large numbers of people will have to move. I sent you a friend request on Facebook, my name is Nancy Winiecki.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. I would be delighted to have you as a FB friend!

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