Saturday, September 17, 2016

This week in birds - #223

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


White Ibises photographed at Brazos Bend State Park earlier this year.
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President Obama this week created the first national monument in the Atlantic, thus prohibiting commercial fishing and other types of extraction in a series of deep canyons and extinct undersea volcanoes that lie more than 150 miles off southern New England, along and beyond the continental shelf. The protected area includes part of the wintering range of the Atlantic Puffin.


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By a vote of 95-3 on Thursday, the Senate passed a $10 billion water resources bill that includes funds for the Central Everglades Planning Project which will redirect water to undernourished Florida wetlands affected by human development.


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Purple Martins are birds that, throughout most of their range, depend almost entirely on human-provided nesting structures. Joe Smith suggest that maybe we need to rename them People Martins!

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A new study finds that populations of landbirds in North America are in steep decline, down by about 1.5 billion over the last 40 years. The decline is pretty much across the board, affecting both endangered birds and those that are common. Drivers in the decline include urbanization, agricultural practices, and, most likely, climate change.

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While polar bears have adapted by changing their diet as a result of the changing climate, they still depend on life-sustaining sea ice for hunting, resting, and breeding. Unfortunately, sea ice is declining in all 19 regions inhabited by the big bears. 

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Cape May Point State Park on the East Coast is Mecca for birders looking for raptors during the migration season. Because of the peninsular structure of New Jersey, birds in the East are funneled along the coastline to the southern tip of the state - Cape May. And the hawks follow the other migrants, their prey. Thousands of the birds can be seen there any day during the height of the migration season.

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Fungal diseases are among the greatest threats to wildlife, bats and amphibians being prime examples of animals that are being decimated by such diseases. Often, the agent that spreads the spores seems to be human beings and their activity.  

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We know that crows of all kinds are uniquely intelligent birds and some of them use tools in their search for food. Add to the list of such birds the critically endangered Hawaiian Crow, called Alala in the native language. It rivals the New Caledonian Crow which is generally considered the brainiest of the crow family.

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Like the polar bears, Ivory Gulls are dependent on sea ice, and like the polar bears, these gulls are disappearing from the Arctic as the ice recedes.

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The warming of the planet and the rising oceans that result from it are threatening many Pacific islands, among them the Marshall Islands. The numerous atolls that make up the island nation are now regularly swamped by rising sea levels and many of the inhabitants are fleeing to the United States. Such migration due to the effects of climate change threaten to destabilize political boundaries in the future, creating challenges for those nations where the migrants seek sanctuary. One more reason - if we needed another - why we should exert every effort to stop or ameliorate global warming.

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Laura Erickson writes about the proposed splitting of the Yellow-rumped Warbler into two separate species, Myrtle Warblers and Audubon's Warblers, or, as some of us old-timers would say, returning to the way things are 'sposed to be.

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Yes, even more about Arctic sea ice because it is an important story. The ice reaches its minimum in September each year. This year the lowest point of ice coverage was reached on September 10 and it was the second lowest ever recorded, just above the absolute minimum that was reached in 2012.

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The endangered Piping Plover was named "Shorebird of the Year" by an online poll conducted on World Shorebirds Day. The results were announced on September 6.

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Our national parks serve as living laboratories for many kinds of scientific research, including tracking the effects of climate change.

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Around here, we think of Blue Jays as permanent residents, but, in fact, the birds do move around a bit. This year's hatchlings may disperse northward while a bird hatched in New York State may head south for the winter and spend the season as far south as the Gulf Coast.

Did you just fly in from New York?

4 comments:

  1. A few notes about Arctic ice. What will the animals do when it's all gone?! :-(

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    1. Some may be able to adapt, but realistically, I think we are looking at some pretty large scale extinctions.

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  2. It seems like more bad news than good this week Dorothy. Today I have seen butterflies and hummingbirds in my yard. We are having a mini heat wave this weekend but it should be one of the last for the season. I can't be sure, but I think the poor pine tree in my front yard is responding to the soaker hose treatment.

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    1. According to the forecast, we are due for some milder temperatures next week - mid 80s instead of mid 90s. We'll take it!

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