Saturday, October 1, 2016

This week in birds - #225


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


Over the last several weeks, the garden has been alive with the activities of hummingbirds like this Ruby-throated Hummingbird sipping from a canna blossom, but this week our weather turned cool, with overnight temperatures in the 50s, and just like magic, the hummers disappeared. They've moved on farther south in their migration journey. No doubt there will soon be another wave of the birds passing through so I'll keep my nectar feeders primed and ready for them.
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Wind turbines can be an important source of renewable energy for human endeavors but they can be deadly for birds, killing both local birds and those that pass through on migration. But it is not just wind turbines that are the problem. Solar arrays can scorch and kill birds and even traditional power lines pose a threat. These have proved to be a particular threat to Spain's Bonelli's Eagle, a threatened species. They also kill many raptors in this country every year. More research is needed to find ways to produce the energy that we need without devastating the animal population with whom we share the Earth.

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Requiem for the Rabb's tree frog. The little amphibian has been declared extinct after the last known representative of the species died in the Atlanta Botanical Garden.



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Small urban parks might seem to be pretty insignificant in the great scheme of things, but they can harbor an amazing diversity of invertebrate - and even vertebrate - life, especially if they are planted with native flora.

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Humans and birds adapt their movements when running on uneven ground in very similar ways even though their adaptation strategies and mechanisms developed completely independently. 

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How did jaguars survive the Ice Age when many other large cats became extinct? A significant part of the answer to that question seems to be that they were able to adapt by changing their diet.

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Corvid Research lists what it considers to be the fifteen prettiest corvid species in the world and shows us pictures to prove the point. One of them is South Texas' own Green Jay.


 
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The most usual manner for animals to evolve into a distinct species is for them to be geographically isolated from others of their kind. But that isn't what happened to the South Hills Red Crossbill of Idaho. This bird has evolved to take advantage of the lodgepole pines in the area, a tree which only became common there beginning about 5,000 years ago. Since then the tree and the bird have evolved together.

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PLOS Blog tackles explaining the difference between geological time and actual time. They also give a link to where you can print out your own geological time scale if you are interested in such things.

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Whimbrels are one of those large shorebirds whose migration route is not well known and scientists are always trying ways to discover it and map it out. Many of the birds that summer on Cape Cod have been fitted with lightweight solar powered satellite transmitters that will allow the scientists to track them as they head south for the winter.

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Red-breasted Nuthatches, like many songbirds, are in their fall migration now and many have already been seen in the eastern states. They sometimes make it as far south as my backyard, so I can hope that this might be my lucky year. Here's one that visited me back in the winter of 2012-13.


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Despite California's historic drought in recent years, the expansion of almond orchards in the state has increased by 27% the annual demand for water for irrigation purposes. At the same time, the orchards have all too frequently destroyed wetlands in the process of their expansion and have put additional stress on already stressed pollinators. 

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By using X-rays to closely examine the chemical details of modern bird feathers, scientists hope to find clues that will help them discover the true colors of ancient animals. 

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Few humans have visited the Vilacamba Range, a northeastern spur of the Andes that juts into the sea of the Amazon jungle. The remoteness of the area has protected it from exploitation and it is an area of remarkably diverse life, including animals found nowhere else on Earth.

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The Baya Weaver, a Southeast Asian species, is developing a new food source as an adaptation to its changing environment. It's the way that many birds are adapting and will have to adapt in the future. 

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Maryland has begun a project of removing non-native and invasive plants along I-95 and will be replacing them with plantings of native species. Good on you, Maryland! We need more of this. Let's hope your project will catch on across the country.

4 comments:

  1. Too bad about the extinction of the Rabb's tree frogs. Somehow I think that somewhere there must be one of them still alive, which was never counted (fingers crossed!)

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    1. Let us hope so. It wouldn't be the first time that an animal that was thought to be extinct turned up in the wild.

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  2. I love that Green Jay. So pretty. And yay for Maryland!

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    1. I agree with Corvid Research listers - the Green Jay is definitely one of the prettiest of that family.

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