Saturday, October 29, 2016

This week in birds - #229

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




Pied-billed Grebe

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In a decision that was literally unbelievable and seemingly indefensible, a federal jury in Oregon found seven terrorists, who occupied and did inestimable damage to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for forty-one days early this year, not guilty on all charges. The verdict sparked outrage in the county where the refuge is located and in supporters of the national wildlife refuge and national park system around the country, a group in which I count myself. So, no one is to be held accountable for the damage done to our public lands or for threatening and intimidating federal employees in the performance of their duties. The reaction of many, again including myself, to the verdict was summed up in this cartoon from The Buffalo News:

  
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In another trial, this one in Beaumont, Texas, a man was fined $25,815, sentenced to five years probation and 200 hours of community service, and forbidden from owning any firearms or hunting or fishing anywhere in the United States during the term of his probation because he shot two endangered Whooping Cranes in January of this year.   

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The World Wildlife Fund has reported that total wildlife populations worldwide have plunged by almost 60 percent since 1970. This includes mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, and the decrease is almost entirely directly attributable to human activity.

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Swifts are birds that live their lives on the wing. A new study reveals just how much time they spend in the air. It found that Common Swifts spend ten months of the year airborne.

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In August 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned plans to give protection to wolverines under the Endangered Species Act. The action went against the recommendations of the Service's own scientists. But now the giant weasel is getting another chance at protection. The action is a result of a suit by environmental groups requesting that protection be given. 

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There has been a big irruption of Siberian Accentors into Europe this season. The little birds are appearing in places where they have never been seen before, driving birders mad with joy!

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The EU and 24 countries have signed a long-awaited landmark agreement to protect the world's largest marine park, located in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The park will encompass 1.5 million square kilometers.

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Using geolocation technology to track them on their 10,000 kilometer migration, researchers have determined that many areas of importance to the Great Reed Warbler and other songbirds are not given any protection.

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Only a decade ago, crows and ravens were very rarely seen in and around New York City, but now these cosmopolitan and sociable birds are making a comeback in the area.

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The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled in the last 250 years. And why is that? The byproducts of the production of fossil fuels account for some, but, perhaps surprisingly, the greater amount of the increase seems to be due to agricultural practices. The cloud of gas is emanating primarily from the activities of microbes in wetlands, rice paddies, and the stomachs of ruminants.  

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A parrot fossil dating from 16 to 18 million years ago has been found in the Baikal region of Siberia. It is the first time a parrot fossil has been found in Asia and indicates that the birds may have been more widespread in Eurasia than previously thought. 

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And speaking of parrots, a new population of Night Parrots, a bird that was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2013, has been found in Queensland, Australia. Finding this population of the elusive bird leads scientists to speculate that they may be more widespread than previously thought.

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And next door, in New Zealand, scientists are pioneering genetic research that could help protect many endangered species around the world. They are working with an endangered bird called the Kaki (a kind of stilt) to increase genetic diversity and give the bird a better chance at survival. 

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John James Audubon never saw a Bachman Warbler alive and it seems that none of us ever will either. The elusive bird of canebrakes was probably never numerous, but the last potential sighting of one was in 2001. Apparently, it is no more; it is an ex-warbler.

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The removal of old and unused dams is a good thing. It is allowing fish to return to traditional breeding areas, making for healthier populations and increasing overall biodiversity.

4 comments:

  1. Some good news among the bad. That's always encouraging.

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    1. We'll take every bit of good news we can get.

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  2. Thanks for a balance of good news and bad. But losing wild life can not be a good thing. I am glad to know there are warriors out there taking action.

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    1. All the dedicated people who are fighting the good fight for the Earth deserve our thanks and our support.

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