Saturday, November 19, 2016

This week in birds - #232

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


One day this week, I distinctly heard my first American Goldfinch of the season as it flew over my yard, giving its flight call. Another day, late on a very windy afternoon, I thought I heard a flock of Cedar Waxwings down the street in a neighbor's tree that is a favorite of theirs every year. But usually we don't get waxwings for a few more weeks, so was it really them or was it wind? The parade of winter birds continues.  

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Saying that the "fragile and unique" Arctic ecosystem would face "significant risks" if drilling were allowed in the Chukchi or Beaufort Seas, which lie off Alaska, the Obama Administration has ruled out drilling for oil or gas in the pristine Arctic Ocean. The Department of the Interior added in its statement that the high costs of drilling combined with the low price for oil would probably discourage fossil fuel companies from wanting to enter the area anyway.

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October is tied as the third warmest October on record and 2016 is still on course to clock in as the hottest year on record. Also, among other climate change effects, Washington D.C. expects its heat emergencies to nearly double by 2020.

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The goals set by the Paris agreement on climate change are achievable and would slow global warming, but they likely will not keep the global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius as hoped. However, a recent report states that a shifting mix of energy sources that favors renewable energy and more efficient energy use will put the targets within reach. The United States will not be leading this effort though. It is now likely that China will assume the leadership in seeking to control global warming. Even though the federal government will be in the hands of climate change deniers, many states on their own will be taking steps to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

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BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 has entered deeply into the land animal food chain. Scientists have found traces of the oil in the feathers and guts of Seaside Sparrows.

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Well, that didn't take long. Last year birder Noah Strycker set a global "Big Year" record when he found 6,042 species of birds. But that mark has already been passed. This year, Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis has recorded more than 6,100 species so far and he still has more than a month to go.

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Saola
The saola is a forest-dwelling bovine that roams the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. It is rare, endangered, and very elusive - so elusive that it has never been seen in the wild by scientists, which makes it especially difficult for them to formulate a plan to protect and save it. It's a bit like trying to save a unicorn.

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"Bug Eric" gives ID tips on how to distinguish between two types of beetles: the darkling beetle and the ground beetle.

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Fossil evidence found in China reveals a prehistoric bird that has iridescent feathers. The dino-bird lived 120 million years ago and scientists speculate that the pretty feathers were used to attract mates.

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The "Rattling Crow" blogger introduces us to the Carrion Crow, a bird with a complex social system.

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Temperate grassland ecosystems are the least protected biomes on the planet. Since 2009, 53 million acres of grassland, an area the size of Kansas, have been converted to cropland across the Great Plains. This has dire consequences for the animals and plants that depend upon these ecosystems.

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Cirl Bunting photo by RSPB.

One of the UK's most endangered songbirds, the sparrow-sized Cirl Bunting, has made a remarkable comeback and is no longer on the brink of extinction. Since 1989, the population has grown from just 118 pairs to 1,078 pairs this year.

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Some sandpipers, such as Western Sandpipers and Dunlins, eat the diatom-rich film or slime along seashores, according to a new report, once again confirming that if there is a niche, Nature will fill it.

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A new paper argues that old methods of assessing risks for species have not kept up and, based on new technology, hundreds more species of birds are at risk of extinction. 

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The "10,000 Birds" blogger writes about finding solace in birds in troubled times.

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Every year the dazzling display of fall foliage draws many visitors to the northeastern U.S. to view it. But why do leaves change color? And why do they drop? The "Conserve Wildlife" blog explains it all.



4 comments:

  1. I'm against Arctic drilling too. There are too few of such pristine environments left on earth.

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  2. Thanks for the news. We had a long lovely rain today. I am thankful for that.

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    Replies
    1. That's good news. We could use some rain here, too. It's getting rather dry. We do have a chance of it this week. Fingers crossed.

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