Saturday, November 26, 2016

This week in birds - # 233

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



The Whooping Cranes of the Canada/Texas migratory flock are returning to their winter home at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. Meanwhile, the young birds (called colts) from this year's hatch from the eastern (Wisconsin/Florida) migratory flock are being encouraged to follow adult cranes on their migration route rather than being led by ultralight aircraft as they have been in the past. It is hoped that this method will prove to be more successful in establishing the birds in a viable eastern flock.

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The newly-elected administration in Washington plans to strip NASA's Earth science division of funding in order to eliminate its climate change research.This means the elimination of NASA's world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds, and other climate phenomena.

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Arctic scientists are warning that the increasingly rapid melting of the polar ice cap risks triggering 19 "tipping points" in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe. The effects could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean and could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

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Peru's Manu National Park has been proclaimed as the world's top diversity hotspot. It has a greater variety of terrestrial species than any other known place on Earth.

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Yellow Rails, like all members of their family, are secretive and elusive and a challenge to see in the wild, but one spot where your chances of a sighting at this time of year are better than most is the wetlands of Louisiana. The birds flock to those places on their fall migration.

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The Hudson River might seem to be a most unlikely place for a humpback whale sighting, but, in fact, a number of the huge aquatic mammals have been reported there recently. The river has been cleaned up and the quality of the water improved since the passage of the Clean Water Act 35 year. Perhaps that has something to do with the return of the whales to the area. Sadly, a humpback whale in British Columbia was less lucky in its choice of places to explore. The dead whale was found tangled in an old fish net at a defunct fish farm.   

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Archaeological evidence indicates that turkeys were domesticated at least 1,500 years ago. Not these guys though - they are still wild in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and in many areas around the country. They have reclaimed much of their former range.

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The ongoing devastation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf continues. The oil has killed the plants that held the soil in place causing some wetlands to literally sink beneath the waves. It is unlikely that we will ever know the true extent of the damage this ecological disaster has inflicted on the region.

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Greece frequently gets a bad rap and is looked on as the "sick man of Europe," but, in fact, it has been one of the most successful countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new progress report by the European commission.

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A bird's plumage is one of the traits that signals its health and vigor to potential mates. But a recent study of Northern Cardinals just published in The Auk indicates that the meaning of female birds' markings may vary from one place to another, even within the same species.

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The elimination of invasive pests on Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic region has meant a rejuvenation of the population of threatened seabirds, such as the albatrosses and petrels that nest there.

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We may not consider the negative effects of road salt on the environment in places where it is used in winter, but research has determined that it can change the sex ratio in frog populations, thus reducing their size and viability. This, added to all the other challenges that these amphibians face, could prove very detrimental.

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One interesting effect of the severe drought in New Jersey is that lowered water levels have revealed some old villages that existed before some of the reservoirs were filled with water.

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Still more trouble for the endangered Hawaiian honeycreepers. They are being threatened by avian malaria carried by mosquitoes that have invaded their ecosystem because of a warming climate.

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The Ruddy-headed Geese of Patagonia have been in an alarming decline, but the species exists in good numbers offshore in the Falkland Islands. Scientists have been studying whether the population of the endangered geese in Patagonia could be enhanced by a transfer of some of the Falkland birds, but their research indicates that such a transfer is unlikely to be successful. The two populations have apparently not interbred in the last million years, even though they are only separated by some 450 km.

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Bolivia relies on its glaciers and large lakes to supply water during dry times, but what happens when even those dry up? That's what is happening. Bolivia, along with the rest of the world, has heated up and all of its water reserves are drying up. A drought emergency has been declared in the country.


4 comments:

  1. Talking about droughts...We got some rain recently, luckily, because rain has become such a rare occurrence in so many places including CT.

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    1. Yes, we hear so much about drought in the West since it has been going on for years that we tend to overlook the drought that is now occurring in much of the East. I fear this is our future.

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  2. Due to the nefarious plans of our upcoming administration, this feature of your blog will become a much needed resource. I appreciate what you do here. So much!

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    1. It's a labor of love, but, honestly, one feels like a voice crying in the wilderness - a wilderness that will soon be fracked for its fossil fuels and then paved over.

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