Saturday, January 14, 2017

This week in birds - #239

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



First-winter male Vermilion Flycatcher photographed in January at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. He hasn't come into his full glorious colors yet. When he reaches maturity, he'll be looking more like this:



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Researchers at the University of Guleph have been analyzing the chemical fingerprint of Monarch butterflies in scientific collections in order to determine the areas where they originated. It is expected that this information will aid conservationists in being better able to protect the vulnerable butterfly.

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Male Pectoral Sandpipers give every indication of being sex addicts. These birds that are smaller than your common city pigeon have been recorded flying as many as 8,000 miles in one month in order to have sex with as many females as possible. Some of the birds traveled to as many as 24 different breeding sites in northern Alaska in a single season.

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Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

The rusty-patched bumblebee was once common across the United States but its continued existence has become extremely precarious due to the loss of habitat and the extensive use of bee-killing pesticides. It has now been granted protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is the first bumblebee and the first bee from the lower 48 states to be granted such protection. The seven other bees previously listed as endangered were all found in Hawaii.

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The record for a North American Big Year in birding has been broken. No, actually it has been shattered! Four - count 'em, four - people broke the record of 749 that had been set in 2013. The four who broke the record had totals of 780, 776, 759, and 750, out of the nearly 1,000 species that visit the continent each year. When will the record next be broken? 

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A recent scientific study indicates trouble for the breeding birds of the UK. Some of the species are disappearing from the area due to a potent combination of climate change and a loss of habitat to farmlands.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's conservation plan for the polar bear addresses human-bear conflicts, subsistence hunting, and oil spills but concludes that the greatest threat to the continued survival of the animal is a warming climate. 

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The fourth largest ice shelf off Antarctica, called the Larsen C, has developed a giant rift which indicates that it may break in two and fall into the sea - or not. Scientists are watching with a mixture of horror and fascination to see what will happen.

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The warming oceans are forcing the species that live there to move to different areas in order to find habitats that are suitable for them. In most cases, this means moving farther north. This, in turn, is forcing those humans who make their living by fishing to change their patterns, sometimes going for different prey that they haven't sought before. 

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A former Army chemical depot in Oregon has been refitted to become a restored Burrowing Owl habitat. The area provides thousands of acres of suitable habitat for the little owls. But now that habitat is being threatened by a proposed solar farm.

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One of the main ways that humans are altering the world is by moving species into areas where they do not normally occur. Now, a new study has mapped the movement of "alien" bird species over the past 500 years.

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Conservationists at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland are attempting to save the unique ecosystem of the marsh that exists there by literally raising it to escape the rising sea waters. This is accomplished by dredging and adding the dredged materials to the marsh to raise its level. 

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The White-winged Crossbill is the "bird that never goes home." It is a nomad that is constantly in search of a supply of the cones of spruce and other evergreens that make up the greatest portion of its diet. A single bird can remove and eat as many as 3,000 conifer seeds in a day.

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"Bug Eric" tells us about an interesting beetle that goes by the common name of Garden Carrion Beetle, but, in fact, carrion is not a part of its diet.

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Clearcutting ancient trees in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska would seem to make little sense ecologically, climatically, or economically, and yet it continues. It is the last national forest in the country with an industrial old-growth clearcutting program. 

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Amphibians are disappearing from ecosystems all around the world. As species become extinct, their absence has a domino effect throughout their former habitats. The species that they devoured - mostly insects - have a population boom and the species that ate them - e.g., reptiles - have a population crash. Soon the whole system is out of balance and fading.


4 comments:

  1. Gorgeous pics, Dorothy! As always, good news among the bad.

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    Replies
    1. Thank goodness for at least some good news to share.

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  2. That vermilion guy is quite stunning, while the Pectoral Sandpipers sound like characters in some books I have read:)

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