Saturday, January 21, 2017

This week in birds - #240

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



Eastern Bluebirds are searching for nesting sites and starting to build their nests already. If you have a bluebird box, make sure it is cleaned and ready for habitation. If you are thinking of putting up a nesting box, now's the time! A few weeks from now will be too late. 


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The first act of the new administration in Washington was to take down the climate change page from the White House website. There you go, America! Problem solved. No more climate change.


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Back in the reality-based universe, scientists announced this week that 2016 set a new record for high temperatures on our planet. It was the third consecutive year that Earth's temperatures have reached a new high. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have surpassed previous records for three years in a row.


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Since the 2009 accident when a jetliner was forced to land on the Hudson River after birds were sucked into its engines, nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in New York in an attempt to clear a safer path for planes landing and taking off.


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Red-breasted Nuthatches are one of those northern birds that periodically irrupt far south in their winter wanderings. In some years they even reach my backyard here in Southeast Texas. 



I haven't seen any of the little birds this winter but here's a photo (not particularly good) of one that visited here in the winter of 2012-13.

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Birds flock together as a defense against predators. The larger the flock, the more likely the predator is to be confused and unable to focus on one bird as its prey.

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National parks are places where wild things can exist in their natural habitat, but they are also popular tourist spots and at times it can be a challenge to manage Nature while also allowing access to it.

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Core samples from Pelham Bay in New York City have provided scientists with a glimpse into the past to study historic sea levels and to see what may lie ahead for the area as sea levels continue to rise in response to the melting of ice packs around the poles.

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A new study in The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses the mitochondrial DNA of Heermann's Gulls to draw conclusions about how their population has expanded in the Gulf of California since the time of the glaciers, and, by extension, how human-caused climate change may affect them in the future.

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There is alarming news for primates this week. According to recent studies, over half of the world's wild primates are facing extinction. Researchers warn of an approaching "major extinction event" if effective action is not taken to protect around 300 species of gorillas, chimps, lemurs, and lorises. 

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The Black Rail is a reclusive, secretive little creature, sometimes called the "feathered mouse." So it may be hard to notice that the bird is disappearing. But that is what is happening. It is already gone from much of its historic habitat along the East Coast and the continuing sea level rise is rapidly robbing them of their habitat, triggering what could become a catastrophic decline in population.

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The fleshy frontal shield, like the one that appears above the beak of this Purple Gallinule, is a sign of dominance in birds of the swamphen family. The condition of the shield is a measure of the dominance of the individual bird. The bigger and flashier the shield the more dominant the bird.


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Since humans have appeared on Earth, the planet has never experienced a time when global sea ice was so weak and reduced. Why is this important? Blogger robertscribbler explains.

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The domestic terrorists who invaded Malheur National Wildlife Refuge early last year dug a couple of trenches into archaeologically significant sites in the refuge. So far repairing those trenches has cost more than $100,000 of taxpayers' funds. 

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The tomatillo is the tomato's oddball cousin, a member of the extensive nightshade family of plants and the main ingredient of tasty and tangy salsa verde. Scientists had estimated that the nightshade family was about 30 million years old, but recently, paleontologists in the Patagonia region of Argentina have discovered fossilized tomatillos that date to 52 million years ago. So, it is possible that the dinosaurs nibbled on nightshades.  

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The attack on the Endangered Species Act has begun with the introduction of a bill in the Senate (sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats) to remove protection from the gray wolf. The sponsors insist that the bill will not modify the Endangered Species Act, but many conservationists see it as the opening shot in a war whose ultimate aim is the repeal of the act and the rescinding of protections for wildlife and the environment.

8 comments:

  1. The reports of animals approaching extinction seem to be increasing lately, very distressing. I wish bluebirds did nest here, pretty bird.

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    1. Bluebirds - Eastern, Western, and Mountain - are all wonderful birds and, with the help of humans putting up boxes for them, they are actually making a bit of a comeback. Happy news to provide some balance for all of the bad that I have to report.

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  2. While reading this I fell into a dream where wild animals invaded Washington, DC and went after certain individuals who clearly do not want to share the environment with them. It was macabre and satisfying at the same time. But that marching yesterday gave me some hope again.

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  3. I really fear for the environment now. Things are just going to get worse :-( On the plus side, I ordered a bluebird nesting box today, so perhaps that bluebird that was pecking at my window will stay around for a while.

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    1. Excellent! We have to do what we can for the environment, even if it is something as small as putting up a bluebird box. Every little bit that we can do is important. Get your box installed as soon as possible. The bluebirds are already building nests.

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