Friday, January 27, 2017

This week in birds - #241

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



Sandhill Crane photographed at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

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Several years ago there was a flurry of excitement over the reported sighting in an Arkansas swamp of a bird that had been thought to be extinct. However, no definitive photographic evidence of the sighting was ever presented and eventually the excitement and the talk about the possibility that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers still lived subsided, and the bird was once again consigned to the rolls of the extinct. Some researchers remain true believers in the bird's existence, however, and recently a new paper has been presented outlining evidence that the bird may still survive in Florida. Audubon online sums it up for us

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Among the flood of executive orders signed by the president this week was one reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which pose significant threats to the environment as well as the Dakota Access being a threat to burial grounds sacred to the Lakota Sioux nation. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly canceled its long-planned climate and health summit as the new climate change-denying administration was taking office, but now the summit is back on, to be held at the Carter Center in Atlanta. It is being sponsored by non-governmental entities such as Harvard Global Health Institute, the Turner Foundation, and the Climate Reality Project which was founded by Al Gore.

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Using autonomous recording devices that can be placed in a location and left for weeks or months to record sounds, the Boreal Songbird Initiative, working with First Nation scientists in Canada, is hoping to get better information on some of the birds that inhabit the most remote parts of the Boreal region. 

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Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week was a hero and a glass ceiling breaker for many women, but birders may best remember her for the time she stood up for a Red-tailed Hawk. When the co-op board in charge of the luxury Fifth Avenue apartment building where she lived had the famous Pale Male's nest removed from the building, Moore and other residents were incensed. They mounted a successful protest that convinced the co-op board to make a nesting site available for Pale Male and his mate and to leave them in peace. 

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At the end of the last Ice Age, Australia was populated by a large number of massive mammals, but they have all disappeared. Their extinction has been thought to have been caused by humans, but a new study postulates that it was primarily caused by a changing climate, to which the animals were unable to adjust. That mass extinction could help to predict what the present-day human-caused climate change might  bring. 

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Last Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency staffers were ordered by the new administration to freeze all of the agency's grants and contracts, cutting off financial support for many state and tribal environmental protection programs. The gutting of this agency's functions would undo many of the protections that people like Rachel Carson fought for. 

Incidentally, the PBS program "American Experience" has a terrific documentary on Rachel Carson that is running this week. Look for it. If you've missed it on your local channel, you may be able to watch it online. Trust me - it is worth the effort.  

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Laysan Albatrosses stubbornly return to the same site each year to nest. But what if that site is right next to a U.S. Navy runway in Hawaii? The Navy, along with the help of biologists, is taking fertilized eggs from the nests of the birds and moving them to foster parents that nest in a safer location. The chicks should then imprint on that new location and return there when they are adults ready to nest. 

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Canadian scientists went through a period when their government was hostile toward science and tried to shut them up, during the Steven Harper administration. They are now reaching out to their colleagues in the United States to explain how they fought back and to try to help them protect data so that it cannot be expunged by anti-science apparatchiks.

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Volunteers are working to protect areas of the New Jersey shore to allow plants to grow and birds to breed without human interference. They are accomplishing this by cordoning off sections of the shore area. 

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New evidence appears to indicate that Earth is warming even faster than was previously thought, meaning that we have even less time to try to reverse or slow the trend which would ultimately make the planet uninhabitable for humans.

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More scientists are getting actively involved with politics and are considering running for office to try to combat the anti-science, anti-intellectual bias of the government.

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The proposed wall between Mexico and the United States is a human rights issue but it is also a threat to a number of migratory species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it would be detrimental to 111 endangered species and 108 migratory birds.

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For more than 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has been the cornerstone of the nation's environmental laws and a lifeline to prevent the extinction of rare and endangered species. But now the Act itself may be facing extinction, put to death by a hostile Congress and executive branch.

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A wet winter has provided some relief to drought-stricken California, but unless the state can begin to manage it water resources in a more sustainable way, that advantage will not be sufficient.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent round up this week! I will be watching the Rachel Carson documentary for sure.

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    1. You will find it illuminating and enjoyable, I'm sure.

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  2. Replies
    1. And, as always, thanks for reading, Carmen.

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  3. It's been a big week for news. I share your fear for the future.

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    1. All rational people must fear for the future and all Americans must fear for our form of government with that government in the hands of radical right-wingers who seem intent on making this a fascist state.

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  4. Excellent Round-Up. I am saddened by many of the changes going on.

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    1. It is distressing and we have to fight back as best we can.

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