Friday, March 10, 2017

This week in birds - # 247

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


Roseate Spoonbills enjoying the late winter sun.

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The current president is proposing a cut in the EPA's budget of 40% from roughly $510 million to $290 million. Moreover, he also intends to cut the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government's premier climate science agency, by about 17%. Many scientists warn that these cuts pose a threat to public safety as well as hurting academic and research programs. But we know what this administration thinks about the opinions of scientists.

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Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, this week flatly denied that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of global warming. Scientists have understood for more than a century that CO2 traps heat, creating a greenhouse effect that causes the planet to get hotter.

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Not only does Pruitt deny that carbon dioxide plays a role in global warming, he is staffing his agency with like-minded people.

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And now for something completely different: Blue-footed Boobies performing their mating dance on the Galapagos Islands.



They are really proud of those blue feet!

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The people of Fukushima, Japan, who fled their homes after the nuclear meltdown there in 2011, have been told to return to their abandoned houses, in spite of continued fears of radiation. If they do not return, they will lose the housing allowance that the government has been providing. 

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Kirtland's Warbler photo by Nathan Cooper, courtesy of Smithsonian.com.

Kirtland's Warblers are among the rarest and most endangered of North America's bird species. Little has been known about the route that they take on migration. Until now. Thanks to modern technology and lightweight tracking devices, the birds have now been tracked throughout their migration. It is hoped that this knowledge will help scientists to provide more effective protection for the little bird. 



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In its march to turn the clock back, the Senate passed legislation this week repealing an effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to improve the management of the broad array of ecological and economic resources found on the 247 million acres of public lands managed by this key agency. The rule, known as Planning 2.0, was a long-overdue attempt by the BLM to modernize how the public and stakeholders are afforded an opportunity to comment on management decisions that could impact lands all across the Western U.S.

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According to a new study, forest-rich nations could play a huge role in keeping the temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the key metric agreed to at the 2015 UN climate talks in Paris. Forests could account for a quarter of emissions reductions to meet targets in the Paris Agreement; however, the ways that countries measure emissions differ, making it difficult to track progress. A uniform method is needed.

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Africa's group of oldest and largest elephants, known as "Big Tuskers," was reduced even further this week when poachers killed the elephant called Satao II who was about fifty years old. Poaching continues to be a deadly threat to elephants and many other large animals in spite of the fact that dedicated rangers do their best to protect them.


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Rex Tillerson, formerly CEO of ExxonMobil and now secretary of state of the U.S., has recused himself from issues related to TransCanada Corp's application for a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. ExxonMobil stands to benefit from approval of the pipeline.

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Guillemots, also known as Murres, are seabirds that nest on high, rocky cliffs that tower above the sea. Before they learn to fly, Guillemot chicks launch themselves off the cliffs and into the sea, in what seems an unlikely survival strategy. Why do they do it? To get closer to their food source and find more to eat. Chicks in the sea grow faster than the chicks that stay in the nest.

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The winter of 2016-17 has been much warmer than normal throughout much of the United States. Moreover, on average, spring is arriving three days earlier compared to the period 1961-1980.



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Acorn Woodpeckers generally live in stable, social groups, and one would normally expect such an animal to have a relatively large brain. However, just the opposite is true. A recent study revealed that the bird's brain is smaller than would be anticipated for individuals required to deal with the politics of social living: , manipulation and deception.

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A study of 40 tree species conducted by Woods Hole Research Center found that many tree species in the eastern United States may be unable to adapt to a warming climate.

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A non-native snake species, the venomous brown treesnake, that has already wiped out most of Guam's tree-dwelling birds is also decimating the Pacific island's forests, researchers said Wednesday. Growth of new trees on the US island territory may have dropped by as much as 92 percent due to the snake's presence, they reported in the journal Nature Communications. This is because the trees, which had evolved in concert with the native birds, depended on those birds to disperse their seeds over the island. No birds, no seed dispersal, no new trees. And yet again we see the dangers of introducing - either deliberately or accidentally - non-native species that can then become invasive in an area with disastrous consequences.







6 comments:

  1. Love those blue footed boobies. One of the highlights of Australia for me was seeing masked boobies nesting. I could have stayed for hours watching them. No blue feet though..

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    1. Boobies in all their iterations are just fascinating birds. I envy you your opportunity to observe them.

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  2. I wouldn't live near Fukushima even if at risk of losing government subsidy.

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    1. I'm sure it is a very difficult decision for some of those people.

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  3. Loved the pictures. Most of the news just made me mad.

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    1. Yes, unfortunately, there's not much to be happy about here.

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