Saturday, April 1, 2017

This week in birds - #250

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


I saw my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the season at one of my feeders this week. It was an adult male. They are always the first to come through, followed by the females and first year birds. The day after I saw the hummingbird, I observed that the Chimney Swifts had returned to the skies over my yard. The swifts and hummers normally arrive at about the same time, though in the past they have typically been a bit later - early April.
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The current president began his dismantling of government efforts to fight climate change this weekThe order, which is expected to be accompanied by other environmental directives, targets Obama-era policies across the government, including in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Defense. It directs the EPA to revisit the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from power plants and was considered the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama's climate policy. Additionally, it directs the Justice Department to stop defending the plan in court.

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The scientists of the EPA's chemical safety division recommended that the pesticide chlorpyrifos be banned because it can potentially harm children and farm workers who come in contact with it, and it is deadly for at least 100 species of birds as well. On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, the director of the EPA, chose to ignore all of his agency's scientists and allow continued use of the chemical which is sold by Dow Chemical under the name Lorsban.

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An article in Audubon magazine explains why landscaping with native plants is better for birds. To survive birds need the native plants with which they have co-evolved. The plants feed the insects that the birds like to eat and they provide seeds that the seed-eaters like. Thus, the circle of life is complete and everyone is a winner.

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Research has shown that birds have blind spots directly in front of their heads and the size of those blind spots correspond to the size of the birds' beaks. 

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In spite of the fact that the Keystone XL pipeline has been given approval to proceed by the administration in Washington, it still faces likely legal action as well as public protests.

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We know that the ranges of many animals as well as plants are being changed as they respond to climate change. Most are moving farther north over time. Conservationists fear this will give a boost to some invasive species which may spread more rapidly now, becoming an even bigger problem for the ecosystem.

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The Tasmanian tiger has been thought to be extinct for eighty years, the last known specimen having died in a zoo in 1936, but recent credible reports of sightings in Queensland have given rise to hope that the animal may still be extant in the wilds of Australia. The reports have spurred scientists from James Cook University to launch a search for the animal.

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A new Duke University-led study shows that drought and reduced seasonal flooding of wetlands and farm fields threaten a globally important stopover site for tens of thousands of migratory shorebirds in California's Sacramento Valley. The researchers did an analysis of historical biweekly NASA Landsat satellite images of the valley and discovered that the flooded habitat near the peak time of spring migration has shrunk by more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. over the last 30 years.

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As the federal government abdicates any responsibility to lead on fighting climate change, many cities and states are responding to the challenge with more aggressive action. 
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Invasive Burmese pythons are wreaking havoc on the Everglades. It's estimated that there may be as many as 150,000 of the critters there and they have decimated populations of native animals. A hardy band of hunters is trying to rid the habitat of the deadly species.
Python hunter Bill Booth, left, and two others hold one of the pythons they captured in the Everglades. 
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is livestreaming a Greater Sage Grouse lek (the places where the males strut and dance to attract females) in Eastern Oregon. The camera runs 24 hours a day but viewers are most likely to see action in the early morning hours, Pacific Time. 
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According to a new study of rankings, only Sweden, Germany, and France among European countries are pursuing environmental policies in line with promises made at the Paris climate conference.
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Turkey Vultures are permanent residents where I live and in much of the country, but they do migrate and now is the time to look for them if you live in an area where they will be passing through. They are majestic flyers that soar high, rarely flapping their wings.
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Chinese leaders, grappling with some of the world’s worst air pollution, have long assumed the answer to their woes was gradually reducing the level of smog-forming chemicals emitted from power plants, steel factories and cars. But new research suggests another factor may be hindering China’s efforts to take control of its devastating smog crisis: climate change. Changing weather patterns linked to rising global temperatures are making the smog worse.

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Good news for the manatee: The status of the West Indian manatee has been upgraded from endangered to threatened. This comes as a result of an increase in population and improvements in its habitat through conservation efforts.


8 comments:

  1. Interesting tidbits, as usual. Great news for the West Indies manatee and the Tasmanian tiger (if the sightings are proven true).

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    1. It is good news about the manatee. They are not out of the woods, but at least they can sort of peek through the trees. And it would indeed be very exciting if the Tasmanian tiger can be definitely proved to still be in existence.

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  2. The prospects for the environment get worse by the week. I despair. Can I hope that some sort of legal action will halt the latest set of pronouncements as well?

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    1. Many people are working very hard on legal challenges. We hope for the best.

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  3. My hummingbirds are here too! I have read that when you see one, it is a blessing for you that day.
    May the current POTUS roast in hell.
    The python picture reminded me of Moon Glow:)

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    1. I always feel blessed whenever I see a hummingbird.

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    2. Last night I finished To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (The Snow Child). The female protagonist is an early photographer of the natural world, in 1885, and part of her quest is to photograph a hummingbird. Of course, other stuff happens as well, in Alaska. I think you would love it!

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    3. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'll put it on my list!

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