Friday, April 14, 2017

This week in birds - #252

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

Resting from my gardening labors earlier this week, I was seated on my patio, idly watching a small group of White-winged Doves feeding on the ground around my backyard feeders. It was a peaceful scene.

Suddenly, a brown feathered streak darted across this scene and one of the doves seemed to explode in a shower of feathers as it was grabbed by the Cooper's Hawk and carried away while all the other doves scrambled for cover.   



The Cooper's Hawk frequently hunts in my backyard, but I seldom see him/her be successful.

The White-winged Doves often feed there and would be the hawk's preferred prey. A nice juicy dove makes a good meal.


This all happened in a matter of seconds and then the backyard was quiet and still. The only evidence that anything had happened was a pile of feathers on the ground near the feeders.

One feels sad for the dove but somehow exultant for the hawk who has a difficult task in catching prey that can fly. He is fast and maneuverable but often that isn't enough and no doubt some days he goes hungry. But on this day he/she - and perhaps his/her chicks - ate well. 

*~*~*~*

The new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, went to a coal mine in Pennsylvania this week to make a speech declaring that the "government's war on coal" is over and we are now in the era of deregulation. The coal mine where he made the speech was fined last year for contaminating local waterways with toxic materials. But who needs clean water and air? Gotta keep those coal companies happy! 

*~*~*~*

The PBS show "Nature" had an episode this week about saving Puerto Rico's most endangered species, including the Puerto Rican Parrot. If you missed the episode (as I did), it will be streaming on PBS online all month.

*~*~*~*

Feral animals of many kinds can be serious problems for communities and when it comes to eradicating them it can be a very expensive project. A case in point is feral swine. They roam many of our suburban communities in Texas and they are also a problem in our national wildlife refuges where they can do inestimable damage to native wildlife and plants. Recently, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona undertook an eradication program for the destructive critters which lasted for four days and cost $24,748. The USDA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are budgeted for $20 million to stop the spread of feral swine.  
*~*~*~*

The fight over public lands in the West continues one year after the notorious occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by an armed militia. New and old players continue to dispute over who and what public lands should be for.

*~*~*~*

Citizen scientists are helping to identify a threat that could contribute to the extinction of shorebirds; namely, the degradation and destruction of mudflats where they hunt for food along their migration routes.

*~*~*~*

"Bug Eric" discusses the well-intentioned but ill-fated General Mills advertising program for Honey Nut Cheerios. It was intended to draw attention to the problems facing pollinators and sought to inform and engage the public. It turns out that the free seed packets they were offering that were supposed to benefit pollinators were of the "one size fits all" variety and contained seeds of some non-native and potentially invasive species. Nevertheless, kudos to General Mills for making an effort. It is to be hoped that in future they will get better advice about what seeds should be offered. 

*~*~*~*

The budget proposed by the current administration in Washington would eliminate four of NASA's climate science missions, including instruments to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and oceans. Essentially, it would eliminate weather-tracking satellites.

*~*~*~*

The Australia Research Council has found fresh bleaching damage over 8,000km of the Great Barrier Reef, leading scientists to declare that the reef is at its "terminal stage" and that only public concern and action can save it.

*~*~*~*

When sediment scientists of the British Antarctic Survey found penguin poo in one of their sediments, it led to the discovery of a colony of Gentoo Penguins on an island where they had been thought to have been eradicated when a volcano erupted.

*~*~*~*

Unfavorable weather conditions in the UK in 2016 resulted in one of the worst years on record for butterflies. Up to 70% of the country's butterfly species suffered declines according to scientists.

*~*~*~*

When it comes to specialized species, they don't get much more specialized than Florida's Snail Kite. Historically, the kite has fed pretty exclusively on apple snails. The good news is that the bird has now made the adaptation to feeding on some of the invasive snails that are such a problem in the state and so may help to control that invasion. 

*~*~*~*

Human activity has put many species around the planet at risk of extinction, but human efforts have also saved many species. The Endangered Species Act is a prime example of the way that conservationists and others concerned about the environment have been able to rescue many species from the brink of extinction.  

*~*~*~*

A new Oxford University study finds that Puffin pairs that stick together during their migration tend to be more successful at raising more chicks.

*~*~*~*

"Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog" tells us about a flower that was found preserved in amber along with its pollinator - a termite! 

*~*~*~*

Finally, there is good news in California. Their drought emergency is over, at least for now. Gov. Jerry Brown made it official in a statement: “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” he said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” As it should be for all of us.


4 comments:

  1. I'm happy about California!

    I felt so bad for the dove being eaten by the hawk. I know the hawk has to eat but watching that is distressing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The strike happened so fast there wasn't time to react.

      Delete
  2. Tooth and claw. Man and nature. On and on it goes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it does, but at least in Nature we can see a purpose to it.

      Delete