Saturday, April 29, 2017

This week in birds - #254

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

The White-faced Ibis and the Glossy Ibis are often difficult to differentiate. Both have the colorful iridescent feathers and they both do appear in this area, although the White-faced is much more common. The distinguishing feature is that the White-faced doesn't actually have a white face but it does have a white border around its face. This one had its face turned away from me and wasn't very cooperative, but I don't see any white, so I think it is a Glossy Ibis. I photographed it at Brazos Bend State Park.

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The Peoples' Climate March in support of the science of global climate change is happening today. You can follow it online. The challenge is to turn the energy of the marchers into action that will further the cause of science and resist the know-nothings who deny it.

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And speaking of climate, El Niño is coming and the World Meteorological Association predicts an early return this year. El Niño events are prompted by natural fluctuation in ocean temperatures in the Pacific but have a global impact, leading to flooding, droughts and heatwaves. They also exacerbate the increased extreme weather events occurring due to the continued heating of the world as a result of human-caused climate change. 

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The current president announced plans this week to review all national monuments designated by presidents since 1996 that are at least 100,000 acres in area with an eye toward revising them, reducing their area, or removing their protection. It is unclear that a sitting president has the legal authority to do this, but then when did that ever stop this president?

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A methane vent at a former landfill in New Jersey is proving deadly to birds. The landfill attracts the birds looking for a meal but the almost invisible flame from the vent can kill small birds flying through it and it can seriously singe the feathers of much larger birds, such as Red-tailed Hawks, debilitating them so that they are unable to care for themselves and will die if not found and rescued. 

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Here's some news that I find quite exciting: A caterpillar called the waxworm has shown an ability to devour plastic! Does this mean that scientists may be able to devise a way to biodegrade used plastic with the help of these critters? It's an idea that is being explored and if it works out, it could be a boon to the entire planet.  

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A research project that surveyed and interviewed some 12,000 Americans of all ages found that we do have a strong interest in and support of Nature. The respondents reported finding peace, meaning and purpose, and just generally being happier when they spent time outdoors. The problem seems to be in making time to do that. 

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Advances in technology, particularly the development of tiny, lightweight geolocators that can be attached to the subjects, have revolutionized the science of studying the migrations of birds. Because of this, we know that populations of birds that migrate through the eastern United States have declined significantly. 

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"The Prairie Ecologist" asks how small is too small when it comes to prairies? What is the minimum effective size of a sustainable prairie ecosystem? Do small areas count?

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In New Jersey, conservationists are attempting to establish a wildlife corridor from one nature area to another to help the area's bobcats. (Yes, New Jersey has bobcats!) They are calling their corridor "Bobcat Alley." 

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New research has found that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has vastly overestimated the range of endemic birds in India's Western Ghats region and that has led to underestimating the threat to these birds.

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Common Murres are monogamous long-lived seabirds that raise one chick a year. Research has found that the parents preen each other, exchanging information when each one returns to the nest, and this allows them to exchange roles when needed to support each other. Such interactions contribute to the success of their parenting.

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The decades-long federal program to clean up Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of success and is supported by politicians of both parties, but the budget which the current president has presented would eliminate funding for it.

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A new study testing the importance of "first arrival" in controlling adaptive radiation of species, a hypothesis that was proposed concerning the evolution of Darwin's Finches, concluded that being first in a new ecosystem provides major advantages for pioneering species, but the benefits may depend on just how competitive later-arriving species are. 

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Protecting wildlife from poachers in Africa is a very hazardous profession and rangers not infrequently pay with their lives. Recently, two more rangers protecting elephants in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were killed in a shootout with six poachers who were chopping up a freshly killed elephant carcass. The two rangers leave behind their wives and a total of eleven children.  

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Americans need to learn how to live peaceably with large carnivores. Too often it seems that we try to treat them like cuddly pets - feeding them, trying to take selfies with them, etc. - to the detriment of animals and frequently ourselves. These actions sometimes have resulted in tragedy for both humans and animals. We need to learn to respect these animals and leave them alone. Most often if we don't bother them they won't bother us.

6 comments:

  1. I really fear for our country and the planet :-(

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    1. Things certainly do not look promising, but we have to continue to resist in every way that we can and not give in to despair or cynicism.

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  2. I have read about the ibis in so many books but your photo has finally given me a good image. Hurray for the Climate Marchers! Bobcat Alley sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song title. My comments while drinking Sunday morning coffee.

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    1. LOL! It does sound a bit Springsteeny, doesn't it? Totally appropriate for New Jersey.

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