Saturday, May 6, 2017

This week in birds - #255

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

A lot of new birds showed up in and around my yard this week: Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Great Crested Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. And then late yesterday afternoon this one came calling - literally. It is the Common Nighthawk and I probably would not have noticed it except that I heard it calling as it circled around the skies over my backyard looking for insects.  

Here's a closer view of the cryptically colored bird. I photographed this one sitting on a post at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge a couple of years ago.

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It takes a lot of energy to keep a hummingbird humming, and for them, that means mainly nectar. It turns out that, not surprisingly, they prefer high sugar nectar, but will accept the lower sugar nectar if necessary. In areas where more than one species of the birds compete, such as Brazil, the more dominant species take the higher sugar nectar and the lower status birds must make do with the lower sugar content. 

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Wolves are thriving in Yellowstone National Park, but hunting that is permitted in and around the park poses a threat to their continued population stability.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, wolves have returned to that country for the first time in 200 years. 

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The fossil of a chihuahua-sized dinosaur has been uncovered in China and the remarkable thing about it is that it shows evidence of having had asymmetrical feathers. What's so special about that? Asymmetrical feathers are a marker for an ability to fly. The animal lived 125 million years ago and perhaps was flying around the skies of that era. 

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The Prairie Ecologist tells us about how returning Monarch butterflies in Nebraska had to deal with cold, wet weather this spring, sometimes with the help of humans like the Ecologist who took eggs and/or caterpillars indoors to develop when the temperatures dipped to 30 degrees. 

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Native North American bees are in decline across the board and at least one-fourth of the species are in danger of extinction. Unfortunately, it does not look like they will be receiving much protection from the EPA. 

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The development of tiny geolocators that can be affixed to birds has been a boon to scientists tracking their migration, but now comes a troubling study which indicates that the devices may be interfering with the birds' ability to migrate. A study of Cerulean Warblers found that those with geolocators were less likely to be able to return to their breeding grounds in spring.

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The bird known as Old Man Plover, a 15-year-old Piping Plover, has returned to his nesting grounds at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. He is the oldest known Great Lakes Piping Plover and has lived three times as long as the average plover. To me, he doesn't look a day over 10.

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I love the little Black-and-white Warbler, a bird of very interesting habits. It often behaves like a nuthatch or a Brown Creeper, creeping over the bark of trees, sometimes upside down looking for insects. What the bird lacks in colorful feathers, it makes up for in colorful habits. 10,000 Birds has an appreciation of the bird.


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A monitor lizard species that had been thought to be long lost has been rediscovered, alive and well, in Papua New Guinea.

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Technology has certainly made a difference in how birds, as well as other animals, are studied. For example, high resolution satellite images enable scientists to count birds on the ground without being in the actual vicinity and disturbing the birds. This technology is currently being used to count Northern Royal Albatrosses on New Zealand's Chatham Islands.

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Migrating birds continue to occasionally go off course and wind up in unexpected places. Consider the case of the female Red-winged Blackbird who ended up in Orkney. Now birders from around the UK are showing up there to get a glimpse of this very unusual (to them) bird. 

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The Dodo is dead. Extinct. An ex-Dodo. But it does, in fact, have a still-living relative, the Nicobar Pigeon and it was recently found on the Australian mainland for the first time.  

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Walruses and caribou in the Canadian Arctic are facing potential extinction because the warming climate is changing their habitat, melting the ice, faster than they can make adjustments.

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Almost all migrants that make the yearly trips between South and North American must either go over or around the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal habitats along the Gulf are key to the birds' ability to survive these long treks, but these habitats are threatened by human activity. A new review published in The Condor brings together what we know about these areas and the challenges faced by the birds that pass through them.

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The National Park Service has been studying noise in wild places over the past ten years, and they have found that even in the wildest and supposedly quietest places, the noises of human activity often intrude. 

6 comments:

  1. Well, there are some exciting news this weeks, such as the chihuahua-sized dinosaur which was able to fly, nature enthusiasts saving caterpillars from the cold, wolves returning to Denmark...I'd say this week was not so bad.

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    1. I did make an effort to be as positive as possible.

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  2. This reminds me I need to put the feeders out for the humming birds. They must return soon, I hope. P. x

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    1. They are on their way to you, Pam. Get those feeders up!

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  3. Fascinating report as always. The one about wolves reminded me of a documentary I saw about Chernobyl where the wolves have totally returned. It is called Radioactive Wolves and can be watched streaming at the PBS site. I also read Martin Cruz Smith's Wolves Eat Dogs, set in Chernobyl.
    My favorite creature in your post today is the black and white warbler. What a beautiful bird!

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    1. Nature's ability to renew itself, even in the face of nuclear disaster, is truly amazing. Chernobyl is regenerating itself now that there are no humans there to interfere. Yes, I remember Cruz Smith's book, one of his best featuring Arkady Renko.

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