Saturday, June 3, 2017

This week in birds - #259

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


Double-crested Cormorant resting on post. Photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.


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The long expected shoe has dropped. The current president has announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change. Thus, our country joins the illustrious ranks of pariah nations (Syria and Nicaragua) that refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world in trying to save the planet from the effects of human-caused climate change. And, actually, I believe Nicaragua failed to sign the accord because they thought it wasn't tough enough; so, essentially, it is us and Syria. 


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A group of twenty-two Republican senators had given political cover to the president in his decision by urging him to withdraw from the Accord. Those twenty-two had received more than ten million dollars from oil, gas, and coal companies in the last three election cycles. You don't suppose there could possibly be a connection, do you? 

As Richard Wolffe wrote following the announcement, the president's reasoning seems to be that the "US shouldn’t have to pay billions for a climate change deal when it can pay trillions in sea defenses for no climate change deal." Short-term thinking versus long-term thinking.

Meanwhile, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee fact-checked the president's statement and found it full of falsehoods, i.e., lies.

But many cities, states, and companies are refusing to accept the decision. They will continue to press their own plans to fight climate change and they are seeking to have their efforts acknowledged by the other signatories to the Paris Accord.



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Cities are usually hostile places for bumblebees and most pollinators, but researchers have found that shrinking cities, such as Detroit, in fact offer unique ecological patterns that are attractive to such critters. It seems that all it takes to make a place attractive to pollinators is to get the humans out. 

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Thriving cities, on the other hand, in addition to being inimical to pollinators, suffer from something called the urban heat island effect.  The urban heat island occurs when natural surfaces, such as vegetation and water, are replaced by heat-trapping concrete and asphalt, and is exacerbated by heat from cars, air conditioners, etc. This effect is expected to add a further two degrees to global warming estimates for the most populated cities by 2050 and could double the cost of climate change to those cities.

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Hummingbirds are adjusting their ranges not only in response to changes in the climate but also in response to human activity; namely the sugar water feeders that more and more humans are hanging in their gardens. Anna's Hummingbird, for example, is now found as far north as Alaska. Moreover, from 1997 to 2013 the bird moved its winter range 435 miles north, according to data from Project FeederWatch.  

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Rising sea levels pose a serious threat to coastal nesting birds around the world and could drive them to extinction unless they adapt to nesting farther inland.

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Protect the Wolves, a national tribal conservation group, is proposing that Wyoming create a 31-mile "sacred resources protection zone" around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks where wolves could not be hunted. The fear of conservationists is that, as the gray wolf comes off the endangered species list, it may once again be over-hunted and persecuted to the extent that the species becomes rare, with dire consequences for the environment. 

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An Asian common toad has been found in Madagascar, raising fears that this non-native species could become invasive and pose a threat to native species there. The toad is highly toxic and predators that attempt to eat it may die, and it would be in competition with native amphibians, so it is a double-barreled danger to the environment.  

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In addition to thumbing its nose as alliances and taking no responsibility for protecting our planet, the current administration in Washington has mounted a full-scale attack on protections of the nation's parks and wildlife refuges. With a series of actions – including proposals to de-authorize recently created national monuments and open environmentally sensitive lands to fossil-fuel development – the administration is moving to overturn long-standing U.S. policies on protecting the nation’s public lands.

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Fire is a crucial part of the forest ecosystem on which threatened Spotted Owls rely, but climate change and decades of fire suppression are changing the dynamics of these forests. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications examines California Spotted Owl habitat use in Yosemite National Park and shows that while owls avoid the badly burned areas left behind by massive stand-replacing fires, they benefit from habitat that includes a mosaic of burned patches of different sizes and degrees of severity.

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All snow leopards have been believed to belong to one single species, but a new study finds evidence that the animals may actually be divided into three distinct subspecies

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"Awkward Botany" tells us that the innocuous sounding buttercup is actually a poisonous plant. It is a skin and eye irritant and should be handled with care.

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Changing weather patterns and climate in the UK are creating new challenges for butterfly species there. Some species are experiencing stress while others seem to be thriving.

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Tree Swallows are showing scientists how climate change promotes earlier breeding. Over the last thirty-two years, these birds have been found to advance their egg-laying by from 5 to 9 days.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting news this week, and of course the biggest of them all is the new administration not committing to the Paris Climate Accord. However, and luckily, individual states are committed to many changes that may benefit humans as well as animals in the long run.

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    1. It is heartening to know that so many groups, including many major companies, are committed to continuing to work toward a solution to the problem of global warming.

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  2. I am so disgusted about the Paris Accord situation. But I read somewhere that we are committed until until 2019 and then it takes another year to officially withdraw. Our President can get lots of attention for his words but can he follow through? I doubt it.

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    1. The Paris Accord is symbolic of countries' willingness to work together to solve a common problem. Withdrawing support from it is a uniquely selfish and stupid act which marks the country as clueless and unconcerned about the fate of the planet - not the kind of country that others want to emulate and follow. Sad!

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