Saturday, July 1, 2017

This week in birds - #262

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


Barred Owl image from Owling.com.
I had a surprise last Monday night when I heard a Barred Owl calling from one of the live oak trees in our front yard. I know there are plenty of these adaptable and resilient owls around, but though we get Great Horned Owls in the yard on a fairly regular basis, it had been years since I had heard a Barred Owl here.

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We know that many areas in the Southwest have been suffering under an almost unbearable heat wave, but, of course, this isn't just an isolated occurrence. In Iran, on Thursday afternoon, the city of Ahvaz recorded a temperature of 129.2 Fahrenheit according to Weather Underground's website, which would arguably tie the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth in modern times.

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The G20 meeting is coming up and the climate action plan for the group has been massively weakened in order to try to get agreement from the U.S. president. They needn't have bothered; he likely will not sign it or will sign and then ignore it.

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Sometime in late May, a pair of Bald Eagles in British Columbia’s Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary snatched up two Red-tailed Hawk chicks and brought them back to their nest — alive. One of those hawklets became a meal, but something about the other must have appealed to the parenting instincts of the eagles. Instead of tearing it into strips for their own three offspring, they started feeding him right along with them and have continued to do so. When the adults bring food back to the nest, the little dynamo takes total command of its three larger step-siblings and demands his share. Okay, I have a name suggestion for that little guy: Jose Altuve! 

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Male Pin-tailed Whydah image by Eric Fishel.

And speaking of nestlings being adopted and fed by another species of bird, the Pin-tailed Whydah is a brood parasite (a bird that lays its eggs in the nests of others) native to Cameroon, but it seems that it may become established in parts of this country. Ornithological models suggest that potential sites for their invasion include California’s Orange County, southern Texas, southern Florida, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and many of the Hawaiian Islands. If the birds become established in great numbers in these areas, they could have a damaging effect on the native birds we know and love.

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On Tuesday, the administration in Washington continued its assault on the environment by taking a major legal step to rescind an Obama-era regulation designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation's bodies of water.

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Add Palm Cockatoos to the list of tool-using birds. But instead of using tools to feed themselves, these birds use them in the service of romance. They fashion sticks into drumsticks and use them to tap distinctive beats on tree limbs in order to attract potential mates. 

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After more than a decade of effort by conservationists to stop a century-old invasion by rats and to eradicate them, the Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge in the Caribbean is finally a safe haven for native cactus, seabirds, and lizards, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

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According to a revolutionary new economic assessment of the phenomenon of climate change, the U.S. South is expected to bear the worst of the economic costs of the heating up of the planet. 

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On the southwest coast of England on Christmas Day 1839, a massive section of cliff nearly a mile long subsided towards the sea, isolating a block of land known as Goat Island. On that small piece of land today orchids and some rare plants flourish.

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Blue-winged Amazon image by Tony Silva.
A previously unknown species of parrot has been identified in the Yucatan. It is the Blue-winged Amazon and it is believed to have evolved from the White-fronted Parrot quite recently, possibly as late as 120,000 years ago.

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An Asian carp has been found just miles from the Great Lakes, beyond an electrified barrier designed to keep the invasive species from entering the ecosystem and wreaking the sort of damage seen elsewhere in the US. The barrier is designed to stop Asian carp from heading up waterways into the Great Lakes works by emitting an electrical pulse into the water, meant to deter the fish and force them to turn back. The advance of the Asian carp comes as the current administration in Washington attempts to justify eliminating a $300m Great Lakes cleanup program in its 2018 budget. Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency has said that states can handle the work instead, but the cut has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

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Nature is very resilient and, as we well know, it abhors a vacuum. Any vacant spot in the ecosystem will soon be filled by a new resident. It is this principle that finds many organisms, both plants and animals, making their way into urban areas and adapting to life there.

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Two critically endangered Hawaiian birds, the Akikiki and Akeke'e, are threatened by climate change and by the mosquitos and disease which global warming bring.

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Adding milkweeds and other native flowering plants to all kinds of landscapes, not just marginal agricultural areas, is essential to helping to conserve Monarchs as well as other butterflies.

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At Powdermill Avian Research Center in Rector, Pennsylvania, researchers test many products related to birds. Currently, they are testing different types of glass in order to identify what is hoped to be a glass that will help to prevent millions of bird deaths from crashes into the glass of high-rise buildings every year.  






4 comments:

  1. I liked the tidbit about the pair of eagles adopting a hawk chick. How sweet! I also liked the bit of news about the recovered plot of land in the Caribbean, where unique flora and fauna have developed, and last but not least, I liked the piece about the landslide in Britain that isolated an island where rare flora now exists.

    Not all is bad this week, Dorothy. :-)

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    1. It's nice to be able to report some positive items. Makes a change from most weeks.

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  2. A nice balance of good news and bad. Love the owl!

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    1. I grew up listening to the sounds of Barred Owls rapping in the night. They were my lullabies. Hearing one always brings back fond memories.

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