Saturday, September 30, 2017

This week in birds - #274

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



Whooping Cranes will soon be leaving, or already have left, their summer home in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to make the cross-continent flight to their winter home on the Texas Coast. They will find a changed landscape when they get here. Hurricane Harvey made its landfall dead center on their habitat. But there may be a bright spot to that story. The fresh water that Harvey dumped into the bays and wetlands that the cranes frequent may have the effect of renewing them and increasing the population of blue crabs, the birds' preferred food. Safe travels, big birds. Hunters, put those guns away! 

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The governor of Puerto Rico has warned that, without sufficient aid to rebuild, many Puerto Ricans, perhaps up to a million, may leave for the mainland. This would strain job markets, housing, and government services in the cities to which they move. This may be only a preview of climate-fueled migration to America, the kind of thing which many parts of the world have been dealing with for years.

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Meanwhile, the National Resources Defense Council is giving the very sensible warning that governments at all levels, from local to national, need to take into account sea-level rise and the increase in extreme storm events when they do their disaster planning. Unfortunately, when you have governments that deny that the sea is rising and that hurricanes are getting fiercer, it will be difficult to get that sensible planning done. 

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We focus on the damage done to humans by the superstorms, but wildlife also is suffering. In the wake of the series of storms that flattened the Caribbean islands, the surviving wildlife there is exhausted, disoriented and vulnerable. The status of several endangered species there is still not known. Conservationists were excited this week to find eight of the endangered Barbuda Warblers alive during a one-day survey of their habitat.


Barbuda Warbler photo by Andrea Otto.

It is not yet known how the Puerto Rican Parrots in the wild fared. (I told you about those that survived in a safe room in an aviary last week.) The El Yunque National Forest where they lived was virtually destroyed

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One thing that could help Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands in the future would be the use of more renewable energy to produce electricity. In its present state, it is estimated that it will be months before the electrical system will be back on-line there. 

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More than 38 percent of the neotropical parrots in the Americas are threatened by human activities. Degradation and loss of habitat and capturing the birds for the pet trade are the main culprits that are putting the birds on the road to extinction.

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The Black Rail is a shy bird that frequents marshes and it is threatened by the destruction of those marshes due to a rising sea. Saltmarsh Sparrows are threatened by nest predation and also by the rising sea that destroys their marsh and forces them to move further inland.

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As the administration in Washington continues its wrecking ball approach to all environmental protections, California goes its own way with environmental and climate actions. Moreover, several states follow its lead, all of which provides some small hope for our future.

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What is the difference between a grasshopper and a locust? "Bug Eric" gives us the scoop

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The clever European Tiger Moth has developed two separate chemical defenses to repel different kinds of predators. Whether you are a bird or an ant or a human, if you take a bite out of one of those moths you will get a very nasty surprise.

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The calls of Gentoo Penguins differ from one geographical location to another. The "words" are the same but the inflection is different - somewhat like the difference between a Boston accent and a southern accent.

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Our current national government wants to drastically ramp up offshore drilling for gas and oil. In pursuit of that aim, they want seismic surveys along the mid-Atlantic coast, regardless of any harm that could be done to marine animals in the area. Ironically, the companies profiting from performing these seismic surveys for this "America First" administration will be foreign!

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A recent expansion of the water treaty between the U.S. and Mexico will provide years of certainty for both animals and humans on both sides of the border who depend on the Colorado River for their water.

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Darwin's Frog photo by University of Zurich.

It now appears very likely that Darwin's Frogs will be wiped out by an emerging infectious disease caused by a fungus. Fungal diseases are currently among the the greatest threats to the continued survival of all amphibian species.

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Play is a learning tool for both human and animal babies, and a new study reveals that playfulness by New Caledonian Crows and Kea Parrots is the way that they learn to use tools for getting food. Maybe we all need a bit more play in our lives. 

4 comments:

  1. Among so many bad news, the cute news of birds learning to use tools by playing. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Gotta have something pleasant to report!

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  2. Kind of speechless about all of this today. Thanks for reporting.

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