Saturday, October 7, 2017

This week in birds - #275

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



A Long-billed Curlew out for a walk on a Galveston beach.


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The New York Times has a list of 52 environmental rules that the administration in Washington is reversing or otherwise attempting to overturn. The administration has particularly targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry, including major Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change.


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One of the things it is attempting to destroy is the voluntary plan for protection of the Greater Sage-Grouse. This plan was negotiated by the Obama Administration two years ago and was intended to try to keep the grouse from having to be included on the Endangered Species List. Ironically, if they had gone ahead and listed it, as conservationists and many scientists recommended, the bird would have had the protection of law which would have been more difficult for a hostile administration to overturn.


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The National Butterfly Center in South Texas has notified the Department of Homeland Security that it intends to sue over the construction of a border wall on its private property. Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the Center, said, “There’s a procedure the government could follow with due process. But they’ve decided — like with so much else — to just ignore the law, trampling on private property rights. The complete disrespect for the legalities of this country is something that ought to concern every American regardless of how they feel about a border wall.”


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Since taking office in February, Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. chief, has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates, according to a review of his daily schedule that provides the most detailed look yet at what Pruitt has been up to since he took over the agency.


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The towering tsunami that devastated Japan six years ago also unleashed a very different sort of wave onto the distant coastline of North America: a massive invasion of marine life from across the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of species from the coastal waters of Japan — mostly invertebrates like mussels, sea anemones, and crabs — were carried across the Pacific on huge amounts of floating debris generated by the disaster, according to a study recently published in Science. If these species are able to establish a breeding population along the North American coast, they could become invasive and pose a threat to native species.

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The current administration in Washington has announced that 25 highly imperiled species will not be given protection under the Endangered Species Act. The species denied protection include the Bicknell's Thrush, which is threatened by climate change, and the Black-backed Woodpecker.

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Bird species as well as other wildlife in the Caribbean have long faced severe tropical weather. But many bird species, including the Black-capped Petrel and the Puerto Rico Parrot, in the region are already teetering on the edge of extinction, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes could make it harder for them to recover.

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Sad news from California: The urban-dwelling mountain lion tagged P-41 was found dead this week at the edge of the Verdugo Mountains. The ten-year-old lion had overcome a number of challenges to live and thrive in an urban setting and it is unclear what caused his death because the body was deteriorated, but it is speculated that the La Tuna fire which burned 7,000 acres in the Verdugos may have been a contributing factor. A necropsy will be conducted.

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Animal life and plant life on Earth are connected and interdependent. That is an obvious and observable fact, but perhaps no animal is quite so connected and interdependent with plants as birds. The Bird Ecology Study Group has posted extensive information about the interconnectedness of birds and plants.

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And speaking of plants and birds, 10,000 Birds posts about the importance of birders having some basic knowledge of trees so that they can better understand the behavior of birds.

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The House of Representatives has passed a budget bill that would provide an option for opening up the pristine and fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Despoiling ANWR with oil rigs has been a dream of Republican lawmakers for years.

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In a recent study, published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, scientists reported that their research indicates that cover in tall , rather than canopy cover, is the key habitat requirement for the Northern Spotted Owl. They found that spotted owls largely avoid cover created by stands of shorter trees. This has implications for the ways that forests are managed for the protection of the endangered owl.

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It is hard to imagine the plucky House Sparrow being in decline anywhere, but in parts of Europe, the population of the birds has had a notable tailing off. A study in Spain found that the urban-dwelling birds showed clear signs of stress from the toxic effects of air pollution and an unhealthy diet. 

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Hawk Mountain Sanctuary biologists published a new paper in collaboration with researchers in Canada and across the United States that suggests global climate change is creating long-term shifts in seasonal migration timing and the amount of time eastern North American raptors spend on their breeding grounds. Raptors are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier in the spring and are delaying their fall migration with the result that time spent in their summer homes is lengthening.

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Some trees live for thousands of years. They are the planet's documentarians, watching the cycles of life around them as they provide oxygen, shade, and shelter. Trees can live without us; we could not live without trees. The New York Times has a slide show of some of the oldest and/or most significant trees in the world.


4 comments:

  1. Sparrows inhabit a hedge behind my house. I typically see them in Spring and Winter, because they don't migrate, apparently. I feel so bad for them in Winter. I have had the idea for a while to set up a bird feeder outside for them, and other species as well.

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    1. I'm sure the birds would appreciate a feeder, especially in winter when food is harder to find. Birds are well-equipped to survive harsh weather but all of that depends on being able to find food.

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  2. I stopped reading after the one about the mountain lion who may have died in the La Tuna fire. That was the one near my house and every time I drive to my library I see the scorched hills and mountains. On a happier note I did see a bobcat on my back hill the other day.

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    1. In a week of sad news, the news about the lion was particularly sad.

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