Saturday, October 28, 2017

This week in birds - #278

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



A Black-bellied Whistling Duck stands atop a snag at Brazos Bend State Park. These ducks are most likely the commonest duck species in this area. Every evening around dusk, scores of the birds fly over my yard from west to east headed toward their roost for the night. I'm sure they make the trip in reverse in the early morning hours, but I'm not outside to see and hear it. And, yes, they do whistle - incessantly - when in flight.

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Winter in the United States is coming later and later. The first frost now arrives, on average, more than a month later than it did 100 years ago, according to more than a century of measurements by weather stations nationwide. 

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Our current president is reversing protections for two national monuments that were established by two Democratic presidents. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah will lose protections under the president's plan. Conservationist organizations will be filing suit to try to stop the actions. 

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The government this week prevented three scientists from the EPA from participating in a conference in Rhode Island by presenting their climate change-related research. The scientists were not allowed to speak because their research does not support this administration's theory that climate change is not happening or is a Chinese hoax or whatever...

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The budget resolution passed by the Senate would make it easier to sell off public lands. The new budget rules provide a shortcut for any bill in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that raises a billion dollars in new revenue to offset proposed tax cuts. The fast-track provision allows for those bills to pass without reaching the 60-vote threshold usually required to end debate in the Senate. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite - none of these lands would be safe if this becomes law.

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The current administration in Washington made history Tuesday in proposing that nearly 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico be made available for companies wanting to purchase federal oil and gas leases — the largest offering ever in the United States. This is essentially the entire area of the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf that is not already under lease. And, yes, the Gulf is still suffering from the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst in our history.

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Not only might there be fewer public lands in the future if the administration has its way but it could cost a lost more to get into them. The National Park Service has proposed drastically increased entrance fees for popular parks, ostensibly to help with maintenance costs.

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The berries of the northern spicebush are a favorite with migrating songbirds and the birds that find them to eat are generally fatter and healthier than birds that eat berries from exotic shrubs. It seems like a good reason to plant more spicebush in our gardens.

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Climate change could lead to sea level rises that are larger, and happen more rapidly, than previously thought, according to a trio of new studies that reflect mounting concerns about the stability of polar ice.

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A half-century of conflict has finally ended and Colombia is regaining control of vast biologically rich areas that had been havens for rebel groups. Now, scientists are racing to create plans for conservation and sustainable development to head off an influx of illegal loggers and miners.  

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U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross sent a report to the White House on Wednesday containing recommendations on whether to change the boundaries of 11 marine sanctuaries to allow more oil and gas drilling, but the report was not made public. I think I can guess what that report says and I believe I am beginning to see a theme here.  

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As the North Atlantic right whale nears the end of a year of dangerously high mortality, federal ocean regulators are calling for it to remain listed as endangered, according to a report released Friday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's five-year review of the species states that the right whales are experiencing low reproduction, declining abundance, and changes in the availability of food.


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A new University of Nebraska-Lincoln study has shown that Golden-crowned Sparrow chicks can name their tune in just one note – even before knowing the song. The research suggests that week-old Golden-crowned chicks, despite not yet learning their species' , can distinguish that song from another sparrow species' based on its introductory whistle alone. Clever little birds!
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In a year of national disasters, from monstrous wildfires to monstrous hurricanes, many endangered species have been pushed to the brink. It is problematic whether some will be able to recover.
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Climate change and resultant rising seas could mean that New York City will experience Superstorm Sandy-type storms and flooding every five years by the middle of the century. In other words, they could become common.
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Audubon has a list of several native trees that have brilliant fall colors and also provide food and shelter for birds. They are trees that make the world better for humans and wildlife as well. 


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