Saturday, December 16, 2017

This week in birds - #285

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



I photographed this Black-billed Magpie on a snow-covered pine tree in Rocky Mountain National Park a few years back. Over in Australia, this bird's cousin, the Australian Magpie, has been voted the Bird of the Year, beating out the early favorite, the White Ibis, and the Kookaburra. The winner was not without controversy. Apparently, Australians take this vote seriously!

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In addition to drastically increasing the fees to get into national parks, the National Park Service, under the direction of the current administration in Washington, will reduce the number of free days available to visitors in 2018. In 2016, there were 16 free days. In 2018, there will be just four: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15), the first day of National Park Week (April 21), National Public Lands Day (September 22), and Veterans Day (November 11).  

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New research has confirmed that the unprecedented deluge created by Hurricane Harvey as it hit Southeast Texas in late August was made three times more likely by climate change. The resultant catastrophic flooding left 80 dead and 800,000 in need of assistance, which has arrived at a glacial pace. Recovery continues.

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Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. It takes place from December 14 through January 5 and you can participate! Just go to the Audubon website to find out how.

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Golden Eagles are practically extinct in northern England after decades of persecution by gamekeepers, the spread of commercial conifer forests, and inadequate food supplies. There are none in Wales. Birds are being released by conservationists in Scotland in hopes that some will spread out and fly south to repopulate those eagle-less areas. They are being released at a secret location south of Edinburgh.

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Research published in Science Advances on Wednesday details some of the detrimental effects that living near hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites has on human populations. For example, researchers found that pregnant women who lived within two miles of such sites are more likely to give birth to babies of low birth weight and that have more health issues.  

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On Monday, the National Butterfly Center filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Department of Homeland Security demanding that it conduct federally required environmental assessments, and follow the constitution and legal due process before attempting to build a border wall through the 100-acre nature and wildlife sanctuary in South Texas. (Knowing how this administration works, they probably now will change - by executive order, of course - what federal environmental assessments are required.) The Butterfly Center is home to several endangered species besides all the butterflies.
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Seabirds nesting in Alaska are having a harder and harder time finding food for and raising their chicks because of the effects of climate change. The question becomes, can these seabirds adapt fast enough to survive a melting arctic?
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In Peru, a previously unknown species of antbird has been discovered and documented. It is called the Cordillera Azul Antbird. It lives in the outlying Andean ridges and, like other birds there, is threatened by loss of habitat.
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Scientists have identified two million species of living things. Nobody knows how many more of them are out there, but it is likely that tens of thousands, mainly insects, may be vanishing before we've even had a chance to meet and get to know them.
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Another consequence of climate change may be changing wind patterns which could significantly weaken the winds available to wind farms in North American and Europe but may strengthen the winds in Australia.
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Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of an ancient giant penguin with a body length of about 5.8 feet that roamed the waters off New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs’ demise. Kumimanu biceae, newly described in the journal Nature Communications, is one of the oldest penguin species yet found.

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Never let it be said that there isn't money in birds! Early in 2017, a single Black-backed Oriole showed up in rural Pennsylvania, about 5000 kilometers from its usual home in Mexico. A recent study by a Sydney team of researchers was able to quantify the economic impact of the vagrant bird on the area. It was worth an estimated $223,851 to the economy from bird watchers from all over flocking to see it.

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Cooper's Hawks are able to survive and thrive in urban settings. An examination of the population dynamics of these birds in urban Albuquerque, New Mexico, found that they were not just thriving but were out-competing their rural neighbors and pushing them out of their nest sites.

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From the department of Ewww!: Researchers in Japan have documented interspecies sexual interaction between snow monkeys and sika deer. They say it may be a "new behavioral tradition," but I say it's just "Ewww!"

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Finally, here's a link to the winners of the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition. The pictures are just glorious - definitely worth a click. 

4 comments:

  1. I wonder what is the Australians' requirements to choose their Bird of the Year. I laughed with your ewwww news: snow monkeys mating with sika deer...That's just odd! But if they can't find anything else... :-)

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    1. But there are other snow monkeys around. Maybe it's just a matter of curiosity and wanting a new experience.

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  2. Bird of the Year! I love it! What a diverse collection of reports you made this week. Your Department of Ewww report reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy. Every year I buy two wall calendars because I love the pictures, even though I use the calendar on my computer now for keeping track of things. This year I got one of National Parks, because you know why and one of Goddesses because we all know that we need to be goddesses these days. Happy Holidays to one of my favorite bloggers, Dorothy!

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    1. We certainly all need the presence of national parks and goddesses in our lives. Happy holidays to you and your family, too.

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