Saturday, January 13, 2018

This week in birds - #288

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



A couple of Snow Geese foraging for food at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.


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2017 was the third warmest year for the contiguous United States since record keeping began in 1895, behind 2012 and 2016, and the 21st consecutive warmer-than-average year for the U.S. (1997 through 2017). The five warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S. have all occurred since 2006.


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Moreover, with three strong hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes and drought, the United States tallied a record high bill last year for weather disasters: $306 billion. The U.S. had 16 disasters last year with damage exceeding a billion dollars, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday. That ties 2011 for the number of billion-dollar disasters, but the total cost blew past the previous record of $215 billion in 2005.


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Noise pollution from oil and gas drilling in western deserts is being blamed for disrupting the reproduction of birds and causing Western Bluebirds to hatch fewer chicks than they historically did.


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Outbreaks of botulism among waterfowl have become more frequent and widespread in recent years, causing scientists to study the cause. The botulism has been linked to warming waters and the growth of algae, yet another effect of global warming.


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The first year in office of the current administration has been a boon for the coal industry, with the  rolling back of regulations on coal-fired power plants and withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate change agreement. It seems that the administration has been following a blueprint from the coal industry, specifically a wish list of environmental rollbacks that Robert E. Murray of Murray Energy gave the president just weeks after his inauguration. This, after he had donated $300,000 to the inauguration.


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The use of rat poison to control pests at marijuana farms in California is having a detrimental effect on the endangered Northern Spotted Owl as well as other predators in the area. When they capture and eat rats or mice that have been poisoned, they ingest the poison in the carcass, which can result in their death. 

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"The Prairie Ecologist" celebrates the diversity, beauty, and secret lives of grasshoppers.

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North America's fresh waterways are becoming saltier and that could create big problems. Cities dump ice-melting salt on their roadways in winter and when the ice melts and runs off into streams, it carries that load of salt with it, eventually making rivers and streams saltier and more alkaline with harmful effects on the greater ecosystem. 

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Too many Florida panthers are being killed by encounters with traffic. The animals are unable to reproduce fast enough and in sufficient numbers to offset these unnatural deaths, all of which makes the endangered species even more endangered

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A federal appeals court in San Francisco has upheld a plan by wildlife officials to kill invading Barred Owls in order to study the effect on the endangered Spotted Owl. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that the experiment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn't violate a federal law protecting migratory birds. The court says that law doesn't prevent killing one species to advance the scientific understanding of another. In recent years, the more aggressive Barred Owls have expanded their range and moved into the territory of the more timid Spotted Owls. The USFWS arrived at the plan to kill some of the Barred Owls as a means of protecting the endangered species. 

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A rare Ivory Gull from the Arctic was discovered and documented at Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois last week. These birds are not often seen south of their Arctic home.  

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"The Afternoon Birder" has a project going to warm the heart of any birder/reader. She's planning a "Big Year" of reading about birds. She will read at least twelve books, one per month, about birds and birding.

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Last week, the administration announced plans to open up virtually all of America's coasts to oil drilling leases.  After complaints from Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Zinke announced that Florida would be exempted from this dramatic expansion of drilling. Now, other governors and attorneys general concerned about drilling and its potential effect on the environment, beaches and tourism industry, which is worth billions of dollars, are asking why Florida is so special and vowing to wage a fight against new drilling, in court if necessary.

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North America and much of the northern hemisphere has experienced extremely cold weather in recent weeks, but, in fact, these cold snaps are much less common than they used to be and they are warmer on average. Scientists say that a cold spell like this one is 15 times rarer than it was just a century ago.

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Under new rules that went into effect this month, Ohio has taken the drastic step of outlawing the sale and distribution of 38 species of destructive, invasive plant species. The list will limit plant selection available to nurseries and landscape artists, but it’s a small price to pay compared to the cost of having to instruct professional landscapers and the public that some species do more harm than good.




4 comments:

  1. There are so few good news of the environment this week... :-(

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    1. More and more it seems that all the news I can find is negative, even though I do actually search for happy stories to report.

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  2. Well, that was a week that was. It hurts my heart. We had a mudslide down our street after heavy rain on Tuesday, due to the bare hills left by the Labor Day fire. Luckily our house is situated uphill from the street. The city put up K-barriers at the upper end of the street and they worked well to keep the mud, debris and water out of people's yards.

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    1. Those mudslides are horrifying. So much tragedy for Southern California. Let us hope that the rest of 2018 is kinder.

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