Saturday, February 3, 2018

This week in birds - #291

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


Little Spotted Sandpiper standing on a bridge railing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The bold spots indicate that the bird is in breeding condition. During nonbreeding times, the birds mostly lose their spots. They are distinctive for their walk; they have relatively short legs and they constantly "teeter" up and down when taking a step. These birds are fairly uncommon but very widespread, found near ponds and streams, rocky shores and steep banks.

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Yesterday was Groundhog Day (No shadows here - too overcast - so spring is just around the corner!) but it was also World Wetlands Day.  Wetlands are perhaps the most important type of habitat and they certainly support the most diverse population of animals and plants. The focus of World Wetlands Day this year was urban wetlands, emphasizing the importance such places have in the greater urban environment.

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A presidential order has reduced protections for land that was once part of Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante monuments and now that land is being opened up for claims for mining of uranium and other minerals.

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Scientists strapped cameras to polar bears and the hours of images that were obtained, showing the animals just living their lives, suggest that in the age of climate change their lives will get harder and harder and the species may be at risk for extinction much sooner than had been previously thought.

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While the president claims that climate change is just a fantasy, a study by the Pentagon says that 1700 of their sites around the world are endangered because of climate changeThe study was published late last week and brought to public attention this week by the Center for Climate and Security. 

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recent cancellation of protections for migratory birds has prompted unprecedented protest from a bipartisan group of wildlife officials, some of whom go all the way back to the Nixon Administration. (Just a reminder: It was Nixon who signed into law many of the protections for wildlife - including the Endangered Species Act - that have made all the difference to the survival of many species.) 

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China has taken a big step in its effort to claim the mantle of environmental leader by announcing that it will halt coastal land reclamation and development. This is a massive boost to the tens of millions of migratory shorebirds, including the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway that depend on China's east coast intertidal mudflats.

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The ABA Blog has a roundup of "Big Years" that occurred in 2017. These include at least five birders who broke the 740 species mark. Three of the birders saw 813 species, verified, with one birder having 4 additional provisional species and the other two having 3 provisional species. That is a lot of birds!

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And speaking of birding, the 10,000 Birds Blog has a listing of the twenty-five best national wildlife refuges in the country for birders. Not surprisingly, four of them are located in Texas, and number one on the list is my own personal favorite, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Number two is not too shabby either; it is Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, winter home to the last completely wild flock of Whooping Cranes.

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One of the refuges on that list of twenty-five best is Santa Ana, located in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. This refuge is currently under attack by those who want to build a "big beautiful wall" through it. Last weekend, several hundred people showed up to a rally there to protest those plans. 

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Lichens are unique. They are a synthesis of two distinct life forms, a mutually beneficial union between fungi and algae. They are also important bioindicators of air quality and have been studied as such for over a hundred years. Research is continuing.

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There are only a few dozen Florida Grasshopper Sparrows left in the wild. This could be the year when they go extinct, but a captive breeding plan aims to stave off extinction and give the species a chance at long-term survival.

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National River Cleanup volunteers work to keep our waterways clear. Here is a list of the five most common kinds of trash which they remove in their cleanups.

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Ontario's Algonquin wolves are threatened with extinction. Research is underway which it is hoped will help to save them.

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The sagebrush ecosystem that is central to the Greater Sage-Grouse's survival is considered one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the United States. But it isn't only the grouse that depends on the sagebrush. The American Bird Conservancy has a list of some of the other birds that rely upon it.

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While the United States reduces its public lands, Chile has just established five new national parks over 10 million acres in a historic act of conservation. The land for the parks was donated to the government by American philanthropists Doug and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins.

4 comments:

  1. A lot of bird sighting in 2017? That's cause for celebration. :-)

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    1. A bird sighting is always a good reason to celebrate.

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  2. I keep wishing Trump was just a fantasy.

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    1. Or "fake news." Unfortunately, we have to deal with the reality of his xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-science, militantly ignorant administration.

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