Saturday, February 17, 2018

This week in birds - #293

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



Franklin's Gull (note white dots on black wingtips) photographed on a pier at Rockport, Texas.

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Are you counting the birds in your neighborhood this weekend? Yes, it's the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count. The count is now a worldwide event. It used to be limited to North America but was expanded in recent years and reports are now received from far-flung places on every continent, except possibly Antarctica.

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It is feared that a reorganization of the Interior Department, planned by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, will muddle the responsibilities of various sections of the agency and will reduce the role of science in agency planning.

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The number of oil and gas rigs in the United States increased by 38% last year. This is expected to have a significant climate impact since the oil and gas industry is a huge source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

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A new study of wildfire management that appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology this week makes the point that the wrong kind of management can actually devastate wild bird populations. The study was based on findings from California's destructive and expensive year of firefighting.

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Researchers have found that bees seem to prefer fields with borders. Interestingly, croplands with more divisions actually benefit pollinators more than increasing crop diversity.

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A new study demonstrates that the nesting success of the Louisiana Waterthrush -- a habitat specialist that nests along forested streams, where the potential for habitat degradation is high -- is declining at sites impacted by shale gas development in northwestern West Virginia. This is believed to be evidence that "fracking" to extract shale gas is impacting the breeding success of songbirds, possibly because of the pollution of water which it creates.

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Polluters in the United States are facing fewer consequences these days. Scott Pruitt's EPA has fined those that flout regulations 49% less than the past three administrations.

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Meanwhile, the Interior Department appears to be in a state of all-out attack on the public lands which it is supposed to protect. One prong of that attack has been the promotion of "multiple use" of public lands. This essentially means opening up those lands to mining, oil and gas drilling, and the grazing of cattle.  

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Plastic of all kinds and sizes is turning up in great quantity in the previously pristine areas of the European Arctic. This detritus of human occupation is causing great harm to the wildlife, especially seabirds, that live there. 

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Using genetic and fossil data, lepidopterists have produced a new and improved evolutionary tree which, they claim, more accurately reflects the evolution of butterflies and how the various species are related to each other.

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Science is slow. It rests on painstaking research with accumulating evidence. This makes for an inherently uneasy relationship with the modern media age in which people often take their "news" from such sources as Facebook and Twitter. This is especially true of issues that are politicized as climate change has been. A prime example is the recent winter that has been colder than usual in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Climate change deniers have taken that to mean that global warming is not happening, and, in fact, that we may be entering a new ice age. They tend to ignore the fact that there is a southern hemisphere of the planet that has experienced record HIGHS in temperatures during these same months. It's called cherrypicking your facts to make them fit your conclusion.

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An Oregon State-led research analysis of bird diversity in the mountains of southern Costa Rica has concluded that old, complex tropical forests support a wider diversity of birds than second-growth forests and, thus, such old-growth forests have an irreplaceable value for conservation.

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A massive oil spill in the East China Sea that resulted from a collision that sank an Iranian tanker last month is threatening some of the most important fishing grounds in Asia, from China to Japan and beyond. The oil condensate that is leaking is especially insidious because it is almost invisible. 

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A study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers has found that the survival of the Sharp-tailed Grouse will likely be negatively affected by the predicted increased temperatures across the Great Plains which will reduce appropriate nesting sites.

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Global warming has caused the world’s oceans to rise over the past 150 years. Warming seas expand, and water from melting glaciers and ice sheets have had nowhere to go but into the oceans. The rising seas have slowly and steadily eaten away at coastlines. But a new study finds that in recent decades, the pace of sea-level rise has picked up and coastal real estate could be under water faster and faster in the coming decades. Sea-level rise could double its rate within the next century, with disastrous consequences for coastline communities.

5 comments:

  1. The only good news from your snippets this week is the bird count going on. :-(

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    1. And so far my count is going very well!

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    2. I want to hear all about it when it's over. ;-)

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  2. Thank you for a comprehensive though sobering report. Hard to face how sobering it is.

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    Replies
    1. It is saddening and infuriating that those who should be doing everything to protect our natural resources seem to be doing everything in their power to destroy them.

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