Friday, April 6, 2018

This week in birds - #298

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


The Cedar Waxwings are still with us. They are always just about the last of our winter visitors to leave us in the spring.

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Americans were not at all amused by the Department of the Interior's plans to dramatically hike entrance fees for our most popular national parks. The agency has received more than 100,000 comments from the public regarding the scheme and they are almost unanimous in their opposition. The department has decided to reconsider the plan.

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In other Interior Department news, Susan Combs, a former Texas official who compared proposed endangered species listings to "incoming scud missiles," has been selected by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as acting secretary for fish, wildlife, and parksAs Texas comptroller, Combs fought the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repeatedly over its attempts to enforce the Endangered Species Act in the state. In a 2015 report, the Austin American-Statesman showed how Combs worked to remove endangered protections for a native state songbird, the Golden-cheeked Warbler, claiming that its listing hurt military readiness. In her new position, she will have power over enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. 

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The drafts of a long-awaited scientific report on sea level rise and storm surge and its effects on public lands has had every mention of humans' role in causing climate change deleted by National Park Service officials, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

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"Bug Eric" tells us all about some "odd little weevils."

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In early March, a team of scientists and amateur naturalists undertook a project called Border BioBlitz. Their aim was to inventory species along the U.S./Mexico border. Over 500 miles on either side of the border, they counted 833 species in 11 different locations. The bottom line is, the border region is a treasure of biological diversity, but it is also fragile and its ecosystem could be easily upset by human development. 

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Global warming is causing spring to arrive early and autumn to come late in many places, and not all species are adapting at the same rate. Here are five plants and animals that have been confused by the changes and are having difficulty acclimating to those changes.

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More on the effects of climate change on migratory birds: New research just published shows how the warming climate can impact critical food supplies necessary to the birds' survival.

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A poet famously wrote that "only God can make a tree," but what precisely makes a tree a tree? How do they differ from other plants? It turns out that scientists are having some difficulty in deciding just how a tree should be defined.

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It's not just land birds whose life cycles may be upset by the changing climate; seabirds also face problems in adapting as warming oceans may put them out of sync with their normal prey

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Did you ever wonder how insects learned to fly? Probably not. We take so much for granted, don't we? But insects were the first things to fly on the planet and scientists are engaged in research to figure out just how that happened, how they developed wings. 

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The Florida Scrub Jay is a threatened species. Researchers engaged in mapping its family tree and understanding its genetic diversity are hoping that the knowledge gained will yield insights into how the bird can best be protected.

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Freshwater mussels help to filter and clean the water in streams and other bodies of water, so the fact that many of them are going extinct is very bad news for species that rely on them to keep the water clean.

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The Common Tern is the most widespread tern species in North America, but its breeding colonies in interior North America have been on the decline for decades despite conservation efforts. The problems may lie in the migration route. The birds have important migratory staging areas in the inland U.S. and along the Gulf of Mexico and could be especially vulnerable to environmental change in that region.

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The latest research confirms that the underwater melting of Antarctic ice is far greater than had been thought. The base of the ice around the South Pole shrank by 1,463 square kilometers between 2010 and 2016.


4 comments:

  1. So many adverse news...What makes a tree a tree? It seems so obvious, but it's true there is no actual definition; that happened too with the term "planet" until Pluto was demoted. We take so much for granted... :-)

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    1. We do take much for granted. I suppose it is a defense mechanism. Otherwise, we might be paralyzed by the complexity of the world.

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  2. And how do bugs learn to fly? And why is Texas being especially bad lately? And why does it keep snowing? But how can a bird be so beautiful? Thanks for the updates Dorothy!

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    1. Questions for which I have few answers. I can only point you in the direction of the links.

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