Friday, April 20, 2018

This week in birds - #300

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


It's warbler season again and here's a Wilson's Warbler, a regular visitor to my backyard on spring migration.

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Pity the poor Texas hornshell, a sleek green-grey mussel that once thrived in the Rio Grande watershed, its habitat stretching from southern New Mexico down into the arid Texas borderlands. Unfortunately for the hornshell, its habitat happens to overlap with rich deposits of oil and gas. Amid a long-term decline in its range, the Obama administration in 2016 proposed to declare the mussel an endangered species. Upon taking office, however, the current administration changed tack. A top Interior Department official, Vincent DeVito, has delayed federal protections for the species at the behest of fossil-fuel industry groups, one of several examples of this agency's willingness to prioritize the needs of petroleum industries with business before the government over the needs of threatened species.

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When birds collide with human structures, the bird is most often the loser. It is important to understand bird behavior in order to plan ways to reduce the risk to them posed by human development.

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In response to almost universal criticism, the Interior Department will drop its plans for steep increases in entrance fees for national parks. Instead it plans to implement a $5 per vehicle increase effective June 1.  

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In Georgia, scientists are testing an antifungal agent called B23 that is derived from wild pineapples in an effort to combat white-nose syndrome, the disease that has been devastating America's bats. It has shown some effectiveness in fighting the fungus that causes the disease and scientists are hopeful.

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There is more hopeful news regarding bats, or at least one species of bat. The lesser long-nosed bat is one of three bat species in the United States that feeds on nectar. Its existence was threatened and it was placed on the endangered species list in 1988, but now it has recovered sufficiently that it is being removed from that list

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Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary has been diligent in removing protections from public lands that had been instigated by previous administrations, but not so much in his home state of Montana where protections for public lands are popular. In that state, he has refused to give the fossil fuel companies what they want. He denies, of course, that his home state is receiving special treatment.     

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The last remaining herd of caribou to roam the forty-eight contiguous United States is believed to be effectively extinct. Only three animals are known to have survived the recent winter, and all are females.

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Zimbabwe is truly a birder's paradise. It is home to one of the greatest concentrations of birds of prey to be found anywhere in the world. The birds can be found among the towering rock formations and thick forests of Matobo National Park, which is home to more than 400 species of birds.

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The heat wave of 2016 was devastating to the coral of the Great Barrier Reef. A new study estimates that as much as 30% of the coral died in the catastrophic heat.

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Microscopic analyses of tiny diamonds imbedded in a meteorite that exploded over the Nubian Desert in Sudan a decade ago have led scientists to conclude that they were formed deep inside a lost planet that once circled the sun in the early solar system.

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A plan to pump water from aquifers under the Mojave Desert would likely destroy Bonanza Spring, a life-giving source of water for wildlife in the desert. 

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In last week's roundup, I reported on efforts to save the fragile ecosystems of the Louisiana coastline from rising seawaters. This week, scientists unveiled an enormous 10,000 square foot model of the Mississippi Delta that shows just how they hope to accomplish this. 

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The Northern Bobwhite, like many birds of the grassland, has been declining in population and is in danger of losing its fight for continued existence, but it is getting some help from humans. There are many programs in place to reintroduce the bird into areas where it had disappeared. One of those is in New Jersey. The state's reintroduction plan has been a success and an expansion of it is under consideration. 

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Entomology Today reports on "A Day in the Life of an Urban Entomologist."  These entomologists work in environments that are drastically modified by human beings.

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The Interior Department has made it clear this week that it is sapping the strength of a century-old law to protect birds, issuing guidance that the law would not be used as it has been in the past to hold people or companies accountable for killing migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act will no longer apply even after a catastrophic event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that destroyed or injured up to a million birds. Companies and individuals are essentially free to kill birds without consequence, as far as the agency charged with protecting our environment is concerned.

4 comments:

  1. How cool about the meteorite bringing diamonds from outer space! ;-)

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    1. Probably my favorite story of the week.

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  2. Me too! The meteorite story. Kind of puts things in perspective.

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