Saturday, April 28, 2018

This week in birds - # 301

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



It's grosbeak season. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Blue Grosbeaks are passing through. They have been reported and photographed in the area, but I haven't seen any in my yard yet. I took this picture of a visitor to my garden in a previous year. Gorgeous bird!

*~*~*~*

BirdLife International has released its State of the World's Birds 2018 report and, as you might expect, the news is not very good. The report provides a comprehensive look at the health of bird populations globally and it has found that the extinction crisis has spread so far that even some very well known species, such as the European Turtle Dove, are now in danger.

*~*~*~*

A photographer in Florida snapped a picture of an Osprey in flight with a small shark in its talons. That would not be so noteworthy except that the shark has a fish sticking out of its mouth! The photo has gone viral.

*~*~*~*

We humans are very self-centered and we tend to see everything through the lens of how it will benefit it us, but biodiversity should not be assessed that way. It has value for the planet all on its own, without reference to humans. Of course, anything that helps the planet ultimately helps us as well.

*~*~*~*

President Barack Obama designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine eighteen months ago. Finally this week the road signs directing travelers to the monument went up. The reason for the delay? The governor of Maine, Paul LePage, referred to the area as a "mosquito-infested wasteland" that was heavily forested and he refused to let the signs be installed until everything had been reviewed by the Interior Department.  

*~*~*~*

Alaska is being invaded. Strange, previously unseen animals are turning up in out-of-the-way places on a regular basis and it's all due to a warming climate. Species that have never lived in Alaska are finding their way there as the planet continues to heat up. There are now beavers at work damming streams within the Arctic Circle.

*~*~*~*

On the Aleutian archipelago in 2008 there was an eruption of the Kasatochi volcano which was disastrous for the seabirds that were nesting in the area. It completely buried their colony. But birds are adaptable creatures and they resettled on freshly created habitat nearby within four years.

*~*~*~*

The reports of citizen scientists are providing valuable information about migrating birds which is helping to establish protections for those birds.

*~*~*~*

"The Prairie Ecologist" tells us about insect life reawakening after a long winter.

*~*~*~*

Fire was an essential ingredient in the shaping of much of the American landscape, particularly the prairie. Species that evolved to deal with the fires and to profit by them have suffered in this era when fires have been controlled, but now fire is being used productively once again as a shaper of the ecosystem. Where development and fragmentation have disrupted natural cycles, teams run controlled burns every spring to help sustain prairies and other ecosystems that have long been shaped by fire. 

*~*~*~*

In Southeast Asia, there is a species of ant called Colopsis explodens that has a unique defense mechanism. When attacked, the ants' abdomens explode, releasing a sticky yellow fluid that entangles the legs of the attackers. The individual ants die but their nest survives. 

*~*~*~*

Researchers have been analyzing the type of habitats preferred by cranes, with a view to enhancing the ecosystem to favor the critically endangered Whooping Cranes. They've found that the big birds prefer habitat that includes a mix of croplands and wetlands and are more attracted by a single large wetland basin than multiple smaller basins. 

*~*~*~*

A study of European birds found a growing mismatch between the hatching of caterpillars in the spring and the nesting of migratory songbirds. The caterpillars are developing earlier, but, for the most part the birds have not adjusted to the earlier time frame. They are arriving earlier than in the past in an attempt to take advantage of the bountiful population of caterpillars, but it will take some time to make a complete adjustment and in the meantime chicks may go hungry or even starve.

*~*~*~*

In one sweeping move, the current administration may soon not only destabilize the last three decades of clean air and water rules, but also completely overhaul how the Environmental Protection Agency uses science in its work. If EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s recently-proposed rule gets enacted, it will spark a revolution in environmental regulation. The rule would require the EPA to publish all the underlying scientific data used to support studies which guide clean-air and clean-water rules and it would forbid the use of studies that do not meet this standard, even if they have been peer-reviewed or replicated elsewhere. The question is—will this stand up in court? For it will assuredly be challenged.

*~*~*~*

A recent study has found that U.S. urban areas are losing 36 million trees every year. This is in spite of all of the acknowledged benefits which trees provide to the urban landscape.

*~*~*~*

Another nasty invasive insect has made its way to the Northeast and seems to now be established there. The East Asian longhorned tick, previously unknown in the United States, has managed to overwinter and now appears to be a permanent resident in New Jersey. The tick is a notable pest in New Zealand where it is a disease carrier that can cause serious problems among sheep.




6 comments:

  1. Excellent information here,Dorothy. Some is worrisome. I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak outside my window this week, but it had gone before I could ready my camera. A rare visitor to my garden. I hope you see one soon. P. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! If the grosbeaks have already made it all the way to Pennsylvania, then they should certainly be in my yard by now. I always look forward to them and the orioles. I do hope they'll turn up soon.

      Delete
  2. Your birds lessons must be sticking with me because I identified the grosbeak correctly. ;-) The Osprey pic is quite something... It must have had a feast, two catches in one! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two fish for the price of one dive. Can’t beat that.

      Delete
  3. Back when I studied birds in grade school, thanks to an enlightened teacher who was kind of mean but was a birder, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak was one of my favorites. Beavers in the Artic Circle kind of beats all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember well the first Rose-breasted Grosbeak I ever saw. It was in my parent's front yard in Mississippi one April. I was totally gobsmacked.

      Delete