Friday, May 11, 2018

This week in birds - #303

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



Black-throated Green Warbler, one of the many kinds of warbler that pass through here on migration each spring and fall.

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It is crucial to be able to accurately measure greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere in order to control and manage them. You can't manage what you can't measure. So I suppose it should be a surprise to no one that the present administration in Washington, which is utterly inimical to science in its every iteration, has canceled NASA's Carbon Monitoring System which measured carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.  

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Hurricane season begins in just a few weeks on June 1 and predictions are again for an active season. New research confirms that powerful Atlantic storms are intensifying more rapidly than they did 30 years ago as the water continues to heat up, and that does not bode well for the United States which could experience another harrowing spate of hurricanes this year. 

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A science teacher makes the argument in Birding that ornithology should be taught to high school students. Seems like a good idea to me.

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The critically endangered Amur leopard has experienced something of a population explosion. The wild population of the big cat has tripled to 103 animals. This is due in large part to aggressive protection efforts by Russia. Most of the cats live in the forests of southwestern Russia, with a few across the border in China.

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The news about the endangered red wolf in this country is not nearly as good. The population in the wild has plummeted to just 40 individuals and the species could go extinct in only eight years or less. The population crash appears to be related to North Carolina's allowing night hunting of coyotes beginning in 2012. This time frame coincides with the falling wolf population. The wolves are frequently killed on these hunts, either accidentally or on purpose.  

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It often seems that bats just cannot catch a break anywhere in the world. In Spain, the greater noctule, Europe's largest bat, is being decimated by an invasive species and this time a bird is the culprit. The non-native and invasive Rose-ringed Parakeet is attacking and killing the bats which are already listed as vulnerable on the threatened species list.

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Geolocators have revolutionized ornithology. The tiny transmitters attached to birds make it possible for scientists to track them throughout the year and make it easier to determine what areas may need extra protection in order to help the birds.

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The Prairie Ecologist writes about "Toxic Bee-Killing Hitchhiker Beetles." Where does he come up with these insects? 

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Just like the bat, it sometimes seems that wolves can't catch a break either, but in one case, the Mexican gray wolf has a friend at court. Exactly 20 years after the wolves were reintroduced into the wild, they remain on the brink of survival, with just 114 known wolves roaming southern New Mexico and Arizona. But in early April, a federal judge threw the species a lifeline in a ruling that called for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revise its management tactics in ways that do more to prioritize the needs of the wolves over the wants of ranchers and hunters.  

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For more than forty years, amphibian species on the planet have been under attack and many have disappeared altogether. Their enemy is a fungal disease called Chytridiomycosis. For years researchers have been trying to determine where the fungus originated and how it spread. Now, scientists have found that the fungus apparently originated on the Korean Peninsula some 50 - 100 years ago and was spread by international trade. 

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Invasive rats have been a scourge to wildlife on the remote southern Atlantic island of South Georgia. In 2011, a program of eradication was initiated and it has been phenomenally successful. Recently, the island was declared free of rats and mice, which will be very good news to the penguins that nest there, as well as other native wildlife.

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Coordinating information from weather surveillance radar and citizen science reports, scientists are able to track how migratory birds return to their nesting grounds in North America each spring with almost pinpoint accuracy.

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And even more bad news for wolves. The gray wolves of southeastern Alaska are losing ground because their habitat is being degraded by the increased industrial logging that is being allowed in the old-growth forest there.

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When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835, he encountered a diverse group of finches that helped him to shape his groundbreaking theory on evolution. But where did Darwin's finches originate? The latest research indicates that they could have come from either South America or the Caribbean. 

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A study by the U.S. Forest Service confirms that urban areas are swapping concrete for trees at an alarming rate. It is estimated that U.S. cities lose 36 million trees a year, so, if you have the space, you might consider planting a tree. Every tree counts. 

05/12 Note to readers: For some reason, about half my blog post disappeared overnight, so those who read early this morning might have found it somewhat confusing. I've now updated it by adding the missing parts. I apologize for the mix-up.  

4 comments:

  1. Wolves: remember the Barbara Kingsolver novel where she tries to explain that coyotes are part of the eco system and should not be hunted to extinction? Remember the Nevada Barr novel set in Isle Royale? Some agency is reintroducing wolves there, I read on the National Park twitter feed yesterday. What if we didn't read novels?

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    1. We would be much poorer emotionally and intellectually and much less informed about the world.

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  2. I think that if the amount of hurricanes each season keeps at the same rate or higher, insurance companies are going to start reevaluating their property insurance policies. Good news about the Amur leopards population explosion, and not so good for the wolves in general...

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    1. It is very good news for the cats and not so good for the canids.

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