Friday, July 6, 2018

This week in birds - #310

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


Common Gallinule preening itself at Brazos Bend State Park.

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All-time heat records have been set around the planet over the last week. Numerous places in the Northern Hemisphere, even places that normally have mild summers, have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded.

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One of those places is Canada where the sweltering combination of heat and humidity has been linked by health officials to the deaths of 33 people across southern Quebec.

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Republicans in the Senate are seeking a massive revision to the Endangered Species Act. The bottom line of their overhaul would be to shift responsibility for the protection of endangered species to the states, so we could theoretically end up with 50 different sets of laws, with some states potentially choosing to have no protections for threatened species. 

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The current administration in Washington is also seeking to revise protections for the endangered red wolf. Their plan would allow the wild population of the wolves to fall to 15 individuals. This could be a fatal blow to a species that already could face extinction within eight years, according to scientists' estimates.

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Nutrient run-off from agriculture and urban sewage have caused the oxygen levels in the Baltic Sea to sink to a 1,500 year low. This causes "dead zones" that curtail habitats for creatures that live on the sea floor, affecting fish stocks and often leading to blooms of toxic algae.

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Thirty years ago, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to Congress that the age of climate change had arrived and urged action to combat it. Hansen's warnings were prescient and his predictions have proved eerily accurate, but still our Congress refuses to act while every county in every state has heated up since then, sea level is rising, heavier rains and stronger storms are happening, and countless species of plants and animals are struggling to adapt. 

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A year and a half into the tenure of the current president, there still have been no nominees to head the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The lack of leadership has grave consequences for the future of public lands. One could almost conclude that this administration doesn't give a flying fig about the care of public lands. 

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The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put out its annual list of threatened and endangered species called the Red List. It has found that more than 26,000 of the world's species are now at risk of extinction.

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The northern white rhino, which is already essentially extinct, could potentially be brought back from the dead by the miracle of science. The first rhino embryos have been created in a test tube and the two surviving female rhinos (the last male died in March) could have the embryos implanted through in vitro fertilization. If the procedure works, the species might be saved.

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One of the last and largest populations of the beautiful Yellow-naped Parrot live on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Ornithologists are seeking to protect the charismatic bird from the pressures of habitat degradation and threats from the illegal pet trade.

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It's been a tough three months for whales along the coast of Washington and Oregon. Since April 3, there have been 16 cases of whale strandings along the coast according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Protected Resources.

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Barn Owls look out at the world in much the same way that humans do. Although possessing simpler brains than primates, they process information about things moving in their environment in a similarly complex way

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America's cash-strapped national parks are plagued by delayed infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Now, the administration in Washington is proposing to slash funding for the parks even further.

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Inbreeding presents an additional challenge for the already endangered Northern Spotted Owls. Scientists are searching for ways to increase genetic diversity and prevent further decline of the species. 

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Let's end the week on a note of beauty: Here are some wonderful pictures from "This Week in Wildlife." Enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. As I read this on the second day of temps over 100, it all sounds too awful to contemplate. Husband just finished the 6th Nevada Barr book. I will read it soon but I wish there were more I could do for the parks. Last night we began watching the documentary about Jane Goodall, called Jane. It was balm to our hearts. Thanks for the report and the wildlife pics.

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    1. Jane Goodall is a beacon for us all and gives us hope that the human race might not be entirely without redeeming qualities.

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  2. Awful news this week. Unfortunately, it seems that the trend will only continue. Thanks for the link to those amazing pics. I wish I could take photos like those! ;-)

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    1. Yes, it was definitely a bad news week for the environment, but I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. They were amazing, weren't they?

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