Saturday, July 14, 2018

This week in birds - #311

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


It's that time of year when the birds in my backyard are often seen in varying states of undress - like this uncomfortable-looking Northern Mockingbird. One might think it is a reaction to the heat and perhaps it is in part, but this is a normal annual process called the molt. The birds lose their old worn feathers and grow bright shiny new ones that will see them through next winter and spring. All birds go through it, so if you see birds in your area looking decidedly disheveled, don't be concerned; soon they will be well-dressed once again.

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As might have been expected, the new Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has proved hostile to using the Clean Air Act to control the emission of greenhouse gases. His record on environmental law in general has been inimical to using current laws to protect the public and the environment.  

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Southern California has already experienced extreme temperatures this summer that have obliterated all kinds of long-standing heat records. The heat has also brought more misery by causing power outages in some areas so residents have had to face the heat without any air conditioning. Climate scientists have long warned us that this day was coming. It seems that it is here.  

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If there is any bright side to the heat wave that has swept over North America it may be that the extremely high temperatures have finally convinced some people that manmade climate change is happening! A long-running survey of American attitudes to climate change has found that 73% of people now think there is solid evidence of global warming. A further 60% believe that this warming is due, at least in some part, to human influences. But one wonders what these new converts to the idea of climate change will think when winter comes.  

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A new study of gulls by the British Ornithologists' Union found that urban gulls were more adept at stealing food from their cohorts than their rural counterparts. Food stealing, an exploitative process known as kleptoparasitism, is regularly employed by various gull species in order to acquire food at a reduced effort and is an important strategy in their tools for survival.

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Wildlife corridors are increasingly essential for the survival of many species as climate change and human development alter ranges. It is important to protect these corridors and one of the first steps in doing that is to map the shifting habitats. That is being done by a University of Montana ecology professor and his team. 

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The "awkward botany" blog has a post on the various native milkweeds that grow in Idaho. There are actual several different species of milkweed that grow throughout North America.

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The Yellowstone ecosystem is in serious trouble. But how are we to address its problems - and those of other national parks - when the government in charge of protecting it seems uninterested in doing so, or even hostile to the idea of protecting and preserving public spaces?  

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Another ecosystem in trouble is the marine environment of the Pacific Northwest where orcas are starving and disappearingNot one calf has been born to the dwindling pods of black-and-white killer whales there in the last three years.

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Why do we need to save wolves? And if we can agree that it is important to save them, how do we do it? What do wolves need to thrive?

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It turns out that getting rid of invasive rodents on islands is not only good for the ground-nesting seabirds on the islands but also for the coral reefs around those islands and the fish that live there.  

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Hummingbirds today are only found in the Americas, but the origin of their species has proved to be something of a mystery. However, recent discoveries have traced their evolution back to Europe where no nectar-feeding species are to be found today.

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The Irish parliament has passed a bill requiring the country to divest from all fossil fuels, to take place "as soon as practicable," likely within five years. This will make Ireland the first country to divest from fossil fuels

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A new study published in The Condor makes the point that it is not just specific plants that make an environment a desirable habitat for a particular bird but that the soil and topography of the place are important, also.

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The drought affecting the Rio Grande River is bad news for the endangered silvery minnow. The little fish does not reproduce well in years that the river does not flow strongly. Several bad years in a row could push the fish closer to extinction. 

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The ancient shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico was so fertile that its outline can still be seen from space.

4 comments:

  1. I like the variety of your reports today. I think the peacocks in our neighborhood are molting. Keep finding feathers, of which I have a large collection. Yesterday a horde of 15 child peacocks went through my yard!
    Perhaps one or two of our billionaires could buy the National Parks and keep them up. It is crazy that the government owns them but does not take care of them. And yes, I survived that last heat wave but only barely.

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    1. I'm glad you survived what sounded like a very extreme event.

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  2. That bird on top looks disheveled-cute. Mine do not molt completely but they shed a LOT of feathers in the spring. So many bad news from the environment these days...I have personally witnessed birds stealing food from other birds (and even from people); it is rather fascinating, like most things they do, I have come to find. :-)

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    1. Birds are indeed fascinating creatures and they have so many different strategies for survival. There is always more to learn about them.

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