Saturday, November 10, 2018

This week in birds - #328

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

A whole gang of winter visitors made their first appearance of the season in my backyard this week. 




They were led by the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a wonderful little bird that is often the first of our winter residents to show up. I've never actually been lucky enough to photograph one of these birds with that red crown exposed so I stole this one from eBird.com.




I also stole this photo of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher from the same source. None of my pictures from previous years were good enough. 



The first Eastern Phoebes of the season were very vocal around the neighborhood this week. (And this is my photo from a previous year.)



I took this picture of a Red-breasted Nuthatch the last time I had them visiting in winter two years ago. They don't get this far south every year, but it seems that this year we've hit the jackpot. I've been hearing them calling around the yard all week. 


It's looking like this may be a very good year for our winter visitors.


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A federal judge has issued a repudiation of the current administration's decision to allow the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline to proceed, saying that the administration failed to present a “reasoned explanation” for the move and “simply discarded” the effect the project would have on climate change. To which I say, "Well, duh!" "Reasoned explanations" are not this administration's stock in trade.


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And in other news from the judiciary, a federal judge in North Carolina gave a reprieve and may have saved the critically endangered red wolf, at least for the moment. He ripped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency's management of the last red wolf population in the wild, saying that an agency sworn to uphold a congressional mandate to preserve the animals violated it over and over, and even gave private landowners the right to shoot them. The judge ruled that a temporary injunction issued against Fish and Wildlife’s shoot-to-kill authorization in 2016 during the Obama administration is permanent. The agency must prove that a wolf is a threat to humans or livestock before it can make a decision to take its life.


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The Mandarin Duck that has been visiting Central Park has created a ripple effect among the public, increasing their awareness of birds in general. This week a non-birder blogger went looking for the duck. He didn't find it, but he found lots of other birds and is now on eBird with his life list. Thus, a birder is born!


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With Democrats now in Control of the House of Representatives, the new chairwoman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee is likely to be Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson. She is a former chief psychiatric nurse which will make her the first House science committee chair with a science background since the 1990s.


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In 2016, President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in U.S. Atlantic waters, protecting this critically important winter breeding and foraging habitat for Atlantic Puffins and 19 other species of seabirds. Commercial fishing groups filed suit to reverse the designation but a federal court has now ruled against the fishing groups and dismissed their complaint. Good news for the Atlantic Puffins whose acceptable habitat continues to shrink. 


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In the past, sperm whales (like Moby Dick) have been resident primarily in the southern oceans of the planet, but several species of whales are moving farther north as the oceans warm and now a sperm whale has been sighted in the Canadian Arctic.


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Life in the city can be tough. It tends to favor those that can be bold, even aggressive. That's true of birds, as well. A study of various chickadee species showed that dominant species of birds (Black-capped Chickadees, for example) are better able to survive and be successful in urban circumstances.


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A survey of Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has found an incredible 660 species of bees living there. The area has a rich diversity of flowers and plant life that feed the bees. Utah's nickname is " The Beehive State"; it seems the title is well-earned.


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The United Nations biodiversity chief warns us that losing the planet's biodiversity could be a means of signing our own death warrant. We could be documenting our extinction as a species. The collapse of ecosystems could eventually make our world uninhabitable for humans. Thus, by protecting biodiversity we protect ourselves.


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Meanwhile, national parks continue to be at risk from the administration's energy agenda. Oil and gas development could permanently damage millions of acres of ecologically and culturally important public lands.


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The declines in shorebird population can be directly linked to increased predation and nest destruction from the effects of global warming.


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A study which appears in the journal PLoS One this month, suggests that people of color, especially Native Americans, face more risk from wildfires than whites. It is another example of how the kinds of disasters exacerbated by climate change often hit minorities and the poor the hardest. It's not necessarily that they live predominantly in those areas affected by such disasters but that often they do not have the means to quickly escape.


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Birds don't read signs well so they may ignore the one that says "Butterfly Garden" and just barge on in. In fact, many of the requirements that butterflies have are the same as what birds need so they tend to like similar spaces

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What do you know about Blue Jays? They are one of those ubiquitous backyard birds that we tend to take for granted, but an in depth study of the birds can reveal their hidden secrets. It is no secret, however, that jays are very intelligent birds.

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Finally, here's a new citizen science project for you, one that we all can participate in. It's called Never Home Alone and it's aim is no less than to count all the arthropod species - insects and spiders primarily - that share our living space. Those in charge of the project are hoping to get at least 10,000 observations of arthropods from the public. Well, you are part of the public, so why not participate?


4 comments:

  1. So many winter visitors, how cute! :-) Scores for the red wolf and the Atlantic Puffin. I suppose the shifting of the habitat (or migration route) in sperm whales is due more to the availability of food sources than the warming up of the southern oceans. I agree about the study on minorities not being able to flee disaster areas as quickly as more financially solvent groups; it's all about money. I like the tidbit about birds not respecting butterflies' spaces. Why should they? They don't eat butterflies, I think.

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    1. Well, some of them will eat butterflies if it's convenient, but mostly they are able to peacefully share habitats.

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  2. I swear I posted a comment here the other day. I guess Blogger ate it. Now I can't remember what I said, so apparently no loss. Something about the birth of a birder.

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    1. And I thought I remembered a comment from you, but I double-checked comments and there was nothing there. Blogger does weird things sometimes.

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