Saturday, May 11, 2019

This week in birds - #351

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



A Willet explores the rocks by Galveston Bay keeping an eye out for tasty tidbits.

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The big news of the week in the environment was the landmark report issued by the United Nations with the input of scientists at universities around the world. The report warned that up to one million species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction and that the losses are directly linked to human activity. Moreover, these coming extinctions have dire implications for our own species. There can be little doubt the planet is in the middle of the sixth great extinction in its history. The question is, will the last victim of that extinction be humans?

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Not everyone in power in this country is ignoring the problems outlined in the United Nations report. Although the federal government in its present incarnation refuses to act or to even acknowledge that there is a problem, many states and cities are working hard to create policies that will address the problems and assist their survival. The real Green New Deal may have its birth in these governments.

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Nature never ceases to amaze and never wastes anything. It turns out that penguin poop is the essential ingredient for biodiversity in Antarctica. The nitrogen in the animal waste provides nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable in the cold, dry weather of the region, and lichens, mosses, microscopic animals, and small creatures depend on it and make up the foundation of Antarctica's biodiversity.

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When saltwater inundates coastal forests as sea levels rise, it kills salt-sensitive trees that live there, but as always in Nature, there are winners and losers. The salt-sensitive trees and birds that depend on them will be losers but they will be replaced by salt-tolerant shrubs and grasses which shifts vegetation closer to the ground making the habitat more attractive for birds that prefer the understory rather than the canopy.

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Cranes seem to be particularly vulnerable to collision with power lines and since crane populations are decreasing around the world, anything that contributes to their decline is a concern. New research has shown that mounting UV lights on the utility wire poles so that the lights shine on the lines at night can decrease crane collisions with the wires by up to 98%. 

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Brown bears have been absent from Portugal for more than a century, but now, one has been confirmed by wildlife experts to be in the northeast of the country, having apparently wandered over from a population living in the western Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain.

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This is an image of the Aldabra Rail, a flightless bird of which the last surviving colony lives on Aldabra Island in the Indian Ocean. A previous flightless rail had lived on the island tens of thousands of years ago but had gone extinct. This rail colonized the island and over time evolved to become flightless.

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Scientists have found bald cypress trees in a North Carolina swamp that are more than 2,000 years old. One of them is at least 2624 years old. The continued existence of these ancient entities is threatened by climate change.

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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, south of Tallahassee, has been hosting a special guest since Hurricane Michael blew through there last year.



And here he, or she is. It is Pinky the Flamingo. This is an American (or Caribbean) Flamingo, a species which once roamed the Everglades, 400 miles from St. Marks, but was killed off by hunters by early 1900. The hurricane landed Pinky in a bird paradise at St. Marks after most likely picking him or her up on the Yucatan Peninsula. S/he seems perfectly happy in this new home and shows no inclination to leave.

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Four years after the removal of the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River in California, steelhead trout are once again making their way up the river to spawn.

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"Dakota Birder" has solved one of life's mysteries. This one involves the almost never seen crown of the Orange-crowned Warbler.

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Japanese knotweed is a pernicious invasive threat that is almost impossible to kill. It has colonized Europe and has now gotten its tentacles into the North American continent.

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The movements of flocks of birds in flight can appear to be ruled by one mind. In fact, the movements are coordinated as each bird in the flock responds to its neighbors and all follow identical rules. An exception to this rule is Jackdaws which mate for life and which fly with their mates in flocks even if it disrupts the flock's movements.

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A previously unknown to science species of pit viper has been discovered in India. The snake was discovered during a survey of the biodiversity of the state of Arunachal Pradesh. 

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"The Prairie Ecologist" explains the uses and goals of prescribed fires on the prairie. The prairies evolved with naturally occurring fires as one of the factors in their growth. The prescribed fires are an attempt to safely reconstruct that evolutionary tool.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks again for the news. Here at my house, the peahen hatched 6 chicks on Thursday morning, leaving four unhatched eggs in the nest. They were last seen heading across the yard and she has not been back. So I guess she did that thing nature does of putting out more than can be expected to live. Now I will be watching for a peahen followed by 6 chicks to stroll through.

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    1. The four remaining eggs may not have been fertile or the chick inside may have died during incubation. It would be rare indeed for a bird to leave a nest where chicks are still viable and in the process of hatching.

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  2. Various news from the environment...Species migrations (accidental or intended), repurposing of natural waste, and ancient trees.

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    1. Yes, the world of Nature is always full of news, a lot of it bad but somewhat leavened with the good.

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