Friday, May 16, 2014

This week in birds - #109

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

Green Heron - my favorite among the small herons, I think.

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One of the deadliest environmental hazards for birds is glass - as in glass windows. Scientists have estimated that between 365 million and 988 million birds die annually from crashing into buildings, most often crashing into glass which they cannot see. The solution to that deadly problem would seem to be to make the glass visible to the birds and researchers are working on how to best do that.

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The big news in the environment this week was that part of the gigantic West Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing and it seems to have passed the point of no return. The collapse now seems unstoppable. This means rising sea levels around the world which has dire implications for coastal communities. Still, some elected representatives of those communities are unconcerned and deny that human activities have anything to do with melting ice and rising sea levels.

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Plastics are another well-known environmental hazard in the world's oceans. Creatures who live in or depend on the sea often ingest this detritus discarded by humans and uncounted numbers of them die from that every year. A recent study of a small seabird, the Cory's Shearwater, off the Catalan Coast of Spain, revealed that 94% of the birds had ingested plastic.

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One inventive way to fight back against invasive species is to eat them! That is what some environmentalists are advocating for both plants and animals that have been introduced either on purpose or accidentally and have become unwanted competition for native species.

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And speaking of invasives, British conservationists are concerned about exotic bird species like Black Swans and Egyptian Geese that are gaining a foothold in some nature preserves in the UK and are out-competing some native species for breeding habitat and food.

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The famous wolf OR-7 that has spent his time traveling back and forth across the California-Oregon border and became the first documented wolf in California in decades may be a papa. It appears that he has bred with a black wolf and may be raising a family. Unfortunately for California's claims, though, all of this activity is taking place on the Oregon side of the border.  

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Cliff Swallows are one of several from that family that have adapted well to using human structures for building sites for their nests, but bridge-building practices in California have proved unfriendly to the birds with the result that they are declining in some areas. Conservation groups are monitoring and are working with the state's agency in charge of such structures to reach an accommodation that will be welcoming to the swallows.

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How do octopuses keep those eight arms from getting all tangled? It turns out that is a serious question that scientists consider.

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The Ruff is a migratory shorebird with distinct practices for courtship and breeding. Those practices, it seems are more a matter of the bird's genes than of any environmental factor.

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Many birders are also very interested in butterflies and moths and include watching them as a part of their study of Nature. The current issue of Audubon Magazine encourages that interest, particularly as it pertains to moths. Birders can learn quite a lot from these critters and studying them can provide some of the same pleasures as watching birds, according to the author. 

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Around the backyard:

My backyard is pretty much overrun with fledglings these days. Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Blue Jays, American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds all have been seen escorting their young ones around the yard. This week the Northern Cardinals added their family to the mix. 

And speaking of being overrun, my feeders are still being swarmed by White-winged Doves. I counted 31 of the birds on the feeders or on the ground under the feeders yesterday afternoon. They make my birdseed disappear as if by magic.

I've given up on having Baltimore Orioles visit this year. I've only seen one in the yard and that was at the end of April. If more were coming this way, they should have been here by now, so I'm taking down my oriole feeders. So far they've only provided sustenance for butterflies, bees, and wasps.

Last year, during the first two weeks of May, the backyard was filled with the bright colors of orioles and also Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, but just like the orioles, I've only seen one grosbeak in the yard this year and that, too, was at the end of April. Looks like it just isn't our year for visits from these charismatic birds. It's not just my yard, though. They've been very scarce throughout the area this spring. I guess they took another route this year.  

4 comments:

  1. Hi Dorothy, thanks for faithfully commenting on my posts, I am looking for your gardening section so I can reciprocate, have you stopped writing about gardening all together or is it just me who can’t find it?

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    1. No, I just combined my blogs, Helene. I found that I really didn't have time to keep up THREE in the manner that I wanted to. So you'll now find my gardening posts on this blog. My Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was the one just previous to this one.

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  2. Don't you just love seeing all the different birds that come through your yard? My favorite visitor this year was the Painted Bunting. Great blog!

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    1. Oh, you are so lucky to have had that wonderful bird! I've never actually seen a beautiful Painted Bunting in my yard, although I'm reasonably sure they have passed through - probably just not while I was looking.

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