Saturday, October 25, 2014

This week in birds - #131

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

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently did a poll to determine its most popular migratory bird and the winner, perhaps surprisingly to some, was the Sandhill Crane. These cranes return by the thousands to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico each fall and the FWS has been posting pictures all week of the birds coming back to their winter home. The wildlife refuge hosts its "Festival of the Cranes" in November each year to celebrate the birds. I wish I could be there for it this year, but anyway, I have my memories. We visited Bosque in the fall a few years ago in late October and that is when this picture was taken. There were hundreds of the birds, along with many geese, already there with many more to come.
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So, apparently this memo went out to all Republicans some time back, and it said that if anyone asks you a question about what should be done about climate change or even if climate change is a real thing, you are to answer, "I'm not a scientist..." They all do it. No freethinking here. (Unfortunately, that doesn't stop them from giving their opinions about other scientific matters - e.g. how to fight Ebola.)

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"eBird" is an invaluable citizen science project and website for many reasons. Most recently, it is helping California conservationists to identify areas of critical shorebird habitat in the Central Valley of California.

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Phragmites australis is an invasive reed that is wreaking havoc in areas of the eastern United States and Canada. Land managers there have waged an ongoing fight against it for the last 30 years, but so far it has been a losing battle. Now, however, they have gained a new ally for the "coalition" - one that might actually be able to make a difference. The new soldier in the war? Goats! Apparently they have a taste for the stuff and a herd of them can wipe it out right down to the ground.

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It's a finding that seems counterintuitive, but then scientific discoveries often are. Researchers have found that House Sparrows roosting in large groups are less likely to contract West Nile virus than those roosting individually or in small groups.

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Have you read the story about "puppy spiders" making the rounds on the internet this week? It seems there are these spiders that weigh as much as puppies. Virtual Shelobs! Be afraid. Be very afraid. Well, as usual, it's an exaggeration. The spiders are big but not as big as, say, a St. Bernard puppy. Maybe as big as a smallish Chihuahua at birth.

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Australia is a dry land at the best of times and so it is to the advantage of any animal trying to make a living there to be able to follow the rains that do occur. One bird seems to have perfected the ability to predict rain. The Banded Stilt often shows up en masse in areas where rain occurs within a few days. Scientists are studying how the bird is able to do this.

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September was the hottest September on record and April through September were the hottest six months recorded in 130 years of tracking. NASA's Earth Observatory explains where this data comes from and why it is important.

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Birds that migrate between Europe and Africa have suffered extreme declines in population. Some show a reduction of as much as 70 percent since the 1980s.

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Recordings of birdsong made in California forests reveal how the populations of birds there have changed over a ten year period. The forests have gotten quieter. You can listen to some of the recordings at this link to hear the effect for yourself.

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"Camel crickets" are not true crickets, according to "BugEric," and their spidery appearance freaks some people out.

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The Sage Grouse is threatened by a constantly receding habitat as the areas that it  favors disappear beneath human developments, but a new study finds that it is possible for the grouse and oil drilling to coexist amicably. I'm skeptical, but I guess we'll see.

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Sparrows, in general, have to rank as among some of my most frustrating birds - frustrating because so many of them are so similar and difficult to distinguish. One birder writes about his obsession with sparrows. Specifically an obsession with finding Nelson's Sparrows. Spoiler alert: He was successful.

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Around the backyard:

Many of my hummingbirds disappeared this week, moving farther south with the season, but I still have at least three hangers-on. This week, though, marked my first sighting of a "winter" bird. The Ruby-crowned Kinglets have arrived! Well, at least one of them has. I first heard him in the shrubbery on Tuesday.

This isn't him. It's a picture from last year. But he looked just like this!





2 comments:

  1. When I lived in NM we went to the Bosque every November .... that's how we celebrated Thanksgiving. There were always sandhill cranes still there. Now that I think about it, I'd have to say the sandhill is one of my favorite birds ... maybe not the fav ... but definitely in the top 5. Such a joy to see them and what a racket they make!

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    1. They are magnificent birds and I love the sounds they make. I loved seeing them at Bosque and had hoped to again this fall, but it isn't in the cards. Maybe in the spring...

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