Saturday, November 22, 2014

This week in birds - #135

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

The Whooping Cranes of the last natural-occurring wild flock of the birds are returning to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast from their summer home in Wood Buffalo Park in Canada. They will be with us until around April next year when they will head north once more. Meanwhile, conservationists continue efforts to increase the numbers of a flock they have been working to establish that migrates from Wisconsin to Florida and back each year, as well as a non-migratory flock in Louisiana. The hope is to have healthy flocks in different areas so that the species is somewhat protected from a catastrophic event at any one site.
*~*~*~*



A hazard faced by any migrating bird, especially large birds like the cranes or like the Trumpeter Swan, is that some people like to blaze away at them with their guns. The Trumpeter Swan is not as endangered as the the Whooping Crane, but it is still pretty rare. Even so, every year a number of them get shot in migration, either accidentally or on purpose.


*~*~*~*

Despite protests from environmentalists and opposition from the governor of Virginia, the federal government has decided to allow fracking in the largest national forest on the east coast, the George Washington National Forest. I do not think the forest's namesake would be pleased.

*~*~*~*

Here's a weird one for you. On Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic island that is home to fur seals and King Penguins, scientists have observed some fur seals attempting to copulate with penguins and in some cases apparently succeeding. They speculate that the sexual harassment may be the behavior of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced seal. Or it could be an aggressive, predatory act or a playful one that turned sexual. The truth is they don't know. It should be noted that the fur seals also sometimes eat the penguins. 

*~*~*~*

Wars have an impact far beyond the lives which they destroy. There is also the damage that they do to the environment. The deadliest war in our country's history, the Civil War, took place on our territory and has had detrimental and long term effects on our ecosystem. This is true of all wars. The countries where they occurred still deal with the environmental consequences of World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Iraq, and so on and so on and so on. 

*~*~*~*

New Yorkers buried under five or six feet of snow right now might find it a little difficult to look on the bright side. Nevertheless, there is a bright side to winter. It is a great pest control system. Last winter's polar vortex weather did serious damage to many invasive species of insect pests.

*~*~*~*

Environmentalists have long lobbied to have the Gunnison Sage Grouse given protection as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. Well, this week they got half a loaf. The bird was given partial protection as "threatened" but not the full protection of endangered. Meanwhile a decision is still to be made on the status of the Greater Sage Grouse.

*~*~*~*

The hardest working bees of North America may well be our many species of native bees. The Mother Earth Network has some extraordinary facts about these bees

*~*~*~*

Scientists have been looking at the genetic recipe for making feathers and they have found that it is not just birds who have these genes. In fact, human beings have most of them as well!

*~*~*~*

Starfish on the west coast of North America are wasting away. They literally seem to melt. The condition is called starfish wasting syndrome and scientists now believe that it is caused by a virus. It is a virus which may find a friendlier environment in the warming waters of an ocean affected by global climate change. 

*~*~*~*

Exotic species have often been introduced to the continent through New York City. This has been true of the European Starling and the House Sparrow, to name two birds that have been extraordinarily destructive to native species. But it is also true of such things as the fungus that killed practically all the American chestnut trees and an invasive grass called cheatgrass. And too many others to list.

*~*~*~*

Some bats in Africa have been implicated in harboring the virus that causes ebola, but that doesn't mean that all bats or even most bats are vectors for the virus.

*~*~*~*

People who try to help the declining Monarch butterfly by planting milkweed should really try to plant native milkweeds rather than the tropical variety. Apparently, using the tropical milkweed may throw off the Monarch's inner calendar which helps it to migrate. Who knew? This is a real problem for gardeners because all I see in the nurseries around here is the tropical milkweed plants. I suspect that is true in many areas of the country.



No comments:

Post a Comment