Saturday, January 31, 2015

This week in birds - #143

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

Image courtesy of American Bird Conservancy.

The ethereally beautiful Cerulean Warbler is the American Bird Conservancy's Bird of the Week this week. Although brightly colored, the bird is difficult to spot because it frequents the high canopy of the forest where it can often only be detected by the sound of its buzzy song. This warbler's population has declined by about 70% over the last forty years, making it one of the most seriously threatened of North America's migrant songbirds. It breeds in the eastern and central parts of North America and winters in the forests of the Andes.

*~*~*~*

In a recent study published in Global Change Biology, scientists revealed their findings from a long-term analysis of the movements of 38 common species of North American birds, including Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, Chipping Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. They found that the birds had moved their ranges northward approximately 7 kilometers a year or 155 kilometers (about 96 miles) from 1990 to 2011. These years include some of the warmest on record and it appears that the birds are responding to the warming climate by moving farther north. It is possible that this helps to explain, at least in part, the paucity of birds in my yard this winter until quite recently. My usual backyard birds are moving north.

*~*~*~*

President Obama this week proposed additional protections for Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that would halt oil exploration for now in the refuge's sensitive coastal plain area. The response from Alaskan politicians and from Republicans in general was predictably apoplectic.

*~*~*~*

Did you see this?

In one of the most exciting discoveries of the week, a motion-activated wildlife camera in Yosemite Park recorded the image of a Sierra Nevada red fox. It was the first sighting of this extremely rare subspecies of fox in the park in almost 100 years. The last sighting there had been in 1916. There are only 50 of the animals known to be alive in the wild, making this one of the rarest mammals in North America.

*~*~*~*

The official bird list of Myanmar now totals 1,114 species, following an extensive survey of the birds in the country from 2010 to 2014. The survey discovered 20 species that had been previously unknown to exist in Myanmar.

One of the species found in Myanmar is the seriously threatened Spoon-billed Sandpiper. A recent survey of that bird found about 155 of them in the bay area of the country, which was actually good news as the species had been predicted to be declining more precipitously.

*~*~*~*

Scientists have found a connection between the earthquakes occurring in Oklahoma and the fracking that is going on there. Whether anything will be done to address the issue is problematic at best, considering the political climate in the state. 

*~*~*~*

Atlantic Brant Geese have been in a moderate decline for several years. The main reason for the decline is believed to be centered on problems in their Arctic breeding area and are related to the changing climate there.

*~*~*~*

The second coyote captured in Manhattan this month was found in Stuyvesant Town. Both of the animals have been female. This latest one was released in the Bronx.  

*~*~*~*

Small birds face many challenges to their ability to survive in winter - finding food, shelter, maintaining body heat in the cold. But they have many tools in their survival kit and are actually well-equipped  to deal with the weather.

*~*~*~*

Conservationists and volunteers around the Yellowstone River are dealing with another massive oil pipeline spill into the river. Clean-up is made more problematic because of the extremely cold winter weather.

*~*~*~*

A rare European duck called the Smew is making a bit of a comeback, especially in areas that have been specially protected for its benefit. 

*~*~*~*

The first large-scale wind turbine to be built in New York City will help to power a recycling plant at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. It will provide about 4% of the power needed by the plant. 

*~*~*~*

A new paper out this month gives the most comprehensive explanation yet for the diversification of American birds such as sparrows, wood warblers, tanagers, blackbirds, cardinals, and their kin, some 800 species in total. 

*~*~*~*

Totten Glacier in Antarctica has been found to be melting from below because of the warming of the ocean around it. The gigantic glacier holds enough water to raise worldwide sea levels by six meters. It has been thinning over the last 15 years.

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:

A huge flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds has been present in the neighborhood for the past several days. The entire flock has not descended on my yard, but several of them - perhaps 25 - visited my backyard feeders this afternoon, the harbinger of things to come perhaps. 

Much more welcome visitors have been the American Robins that are present in large numbers just now. In the late afternoon, sitting on my patio, I hear their melodious songs all around me. A very pleasant ending to my day.


4 comments:

  1. Stuyvesant Town - one of my aunts lived there many years ago. I shouldn't be amazed. I wonder where in the Bronx they were released - I lived in the Bronx for 21 years. I will have to check this story out. Alana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coyotes are truly amazing survivors. I guess we should no longer be surprised at their showing up anywhere. After all, if they can make it in the Big Apple...

      Delete
  2. If your 'normal' back yard birds are moving north does that mean you are also getting new birds from more southern climes? Is the cowbird one of those?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are. We're seeing more and more Mexican birds moving in to Southeast Texas. The White-winged Dove and Crested Caracara were an early harbinger of that movement, but we would certainly expect to see more in coming years. The Brown-headed Cowbird, though, is a native and has been here since it used to follow the herds of bison on their wanderings.

      Delete