Saturday, February 21, 2015

This week in birds - # 146

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

One of my resident Red-shouldered Hawks. This bird and its partner nested just southwest of my backyard and almost within sight of my yard last year and they seem to be ready to nest in the same area again this year. Both of them are very active, vocal, and visible over my yard every day.

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It seems that all we hear about in regard to the weather these days is how cold it is in the East and how Boston is buried in several feet of snow. They are enduring a miserable winter, but the truth is that there have been more records for high temperatures than for low temperatures set in the U.S. in the first two months of 2015. Moreover, it has been a bad winter for snow in the west (meaning too little, not too much) and the snowpack in the Olympia Mountains is at a record low. Authorities are worried that this may lead to water shortages in the area's future.

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Three new national monuments were designated by the president this week. They include a World War II internment camp in Hawaii, an industrial district in Chicago that is steeped in labor history, and a popular canyon in Colorado. All three will be protected as important historical and/or recreational sites.

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Solar energy generating sites continue to be problematic for birds. Testing a new such project in Nevada, the 110 megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, resulted in death and injury to scores of birds. The project's managers say that the problem has now been corrected.

Meanwhile, a wind energy project, also in Nevada, caused the death of a second Golden Eagle. While these projects offer hope for controlling and decreasing pollution from greenhouse gases, it is important that they be built in a way that is not hazardous to the wildlife with which they share space.

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Eotourism has been a boost to the economy of many places, including Texas. One of the latest areas to experience such a boost has been Lake County, Illinois, where birders are flocking to view wintering gulls, including some rare ones.

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Australian birds are definitely feeling the heat from global climate change and scientists there are attempting to track and study how well the birds are adapting.

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Image of Luna Moth courtesy of National Geographic.



The Luna Moth is certainly one of the most beautiful and recognizable in the moth family, but what's up with that long, long tail? Scientists have studied and speculated about it. Perhaps the most plausible theory is that it is a defense mechanism. A predator can make a grab at the moth and possibly tear off a bit of those long appendages and the moth can still live to fly another day. 

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American Avocets are among the loveliest of our shorebirds. I photographed these at Rockport, Texas last March.


The avocet is one of the most iconic birds of the Intermountain West and it is very dependent upon the wetlands of that whole area for its survival. It is thought that more than half of the continent's population of avocets breeds there.

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European Robins that live in urban areas sing at night. This is not true of others of the species. Of course, scientists wonder why, and scientists at Glasgow University have designed a study to try to figure it out.

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In sheer numbers, the tiny six-legged, shrimp-like springtails dominate the planet. There are some 10,000 per square meter of soil, typically, but this number can rise as high as 200,000. There are 6,000 species of these arthropods and they inhabit virtually every habitat on Earth.

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Cooper's Hawks prey on songbirds and this makes them very unpopular with some people. My attitude toward them is more laissez faire, although I didn't always feel that way. I've come to acknowledge that Cooper's and their cousin, Sharp-shinned Hawks, are backyard birds, too, and they have to hunt to survive.

"My" backyard Cooper's Hawk.

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A bacterium that flourishes on hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant, is killing Bald Eagles and American Coots and other birds that live in or around the waters of Chesapeake Bay.

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If it is winter, it is time for many raptors to begin their breeding season. Among them are the Great Horned Owls for whom February is the prime month for nesting and raising their young.

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The relatively mild winter in the West has led to the grizzly bears in Yellowstone leaving their winter dens early. The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity occurred on February 9 when one was observed scavenging a bison carcass in the park.




2 comments:

  1. Your backyard Cooper's Hawk is cute, I don't know what I would think if he decided to snack on one of my favorite birds. There are lots of trash birds like those brought in from Europe I would love to have him eat. They would be fine in their own environment but don't belong here. The Avocets are lovely, I like their wing bands and the one with the rusty-colored head.

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    1. I often see "my" Cooper's chasing birds, but I've only seen him capture one in recent months - a House Sparrow. I admit I did not mourn. In the past, I've also seen him catch a White-winged Dove. Obviously, he makes many more unsuccessful than successful strikes. The birds are always on the alert for him and have plenty of vines and shrubs to hide in, so they are not defenseless.

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