Saturday, March 21, 2015

This week in birds - #149

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

When we visited Estero Llano Grande State Park last week. the pond near the visitor's center was full of ducks, including all three species of teal. When I uploaded my pictures later, I realized I had captured all three of the species in this shot. The Green-winged Teal is on the far left and far right. A male Cinnamon Teal is second from the right and a male Blue-winged Teal is third from the right. The other two birds appear to be a female of one of the species and another Green-winged male - all beautiful birds.

*~*~*~*

The famous Cliff Swallows of San Juan Capistrano in California traditionally returned to their nesting grounds on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph. Through the years, the numbers of the birds that nest at the mission have declined. Few nest there today, but still many people turn their eyes to the skies over the mission on that date, watching and waiting for the birds' return

In our own area, the swallows are returning as well. The Purple Martins are here and when we were at Estero Llano Grande last week, the skies there were full of the birds. Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows are returning as well and will soon be building their nests if they haven't already started.

*~*~*~*

A lot of attention and publicity has been paid recently to the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides and the harm they can do to honeybees as well as to native insects. But the decline of honeybees, which has been of concern for a number of years now, is much more complicated than poisoning by pesticides. There appear to be a number of factors involved

*~*~*~*

Light pollution from our human-made light sources can upset the internal clocks of songbirds and influence the timing of their seasonal vocalizations.

*~*~*~*

This winter, scientists at Michigan's Isle Royale National Park tracked a wolf crossing an ice bridge to the island, which may explain how wolves and other animals came to be on the island in the first place.

*~*~*~*

Every week there seems to be another story in the news of Bald Eagles nesting in a place from which they had long been absent. This week it is the National Arboretum in Washington. It is thought that the eggs in the nest may have already hatched.

*~*~*~*

Native bees are actually much more important to the environment than are the imported honeybee. Here is an introduction to the many species of native bee endemic to North America.

And here's one of them on the redbud tree in my backyard today. There were several species of bee present today. Bees do love redbuds!

*~*~*~*

Peregrine Falcons love the high rise buildings in cities. They mimic the high cliffs that are their natural habitat and the birds have learned to adapt to these faux cliffs. That is true not just in this country but around the world, including in Ireland.

*~*~*~*

The University of Texas has a crowdfunding project under way to finance publication of the images of insects into the public domain. So far they have raised about half of the $8,000 needed. 

*~*~*~*

Avian cholera is rampaging its way through the flocks of geese wintering in Idaho. Thousands of the birds have already died.

*~*~*~*

Phoebes are charming flycatchers endemic to open country. They have the distinctive habit of pumping their tails while perched. Why do they do it? It may be a signal to predators that the bird knows they are there and is ready to flee. 

*~*~*~*

A species of Asian wasp that is an enemy of stink bugs has been found to be present in the United States.

*~*~*~*

The number of seabirds in North Pacific waters along the Alaska coast has dropped, in some cases drastically, over the past several years. The main cause of the decline is thought to be related to global warming and the heating up of the ocean's waters. 

*~*~*~*

American Coots are very common in the wetlands in our area. One can hardly visit a park without encountering them. I can't say that I have ever noticed them being particularly contentious, but perhaps their Eurasian cousins are different - at least so says the story in Scientific American entitled "Curious Complex Contentious Coots."

*~*~*~*

Around the backyard:

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have arrived! The males always precede the females in their spring migration. There were at least two of the pugnacious little critters vying over my feeders in the backyard today. 



6 comments:

  1. I can't believe you have hummingbirds already! (I suppose I had forgotten about spring migration) Now I'm going to have to keep a lookout for them around the native honeysuckle which is blooming. I had wondered why it was blooming so early - now I know!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually see them in my yard around the end of March or first of April, so they are a bit early this year. They were here when we returned from vacation last Saturday, so I'm not sure when they arrived. So, time to fill and hang those feeders once again!

      Delete
  2. It is wonderful to see hummingbirds already! This was a great post and very informative. Happy spring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And a happy spring to you, too, Lee. I hope it arrives soon in your Northeastern garden.

      Delete
  3. Love the hummingbird pic!
    You said that the Bald Eagles are being seen in more places across North America these days. Apparently the town on the other side of the river from us has seen an increase in sightings. I would go crazy if I saw at least one. I've told you that I become excited just by seeing a hawk, just imagine an eagle. I've never seen one up close. Fingers crossed! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are becoming much more common. They nest at several lakes in our area.

      Delete