Friday, March 27, 2015

This week in birds - #150

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

"My" American Goldfinches, the ones that spent the winter in my yard, are long gone now. The last of them left at least three weeks ago. But we have had some goldfinches visiting us this week. They are birds that spent the winter even farther south and are now passing through on their way to their nesting grounds. Many of the ones I've seen this week have already been fully dressed in their breeding colors of yellow, white, and black. This one had not quite made the transition yet but he's almost there. These are birds on a mission of reaching their nesting grounds and establishing their territories, so they do not linger. This one moved on within twenty-four hours of the time this picture was taken.

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The North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland has proved to be an anomaly in the record of warming trends on the planet. While Earth as a whole is heating up and last winter was the hottest on record, that particular area has actually cooled. Scientists are studying the reason for this. A recent study postulates that it is due to a weakening in the Gulf Stream System.

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Habitat fragmentation is a serious problem for the wildlife within the habitat. This happens particularly with human development, especially the building of roads which can physically separate sections of the habitat, as well as facilitating further development which can additionally destroy ecosytems. 

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Birders' reported sightings of Calliope Hummingbirds in migration have lent credence to the theory that the birds change their migration routes in response to the availability of food. Since birds' lives are spent in the hunt for food, I would think that this would be true of many species.

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In news from the world of space this week, American astronaut Mark Kelly embarked on a trip to the International Space Station where he is scheduled to live for a full year. It will be the longest stay to date for an American in space.

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The Swift Parrots of Tasmania are major pollinators of blue and black gum trees, but those trees are being steadily felled in logging operations that are a major part of the economy of the area. Things look bleak for the future of the birds as these trees are destroyed. A study finds that they may become extinct within sixteen years, if nothing changes.

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I'm not sure if Los Angelenos will consider this good news, but a science project of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has discovered 30 new species of flies there! 

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Well, somehow this really doesn't surprise me, but studies have found that the most promiscuous male birds do not necessarily carry the best genes of their species. Randiness does not equate quality!

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A Canadian conservationist blogs about the problem with programs to save the bees, pointing out that honeybees are not native species and the emphasis on saving them is misplaced. We should be worried about saving the many native bee species which are much more important to the ecosystem.

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On the rare occasions when the California desert blooms, it is a glorious sight that attracts tourists. It also attracts butterflies of several species

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Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey, has the nation's largest collection of cherry trees. Soon that collection will be even bigger as plans are under way to add another 1,000 of the trees. Imagine the blooms!

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A birder in Queens, New York, reports on having kept alive and well two Baltimore Orioles that chose to overwinter in his yard during the season just past. Considering the harsh winter with all the snow they've had in that part of the world, this seems a considerable achievement.

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"The Rattling Crow" blogs about the territorial displays of Common Moorhens.

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In hurricane country, one learns to "hide from the wind and run from the water," and, often, speed is of the essence in this survival technique. Things are a little different in lava country. In Hawaii, a mass of smoldering black lava has been inching toward the town of Pahoa since last June. It certainly presents a potential hazard, but it is a very slow motion hazard. 

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Around the backyard:

Last week I told you about the first of the male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that had shown up in my yard. Well, this week, they were joined by the females. Today, I had one male and one female - observed - in the backyard. I don't think any of them are hanging around, but there is a steady stream of them.

  
Chipping Sparrows are still here in good numbers. I saw at least ten at my backyard feeder today. And the numbers in the Cedar Waxwing flocks are beginning to increase as more birds come in from farther south. I saw a flock of about fifty today, still not anywhere near the size of some of the big flocks we've had in past springs but considerably more than just a month ago.

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