Friday, April 24, 2015

This week in birds - #154

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

It's been a week filled with migrant visitors here. Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, and Yellow-breasted Chats have all put in an appearance. But, of course, we birders are never satisfied, are we? What I want to know is, where are my Rose-breasted Grosbeaks? Usually, when the Baltimore Orioles show up, the grosbeaks are close behind, but so far I haven't seen any, although they are reported to be in the area. This is a picture that I snapped of a pair that visited in the spring of 2013.

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It's an ill wind indeed that blows no good, and the deaths of sea lions along the California coast this spring have provided a feast for endangered California Condors. The state's largest birds have been flocking to the sites of the unfortunate die-off of the sea mammals, where they settle in for a banquet provided by Nature. 

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The humpback whale has had protection under the Endangered Species Act for decades, and that protection has allowed it to make a comeback. But is it enough that it no longer needs that protection? Well, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association thinks so. This week, they proposed removing several sites where the big whales live from the endangered list. 

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The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918, a time when the major danger to migratory birds was market hunters. These days, industrial development and destruction of habitat are the main threats to bird life, and perhaps it is time for an updating of the MBTA. But it is important that any changes be done correctly. Done correctly, changes could strengthen enforcement; incorrectly, it could open the gate for further industrial harm to birds and their habitats, resulting in even more bird deaths.

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Trout lilies are spring ephemerals that pop out of the ground, develop quickly, bloom, and then disappear just as quickly, not to be seen again until the next spring.

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Backyard birds enhance life in urban neighborhood in many ways, but a recent study shows that residents of those neighborhoods do not necessarily have a firm grasp on the diversity of species which coexist with them. In fact, there is a much wider variety of birds than is generally known that make their homes in such places.

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Western and Clark Grebes are two species that are able to run on top of water for short distances as part of their courtship display. Scientists have been studying just how they are able to do that and they now think they can explain it.

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The "Bird Police" are bird records committees that keep track of reported sightings and authenticate those sightings for inclusion in the official records. With the rise in use of the online reporting system, eBird, there has been a decline in the reporting to these committees and this raises some concerns among dedicated birders.

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The Ivanpah Solar Plant in the Mojave Desert of California has been problematic for birds since its opening in October 2013. In its first year of operation, between 2500 and 6700 birds were killed by contact with the facility. The most conservative estimate puts the figure at 3500. That number was comprised of 83 species. The most frequent victims were Mourning Doves.

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 A new scientific paper details the diversity of beetles in northern Canada. The scientists sorted and identified over 9,000 beetles from 464 species.

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The residents of Seattle really, really love their songbirds. They spend $120 million a year on birdseed, feeders, and bird supporting activities. That's approximately $12 per person.

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The Deepwater Horizon well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago this week, creating the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history. BP has dragged its feet every step of the way in fulfilling its obligation to clean up the mess. The environment is still being damaged by the spill today.

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Who is the better pollinator - bees or flies? "Biodiversity in Focus" has a comparison of the two.

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Although spring has come late to the northeastern part of the country this year, in general, birds are responding to the earlier springs caused by global warming with adjustments in their time of migration and in their nesting season. 

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Around the backyard:

In addition to all the migrants passing through this week, there has been a lot of activity from the permanent residents. There's been a mockingbird war going on, between this bird and his mate and another pair. Apparently, the territories claimed by the two pairs of Northern Mockingbirds overlap and there has been a constant battle to establish and defend the boundaries. The same thing is true of two pairs of Northern Cardinals that have been chasing each other around the yard all week. Other activity has been a lot more benign. We now have two sets of young Carolina Wrens following their respective parents around the yard as they learn how to be wrens. In the bluebird box outside my kitchen window, the Carolina Chickadee nestlings are getting close to being ready to fledge. And in the other bluebird box in the vegetable garden, the Eastern Bluebird babies have now hatched and their parents are kept busy from dawn until dusk filling those hungry beaks. All around the yard in shrubs and tangled vines, the voices of baby birds are being heard. It's an exciting time for backyard birders. 



4 comments:

  1. Great to catch up with the birdlife in your garden. It's a busy time here too, I'm having to watch my step at every turn to avoid disturbing a nest.

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    1. I know what you mean. We've had to postpone one project in our yard recently to avoid disturbing the wrens feeding their nestlings. Now they've flown, so no more excuses to delay!

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  2. Some good news, some bad...When will we see just good news?!

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