Friday, August 14, 2015

This week in birds - #169

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

A Royal Tern basks in the sun on a beach in Galveston.

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In Colorado this week, we saw an attempt to clean up a mess that went horribly wrong. EPA workers were attempting to clean up a mine where the ceiling had fallen creating a kind of dam that was backing up water. In attempting to plug the mine and keep contaminated water inside, the workers accidentally breached the dam causing the contaminated water to instead flow into the Animas River. The river has been closed to humans for public health reasons, but no one yet knows how it will affect all the animals that depend upon it for life-saving water. 

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The El NiƱo weather pattern currently building in the Pacific could turn out to be the most powerful one on record, bringing record-breaking heat but also plentiful rain to the western part of the country.

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Drones invade the airspace of territorial birds at their peril. This was proved again in Australia recently where a large bird of prey, the Wedge-tailed Eagle, also called the Eaglehawk, attacked and took down a drone that had flown into its area. We know this because the drone recorded it all on video.

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Bird migration is one of the more mysterious events that happens on our planet. Much is still not understood about it and new discoveries are being made all the time. Recent research shows that songbirds in migration will at times change altitude in flight. Speculation is that the changes are in response to winds and barometric pressure. 

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TransCanada, the Canadian company involved in the controversy-ridden Keystone XL pipeline project, has begun to make contingency plans in the expectation that the pipeline will be rejected by the Obama Administration. 

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A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to issue 30-year kill permits to wind farms in regard to the number of Bald and Golden Eagles they are allowed to harm and still operate within the law has been overturned by a federal judge in San Jose. The judge found that the USFWS had not completed necessary environmental studies or properly taken into account the opinions of its own scientists.

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It sometimes seems that every time we look at or listen to the news, there is another story about the sad state of our oceans and how humans are damaging them. But some things, it appears, are actually improving in those vast waters that cover much of our planet. Whales, for example. Some whale species are making a comeback since whaling has been more tightly regulated. A recent study shows that the blue whales off California have returned to 97 percent of their pre-whaling population. 

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The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is one of the most endangered birds on Earth, but a wildlife conservation project termed the "headstart project" is having some success in increasing the numbers of the bird. In areas where headstart was implemented last year, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of birds safely fledged. 

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A new study in Britain reports that six of the country's species of butterflies will face extinction by 2050 because of the effects of climate change.

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In another effect of climate change, Arctic ice is diminishing. This is very bad news for walruses for whom sea ice is a vital part of their habitat. It appears that they will be running out of this ice that is necessary for their survival again this year.

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The State of Australia's Birds Report, published by Birdlife Australia, analyzed data collected from across that country/continent and came to the depressing conclusion that many of their common birds are disappearing.

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In more news from Australia, the government has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2030; however, scientists say this falls short of what is needed.

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Eastern North America is home to a small population of Golden Eagles. Recent research shows that they practice a kind of "leapfrog migration," in which the birds that live farthest north in summer fly farthest south for the winter, while other birds stay closer to home.

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One thing contributing to the wildfires of the Pacific Northwest is the growth of lichens in the area. Lichens, it turns out, are incredibly flammable, far more more than any other vegetation group; moreover, they burn quickly and help set other nearby vegetation ablaze.

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Peregrine Falcons have been incredibly successful in colonizing high-rise buildings in urban settings, using them as they historically have the rocky mountainous areas where they nest. One area they have colonized is the city of Chicago. Here is a pictorial record of one of the city's Peregrine families. 

3 comments:

  1. It's nice to know that blue whales are making a comeback.

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  2. And mess with an eagle at your own peril! (about intrusive drones).

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    Replies
    1. It is good news about the whales, and I'm so glad I was able to report SOME good news! As for that eagle - yes, I think it's "Drones beware!"

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