Saturday, August 22, 2015

This week in birds - #170

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

Rock Wren photographed at Big Bend National Park.

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Earth just keeps on getting hotter. July was the hottest month since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration started keeping records of the planet's temperature back in 1880. Last year was the warmest year on record, but it is now almost certain that 2015 will beat it out for the record.

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A trail camera in California has documented the presence of a litter of wolf cubs in the state. Gray wolves historically lived in the state but were extirpated and had not been seen there since 1924 until the now famous wolf OR7 was photographed there in 2011. That wolf is now living and breeding in Oregon, but these pups apparently come from a newly formed California pack.

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A rare Philippine Eagle was rescued after being shot three years ago. It was rehabilitated and finally returned to the wild two months ago. Now comes the sad news that it has been found shot again, but this time it was dead.

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An update on the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort details information about the group's captive rearing and release of chicks during the 2015 breeding season. The little Piping Plover remains on the endangered list and needs all the help it can get from its friends.

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White-nose Syndrome is a deadly disease that has been wreaking havoc on bat populations in North America. Scientists have worked feverishly to try to find some way to help the critters and now they have had some success. They have recently released back into the wild bats that they have successfully treated for the disease and which had fully recovered.

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A new study using spectrophotometers reveals that the colors that birds see are radically different from those that humans are able to perceive. They can see a whole range of colors that we, quite literally, cannot even imagine. Thus, if our field guides could depict birds as they appear to other birds - well, suffice to say, we probably wouldn't recognize them. 

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The Obama Administration has given permission for some drilling for oil in the Arctic. Hillary Clinton has come out against such drilling.

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The Farne Islands, off the Northumberland Coast of Britain, have been a sanctuary for seabirds and sea mammals for 90 years. They are considered the jewel of British conservation efforts.

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Mimicry is a survival tool used by many plants and animals. This article in The New York Times tells how it works and why it is so successful.

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Nearly a year after President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument, progress has been slow in cleaning up the area and making it into the cleaner, safer wilderness area promised by that designation.

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How do hummingbirds manage to sip nectar as the hover on rapidly beating wings? It seems that their tongues function as pumps that bring the nectar to them.

A hummer pumping gas.

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Many coastal towns around the country have built seawalls to try to keep out the ocean. So many have built such walls that fully 14% of the nation's coastline is now covered in cement.

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Outside a former chemical plant, now a Superfund site, in Brunswick, Georgia, Least Terns have been found to be contaminated with a toxic chemical that was formerly manufactured there.

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As part of the Smithsonian Bird Center's continuing research on the Black-crowned Herons that nest at the National Zoo, scientists have attached radio transmitters to three of the adult birds in order to track their migration.

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Researchers have completed the first worldwide survey of non-native flora and have found 13,168 species of plants growing in areas that are foreign to their origins. In some cases, those non-natives are benign, but all too often, they become invasive and have disastrous effects on the native plants with which they compete.

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