Saturday, September 19, 2015

This week in birds - #174

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


A Green Heron stands on a lily pad at Brazos Bend State Park. These handsome little herons are among the most common members of their family to be seen in this area, but it is always a treat to find one.
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It's becoming monotonous. Every month we get the report that last month was the hottest on record, and that trend continued in August. Separately, global oceans and global land temperatures for 2015 have been the highest recorded for any year in the period of January through August.

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Some of the birds that were painted by John James Audubon do not seem to have modern equivalents. Was the great Nature artist inaccurate in his depictions? Audubon magazine online explores the possibilities.

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In the early years of this century, there were two Monk Parakeets living in my neighborhood and making life more interesting for birders here. After about three years, they disappeared, perhaps food for predators or maybe they just moved on. But these interesting birds have colonized much of the country and are becoming fairly common in many areas, including Brooklyn, where a blogger writes about why the birds battle each other

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It has long been postulated that male birds with the brightest colors are advertising that they have the best genes for passing on to the next generation, making them more desirable as mates. But studies confirm that that is not always the case.

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Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual low point. This year's shrinkage makes it the fourth lowest for ice coverage since space-based observations began in 1978.

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It isn't often these days that we have good news to report about the Sage Grouse, but, in California, it seems that the grouse is doing relatively well and is maintaining genetic diversity, at least for now. 

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The effort to save the giant panda, the iconic animal of China, is having a ripple effect in the ecosystem there. It is also helping many other imperiled animals.

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The Sierra snowpack, from which the state of California derives much of its water, is now at a 500-year low. This is very bad news for the already parched state.

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Common Loon pairs tend to remain faithful to their nest site year after year, even if they encounter heavy predation on the chicks at that site. Perhaps that is the definition of loon-acy?

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On August 5, three million gallons of water laced with cadmium, lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals poured out of the defunct Gold King Mine north of Silverton, Colorado. The toxic water entered the Animas River, which flows through the tourist city of Durango, and attracted national attention as it turned the Animas’s usually blue waters yellow and orange. Sadly, this is not such an unusual occurrence. Mining operations and petroleum products companies are well known for raping the land and leaving it hopelessly polluted, a mess for the EPA to try clean up with the limited funds and authority our congress will appropriate. Why should the government have to do this? Why should these companies not have to clean up their own messes? Maybe we should ask some of the presidential candidates that question.

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Discarded plastic waste in the ocean is becoming a major environmental concern. It is having a serious detrimental effect on the nesting and raising of chicks for many seabirds, especially the albatrosses of Midway Island.

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The idea of a "missing link" is a persistent one in evolution theory, but it is really a myth and it promotes incorrect thinking about just how evolution works.

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Oriental Honey Buzzards feed primarily on honey and bee or wasp larvae. How do they find their prey? They use two senses - sight and smell. The use of smell is unusual in birds, but these buzzards do it very well.

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Burrowing Owls, those tiny and very cute owls that make their homes throughout much of the rural area of the West are now colonizing cities in Argentina

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Nature photography is a difficult enterprise at best. In my case, generally, just as I frame my shot and get ready to press the button on the camera, the bird/butterfly/lizard/frog moves, and the moment is lost, resulting in much cursing and stamping of feet. But many, particularly professionals whose livelihood depends on that shot, will go to great lengths to get it, even staging the shot or imperiling the subject of the picture in order to photograph it. It is more important than ever that all Nature photographers adhere to a code of ethics, even if it means losing the shot.

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Around the backyard:

There have been a number of migrants through the yard this week. In addition to the beautiful little Wilson's Warbler that I showed you a couple of days ago, there have been many hummingbirds, mostly female Ruby-throats it seems. We still get the occasional male and there are probably some Black-chinned Hummers scattered among the crowd, but overwhelmingly this week's visitors have been female Ruby-throats. I do have several Rufous Hummingbirds as well, and, so far, they seem to be staying rather than moving on.

In addition, it's been a good week for Eastern Kingbirds. I've seen several passing through, but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a usable picture. However, here's one that I took of an individual at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge during a spring migration. 

Eastern Kingbird



2 comments:

  1. It is such a pity about the water shortage in California and other states in the west. The other day I saw in the news a Californian town which no longer has running water. I would die, I think!

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    1. It has been a terrible drought for them. We can only hope that the coming El Nino may give some relief.

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