Saturday, September 26, 2015

This week in birds - #175

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

Fall migration means that the Whooping Cranes will soon be making their way back to Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast for the winter. They travel in family groups of a mated pair and typically one chick from this year. Rarely, a pair will raise two chicks to accompany them on the long journey. How many birds will there be this year? Will the population top 300?

 
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The news of all kinds this week was dominated by the travels of Pope Francis. In his public utterances, he again pointed to human damage to the environment as something which humans have a moral imperative to control and reverse.  Specifically, he called for urgent action on climate change.

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Millions of songbirds fly at night during spring and fall migration. If you go outside and tune your ears and eyes to the sky, especially on moonlit nights, you may be able to observe them passing overhead.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its long-awaited announcement on the Greater Sage-Grouse this week. They decided that it would not be listed as an endangered species. The decision had a mixed reception from conservation groups, some praising it and some saying it would be a death knell for the bird. 

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In other ESA news, the USFWS is considering adding four new species to the list: the wood turtle, the northern bog lemming, the rusty-patched bumblebee, and the regal fritillary butterfly.

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Noah Stryker is having a very Big Year, indeed. On day 259 of the year, he surpassed the previous world record for the number of bird species seen in one year. A pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths brought his total to 4,342 for the year, with three months still to go. For a birder who counts herself lucky to see 300 species in a year, that is just an amazing total. It takes a special kind of fanaticism and a lot of money, plus a lack of responsibilities to hold you back, to even think of pursuing such a goal.   

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Bird lovers sometimes worry that their backyard feeder may affect changes in backyard bird populations which could potentially be detrimental. While there is really no confirmation of that fear, a study in the UK has shown that backyard feeders there are encouraging Blackcaps to stay in Britain during the winter.

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Blue-footed Boobies nest on the ground and their eggs, as laid, are unmarked blue which quickly turn white so they tend to stand out, making them vulnerable to predators, but the clever birds have a way of disguising them. They dirty the eggs as they rotate and jostle them with their feet so that within a couple of weeks they are indistinguishable from the ground around them.

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Some of the western wildfires that have occurred this year have been so intense that the forests are not regenerating as they normally would. The fires may be creating new landscapes.

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The reports that you send to eBird will soon have the capability of having sight and sound as a part of them. In cooperation with the Macauley Library, the site is adding a feature that will allow reporters to add pictures and sounds to their lists of birds.

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Conservationists are making an effort to reintroduce the Northern Bald Ibis to Spain. As a part of that project, four captive-bred chicks will soon be released in the wild there.

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A first draft of the "tree of life" for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes—from platypuses to puffballs—has been released. A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

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Geolocators are now being used to track the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler in its migrations to study where it goes and where it stops over during its trips.

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Bumblebees in the Colorado Rockies have developed shorter tongues over the past forty years, as they adapt to the changing climate and the changing characteristics of the flowers that they visit.  

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Grasshopper Sparrows are among the most endangered of the world's bird species. Seven little sparrow chicks in Florida are getting an assist by being hand-reared to be released into the wild with hopes of boosting the population.

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In the latest round in a 15-year legal battle to keep the California Spotted Owl safe from U.S. Forest Service logging policies, federal wildlife authorities have agreed to reconsider an earlier decision to deny the timid raptor protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Don't forget about the supermoon lunar eclipse/"Blood Moon" that occurs Sunday night. It's going to be a sight to behold - assuming the cloud cover allows it - and I promise it won't be the end of the world.




4 comments:

  1. Our local newspaper featured a video of two abandoned highway bridges being blow up. Just before the explosive went off you could hear the cries of Canada geese. There was just something about the juxposition of the two sounds....Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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    1. We need to remember that whatever we do to the environment does have an impact on the creatures and the plants that live there. I agree with the Pope that we have a moral imperative to protect it. One doesn't have to be Catholic to acknowledge that.

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  2. It's good that backyard feeders are doing their portion to curve migration but if the weather turns nasty...

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    1. The thing is weather is not so much a problem for birds as long as they can find enough to eat. They are extremely well-insulated. So backyard feeders really do allow some birds to spend winters where perhaps they wouldn't have done in the past.

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