Saturday, October 3, 2015

This week in birds - #176

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


Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, like this pair, are among the autumn migrants currently passing through our area.
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The leading edge of the fall Monarch butterfly migration streamed into Oklahoma this week. Next up: Texas. Texas gardeners and butterfly lovers, be on the lookout.

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The winter finch report is out. Every year Ron Pittaway gives us his prognostication of whether there will be significant movement of finches south during the coming winter. He's saying that this year looks like a light one, so perhaps no Pine Siskins for us if his prediction holds true. 

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One of the big news stories of the environment this week was Shell's decision to give up trying to drill offshore in the Arctic. 

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Crows are very smart birds, but are they able to learn from the death of one of their fellows so that they can perhaps avoid that fate? A research project in Seattle is investigating that question.

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Some of the western wildfires have been exceptionally intense this year, creating changes in the ecosystem. Proving the adage that it is an ill wind that blows no good, these fires may actually be aiding a rare weasel, the Pacific fisher.  

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Logging activities are frequently detrimental to the survival prospects of many birds, but, in Russia, there is at least one bird that seems to benefit from them - the Blakiston's Fish Owl.

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There is a new longevity record for the North American Herring Gull. A banded gull has been photographed on the southern shores of Lake Michigan that turned out to be 29 years and 3 months old.

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Windfarms are a good way of producing renewable and clean energy, but they do provide a threat to birds and flying mammals. A new report indicates that offshore installations may be more of a risk to Northern Gannets than previously thought.

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Three common Pacific seabirds, the Laysan Albatross, the Black-footed Albatross, and the Bonin Petrel, are in significant danger from the rising seas that result from global climate warming.

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Migration can sometimes go awry for a bird because of winds or some kind of disruption in its built-in compass. When they show up in unusual places, they can create quite a stir. Thus it has been with a rather nondescript North American bird that has somehow found its way to England this fall. An Acadian Flycatcher is drawing birders from near and far to the place in Kent where it is currently hanging about.  

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Solar power towers seem to be giving way to other technology for capturing solar energy in the state of California.

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The Smooth-billed Ani is a Florida specialty bird. Like many "specialty" birds, it is in serious trouble and needs protection in order to survive in that increasingly urbanized ecosystem, but so far the state of Florida has declined to give it that protection

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Native plants are the most encouraging to insect diversity, but closely related non-native plants can also have a beneficent effect. Less useful are the non-native plants that bear no relationship to the native plants of an area.

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Oyster farming on the East Coast may be detrimental to some threatened shorebirds, like the seriously endangered Red Knot.

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The EPA this week set new national standards for the smog-causing gas, ozone. The standards are tighter than those in place that were set during the Bush Administration, but they are not as stringent as many public health advocates and environmentalists had urged.

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Around the backyard

It's been an interesting week in my backyard as migrants continue to stream through. Of course, the highlight of the week was the visit by two Great Horned Owls last Sunday night, which I told you about earlier in the week

Also, on Sunday afternoon, I had two Brown-headed Nuthatches at my backyard feeder. I hear these nuthatches around the neighborhood throughout the year, but I rarely see them at my feeders except during winter.

On Monday, I had another visit from a Wilson's Warbler and this one also spent a considerable time dunking itself in my fountain, just as the one that I wrote about earlier had.

Tuesday, another highlight was a visit by a Brown Thrasher. He was devouring pokeberries and beautyberries along my back fence. These birds pass through every year, of course, but I very seldom see one in my yard. And, naturally, when I do, I never have my camera in hand. 

We've also been visited by what, to me, is one of the loveliest of the little birds, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

On the hummingbird front, all my hummers have absconded - Rufous, Ruby-throated, and Black-chinned - save for one immature male Ruby-throat. But the next weather front may bring another wave to me.

8 comments:

  1. Lots of interesting nature news, Dorothy. When I was in graduate school I learned that fire is a natural part of the forest ecology and the plants are adapted to returning after fire, but to suppress it for a long time is a dangerous thing because the underbrush builds up to the point that the fire doesn't just burn along the ground. The Indians/Native Americans were reputed to do frequent control burns so the forest would be open and the fire wouldn't get up into the tops of the trees. So it makes me sad and frustrated when these horrible fires occur. Yesterday some Chickadees showed up on my deck looking for seed!

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    1. I think you have hit on one of the problems with the fires. In some instances, they have been long suppressed and the undergrowth has built up more than it should have. When it burns now, it burns much hotter than normal and that is having an unusual effect on some ecosystems. Nature will adapt as it always does, but the ecosystem may look quite different in the future.

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  2. Great looking birds. Every fall a owl returns and haven't yet seen him. Came over from Ramblin AM
    Coffee ison

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    1. Welcome, Dora. I wonder what kind of owl you have. Here, we have the Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, and Screech Owls as permanent residents, but the ones that I see and hear most often are the Great Horned.

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  3. The photo of all the men with long lenses trying to catch a glimpse of the American flycatcher was hilarious. I so envy you having hummingbirds, I have only seen them on TV :-)

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    1. I'm glad we could send you our Acadian Flycatcher to brighten the lives of your twitchers this fall, Helene.

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  4. Wow, you are so lucky to have so many migrants visiting your backyard. It's always a pleasure to watch those visitors.

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    1. I do indeed count myself lucky. I live in a very "birdy" place.

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