Saturday, November 4, 2017

This week in birds - #279

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



The tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet is always among the first of our winter birds to arrive in the fall and they've been present for at least a couple of weeks now. Can the American Goldfinches be far behind?

*~*~*~*

On Friday, thirteen federal agencies released their exhaustive, comprehensive scientific report on climate change. It stated that humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization, directly contradicting the Trump administration's position on climate change. And yet the administration approved release of the report. Several White House officials said that Trump was only barely aware of the report's existence. 

*~*~*~*

On November 1, by a vote of 232 to 188, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would devastate national forests by gutting endangered species protections and rubber-stamping huge logging operations in the forests. Further, the bill limits public comment and environmental review. 

*~*~*~*

A massive study published last week in Royal Society Open Science did a review of the worldwide wildlife trade and identified 301 mammal species that are at risk of extinction due to overhunting.

*~*~*~*


Rails, such as this King Rail that I photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, are cryptically colored and secretive birds and that combination makes them very hard to see in the marsh environments that they frequent. They are among the least studied birds in North America because their elusive behavior and secretive ways make them difficult to observe, but they are an essential part of wetland ecosystems

*~*~*~*

A lone Pink-footed Goose that flew in with a flock of migrant Canada Geese is causing excitement among birders in Massachusetts. The bird is loitering around Barton Cove in Franklin County.

*~*~*~*

And across the ocean in Wales, the return of Tufted Ducks is giving Welsh bird lovers reason to smile.

*~*~*~*

"Bug Eric" caused some consternation among his readers recently when he ran a post suggesting that efforts to save individual insects was likely a waste of time. This week, he found he needed to clarify and modify his position somewhat and stated that, okay, at times it might be all right to save individual insects. Monarch caterpillars, for example.  

*~*~*~*

And speaking of Monarchs, those migrant butterflies should mostly be in Texas by now on their way to a winter in Mexico, but observers are reporting that they are still seeing clusters of the butterflies as far north as Canada. According to biologists, unusually warm weather and strong winds are keeping them from migrating, which does not bode well for the critters as winter closes in. 

*~*~*~*

It's been well established that songbirds of the same species from different areas often speak with a distinctive accent, even though they sing the same song. But what about birds whose song is inherited? A study has found that Little Penguins, a nocturnal bird in Australia, also have distinctive features to their vocalizations in different areas. The scientists conducting the study postulate that the differences are caused by different habitats rather than geographic isolation or other factors.

*~*~*~*

Fragmenting forests cuts populations of wildlife off from their neighbors and makes them more susceptible to disease, disaster, and just plain bad luck. Fragmented habitats tend to lose half of their plant and animal species within two decades.

*~*~*~*

A new study in The Lancet makes the case that global warming is already negatively affecting public health worldwide. But one of the techniques used in the study is controversial and has caused some disagreement among climate experts. 

*~*~*~*

Parks and reserves in tropical zones are important factors in slowing the effects of climate change, which makes it essential that we do everything that we can to protect and enhance them.

*~*~*~*

The Bird Ecology Study Group looks at the feeding habits of the Purple Swamphen and finds that the bird has a particular taste for snails.

*~*~*~*

The Imnaha wolf pack in Oregon is famous among biologists and amateurs who have an interest in wolves. They have been tracked and managed for years by a biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and thus we know a lot about the pack's story. 

*~*~*~*

A group of crows is called a "murder of crows," which sort of creates a prejudice in the mind of the observer before he or she encounters such a group. But, in fact, crows and the other members of their family are intelligent, resourceful, and community-minded birds and not at all spooky. Maybe it's time we gave them a break.

4 comments:

  1. I want to see a pink-footed goose! Murders of crows keep turning up in the books I have been reading, as well as in my neighborhood. Every morning they fly to the SE over my roof and every evening they return flying to the NW. Noisy fellows for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to see a Pink-footed Goose as well. It would be a rarity here. Crows are nothing if not vociferous, and it seems that they are especially so at this time of year.

      Delete
  2. "Murder of crows" is not a flattering term for sure, and you are right; they can be vociferous at this time of year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am just the kind of contrarian who enjoys their vocalizations.

      Delete