Saturday, September 21, 2019

This week in birds - #370

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



A Long-billed Curlew walks along the beach in Galveston.


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An alarming analysis published in the journal Science this week reported that the number of birds in North America has fallen by 29 percent since 1970. That means that there are 2.9 billion fewer birds in our skies than there were only 50 years ago. As the head of the National Audubon Society stated, this represents a "full-blown crisis". It is not only the endangered species that are in trouble, even more common robins and sparrows have had steep losses in this period.

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The Winter Finch Forecast is out and it is predicted that this will not be an irruptive winter for those birds. It seems this has been a good year for the conifers in Canada and the North and it is likely that the birds will be able to find the food they need there without having to fly farther south.   

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The attempt by the current administration in Washington to build a wall along our southern border threatens to damage or destroy archaeological sites there. It's unlikely that these wall-builders care much about archaeology.

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The ongoing effort to reestablish grizzly bears in the Northern Cascades could be complicated by the administration's changes to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

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A Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been designated for the waters around Ascension Island, a UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic. This will be part of a massive MPA planned to include St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha Islands, as well. These islands are sometimes referred to as the "Atlantic Galapagos".

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We know the devastating effects hurricanes can have on humans and their structures, but what about their effects on Nature? Birds, for example. Birds are very resilient creatures and when a hurricane has a catastrophic effect on a species, it is usually because that species has already been pushed to the brink by human activities.

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It is unclear whether insects are buzzing around more often and in greater numbers recently or if weather radar is simply becoming more efficient. What is clear is that swarms of insects are showing up as undulating blobs on weather radar screens around the country.

Those blobs are not rainstorms, they are actually images of swarms of dragonflies caught by the National Weather Service radar in Cleveland.

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Wilderness areas help to protect biodiversityThe global conservation community has been urged to adopt a specific target of protecting the world's remaining wilderness areas to prevent large scale loss of at-risk species. 

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Most plants on the prairie have very deep roots, but a recent study indicates that those deepest roots are not used for bringing water to the plants, so what the heck are they used for, the "Prairie Ecologist" wonders?  

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80,000-year-old Neanderthal footprints found in France are helping archaeologists to fill in some of the gaps in knowledge about the culturally and socially complex lives of our closest extinct human relatives.

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A nesting Magpie recently proved to be a deadly menace in Australia. These birds vigorously defend against anything that they see as a threat to their nests, swooping on the perceived interloper and pecking at it. Unfortunately, a 76-year-old man on a bicycle recently was perceived as such a threat and was swooped on by the nesting Magpies. He swerved off the road trying to avoid them and crashed into a fence post, suffering severe head injuries. He later died of those injuries.

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Greater Sage-Grouse numbers have been falling drastically across the West. Montana recently reported that its population of the birds has fallen by 40 percent over the past three years. 

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A small population of the ‘Alalā, the Hawaiian Crow, has been reintroduced to their native habitat and they are learning to live in the wild. A pair of the birds actually built a nest this spring and the female sat on the nest while the male fed her, in the way of these crows. Ultimately the nest was unsuccessful, but scientists see it as a hopeful sign that the birds are acclimating. 

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The effects of global warming are disrupting the breeding activities of grassland birds like the Little Bustard, a vulnerable European species.

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Tennessee, like many other states, has instituted the practice of allowing wildflowers to bloom unmolested along the verges of its highways as a way of providing sustenance for butterflies and pollinators. I'm happy to say that Texas is a pioneer in this effort. The rights-of-way beside our roadways are glorious in their beauty during wildflower bloom seasons.

6 comments:

  1. Great shot of the Long-billed Curlew and thanks, as always, for this environmental roundup each week. I am sure it takes a while to put it together but I appreciate, as I am sure do many others.

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    1. We all have to do what we can to raise the alarm about what is happening to the environment. This is something that I can do.

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  2. It makes me sad and brings a sense of doom. We have a tremendous amount of birds this year because we do everything we can to attract them. We have hundreds of goldfinches right now which is exciting. I just love them.

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    1. Goldfinches are among my favorite winter birds. I always look forward to their appearance, usually in late November or early December here.

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  3. Thanks again for reporting the environmental news. The alarm is palpable. I find myself noting and counting all the birds and insects in my yard, as if that could help anything. Feeling gloomy and doomy.

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    1. It is hard not to give in to despair, but we owe it to ourselves and the planet to keep trying.

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