This week in birds - #153

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

Our backyard birds are busy nesting and raising their young and so are the birds of the wetlands, seashores, and swamps. Here, a Clapper Rail leads two of her chicks on an expedition through the weeds at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

In a story that illustrates the harm that can be done by dumping unwanted pets in the wild, a Colorado lake has been infested with thousands of goldfish. You might think that goldfish are pretty and benign, and in habitats that are designated for them, they certainly are. But in this lake, they have brought diseases that the native fish there are not equipped to deal with and they are destroying the plant life within the lake and upsetting the balance of Nature.  


But here is another view on invasive species which basically states that they are the wave of the future and that we should learn to accept them and coexist. Essentially, the theory is that the fittest species will survive and that's okay. Most conservationists do not accept that view, of course, because it legitimizes human interference in Nature's plan since most invasive species are introduced, either deliberately or accidentally, by humans.


Another example of human interference in Nature, Fukushima in Japan was the site of the disastrous nuclear accident four years ago. Since then the avian population of the area has dropped drastically.


A new study quantifies the amount of carbon stored and released through California forests and wildlands. The results indicate that wildfires and deforestation contribute more than expected to carbon emissions which may affect the state's ability to meet its goals of reduction of greenhouse gases.


The water shortage in California gets most of the headlines but, in fact, the Rio Grande watershed has been drastically depleted as a result of the drought as well and, in places, the once mighty river is nothing more than a trickle.

As it is here. This is the Rio Grande River as it flows through Big Bend National Park. I took this picture some eighteen months ago, but I feel sure the situation hasn't gotten better since then. On the right side of the river is Mexico and the U.S. is on the left.

A study of African birds in the nation of Malawi revealed that 79% of them were infected with the parasites that cause malaria.


Jonathan Franzen is best known as an author of literary fiction but he is also a birder and is prominent in conservation movements. He recently provoked a firestorm of criticism with a essay published in The New Yorker which, among other targets, criticized the Audubon Society and its study on climate change and birds. The problem that many had with his criticism is that he lauded the American Bird Conservancy, a rival to Audubon, without disclosing that he is on its fundraising board, which certainly should be taken into account when evaluating the accuracy and potential bias of his complaints.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed yet another bat species, the Northern Long-eared, as threatened.


(Picture courtesy of Reuters.)
It's not often - probably never - that you encounter a black flamingo, but a melanistic Greater Flamingo has been sighted this spring feeding with other normal-colored flamingos on the Akrotiri salt plain on the island of Cyprus. Birders are flocking from far and near to see the rare bird.

A new study evaluating the contamination of waterways by insecticides has concluded that that contamination is significantly worse than has been supposed. 


A Global Big Day is being planned for May 9. Birders from around the world are being encouraged to count and report birds on that date, which just happens to be International Migratory Bird Day. 


There are only five northern white rhinos left on the face of the planet and only one of them is male. This lone male is under armed guard 24 hours a day in Kenya to try to save him from poachers. Even so, it may not be enough to preserve the species.

(Photo courtesy of CNN.)
His name is Sudan and he is the last known male northern white rhino. He and his female companions are under constant vigilant guard.

Around the backyard:

The winner of the "Who'll be the first to fledge?" sweepstakes, again this year, as it is most years, is the Carolina Wren. One of the two pairs that were nesting in my backyard led their brood from the nest yesterday. I watched the chicks following their parents around the yard yesterday afternoon. Total cuteness! I saw at least three chicks but there may have been more among the dense shrubbery and vines. This was not the family that is nesting on my back porch. Those chicks are probably still a week away from fledging.


  1. Informative as always.
    BTW, who guards the guards of the white rhino?! :-)

    1. Perhaps they guard each other! But they are park rangers devoted to their jobs and being a ranger in that environment can be a very dangerous profession.


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