This week in birds - #271

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


A Tri-Colored Heron stalks his prey.

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As the gigantic storm Irma takes aim at Florida after flattening several islands in the Caribbean and as Hurricane Jose gains force in the warm ocean waters where Irma formed, one might suppose that it would become harder to argue that global warmer is not a factor in creating these massive storms. All of this, of course, comes less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated much of the Texas coast.

Then, of course, you have people like Rush Limbaugh who ranted on his radio show this week that all the hurricane forecasts and the hype surrounding them are just a liberal conspiracy. They are never really as strong as the forecasters say. He said all of this right before he fled Florida ahead of the storm.

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Meanwhile, back in Texas, humans are still cleaning up from Harvey's damage and will be for a long time. But what about the damage to Nature and to wildlife habitats? The storm struck some of the most bird-rich ecosystems in the country, including the giant Aransas National Wildlife Refuge which took a direct hit. How long will it take Nature to recover?

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And while the eastern and southern parts of the country struggle to stay above water, the western states are burning. Huge wildfires have raged up and down the Pacific Coast as well as far inland in such places as Montana and all of them are fed by the effects of a planet that is heating up very fast.

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In good news for seabirds, the Northumberland coastline in the UK, which is home to over 200,000 Arctic Terns, Atlantic Puffins and other seabirds has been granted increased protection by the government conservation body Natural England. 

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National Moth Week has just passed and "Bug Eric" tells us all about which of those under-loved fliers he found around his patch in Colorado during his own personal Moth Week. 

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With the ongoing loss of marsh habitat where Mottled Ducks like to breed, the birds are more likely to move into urban and suburban areas. This could bring them into greater interaction with Mallards and could lead to more interbreeding between the species. Conservationists worry that such interbreeding could prove to be the death knell for the less numerous Mottled Duck as a separate and distinct species.

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The good news for butterfly lovers is that there has been a perceptible uptick in the numbers of Monarch butterflies this summer. The increase has been noticed around the country, including in my own backyard. The bad news is that this increase is likely not sustainable unless a lot more milkweed is planted.


A female Monarch on her favorite plant. You can help her by planting some of this.

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The study of cognition in birds is a fascinating field and I personally think researchers have probably only scratched the surface in understanding the intelligence of birds. Now comes a study showing that Cockatoos can learn - or intuit - how to bend wires (pipe cleaners) in order to fish food out of a glass tube.

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It's been a tough eight months for our National Park Service. The administration in Washington has directed a multi-pronged attack against this beloved national institution. To list only a few of the assaults, they have muzzled the service and literally silenced its climate change experts, even forbidding use of the term "climate change". They have overturned sensible park regulations like forbidding the carrying of disposable plastic water bottles which only contribute to the pollution of park lands. They are proposing a slash in funding for the Park Service and, of course, the biggie is that they want to reduce the size of public lands and turn them over to developers. The National Park Service has resisted where and when it can but it needs the continued support of all of us who love our public lands in order to weather this storm.

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Australian Magpies have been observed dunking their food in water before consuming it. Other species do this, too, but this is the first time the magpies have been observed doing it. The theory is that the water softens the food and makes it more digestible. Once again, the intelligence of birds... 

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Brigit Strawbridge tells us possibly all we will ever need to know about snail shell bees.

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Mattawoman Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River, is in Maryland, just south of D.C. It is a very healthy waterway and is one of the most productive fisheries in the state.

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Bar-headed Geese have long been known to fly above the Himalayas on migration. Now we learn that Ruddy Shelducks also fly above these highest of mountains and they fly even higher than the geese. They have been tracked at 22,000 miles high, the highest known flight for a bird. That's still not high enough to get over Mount Everest but they easily fly over much of the mountain range.

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Arizona in summer is a haven for many species of hummingbirds, but there is a great diversity of other species there, too. "10,000 Birds" shows and tells us about some of them.

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When a dam is removed from a river, that river becomes wild again and finds its way through the ecosystem which it inhabits. That is what has happened to the Elwha River in Washington's Olympic Mountains. It is a fascinating thing to see the river unleashed. It causes one to wonder if it might not be a good thing to do the same for some of our other rivers.


Comments

  1. I typed a comment just now but it disappeared. I don't know if it was submitted. Anyways, I was venting about how wild the last two weeks have been weather-wise. It's difficult to deny climate change when you see monster storms ravaging our coastal cities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard from others that Blogger has been eating my readers' comments. Not sure what's up with that, but I'm glad you got through.

      Truly, it seems that any reasonably intelligent person would acknowledge that the planet is heating up and that we need to try to slow or reverse that.

      Delete
  2. I signed up for the National Park Service newsletter and followed them on Twitter. What do you think is the most effective way to support the parks?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The main thing is to keep informed and to speak out to those in power to let them know that we are watching and that we see what they are doing. The National Park Foundation is the official charitable partner of the NPS and is another way to contribute to the support of our parks.

      Delete

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