This week in birds - #316

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



There hasn't been much hummingbird activity around the yard this summer. In recent years, we've generally had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nesting here but apparently not this year. But fall migration has started and the first wave came through this week. Early in the week, I saw three of the tiny birds tussling over the Hamelias (Mexican firebush) and other flowers in the backyard. There were probably more around, but I was able to count three. By the end of the week, they appeared to have moved on. I saw only one in the yard on Friday, but I expect more will be coming through soon.

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Exposure to air pollution, especially particulate matter, is a leading driver of heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory infections the world over. It is the sixth highest risk factor for death and contributes to up to seven million deaths each year.

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Another week and another extreme weather event. In the southern state of Kerala in India, well over 300 people have died already as a result of the worst monsoon flooding in nearly a century.

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And in regard to another extreme event, the raging wildfires in California, Interior Secretary Zinke assured us this week that, contrary to scientific opinion, global climate change had nothing to do with the fires. Instead, he said the fires have been worsened by environmentalists fighting against more logging of forests. Simple solution: Cut down all the trees and there won't be any fires.

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The Great Black Hawk is a neotropical raptor that normally ranges from coastal Mexico down to eastern Argentina, but earlier this year one was documented on South Padre Island in Texas and now another one has turned up in Maine. Most astonishingly, a careful examination of pictures of the birds has convinced at least some ornithologists that it is the same bird. Obviously, this bird has a yen to see the world.

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Voters in the State of Washington will have an opportunity to decide whether to institute a carbon tax in this fall's election. Alaska, surprisingly enough, is also considering whether to implement such a tax to help offset loss of income from fossil fuel extraction.

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Coelacanth photograph from The Guardian.

Coelacanths, a fish that existed before dinosaurs, were thought to be extinct until a living specimen was caught off the African coast in 1938. Today, only 30 of the fish are known to exist off the east coast of South Africa and there are fears that a new oil exploration venture in the area could jeopardize their continued existence. 

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In 2013, a chemical explosion at a plant in West, Texas, killed thirteen people. In the wake of that disaster, rules were strengthened and made stricter for operators' risk management plans. The current EPA was trying to delay implementation of those rules for at least two years, but an appeals court in Washington, DC ruled this week that the EPA must enforce the strengthened rules.

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The toxic "red tide" algae bloom continues to kill Florida wildlife and threaten tourism in the state. This year 267 tons of marine life have washed up on the shores of the state, killed by the toxic algae.

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A survey of birds in northern New Mexico has found declining population of many species. The birds are being affected mainly by loss of habitat due to prolonged drought, hotter temperatures, and bark beetle outbreaks that kill the piñon-juniper forests that the birds depend on.

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Under a court order and settlement in New York, New York State Parks will move a feral cat colony from Jones Beach State Park where it imperiled endangered Piping Plovers that nest in the area.

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A federal judge in Montana has ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that was approved by the current administration, possibly delaying its construction and dealing another setback to TransCanada Corp.

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The orca mother that had carried her stillborn baby with her in the waters off Washington state for more than two weeks finally relinquished the body this week and returned to her pod. It has been three years since an orca in the area has birthed a surviving calf. 

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As animals adapt to life in cities, are they becoming smarter? They are certainly learning new strategies for survival. A prime example is the wild fishing cats of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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Native North Americans kept and bred Macaws more than 1000 years ago as far north as New Mexico.

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Speaking of smart animals, a French historical theme park has been training Rooks, a member of the Crow family, to retrieve litter at the park. The birds will be rewarded whenever they bring bits of litter to their handlers.




Comments

  1. I had never heard of the Coelacanth...The orca story is heartbreaking, animals never stop amazing me. Rooks collecting trash in exchange for reward; I like that, as long as they don't pick up anything dangerous...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought the trained Rook was brilliant. Members of the crow family are super smart and perfectly capable of learning simple tasks.

      Delete
  2. Let's kidnap Zinke and force him to read The Overstory!

    ReplyDelete

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