This week in birds - #341

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

Is there a more attractive bird native to North America than the female Northern Cardinal? This beauty is part of my count for the Great Backyard Bird Count that is taking place this weekend. Remember: You can be a part of it, too. Just visit the website and register, then follow the directions.

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Our Senate did something wonderful this week. By a vote of 92-8, they passed the most sweeping conservation bill in a decade. The legislation will protect millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country. It will establish four new national monuments, expand five existing national parks, and permanently withdraw mining claims around Yellowstone National Park and North Cascades National Park. In addition, the bill reauthorizes and funds the Neotropical Bird Conservation Act through 2022! Good on you, Senate. See what you can do when you work together?

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And in another example of the good that can be accomplished by a functioning legislature, the House of Representatives passed the bill to fund the government and avoid a shutdown, legislation later passed by the Senate and signed by the president. But the very good news for conservationists, especially those of us who have been worried about the fate of some of our public lands and conservation sites along our southern border, is that Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas managed to insert into the bill protections for five sites imperiled by plans for barriers along the border - the National Butterfly Center, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita historic Catholic chapel, and a tract of land that will be a commercial spaceport for SpaceX. It was not a minute too soon for the Butterfly Center where the bulldozers had already moved in. Thank you, Rep. Cuellar!

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Receding Arctic ice has been forcing polar bears off of their preferred habitat and farther inland. Recently, dozens of the big bears have invaded and laid siege to a small military settlement in the Russian Arctic. Conservation authorities turned down a request from the settlement to shoot the bears, which are protected in Russia as an endangered species. So, the residents are just going to have to wait them out.

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The pair of Bald Eagles that nest every year in a tree at the Washington D.C. Police Academy have produced their first egg of the year. You can watch the progress of the nest on Earth Conservation Corps Eagle Cam.



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Temperatures have been far above normal in Alaska this winter. Readings near 40 degrees above normal are anticipated in parts of the Arctic area this weekend.

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And in Hawaii, more extreme weather, including a blanket of snow on peaks as low as 6,200 feet.

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A study of the effects of aboriginal fires in Australia has found that the small hunting fires used by the Martu people are actually vital for sustaining several wild species and adding to the diversity of vegetation.

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A federal court in Texas has ruled that the Golden-cheeked Warbler which only nests in the Texas Hill Country is still in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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The removal of a dam on Maine's Kennebec River twenty years ago has fulfilled its promise of the return of fisheries and new recreational opportunities and revitalization of the riverfront. Perhaps even more importantly, it has had a beneficial ripple effect on how people of the area view and utilize the resource of the river.

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A rare black leopard has been caught on camera by a Contraptions camera trap in a wilderness camp in Kenya.


Although there have been reports of black leopards in Africa, this is the first photographic evidence of one in more than a hundred years. The last image was taken in 1909.

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Another near-mythical creature is the Black Rail. Recently, scientists in Louisiana have been looking for the bird in the remote wetlands that are its preferred habitat. Those wetlands themselves are now endangered by encroaching seawater. 

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French researchers have figured out which genes make a rose smell sweet and how they can tinker with the genome to enhance its distinctive scent. The rose they have been working with is 'Old Blush' which originated in China and was introduced to Europe in the 18th century - and one of which now grows in my backyard.

This is one of last year's blooms. The bush isn't in bloom at the moment.

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Cuvier's beaked whales can dive deeper and hold their breath longer than any other marine mammal. It is frustrating for scientists trying to study them because they only emerge for a few minutes before diving again.

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A 99-million-year-old bird whose foot got caught and preserved in amber had feathers. Fossilized feathered birds or feathered dinosaurs have been sought by scientists for decades so this represents a significant find

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The Mandarin Duck visiting Central Park has gotten a lot of publicity this season. Well, it is a very colorful bird. But the real draw for birders is the owls of Central Park. Barred Owls, Saw-whets, and Great Horned Owls all have gotten the birders' attention.









Comments

  1. Some very good news here Dorothy. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. It's always nice to have some good news to report.

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  2. Yes, the good news is heartening. Perhaps we will recover from these terrible years after all! The black leopard!!

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  3. Great news this week. Finally a sweeping legislation to benefit the environment from both sides of the aisle. The things they would accomplish if they worked together more often!

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  4. I enjoyed your informative post Dorothy. The female Cardinal is a beautiful sight and it's such good news that legislation is making strides in protecting the fragile environment. I also love the news about the Leopard and roses. Have a great week ahead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a rare week of good news, always very welcome.

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