This week in birds - #353

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


The Common Nighthawks are back in town. Actually, they've probably been here for a while but this is the first week when I've heard them calling as they circle around my backyard late in the afternoon searching for flying insects.

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Several of the states with shorelines are well aware that the seas are rising and they are making plans to try to deal with that fact. Louisiana is one of them. The state's plan looks at ways to ease the transition as people begin to move farther inland to escape the higher sea levels and to help communities close to the sea be more resilient and able to withstand the changing environment.

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Another consequence of climate change that gardeners are very familiar with is the fact that plant hardiness zones are changing. As the climate warms, tropical plants can be found in gardens farther and farther north as the zones change. When we first moved here 30 years ago, my garden was in hardiness zone 8. Now, we are in zone 9a. Plants that were mostly absent in our early years here - citrus trees, for example - are now very common.  

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We are not used to seeing positive news from Florida's Everglades these days but here is one such story: In 2019, the numbers of nests of wading birds, such as White Ibises, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Storks, are the highest they've been since the 1940s. A sign of hope.

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A study of the feral cats on New Zealand's Ponui Island revealed that the felines ate mostly rodents but did also kill many birds.

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And here's yet another effect of climate change that you probably haven't thought of. I know I hadn't. Earthworms. The wrigglers are moving north just like so many other species as those regions heat up and become amenable to them. The earthworms that we know are actually an invasive species from Europe. Native North American earthworms died out 10,000 years ago during the ice age. But now the invaders are burrowing their way into new earth and, as they do, they are releasing the stored carbon in the forests into the atmosphere. Just one more hit for climate scientists to worry about.  

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A major key to the biodiversity of coral reefs are tiny fish known as cryptobenthics (literally "hidden bottom-dwellers") that are a major source of food for the other critters that live there. They fuel the food webs that allow reef inhabitants to flourish in otherwise nutrient-scarce waters. 

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Trichlorofluoromethane is a globally banned chemical that damages Earth's ozone layer. Recently there has been a mysterious spike in the chemical that has now been traced to East China. This underscores the need for enforcement of international environmental agreements and is a reminder that China's intensifying environmental challenges have global consequences.

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California's Salton Sea waterline continues to recede and, in the process, the water is becoming more saline. As a result, many of the iconic birds like pelicans and cormorants that have congregated there in the past are deserting the area.

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Native plants are extremely resilient and generally will recover on their own and recolonize areas where invasive plants are removed. 

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Scientists reported this week that they have discovered the oldest known fossils of fungi. The billion-year-old fungi would have evolved before plants and that discovery may reshape our understanding of how life first arrived on land.

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The last Crested Ibis in the wild in Korea was seen in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula in 1979. A captive breeding program has been underway to try to save the species and recently forty captive-bred birds were released back into the wild southeast of Seoul. 

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Flooding along the Mississippi River has revived a plan to have a pumping system in place that could destroy wetlands and devastate a bird-rich environment. In 2008, the EPA blocked the project, but, of course, we now have a very different EPA and they are reconsidering the plan.

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There has been a unique find announced from the world of Iron Age archaeology. A 2,300-year-old shield made of tree bark was discovered in Leicestershire, the only one of its kind ever found in Europe.

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Did you know that May 20 was World Bee Day? No? Well, neither did I, but, astoundingly, neither did Bug Eric! He celebrates just a little late. 

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And finally, here's some news that might make a lot of workers happy: A thinktank has proposed that one tool to fight against climate change would be to institute shorter work weeks. Sounds like a winning idea to me!

Comments

  1. Lots of variety here today. We have a new (for the season) bird call. I have never discovered the bird itself but it makes a call that sounds like someone is hitting a metal object with a metal tool. I call it the clink bird. Any ideas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really - except it sounds like the kind of sound a very small bird would make. But that covers a lot of territory!

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  2. I agree, lots of variety. On the tidbit about how the climate has changed, I remember harsher winters in New England twenty or more years ago. The cold used to start in mid October and not leave until late May. It's been several years that it's been relatively mild until December.

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