This week in birds - #356

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


Carolina Wrens are tiny birds with a huge repertoire of songs. They are brilliant singers and mated pairs sing back and forth to each other in a kind of call and response. They are welcome visitors to my feeders and I enjoy listening to their serenades whenever I am in the garden.

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Four former Environmental Protection Agency heads - three Republicans and one Democrat - in testimony to Congress this week excoriated the present administration for its neglect of its core duties. They bemoaned the exodus of longtime EPA employees and the sinking morale of career staffers and expressed concern that five decades of environmental progress are at risk because of the attitude and approach of the current administration.  

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Wildfire season in Canada, which is as destructive as in the United States, is off to a ferocious start. Eighty-seven fires were burning in seven provinces and two territories Monday, forcing 4,415 people from their homes. As the Canadian north grows warmer and drier for longer periods, the destruction is expected to get worse. Wildfires are now scorching more than 6 million acres of land there per year. That’s twice what they burned in the 1970s and it is projected to double again by the end of the century.

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The heat wave in India, one of the longest and most intense in decades, continues with no relief in sight. So far 36 people have died since May as a result of the relentless heat which has sent daily temperatures soaring well above 120 degrees. Authorities have warned that the suffering will continue as the monsoon rains have been delayed.

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Scientists are warning that a near-record-sized "dead zone" may develop in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. The area of oxygen-starved water develops because of runoff of fertilizers from farms in the Midwest that wash into the Mississippi River and are carried down to the Gulf. There has been unusually high rainfall there this spring which exacerbates the problem. The fertilizers feed algae which die, decompose, and deplete the water of oxygen which is deadly for the marine life in the area - thus a "dead zone."  

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Alaska is melting. The permafrost is no longer permanent. The state heats up twice as quickly as the rest of the country as a result of human-caused global warming and it is causing the permafrost to defrost and is destabilizing buildings and roads.

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Here is a profile of the nation's newest national park, Indiana Dunes.

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The relationship between humans and cannabis has existed for a very long time. It didn't start in the '60s. A study published this week detailed the use of cannabis in mortuary rituals in the Pamir Mountains of western China as early as 500 B.C.E.

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Human destruction of the living world is causing an extraordinary and alarming number of plant extinctions, according to scientists who have completed the first global analysis of the issue. Their analysis found 571 species had definitely been wiped out since 1750 but with knowledge of many plant species still very limited the true number is likely to be much higher. The researchers said the plant extinction rate was 500 times greater now than before the industrial revolution, and this was also likely to be an underestimate.

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Monarch butterflies famously migrate across the continent twice a year, but many other insects also migrate more anonymously. However, their swarms are often so large that they show up on weather radar sometimes confusing the watching meteorologists.

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Researchers have determined that our Defense Department in its worldwide operations emits more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than entire countries like Portugal and Sweden. 

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Do you talk to your plants? Did you know that your plants talk to each other? Plants do, in fact, communicate and the field of study of just how they do that is growing in popularity. Currently, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has an installation which illustrates the chatty nature of plants.

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Yes, there really are such things as vampire finches. They are one of the finches of the Galapagos Islands and they have developed their taste for blood as an adaptation to hard times. As long as plenty of food is available, they stick to seeds, nectar, and insects, but when drought comes and the banquet table gets bare, they resort to opening wounds on other birds and drinking the blood.  

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It turns out that the highest concentration of microplastics found in the ocean are not floating on the surface but are more than 650 below the surface.

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Scientists, aided by citizen scientists, are working to develop a procedure to identify the source of pollution by a "chemical fingerprint." It offers a resource for helping to hold polluters accountable for poisoning the environment.

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The tiny killifish can endure in a variety of harsh environments and it develops that their eggs are no less hardy. Researchers have documented killifish eggs that have been swallowed by a swan and later pooped out, still intact. They have now documented at least one such egg that hatched more than a month after it made its transit through the digestive system of a goose. This may explain in part how fish get spread from one body of water to another. Waterbirds are their vector.  

Comments

  1. Thanks again for the news. In the past, I have spent many days on the Lake Michigan Dunes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dunes are interesting habitats. It's good that we now have a national park dedicated to them.

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