This week in birds - #367

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

It's that time of year again. The time when our birds begin to look decidedly...disheveled. All their old worn feathers are falling away and they are growing shiny new ones for the coming season. This molting Northern Mockingbird does not look happy about the process, but in a few weeks, he'll be well-dressed again with every feather in place. 

*~*~*~*

Tongass National Forest in Alaska is the world's largest intact temperate rainforest. Nearly twenty years ago, the federal government imposed logging restrictions on it in order to preserve it and keep it intact. The current resident of the White House has now instructed his Secretary of Agriculture to exempt the 16.7 million-acre forest from those restrictions in order to allow it to be logged. 

*~*~*~*

And in other news of our government's stewardship of the environment, the administration has proposed a plan for loosening the curbs on methane emissions. Methane is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect that is heating up our planet. It is notable that many of the companies that would be affected by this and other of the administration's plans for cutting back regulations of the environment actually have opposed those plans.  

*~*~*~*

The famous sea otters of California beaches are facing a deadly new threat to their existence and it comes from cats. Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can affect cats and now scientists have confirmed that the parasite that causes the disease, Toxoplasma gondii, is making its way from cats to the otters and is the primary cause of up to 3 percent of the protected species that are found dead.

*~*~*~*

Help could be on the way for the Great Barrier Reef from an unexpected source. A giant 150 square kilometers raft of pumice that was spewed up by an underwater volcano near Tonga is expected to make its way to Australia where it could restock millions of tiny marine organisms, including coral.

*~*~*~*

Red-billed Tropicbirds spend their summers in the Lesser Antilles and other islands of the Caribbean. Except for one.


For the past fifteen years, this lone tropicbird has made its way 2,000 miles farther north to the Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. The bird first turned up there in 2005 and has returned every summer since arriving in May and leaving in August. Obviously, a bird with a mind of its own who really likes Maine! 

*~*~*~*

A worldwide collection of archaeological expects has reported in Science magazine that their evaluation of past land use indicates that the onset and spread of major human change to the global environment began at least 3,000 years ago, much earlier than had been thought. 

*~*~*~*

Heat-related deaths have increased sharply in Arizona and Nevada since 2014. The annual number of deaths tripled between 2014 and 2017 in Arizona and increased fivefold in Nevada during the same period as the planet gets hotter.   

*~*~*~*

Seagulls are survivors. They have figured out ways to coexist with humans by taking advantage of their sloppy behavior. And they have other admirable qualities as well, mainly as devoted parents. Both male and female gulls brood their eggs during incubation.

*~*~*~*

The Karuk Tribe of California has a plan for combating climate woes and it involves prescribed burns of forests. It's a plan that fights fire with fire as the planned burns could prevent more deadly and costly wildfires.

*~*~*~*

This is a Weka, a flightless bird of New Zealand. It is very efficient at spreading plants to new areas by eating their fruits and excreting their seeds. But those birds that spend most of their time hanging out around humans are not as good at their jobs. The variety of fruits that they eat is less diverse and they tend to not wander as much as others of their kind.  

*~*~*~*

The oldest yet known ancestor of humankind has been found in Ethiopia. The 3.8 million-year-old fossilized skull of Australopithecus anamensis is believed to be a direct descendant of Australopithecus afarensis whose most famous member was Lucy, who made the rounds of museums a few years ago. One of my most memorable experiences at a museum was visiting her when she came to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

*~*~*~*

Raptors are still being persecuted in Great Britain. Last year the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds documented 87 confirmed incidents, but only one was successfully prosecuted. The crime also happens in Australia where recently 76 Wedge-tailed Eagles have been found dead of suspected poisoning.

*~*~*~*

Also in Australia, researchers have introduced three dozen hybrid captive-bred Helmeted Honeyeaters into the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in an attempt to prevent the critically endangered bird from dying out due to inbreeding.

*~*~*~*

The human love of hiking in the wilderness is having a devastating effect on the elk herds of Colorado.

*~*~*~*

Any change to the environment generally has its winners and its losers. In the case of climate change's effects on the ocean, there are mostly losers but there are some winners, too.


Comments

  1. Thanks for this great roundup of important and interesting information. I always think that moult must be a kind of itchy process for birds. I guess we will never know but it looks that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I expect you are right. They certainly always look very uncomfortable during the process.

      Delete
  2. What the current administration is doing to the environment is unconscionable .... on everything from methane to the endangered species act. We can't get them out of office fast enough. I read the book about Lucy by Donald Johanson in college and thought it was amazing. I would have loved to have seen her at the museum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have that book! Seeing Lucy in the museum was truly the most moving experience I've ever had in such a public place. I still have and occasionally wear the tee shirt with her image that I bought that day.

      Delete
    2. Wow that's wonderful. It must be a tingling experience to see a hominid that old and preserved. I sort of had that experience seeing the King Tut exhibit in L.A. around 1984-ish. Just things: that blow your mind.

      Delete
  3. It's so strange that the one bird spends summers alone in Maine. Weird....!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly is strange. But birds are known to sometimes end up in strange and wonderful places on migration.

      Delete
  4. Excellent mix of news this week, Dorothy. I did not know this was molting season for birds so thanks for that bit of knowledge. I just thought the birds were mirroring the frazzled look of my plants due to the heat we always get this time of year, though this year has been thankfully not as hot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, my plants tend to "molt" at this time of year as well!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Excerpt from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

Open Season (Joe Pickett #1) by C.J. Box - A review

Poetry Sunday: Invitation by Mary Oliver