This week in birds - #375

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



This Blue Jay is checking out what's on offer at my backyard bird feeders.

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Acidification of the ocean can cause the mass extinction of marine life. This is what happened 65 million years ago when the meteorite hit near Yucatan. Not only did it mean the end of the age of dinosaurs, it caused acidification which also wiped out three-quarters of marine species. It is happening again, not with a meteorite this time but with the absorption of carbon emissions which also causes the oceans to acidify. 

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As large swaths of California are burning and thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes and have their lives disrupted, it brings home the question of how we are going to live in a world of a warming climate where fire is a growing problem. As hotter temperatures dry out plants making them easier to ignite, we can expect wildfires nationwide to become an increasing problem

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And speaking of heat and of oceans, the news in the Pacific is that conditions there are reminiscent of the heat wave of 2014 which led to the formation of a hot spot that came to be known as the Blob. It expanded and lingered over much of the ocean from Mexico to Alaska for years and damaged coral reefs.

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Evolution is such a fascination mechanism. If there is a niche in Nature, you can be sure that something will evolve to fill it. That's how we came to have butterflies. Nocturnal moths evolved to take advantage of an abundant new food source: the nectar of flowering plants. Voila! Butterflies!

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Along the coasts of California and Oregon, the population of purple sea urchins has exploded and the voracious critters are ravaging the delicate ecosystems of those waters.

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Leaf out and flowering are occurring earlier and migrating birds are adjusting the times of their migration but the two are not yet in sync which causes problems for the birds when they are unable to take advantage of the peak availability of the insects that feed on new leaves and flowers. 

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However, there are some birds that are benefiting from the effects of climate change. This benefit may evaporate though as the changes become more extreme.

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Aye-ayes are a species of Madagascan primates that are unique: They are the only known primates on Earth that have a sixth finger, a kind of "pseudo-thumb" that sprouts from their palm.

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Warmer ocean waters mean more girl turtles and that's a problem. As Earth gets hotter, turtle hatchlings worldwide are expected to skew more female, creating what could become a dangerous imbalance of the sex ratio.  

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This is one loudmouthed bird! In fact, it is the loudest bird in the world. It is the White Bellbird of the Amazon. Its song is described as being like a pile driver, around 125 decibels.

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The delta smelt is a threatened finger-sized fish that has been at the center of California's water wars for nearly three decades. Now the current administration in Washington is proposing to lift protections for the fish and divert more water to farms, an action that could finally see the end of the delta smelt.

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The Least Tern of the interior is a success story of the Endangered Species Act. The number of colonies has multiplied tenfold, from 48 to 480, and it is ready to be taken off the endangered list. 

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A previously unknown to science species of leaf-tailed gecko has been discovered in Madagascar. The new species is believed to be found only in the Ankarana Special Reserve and may already be endangered.

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Scientists are tracking the Long-billed Curlews that nest in Montana in order to learn more about their habits and their migration.

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This little bird is causing a lot of excitement in Saanich's Panama Flats in Canada at the moment. It is a Yellow-browed Warbler, the first of its species to be recorded in Canada. It is a vagrant that flew in from Asia.


Comments

  1. That Yellow-browed Warbler brought in birders from far and wide. We have visited that area several times when visiting Vancouver Island, but we have never seen that kind of rarity. I have encountered it many times in Asia, however, in its appropriate habitat - and that is even better.

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    1. I agree it is much better to see a bird in its natural habitat. So often vagrants are confused during migration and ultimately doomed, so while it is exciting to see one, it is also a bit sad.

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  2. These fires are getting really annoying. The air is bad, the humidity is way too low, and nerves are on edge. I think my sinuses need some evolution and quick. I wonder what next fall will be like.

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    Replies
    1. I've been concerned about you. I wondered if you had had to evacuate. Yes, I can imagine that nerves of everyone in the area are on edge. Let us hope for a change in the weather and some rain soon.

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    2. None of the fires have been at all close to my house but some of my friends had tense hours. Still the wind carries all the toxic air all around. That is my theory at least. Thanks for thinking of me.

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