This week in birds - #377

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




A flight of White Ibises off South Padre Island, Texas. 

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More than 11,000 scientists from around the world are once again attempting to get the attention of governments and persuade them to take effective action to fight climate change. In a report published this week, the scientists declare a "climate emergency" and outline six major steps that could be taken to address the situation. 

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However, the denialists currently in charge of our country's government refuse to acknowledge any such emergency. This week, they took the first steps to quit the Paris Climate Agreement.

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In the U.K., the government has halted shale gas extraction (fracking) because of fears of generating earthquakes.

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A warmer and wetter climate, the result of global climate change, is benefiting some species of birds on the grasslands of the Canadian prairie.

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A contagious form of cancer that affects mussels originated off the Pacific Coast of Canada but it has now been spread, apparently as a result of human activities, to other species in Europe and South America. 

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These are "ice eggs", a rare phenomenon that is the result of a very particular set of weather conditions. They occurred on a beach in Finland recently. The largest of the "eggs" was football-sized.

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This story might be stretching the definition of "environmental" news but I couldn't resist. On the other hand, if we consider the universe as our environment... 

NASA's two explorers, Voyager I and Voyager II, have now traveled beyond the heliosphere, more than twelve billion miles and 40 years into their journeys. When Voyager II crossed that frontier of interstellar space, it sent a faint signal from the other side, a signal which NASA scientists have now decoded. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

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Meanwhile, back here on Earth, the current iteration of our EPA has taken steps to weaken rules governing toxic water pollution from coal plants.

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Purple Gallinules have become quite common in our area in recent years, but they are great wanderers, sometimes finding their way up the East Coast and even into the Canadian provinces. Recently, an immature bird has turned up in Central Park in Manhattan to the great delight of birders there.

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Anyone who has ever spent time around guineafowls might think the phrase "pea-brained" was coined to describe them. They have tiny brains not only compared to mammals but compared to other birds as well. But a recent study of the Vulturine Guineafowl of eastern Africa found that the birds live in complex, many-layered societies, in spite of their lack of braininess.

 Vulturine Guineafowl image from The New York Times.

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Turtle Doves in the U.K. have suffered a 51% decline in population over the last five years. It is now Britain's most endangered bird. But wildlife-friendly agriculture funded by the government is offering some hope of a recovery for the birds.

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Mexican archaeologists have made the first-ever discovery of pits that were built around 15,000 years ago for the purpose of trapping mammoths. They have found two pits that contained 824 bones from at least 14 mammoths.

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The most threatened member of the gull family is the Black-billed Gull. About 300 of the birds have established a colony with 130 nests in a derelict building in Christchurch, New Zealand. The bird is endemic to New Zealand and is only found there.

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Installing wind turbines and solar panels in the U.S. Midwest instead of other parts of the country would deliver the biggest cuts in climate-warming emissions and improvements in public health, according to a study published on Tuesday.

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The National Parks Conservation Association has released a list of the 12 national parks that are most threatened by oil and gas drilling. Some of my personal favorites are on the list.



Comments

  1. Thanks as always for this roundup which neatly encapsulates what is current in matters environmental. I look forward to it each week. I had never heard of ice eggs and the picture is quite amazing. It is fortunate they do not fall from the sky already formed like that! And the shot of the White Ibises brings back great memories for me. Have a great weekend, Dorothy.

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    1. Those ice eggs are amazing. I had never heard of them either. The shot of the ibises shows only a small part of that flock. There must have been at least 100 birds in it.

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  2. The ice eggs and the info on how they form reminded me of that scientist in Smilla's Sense of Snow. Loved the Voyager reports and the Climate Emergency report. On climate, the task seems to be convincing the money bags to take it seriously which to my mind seems doubtful. Still, I made a list of their six recommendations.

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    1. Ah, Smilla's Sense of Snow - there was another great read. I was shivering the whole time I was reading! The rich and the powerful must start listening to the scientists and implementing their recommendations, else we are lost.

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  3. I like your roundups. The ice eggs are definitely something I've never seen or heard about before. Very cool. I didn't realize that most of the National Parks threatened are in New Mexico it appears. Chaco & Mesa Verde are treasures. ps. Also I wanted apologize: for whatever reason a glitch on my website lost or mangled your comment so I was never able to post it. I did a search & cannot find it. So I'm very sorry, I do not know what happened but it was not done intentionally in any way. Sure I'd love to have your comments

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    1. Those ice eggs are very weird. I had never heard of them either and apparently they are extremely rare. And thank you - I was really bummed that you didn't accept my comments. In fact, I had commented on three different posts over time and none of the comments were ever posted. Then I sent you an email to the address on your blog to ask what the problem might be, but I never received a reply. So, apparently there is SOMETHING blocking my communications, but I'll try again.

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    2. P.S. And I did try again. I commented on your November 7 post. That was 24 hours ago. I just checked and it has not been published. I can only assume that for some reason my comments must be going straight to your spam folder. I don't understand and it hurts my head to try!

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    3. Hi Dorothy -- thanks for your note .... I have been traveling but was able to finally find your comment & post it on my site. So I'm hoping you will never be hassled on my site again. So sorry for this. You have been a trooper. But I'm thinking it is solved!

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  4. Those guineas are quite beautiful! I love the ibises, too. The ice eggs are new to me and would be so awesome to see!


    My Corner of the World

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    1. The guineas are really striking in appearance and the ice eggs are just...strange. Nature is full of such weird and wonderful things.

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