This week in birds - #390

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


Purple Martin image courtesy of All About Birds website.

The Purple Martins are back. They began arriving back in our area around the end of January. First to arrive are the scouts, adult males like the one in the picture above. The adult males are followed by the adult females and first-year birds. The martins are among the first of our summer residents to return to the area and they are generally among the first to leave. Most of them are gone from here by July 4. In the eastern part of the continent, martins are now entirely dependent on nest boxes erected by humans, a tradition that goes all the way back to early Native Americans. In the west, the birds still sometimes nest in natural cavities.

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In this election year, it is worth noting that a majority of Americans surveyed said that dealing with climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed ranked protecting the environment as a leading policy priority. However, this masks a deep partisan divide on the issues with Democrats overwhelmingly citing the issues as important and Republicans much less concerned. 

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Extreme weather made news in widely separated areas of the globe this week. Britain has been battered by two successive big storms that have dumped torrents of rain and have caused flooding, landslides, and misery in many parts of the country. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, heavy rains in the central part of the state have swamped the Ross Barnett Reservoir north of Jackson and the overflow has pushed the Pearl River over its banks, forcing evacuations. 

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Throughout the South, spring is arriving weeks early this year, encouraging plants to wake up and to bloom. This could be a problem since the area is still vulnerable to late frosts for a few more weeks.

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Temperatures are steadily rising around the world, but the trend isn't spread evenly geographically or throughout the seasons. The cold places on Earth are heating up much faster than the warmer spots and the winters are warming up faster than summers. This is creating a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities throughout the country.

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Restoring the Bobwhite Quail to the Chesapeake Bay area has had an unexpected benefit for the conservation of the bay itself.

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There are areas of the Appalachians that have been devastated by "mountaintop removal" by energy companies trying to get to the minerals underground. Such practices completely destroy the ecosystem of the locale, but scientists are now recommending a way to restore that ecosystem. Essentially, it involves planting trees. Lots of them.

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And speaking of restoration, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon has given her support to a plan to remove four dams from the Snake River in order to help preserve and increase the salmon runs.

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A five-year study of the impact of reintroducing beavers to the English countryside has concluded that the benefits of such a plan outweigh any problems that might be created. 

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A well-preserved frozen bird carcass that was found in permafrost in Siberia has been determined through DNA testing to be a Horned Lark. The bird is from 46,000 years ago. 

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Africa has long been a thunder and lightning hotspot, but with the planet heating up, the continent is experiencing bigger and more frequent and severe lightning storms, like the one that recently killed four rare mountain gorillas in Uganda. 

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As the assault on clean water regulations continues at the federal level, some states will be hit harder than others by the effects of the removal of the environmental safety net.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler photo by Kyle Horton.

A study of the Black-throated Blue Warbler confirms that the little bird has shifted the timing of its spring and fall migrations over the past fifty years.

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Increasing periods of drought and rising temperatures are decreasing the flow of the Colorado River, a 1,450-mile waterway on which millions of people depend.

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As the EPA finalizes plans to roll back rules that cut the emissions of mercury and other toxins, utility companies are opposing the changes as unnecessary and unreasonable.

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A recently published genetic study of bats in the Philippines indicates that there may be more species of those critters there than was previously believed.

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A scientific model suggests that birds have been migrating for much longer than had been thought. It seems that they were migrating during glaciation periods and that their migrations shifted with climate change. 


Comments

  1. A majority of Americans do indeed favor taking measures to combat climate change, yet out federal government is in denial. This is true of many issues, gun control is another example. The reasons for this are complicated. But a lot has to do with the way our government is structured. Either way the current administration may stay in power meaning that the federal government will do nothing about climate change. If there are to be solutions, they will have to come from other sources. I am not sure if that is possible or if it can be effective, but it is the the only way forward if they stay in power.

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    Replies
    1. Many states and cities and even corporations are taking up the fight against climate change, but as long as the federal government is doing everything it can to oppose them, it will be difficult for them to make a major impact. Nevertheless, we must do what we can even in the face of sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

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  2. Great picture of the Purple Martin. It will be quite a while yet before they return here, but we look forward to it. It seems to be the height of folly to weaken clean water regulations doesn't it? Not a whole lot of other good news either.

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I can't take credit for the martin picture. I stole it from the All About Birds website and forgot to give them credit. I've corrected that now. It is the height of folly to weaken clean water regulations. Why would we deliberately poison ourselves?

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  3. The Black-throated Blue Warbler is so cute! I wish I saw more birds here!

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    1. The defining characteristic of warblers is their cuteness!

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  4. Lovely photos! I always learn new things from your blog. That's really bizarre that the gorillas were killed by lightning!


    Feel free to share at My Corner of the World

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    1. It does seem bizarre and yet it is something that is not unheard of in that part of the world.

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  5. We sure need a Democrat in the White House and more of them in the Senate.

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  6. I should probably not put into words here all the words I want to say about all the terrible things our government is the cause of right now

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