This week in birds - #396

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

The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are passing through on their way north. Here a male and female share a meal at one of my feeders.

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The water in the Gulf of Mexico is more than three degrees above average in temperature. This substantially increases the prospects for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes this spring and potentially stronger hurricane activity in the summer and fall. The last time Gulf of Mexico waters were similarly warm in 2017, it coincided with an above-average tornado season through the spring, and then Category 4 Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of summer. There are places along the coast that still haven't completely recovered from Harvey.

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The current administration in Washington is taking the opportunity of the distraction caused by the pandemic to aggressively roll back environmental protection laws. For example, they want to reduce fuel efficiency standards put in place by the Obama Administration. Those standards would have saved six billion tons of greenhouse gases.

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Brazil is also scaling back environmental protection enforcement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The loss of wetlands along their migration route is causing Whooping Cranes to travel in larger flocks and this is putting them at greater risk of a disease outbreak or of extreme weather.

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One effect of the almost worldwide lockdown and sheltering in place is that it has reduced human noise on the surface of the planet. Scientists have remarked on this somewhat more silent world and are beginning to study its effects.

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The plastics industry has spent billions in an effort to promote the idea of recycling their products and yet most of what they manufacture is not recyclable.

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A major review reports that the restoration of the oceans and recovery of the marine life in them is possible within a generation, but it will require a major effort and commitment. 

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Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar illegally imported wild animals from around the world for his personal zoo. After his death, the government removed the animals to zoos or wildlife sanctuaries, but the hippos proved intractable. They remained where they were and, without natural predators, they have increased their population to around 100 animals. This is having an effect on the Colombian ecosystem. 

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Climate change is affecting birds in many different ways and they are trying to adjust. One effect attributed to climate change is a shortening of the wings of Common Nightingales. This may make migration more difficult for the birds, but if the world is warmer perhaps they won't migrate anymore or at least not as far.

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In an opinion piece, Vijay Kolinijivadi makes the point that the coronavirus pandemic is related to climate change and that climate action should be part of our response to it.

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New York has no more coal-burning power plants. Their last one closed on Tuesday.

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The interactions of various species of birds can be fascinating. For example, Yellow Warblers have a special call that warns other warblers that Brown-headed Cowbirds are nearby. The cowbirds victimize warblers by laying eggs in their nests. Scientists have discovered that Red-winged Blackbirds also respond to that call as if they know what it means.

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Tristan da Cunha is in the most remote part of the Pacific Ocean and it is home to at least 25 species of seabirds, four of which are endangered. The ecosystem around the archipelago is irreplaceable and deserves protection.

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Here's some good news from the oceans: The kelp forests around Tierra del Fuego are thriving and are essentially unchanged from when they were first surveyed in 1973.

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The cost of solar energy keeps going down and in the sunniest places - one of which would certainly be Texas - it is the cheapest way of producing electricity.

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Image from Slate.com.
Yellow Warblers are on their way north now along with other neotropical migrants. There you are stuck inside your house, looking for ways to entertain yourself. Well, you have a window, don't you? Look out! There's no better time to become a bird watcher. And I think we can agree there is no more delightful part of Nature than the world of birds. Moreover, they are just about the most accessible part, so what are you waiting for?  


Comments

  1. I read that piece about plastic recycling. This is really unfortunate. It seems that there is less of an issue with technology and more if an issue with economics. If that piece is correct, I think that higher taxes on plastic manufacturing would probably make recycling more economically viable

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  2. Thanks as always for the roundup, Dorothy. Great service that you do in bringing it to our attention. Yellow Warbler is among the species we have encountered feeding cowbird young, and we have pictures. Other species include Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow and one other that my ancient brain won't summon right now. Just remembered - Red-eyed Vireo!

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    Replies
    1. I always found it interesting that cowbirds victimize birds that are smaller than they are, but I suppose that is the way with most bullies!

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  3. I like watching the little birds at our feeder; makes me feel that spring is coming and nests are being made. The lowering of the fuel efficiency standards really ticked me off! Will any court orders be able to stop this? Grrrrrr

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    1. Conservation groups are in court every day fighting these moves by the administration. We can only hope that some enlightened judge may intervene. And in the meantime, we should do whatever we can to support the organizations that are fighting for our environment and our health. Perhaps most importantly, we must do whatever we can wherever we are to kick this administration into the dustbins of history where it belongs!

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  4. The environmental protections have to be kept in place and I hate that trump is using this time to attack them but I am not at all surprised. He is always good with the distracting but I wish more journalists would cover this as well.

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    1. His pettiness and vengefulness know no bounds. Every time we think he can't go any lower, he finds new depths.

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  5. Thank you Bird Woman! I am glad to hear that someone is smart enough to agree with me-:) The pandemic is for sure hand in hand with climate change. Anyway it is peacock mating season here, they cry out night and day and the males do their dance. Before long we will have the mothers with their chicks following behind. After 9 years in this neighborhood I accept it as all part of the show!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you have the peacocks to entertain you at this time.

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