This week in birds - #417

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

A young Purple Gallinule perches on a sunken log in a duckweed covered lake in Brazos Bend State Park in southeast Texas. These gallinules were once fairly rare in this area but they have become more and more common in recent years.

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The western states are burning. Many of the fires in California, Oregon, and Washington are still uncontrolled. Thousands of people have had to evacuate from their homes and the death toll is expected to rise further. Several states, including Texas, have sent firefighters and equipment to aid in the effort to bring the fires under control. The fires have not been mentioned by the country's president and help from the federal government has been minimal.

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The Cima Dome fire in California has burned 42,700 acres of the Mojave National Preserve, sweeping through and destroying a large and dense Joshua tree woodland.

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The frequent wildfires in the West are changing the landscape there. It becomes increasingly likely that repeated wildfires will prevent some forests from regenerating.

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It hasn't gotten as much notice but there have also been record-breaking wildfires in the Arctic this summer and that is very bad news for the environment. The fires are releasing record levels of carbon dioxide as they burn ancient peatlands that had been a carbon sink.

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As if all that were not enough bad news for the environment, climate forecasters have announced that the world has entered a La Niña phase, the opposite of the El Niño phase. La Niña means there is a potential for worsening drought conditions in the American Southwest this winter which is just about the last thing the area needs.

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A pair of Whooping Cranes prepare for takeoff at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, their winter home, on the Texas Coast.

This simply boggles my imagination. Why would anyone do this? Poachers are the main impediment to the successful reintroduction of the endangered Whooping Crane in Louisiana. Poaching has accounted for 25% of the deaths of birds when a cause could be determined since the reintroduction program began in 2011.

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Up to 48 species have been saved from extinction through the efforts of conservationists since 1993. Scientists estimate that extinction rates for birds and mammals would have been three to four times higher without the interventions of conservationists.

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Orca J35 of the Southern Resident population of orcas off the Pacific Northwest who is famous for having carried her dead calf for 17 days back in 2018 has given birth again, this time to a robust and healthy calf, a sign of hope for the endangered whales.

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After a 74 year absence, a pair of Peregrine Falcons nested and raised three chicks at New York's Taughannock Gorge, the site of the first reintroduction effort after the falcon's brush with extinction back in the 1960s.

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Financial regulators have finally woken up to the fact that climate change could be a major threat to the economy. Will this finally be the thing that will get through to the deniers, the fact that it could affect their pocketbook?

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A new study published in Nature posits that there is still time to preserve Earth's biodiversity but it will require bold conservation and restoration efforts.

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Sea otters in normal circumstances can eat nearly 1,000 sea urchins a day and their decline along Alaska's Aleutian Islands has had a drastic effect on the ecosystem of the area.

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A survey of birds using 61 nesting boxes around a golf course in Minnesota revealed that the birds devoured over five million insects during the nesting season.

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An aerial survey along the Louisiana coast following Hurricane Laura revealed that a significant amount of oil from rigs in the Gulf had been released by the storm.

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Over 80% of the Boreal Forest of North America remains intact, but to ensure that continues requires action to protect it now.

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"Regenerative plant agriculture" is being touted as a benefit for grassland birds whose populations are declining seriously. It is being marketed as a way to help preserve the birds, but there is no scientific data to support its supposed benefits.

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The Living Planet Report 2020, biannual assessment by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of Londonconcludes that animal communities worldwide have shrunk by 68% between 1970 and 2016.

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Hummingbirds are known to be able to go into torpor to save energy, but hummingbirds in the high Andes take this ability to its extreme, perhaps even hibernating.

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Purple Martins are gathering to make their fall migration. In Nashville, upwards of 150,000 of the birds are staging for their flight and, much as the birds are loved, that has created some problems for the city. 




Comments

  1. The fires are absolutely horrendous. I did not know that they were also burning in the arctic.

    It is good to know that a few species are bouncing back from near extinction.

    Those Purple Gallinule are magnificent birds.

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    Replies
    1. The adult Purple Gallinules are particularly striking, but even the babies like the one pictured are quite amazing. Those feet!

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  2. We are witnessing climate change in action - yet some continue to deny it. As for the poachers hunting Whooping Cranes, I cannot begin to tell you what I wish on them.

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  3. We have not seen blue sky or the sun, except for an eerie looking orange ball in the sky for many days. It is sobering how much not being able to see the sky affects the mind and emotions.

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    Replies
    1. That's very true. During long periods of overcast weather when the sun doesn't appear, I've found my mood matches the weather. Here's hoping you have rain followed by clear skies in California sooner rather than later.

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  4. I always look forward to this post of yours. It's always a great summary of what is going on in the world.

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    1. It's my little contribution for environmental enlightenment.

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  5. The fires are devastating. It feels like the apocalypse. I'll forward the story of the peregrine falcons to my brother in Montana ... he's a birder who follows these birds. A bit of good news for once.

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    Replies
    1. Good news is always welcome, especially these days.

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