This week in birds - #439

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

This Spotted Towhee is having a drink at Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas.

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The weather disaster that has afflicted Texas over the last several days was thoroughly predictable and in fact, was predicted after the last severe cold we had here ten years ago. But our independent power grid which is not allowed to share energy with the other two power grids in the country had not heeded the warnings to prepare for extremely cold weather, and so it failed, and people suffered and died. It failed, not because of frozen wind turbines (although some did freeze), but primarily because of frozen pipelines that had moisture in them.

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The extremely cold weather was deadly not just for humans but also for the sea turtles that make their way to Texas shores at this time of year. About 3,500 of the turtles were rescued this week and taken to South Padre Island Convention center to be kept warm and safe.

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Another disaster, the coronavirus pandemic, caused the cancellation of this winter's count of the Texas wintering flock of endangered Whooping Cranes.

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Although construction of the wall along our southern border has been stopped, there is still a considerable mess that had been made by the construction that had already taken place and it needs cleaning upThe damage to people, ecosystems, and communities that had been caused by the construction continues to mount and poses one more problem for which the Biden administration must try to find a solution.

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This tiny three-week-old animal being held by the scientist is the first to be cloned from an endangered species native to North America. It is a Black-footed Ferret and her name is Elizabeth Ann. Her birth offers hope for bringing needed genetic diversity to the endangered species.

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Stormwater runoff is generally wasted but if it as well as other precipitation were collected, it could become an important water resource.

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Poisoning, habitat loss, and persecution are causing Andean Condors to become increasingly scarce. The latest Red List update of vulnerable and endangered species designates the birds as vulnerable

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The previous administration had limited the consideration of climate change in environmental reviews. The rule that instituted that restriction has now been revoked by the Biden administration.

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DNA analysis of coyote bites on humans in the Bay Area around San Francisco has confirmed that the bites were all caused by a single coyote. There have been attacks on four people all within a two-mile radius. Police and wildlife officials are attempting to capture the animal.

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The situation in Texas and surrounding states caused by stresses on the power grids due to unusual extremely cold weather is another warning for our future that we need to prepare for the drastic changes that can be brought about by climate change. Let us hope that government officials pay more attention to this warning than they have to all of the ones in the past.

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This is a Redwing which is a European species not normally found in North America, but one is paying a visit to Maine this winter and causing the hearts of all the birders in the region to beat just a little faster as they make haste to add it to their life lists.

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The fishing cat of Asia has webbed feet and a tail that acts as a rudder. It frequents mangroves and wetlands in search of its prey, but it is made vulnerable by the loss of those habitats.  In West Bengal, a conservation effort is underway that hopes to help save the unusual cat.

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Himani, a snow leopard that had done much to help save her species, has died at the age of 17 at the Cape May County Zoo in New Jersey. She had reared four litters of cubs at a time when snow leopard breeding success was rare.

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Research has shown that oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by as much as three-fourths since 1970. The main culprit in the decline seems to be industrialized fishing.

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A study recently completed in Europe and North America indicates that the composition of wintering and breeding bird communities changes in line with global warming. However, wintering bird communities are considerably faster at tracking the changing climate compared to breeding communities.

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It appears that Oregon's wolves may be dispersing into California and establishing packs there. Wolves can range across hundreds and even thousands of miles once dispersed from their original pack, but once they mate and establish their own pack they tend to stay in a defined area.

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Sunflower seeds, especially black-oil sunflower seeds, are a favorite with many different species of birds that frequent our feeders. The only problem with them is that the birds shell them to get at the hearts and the shells tend to pile up and can make an unsightly mess. But it is possible to purchase sunflower seed hearts, already prepared for the birds and one birder highly recommends that option. 

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There have been several stories in the press recently about mammals that show a fluorescent glow under UV light. Another one has been identified to have that trait. It is the springhare, with joins the platypus and other mammals that share this distinction. 




Comments

  1. Thank you for the weekly roundup, Dorothy. While we despair the plight of the people of Texas, and our deepest sympathies go out to affected citizens, we shake our heads that even a disaster if this magnitude can be turned into an us versus them game of political blame-laying. I watched your governor on television and I was disgusted. I watched Ted Cruz, more concerned with his Facebook page than his constituents, spewing babble of the worst kind, all designed to help him squirm out from under the mess he made for himself. It is a continuing mystery to me that we continue to elect people like this. I suppose that ultimately we have only ourselves to blame.

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    1. I am frequently disgusted by our state "government" which has for 25 years been in the hands of a party that doesn't believe in governing for the public good but for the profit of themselves and their friends. When I despair I remind myself that almost one-half of us did not vote for this and did not ask for it. But even for those who did and who are now freezing in their homes, my heart breaks for them.

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  2. I am incredibly intrigued by the cloning possibilities that exist in order to save the many species that we have driven to the edge of extinction. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It is a fascinating procedure and one that apparently does hold some promise for helping endangered species.

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    2. It's wonderful news and hopefully there will be more like regarding other species that are also endangered

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  3. So, how did you and your husband fare this past week?

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    1. We are alive and well, warm and fed. The sun is shining. It is 55 degrees and supposed to get up to 70 here tomorrow. We spent some very uncomfortable hours but are thankful that our experience wasn't any worse than it was. As for my garden, best not to speak of it.

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  4. Good points about the situation in Texas. It seems that everything was done wrong. Including humanity's global response. Hopefully this will help wake people up.

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    1. We can certainly hope, although given the quality of the "leadership" we have here in Texas I can't be too optimistic.

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  5. I saw a Houston area resident say on tv that this winter storm reminded him of Hurricane Harvey...except that Harvey was because of nature while this storm's problems were caused by man.

    It's interesting to think about cloned animals for endangered species.

    And I've very glad to see that sea turtles were cared for during this winter storm.

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    1. The sea turtle story was one of the more heartening episodes this week, and there have been a few. Thank goodness!

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