This week in birds - #443

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

The adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are passing through. The adult males always arrive first to be followed soon by the adult females and the immatures.

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There was more progress for the Biden administration on getting its department heads in place this week. Most notably, Deb Haaland was confirmed and then sworn in as head of the Department of the Interior, the first Native American to head the department. Worldwide, indigenous people are often the most effective stewards of Nature and their leadership will be important in protecting Earth's land and water.

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Many countries are making an effort to curb the trade in plastic waste, but the United States is one of the greatest contributors to the problem.

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A new study of whale behavior after being attacked by whaling ships in the 19th century indicates that information about attacks was shared among the whales and that they then modified their behavior to avoid humans.

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Jaguars could roam over a wider area of the United States than previously thought according to a new study. The study identified an area of land the size of South Carolina located in Arizona and parts of western New Mexico that could potentially support as many as 150 of the big cats.

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Harpy Eagles are often persecuted in parts of Central and South America. A recent study identified cases of people killing the birds in eleven of the eighteen countries that are parts of their range. People shoot them out of curiosity and a desire to see them up close or because they perceive them as being a threat to their livestock.

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Restoring the Environmental Protection Agency will be an uphill battle for the Biden administration. The first order of business is to get the agency restaffed. Many people have left its employment in recent years and the previous administration either allowed staffing to languish or installed people who were inimical to the mission of the EPA.

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Here's a novel idea for reducing methane in the environment: Feed cows seaweed. Researchers have found that cows belch out 82% less methane if they are fed small amounts of seaweed for five months.

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The coyote that had terrorized an area near San Francisco over the last eight months was caught and euthanized last week. The animal had bitten five people, including two small children, in its attacks.

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Why did the amphibian cross the road? To get to a vernal pool where it can lay its eggs. At this time of the year, amphibians search for these vernal pools where they came from, but humans have made their search more dangerous by building roads in their way and they must risk their lives to cross those roads. Of course, many are squashed by traffic in the process, but caring humans volunteer to help them, ferrying them across roads to miss oncoming vehicles. (This annual effort was described by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass which I recently read.)

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And about Ireland and its snakes and St. Patrick: In fact, snakes were eradicated in Ireland during the Ice Age when the entire island was covered in ice. The snakes have never returned.

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Florida might wish that its feral hogs could be similarly eradicated for they are a destructive invasive species that numbers in the millions in the state. However, they are a boon to the professional hunters that seek them out for destruction.

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The wall that the previous president tried to build along the southern border of the country is in bits and pieces that really serve no purpose. They do not keep people out and they are an eyesore that causes great harm to the environment. The question now is what to do with those bits and pieces that cost over $15 billion to build, a price tag that was definitely not paid by Mexico.

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Why do hummingbirds hum? Inquiring minds wanted to know and so they studied the question and came up with an answer. It's all to do with aerodynamic forces and pressure changes. 

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An invasive grass is threatening the saguaro cacti, the West's most iconic cactus. The invasion of the grass has been allowed by climate change and so protecting the cacti ultimately involves fighting the warming of the climate.

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This is not the kind of news we've been used to reading about wolves recently but in fact, one species of the gray wolf is doing very well indeed. It is the Mexican gray wolf whose population has just about doubled in the last five years.

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One of the policies being considered by the Biden administration is the imposition of a carbon tariff on trades with countries that it deems are not doing enough to fight climate change.

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Wintering owls in Weaselhead Park in Calgary have been drawing tremendous crowds of birders eager to see them and that's not really a good thing because their presence stresses out the owls.

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The mountain gazelle has been hunted to near extinction worldwide, but it has found an unlikely sanctuary where it has made a bit of a comeback. On the edge of the war zone between the Syrian and Turkish border, the gazelle is actually recovering and its numbers are multiplying.

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China has a climate blueprint that is intended to get it to carbon neutrality before 2060 but the dependence of some of its companies and regions on coal is making that task more difficult. 

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Romania has a major conservation project underway. Its goal is to create a national park that will rival its American counterparts. Conservationists hope that it will be a "Romanian Yellowstone."

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The Keystone XL pipeline has been stopped but there is another pipeline, Line 3, that would deliver climate-polluting tar sands to the United States.  Indigenous people are raising the alarm about it, claiming that it would cut through treaty territory of the Anishinaabe people, threatening wild rice, fresh water, and the climate. 

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The West Coast's air quality improvements because of the pandemic were wiped out by the wildfires that swept through the area last year. The fires helped to make North America the only continent where air quality actually worsened in 2020.

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In a world where news of the environment is so often bad, there is actually some progress being made. There is, after all, some hope.


Comments

  1. As always, Dorothy, your roundup is the anchor point for my weekend, with leads to stories that require looking into, and I am always grateful that the State of Texas has you on weekly loan to the rest of the world.

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    1. I suspect that some in the State of Texas would be happy to "loan" me permanently!

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  2. Excited about Deb Haaland! The wall-grinds teeth. Be safe in Texas!

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    1. I'm excited about Deb Haaland, too. I have high hopes for her.

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  3. I am looking forward to once again having an EPA run by people who actually care about and want to protect the environment. It will be a long climb, but it is necessary and MUST happen. We are already at the breaking point, if not past it. Our planet will not survives humans unless that damage can be undone.

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  4. It is exciting to think about the return of the hummingbirds to our area. I'm looking forward to seeing some migrating birds down at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary this year.

    I have no idea what we should do with that awful wall. Fifteen billion dollars? Sad.

    For my own peace of mind, I'm trying to focus upon the hopeful this week.

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    1. Focusing on the positive is always the way to go. Focusing on the negative gets us nowhere and only leads to despair.

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  5. Well thanks for the Calgary story ... we live about a mile from the Weaselhead so it was a good story to read. I was away for February ... so I did not know about the Owl mania going on there ... but now I will walk there this week and see if I see any of the Owls. So amazing.

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    1. That's interesting. I did not know what part of Canada you lived in.

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