This week in birds - #470

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

The American Bird Conservancy's Bird of the Week is a member of the thrush family. It is the Swainson's Thrush, an omnivorous diner on invertebrates and small fruits. The Swainson's is a far-ranging wanderer. Most of them breed in the boreal forests of North America before flying south to spend the winter in Central and South America.

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The Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that 23 species that had been designated as endangered are now considered to be extinct. Among the 23 are 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat, and a plant. Included in the 11 bird species that are believed extinct are the Bachman's Warbler and the iconic bird of southern swamps, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Early in this century, there was a flurry of excitement regarding the woodpecker when a bird was seen in an Arkansas swamp by experienced birders that they believed to be an Ivory-bill. But an intensive search of the area was never able to produce a picture or an unambiguous recording of the sound that would have confirmed the sighting.

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The Biden administration is busily unwinding dozens of energy and environmental policies of the previous administration that did not take into consideration climate change and in many instances actually contributed to the problem. Of course, none of this is happening as quickly as conservationists would like.

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The biggest barrier to rewilding areas is people. It is important to ensure that people in the area buy in to the project. This is the goal of a project for rewilding the Affric Highlands of Scotland.

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The Hawaiian volcano Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It last erupted in 2018 and created widespread devastation. Now there are signs that it is about to erupt again.

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For the first time in five years, the Bureau of Land Management has a director confirmed by the Senate. The confirmation of Tracy Stone-Manning was along party lines after Republicans tried to block the nomination.

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A little mentioned part of the infrastructure bill currently before Congress is a provision for funding new habitat for pollinators. The provision would help wildlife in general and people in the process.

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As the western wildfires have become bigger and more dangerous, authorities have responded by dumping loads of fire retardant chemicals on them. But what are the effects of these chemicals on the environment? There are concerns that they may result in fish kills and damage to aquatic life and to the quality of water.

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Swarming midges may look chaotic but scientists who have studied them say that one can find mathematical signatures of properties beyond what one would expect from a swarm of bugs. Indeed they can act like liquids or gases and even exhibit the characteristics of the stage of matter at which radical transformation from one state to another can occur in a blink. 

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As shortages of water mount in the West, there is increased interest in the desalination of water from the Pacific Ocean. Of course, such a process would come with environmental and economic costs.

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Last week, a group of nine philanthropists pledged $5 billion to finance the protection of 30% of land and sea by the end of the decade. It will be the largest ever donation to Nature conservation. 

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A new book by Thor Hanson called Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid documents how species are adjusting to the reality of climate change.

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Cassowaries, the flightless birds native to New Guinea and Australia, are called the most dangerous birds on Earth. But there is evidence that some 18,000 years ago people actually raised them. 

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And speaking of dangerous, river otters are generally thought of as cute and cuddly animals but in Anchorage, Alaska there is a pack of aggressive otters that have taken to attacking people and their pets. Wildlife experts are at a loss to explain the behavior.

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Severe drought in Paraguay has led to a serious depletion of the Parana River, South America's second-longest waterway and Paraguay's life-giving artery.

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After the passage of Hurricane Ida, gas and oil wells in the Gulf have sprung dozens of leaks. Satellite imagery is able to document the spread of the leaks and spills.

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The Great Auk has been extinct for 200 years, but we are still able to learn from it about what it takes for animals to thrive in certain parts of the world.

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Here's a sobering thought: Children born in 2020 will experience up to seven times more extreme climate events in their lifetime than people born in 1960.

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Much of the world seems to be worried about the possibility of running out of natural gas. The impact of that fear is being felt in rising utility prices, shuttered factories, and some feeling of desperation as winter approaches.

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Another source of energy is hydropower. Some U.S. states are hoping to import hydropower from Canada but not everyone approves of that move. They believe there are better options closer to home.

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The Biden administration has restored protections for birds that were loosened by the previous administration. The move is cheered by conservationists and damned by the oil and gas industry.

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Major league baseball teams that fly all over the country for games during their 162 game six month season contribute a lot of carbon to the atmosphere through those flights. Some major leaguers are concerned about the sport's impact on the environment and are taking steps to try to ameliorate its effects.

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Here are ten great city projects that are helping to bring Nature to the city.

Comments

  1. I know it is Saturday without checking because the weekly roundup is in my blog feed, so I settled back with my coffee to start the day. The mention of the Sea Otters attacking humans and their pets gave me a bit of a chuckle. They are probably just fed up with us! And they have every right to be given the way we have treated them. I have always wondered what environmental effects all the fire retardants dumped on the landscape will have (that's an awkward sentence!). I guess we are about to find out, but I guarantee you it won't be good.

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    Replies
    1. I know what you mean regarding the otters. I think Nature, in general, may be fed up with us.

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  2. I was terribly sad to hear that 23 species have been declared extinct. I held out hope that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was still out there somewhere.

    The ten city projects that are helping bring nature to the city give me a lot of hope. Most of these are easily replicable.

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    Replies
    1. When the Arkansas sightings occurred, we went to a lecture in Houston by a Cornell professor who was very excited about them and was absolutely certain that they had been correct in their identification. I left the lecture full of hope but as months and then years went by and there was no further definitive information, it seemed likely that the experienced birders had been wrong in their assessment. I still have faint hope that the bird might exist somewhere in some forgotten southern swamp, but I admit my hope is firmly based on wishful thinking.

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  3. i sincerely empathize with Alaskan otters... maybe they're smarter than we thought...

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  4. More great links. My granddaughter showed me a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIoQGs8lvxk:> video of ferocious river otters in the Amazon</a> a month or so ago. I've always thought otters were playful, but although they don't usually attack humans, they are capable of ferocious action against predators.

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    1. They would probably not survive long in the wild if they were not capable of such action.

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  5. The desalination story and the hydropower article interest me so I will read those over carefully to understand better. Just to think San Diego has some desalination plants ....

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    1. It might be worth considering but every thing such action does have consequences. Sometimes unintended negative consequences.

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  6. So much going on... and some still dent what is blatantly in front of us! It's insane! I wonder what's with the aggressive otters though...

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    1. Sadly, some people are not able to admit that human-caused climate change is happening because it would call into question their firmly held political beliefs. They could be drowning in the rising seawater or roasting in 130 degree temperatures and they would still deny it.

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