This week in birds - #480

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

The Sandhill Cranes are back to spend their winter along the Texas coast.

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New Zealand has the right idea. They are banning smoking for the next generation and the plan is to ban it outright by 2025.

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Balmy Hawaii was under a rare blizzard warning this week. Meanwhile, 65 weather stations across the country recorded record high temperatures. Meteorologists attributed the latest spate of weather extremes to a stuck jet stream and the effects of a La Niña weather pattern in cooling Pacific waters.

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And in the Pacific, that Great Pacific Garbage Patch of plastic detritus is being colonized by coastal species that are adapting to the newly created territory. Nature finds a way.

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There may be some relief on the horizon for drought-stricken areas along the West Coast. Storms are expected to bring some heavy precipitation to the parched area. 

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The population of North Atlantic right whales has been so seriously decimated that the birth of one whale baby is cause for celebration.

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The eruption of the Mount Semeru volcano in Indonesia has devastated a wide area, leaving hundreds homeless and killing at least fourteen.

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And in Montana, a combination of record-high temperatures and high winds has sparked a series of unusual December prairie fires.

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The Bureau of Land Management has moved to scrap a decision made in the previous administration that granted a pipeline right-of-way to Cadiz Inc. without the required environmental review. The pipeline would have taken water from a fragile aquifer under the Mojave Trails National Monument near the Mojave National Preserve.

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The mountain gorillas of Rwanda were once dwindling in numbers but their population is now on the rise and they are attracting much-needed tourism in the area that is boosting the local economy. A win-win for both gorillas and local people. 

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A study has found that the natural regrowth of tropical forests yields better results than interference by human plantings. Such forests are able to regenerate themselves within twenty years.

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A fish called the Batman River loach has been found in Turkey by scientists working on the Search for the Lost Fishes project. The fish had not been seen in the wild since 1974 and was feared extinct.

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Florida's manatees are in dire straits and wildlife officials there have made the decision to give them extra feeding. The mammals have suffered catastrophic losses in the past year.

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Fossilized footprints in Tanzania that had been thought to have been those of a bear are now believed to have been made by an unidentified human ancestor more than 3.6 million years ago.

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The warming waters of the Arctic have made the area friendlier to orcas and they are taking advantage of places that were once blocked by ice. The effect of their predation is being felt up and down the food chain.

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Planting trees to restore a green canopy to urban spaces also aids in the overall restoration or reclamation of an area. This can be especially helpful to under-resourced neighborhoods primarily of people of color that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

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Bat pups learn their way around the neighborhood from their mothers while being carried rapidly through the air, upside-down at night.

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Somebody is poisoning wolves in Oregon. So far, eight animals have been killed. Police have been unable to catch the killer. There are calls for additional protections for gray wolves. 

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The climate crisis has hit the wine industry in the West particularly hard. Between frosts, heat waves, and wildfires it has been hard to keep vineyards going and healthy.

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A British man out for a walk in a Singapore park was attacked by a family of otters and seriously bitten. Apparently, the animals had been startled when another man ran towards them and they vented their fury on the poor innocent walker.

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In one of New York City's most ambitious green infrastructure improvement projects, a long-buried brook,  Tibbetts Brook in the Bronx, will be unearthed and allowed to run free again. 

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The Blackfeet Nation of Montana is restoring bison to their territory there. So far they have returned 90 animals to their land.

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Did you know that there is such a thing as a camel beauty contest? And did you know that apparently, some owners of the camels in the contest are using botox injections to enhance the appearance of their camels? The Saudis who run the contest are cracking down on the "manipulators" and will impose strict penalties they say.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Dorothy, for the weekend roundup. There are glimmers of encouragement here and there in this collection, but I am especially concerned about marine organisms using plastic detritus as habitat. If there is a sure way to promote the spread on invasive species this would seem to be it. The restoration of a brook in The Bronx? How great is that! Make sure it's kept free of urban trash folks!

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    1. The plastic habitat does indeed seem to have both positive and negative implications. The positive is the resilience of Nature and the fact that if she is given a new challenge, she will find a way to deal with it. I find it very reassuring to know that there is probably nothing we can throw at her that she will not find a way to overcome eventually. As for the restoration of the Bronx brook, nothing negative there!

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  2. Hearing that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is being colonized is a hopeful sign. Adapt, adapt, adapt.

    And the more I think about it, the more I realize that loss of humans is not a bad thing...

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    1. As long as humans continue to try to do their worst to mess up their home, our loss could indeed be a positive.

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  3. I read that about New Zealand - I think that's great! I saw a sad thing on the news about the manatees in FL dying off because of a lack of food (they eat algae) and they are attempting to provide lettuce, leafy greens to help as a food source - so sad. Happy to read west coast will be having much needed rain.

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    1. We can only hope that the supplemental feeding of the manatees will help to turn things around there. If Florida would clean up its environment and stop destroying their natural food source, that would be even better.

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  4. on a bike ride in the local city a flock of Canadian geese was lolling about in the middle of a fairly major road. traffic both ways stopped and watched them until they decided to meander off into a nearby pond... i was impressed that no one barreled right on thru regardless... in spite of the news, most people are fairly gentle and considerate... i tend to forget that...

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    1. Yes, it is nice to be reminded of that from time to time. In spite of all the news reports we see and hear to the contrary, most people try to do the right thing most of the time. It often seems that the media is only interested in negative events. "If it bleeds, it leads."

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  5. I'd read about the Alaska attacks by otters, now Singapore? Well, at least there is some good news , and I love the baby bat training!

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    1. Yes, bats are wonderful if often unappreciated critters and the babies, like most babies, are quite adorable.

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  6. Wow, New Zealand is really biting off a big chunk by banning future smokers the way they want to do. While I admire the effort and wish them the best for trying, I hope it doesn't end up backfiring on them the way that Prohibition backfired o this country last century. Young teens, born rebels that they all are, may end up smoking even more than they otherwise would have precisely because it is more of a thrill to do something illegal and get away with it. I hope not.

    I remember those days when I had to sit next to smokers everywhere we went, including the office, and how sickeningly terrible we smelled when we got into our cars to drive home. Still can't believe that nonsmokers were so badly mistreated. My wife, who grew up in a home with two chainsmoker parents, is paying the price today even though she never smoked once in her whole life. She has been diagnosed with early COPD symptoms now, and it gets worse every year for her.

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    1. I have faith that New Zealanders are smarter than us and will adhere to the new regulations.

      How sad that your wife has to pay the price for growing up in a house with smokers. I realize that smoking is an addiction that is hard to kick, but if smoking parents only realized what they are doing to their children...

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  7. Loved the photo of the sandhill cranes. They winter by the tens of thousands in Cochise County, Arizona, and my husband and I have spent many happy January hours at Whitewater Draw watching them. Once you hear the sound thousands of cranes make, you never forget it.

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    1. That picture was actually made at Bosque del Apache during a trip we made there a few years ago. There were thousands there, too. I always look forward to the sounds of the cranes' migratory flights over our place in the fall. You are right that it is an unforgettable and evocative sound. It's always a reminder that winter is coming.

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  8. The ecological news does seem mixed this week.

    Like many Hawaiian people (I've only visited) I found the emphasis on that blizzard warning hilarious -- even CNN reported it as if unusual weather was coming for the entire island chain. Balmy Hawaii was, however, fine. It was indeed getting rain: not that unusual. The predicted snow fell, as it often does, on the 15,000 foot mountain tops where no one actually lives except a few researchers at the high-altitude telescope. Snow is not at all unusual at those heights. The news sources really think we are dumb.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Indeed, the reports did say that a blizzard warning in Hawaii was unusual. There certainly was plenty of unusual weather there this week as there was right across the country.

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  9. I really hope they find out who is poisoning those wolves! I didn't know otters were so violent!

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    1. Well, they have teeth and claws and obviously they can be violent if startled or they feel threatened.

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  10. As if camel beauty contests weren't weird enough, and that Botox was even weirder, but the Saudi government is actually involved in stopping the Botox so all the camels have a fair chance, and don't get injected with poison...so weird.

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