Friday, February 05, 2016

Loose Feathers #531

Northern Harrier / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, January 29, 2016

Loose Feathers #530

Common Goldeneye with Northern Crayfish / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
  • The armed occupation of Malheur NWR appears to be drawing to a close. While a few militants are left in the refuge, at least eleven have been arrested and others have gone home. The refuge will be treated like a crime scene so it will be a while before it reopens. Much of the coverage of the occupation has centered on political disputes about public land. Somewhat lost is what the refuge means for wildlife and for birders.
  • The USFWS gave up trying to give energy companies 30-year take permits for Bald and Golden Eagles.
  • Urban green spaces can support a great diversity of resident and migratory birds.
  • The extinct Pink-headed Duck derived its pink plumage from carotenoids.
  • A federal appeals court decided that the Port Authority could kill Snowy Owls at airports around New York City.
  • The genome for the 'Alalā (Hawaiian Crow) was sequenced as its conservation team prepares to reintroduce it to the wild.
  • The USFWS will end the use of ultralight aircraft to guide Whooping Crane migration over concerns about the Wisconsin population's lack of breeding success.
  • Birds with diverse migration strategies might adapt more easily to environmental change.
  • Many White Storks overwinter at landfills or fish farms rather than migrating to their normal wintering grounds.
  • Secretary Birds use the force of five times their body weight to stamp on and kill their prey.
  • Five extinct rail species were discovered on Madeira and the Azores.
  • Mill Creek Marsh in the New Jersey Meadowlands continues to be a good birding spot now that its trails have been restored from storm damage.
  • The Northern Bobwhites that were reintroduced into the Pine Barrens appear to be doing well so far.
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • A genetically unique pod of orcas will probably die out soon since they have been unable to reproduce since the Exxon Valdez spill.
  • A new energy bill is being debated in the Senate; a lot of it is about fossil fuels, but it also will help to modernize the energy grid for wind and solar energy. Here is a profile of Lisa Murkowski, who pt the bill together.
  • The ecology of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California is so compromised that restoration requires much historical research with old maps and journals to learn how the ecosystems originally functioned.
  • New Jersey cut short its diamondback terrapin hunting season over concerns that the species is declining.
  • The beach between Cape May and Cape May Point was carved up by last week's nor'easter.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Loose Feathers #529

Short-eared Owl with a meadow vole / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, January 15, 2016

Loose Feathers #528

Bald Eagle carrying prey / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, January 08, 2016

Loose Feathers #527

Townsend's Solitaire / Photo by Steve Shunk, USFWS Volunteer
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • In order to reduce trail congestion and habitat damage, visitors to Muir Woods National Monument will need to make advance reservations starting in 2017.
  • A pesticide risk assessment by the EPA reported on risks to honeybees but barely mentioned native wild bees.
  • Most chemicals are unregulated, so a toxin like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) can cause health and environmental damage for decades before anything is done about it.
  • Aerial photography recorded a Narwhal nursery off Baffin Island.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Loose Feathers #526

Fox Sparrow / Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • The NJ legislature has voted to name the Black Swallowtail as the state butterfly.
  • Temperatures in the Arctic reached above freezing this week due to an unusual storm.
  • In my area, flowers were in bloom during the weeks before and after Christmas because of an unusual warm spell.
  • The Christmas Fern gets its name from staying green through the winter and possibly from its use in Christmas wreaths.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Loose Feathers #525

Trumpeter Swans on Seedskadee NWR / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, December 18, 2015

Loose Feathers #524

Golden Eagle / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, December 11, 2015

Loose Feathers #523

Painted Bunting at Prospect Park (photo by me)
Birds and birding news
  • This week I went to see the Painted Bunting that has lingered in the southeastern corner of Prospect Park since it was found on November 29. (One of my photos is above.) Here is a roundup of reactions and media coverage (as of a few days ago). There is a chance that the bunting will stay for a while since it has plenty to eat in the native plantings around the ice center and the early part of the winter is expected to stay mild.
  • All the same, there are other birds worth watching in the New York metro area.
  • Blackpoll Warblers that breed in northwestern North America have to migrate eastward across the continent in addition to their better-known ocean crossing.
  • Scientists were able to locate a rare Ashy Storm-Petrel nest through analysis of audio recordings
  • Spotted Owls continue to decline wherever they come into contact with Barred Owls.
  • The Bald Eagle population in Wisconsin reached a new high in the latest state surveys.
  • An injured Bald Eagle was rescued from a backyard in New Jersey after three days of trying to coax it out of a tree.
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • Endangered species decisions are often shaped more by politics than science, as in the recent decision not to list wolverines as endangered.
  • Something to remember when reading coverage of the climate talks in Paris is that the world is already committed to warming at least 1.5°C because of past and current emissions.
  • WNYC has a tool for looking up toxic sites in New Jersey. The information in it is a little sparse.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Loose Feathers #522

Green-Winged Teal / Photo by Tom Koerner (USFWS)
Birds and birding news
  • The protection of Important Bird Areas used by migratory birds is too uneven to guarantee the birds' survival. Of the 8,200 designated Important Bird Areas, only 22% are completely protected and 41% partially overlap with protected areas, and 91% of migratory birds lack protection of part or all of their migratory routes. 
  • New research suggests that the Dodo was not doomed to extinction and that invasive animals played a significant role in the Dodo's demise.
  • An adult male Painted Bunting has spent the last several days in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, well north of its usual range.
  • Seabirds return the toxic chemicals from water pollution back to land via their excrement.
  • Russian birds nesting in a church tower preserved numerous historical documents and other items in their nests.
  • The British Trust for Ornithology released its red list of birds on concern this week. While several species were downgraded, the Bittern and Nightjar improved enough to be taken off the list.
  • Possible disturbance of dotterel nesting sites during the filming of a music video is the latest example of how shooting in exotic locales can harm rare wildlife.
  • Humans speak and birds sing using different vocal organs but similar physical mechanisms.
  • There may be rare geese lurking in Canada Goose flocks if one has the patience to look for them. 
  • Starlings are more likely than other birds to drown in groups, perhaps because of their habit of bathing and drinking in groups.
  • With a handful of exceptions, most terms of venery are purely fanciful.
Science and nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity