Friday, February 13, 2009

Loose Feathers #174

purple martinPurple Martin, originally uploaded by tbtalbottjr.

Bird and birding news
  • Scientists are using miniature geolocators to track the migration of Wood Thrushes and Purple Martins. (A video at the article link shows how the unit sits on a songbird.) Some birds fly very fast; individuals would cover up to 311 miles in a day, while a Purple Martin travelled 4,650 miles in 13 days. One goal of the research is to see whether population declines match with habitat degradation along the migration route and in wintering grounds. (The research was led by Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds.)
  • A paper in the current issue of The Auk argues for a third species of meadowlark (Lilian's Meadowlark) based on mitochondrial DNA. Lilian's Meadowlarks are found in the U.S. southwest and Mexico. Apparently the best way to identify them is by examining their third rectrix.
  • Habitat fragmentation may cause inadequate pollination; Green Hermit Hummingbirds in Costa Rica will only travel within remaining habitat corridors, without crossing cleared areas.
  • Some of the stimulus money will go towards renovating the Patuxent Research Refuge and Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Patuxent houses many projects, including the Bird Banding Laboratory and endangered species recovery programs.
  • Deteriorating water quality in Lake Junín in Peru threatens the survival of the flightless Junín Grebe and the Junín Rail.
  • The California Condor Recovery Program is considering sites in Oregon for future releases.
  • An important migration stopover site in the Philippines has shrunk from 32,000 hectares to 72 hectares in just 30 years. The loss of wetland habitat threatens many Arctic migrants, in addition to local species.
  • Syncrude faces criminal charges as a result of the deaths of 500 ducks in one of its tailings ponds.
  • Recently two starlings and a Cooper's hawk were in the Metro (in different stations).
  • A bird that was previously the world's oldest Mute Swan just died at the age of 40.
  • The Arizona Field Ornithologists found a partially leucistic kestrel in the Santa Rita Mountains.
  • A female cardinal visiting someone's feeder has a white head, a red bill, a black eye, and a brown body.
  • Cornwall is getting a hotel that caters specifically to birdwatchers; each room comes with its own binoculars and spotting scope.
  • It's a mockingbird! And it's blue!
Birds in the blogosphere
Environment and biodiversity news
  • Southern Australia is in the midst of an ecological disaster, with extraordinary drought, heat, and wildfires causing tremendous loss of life among people and wildlife.
  • The head of the AAAS wants President Obama to act on climate change right away.
  • Crop diversity reduces the amount of fertilizer that runs into lakes and rivers. It is possible that the difference arises from diverse farms having smaller fields and more buffering vegetation around them.
  • The new energy secretary expects developments in technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has floated the possibility of a carbon tax rather than a cap-and-trade program.
  • Fossils in Bermuda reveal that the sea level there was 21 meters higher 400,000 years ago than it is now. The evidence is consistent with a gradual rise from melting ice sheets.
  • The oil industry proclaims itself ready to fight against global warming.
  • Meanwhile, it appears that ethanol companies are falling on hard times.
  • PSE&G plans to install 200,000 solar panels on utility poles and public buildings within the next five years. Power generated by the panels would feed directly into the electric grid.
Carnivals and newsletters
Finally, don't forget to count birds this weekend!