Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
|Tundra Swans / Photo by D. Montgomery (USFWS)|
- California may list the Black-backed Woodpecker as a threatened species. While the species is not endangered on a continental level, it is rare in that state, and its habitat is subject to intensive logging.
- Biologists are studying the Red Knots that winter along the Gulf Coast to assess whether that population is stable.
- Here is a map of this winter's Snowy Owl irruption, via eBird and BirdsEye.
- Scientists are studying hybridization patterns between Gambel's and Elegant Quail.
- The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to create wind development zones to reduce impacts of wind energy on birds and bats.
- 10,000 Birds: Rufous Hummingbirds – The Accidental Tourists
- bootstrap analysis: updated: plotting a christmas bird count circle
- Bug Girl's Blog: Roaches and Woodpecker Conservation
- A Blog Around the Clock: The wonderful quail…and what Sen.Coburn should learn about it.
- The Scicurious Brain: Cocaine and the sexual habits of quail, or, why does NIH fund what it does?
- Flickr Blog: Thomas Shahan’s Spiders in National Geographic
- PetaPixel: Magical Photos of Insects Shot Using Ordinary Household Objects
- When a gray wolf wandered from Oregon into California this week, it became the first wolf recorded in California since 1924. The wolf's movements are being tracked with a radio collar.
- Since gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, elk and coyote populations have declined, while aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees have bounced back. The beaver population has also increased.
- The Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers has been healthier this year thanks to above-average rainfall.
- A new study argues that beavers shaped much of North America's landscape.
- Newly-released satellite imagery shows the development of tar sands mining in Alberta, Canada.
- Like adult butterflies, caterpillars also engage in mimicry to appear similar to species with chemical defenses.
- A federal judge has blocked California's low-carbon fuel law, which was intended to help the state meet its goals for greenhouse gas reductions.
- Madrid has created a new six-mile-long park to rejuvenate a stretch of the Manzanares River and reconnect city neighborhoods that had been cut off from each other by a freeway. The project included digging tunnels to bury the freeway.
- Bunker fuel spilled into San Francisco Bay during the Cosco Busan accident in 2007 was particularly toxic to the bay's herring population, which is important for seabirds and other marine predators.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
|White-throated Sparrow in Donaldson Park|
|At least the starlings showed up|
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
|Snow Geese and Ross's Geese at Sacramento NWR / Photo by Steve Emmons, USFWS|
- Scientists are urging that at least one third of "forage fish" like anchovies and herring be left for seabirds to eat. The high commercial demand for "forage fish" is starting to put seabird populations such as gulls, kittiwakes, terns, puffins, and penguins at risk.
- When Lesser Kestrels and Jackdaws breed in mixed colonies together, they keep a truce of sorts: the Lesser Kestrels help protect the Jackdaw nests, and in return the Jackdaws do not prey on the Lesser Kestrels' eggs.
- A study in Oregon found that thinning forests to give them old-growth characteristics (and thus make extra habitat for Spotted Owls) chases out flying squirrels, the Spotted Owl's primary prey.
- A pair of Whooping Cranes are wintering in western North Carolina.
- The captive Spoon-billed Sandpipers that were taken to the U.K. are now out of quarantine.
- Neurotic Physiology: The only thing birds have to fear is fear itself
- The Freiday Bird Blog: A Tale of Two Counts
- Laelaps: Why Is a Pelican Like a Whale?
- 10,000 Birds: Merry Christmas Shearwaters!
- ABA Blog: Chicago mystery hummingbird a mystery no more
- Beetles in the Bush: A Riot of Colors
- BugBlog: Pholcus phalangioides, the Daddy Long-leg spider
- Not Exactly Rocket Science: Why aren't all chilies hot?
- November 2011 was the 12th warmest November on record.
- The EPA's new mercury rules became final this week. Unlike past rules, the current rules will cover mercury sources like aging power plants that were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act. These plants will either need to come into compliance or shut down.
- Over 40,000 Monarchs were counted wintering at Ellwood Mesa in California.
- Some winter nature photos in honor of the solstice included this snowy landscape from the Sierra Nevada and pronghorn running in the snow.
- Here is a Christmas-themed gallery of insects (mostly multicolored beetles).
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
|Shiny Cowbird / Photo by Lip Kee Yap|
Shiny cowbirds regularly visit mockingbird nests and attack and puncture any eggs they find there -- damaged eggs are later removed by the mockingbird host. During these visits cowbirds will often lay their own eggs in the nest for mockingbirds to hatch and bring up alongside their own chicks.It would be interesting to see if this applies to parasite-host relationships elsewhere as well.
Whilst mockingbirds will mob an attacking cowbird, once an alien egg has been laid in their nest they will usually accept it -- even though it looks very different from their own eggs.
The researchers recorded video of 130 cowbird visits to see what happened to the eggs in mockingbird nests over three breeding seasons. They experimentally manipulated clutch compositions to compare host egg survival in clutches with different numbers of cowbird eggs. They found that mockingbird eggs were more likely to survive a puncture attack when more cowbird eggs were present in the nest.
Computer simulations showed that this is likely to be a widespread phenomenon, and that, paradoxically, the greater the local density of parasites, the stronger the benefit hosts get from the presence of parasite eggs.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
At one time or another, we have probably all seen a bird hampered by fishing line, with the line wrapped around its legs or tangled elsewhere on its body. This is a widespread problem, especially since plastics line fishing line persist in the environment.
The problem is not new — or limited to Prospect Park. Birders in other city and state parks report similar cases. The Ocean Conservancy in Washington points out that monofilament fishing line, which is made from an individual fiber of plastic, has been in use since World War II, and as the decades pass, it has accumulated in the water and on land. For a quarter-century, the conservancy has organized coastal cleanups throughout the world on a single day in September. Over that time, 1,340,114 pieces of discarded fishing line have been collected, according to the group.
“Plastics in general are the most persistent forms of marine debris,” said Nicholas Mallos, a conservation biologist with the conservancy. “Once monofilament line becomes loose in the marine environment, it poses a serious threat.”
Birding groups and wildlife experts say that most fishermen and women are quite likely unaware of the impact on wildlife. The solution, they contend, is more education, as well as the availability of secure receptacles for old fishing line and hooks. Open trash cans easily overflow, they say, and the wind blows the line away.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
|Tufted Titmouse / Photo by Bill Thompson (USFWS)|
- Fossil feathers found among fossilized ibis remains give a sense of how the birds lived and looked. Though the birds were flightless, their feathers show adaptations in common with relatives that are able to fly. Some feathers were dark brown or black while others were light brown or white, suggesting that the ancient ibis may have looked something like an immature White Ibis.
- The American Bird Conservancy is asking the Department of the Interior to develop regulations to govern how wind farms affect birds and other wildlife.
- Ostriches and emus are among the few birds that have a phallus; unlike mammals but like other birds, the erection mechanism is lymphatic fluid rather than blood.
- A British birdwatcher did not like the movie version of The Big Year.
- Sparrows exposed to the threat of predators produced fewer offspring than those that suffer less of a threat.
- Scientists have discovered new breeding sites for the rare Black-throated Robin in central China. The species is related to the European Robin but looks a lot like North America's Black-throated Blue Warbler.
- At least 1,500 Eared Grebes were killed when they got confused during a storm and collided with a parking lot. Most likely they mistook the dark asphalt for water.
- British police caught an egg collector with over 700 wild bird eggs in his home.
- Tinton Falls, New Jersey, is looking for a way to rid themselves of the large number of gulls that are attracted to a nearby landfill.
- A photo of King Penguins won the first Mongabay.com photo contest.
- Sierra Leone is trying to attract birdwatching tourism.
- NCSU Insect Museum: Lessons from Georeferencing Bumble Bees
- 10,000 Birds: Why is the Robin’s Breast Red?
- Not Exactly Rocket Science: The two twists that let hummingbirds fly like insects
- The Daily Wing: Mid-Priced Spotting Scopes
- The Dragonfly Woman: Photographing Insects with iPhone + PhotoJojo Macro Lens
- Beetles in the Bush: Swift Tiger Beetle: Species on the Brink
- Sphere: Diving Ducks and Oyster Beds
- Extinction Countdown: Sperm Bank and Reproductive Research Could Help Save Tasmanian Devils from Extinction
- A research team has found more than 1,000 new species in the Australian outback, and there may be thousands more waiting to be discovered there.
- Scientists found 208 new species in the Mekong Delta just in the past year.
- Two newly-discovered frogs from Papua New Guinea are the smallest known tetrapods. The frogs are 8-9 mm long.
- Here is a look back at some of the scientific research done at Antarctica since Amundsen reached the South Pole 100 years ago this week.
- A fossil squid had complex eyes with 16,000 lenses per eye.
- A newly-discovered species of tree frog has complex vocalizations that sound more like a bird than typical frogs.
- Scientists have found a new species of pit viper in Tanzania but are keeping the location secret because of the viper's rarity. A few vipers have been collected to start a captive breeding program.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
|Cerulean Warbler / Photo by Lana Hays|
A study - now published in Conservation Letters - has compared the ESA list of endangered species with the world's leading threatened species list, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The study has found that of the American species included on the IUCN Red List, 40% of birds, 50% of mammals, and 80-95% of other species such as amphibians, gastropods, crustaceans, and insects, were not recognised by the ESA as threatened.
This amounts to approximately 531 American species on the IUCN Red List that have not made the ESA protection list. These include bird species such as the critically endangered Kittlitz's murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris), the endangered ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa), and the vulnerable cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea).
"The ESA has protected species since its establishment in 1973, and it may have prevented 227 extinctions. However, the implementation of the ESA by successive US governments has been problematic, including poor coverage of imperilled species, inadequate funding, and political intervention," says study leader Bert Harris, a native of Alabama who is undertaking his PhD with the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.
"Vague definitions of 'endangered' and 'threatened' and the existence of a 'warranted but precluded' category on the ESA list are also contributing to the gap in species classification," he says.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
One of the early conservation challenges in rebuilding the Kirtland's Warbler population was providing sufficient nesting habitat. These birds nest in jack pines that are five to fifteen feet tall – in other words, very young forests. Jack pines need fire for their seeds to germinate, so stands of young jack pines are relatively uncommon in a context where forest fires are carefully controlled. Fortunately, conservationists found ways around this problem, and the Kirtland's Warbler population has recovered steadily since its nadir.
|Kirtland's Warbler / Photo credit: Dave Currie|
But those extensive efforts only occurred at the Kirtland's summer home, so a team of researchers reviewed the conditions of many a warbler's winter home - the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. They did this by painstakingly putting together Landsat data to create cloud-free images of the isle's forest cover....
The researchers did this not just once, but ten times, obtaining a record that spans a 30-year time period. According to Helmer, this allows them to tell how long it had been since the forest was last disturbed by fire, crops or grazing.
What the scientists discovered was that, like in their summer homes, Kirtland's warblers are found in young forests. On Eleuthera, these forests only occur after a disturbance of some sort - like fire, clearing for agriculture, or grazing. And grazing turns out to be a disturbance the warbler can live with just fine. Old forest whose underbrush has been munched on by goats provides the most suitable habitat for warblers, said Helmer.
The results, published in this month's issue of Biotropica, suggest that goat grazing stunts the forest regrowth, so that the tree height doesn't exceed the height beyond which important fruit-bearing forage tree species are shaded out by taller woody species. Helmer said that understanding how and where the warbler's winter habitat occurs will help conservation efforts in the Bahamas.
Helmer said that a unique feature of warbler's winter habitat is that the age of this forest correlates very strongly with its height.
Friday, December 09, 2011
|Brown Pelicans overwintering at Oregon Coast NWR / Photo by Roy W. Lowe (USFWS)|
- Birders on San Clemente Island off southern California found a Red-flanked Bluetail, a very rare bird for North America. The species breeds in Siberia and winters in southeast Asia.
- Sixteen captive-bred Whooping Cranes arrived in Louisiana as part of the attempt to reintroduce a third Whooping Crane population there.
- Penguins may time their dives according to the work their muscles are doing. The average penguin flaps its wings underwater 237 times in between breaths at the surface.
- A Critically Endangered ibis species was found in Cambodia for the first time in almost a century. This species, the Giant Ibis (Thaumatibis giganteawas), is believed to have only 100 breeding pairs in the world.
- A new conservation reserve at Volcan Antisana in Ecuador is home to numerous sensitive species, including Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), Silvery Grebe (Podiceps occipitalis), and Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis).
- According to a study using geolocators, South Polar Skuas follow a similar figure-eight migration pattern whether they spend the Antarctic winter in the North Atlantic or North Pacific.
- Energy utilities have decided not to build a wind farm in a key breeding area for Marbled Murrelets.
- The Bureau of Land Management as created a new conservation strategy for the Greater Sage-Grouse and will implement in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.
- An unknown person has shot 28 birds with a pellet gun over the past month in Contra Costa County, California. (via 10,000 Birds)
- Scientists studying seedeaters in South America believe that the birds may be in the midst of evolving into separate species because they differ widely in plumage and song but not in genetics.
- Almost 140 Greater Flamingos were killed when they flew into a power line in western India.
- Sibley Guides: Identification of white geese
- Seabrooke Leckie: Smooth Green Snake
- Bug Eric: Wasp Wednesday: Not Wasp V
- 10,000 Birds: Extreme Digiscoping: Flashing Little Owls
- Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds: The Human Birdwatcher Project Presents: Birding By Yourself - A Lonely And Embarrassing Habit.
- Outside My Window: Winter Trees: Honeylocust
- Global emissions of carbon dioxide rose by the highest amount on record last year.
- Scientists rediscovered the rare Cockerell's bumblebee in New Mexico; the species was last recorded in 1956.
- A new report found that three-quarters of butterflies in the U.K. have declined in population and half have more restricted ranges compared to a decade ago.
- Meanwhile, several butterfly species found in North America's Pacific Northwest are likely to become extinct in the near future.
- New research has turned up additional evidence that the Mayan civilization collapsed because of deforestation that led to declines in precipitation accompanied by severe droughts.
- New York purchased a 1,200-acre parcel of forested land in the Catskills to protect New York City's watershed.
- Mongabay.com has been posting photos of amphibians this week, including a blue-and-yellow poison frog, two tiny newly-discovered frogs, and a red-eyed tree frog.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
To achieve the “Globally Significant” label, [New Jersey Audubon] and National Audubon submitted years of annual shorebird and waterfowl survey data to a panel of nationally and internationally recognized experts. The panel found that four species were present in numbers that met or exceeded the quota required to trigger the “Globally Significant” designation: The Bayshore is a crucial stopover site for migrating Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones, and provides critical winter habitat for large concentrations of Snow Geese and American Black Ducks. The survey data was collected in annual surveys by wildlife biologists from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).I am actually surprised that this area was not designated as an Important Bird Area sooner since the importance of the area for migratory shorebirds (especially Red Knots) has been known for some time. Much of the area is already protected, so I am not sure whether this designation will lead to further conservation measures.
Stretching along approximately 50 miles of coastline, from Fairfield Township in Cumberland County to Cape May Point in Cape May County, the Delaware Bayshore IBA includes about 50,000 acres, much of which is protected conservation land, including 13 state Wildlife Management Areas and the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge....
Awareness of the Delaware Bayshore’s importance began to grow in 1982, when staff at the New Jersey Audubon Society began the first aerial shorebird surveys to quantify the number and species of shorebirds using the Bayshore. These aerial surveys were later assumed by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, which has performed them annually since 1986. The state also performs the annual winter waterfowl surveys that led to the inclusion of American Black Ducks and Snow Geese in the “Globally Significant” designation....
Of the four species named in the Globally Significant announcement, the plight of the Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone is the best known and lends a bittersweet note to the designation. While recent surveys show significant numbers of birds refueling at the Bayshore during spring migration (12,000 to 16,000 Red Knots and 17,000 to 37,000 Ruddy Turnstones), they are lower than numbers of 95,000 Red Knots and 80,000 Turnstones recorded in the early aerial surveys. A precipitous decline in these populations began in the mid-1980s, when horseshoe crab harvesting rose dramatically for use as bait. The horseshoe crabs’ eggs are essential food that allows these long-distance migrants to make it to their summer arctic nesting grounds to breed.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
John W. Vanderpoel, who now lives in Colorado, has spotted 736 species of birds in 2011.Apparently he has already reached one of his original goals:
That means he has the second-biggest Big Year ever. He trails only Sandy Komito of New Jersey, who logged 748 species in 1998.
The 62-year-old Vanderpoel passed Virginia birder Bob Ake, who had 731 species in 2010, for second place.
He is only the 15th birder in the United States to log 700 species on a Big Year.
Topping 700 made him “happy and humble,” he wrote on his Big Year blog.
He said his goal was to get to 700 species, not to set the record. In fact, he was the quickest Big Year birder to reach 700 species.Will he reach Komito's record? At this point it seems unlikely that he will pick up the 12 species he would need to tie the record (or the 13 to break it), but it is still possible. You can follow the rest of his big year on his blog.
He has also seen 911 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in his travels. His goal: 1,000.
Monday, December 05, 2011
Sunday, December 04, 2011
A few weeks ago, a Snowy Owl was reported at Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County, New Jersey. If current trends continue, it may turn out to be part of the vanguard in a Snowy Owl irruption year. That aside, it has stuck around for a few weeks and has been seen by numerous observers. Yesterday, I finally got a chance to visit the reservoir and see it. Normally, when I visit Merrill Creek, I prefer to stay in the wooded wildlife sanctuary on the north end of the reservoir, but yesterday I decided to walk all the way around to see the owl and look for any waterfowl that might be hanging around the edges of the reservoir.
The rest of my walk was fairly quiet, with only a few bird flocks here and there. I saw a lot fewer waterbirds than I expected: only about two dozen Buffleheads and a half dozen Horned Grebes. It felt a little strange to be walking around a body of water with no Canada Geese or Mallards visible. Land birds were also a little sparse. The highlights were a couple of calling Hairy Woodpeckers and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Somehow, though, I managed to add 13 species to my bird list for Warren County.