Friday, September 18, 2020

Loose Feathers #767

Red-breasted Nuthatch / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS

Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, September 11, 2020

Loose Feathers #766

Piping Plover / Photo by Matt Poole/USFWS

Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, September 04, 2020

Loose Feathers #765

Great Blue Heron / my photo

Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, August 28, 2020

Loose Feathers #764

Pectoral Sandpipers / Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS

Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, August 21, 2020

Loose Feathers #763

Yellow Warbler / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, August 14, 2020

Loose Feathers #762

American Woodcock / Photo by Jared Green/USFWS
Birds and birding news

  • The AOS NACC finally renamed the McCown's Longspur as Thick-billed Longspur since John McCown fought for the Confederacy. See this thread by Robert Driver, who wrote the original proposal. Debate continues over what to do with the other eponyms. See this preprint article on the history of official English bird names in North America.
  • A federal judge struck down the Trump administration's reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which would have ended its enforcement against incidental killings. The rule change would primarily benefit the energy industry, which kills thousands of birds per year.
  • Jerry Liguori, the author of several field guides on raptors, has been uploading his photos to eBird to make them more accessible as a learning tool.
  • Large-scale solar farms kill an estimated 140,000 birds a year, and researchers are trying to figure out why.
  • The USFWS plans to reduce the critical habitat designated for the Northern Spotted Owl. You can read the proposal and submit a comment on the Federal Register website.
  • A new study found that neonicotinoid pesticides harm a bird's ability to reproduce and contribute to the rapid decline of grassland birds in particular.
  • Providing chicken feathers treated with insecticides as nesting materials helped save Forty-spotted Pardalote chicks from being parasitized by fly larvae.
  • The site of former wildfires in California attract Hermit Warblers singing in multiple dialects.

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

Climate change and environmental politics

  • Refuge managers along the border warned the Trump administration about the damage wall construction was doing to ecosystems and endangered species. This includes the pumping of 700,000 gallons of water per day from wetlands near the border to mix concrete.
  • Colorado's Western Slope, which provides meltwater from its snowpack to the Colorado River, has already warmed more than 2°C and is in the midst of a 20-year drought. Drying and heating interact to amplify each other's effects.
  • Canada's last intact ice shelf, the Milne Ice Shelf on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, collapsed this summer, which has been much hotter than normal.
  • Mauritius is cleaning up a large oil spill from a cargo ship that ran aground on a coral reef. The spill threatens the island's ecotourism and fishing economies.
  • This July was the hottest on record in New Jersey, with an average of 78.8°F despite not having any days over 100°F. It was also the 15th wettest July in the state, which added to the mugginess.
  • Solar panels have a limited lifespan, and the oldest are starting to be decommissioned. While the EU and some other countries are figuring out solutions, the US has not set a standard for recycling used solar panels instead of sending them to landfills. Where recycling exists in the US, it could stand to be improved to recover more useful materials.
  • Tropical soils may release more carbon dioxide as the climate warms. This adds another potential feedback mechanism to climate change.
  • The Trump administration is revoking rules that require fossil fuel companies to track and fix methane leaks. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change.
  • Climate scientists describe what they do to reduce their personal contribution to climate change.
  • One of the unfortunate side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it boosted the use of single-use plastics, which do little to prevent the spread of the disease. Since the virus spreads person-to-person through the air, the best solution is to wear a mask.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Loose Feathers #761

Saltmarsh Sparrow / USFWS Photo
Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

  • Poorly-designed culverts reduce the breeding habitat for migratory fish by blocking their migration. Better design would mimic natural streambeds.
  • Two more dams were removed on the Pilchuck River in Washington, which will open 37 miles of breeding habitat for salmon.
  • Media coverage of Asian Giant Hornets, a.k.a. "murder hornets," misleads the public and puts other insects in danger
  • Researchers recently found a rare Mindo Glassfrog while doing a breeding survey of the rare Tandayapa Andes Toad in the new Río Manduriacu Reserve, which is threatened by pollution from mining.
  • The berries of Viburnum shrubs appear blue because of structural color rather than pigment. Blue attracts birds that eat the berries and spread their seeds.
  • With 13,634 plants, New Guinea has the highest plant diversity of any island. That includes 2,800 orchids and 3,900 trees. Many of the plants are endemic, and botanists think that 4,000 more species could be discovered in the next few decades.

Climate change and environmental politics


Friday, July 31, 2020

Loose Feathers #760

American Goldfinch / Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS
Birds and birding news
  • For the sixth year in a row, there has been a mass die-off of seabirds in Alaskan waters, this time near Nome. Most have been murres or Horned Puffins, and many are emaciated; it is unclear if this is due to disease or an inability to find food.
  • Swifts make vesper flights twice a day, which they use to orient themselves.
  • Artificial lighting disrupts birds' sleep at night, and the lack of sleep may affect their ability to forage during the day.
  • The timing and route of Rufous Hummingbirds during migration varies by age and sex.
  • The EU has threatened to fine France if it does not end the practice of hunting birds with glue sticks.
Science and nature blogging
Biodiversity and conservation
Climate change and environmental politics

Friday, July 24, 2020

Loose Feathers #759

Greater Sage-Grouse / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Biodiversity and conservation
Climate change and environmental politics
  • This week, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which funds infrastructure repair in national parks and other public lands and guarantees that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will spend all its annual revenue. The downsides are that it maintains the tie between public lands and fossil fuel production and that it does little to protect wildlife affected by the increasing number of visitors on public lands.
  • Climate scientists narrowed the potential range of global temperature rise to 2.6°C-3.9°C if current emissions rates continue. This rules out the most optimistic scenarios without mitigation.
  • While transportation emissions fell because of the pandemic, methane emissions from agriculture and fossil fuel extraction hit a record high.
  • Plastic waste reaching the ocean is expected to triple in the next two decades, and current regulations only remove a small amount of the volume.
  • Climate change is already driving migration out of places that are becoming inhospitable, and the scale of migration will increase over the next century.
  • Border wall construction is drying up Quitobaquito Springs, one of the few reliable oases in Arizona's Sonoran Desert.
  • The Sierra Club is owning up to its involvement with white supremacy, including the racism of its founder, John Muir.
  • National parks and other public lands have been overloaded with visitors, leaving trash and potentially spreading the coronavirus to remote communities.
  • New Jersey's new environmental justice law will require permit applications for proposed industrial facilities to assess their cumulative effects on overburdened communities. The bill does not regulate existing sources of pollution.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Loose Feathers #758

American Robin on nest / Photo by Mara Koenig/USFWS
Birds and birding news
Science and nature blogging
Biodiversity and conservation
  • A viral disease killed 90% of Australia's Bellinger River Snapping Turtles, and the few that remain may be displaced by another turtle species.
  • Last winter British Columbia culled 463 wolves to protect caribou, but the paper the cull was based on has problems
  • A newly-discovered Sumatran frog species, Micryletta sumatrana, is threatened by the expansion of palm oil plantations.
  • This week dam removal started on the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River in Washington to provide more habitat for spawning salmon. 
  • On the other side of the country, fish have already migrated upstream following the removal of a dam last year on the Patapsco River in Maryland.
  • Despite their bad reputation, sharks are necessary for healthy ocean ecosystems, and many of them are threatened with extinction.
Climate change and environmental politics
  • The Trump administration finalized a set of regulatory changes to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, the cornerstone of environmental law in the US. The changes would limit public comment, shorten the timeline for the environmental review process, and eliminate consideration of climate change. The changes are intended primarily for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry and would probably damage the health of communities that already suffer a disproportionate level of pollution.
  • Joe Biden announced a climate change plan that borrows extensively from Green New Deal proposals, combining emissions reductions with infrastructure spending to support the transition.
  • "Net zero" emissions does not necessarily mean the same as 100% renewable energy, as the former would maintain some use of fossil fuels. As a result "net zero" has become the preferred slogan for fossil fuel companies and their supporters.
  • One problem is to figure out how to replace natural gas for things like home heating and cooking.
  • Abandoned oil and gas drilling sites emit large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, and the problem is likely to get worse as fossil fuels become less profitable.
  • The Trump administration is appealing the order to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline. Regardless of what happens with DAPL, the cost of pipelines is going up because of organized opposition from activists that combine public protests with lawsuits.
  • A tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating and threatens to spill its 1.1 million barrels of oil.
  • Construction of the border wall will close access to part of the Arizona Trail in Coronado National Memorial.
  • Paul Fireman, who wanted to expand his golf course into Liberty State Park, announced that he is giving up on the project, and his announcement included a diatribe against the activists who fought to preserve the park.