Friday, August 19, 2011

Loose Feathers #304

Roseate Tern / Photo by Amanda Boyd (USFWS)
Birds and birding news
  • A new study examines rediscoveries of long-lost species, such as Hawaii's Greater Akialoa, which went a long time without sightings, was rediscovered in the mid-20th century, and is now considered extinct with no sightings since 1969. The paper argues that conservation measures are necessary to make sure vulnerable rediscovered species are not promptly lost again.
  • The reintroduction of red wolves into North Carolina is changing the local ecosystems. The wolves prey on raccoons, which helps ground-nesting birds such as Bobwhite and Wild Turkey since raccoons often rob their nests. Red wolves also hunt white-tailed deer, but so far their pressure on the deer population has been insufficient to change the soil or plant life significantly.
  • The Emperor Penguin that languished on a New Zealand beach has recovered and is being returned to its normal range. It was fitted with a tracking device and will be released at sea.
  • The Piping Plover colony at Revere Beach in Massachusetts has had outstanding productivity over the past several breed seasons. A single pair fledged four chicks in 2009, and three pairs fledged 11 or 12 chicks in 2010 (3.66 per nest). This year's numbers are likely to be similar.
  • The autumn hawk watch at Hawk Mountain began on August 15. Cape May has not started its hawk watch yet, but the "Morning Flight" watch began on August 16. You can follow the progress of that and other migration watches on CMBO's View from the Field blog.
  • The British Trust for Ornithology used satellite trackers to follow the migration journeys of five Common Cuckoos from England to Africa. Follow the link to see a map of their routes.
  • Little Penguins could disappear from Australia's Granite Island. Over the past ten years, the colony's population has fallen from 1,600 to 146.
  • A podcast from Scientific American discusses the importance of reconnecting forest fragments to restore bird diversity after an area has been deforested. The study in question examined rainforest fragments in Brazil, but it is probably applicable elsewhere as well.
  • A study of Rock Ptarmigans found that large males that can run the fastest tend to be most successful at breeding.
  • Here is a photo of an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
  • The Press of Atlantic City profiles the "Birdman of Margate" who feeds sparrows on the sidewalk in front of his house every day.
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • A project in Belo Horizonte (Brazil) is highlighting the loss of urban street trees by drawing chalk outlines on the street where trees were cut down. The city is cutting down trees almost twice as fast as it is replacing them, so that many streets are left without the benefits of shade. (via bioephemera)
  • There is a bad situation in the North Sea as an offshore oil pipeline has started leaking, initially spilled over 50,000 gallons, and could continue to develop additional leaks
  • The wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is obstructing normal wildlife movements, leading to fragmentation of vulnerable populations, particularly the Arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus), the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), the black-spotted newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis), the Pacific pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata), and the jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi). This is not an unforeseen consequence, as many environmentalists warned that this would be a problem before the wall was constructed. It remains to be seen if any mitigation measures can prevent long-term damage.
  • Via Bug Girl, some Staten Island residents do not appreciate the Cicada Killer wasps that help keep the cicada population in check. The main objection seems to be that the dig nesting holes in people's lawns.
  • All but two of the 104 endangered Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs rescued from the San Jacinto fire in 2009 have died in captivity
  • A primitive eel found off the island of Palau has anatomical features unlike any other eel and likely evolved 200 million years ago. This eel is so different from other eels that classifying it required creating a new family (Protoanguillidae) as well as genus and species (Protoanguilla palau).