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.