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A DC Birding Blog

Birds, birding, and conservation.

Updated: 2018-04-21T05:43:44.199-04:00


Loose Feathers #643


Trumpeter Swans / Photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPSBirds and birding newsThe change has been rumored for some time, but last week the Interior Department made it official that it would not enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in cases of accidental bird deaths, even in the case of major disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Hooded Warblers will desert their young if they molt their tail feathers while still brooding, and the other parent (usually the female) is left to care for young themselves.NJ Audubon's reintroduction program for Northern Bobwhite has been successful so far but needs to expand to other sites to establish a stable population in the state.Since Piping Plovers nested at Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania last summer, conservationists are looking to restore other sites around the Great Lakes as plover nesting habitat. Understanding birds' natural behavior is necessary for reducing the number of collisions with aircraft, buildings, and wind turbines. Zimbabwe has one of the greatest concentrations of raptors in the world. Science and nature blogging10,000 Birds: Acorn Woodpeckers Drinking Sugar Water?Avian Hybrids: The hybrid genome of the Italian Sparrow: endless genetic variation?Birding New Jersey: Red Warblers and White-eared Titmice Avian Ecologist: My Top 10 Favorite Things About Being a Birder  Te Papa's Blog: The mystery of the giant hoho weevils of Rangatira IslandThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Great and Snowy Egrets (and how to tell the difference)Edge Effects: Photographing Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah Union Bay Watch: New NeighborsLiterary Hub: 10 Trailblazing Environmental Books for Earth Day  Environment and biodiversityIn response to public opposition, the Interior Department withdrew a proposal for steep fee increases at many national parks and instead will raise vehicle fees by $5 at parks that already charge an entrance fee.Urban entomologists study ecosystems that have been heavily modified by humans. The Lesser Long-nosed Bat became the first bat species to be removed from the Endangered Species List after it was declared recovered. It is one of only three U.S. bat species that feeds on nectar.A new study estimates that 30% of the Great Barrier Reef perished in the 2016 heatwave.The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland violated EU law by logging in the Białowieża Forest. A plan to pump water from aquifers in the Mojave Desert would seriously harm the desert's natural springs. New York City created a 25-year plan to protect the forests in its parks from climate change.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #642


Wild Turkey (my photo)Birds and birding newsThe tails of male Costa's Hummingbirds whistle during their courtship flights, but the sound may be more about subjective aesthetics than an honest signal of breeding fitness.The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the Kirtland's Warbler from the Endangered Species List due the to establishment of a second population in Wisconsin. See here for instructions on how to submit a public comment on the rule. Comments are due by July 11.Puffin bills glow under UV light. Restoration of indigo snakes can help protect bird populations since indigo snakes prey on snakes that raid bird nests.A project is trying to boost the fertility of the endangered Hihi in New Zealand to stop its population decline.Here is an explanation for why a captive eagle tried to land on a Mariners pitcher at the start of a baseball game. Planting native plants can boost native insect populations and in turn help birds find appropriate foods.Science and nature bloggingABA Blog: Caribbean Hurricanes and Birds: Interview with Dr. Joseph Wunderle The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Not Just a Red-winged BlackbirdMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Horned Lark With Redstem Filaree – Birds & WildflowersAvian Hybrids: Are Wagtail subspecies supported by genetic data? Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds.: MicrolocalzonoweirdnessFeathered Photography: The Euphoric Rush Of Discovering Mountain Plovers In Northern UtahBird Ecology Study Group: What you can do to your garden to bring in more birds – updated Union Bay Watch: SanctuaryWild View: Brown Skua, A Gladiator of Birds Cool Green Science: Birding For People Who Do Not Like Lists  Environment and biodiversityA climatic boundary between the arid western plains and more humid eastern North America has shifted eastward over the past century thanks to climate change.Moths are more abundant and diverse than butterflies and deserve more attention than they currently receive.A new study supports the idea that biodiversity serves as a buffer against extinction.Satellite imagery shows the decline of two glaciers in northwestern Greenland. Here is a look at the worst-case scenario for sea level rise in New Jersey.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #641


Golden-crowned Kinglet (my photo)Birds and birding newsThe Interior Department’s wildlife policy will now be overseen by an opponent of protections for the Golden-cheeked Warbler, among other vulnerable species.A project mapping the family trees of Florida Scrub-Jays found that the smaller local populations are as important as larger colonies for preserving genetic diversity.Climate change is already causing phenological difficulties for these five species pairs.Along similar lines, a new study predicts that climate change will put the migratory birds of eastern North America at risk because of the longer distances and larger food supplies they require. Seabirds may have trouble finding prey in warming oceans as well. Breeding colonies of Common Terns in the Great Lakes region have important stopover sites inland and along the Gulf of Mexico before reaching their wintering grounds on the coast of Peru.A study suggests that a protein in birds' eyes helps them to navigate. The body size of extinct island emus was correlated to the size of the islands they inhabited.Union County’s Peregrine Falcons have 2 new eggs, and a falcon nest cam is available.The Chesapeake Conservancy has a Great Blue Heron nest cam.Science and nature bloggingThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: If You Love the Birds of the Meadowlands Thank the MBTA!Northantsbirds: Low-down on Lesser Spots – a cause for concernBirdchick: Reporting Owls Avian Hybrids: It’s not a tree, but a network! New insights into the evolution of baleen whalesBird Ecology Study Group: Common Snipe – feeding behaviourMeghan Barrett: Bee Bytes: Centris pallidaBug Eric: Odd Little WeevilsMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Photos Of Owls In Flight ornithologi: Illustration of the Vultures of Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique Environment and biodiversityThe National Park Service removed every reference to human-caused climate change from a recent report on how sea level rise will affect national park sites.Genetic research is exploring how insects evolved the ability to fly.What precisely makes a plant a tree (as opposed to a shrub or other plant type) is difficult to define.The Border BioBlitz catalogued 833 species in 11 locations along either side of the US-Mexican border using an iNaturalist project to highlight the region's biodiversity and create a baseline for future studies.There may be more species of wasps than beetles because of the large number of parasitic wasps. A new butterfly species was described from an unidentified museum specimen.Many freshwater mussel species are going extinct. Most of North Dakota's oil spills and other toxic spills would have gone unreported under a new law. New Jersey is continuing its program to reduce trees killed by Superstorm Sandy by giving away free trees to residents.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #640


Kirtland's Warbler / Photo by Vince Cavalieri/USFWSBirds and birding newsA new look at historical data on the Carolina Parakeet shows that its range was probably smaller than generally depicted and that at least part of its population was migratory. The cause of its extinction is still unclear, however.New research involving Kirtland's Warblers is showing how conditions on the birds' wintering grounds affect their nesting success the following summer.A citizen science project found that American Woodcocks have declined significantly in Ontario since 1968. Hybrids of Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees have difficulty with learning and memory.Here are photos from the Sandhill Crane migratory stopover on the Platte River.Scientists stopped a research project in South Africa to prevent the spread of bird flu among endangered African Penguins. Great Tits exposed to heavy metals became less active and less curious. A western Harlequin Duck was documented on Long Island. The dairy industry in the Netherlands is trying to become more bird-friendly.The numbers are in from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, and it appears that finches and tits benefited greatly from feeders and a mild start to the winter.Poaching of migratory birds is being reduced around British military bases on Cyprus. Food sources for migratory waterbirds decline in lakes when salinity increases.The South Florida Water Management District released its annual report (pdf) on waterbird breeding populations in the Everglades. Wood Stork, White Ibis, Great Egret, and Little Blue Heron increased, while Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Roseate Spoonbill decreased. Science and nature bloggingLaura's Birding Blog: Of Architects and WindowsVermont Center for Ecostudies: Mountain Birdwatch Brings a Mountain of Data to eBird  Edge Effects: The Swiftness of Glaciers: Language in a Time of Climate Change Plant Love Stories: The time a bird named a flower for meMatt Boone: How many birds can you see in each U.S. county?Woodcock Watch NJ: Watch the Woodcock!  Bug Eric: Pinyon Problems? Maybe, Maybe Not Arctic Sea Ice: The 2018 melting season has startedShorebird Science: Supporting Shorebirds at Their Summer Home in the Southern HemisphereFeathered Photography: The Burrowing Owl That Changed The Way I Photograph Birds  Environment and biodiversityThanks to changes in agricultural practices, Britain and France have lost half of their biodiversity in the past half-century. Allowing mining on the sites designated as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments could cause serious damage to the paleontological resources on those lands.The Trump Organization has a long record of dragging its feet when faced with environmental regulations it found inconvenient at its real estate properties. A treaty negotiated in the 1980s could conceivably give Canada the ability to prevent or reduce drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #639


Mallard / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsSaltmarsh Sparrows do not manipulate the sex ratios of their offspring to favor males or females even though birds have the ability to do this. However, they try to keep overall sex ratios balanced from year to year.The wintering population of Red Knots at Tierra del Fuego reached a record low of 9,840 birds. This year's population decline may be a result of low water temperatures that delayed horseshoe crab spawning in the Delaware Bay last spring.A new study from British Columbia reports on factors that cause changes in the nesting success of Song Sparrows. Birds of the French countryside such as Eurasian Skylark and Meadow Pipit have suffered major declines in the past two decades, most likely from the overuse of pesticides and monoculture crops. A study of museum specimens showed that migratory birds used to eat a richer variety of insects than they currently do. BirdLife Australia reports that the Australia's environmental laws contain too many loopholes to protect the country's birds.National parks are likely to become more important for protecting shifting bird populations under climate change. Eurasian Blackbirds in cities live longer but show more signs of stress and poor health.Scientists in Australia are asking people to mail them feathers from local wetlands as a way to track where the country's bird population comes from and where it goes. Banding and other tracking methods have not fared as well in Australia as elsewhere.An interview discusses hummingbird metabolism, which converts ingested nectar into usable energy almost right away.A Bald Eagle hatched in the nest at the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC.Science and nature bloggingABA Blog: 2018 AOS Classification Committee Proposals, Part 3 Bryan Pfeiffer: The Death of a Hummingbird Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Before Dawn Breaks The Courtship Displays Begin On Greater Sage-Grouse LeksThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Birding in the Meadowlands This Week: Spring ArrivalsBirding Dude: Banded Herring Gull C47Snapshots of Nature: Wigeon Feathered Photography: Fighting Male Short-eared OwlsHipster Birders: Enjoying an Early Spring at Sauvie Island and Newport Environment and biodiversityThe last male Northern White Rhinoceros died this week. Two females of this subspecies remain, but the subspecies has been functionally extinct for some time now. A group of current and former EPA is organizing to prevent the proposed shrinking of the EPA (and the loss of institutional knowledge and enforcement ability that would go with it).The public comment period is open on Wyoming's proposal to allow grizzly bear hunting, which would be the first grizzly bear hunt in the Lower 48 states since the 1970s. The National Park Service plans to introduce 20-30 wolves over a 3-year span to rebuild the dwindling population at Isle Royale.Iceland's Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is giving scientists a glimpse of how Arctic Foxes might adapt to climate change.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #638


Mallard / my photoBirds and birding newsThe authors of a recent study explain how latitude affects birds' life histories. For example, songbirds in the tropics live longer and have larger clutch sizes than their counterparts in temperate zones.A new paper calls for ornithologists and birders to document examples of female bird songs. Female songbirds sing in at least 144 North American species, and it is estimated that around 64% of bird species worldwide have a female song, but the true number is unknown since documentation is lacking.Likewise, Kenn Kaufman suggests that birders should pay more attention to female birds. Data from eBird in the U.S. and Canada closely matches data from government-sponsored bird surveys, so eBird data is reliable enough to fill the gap in countries without as much data from government scientists.Birders with feeders should watch for signs of disease and remove feeders for a time if they appear.A new study argues that Archaeopteryx might have been able to fly like a pheasant but would not have been capable of soaring like a bird of prey or seabird.Recent flamingo sightings in Florida are probably a result of natural dispersal rather than escape and may be a sign of a native population recovering. A lone American Flamingo that appeared in San Diego is more likely an escapee.A new documentary aims to raise awareness of the problem plastics pose for seabirds like albatrosses. A second Project SNOWstorm owl was found dead in the marshes near Stone Harbor.Snowy Owls are among many Arctic animals that may be vulnerable to climate change. Savannah Sparrows living near oil and gas fields had to change their songs to cope with noise pollution.Ravens' food calls differ by age and sex.Small songbirds can tell how much of a threat other birds pose. Scientists are tracking juvenile Yellow-eyed Penguins to determine their survival rates.Hornbills, eagles, and vultures are hunted for food more than previously estimated in Cameroon. Colombia has the most bird species in the world, and areas that were once off-limits to visiting birders are slowly becoming safer for travel.Science and nature bloggingBirding Dude: The listserv is dead, long live the listserv! The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Serviceberry – A Backyard Bird MagnetMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Man Arrested for Illegal Mass Killing of Raptors in Californiaawkward botany: A Few Fun Facts About PollenMark D. Scherz, MSc: A remarkable new mossy frog from MadagascarExtinction Countdown: The Surprising Ways Tigers Benefit Farmers and Livestock Owners  10,000 Birds: Bird Litigation: Spotted Owl v. Barred Owl Ornithologi: Dark Morph Red-tailed Hawk Illustration and A Note on Plumage Polymorphism in RaptorsBirding New Jersey: Up the MissouriNorthantsbirds: Ageing process of the Stanwick Pink-footed Goose Feathered Photography: A New Way To Report Banded American KestrelsEnvironment and biodiversityLess frequent mowing (once every 2 or 3 weeks instead of once a week) helps bees and other pollinators since it gives flowers like clover more time to bloom.Evidence is building for a link between unusual warmth in the Arctic and severe winter storms in the U.S. and Europe. Environmentalists and immigrant activists are joining forces to prevent expansion of the border wall.Tourists to the Galápagos leave behind a large volume of trash, in addition to the plastics that drift there on ocean currents. A bipartisan bill would allow BLM to sell tracts of land to raise money to purchase other lands with more conservation value. A new checklist records over 3,000 species of lichens in the Alps, spread over eight countries. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #637


Mallard / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsSavannah Sparrows can adjust their songs and calls to be heard over the noise around oil and gas fields, but the noise makes communication more stressful. Birders in Philadelphia conduct a mid-winter bird census since much of the city is left uncovered by local Christmas Bird Count circles. A new breeding site was found for the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail. The decline of eastern Golden-winged Warblers may be linked to habitat destruction on their wintering grounds. Songbirds in the tropics live longer than ones in temperate zones.The non-migratory flock of Whooping Cranes at Kissimmee Prairie in Florida may be moved to Louisiana because of unregulated hunting at their current location. Larger hummingbirds use energy more efficiently.Some hummingbirds make high-pitched sounds that should be outside of a bird's hearing range. Fishing is a major threat to seabirds, which can become entangled in nets or long fishing lines.The Bald Eagle pair at the National Arboretum has not produced an egg yet. Science and nature bloggingInternational Bird Rescue: Know Your Gulls: A Very Basic Guide To Identifying Our Local Gulls Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds.: The Five Mile RadiusABA Blog: 2018 AOS Classification Committee Proposals, Part 2ornithologi: Idaho’s Endemic: The Cassia Crossbill (Loxia sinesciuris)Vermont Center for Ecostudies: Breeding Yard Birds More Successful with Native Plants Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Winter California and Herring Gull Portrait ComparisonsThe Birder's Library: 2018 Bird Book PreviewTetrapod Zoology: The Enigma of Legautia, 6-foot Mauritian Super-Rail  Environment and biodiversityEach Hawaiian island has evolved separate species of spiders, but the spiders tend to look similar from one island to the next.A lengthy essay explores how the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug became established and the problems it and other invasive species present.The EPA dismissed complaints about toxic pollution from a landfill in Alabama. This winter has been extremely warm in the Arctic, and as a result, Arctic sea ice had its lowest extent on record for the month of February.Also because of warming trends, Arctic spring is occurring 16 days earlier than it did historically. Like the Bush administration before it, the Trump administration is attempting to censor science that it finds politically inconvenient. Senator Orrin Hatch requested that the Interior Department remove protection from certain areas in Bears Ears National Monument because of their oil and gas deposits. A businessman is being held for the murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres in Honduras.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #636


Black-billed Magpies / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsA new study using geolocators links declining Golden-winged Warbler populations to conditions on their wintering grounds. The relatively stable Midwestern breeding population winters in Central America, while the declining population in the Appalachian Mountains winters in northern South America.As the climate warms, 70% of King Penguins will be forced to find new breeding grounds over the next century. Introducing foxes to hunt invasive rabbits caused more problems than it solved in Chile's Humboldt Penguin Natural Reserve, but eliminating the rabbits by other means helped the penguins and native flora start to recover. A Republican amendment would undermine the Migratory Bird Treaty Act's protections.A birder writes about the challenges of counting large flocks of shorebirds. Birds help to spread the seeds of some rare wild chili plants. This can pose a problem for plants on islands like Guam where the native bird population has been decimated.Huge colonies of Adélie Penguins were discovered in Antarctica with the use of poop stains visible on satellite images.Yellow-billed Oxpeckers roost on their host animals overnight.A million birds per year are killed at a wetland in Iran that is an important migratory site for endangered species.The presence of kestrels can reduce the need for pesticides in agricultural areas since they prey on many insects and animals that damage crops. More geese have been wintering in Denmark because of an increase in corn production.Endangered vultures continue to be poisoned by poachers. Ecotourism works best for protecting wildlife if there are direct financial benefits for local people. A rare white morph Gyrfalcon is being seen in Newfoundland. Science and nature bloggingThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Spicebush – The Perfect Native Plant Ryan Clark Ecology: Lessons From Learning BryophytesGulls to the Horizon: Status update on the presence of pseudo-mirrors and non-isolated mirrors in IJmuiden-ringed adult European Herring GullsStokes Birding Blog: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest building! Feathered Photography: Coot ChasemocosocoBirds: Eurasian Wigeon, Tundra Swans – Feb. 25, 2018 Bird Ecology Study Group: Tomial Teeth in shrikesBackyard and Beyond: The Amateurs Arctic Sea Ice: Global sea ice records broken (yet again)Environment and biodiversityA weather station on the northern end of Greenland recorded above-freezing temperatures for several days this week — temperatures it would not normally reach until the summer. Some experts expect that North Atlantic Right Whales will be extinct by 2040 due to declining birth rates and rising death rates. Causes of mortality include accidental entanglements in fishing lines and warmer ocean temperatures.While much of the attention to the U.S.-Mexico border concerns the border wall, communities on both sides lack basic infrastructure like effective sewage systems and clean drinking water. Latin American countries are working on a treaty to protect environmental and indigenous activists following a recent surge in murders. A recent EPA survey mapped the places in the U.S. that would be most and least resilient to climate change based on factors such as the likelihood of severe natural disasters, economic inequality, the effectiveness of local governments.The Trump administration wants to close the Biological Survey Unit, which maintains a specimen collection full of important historical data on wildlife distribution.Closing some roads through grizzly bear habitat could help the species recover.Native wildflowers in variable environments bank seeds underground to survive drought and other harsh conditions. Easter Island is creating a new marine protected area in its waters to protect rare species from co[...]

Loose Feathers #635


Horned Lark / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThis week marked the 100th anniversary of the extinction of Carolina Parakeets. Even as the species was known to be declining, ornithologists of the time continued collecting specimens. One way to honor the occasion is to think about the places where the birds lived and the people who experienced them. Safe Wings Ottawa is running an exhibit of birds killed by buildings in the city in the past year to raise awareness of this conservation problem. There is an ongoing debate about whether flamingos are native to Florida, while flamingos from further south may be (re)colonizing the state. Here is a guide to finding and identifying Rusty Blackbirds, which are starting their northward migration. Extinct moas helped shape the plant and fungal communities in the forests and shrublands where they lived.Longer incubation times for some tropical bird species may protect the chicks from some blood parasites. Winter is a great time to look for North America's wild swans.The number of bird species is lower at higher elevations, but the rate of species formation is higher. A male Northern Cardinal with yellow plumage had been appearing in a backyard in Alabama. Pileated Woodpeckers can be conspicuous in winter, as long as they have dead trees for foraging. Male and female King Penguins can be distinguished by vocalizations and bill length. Coffee farming can be good for bird diversity, regardless of the bean variety, as long as the coffee grows in shaded conditions. Science and nature bloggingMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Greater Sage-Grouse on a Lek – Our Public Lands – Our LegacyThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Why We Need Plants for BirdsBirding New Jersey: Parakeet ArtBourbon, Bastards, and Birds.: In The Absense of Hawks The Digiscoper: What do I love?Backyard and Beyond: Kestrel Week I (see his other posts this week for more kestrels)  Environment and biodiversityCalifornia could lose most of its salt marshes in the next century due to the twin pressures from sea level rise and real estate development.Scott Pruitt has been one of the more effective cabinet members in terms of destroying the work of the agency he runs. Many golf balls end up in waterways and the ocean, where they contribute to the microplastic problem. New Jersey will join the Climate Alliance, a group of states and territories that will continue to implement the Paris Agreement even if the U.S. completes its withdrawal. This week featured record high temperatures along much of the U.S. east coast, including all-time highs for the month of February in Trenton and Newark. Some unusual characteristics of this week's heat wave may indicate a connection to climate change.A potentially invasive tick species from Asia was found on sheep in New Jersey; how it got there is still unclear.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #634


Golden Eagle / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThis weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. You can submit counts from either your backyard or somewhere else. The project used to be limited to North America, but it recent years has been extended to the whole world, as it will again this year.Plastic trash in all sizes litters the European Arctic, and it is harming the seabirds that nest there.A study in California found that some types of fire management reduce habitat for bird species without significantly reducing the risk of wildfires.Fracking projects make it harder for Louisiana Waterthrushes to breed and raise young successfully, probably because of water pollution. Anna's Hummingbirds are more likely to carry mites on their tail feathers than some other western hummingbirds.Old-growth tropical forests support greater bird diversity than second-growth forests. Higher temperatures are likely to reduce the nesting habitat for Sharp-tailed Grouse.A series of photos shows a Bald Eagle stealing a lamprey from a sea lion off the coast of California. Science and nature bloggingFeathered Photography: Landing Gadwall (and why I can still enjoy a flawed image)ornithologi: American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) Illustration with a Note on the Evolution of CinclidaeAvian Ecologist: Anthropology & Ornithology MusingsStokes Birding Blog: Lesser Scaup IdentificationBackyard and Beyond: Bald Eagles Over the Hudson Environment and biodiversityA recent op-ed piece that minimized the importance of stopping extinctions is part of an unfortunate trend among conservationists, including some leaders of organizations like the Nature Conservancy. Using genetic and fossil data, lepidopterists have proposed a new evolutionary tree for butterflies. A proposed reorganization of the Interior Department could muddle agency responsibilities and reduce the role of science in decision-making.A new study showed that the rate of sea level rise is accelerating and could double in the next century. A Republican opponent of national monuments owned land within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and that parcel was cut out of the national monument by the Trump administration. That may be why the administration does not want to release documents related to the decision.In 2017, the Trump administration fined polluters 49% less than the three previous administrations had. The proposed border wall would undo years of collaborative conservation work along the border by the U.S. and Mexico. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is an early battleground in the fight over new border wall construction.The inherent uncertainties of climate research are misunderstood by the media and used as excuses for inaction by politicians.Trudeau's government has proposed new rules for reviewing the environmental impacts of new developments. The number of oil and gas drilling rigs in the U.S. rose 38% in the past year.Smaller fields with borders are more helpful to bees than crop diversity. Promoting "multiple use" strategies for public lands can have a detrimental effect on wildife and the land itself. Many insect studies (especially regarding using them as biocontrols for pest species) are missing data necessary to replicate them. The massive petroleum condensate spill in the East China Sea is likely to affect the region's productive fisheries. DuPont went to great lengths to cover up the existence of a plume of toxic waste from one of its plants under 400 homes in North Jersey. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #633


Bald Eagles nesting / Photo by Bill Buchanan/USFWSBirds and birding newsU.S. Bank Stadium, site of the recent Super Bowl, kills more birds than any other building in Minneapolis. Great Spotted Woodpeckers can recognize other individuals by their drumming patterns.Ducks play an important role in spreading seeds from one wetland to another.Preserved woodpecker brains show evidence of brain damage, in the form of tau protein buildup.A Bald Eagle pair in Washington, DC, laid their first egg this week. That nest has a nest cam.Japanese Tits use a specific call to warn others about snakes.Small birds have more efficient wing beats than bats to allow for long-distance migration.Researchers think they have identified the structure on a bird's retina that allows them to see the Earth's magnetic field. Science and nature bloggingAvithera: Fairy Terns – from chicks to fledged and flying juvenilesGulls to the Horizon: Mixed breeding pair Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull in IJmuiden 2017Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Drake Redhead Courtship DisplayAnything Larus: Pale 1st Cycle American Herrings, Hybrids, Or Something Else?Natural Newstead: A ‘flock’ of frogmouthsearthstar: The habit of lookingThe Prairie Ecologist: Diversity, Redundancy, and Resilience  Incidental Naturalist: Pint-sized Poisoner – Green & Black Poison Dart FrogBirding Beijing 北京观鸟: Code of Conduct for Chinese Bird Photographers  Environment and biodiversityHere is a timeline of the Trump administration's attacks on public lands and conservation.The Trump administration is threatening to undermine Colombia's peace agreement, which could result in increased deforestation in areas formerly controlled by FARC.January was unusually dry in the continental US.Over 2,500 toxic chemical sites are in flood-prone areas of the US, and flooding is likely to get worse with climate change.Cougars need better protection within their existing range, including managing conflicts between humans and large carnivores. The largest tract of private land in Cape May County will become part of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.The NY/NJ Baykeeper will become the deputy commissioner in the NJ DEP.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #632


Gadwall / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsGrassland birds in general are not doing well across North America, and the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is in real danger of extinction, with less than 100 individuals left in the wild even before last year's hurricane season.Several other bird species specialize in the same sagebrush habitat that Greater Sage-Grouse require and are also threatened by development and fragmentation of sagebrush habitat.China plans to end land reclamation projects and possibly restore some habitat destroyed by such projects. Land reclamation usually involves covering tidal flats or shallow water with fill and then building on the resulting land; such projects often destroy important stopover habitat for shorebirds and waterbirds.Here are some tips for finding wintering Northern Saw-whet Owls.Ryan Zinke's plan to stop enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in cases that involve the incidental killing of birds drew protest from 17 former Interior officials (from both parties).Science and nature bloggingABA Blog: 2017 Big Years: A RoundupVermont Center for Ecostudies: Field Guide to February 2018 Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Great Egret – Snowy Egret Size and Appearance Comparison  10,000 Birds: Top 25 National Wildlife Refuges for BirdingAvian Hybrids: Hybrid zones help to unravel the genetics of bird coloration  Outside My Window: Who Is This White Hawk?The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Finding Food In Winter – It’s Tough Out ThereBirding the day away !!: Ross's Gull ~ Vlissingen, Netherlands - 27.01.18Edin Whitehead: The big and the small Natural Newstead: Praying Mantises and pseudopupilswadertales: Well-travelled Ringed Plovers  Environment and biodiversityLast weekend, hundreds attended a rally at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to protest plans to build a border wall through the refuge and to support a legislative solution to maintain the DACA program. Today is World Wetlands Day. This year the celebration focuses on the importance and restoration of urban wetlands.Contrary to claims in a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, preventing extinctions is still important work.Footage and tracking data from a recent study revealed that polar bears are more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought since they depend so much on hunting seals.In Ontario, research is underway to save the province's population of eastern wolves.A recent report found that the Lone Star Tick does not spread Lyme disease, though it does carry some other illnesses.Here is a good primer on urban lichens and lichen ecology. Chile created five new national parks, thanks in part to a land donation. Here are the five most common types of trash collected in river cleanups. With the change in administrations, New Jersey will now support a ban on fracking in the Delaware River watershed. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #631


Long-tailed Duck / my photoBirds and birding newsThe latest update to the IUCN Red List designates 222 bird species as critically endangered.A study in the Sacramento area found that birds like the California Scrub-Jay prefer native Valley Oaks to non-native oaks and will fly to areas with native oaks to feed. Savannah Sparrows nesting near oil and gas wells need to adjust their songs to account for noise pollution from drilling equipment. The Safe Harbor conservation program has kept Red-cockaded Woodpeckers nesting on private land but has not increased the success rates of those nests.Great Britain's Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend, January 27-29. (The Big Garden Birdwatch was an inspiration for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which will take place February 16-19 this year.)Female Asian Houbaras consistently choose nest sites that offer a balance between concealment and sightlines to see approaching predators to prevent nest predation. Golden Eagles are at high risk of electrocution from energy infrastructure, and mitigation efforts have not helped enough so far. Birds may become smaller as the climate warms.A Spanish study looked at the potential for bird deaths from high-speed rail. Great Black-backed Gulls may be the bullies of the gull world, but they play a vital role as scavengers. Experiments with New Caledonian Crows show how technology evolves. Pittsburgh earned designation as an Urban Bird Treaty City for efforts to restore habitat and reduce collisions with windows.Science and nature bloggingThe Birdist: Renaming Birds By Their AnagramsBirds and Words: Interview with the Afternoon BirderThe Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Watch for the Rusty Blackbirds! ornithologi: Melospiza Plate  Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Unusual Behavior – Ring-billed Gull Preening In FlightMoCoSoCo Birds: Snowy Owl and other birds – Jan. 22, 2017 Environment and biodiversityThe US Fish and Wildlife Service officially designated the Eastern Cougar subspecies as extinct and removed it from the Endangered Species List. Other Cougar populations remain in the western US and Florida.At least two wolves are still present at Isle Royale, where a declining population has led to calls for introduction of more wolves from the mainland. There will be a rally to save Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from proposed border wall construction this Saturday, January 27. Rain-on-snow events, which are likely to increase with climate change, are shrinking the heads of muskoxen.During the brief government shutdown, snowmobilers drove into off-limits areas in Yellowstone National Park. Similar problems probably occurred on other federal lands that remained open for the weekend.A major oil condensate spill in the East China Sea will be hard to clean up, and the effects of a spill like this are not well known. Mammals wander less in areas with lots of human activity or population, partly because of obstacles like highways and partly because of extra foraging opportunities like farm fields or garbage.A global registry of invasive species will help identify the most problematic ones.Bits of plastic seem to be spreading disease among coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific. A nearby golf course wants to privatize a chunk of Liberty State Park (in addition to the plan to build a second private marina in the park).The planned solar farm at Great Adventure will be built on 40 acres instead of 92, with the other 52 acres being placed in a 213-acre conservancy.Cabbage Whites might not be as territorial as gardening advice suggests.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #630


Bald Eagle / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsA long-running monitoring project is helping answer questions about the population status and migrations of the wide-ranging Snow Bunting.The NY Times has a good essay on the politics of chasing (and publicizing) owls and comes down on the side of more openness.More than half of the Ventura Christmas Bird Count covers areas burned by the Thomas Fire, so this year's count will provide data on how birds respond to wildfires.Christmas Bird Counts also went on as usual at several sites in Puerto Rico. Iridescent feathers, like those on grackles or starlings, seem to have evolved very early, as some were recently discovered on a fossil dinosaur.Birds are helping to restore the habitats around the Elwha River by dropping seeds carried from elsewhere on the Olympic Peninsula. Japanese Bush-Warblers living in Hawaii show signs of genetic drift since their introduction in the early 20th century. Read more about the study here.Analysis of bird song recordings may be a way to detect shifts in the timing of bird migration and breeding seasons.Rare native birds have flourished at an urban park in Wellington, New Zealand, since invasive predators like rats and stoats were trapped and fenced out. (Invasive predators are a major threat to New Zealand's unique wildlife.)Logging after wildfires hurts California Spotted Owls by reducing the number of snags they prefer.Red-capped Robin-Chats can imitate the songs of 40 other bird species.Science and nature bloggingCitizen Science Salon: Female Songbirds: The Latest Underrepresented Voices in ScienceBirding Beijing 北京观鸟: 2017: A Turning Point For China’s Biodiversity?  Vermont Center for Ecostudies: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and bird conservationMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Standing Up For Nature Is Fighting For Our Lives 10,000 Birds: Five Things To Do When It Is Too Cold To Bird ABA Blog: THE TOP 10: Craziest ABA Vagrants of 2017 Avian Hybrids: Hybridization as the Engine of Adaptive RadiationAvithera: Bird bands and flags  Birding New Jersey: A “New” Iiwi?wadertales: Waders are long-lived birds!Backyard and Beyond: Owling The Prairie Ecologist: Why Would Bison Have Done That??ornithologi: North America’s Zonotrichia in Winter: A Plate of Basic and Immature PlumagesStokes Birding Blog: Scaup, Lesser or Greater? Tricky ID Bird Ecology Study Group: Purple Heron – feeding behaviour, eelFeathered Photography: Northern Harrier Throwing Up A ….. Pellet?The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: It’s Not Too Early to Plan Your Backyard Wildlife Garden Environment and biodiversityScientists have linked the mass mortality of Saiga antelopes in 2015 to infection from a normally harmless bacterium made more dangerous by extreme heat and humidity.A methane spike appears to be tied to increased production of oil and gas through fracking. Rapid warming in Alaska is disturbing and may be behind some of the extreme weather in the continental US. Nine of the twelve members of the National Park Service's advisory panel resigned in protest after Ryan Zinke refused to meet with them for a year. Ryan Zinke could do irreparable damage to the Interior Department and the lands it protects.Cape Town is close to running out of water after several years of severe drought. Climate change will make events like this more likely, both there and elsewhere.New studies are measuring how climate change affects freshwater lakes and streams.DC's mayor pledged to commit $4.7 million to developing Kingman and Heritage Islands for environmental education and recreation.Voles are among the many creatures that find a blanket [...]

Loose Feathers #629


Trumpeter Swan / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe blackest birds in the world are the birds-of-paradise, whose black feathers absorb almost all light that hits them (unlike North American blackbirds, which reflect a small amount to produce iridescent colors). The secret seems to be in the structure of the feathers.Engineered sandbars do not provide the same benefits to Piping Plovers that natural sandbars do. Part of the problem with engineered sandbars is that their relatively small size leads to too much population density.Noise pollution from energy operations in western deserts is causing Western Bluebirds to have fewer chicks. Here is a guide to studying bird tracks in the snow.Rat poison used on marijuana plantations could put endangered Northern Spotted Owls (and other predators) in further danger.Meanwhile, a federal appeals court is allowing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to kill Barred Owls to reduce competition with Spotted Owls in northwestern forests.Here is a follow-up on conditions in the Saemangeum Estuary since much of it was enclosed by a seawall in 2006. Westerly winds during the recent nor'easter worked to the benefit of Snowy Owls wintering on the New Jersey coast.An Ivory Gull was discovered in Illinois last week.Botulism deaths among waterfowl in the Great Lakes are linked to warm waters and algae.Emperor Penguins that breed near the coast may shorten their fast by taking short foraging swims before eggs are laid. Science and nature bloggingRigor Vitae: Life Unyielding: Poorwills: A Novel Strategy For Surviving Winter's Cold Avian Hybrids: Hybrid Bird Species: A Big Bird on the Galapagos Islands and a Small Manakin in the Amazon Basin The Prairie Ecologist: The Diversity, Beauty, and Secret Lives of Grasshoppersawkward botany: What Bugs Can Tell Us About the Value of Vacant Urban LandThe Afternoon Birder: Join Me on a Big Year of Bird Reading  ABA Blog: 2018 AOS Classification Committee Proposals, Part 1sunshinecoastbirds: Captive Breeding Programs for Endangered Species Under Scrutiny The Bruce Mactavish Newfoundland Birding Blog: Bald Eagle on The Run10,000 Birds: Bird Litigation: Sonoran Desert Bald Eagle The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Good Morning From A Fish Crow  Anything Larus: Slaty-backed Here. Slaty-backed There.Feathered Photography: Peregrine Falcon Coming At Me Environment and biodiversityLast year was the third-warmest year ever in the US and set temperature records in five states. The year also was the most expensive in terms of natural disasters.If you think the Trump administration is following a blueprint from the coal industry, you are correct. A coal executive sent the administration a wishlist with 14 desired regulatory changes last spring, and most of those changes have been implemented. Florida received an unexpected exemption from offshore drilling, which led other states to wonder why they were not exempted too. The Endangered Species Act may be in danger of repeal or weakening, even though it has worked well for most of its existence.The deputy director of the National Park Service will be the employee who helped Daniel Snyder cut down trees in C&O Canal NHP so that his mansion would have a better view. Scientists have found evidence that proboscis-bearing moths and butterflies, or something like them, existed as early as 200 million years ago, before the rise of flowering plants.Freshwater waterways are becoming saltier thanks to heavy use of road salt, which washes off roads as the snow melts. Excess salt makes water more basic and more corrosive and harms ecosystems in nearby wetlands.Cold snaps like the one that recently struck the eastern U[...]

Loose Feathers #628


Mallards / Photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPSBirds and birding newsNational Geographic, in partnership with Audubon, CLO, and BirdLife, is declaring 2018 the "Year of the Bird" to honor the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  An economic analysis found that the benefits outweigh the costs of restricting ORV use on beaches like Cape Hatteras that provide habitat for nesting coastal birds. A breeding colony of endangered Band-rumped Storm-Petrels was discovered at 7,000 feet on Mauna Loa.The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher will remain on the Endangered Species List for now.The Bureau of Land Management will no longer prioritize fossil fuel development outside of sage grouse habitat, despite the guidelines created to keep the species from being listed as endangered.New Jersey's Peregrine Falcon breeding population remained stable in 2017, with 32 active nests producing 52 young. The core of the state's breeding population nests on artificial structures, while falcons nesting at natural sites have struggled.Sora migrate from early August to late October, with a peak in late September. (For some background on the study, see this Twitter thread.)A study confirmed that Bullfinches maintain their pair bonds over multiple years. A Long-eared Owl was treated and released in Manhattan last week after being found lying on its back.Planting wildflowers and protecting nests in areas with intensive agriculture can help some bird species recover from long-term declines.A genetic study explored how Yellow Warblers might adapt to climate change. (See the paper here.)A small bird delayed a flight from Detroit to Atlanta when it got trapped inside the cockpit. Science and nature bloggingBirding New Jersey: The 2018 ABA Bird of the Year StinksAnything Larus: Ivory Gull - Lake County IllinoisFeathered Photography: The Little Things That Can Make Or Break Our Images Birding the day away !!: Wallcreeper ~ Alquezar, Spain - 28.12.17Natural Newstead: White-breasted Woodswallows #2Wanstead Birder: Top ten bird images from 2017 Environment and biodiversityThe severe cold and intense snowstorm that affected the eastern US this week should not be taken as signs that climate change is not real, as cold snaps of this type could be related to changes in the Arctic. While this week was cold, New Jersey's cold snaps used to be colder. Past cold snaps in DC allowed residents to skate on the Potomac.A memo leaked late last year shows that the Interior Department is incorporating more political calculations into its decisions on endangered species. The Trump administration announced this week that it would expand oil drilling to almost all parts of the US coastlines, including in states where drilling faces strong local opposition. Even if we do manage to keep warming below 2°C, many climate change effects are likely to happen anyway because of the delay in action, though they will be less bad than they could be. The fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome in bats appears to be unable to withstand exposure to ultraviolet light, which opens the door to a possible treatment. New Jersey's DEP is moving ahead with plans to build a private marina on the south end of Liberty State Park. Former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne, who died this week, considered preserving the Pinelands region his greatest legacy. A new state park has been proposed on the Brooklyn side of Jamaica Bay in New York.Finally, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has suggestions for what to do with natural Christmas trees at the end of the season. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Best of 2017


My favorite photos from each month of 2017 (links go to larger images at my Flickr account):

1. Winter Wren, 2. White-breasted Nuthatch, 3. Song Sparrow, 4. Yellow Trout Lily, 5. Black Vulture, 6. Tawny-edged Skipper, 7. Tree Swallow fledgling, 8. Barred Owl, 9. Pandora Sphinx caterpillar, 10. Staghorn Sumac, 11. Snow Bunting, 12. Myrtle Warbler

My favorite sighting of the year was probably the Barred Owl pictured above, which was exceptionally cooperative — one might say confiding — to the delight of many refuge visitors that day. My best bird of the year was probably the Wood Stork that showed up at Sandy Hook and that I was lucky enough to see shortly before it left. The year also included another Middlesex Merlins run in the World Series of Birding.

Happy new year and good birding in 2018!

Loose Feathers #627


Sandhill Cranes / Photo by Mary Carlson/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe Golden-crowned Manakin seems to be the result of hybridization between the Opal-crowned Manakin and the Snow-capped Manakin.On the Friday afternoon before Christmas, the Trump administration announced that they would no longer enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against energy companies that accidentally kill birds. A new study found variation among the calls of the five eastern Marsh Wren subspecies.Efforts to save the Kakapo are making progress but success will depend on the creation of more safe havens from invasive predators, including on New Zealand's mainland.The number of Kirtland's Warblers in Wisconsin hit a record high in 2017. BirdLife has a list of 10 birds that were saved from extinction.On the other hand, there is a good chance that the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow will go extinct in 2018. A Band-rumped Storm-Petrel pair was found nesting on Mauna Loa, the first confirmed pair in Hawaii.There are early signs of another Snowy Owl irruption on the east coast this winter. Science and nature bloggingLiving Alongside Wildlife: The Animals That Went Extinct in 2017 Incidental Naturalist: Angels of Death – Turkey VultureFeathered Photography: A Trio Of Common Mergansers In FlightmocosocoBirds: The 82nd Boonton Christmas Bird Count Report – 2017 Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Immature Light Morph Rough-legged Hawk in Flight & Landing Birding the day away !!: Glaucous Gull ~ Juvenile ~ Dungeness, Kent - 23.12.17earthstar: Four and twenty blackbirdsamateurnithologist: Bird Ornament Detective Environment and biodiversityA new study calculates that the earth's vegetation could hold twice as much carbon as it currently does if habitats were restored to their natural states. Like other sources of misinformation, climate change deniers have gamed Google's algorithms so that links to denialist websites appear alongside sources of valid information.A new checklist includes every vascular plant from the Americas, nearly 125,000 species. Brazil's current administration has largely dropped its commitments under the Paris agreement and stopped enforcing other environmental laws as well, with devastating effects for the Pantanal.A bill would make even more drastic changes to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, including taking its administration away from the National Park Service or other federal land management agencies. A species of freshwater snail was declared extinct while it was waiting for endangered listing. The citizen science site iNaturalist has already logged one-third of known vertebrate species. Here is a top-20 list of species discovered in 2017.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #626


Wild Turkey / Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWSBirds and birding newsThis winter's Snowy Owl irruption will give scientists a chance to study the birds by trapping them and attaching transmitters. Previous irruptions resulted in a more accurate population estimate, among other findings.At toxic lakes from mines and industrial sites, monitoring and hazing is necessary to prevent birds from dying in the toxic waste. In addition to their harmful effects on insects, neonicotinoids can make it harder for migrating songbirds to navigate.Great Reed Warblers breed in slightly different habitats depending on their age; older birds breed in wetlands with deeper water while younger birds prefer shallower areas.Unfortunately non-white birders face hostility from racists, but the birding community can help. Loss of waterbird diversity is greater in places where government is unstable or less effective. In other words, it is not enough to create regulations or wildlife preserves; the rules have to be enforced.Wisdom, the world's oldest known wild breeding bird, returned to Midway Atoll and laid an egg. This Laysan Albatross is estimated to be 67 years old.A Red-tailed Hawk died in Prospect Park earlier this month after eating a poisoned rat. The poison may have been put out by the parks department. Rat poison is one of the major threats facing urban raptors (and also urban mammals).Birds learn from each other's disgust, which makes bright colors more effective as a deterrent for insects.A study explored how pairs of birds coordinate their duets. (I am not sure why the page shows a House Finch instead of the species from the study.)The Tambopata Macaw Project, which works to conserve parrots in southeastern Peru, is raising funds to improve the survival of Scarlet Macaw chicks by placing them with wild foster parents.Science and nature bloggingVermont Center for Ecostudies: The Red Crossbill EnigmaMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: A Brief But Aggressive Encounter Between Pied-Billed Grebes VDGIF Blog: Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Wraps Up Season Two Anything Larus: Advanced Rectrices in 2nd Cycle Lesser Black-backed Gulls Bird Ecology Study Group: An unusual set of rictal bristles in Pied FantailBug Eric: Insects in the NewsCross-Check: We Have Souls, and So Do CrowsCorvid Research: It’s a wonderful raven’s lifeawkward botany: Weeds and Winter InterestEnvironment and biodiversityThe tax bill passed earlier this week with a provision opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Proponents minimize the footprint and potential harms of doing this, but comparison to sites in the same region shows that the effects will be more widespread.There is still time for activists to fight the administration and oil companies to prevent drilling. The idea of preserved lands as a public good appears to be at risk. The bill also raised taxes on US companies that operate in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Since the electric grid is still not repaired, people rely on generators, with harmful effects for public health.Air pollution has a disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities. A bat colony in Houston was displaced by Hurricane Harvey. If expansion of the border wall is funded, construction will probably begin at Santa Ana NWR. In addition to killing ash trees, Emerald Ash Borer infestations change the invertebrate populations on the forest floor. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #625


Gray Jay / Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWSBirds and birding newsSeabirds nesting in Alaska are having increasing difficulty raising their chicks to adulthood as the Arctic warms. A new extinct giant penguin species from the Paleocene has been discovered in New Zealand. This species lived much earlier than other penguin species of similar size.A new study sorts out the evolutionary relationships of wrens and their allies in the Americas. Critical stopover habitat for the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper could be lost to a land reclamation project in China.Ornithologists have discovered a new species of antbird in northern Peru, the Cordillera Azul Antbird. It is closely related to the Ferruginous-backed Antbird and is threatened by deforestation for sun coffee plantations.A study identified neurons that Swamp Sparrows use to learn their songs. Urban-dwelling Cooper's Hawks are thriving around Albuquerque, to the point that they are pushing rural hawks off their territories. Their success may be linked to an increase in the urban White-winged Dove population since the 1980s.Henst's Goshawks, native to Madagascar, are difficult to observe, but what and where they hunt can be studied by retrieving prey remains from their nests after the breeding season.Dates are set for the Asian Waterbird Census in January 18. Volunteers are needed to count wintering waterbirds along the Central Asian and East Asian – Australasian Flyways.Conservationists are releasing 10 Golden Eagles in Scotland in the hopes of rebuilding their population in northern England.The Black-backed Oriole in Pennsylvania was worth an estimated $223,851 to the local and regional economy from the 1800+ birders who went to see it.A second Snowy Owl has been banded in New Jersey this winter, this time in Cape May.Christmas Bird Count season starts this weekend. You can find a count to participate in here.Science and nature bloggingawkward botany: When Urban Pollinator Gardens Meet Native Plant CommunitiesFeathered Photography: Pied-billed Grebe – A Strategy For A Fish Too BigBird Ecology Study Group: Rodent Tuber (Typhonium flagelliforme): 3. Pollination  British Ornithologists' Union Blog: The changing survival of Bewick’s SwansOutside My Window: Cooper’s Hawk Family Life 10,000 Birds: Birding under Clouds of Uncertainty: Santa Ana NWRThe Dancing Birder: Big Years From My PerspectiveBug Eric: Losing the Pine Rocklands MoCoSoCo Birds: 2017 New Jersey Bald Eagle Report – Dec. 2017Dynamic Ecology: Concerned about the US tax bill? Here’s what to do.  Environment and biodiversityClimate change is likely to change global wind patterns so that wind farms in the U.S. and Europe generate less electricity. Other areas may see an increase in wind energy production.A new study found that children whose mothers live within two miles of a fracking site tend to have low birth weights.A uranium company appears to have influenced the decision to shrink Bears Ears National Monument. Customs and Border Patrol has started blocking visitors from entering the National Butterfly Center in anticipation of expanding the border wall. The center is private property and home to endangered species. Two-thirds of the center would be on the Mexican side of the new wall. The North American Butterfly Association is suing to stop the project.The ongoing biodiversity crisis means that many species of invertebrates will disappear before they are discovered or their behaviors are understood. Light pollution draws pollinators away from plants that[...]

Loose Feathers #624


Red-footed Booby / Photo by Andrew S. Wright/USFWSBirds and birding newsA fossil collector turned up a strange theropod fossil that looks like a swan and may have behaved like a cormorant.Studies of bee behavior show some parallels with hummingbird behavior. The critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow, which survived Colombia's long civil war, will need new protections now that the war is over. A new study explores how well hummingbirds will adapt to warmer temperatures, particularly warmer nocturnal temperatures.Canada will remove the threatened designation from Peregrine Falcons since the species has recovered. A study of Wandering Albatrosses found that certain individuals are consistently more successful throughout their lives and that their success seems tied to conditions in their early lives.Birds in the UK are arriving (up to 20+ days) earlier each spring and leaving later each autumn thanks to a changing climate.Likewise, songbirds in California now migrate earlier in spring and later in the fall. A project is recording audio at a nocturnal crow roost to learn more about how crows communicate at them.Communal crow roosts are common in urban areas, especially in the winter months. A Bald Eagle in Maryland died while being treated for lead poisoning. Like other raptors, eagles can ingest lead if they scavenge carcasses of animals that were hunted using lead ammunition. A project in Australia is seeking public involvement in tracking urban brush turkeys. The extinct Rodrigues Solitaire used its wings as clubs. A new study documents how New Caledonian Crows make hooked tools.Two kiwi species improved their status thanks to progress in controlling invasive predators according to the latest IUCN report.Atlantic Puffins in Ireland are declining, probably because they have to travel longer distances from their breeding sites to forage.Science and nature bloggingMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Public Lands Under Fire – Just Think About ItABA Blog: ACTION: Stand Up for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act10,000 Birds: Snowy Owl Ethics Environment and biodiversityThe big conservation story this week was the radical downsizing of both Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, an attack on the protection of public lands. Cuts are expected to other national monuments as well; you can read the Interior Department's recommendations here (pdf). Bears Ears was notable for its protection of Native American archaeological sites; the cutbacks continue a long history of strained relations between Mormons and Native Americans. Grand Staircase-Escalante is an important site for paleontology.Meanwhile, the tax bill passed by the Senate included a provision opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. (Republicans have been trying to do this since I started this blog.) Why this is a priority right now is hard to understand; recent leases in the nearby National Petroleum Reserve barely drew any bids. Drilling in the refuge would have a much larger footprint than reported.One of the strange elements of the public lands battle is how Ryan Zinke shifted from supporting conservation to stripping protections as fast as he can.Threats to public lands are not just from the Trump administration; it appears that the Christie administration wants to create a second private marina in Liberty State Park.Environmental crimes need more attention from mainstream journalism, particularly when it comes to wildlife trafficking. A smartphone app ca[...]

Loose Feathers #623


Wild Turkey / Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWSBirds and birding newsA new study using high-speed photography unraveled how hummingbirds drink nectar: not by capillary action (as traditionally thought) but by rapidly scooping nectar like a piston.Endangered Snail Kites are evolving larger beaks to eat invasive snails in the Everglades (though they still prefer the native apple snails when available).Meanwhile, invasive frogs are boosting the numbers of invasive birds in Hawaii.The pesticides chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid may be lethal or disorienting for songbirds exposed to them.Congress may vote to weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the primary law that protects birds; sign a petition here to let your representatives know if you oppose this. Manitoba has long been a stronghold for Golden-winged Warblers, but the population there has started to show signs of hybridization.Many Whooping Cranes start forming pair bonds before they are ready to mate and then maintain those bonds for life.It looks increasingly like this winter will be an irruption year for Snowy Owls. This week one was banded by Project SNOWstorm at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. Project SNOWstorm is seeking donations to help cover expenses for transmitters this winter.The Guam Kingfisher is extinct in the wild, but its population has been maintained in captivity in U.S. zoos. Reintroduction to the wild will depend on eliminating invasive snakes or finding a suitable alternative location.A study found that shy elk accept the grooming they receive from magpies, which pick ticks off the elk. Climate change is shifting the wintering grounds of some birds from Africa into the Middle East, which also has an effect on farmers in the region.In California, many birds are breeding earlier in response to climate change. Little brown birds that are endangered tend to get less attention from conservation organizations and the general public than more colorful endangered birds.With the return of large migratory goose flocks, contractors are again using pyrotechnics to scare them off some places where they congregate, like parks in the Sayreville area. (Oddly, that story was illustrated with a photo of a Pink-footed Goose, which is pretty rare in the Sayreville area.) Here is a list of New Jersey's Christmas Bird Counts, with dates and contact information. Science and nature bloggingObservations: East of Siberia: A Spoon-Billed Curiosity Inkfish: Why Some Bird Babies Ride PiggybackStokes Birding Blog: Cackling Goose, Would You Know One?Snapshots of Nature: The Good, The Bad, and the Owl Birding New Jersey: Fun With FalconsmocosocoBirds: November Birds; Christmas Bird Counts – Nov. 26, 2017 awkward botany: The Agents That Shape the Floral Traits of SunflowersKent Dragonflies: Processing Dragonfly Nymph Photos Environment and biodiversityThe Trump administration plans to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50% in an announcement next week. The Wilderness Society claims to have draft maps of the new boundaries. Modifications are also expected for several other national monuments. A writer inspired by Edward Abbey encountered racism from the outdoors community.Utah's Great Salt Lake is shrinking primarily because of human consumption of the water, a problem shared with other inland saline basins like the Aral Sea and Salton Sea. It is not clear that wolf culling strategies actually prevent them from killing livestock. Recently-b[...]

Loose Feathers #622


Rough-legged Hawk / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsA study of Eurasian Blackbirds found that individuals that migrated south were more likely to survive until the next breeding season than individuals that stayed north.Scientists found an example of speciation through hybridization on Daphne Major in the Galapagos when a Large Cactus Finch produced fertile offspring with a Medium Ground Finch. Those young bred only with each other and thrived despite inbreeding.Researchers found good adult survival in most of the shorebird species they tested on their breeding grounds at Teshekpuk Lake and Arctic NWR in Alaska. The study will create a baseline for measuring how shorebirds respond to climate change and contribute to studies of overall shorebird declines. Tiny geolocators and similar devices have opened up new ways to study how birds migrate and use habitats. A key stopover site for the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is at risk of development.Analysis of the DNA in seabird poop can tell what the seabirds are eating. One surprise from the study was that albatrosses are eating jellyfish.Bird photographers (and other wildlife photographers) can learn ethics by putting themselves in their subjects' places.Cooperative breeding may allow female birds to lay smaller eggs.The Ocellated Turkey, which lives in Mexico and Central America, has iridescent feathers and no wattle. An exhibit at the Huntington in California recreates a small part of John Gould's Hummingbird House from the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London with specimens from Occidental College. NPR broadcast an interview on crow funerals and other aspects of crow intelligence. Earlier this year, the AOS recognized Northern and Hen Harriers as separate species. While the Northern Harrier is fairly secure in North America, Hen Harriers are subject to persecution in Europe. Science and nature blogging10,000 Birds: What is a Rail? Feathered Photography: A Guide To Aging Bald Eagles And How To Distinguish Immature Bald Eagles From Golden EaglesThe Rattling Crow: Ringed Common Gull  ABA Blog: ABA Releases Much Anticipated Checklist UpdateMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Side By Side Prairie and Peregrine Falcon ComparisonLinda Murdock Photography: PortraitsBird Ecology Study Group: Down memory lane: AntingBug Eric: Being Thankful for Bugsearthstar: Cirl bunting  Environment and biodiversityNebraska approved the Keystone XL pipeline, but not TransCanada's preferred route, which could slow down completion as the company needs to arrange a new set of easements. The route approved by the state would avoid more of the Sandhills region and Ogallala aquifer.Meanwhile, a spill elsewhere along the Keystone XL pipeline could be worse than initially reported.California and 10 other states are threatening legal action to stop fee increases proposed for 17 national parks. Public comment on the proposal to increase fees is open through December 22.Wildlife rehabilitation is a window into the many ways humans harm wildlife.While much of coastal Louisiana is losing land to the sea, the delta of the Atchafalaya River is an exception.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #621


Tundra Swans / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsEBird announced that it will hide the locations for certain sensitive species from public output (though they will still appear in personal lists). A new study shows that Passenger Pigeons had an unusual genome because of their extremely large population. Scientists are still trying to find flocks of endangered Puerto Rican Parrots that disappeared during Hurricane Maria.Takahē numbers rose 13%, to 347 individuals and more than 100 breeding pairs.Some simple changes could greatly reduce the number of seabirds killed by longline fishing. Rehabilitation of oiled, sick, and injured birds has been an important part of saving Africans Penguins.A Snowy Owl was injured in Massachusetts after homeowners tried to chase it away. Feathers have their own scents that can be tracked by predators.Birds in California are nesting a week earlier than they did a century ago.An airplane landed in Florida with a Turkey Vulture stuck in its nose. Science and nature bloggingProject SNOWstorm: A New Season - and a Report from the Arctic Nemesis Bird: Recap of the Long Island Corn Crake by Steve Brenner10,000 Birds: The Case for Adding the U.S. Territories in the Caribbean to the ABA Area  Avian Ecologist: Comparison of Spectrogram AppsJohn Rakestraw: Taverner’s Cackling Goose vs. Ridgeway’s Cackling GooseThe Rattling Crow: Allopreening moorhensMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Adult White-crowned Sparrow Feeding on Rabbitbrush SeedsEnvironment and biodiversityCarbon emissions rose after being flat for three straight years. At least 62 natural world heritage sites are already at risk from climate change. A new paper revises the taxonomy of European and Mediterranean wasps in the genus Polistes.While urban bat populations are not well-documented, bats seem to be thriving in cities like Washington, DC. The Keystone XL pipeline faces one last regulatory hurdle for its route through Nebraska, and a decision is due soon. This week an already-existing part of the Keystone XL pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons in South Dakota. Natural forest regeneration seems to be better than restoration by humans.The seeds of some parasitic plants are spread by camel crickets.At low tide one can see cedar stumps left from when the Meadowlands was covered by Atlantic White Cedars. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #620


Yellow-rumped Warbler / photo by meBirds and birding newsAn amendment to a bill under consideration in the House of Representatives would weaken protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The recordings from Flight Calls of Migratory Birds by Evans and O'Brien are now available online.A Corn Crake appeared on a highway median on Long Island this week and was seen by many birders over a few days. Unfortunately, the bird was found dead yesterday after it was hit by a car. Its body will be preserved as a specimen at the American Museum of Natural History. Over 400 Whooping Cranes are expected to winter at Aransas NWR this winter, and it seems conditions for them will be favorable.Reintroduction programs are starting to teach captive-bred birds to recognize natural predators, but finding the right strategy is tricky.Scientists studying hybridization among Yellow-rumped Warblers found the genes that make an Audubon's Warbler's throat yellow.Lesser Prairie-Chickens face new threats from wind energy development in addition to other forms of habitat loss.Most birds have monogamous pairs, but a handful of species have other arrangements. A study food that cockatoos can match shapes when using tools. Science and nature Sticking Together or Drifting Apart? Quantifying the Strength of Migratory Connectivity Avian Hybrids: Throwback Thursday: Six Years with a Brewster’s Warbler.Mark Avery: Bitterns up, Corncrakes downBackyard and Beyond: After the Woodcock Storm  Feathered Photography: Five Image Series Of A Rousing Ruby-crowned KingletLinda Murdock Photography: Three Trips to Crab RoadBird Ecology Study Group: Purple Swamphen – Feeding behaviour, shootsClimate Law Blog: Scott Pruitt’s Attack on Scientists Serving on Advisory Boards Is Illegal Environment and biodiversityConservationists attempted to capture a few endangered Vaquitas for a captive-breeding program, but all the individuals they captured died. Less than 30 Vaquitas are left in the wild.The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released last Friday at the end of the day. The report contradicts much of the Trump administration's positions on the causes and likely severity of climate change. The second part of the report found that many predicted impacts are already happening.A satellite built to monitor ice loss in the Arctic was destroyed instead of launched into orbit.This year is likely to be the third-warmest on record. That would mean that the last three years would be the three warmest on record.Milkweed patches in farmland have 3.5 times the number of Monarch eggs as milkweed patches in natural areas, gardens, and roadsides, and smaller patches are preferred to larger ones.A driver in British Columbia watched a Cougar take down and kill and Mule Deer. Clear-cutting in the boreal forest is undermining Canada's attempts to reduce its carbon emissions.A warm and dry summer at Mount Rainier gave a glimpse of how future alpine plant communities might respond to climate change.A new tunnel deep below Connecticut is intended to reduce sewage overflows after rainstorms.La Niña conditions are expected to last through the winter. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]