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A DC Birding Blog

Birds, birding, and conservation.

Updated: 2018-01-23T19:33:43.640-05:00


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 of snow a hospitable shelter from extreme cold.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

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 US are becoming rarer as global temperatures rise.Hydropower dams are altering the flood pulses that are ecologically important for parts of the Amazon watershed.Even moderate levels of pollution can cause alarming drops in the mayfly population. Too many Florida Panthers are dying from being hit by cars for births to replenish the population loss. [...]

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 they would normally be pollinating.In addition to raising fees at national parks (you can complain about that here), the Trump administration plans to allow fewer free days at national parks in 2018.Under Scott Pruitt's direction, the EPA has taken fewer actions against polluters.Three quarters of Pennsylvania's forests are privately owned, which puts [...]

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 called Frog ID encourages members of the public to submit documentation of Australian frogs.Bitcoin mining is tremendously energy-intensive (and carbon-intensive).Entomologists discover millipede, Apheloria polychroma in Virginia, that comes in more color combinations than any other.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

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-burned forests are among the most biodiverse landscapes but have little or no protection from logging. Droughts are reducing the canopy in Hawaii's forests.A German court cleared the way for an old forest on the German-Belgian border to be cut down for a coal strip mine. A new butterfly species, the South-Russian Blue (Polyommatus australorossicus), was [...]

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.[...]

Loose Feathers #619


White-crowned Sparrow / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsCrows, like several other "spooky" creatures, do not deserve their poor reputation. If you lack a car, birding by public transportation is an alternative option (though this is easier in some places than others).Cryptic species like rails are an important part of wetlands but usually go unseen. Researchers are finding more examples of female bird songs, most recently in Dark-eyed Juncos.The calls of Little Penguins are influenced by the habitats where they live.A study found that there are only two subspecies of Weka (a New Zealand rail) instead of six. North American birders are asked to report color-banded Ipswich Sparrows, a subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow that winters along the East Coast.Science and nature bloggingAvian Hybrids: Che Figata! New studies on the ecology and evolution of a hybrid species, the Italian SparrowABA Blog: ICYMI: Open Mic: A New Field Mark for Differentiating Stints and PeepsBird Ecology Study Group: Purple Swamphen – Feeding behaviour, SnailsPioneer Birding: MA - Pink-footed Goose in Gill! Birding New Jersey: When Playback Goes Bad10,000 Birds: Pink-headed Duck: The Search is On! Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Differences in Photographing Greater Yellowlegs in Florida and UtahOnly Natural: Myrmecomorphy in action! earthstar: The return of the tuftiesPLOS Ecology Community: Spooky Ecology 2017: The Weird and WonderfulThe Digiscoper: Good fall for LeConte's! Bug Eric: Ok, Save Some Bugs  Backyard and Beyond: Small Kites on the Loose Environment and biodiversityA government climate science report concludes that it is extremely likely that humans are causing climate change and that annual global average temperatures will increase by 9°F if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked. Another study concludes that climate change is already affecting public health (though its methods are controversial).Here is an interesting story on the saga of Oregon's Imnaha wolf pack and the biologists managing it.Fragmenting forests limits the number of species that can live there and promotes edge species at the expense of deep forest species.The Trump administration has proposed a fee increase to $70 per carload at 17 national parks, which could make visiting the parks unaffordable for many people. If you oppose this increase, please submit a comment to NPS by November 23.President Trump recently told Senator Hatch that he would reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, but nothing official has been announced yet. Paleontologists fear that mining at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument would destroy fossil beds.The House passed legislation that would gut protections for endangered species in national forests. Parks and reserves in the tropics can help reduce the effects of climate change.Butterfliers are concerned by how many migratory butterflies like the Monarch are staying north this fall. The Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May will keep counting butterflies into November this year. A study last year identified 301 mammals most at risk from overhunting.Cliven Bundy and his sons are finally being tried for an armed confrontation with federal public lands officials.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #618


Bald Eagle / Photo by USFWS/Volunteer Charlie Lister 2017Birds and birding newsNumerous threatened and endangered species have been affected by natural disasters this year, including the Mexican Spotted Owl and Attwater's Prairie Chicken. The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow and Imperial Amazon were among the endangered birds affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.Genome mapping is changing the way that bird species are classified, but genetics are not necessarily the only way to define a species. Northern Spicebush berries are strongly preferred by migrating Gray Catbirds over non-native berries.Golden-crowned Sparrow chicks can recognized the song of their species from the first note.Endangered Ridgway's Hawks thrived after being translocated to set up an additional population in a new protected area on Hispaniola.Here are some suggestions for native trees that have beautiful fall foliage and provide food and shelter for birds. The endangered Helmeted Hornbill, on verge of extinction, was found at a new site outside of their known range in Borneo. Science and nature bloggingEnvironment and biodiversityThe Interior Department wants to hike admission fees at 17 prominent national parks to $70 per carload (or $30 per pedestrian or cyclist). There is a public comment period on this proposal until November 23.Be careful to remove GPS or specific location information from photos of rare or endangered species posted online.The Trump administration wants to sell oil and gas drilling leases for 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico, which is basically all of the Gulf that has not been leased yet. The Gulf of Mexico is still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Even without a spill that magnitude, we can expect the sale to result in more small spills (with are still harmful) as well as more greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere. The Commerce Department has written a (so far secret) report on whether to open national marine sanctuaries to oil drilling. New research suggests that the worst-case scenarios for sea level rise could happen sooner than expected. Without rapid climate action, the New York City area could see Sandy-like disasters every 5 years by 2050. While a lot of work has gone into recovery and future resiliency, regional efforts to address sea level rise have lagged behind.The EPA prevented three of its scientists from speaking at a climate change conference in Rhode Island. The incident was the latest in a large trend of preventing the agency's climate data from reaching the public.Colombian scientists are planning expeditions to catalogue biodiversity in areas that were previously inaccessible due to the country's long-running civil war.The budget resolution contains a provision fast-tracking votes on selling off public lands. NOAA recommends keeping the North Atlantic Right Whale on the endangered species list. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #617


White Tern / Photo by Brian Peck/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an important site for Arctic breeding birds, is once again under threat from proposed oil drilling, as it was for much of the Bush administration. A look at Prudhoe Bay shows that oil infrastructure would be far more intrusive than its supporters claim.The administration also wants to build a road through the Izembek Wilderness, another important area for breeding birds.Exposure to even small amounts of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill made birds sick. Canada Warblers tend to breed near other members of their species, so preventing habitat loss and degradation is important to avoid overcrowding.Climate change is reducing the food available to seabirds like Nazca Boobies that nest on the Galapagos Islands.A new paper proposes a method for estimating the eastern population of Golden Eagles using hawk watch data from the Kittatinny Ridge. The method produced a total of 1,350 Golden Eagles migrating along the ridge each year in the first decade of this century.The reasons for the long-term decline of Red-headed Woodpecker populations is unclear, but even in normal conditions, they go through boom and bust cycles. A paper argues that harmful effects of geolocators on Cerulean Warblers may be due to the marking method rather than the weight of the geolocator. When Australia's inland deserts flood with temporary lakes, Banded Stilts fly thousands of miles to reach them and lay eggs there to take advantage of brine shrimp hatching.Science and nature bloggingFeathered Photography: The Interesting Feeding Technique Of The Wilson’s SnipeSimon Barnes: How to eat a meal as tall as yourselfMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: White-crowned Sparrow Juvenile Feeding On Wild Sunflower SeedsThe Speckled Hatchback: Post #120 - Pelagic Bird Photo Showcase and Pelagic Photography Tips/Tutorial Backyard and Beyond: The Canary on the Windshield The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Get Your Backyard Ready for Winter BirdsStokes Birding Blog: How to ID and Attract Sparrows at Your Bird Feeder Now! 10,000 Birds: Searching for the Puerto Rican Parrot Avian Hybrids: More Species Than Meets the Eye: A Genetic Look at the Red-eyed Vireo ComplexEnvironment and biodiversityA new study suggests that methane emissions from Alberta's tar sands mines are much greater than estimated.In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, much of Puerto Rico's drinking water remains contaminated by sewage and other pollutants.The insects trapped in routine surveys in German nature reserves have fallen by close to 80% in the last three decades. While insect populations are declining, the bats that eat them in North America are suffering from White Nose Syndrome. A new bill threatens to limit a president's ability to protect lands for conservation purposes under the Antiquities Act. Climate change may bring even more extreme weather to California in the coming decades.The Trump administration has announced US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement but will still send representatives to negotiations on its implementation.  Public lands are popular but would benefit from changes to increase their accessibility to all of the public.Turkey returned 7,500 wild frogs to the wetlands where they were captured by poachers.Ireland and other European countries need to prepare for more storms like Hurricane Ophelia because of climate change.  The UK's bill to withdraw from the EU leaves out important elements of European environmental law.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #616


American Kestrel / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsGiven that Red Crossbills are likely to wander in northern areas this winter, eBird revised and reposted its guide to identifying and documenting Red Crossbills by call type. Grasshopper Sparrows constantly look for better territories, even in the midst of the breeding season. That finding grew out of an observation that color-banded individuals from a previous study would show up in unexpected locations.Bird specimens from the first decades of the 20th century show that there was much more carbon soot in the air than climate researchers had estimated. A new paper proposed a way to estimate observer expertise from eBird data, which potentially makes eBird's data more useful for conservationists.Geese may cluster in northern cities because of the advantages of safety from hunters and warmer conditions due to the urban heat island effect. Neighboring birds that respect territorial boundaries have less stress and better health.A photographer recorded a flock of nearly 10,000 Budgerigars around a watering hole in Australia.The reduction in Colombia's long civil war could bring more birding tourism to the country but could also open up biodiverse areas to logging and mining interests. Hurricane Maria wrecked habitat for the Puerto Rican Parrot. Surveys in coastal North Carolina and Georgia found Black Rails at less than 1% of potential nesting sites.The breeding failure of Adélie Penguins last year is leading to calls for a marine protected area to preserve their food sources.Science and nature blogging10,000 Birds: Should Puerto Rico be Part of the ABA Area? Shorebird Science: A Migratory SuperfoodABA Blog: Happening NOW: Red Crossbills on the MoveBug Eric: The Wasp Wall  The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Keeping a Birding JournalMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Red-necked Phalaropes – Migration and the Great Salt Lakespiderbytes: Announcing a new project: Recluse or Not? Backyard and Beyond: So Many MonarchsBoreal Songbird Initiative: Winged Wonders of the North French RiverAvian Hybrids: Mottled Mallards on the Western Gulf Coast  Environment and biodiversityScott Pruitt announced that the EPA would repeal the Clean Power Plan, but did not give a timeline for repealing or replacing it. The endangerment finding still compels the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Pruitt may be trying to avoid addressing carbon emissions for as long as possible. Repealing the Clean Power Plan and ignoring climate change will have terrible consequences for humans and wildlife.Last week, TransCanada dropped two proposed pipelines to bring tar sands oil eastward, but several similar projects remain on the table, including Keystone XL.Recognizing the full history of our public lands can be a step to making their use more inclusive.This year over 150 environmental activists and land protectors have been assassinated.New gecko species have been described from caves in Myanmar.The invasive Spotted Lanternfly is currently eating its way through eastern Pennsylvania and may soon spread to New Jersey as well. The insect prefers Ailanthus (an invasive tree) but has been recorded feeding on over 70 species of plants.Small beaked whales can take very long dives. Cougars in urban areas expend more energy than rural ones because of their greater nocturnal activity.Numerous species of snails are in danger of extinction. Cougars are mostly solitary but interact regularly, especially when feeding near territorial boundaries. Deer prefer native plants and change forest plant ecology to promote invas[...]

Loose Feathers #615


Greater Sage-Grouse / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe Trump administration is attempting to undo the voluntary management program that the Obama administration put in place to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and prevent it from needing Endangered Species Act protections. This should serve as a warning to future administrations against trying to sidestep using the ESA when a species is declining and needs protection.This week the administration also denied endangered protections for 25 species, including the Bicknell's Thrush. Data from monitoring of the yearly 9/11 tribute shows how much urban light pollution affects migrating birds. Scientists from Hawk Mountain found that climate change is shifting the timing of seasonal migration. Eastern North American raptors now spend more time on their breeding grounds and migrate later in the fall.A genetic study of Budgerigars found a gene involved in producing yellow pigments, and a mutation in that gene turns the birds blue instead of green.Remote sensing data suggests that Spotted Owls depend on cover from tall trees and not total tree cover, which has implications for fire management.The House sparrow decline in Spain is linked to air pollution and a poor diet.Birds in the Caribbean have historically faced hurricanes and tropical storms, but recent developments make their situation worse. Science and nature bloggingBirding Dude: Long-billed Dowitcher ID - Things To Look For Jessica Gorzo: Onomatopoeia in Bird NamesGulls to the Horizon: 3CY Lesser Black-backed Gull Blue VZ6Y with active primary moult in January – 20170105 10,000 Birds: Notable Trees Anything Larus: Yellow-footed Gull - Salton SeaBird Ecology Study Group: Plant-Bird Relationship (Version 3.0)Birding Frontiers: The Dutch Imperial Eagle Environment and biodiversityHere is a list of the environmental regulations under attack from the Trump administration. The National Butterfly Center has announced its intention to sue over the construction of the border wall on its property.The urban-dwelling mountain lion known as P-41 was found dead, possibly because of factors related to the La Tuna Fire.Throughout the Bush administration, there were attempts to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and now those attempts have been revived. A beetle from the West Coast is helping control New Jersey's hemlock woolly adelgids.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #614


Great Horned Owl / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe series of major hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico present a real hazard for wildlife, especially species that already had small or isolated populations. At least a few Barbuda Warblers survived their encounter with Hurricane Irma. One student in Puerto Rico protected 90 birds during Hurricane Maria. It is not clear how Puerto Rican Parrots fared, but the forests where they live were devastated.A recent update to the water treaty between the US and Mexico should provide sufficient water to restore the Colorado River's delta, home to many species of birds.Saltmarsh Sparrows are threatened mainly by nest predation and coastal flooding, which is expected to increase with climate change. While predation is more common at the southern end of its breeding range, flooding of nest sites occurs throughout its range. Black Rails, another species that depends on high marsh for nesting sites, are also threatened by sea level rise. An experiment at Blackwater NWR is trying to restore high marsh habitat for these and other coastal saltmarsh species.A study found that the New Caledonian Crow and Kea learn how to use objects as tools by playing with the objects beforehand.A survey of bird banding data from the northwest found declines in three species typical of coniferous forests.A study of Gentoo Penguin vocalizations found that calls differed from one colony to another, but without a clear pattern based on subspecies or geography. Many Neotropical parrot species are threatened by human activity, particularly capture for the pet trade and loss of natural habitat to development.The trade in live wild birds, including some endangered species, is a problem in Southeast Asia as well.Science and nature bloggingOrnithologi: Published in Western Birds: First Record of Breeding Eurasian Barn Swallows (ssp. gutturalis) in North America ABA Blog: Happening NOW: Sabine’s Gulls and Long-tailed Jaegers on the Move.Cool Green Science: The Ocean Flyway: The Surprising Open Water Routes of Songbird MigrationsAvian Hybrids: Hybrid Owls: Californian Contacts and Mediterranean MigrantsThe Speckled Hatchback: Post #118 - Every bird has a story; Leg bands help tell it!  Outside My Window: Waiting For News … Again Bug Eric: Grasshopper or Locust?Environment and biodiversityAs the Trump administration works to undermine U.S. environmental protections, California is poised to take the lead on setting emissions standards and climate policy. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria may force hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to move to the mainland US, making them refugees from climate change. Given the lack of action on climate change, governments need to prepare to receive more and more climate refugees. Governments at all levels also need to take sea level rise and more powerful storms into account when planning coastal or floodplain development or preparing for disaster relief.Introducing more renewable energy sources may help make Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure more resilient in the future.The Trump administration wants to open the mid-Atlantic coast to seismic surveys by energy companies despite the potential hazards to marine organisms and low demand for oil leases in that region.Wood Tiger Moths have developed chemical defenses to make themselves distasteful to both birds and ants. The Fall Armyworm has become an invasive species in Africa. Darwin's Frogs are likely to be wiped out by a fungal epidemic.New Jersey's next governor will need to make up for lost time on ad[...]

Loose Feathers #613


American White Pelicans / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe 'I'iwi, one of Hawaii's endemic bird species, will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Threats include avian malaria (spread by invasive mosquitos), climate change, and a fungus that kills trees they depend on for food and nesting habitat.The 2017-2018 Winter Finch Forecast is now available. Most irruptive species are unlikely to migrate south of their usual wintering areas this winter due to excellent cone crops in the boreal forest.There are more free-flying California Condors than ever before, but their survival in the wild is still tenuous because of lead and mercury poisoning and other threats. Plans are underway for the start of a new free-flying population near the California-Oregon border.All 44 Snail Kite nests around Lake Okeechobee were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. The Snail Kite is an endangered species, and only 130 nests were reported this year in Florida, so the loss is substantial.The 230 captive endangered Puerto Rican Parrots at El Yunque National Forest survived Hurricane Irma in a secure room. No word yet on their status after Hurricane Maria.A captive breeding program is rebuilding the wild population of New Zealand's rarest kiwi species. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland ended its Whooping Crane captive breeding program as a result of budget cuts. A reduction in the size of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument would threaten habitat for Northern Spotted Owls.Social environment affects the phallus length in Lesser Scaup but apparently not among Ruddy Ducks. Barn Owls keep their hearing abilities as they age.Monk Parakeets have become an invasive species in Mexico thanks to changes in the pet trade.Tailings ponds at mining sites continue to pose a threat to birds despite safeguards. A survey of birdlife on New Britain showed one species worse and seven better than expected. The main threat to birds is palm oil production, which destroys their habitat.In colder months, flocks of Cedar Waxwings may appear in places with fruiting trees to devour the berries.Science and nature bloggingJessica Gorzo: Learning to Identify Birds by their VocalizationsAvian Hybrids: Two Crow Hybrid Zones for the Price of One!Cool Green Science: The Ocean Flyway: The Surprising Open Water Routes of Songbird Migrations Outside My Window: The Connecticut Warbler’s Amazing MigrationABA Blog: #MySantaAna Border Wall Update–Your Voice is Needed!awkward botany: Seagrass Meadows and Their Role in Healthy Marine EcosystemsCicada Mania: Neotibicen linnei and canicularis comparedBird Ecology Study Group: Pectinate Claw – Large-tailed Nightjarwadertales: The not-so-Grey Plover Environment and biodiversityHurricane Maria will likely worsen existing environmental problems on Puerto Rico. This summer's hurricanes have been notable for their rapid intensification, something that is usually rare among storms. The causes for rapid intensification are not completely understood, but the unusually high ocean temperatures appear to be a contributing factor.Zinke's report on national monuments has been leaked and includes recommendations to shrink at least six (Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Gold Butte, Cascade-Siskiyou, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll) while increasing resource exploitation of others. The targeted monuments include several areas with significant bird habitat. Continued uncertainty surrounding the report seems likely to reduce economic benefits that usually follow monument declarations. More background on [...]

Loose Feathers #613


Wilson's Warbler / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsSoon the endangered Kakapo will be the first species for which every individual's genome has been sequenced. The data will be especially useful in combination with data from the transmitters each of the parrots wears to record their movements and activities. Audubon is providing updates on birds and birding sites affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The ABA Blog has a round-up of unusual bird sightings in Hurricane Irma's path, including some extraordinary seabird records from Tennessee.An experiment using audio playback for 72 pairs of related bird subspecies found evidence for 21 new bird species.Recently a tweet showing a young Red-tailed Hawk guarding a recently-killed pigeon went viral on social media, which prompted this article and interview on the ubiquity of urban raptors.In other urban raptor news, a volunteer-run study has been tracking Seattle's Cooper's Hawks since 2003. This year at least 40 pairs nested in the city.Young birds have a hard time surviving in the city after fledging, but they are hardier if they survive their first year.Volunteers from NYC Audubon monitored the Tribute in Light memorial on 9/11 to make sure birds would not get trapped in the lights. Here is an article from 2015 that explains what they are doing.USFWS reports that 86 million people participated in birding activities in the U.S. in 2016. The USFWS conducts a survey (pdf) of outdoor recreation every five years; recent surveys have shown steady growth in the number of birders and continued decline in the number of hunters.Science and nature bloggingChris Watson: Night Parrot Discovered in South Australia In Defense of Plants: How Do Palms Survive Hurricanes?Whimbrel Nature: The Secret Lives Of Peeps The Speckled Hatchback: Post #116 - Info sought on grebe nesting failure!10,000 Birds: Endangered Birds: 50th Anniversary for the Class of 1967 Avian Hybrids: A Northern and a Southern Perspective on Hybrids between Golden-winged and Blue-winged WarblerMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: American White Pelican Dumping a Load in Flight awkward botany: When Sunflowers Follow the Sun  Bug Eric: Ammophila nigricans RevisitedBirding New Jersey!: The National Geographic Guide, Seventh Edition Environment and biodiversityFlooding from Hurricane Irma caused the release of millions of gallons of raw sewage in Florida. This is both a public health hazard and a threat to coastal wildlife in the affected areas.Houston's  floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are also full of toxins.Chocolate production is a driver of deforestation in the Ivory Coast.De-extinction of recently or even long extinct species is at least theoretically possible through biotechnology. This interview explores whether de-extinction would be a good idea. Many conservation programs are at risk in the proposed federal budget, including a USDA-funded program that protects nesting Tricolored Blackbirds. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #612


Bald Eagle / Photo by Randy Loftus/USFWSBirds and birding newsWith increasing loss of their preferred marsh habitat along the Gulf Coast, Mottled Ducks might move into urban and suburban habitats where they would be more likely to hybridize with Mallards.Ruddy Shelducks fly at altitudes of up to 22,000 feet as they cross the Himalayas. High-altitude flight has previously been documented among Bar-headed Geese, which also fly over the Himalayas.A section of the Northumberland coastline has been turned into a marine protected area to protect nesting seabirds, which are increasingly threatened by climate change. Photographing birds can be rewarding and support conservation, but photographers need to be careful to put the safety of the birds first.A study found that a cockatoo can bend wires (in this case pipe cleaners) to retrieve food items. Australian Magpies dunk food in water before eating it. Here are some hawkwatches in and around northeastern New Jersey. Science and nature bloggingLaura's Birding Blog: Hurricane Harvey and wildlife Net Results: New major paper published10,000 Birds: Arizona in Summer: It Ain’t All Hummers See you at sunrise...: Arizona: Put some "Second Spring" in your stepBrigit Strawbridge: Snail shell bees  The Last Word On Nothing: Flying forestBug Eric: My Personal National Moth Week, 2017Mia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Franklin’s and Ring-billed Gulls Flying in Smoky SkiesCelery Farm and Beyond: Raptor's Eye-Views of Cape May HawkwatchRosetta Stones: The Trump Administration's Effect on National ParksBird Ecology Study Group: Self-medication among birds  Environment and biodiversityThis year's active hurricane season is fueled in part by warmer ocean temperatures. Likewise, climate change is fueling this summer's massive wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. The floods from Hurricane Harvey will leave a toxic mess given the number of oil refineries and chemical plants along the Texas coast. Several Superfund sites were flooded, and the EPA was slow to respond.During Hurricane Sandy, protected wetlands prevented $625 million worth of damage in the Northeast.In the years since the Elwha River's dams were removed, scientists monitoring the results have found that the river has become wild again in unpredictable ways.Mattawoman Creek in Maryland, just south of DC, has one of the most productive fisheries in the Chesapeake region. Butterfly watchers have noticed a rebound in Monarch numbers this summer, but the improvement will not be sustainable without increased planting of milkweeds.Here are maps showing how 500-year floods would affect New Jersey. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #611


Black-billed Magpie / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsThe 4th annual Global Shorebird Counting begins today and runs through September 7. The event is held at the beginning of September each year to mark World Shorebirds Day on September 6. See the link for how to participate.Shorebirds are among the birds most threatened by climate change because many of them nest in the Arctic. A study of Scopoli's Shearwaters found evidence that the seabirds navigate using a sense of smell. While the Whooping Cranes that winter at Aransas NWR were safely in Canada when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the refuge likely suffered damage (but may also benefit from an infusion of freshwater). Meanwhile, the International Crane Foundation's office was destroyed, and the endangered Attwater's Prairie-Chickens were in the path of the storm. A soggy Cooper's Hawk that went viral on social media during the hurricane is now under the care of a wildlife rescuer.Bicknell's Thrush may have the smallest population of any songbird in the contiguous US. Eastern Bluebirds and Hispaniolan Crossbills disappeared from the Bahamas during the last glacial transition period.Conservationists are creating a new colony of Laysan Albatrosses on Oahu to keep the species from being threatened by rising sea levels.Interior forest birds like the Ovenbird benefit from connecting isolated parcels of habitat. The Nazca Booby population is expected to shrink with ocean warming.Some but not all seed-eating birds are able to adjust their diets when habitat degradation changes local plant communities.Scientists designed a way to recreate complex birdsongs by blowing air through a rubber tube. Science and nature bloggingAvian Hybrids: Hybrid Geese: A Trilogy of Papers ABA Blog: Global Rescue’s Digital Security Tips for TravelersBirding New Jersey!: The Moral Bobolink10,000 Birds: Where are the Bobolinks? Outside My Window: How Do You Know It’s A Moth?Environment and biodiversityHurricane Harvey is a disaster on many levels. Even after the rains stopped, the release of toxic pollutants from the many chemical plants and oil refineries is a lingering problem. One chemical plant exploded on Thursday morning; that plant's owner had lobbied against safety rules to make accidental releases less likely.As has become standard after unusual storms, the link to climate change is under debate. While there is reason to think that climate change makes storms like Harvey more likely, there are other factors that made the situation in Houston worse, such as its lax zoning rules and the paving over of wetlands. While there are a lot of hoaxes associated with hurricanes, the photos of floating masses of fire ants are real and reflect their dispersal method.Here is a visual profile of some of the biodiversity threatened by border wall expansion, with an emphasis on the Sky Islands and big cats. At least six national monuments are now known to be targets in Zinke's report.The Trump administration blocked NPS from expressing their concerns about a bill that would prevent NPS from regulating hunting in national parks in Alaska.Experiments are exploring how well animals that have seasonal color variation will adapt to climate change.American Pikas have disappeared from a large stretch of the Sierra Nevada in the Lake Tahoe area, probably due to climate change. Self-driving cars could increase suburban sprawl and threaten to pave over more natural habitat.Milder winters are allowing Southern Pi[...]

Loose Feathers #610


Barred Owl at Great Swamp NWR / my photoBirds and birding newsBirders reported a variety of unusual bird behaviors to eBird during the total solar eclipse this week, including birds roosting and nocturnal birds emerging in the middle of the day. Britain’s seabird colonies are in steep decline as warming waters disrupt their food supply, but a crucial study of their populations has been blocked.Studies of bone samples are shedding light on parts of the Dodo's natural history, including their breeding and molting cycles.Birders in the Mid-Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia) are encouraged to complete a survey on non-consumptive coastal recreational activities by September 5th. Data from the survey will help guide management decisions by state and other agencies. A wild fire in Montana was blamed on a hawk carrying a snake that collided with a powerline and produced sparks.A study combining eBird observations with land-use and climate models suggested extra protections for forests on the wintering grounds of migratory birds.Science and nature bloggingFeathered Photography: Barn Swallow In Flight Feeding A Fledglingawkward botany: Summer of Weeds: Willowherbs and FireweedU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region: Looking for Love in the Right Places Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds.: The Human Birdwatcher Project Presents: How To Chase a RarityMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Adult Ring-billed Gull Hovering Over The Marsh At Farmington BayWorld Shorebirds Day: Shorebirds never seen during Global Shorebird CountingOutside My Window: Birds’ Beaks Are Air ConditionersThe Afternoon Birder: Warbler Photography Tips Birding New Jersey!: In Eclipse Environment and biodiversityThe Interior Department is recommending boundary adjustments for a number of national monuments. So far it has not revealed which monuments or how much of a reduction they will face, but early indications point to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Cascade-Siskiyou as the main targets. Read more about those monuments here. Reduction or elimination of any monuments would likely face legal challenges.Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was expanded by President Obama to protect its biodiversity, including endangered species like Northern Spotted Owls. Bears Ears National Monument is notable for its archaeological and fossil sites.A tanker ship carrying liquid natural gas sailed from Norway to South Korea via the Arctic without the help of an icebreaker for the first time. The event shows both the loss of Arctic sea ice and the potential for toxic material spills in remote areas as more commercial activity happens in northern seas.A study found that the burden of climate change in the U.S. will fall disproportionately on states in the Southeast and Southwest.Alaska's permafrost is already thawing, and further thawing could contribute up to 1.7°F to climate change. A court ruled that regulators need to account for the potential greenhouse gas emissions from pipelines when evaluating their environmental impact.A federal report predicts climate change to produce 2.5°F of warming in the next few decades in the U.S.; the East would get wetter and the Southwest drier.Thousands of farmed Atlantic Salmon escaped from a pen in Washington state; the environmental consequences are so far unclear, but potential consequences could include the introduced salmon becoming invasive or spreading disease among local wild[...]

Loose Feathers #609


Sage Thrasher / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsA new study suggests that the temperature stability in tropical climates (as opposed to temperate ones) encourages a greater diversity of bird species. It is possible that a more stable climate makes it possible for birds to be highly specialized.Ireland is slowly losing its Eurasian Curlews, a species much celebrated in Irish literature and folklore. A new study suggests that the extinct Hunter Island Penguin, described from bones in 1983, was actually a composite of three different living species and thus never really existed. An ornithologist writes that learning the name of a species and how to identify it is the first step to a deeper appreciation of nature. A Bullock's Oriole that was captured two years ago in Ottawa has been rehabilitated and will be flown to British Columbia for release.EBird is doing its taxonomic update for 2017 this week, and lists may seem odd while it is in progress.Birding is rising in popularity among millennials.A new study finds that Reed Warblers can sense magnetic declination, which allows for east-west as well as north-south navigation.Science and nature bloggingawkward botany: Summer of Weeds: Flower of an HourBritish Ornithologists' Union Blog: How many species is the Pectoral Sparrow?Auk & Condor Updates Blog: Not Too Many Sperm, Not Too Few  BugBlog: Pollen gathering spiders10,000 Birds: Will Environmental Laws Prevent a Wall Through Santa Ana NWR? Environment and biodiversityDuring Trump's bizarre press conference on Tuesday, he signed an executive order that included a rule overturning an Obama-era rule that planning for infrastructure on flood-prone properties must take account of sea level rise. The rule change contradicts how he has treated his own properties.The EPA will also end restrictions on water pollution from coal-fired power plants. A great deal remains unknown about frog reproduction, but what is known suggests great variation among frog species.If hunting of Grizzly Bears is allowed in the Yellowstone area this year, up to 20 bears could be killed in the area immediately around the park. A critical question is whether the Yellowstone bears will ever expand their range enough to reconnect with populations in the northern Rocky Mountains.An Exxon Mobil refinery in Beaumont, Texas, is a good example of how toxic industries are often sited near poor or minority neighborhoods. Young conservationists are being driven out of the profession by a lack of stable paid work. Several business coalitions are urging Ryan Zinke not to reduce or rescind national monument designations since the monuments provide an economic boost.A federal pollinator task force is considering using I-35 as a corridor for prairie restoration to provide habitat for migrating Monarchs. While New Jersey's Pinelands region is protected, its Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer still faces threats from development and climate change.  The Keystone XL pipeline now awaits a decision by Nebraska regulators, but a recent hearing did not allow for testimony about its most important problems, such as safety and environmental effects. This week, New Jersey removed a dam along the Millstone River to increase migratory fish habitat.Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]

Loose Feathers #608


Greater Sage-Grouse / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWSBirds and birding newsAccording to a recent study, livestock grazing and roads have worse effects on Greater Prairie-Chickens' nesting success than wind energy facilities.This week the Interior Department weakened protections for sage grouse that had been implemented to prevent endangered listing during the Obama administration. The preen gland of birds like Zebra Finches gets larger during the breeding season. Isotopes in penguin feathers can reveal their migration route.As the desert Southwest’s heat waves grow hotter, bigger and more frequent, songbirds struggle to survive.Sandpipers are already on their way south.Here is an article about birding the New Jersey Botanical Garden. Science and nature bloggingABA Blog: 2017 ABA Big Year Updates: Three Over 70010,000 Birds: More than a mouthful can be a really bad thing!  The Nature of Cities: Black Cockatoo Rising: The Struggle to Save the Bushland in the CityYour Wild Life: What to Do About the Ants in Your KitchenFeathered Photography: Male Red-naped Sapsucker – An InterloperBird Ecology Study Group: Large-tailed Nightjar’s enormous gapeMia McPherson's On The Wing Photography: Canada Geese and How Their Calls Signal a Change of Seasons For Me The Meadowlands Nature Blog: Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Some Thoughts Before You Cut Down a Tree  awkward botany: Summer of Weeds: Stinking LovegrassEnvironment and biodiversityThe USDA kills thousands of animals (both wildlife and pets) each year with cyanide bombs, which kill indiscriminately.USDA has also begun censoring use of the term 'climate change' under the new administration. Artificial lights discourage nocturnal pollinators from visiting nearby plants.American Pikas are adapting to climate change by changing their foraging behavior and making use of different habitats, which are among several adaptation strategies documented in wildlife. Citizen scientists can help answer questions about how wildlife is adapting (or not) to climate change by collecting data. Contractors for the border wall cleared a portion of the privately-owned National Butterfly Center without warning.This article has a map showing where the new border wall sections will be built, including the sections in the National Butterfly Center and Santa Ana NWR.Significant climate events in the U.S. in July included unusually heavy rains in the Midwest and Northeast and unusually hot and dry conditions along the Pacific coast and Alaska. The PennEast pipeline is likely to move ahead now that FERC has a quorum.Natural barriers like restored dunes and saltmarshes can help save cities from rising seas where traditional seawalls are inadequate. Posted on A DC Birding Blog under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.[...]