Plans are well under way to establish wind farms off the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to produce energy for the country. Although the turbines are designed to withstand high winds, a recent study indicates that hurricanes in some areas could present a high risk to the farms. The area that would be most at risk, according to the study, would be off the Galveston coastline.
A wind farm already in production, the Pine Tree site in the mountains of California, has had an unusually high mortality rate for birds. Golden Eagles have been the species most affected. Officials are trying to figure out why this is happening and how the situation can be ameliorated.
The extreme drought which Texas has been experiencing has degraded the winter habitat of the Whooping Cranes at Aransas, causing them to be more widely dispersed in the area than they have been in recent history.
The H5N1 virus, sometimes called bird flu virus, has been floating around as a concern for public health officials for several years now. Much research has been done on the virus, some of it has modified the virus and potentially made it even more dangerous. That research has now been suspended, but the World Health Organization has made the decision to release information regarding the research so that it will be available to other scientists. This is being done in spite of objections from the United States.
The little Northern Wheatear makes a remarkable migration from its breeding grounds in Alaska to wintering grounds in East Africa.
The Heartland Institute is a non-profit organization with a distinctly right-wing political bent. A cache of documents from the organization secured by an investigator shows that they are conducting a stealth campaign against the science of global climate change, including trying to influence how schools teach the science. Before Heartland became involved in denying that the earth is warming, they spent two decades denying that tobacco has any negative health effects and fighting against any government regulation of the substance.
Idaho is looking for ways to protect its population of Sage Grouse. Officials are in the process of writing new and stronger regulations for the bird's protection.
A new lizard species has been discovered in the Peruvian Andes. The lizard is very brightly colored in hues of red, yellow, and blue.
Bitterns are "booming" again in the United Kingdom and so is their population. The birds are recovering due to the protection and enhancement of their wetlands habitats.
About one-third of counties in the United States are expected to be suffering water shortages by the year 2050 because of the effects of global climate change.
Just to prove that all is not negative when it comes to exotic invasive species, the giant apple snail, which has become endemic in the Everglades because of the aquarium trade, is being eaten by an endangered bird, the Snail Kite. The new food source is helping to increase and stabilize the population of the threatened kite.
Around the backyard: This was the week that the goldfinches left! I had not been able to spend much time observing the birds this week but I had noticed that the thistle seeds were not disappearing as fast as they had been. Today, I was able to observe and count birds for a couple of hours before the rains started in the afternoon and it was clear to me that most of the goldfinches had moved on. I was only seeing one or two of the birds where previously there would have been twenty or more.
Today, of course, was the first day of the long-anticipated Great Backyard Bird Count. It was a gray, overcast day, not the best conditions for viewing the birds. At least the rain held off until late afternoon. My species tally for the day was nineteen:
- Black Vulture
- Turkey Vulture
- White-winged Dove
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Rufous Hummingbird
- Eastern Phoebe
- Blue Jay
- American Crow
- Carolina Chickadee
- Tufted Titmouse
- Carolina Wren
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- American Robin
- Pine Warbler
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Northern Cardinal
- American Goldfinch
- House Sparrow
Here are a few of the pictures I took of visitors to the backyard feeders today.
This was the first year I've had a Rufous Hummingbird to report on my GBBC.
There were at least half a dozen Carolina Chickadees visiting the feeders at once.
There were a number of noisy Blue Jays at the feeders throughout the day, as well.
I never saw more than two American Goldfinches at the feeders at a time today.
There are always plenty of Pine Warblers at my feeders in winter.
And, of course, Northern Cardinals are abundant in my yard year-round.
That was day one. Tomorrow we are supposed to have some heavy rains again, but I hope I'll be able to count some of the birds that I missed in today's tally. Stay tuned!