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Friday, April 13, 2012

This week in birds - #16

(Photo courtesy of American Bird Conservancy.)
The American Bird Conservancy's bird of the week is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The little woodpecker is declining in numbers and its status is threatened as the longleaf pine savannas that it requires for its habitat are cut down or ravaged by pine beetles, disease and drought. This bird was once endemic throughout the Southeast but now is confined to a few isolated locations. It is most numerous in South Carolina and Texas, including here in Montgomery County.

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There is an old proverb that says that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and the second best time to plant a tree is today. In a piece in The New York Times this week, Jim Robbins explains "Why Trees Matter."

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Did you ever wonder how Homing Pigeons, or indeed, pigeons in general, are able to find their way home? There has been a persistent theory that it is due to iron-rich cells in their beaks that make them sensitive to magnetic fields. Well, apparently you can scratch that theory. A report of a new study just published in Nature pretty thoroughly disproves it.

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Another new study says that the familiar backyard bird, the White-breasted Nuthatch, may actually be four distinct species.

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Last month was the warmest March in U.S. history, with 25 states east of the Rockies recording their warmest March on record and 15 more reaching the top ten of their warmest month of March.

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Conservationists have been very concerned about the effect of wind farms on migrating birds, but a new study in the United Kingdom did not find notably adverse effects to ten species that were included in the study. It should be noted though that those ten species did not include any large raptors which are of most concern in this country.  

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The Bermuda Petrel, or Cahow, was thought to be extinct for over 300 years, but there are now known to be at least 100 breeding pairs in the world.

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White-nose syndrome is a disease that has been devastating to bats in the Northeast and in Canada and it is spreading to other parts of the country. It has now been confirmed that the origin of the fungus which causes the disease is Europe.

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Scientists have used geolocators to track the Golden-crowned Sparrow for the first time from its wintering grounds in California to its breeding range in Alaska.

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The American chestnut tree was once an iconic image of towns and countrysides, but it was virtually wiped out by a pathogenic fungus. Now an attempt is being made to reintroduce genetically-modified forms of the tree in the eastern U.S. which, it is hoped, will be resistant to the disease.  

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Blogger Bug Girl is concerned about the GOP war on caterpillars

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Around the backyard: Nesting is well under way although I haven't seen any fledglings yet. I do hear their voices though, in the hedgerows and trees around the yard, and I expect they'll be making an appearance soon.

As I noted earlier this week, the first Indigo Buntings of spring have arrived. Beautiful birds with a joyous song - it's such a pleasure to have them around.

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are still passing through, but I haven't seen any females yet. I'm hoping that the little female that has nested here in recent years will be returning. Time will tell.

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