A collection of bird, science, photography, and news links from the past week. Click on the links for the actual stories.
- Attract Screech Owls to Your Yard!! — HAH! I’ll believe it when I see it! This piece from Birdwatching Magazine touts how easy it is to attract Screech Owls to your yard, by building and putting up a nest box. Three years ago, I bought a box built specifically for Screech Owls. Over three summers, many a young bird has fledged from that box! Of course all of them have been House Sparrows, the one thing I do NOT need more of. Hopefully some day an actual Eastern Screech Owl finds it, evicts the House Sparrows within, and justifies my purchase.
- Coal Declines in the U.S. — One of the things that bugs me great is lying. In the world of politics, it’s an art form. This week, fact got in the way of rhetoric, with a study coming out that refutes those who try to pin the decline of coal, and mining jobs in the U.S., to government policy. Coal started to decline in 2008, right when Obama was elected. It’s his fault!! Well…no. As this study notes, it’s basic economics and the rise of cheap natural gas. People love to complain about cheap energy prices, but now that we have it? They’ll find something else to complain about…
- Get ready to add new species to your life list! — There’s been speculation for a while now that Crossbill species in North America may be split into as many as 6 or more new, distinct species. This study provides more support for that move, using genomics to look at the rapid evolution of Crossbills that feed on pine seeds. It’s always handy when you can add a new species to your life list, without ever leaving your living room.
- Hotter than Hell — Which, evidently must be around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, given 1) where people believe hell is likely located (think ‘down’), and 2) the estimated temperature at the center of the earth.
- Caspian Terns Breeding near Arctic Circle — If you’re one of those that doesn’t believe in climate change, you might as well stop reading my blog altogether. As yet more evidence that strange things are afoot, scientists confirmed breeding of Caspian Terns north of the Arctic Circle…1,000 MILES further north than they’ve been found before. If it were just thing one piece of evidence…sure…could be a fluke. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire though, and it’s getting damned hard to breath with so much “smoke” around.
Getting away from it all (Noise, that is) — My son and I usually go fishing in the Black Hills of South Dakota once a year. You wouldn’t want to be in the area in late summer, when the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is going on, and there are certainly tourist hotspots scattered throughout the area. But what’s always nice about the Black Hills is that if you want solitude, you can find it. Think of the soundtrack of your daily life. Think how rare it is to NOT have some background noise, be it street noise, a barking dog, etc. That what struck me at one point this summer while fishing in the hills…how we were hearing…NOTHING. And it was fabulous. As this story notes, it’s been darn hard to find a noise-free environment going back at least 50 years.
- Hurricane Matthew Punches Above its Weight — Hurricane Matthew’s story was fascinating, because of the unusual path, its immense power as it tore through the Caribbean, and because it became an afterthought for many Americans once it avoided a direct hit on Florida. Of course, certain political stories overshadowed Matthew when it raged across the Carolinas, but more than that, it was the feeling of relief, the feeling that the U.S. had dodged a bullet. Instead of Category 4 hurricane striking Florida, it stayed offshore of Florida and was downgraded to a Category 1 by the time it struck the Carolinas. As this story notes, perhaps we need a new rating system for Hurricanes. Sandy too wasn’t the most powerful hurricane, but it certainly did some damage, and so did Matthew, with 18 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina.
- Hummingbirds should listen to their parents!! — It’s rough out there for a lil’ wild critter! Not only do they have to deal with other critters that may want to eat them, but sometimes they just don’t KNOW what they’re supposed to do to survive. That’s one takeaway from this story, that notes different individual hummingbirds use different feeding and migration strategies. Hummingbirds that have made the migration before? They are more strategic, Adding up to 40% onto their body weight right before making a long migratory flight. First-time migrants? They are less strategic, tending to NOT pack on the pounds, but instead migrate south in short bursts and feeding in between. The lesson overall…LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS. They know best.
- Climate Change Doubles Western U.S. Fires — According to this study, fires overall have likely doubled in the western U.S. since 1984, due to climate change. Overall fire increase has been even more than that, but due to other issues like fuel build up, beetle kill, ignition sources, and other risk factors. I believe that fire risk overall has gone up. As a scientist though, I do find it extremely, extremely difficult to attribute a certain percentage increase in fire due to just one factor, however. There’s so many factors that drive fire risk, with complicated feedbacks among them, that I’d have a hard time stating “twice” as many fires are due just to climate change. Good article though for highlighting the issue.
Captain Kirk was Brain Damaged — OK, maybe that’s not what this story is saying. But it IS saying that there’s a high risk of cognitive issues for astronauts spending time in space, due to cosmic rays and radiation. Interesting study, given that this week, Obama said a government and private partnership would help us reach Mars by the 2030s. That’s certainly a very ambitious goal, one that may be doable, but there are a lot of technical challenges to be solved.
- Dumbledore Returning!! — Not exactly science. Or birds. Or really news for that matter. But with JK Rowling’s “Fantastical Beasts” coming out as a movie in a month, it was announced that she’s working on at least 4 more scripts, for at least 5 movies in total. There’s also talk of Dumbledore coming back to play some role in these movies! My cynical side can’t help but scream out “MONEY GRAB!!!” with the announcement that they’re going to make 5 movies. But my Harry Potter fandom side is loving it.