Recently in The Environment Category
Today is International Migratory Bird Day - a great day to get out birding if you can (I have to work!). Or go out and count them by participating in the Spring Migration Count like some of my friends at Halifax River Audubon in Florida will be doing. And a number of teams have converged on Cape May, N.J. where they will be participating in the annual World Series of Birding.
For "my" part, last night I did my evening program Wings on the Wind at the lodge, and we'll be handing out some "junior birder" booklets to all of the participants in the park's Junior Ranger program today. And, since I'm doing an astronomy related talk tonight and don't go to work until later, I will have a little time this morning to get out do a little bird watching for fun, and see if any "new" birds have arrived in the park in the past few days.
No matter where you live, there just might be and IMBD event near you, and if there isn't, there will be some birds around you can watch for a while.Then for the next 365 days, until IMBD rolls around again, do bird friendly things like by shade grown organic coffees, support one or more of the many organizations that work to help birds, and, when it comes time to vote, quit electing these know-nothing, so-called conservatives who have tried in the past, and continue to fight now, protections like the Endangered Species Act and also live in their climate change denial fantasy world (these people will be the death of us all).
So get outside, see what the birds are doing, and have a great International Migratory Bird Day!
If you're in a bigger city that is participating and the lights go down in your neighborhood you should check and see if maybe you can't see a few more stars out. Of course, part of the motivation behind Earth Hour is to raise awareness on the issue of Global Climate Change, a topic which, just this week, I found some additional news feeds that deal with this very topic. We can use that information to contribute to our discussions on matters of science and today is a good day to get started. A couple of these news items on climate change are from several weeks ago, but still pertinent and just may be "news" to you. In "celebration" I've also added a new widget near the bottom of the far right column that will show an interesting climate related fact every time you visit (or refresh the page).
The first is about a report from Audubon released back in February summarizing some of the data from Christmas Bird Counts over the past 40 years. The data shows a rather dramatic shift with some 305 species wintering farther to the north an average of 35 miles/56 km. At over 300 mi/500 km, Red-breasted Mergansers and Purple Finches have moved the most. In the case of the merganser, of course, they can't remain farther north if there isn't open water . . .
Butcher and his colleagues drew on data from the Christmas Bird Counts, a 109-year-old tradition in which birders brave whatever winter throws at them to visit predetermined sites where they record all the species they can find during a 24-hour period. In recent years, more than 50,000 volunteers have turned out for the count at some 2,000 locations across the continent. Such citizen science efforts offer a way to grasp broad trends, says conservation biologist Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International, headquartered in Cambridge, England. "The strength of this study is that it's looking at a broad range of species across a large geographic area," he says. "It's the overall pattern that's important and should be raising alarm bells."I mentioned Science News' regular feature Science for Kids in the first in this series of posts and they have one on eating a greener diet that may be of interest to adults, too (the "adult" version of this article is online, too). Of the different kinds of meat we consume, beef contributes - by far - more in the way of greenhouse gases that either chicken or pork. The cows themselves produce copious amounts of methane, one of the worst greenshouse gases, as they digest the food they eat. Ulf Sonesson of the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology in Goteborg, Sweden points out that a single half-pound burger contributes more that 19 times its weight in carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in the process of raising the animal, transporting it to be slaughtered, ground up for consumption, and shipped to you to eat. Chicken and pork production contribute less bad stuff to the atmosphere - in fact, a Canadian scientist is quoted in the article says that if we switched away from beef completely the amount of CO2 would be cut in half. As for me, the main meat in my diet has been chicken for many years, though would I probably be inclined to eat a little more pork but for the other environmental impacts associated with those factory farms, not that there aren't similar bad things with giant chicken farms, too. (I only buy two or three pounds of beef per month and it comes from the store in Panguitch that buys and butchers locally raised cattle.)
"Just as they were when Rachel Carson published 'Silent Spring' nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water, and ecosystems," Salazar said. "From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends.... We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields, and backyards that Rachel Carson warned us about."The report is available on a new website that also includes a link to download a PDF version. I may have more to say once I get a chance to read it over . . .
The nearly 80% decline compares to the approximately 90% decline in Red Knots. The researchers note that, while no studies have been done on breeding grounds for the semipalms, they have been done in Knot breeding areas and nothing exists there that would explain the decline. And nothing on either species wintering grounds can be pointed to which might explain the declines, either. So that leaves Delaware Bay, the one location shared by both species. It has been reported that crab numbers were up last year, so there may be hope, but for now we have two species to worry about going extinct because of greed (and while I don't have a link, I also heard somewhere that Sanderlings in eastern North America are in decline as well). It will be interesting to see what happens this May when the birds arrive on the bay.
In the 1980s, about 2 million semipalmated were counted by researchers on the 4,000-mile coastline of Suriname and neighboring French Guiana, where scientists say 85 percent of the world's population of the bird winters annually. Last month, only 400,000 of the birds were found in aerial surveys by the New Jersey Audubon expedition.
"We had already found a 50 percent decline over 15 years by 2006. Now, this is a 70 to 80 percent decline since the survey in the 1980s. I think it's alarming," said David Mizrahi, the team leader.The problem, he said, appears to be in the Delaware Bay -- also the controversial source of the red knot's troubles.-- Brian T. Murray, Star-Ledger Staff