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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The canary just might be taking over the coal mine

Yellow-throated Warbler
Our wildlife, particularly birds, appears to be taking a big hit, while we take our time talking about whether global warming is real or not. Natural food supplies, breeding schedules, vegetative cover, prevailing winds, temperatures et. al. are all messed up.  For example, in  recent years, American Goldfinches started arriving in north Texas at the beginning of November. Last year it was about mid-November. This year, about early December. This sortr of thing may seem like a small matter, but there are hundreds of such examples. A few other proven, researched examples:

1.    In Arizona, the breeding season of the Mexican Jay has been pushed up 10 days between 1971 and 1998. This correlates with spring temperatures, which have risen 4.5° F in the same period.

2.    Robins in Colorado have migrated to higher elevations, where they breed two weeks earlier than in the late ‘70s. Many birds now arrive before the snow melts and uncovers their food. So they starve.

3.    The population of Edith’s Checkerspot butterfly, normally throughout the west coast, is drastically shrinking. In the southern part of its range, 80% of them are gone due to climate change.

4.    On Alaska’s Cooper Islands, populations of Black Guillemot’s are declining as the sea ice melts and recedes, affecting the birds’ primary food source, cod, which live under the ice.

5.    Red-winged Blackbirds now arrive at their spring breeding grounds in Michigan 21 days earlier than they did in 1960.

6.    Prothonotary Warblers have been arriving at their breeding grounds in Virginia one day earlier each year, for the last two decades, as spring temperatures have risen.


OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.  

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