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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 Yost87@charter.net in Denton.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Do woodpeckers live everywhere?


Northern Flicker

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
There are 215 species of Woodpeckers and closely-related birds worldwide. In north Texas, five species are fairly common: Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Sapsucker and Flicker. However, I can think of several others that make rare, accidental appearances here. The only lands that have no Woodpeckers are islands; Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
 



High mortality right now.   Sadly, wild birds have a high death rate in cool weather – it varies among species, but can be as high as 70% of the first-year birds. This is mainly from exposure to the winds and weather, coupled with a lack of fresh, energy-producing food.

They seek out warm “roosts” for the night.   North Texans have been doing a good job of providing birds’ fall and winter needs, so we continue to have more birds here in cool weather, than in the spring and summer. Actually a majority of birds in north Texas don‘t migrate – they stay right here. Our winters are comparatively mild and, if birds can adapt, they’ll stay put. Cardinals, Blue jays, Chickadees, Robins, most Woodpeckers and Titmice are among those that stay in-state.

They may be less active (meaning they need less food and you see them less) but they’re HERE.  Some of the year-‘round birds are what’s called “partial migrators”. All that means is that they re-locate slightly (maybe a hundred miles or so, or into a valley) due to the available food.

 

 

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 Yost87@charter.net in Denton.