Just Passing Through

A flock of homing pigeons has taken up residence on our roof. How do we know they’re homing pigeons? They’re all banded, they’re very sleek and well-fed, and they seem a bit lost. They stand on our skylights and look down at us with beaky expectation, as if we know what to do better than…

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Speaking the Language

I went to bed late last night, it was easily midnight or beyond, and as I lay there on the edge of sleep, I heard an unaccustomed sound. It sounded like…birdsong. I listened closely. It was, indeed, birdsong. And not just little chirps or the otherworldly radar sounds of an owl. There were two birds,…

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What We Talk About When We Talk About War (VIII)

When I first wrote about the Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) two years ago, the civil conflict in Syria had already been wreaking havoc on citizens and landscape for over 24 months. It was suspected that chemical weapons had been used on civilians, and historical monuments were being destroyed. A bit of good news was…

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Portrait of Living Wind

A century ago this month, the world’s last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) died in the Cincinnati Zoo, long after the last passenger pigeon had been seen in the wild. The passenger pigeon, once populous beyond imagining, took only a century to disappear. It seems that more than one factor was responsible for the population decline and how…

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Snake Compass

Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are a successful invasive species in Florida that have been profiting from local wildlife and few natural predators. Native to Southeast Asia and listed by the IUCN as vulnerable or endangered in their original habitats, abandoned or escaped pythons have been thriving in the Florida Everglades, to the dismay of conservationists trying…

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Reaching New Shores

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report on the development of climate change and its effects on humans. The 2600-page report is the result of three years work and the collaboration of 300 scientists. It makes for mostly grim reading, with an emphasis on climate impact on food security (not positive),…

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Sessile Mobility

A study on sucker-footed bats (Myzopoda aurita), published in PLOS One, discusses bat fossils found in Egypt’s Western Desert. This might be less worthy of examination if the fossils weren’t almost identical with existing bats now found only on Madagascar. These bats have sessile, or immovable, pads for feet. Based on their research, study authors…

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Narrowing Focus

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) population on the Mexican Monarch Reserve where they overwinter is the lowest since annual surveys began back in 1993. The oyamel fir forests provide a warm winter home for the monarchs, known for their great migration across North America. The population is down 59% from two years ago. In 1996, monarchs…

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Elvers Wait

I’ve written several times before regarding the harvesting of elvers, the young of the American eel. It’s time for another update. Once numerous, eel populations have dropped over the past hundred years due to a number of factors. Most of these have to do with man-made changes to the eel migration routes along the rivers…

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Following Green

Some scientists are predicting that climate change will make Greenland, legendary for its otherworldly vistas, a place as green and verdant as Sweden or parts of Alaska. As species – both flora and fauna – migrate from their customary habitats, we will likely see the spread of more diversity, rather than less, into areas that…

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