May 10, 2019
1 million species on verge of extinction
By Darryl Fears/Washington Post
Photo by Eli Duke/flickr
One million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report.

The landmark report by  seven lead co-authors  from universities across the world goes further than previous studies by directly linking the loss of species to human activity. It also shows how those losses are undermining food and water security, as well as human health.

More plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than any other period in human history, it concludes. Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, and the accelerating rate of extinctions “means grave impacts on people around the world are now  likely,"  it says.

In a prepared statement, Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the panel’s chairman, said the decline in biodiversity is eroding “the foundations 

Australia is deadly serious about its
feral cats
By Jessica Camille Aguirre/New York Times
Photo by Lee/flickr
Feral cats are a nuisance everywhere. In Australia, the government  has deemed them an invasive pest .
As is the case on islands around the world, the direction of life in Australia took a distinctly different route than that on the larger continents, and unlike places like North America, the country has no native cat species.

Over millions of years of isolation, Australia’s native beasts became accustomed to a different predatory order, so while feral cats aren’t necessarily more prevalent there than anywhere else, their presence is more ruinous. They have also become nearly ubiquitous: According to the estimates of local conservationists, feral cats have established a permanent foothold across 99.8 percent of the country, with their density reaching up to 100 per square kilometer in some areas.

Even places nearly devoid of human settlement, like the remote and craggy Kimberley region, have been found to harbor cats that hunt native animals. The control effort, to which Western Australia’s baiting program belongs, was meant to ease the predation pressure that cats exerted in every corner of the country where they had settled. 

For conservation, not all grasses
are equal
By Tom Carpenter/
Photo by aossanna/flickr
Grassy fields, tucked-away meadows, waterway buffer strips and other open areas serve as important components of wildlife habitat. 

Wild turkeys need openings for feeding and brood-rearing, and grassy habitat produces abundant insects that serve as protein-rich forage for poults. White-tailed deer readily use prairie-type habitat for fawn-rearing in spring and summer and for bedding at any time of year. Many songbirds require grassy meadows. And for gamebirds such a bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasants, grass is essential.

But not all grasses are created equal. Most nonnative grasses, many of which were introduced as livestock forage, don’t provide value to wildlife. Native grasses, the ones that North American wildlife evolved with, are almost always better. Anyone managing land for wildlife needs to understand more about native grasses and how to encourage them on the landscape.

‘Shot in the dark’ pays off for cranes
By Dana Koblinsky/Wildlife Society
Photo by Brian Ralphs/flickr
Mounting ultraviolet lights that shine on power lines reduced sandhill crane collisions by 98 percent in a key Nebraska migration stopover for the birds. The technique protects the cranes, researchers found, without causing light pollution that bothers humans.

“One problem we have when we mark power lines is, if we use any kind of lighted marker at night, people see it and complain,” said James Dwyer, a research scientist with the consulting firm EDM international, Inc.
Dwyer and his colleagues, a team of biologists and electrical engineers, wanted to test if UV light, which birds can see but people can’t, would help deter the cranes.

The cranes see shorter wavelengths of light, Dwyer said, so he and his colleagues were hopeful they would be sensitive to the UV lights. “It was a shot in the dark based on intuition,” he said.

Odd couple: The owl and the duckling
By Matt Mendenhall/BirdWatching
Photo by DaPuglet/flickr
The photo is real, and it has drawn lots of attention. An Eastern Screech-Owl sits next to a young Wood Duck in the entrance to a nest box.  Laurie Wolf , an artist and photographer, noticed the scene last Tuesday in her backyard in Jupiter Farms, Florida, in the southeastern part of the state.

On either February 28 or March 1, Wolf says she “saw a female Wood Duck remove and fly away with one duck egg from a nesting box on the east side of our property. The area under this particular tree had some fresh egg shells, where something had raided the box. She flew west with it toward another of our nesting boxes, but we lost sight of her, as we went from the upstairs window where we can see the one box, to the downstairs window where we could see the box she went toward. On March 1, the screech-owl appeared in the evening, sitting in the doorway of that box. The boxes are in our backyard, 20 feet off the ground, fastened to pine trees.”

‘The best thing about hunting and fishing,' the Old Man said, 'is that you don't have to actually do it to enjoy it. You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had twenty years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight.'
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