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Sun, 27 Sep 2020
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US: With development, common birds are losing ground

The loss of millions of acres of grasslands and shrubs nationwide to suburban sprawl and agriculture -- along with a warming planet -- has dramatically reduced the numbers of common birds seen across the United States over the past 40 years, according to a National Audubon Society study released yesterday.

In Massachusetts, several birds seen regularly three or four decades ago, including the Northern bobwhite and the Eastern meadowlark, have all but disappeared, according to the study.

Human encroachment on their habitats has so vastly diminished their populations that specialists now consider it rare to see those birds, as well as several others, according to annual counts.

"It shows how suburban development really affects bird habitats," said Greg Butcher , national director of bird conservation for Audubon. "In many cases the development destroys the habitat outright or causes fragmented spaces for them."

The nationwide analysis looked at data collected by volunteer bird-watchers in the Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count , which started 107 years ago and is held over a 20-day period before and after Christmas, and the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey organized by the US Geological Survey every June. Combining the data from both surveys produced a snapshot of 550 bird species from roughly 5,000 sites in 48 states, Butcher said. Alaska and Hawaii have had fewer sites and were not included.

Monkey Wrench

Kilimanjaro not a victim of climate change, UW scientist says

The shrinking snowcap atop Mount Kilimanjaro has become an icon of global warming.

Question

Mysterious illness affects otters in Calif.

Perhaps no marine mammal is more adored than California's sleek, swift, shellfish-crunching sea otters. They dart and slither to the delight of visitors at one of Monterey Bay Aquarium's most popular exhibits.

But sea otters, an endangered species, are becoming mysteriously sick, and research biologist Tim Tinker of the University of California, Santa Cruz and others aren't sure why. They see symptoms in the disfigured faces of females and unusually aggressive mating habits in males.

Cloud Lightning

Drought hits Maui, worsens on Big Island

The Maui Department of Water Supply has declared a drought in Upcountry Maui, imposing mandatory water restrictions, while dry conditions are getting worse on the Big Island.

Maui officials Tuesday imposed 10 percent water restrictions on nonagricultural users in Haiku, Haliimaile, Kanaio, Keokea, Kula, Makawao, Olinda, Omaopio, Pukalani, Pulehu, Ulupalakua, and Waiohuli, but gave farmers 30 days grace.

Cloud Lightning

Across the U.S., stress from drought spreads

Drought, a fixture in much of the West for nearly a decade, now covers more than one-third of the continental United States. And it's spreading.

As summer starts, half the nation is either abnormally dry or in outright drought from prolonged lack of rain that could lead to water shortages, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly index of conditions.

Cloud Lightning

Undular Bore in the Arabian Sea

A large cluster of wave clouds spans the Arabian Sea from Oman to India. This cloud formation is likely an undular bore, created by an interaction between cool, dry air in a low-pressure system with a stable layer of warm, moist air.

©Jeff Schmaltz

Cloud Lightning

Norway and Sweden - From Summer to Snow

After last week's record high temperatures have given way to an even more unusual contrast.

The sun chairs set out in Tynset in Hedmark County were covered in snow on Thursday morning.

©Mali Hagen Røe
Recently used summer furniture covered by snow.

"This is extreme. We are after all in the middle of June, and it is especially remarkable given the high temperatures we have just had. I cannot remember similar cases," Øyvind Johnsen at the Meteorologist Institute told Aftenposten.no.

Cloud Lightning

No mystery say officials: weather or climate change lowering Lake Superior

Global climate change could be causing staggeringly low water levels on Lake Superior, but normal variations in weather could also be behind the drop, say officials charged with monitoring lake levels.

Either way, weather is the reason for this year's unprecedented decline and it's going to take long periods of above-average precipitation to get things back to normal, insists David Fay, Canadian member of the International Lake Superior Board of Control.

©Michael Purvis
Low water levels are visible at Point Des Chenes, northwest of the Sault, where Lake Superior has receded far from the beach this year.

Shallow docks have been left high and dry this year and swimmers have been forced to walk further to get wet, as Lake Superior dropped to 53 centimetres below normal for the beginning of June and 40 centimetres below last year's level. That's just 10 centimetres higher than the record low, recorded in 1926.

Cloud Lightning

Once in 20 year event: Heavy snow falls in southern NSW, Australia

Up to 15 cm of snow has fallen in parts of southern NSW in what the Bureau of Meteorology says is a once in 20 year event.

USA

Snakes alive! Unusual climate conditions bring out rattlers galore - California

It's been a banner season for snake snatching, and the season has only just begun, Slyapich said. "After 20 years catching these guys, I've never seen a season like this."

Record rains over the last couple of years produced record plant growth, allowing the rodent population to flourish. More rodents means more food for snakes.