Monday, February 06, 2006

Web Award News

I wasn't going to post anything else here, but I just learned that Scientific Life was awarded the first runner up in the "Biggest Blog Whore" category for the 2005 Best of Blog (BoB) Awards!

Congratulations to everyone who was entered in the BoB Awards, it has been fun. If you wish to continue reading this blog, please be sure to link to my new site.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Living the Scientific Life is keeping its original name but it has moved to its new home at ScienceBlogs, a project of Seed Media. This original site will remain here because I don't want to break any existing links, so it will serve as my "deep archives". You are welcome to link to both sites.

I am mirroring Birds in the News at this site until the end of January for two reasons; first, I want to break 100,000 visits (for purely egotistical purposes) and second, I want to give the Koufax Award visitors some new content to look at while they decide whether they want to investigate the new site -- where there is a LOT of new material -- while they decide whether they want vote for me.

Scroll down to see content that was added prior to 31 January.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

Sunday, January 29, 2006

100,000 Dead Mice

Yesterday, Scientific Life surpassed 100,000 visitors. In fact, visitor number 100,000 popped into here shortly before 6pm. What brought this visitor here? Dead mice, that's what! This person googled the phrase, "how long does a dead mouse smell" and guess whose blog pops up?

Okay, for those of you who want to know about dead mice, I will tell you that they smell horrible for approximately 3-4 days. After that, they still smell but it's not as bad as it was -- perhaps because your sense of smell has been so severely compromised that you are no longer aware of it?

Also, I've noticed that dead mice smell differently, depending upon how they die. Mice that died after being stuck in sticky traps tend to smell like really dirty laundry, whereas mice that die after eating poison containing warfarin tend to smell like, well, dead mice, but there's a sweet smell mixed in with the stench. I hope this answers all your dead mouse questions. If not, feel free to ask and I will provide the answers because we all know that I am the internet expert of dead mice.

So, those of you who know that I was mirroring Birds in the News here are probably curious to know if attaining the magical 100,000 visits was personally satisfying to me, if all my problems are solved as a result. I'd like to say that yes, having more than 100,000 visitors who have looked at my site for information about dead mice (and other things) that polite people don't talk about is tremendously satisfying to me. I think my next step will be to use my new-found confidence to run for the presidency of this country so I can forevermore eradicate evil house mice and the landlords who love them.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

Friday, January 27, 2006

Birds in the News #45

Female Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus.
By Bill Ferensen, Seattle.
(click image for Bill's site)

People Hurting Birds

Deceived by all the bird flu sensationalism, an Egyptian farmer abandoned 10,000 newly hatched chicks to their fate on a desert road east of Cairo fearing they might be infected with the deadly bird flu virus, a police official said on Wednesday. Shocked motorists travelling on the road about 130 km (80 miles) east of Cairo contacted police after seeing the chicks running loose on the tarmac on Tuesday, the official added. Health officials gathered the chicks and confirmed after testing that they were not carrying the virus.

Birds .. proving once again that People Really Are Monkeys

There's nothing that stirs man's blood like the thrill of the hunt. The fact that the object of this hunt, a feral monk parrot, Myiopsitta monachus (pictured), was destined to become a pet to this particular man's girlfriend only added to this thrill. I don't want to spoil this story for you by elaborating further, except to say that it is an Honorable Mention on the Darwin Awards website. GrrlScientist observes: it's amazing what a little testosterone can do to a person.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker News

As scientists debate whether the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis (pictured), still exists in the Big Woods of Arkansas, environmentalists have enlisted the bird as a key soldier in their fight against a massive irrigation project. The irrigation project has been on the table since the mid-1980s, when studies showed that groundwater aquifers in the area, which lies in east-central Arkansas, were being depleted by rice growers. To solve that, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Grand Prairie Area Demonstration Project is working with farmers to build reservoirs on their land and elsewhere that will be filled via a canal and pipeline network with water pumped from the White River. But Lisa Swann of the National Wildlife Federation and other groups have long fought the Grand Prairie project as a federal boondoggle that poses serious environmental threats and squanders tax dollars to deliver huge subsidies to farmers. This “mammoth sucking machine” would hurt wetlands, degrade water quality and threaten species in the region from ducks to mussels, the National Wildlife Federation says in one publication about Grand Prairie.

Avian Influenza News

Scientists who have made a big leap in unraveling the genetic code of bird flu viruses (pictured) found a new clue that may help explain why the notorious H5N1 strain is so deadly. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee (USA), is home to a remarkable viral library, housing samples of about 11,000 influenza viruses that Dr. Robert Webster has gathered from around the world since 1976. These flu viruses have infected people, pigs and other animals, and includes approximately 7,000 bird flu viruses gathered from poultry, ducks, gulls and other species. Yesterday, St. Jude researchers reported in the top-tier journal Science that they have completed the first large genetic analysis of more than 300 of these bird flu viruses. They identified 2,196 bird flu genes and 160 complete viral genomes, doubling the amount of genetic information available to scientists studying how these viruses evolve and spread over time. Decoding all the influenza genes instead of select ones will help scientists learn how these constantly evolving viruses change and spread, and why some are so much more virulent than others.

Turkey accused its neighbours on Friday of hushing up outbreaks of bird flu, complicating the fight against a virus that has killed four Turkish children. "It is unofficially known that this illness exists in our neighbouring countries which are ruled by closed regimes, but these countries do not declare this because of their systems," Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told a news conference. He did not name the countries he had in mind, but Iran and Syria are two likely targets of the criticism. Turkey has culled more than 1.1 million wild birds and poultry since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The outbreak has hit the $3 billion poultry industry hard. The Turkish government unveiled a $40 million aid package on Friday for poultry firms hit by bird flu, including compensation for culled chickens and postponement of tax and debt payments. However, poultry industry representatives said the measures did not go far enough. GrrlScientist complains; this story does not describe what poultry industry officials wanted that was not granted by the government, so this makes it impossible for me to rant about the situation here.

Do the wild birds that fly through cold winter skies to warmer lands silently carry deadly bird flu around the world? Or are they simply potential victims? "Scientists are increasingly convinced that at least some migratory waterfowl are now carrying the H5N1 virus in its highly pathogenic form, sometimes over long distances, and introducing the virus to poultry flocks in areas that lie along their migratory routes," the World Health Organisation said in its latest bird flu fact sheet last week. It said scientists found that viruses from the most recently affected countries, all of which lie along migratory routes, were almost identical to viruses recovered from dead migratory birds at Qinghai Lake in China. The viruses from Turkey's first human cases were also virtually identical to the Qinghai Lake strain, it added. "I think that wild birds may introduce the virus but it is through man and man's marketing systems (the poultry trade) that the disease spreads. It is also possible that poultry can transmit the virus to wildlife when they share the same ecosystem," said Juan Lubroth, the senior officer for infectious diseases with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "The pattern of outbreaks between Asia and eastern Europe do not follow any known pathway for migrant birds, which tend to fly on northerly-southerly routes. They don't go east-west, Dr Richard Thomas of BirdLife International points out. Wild birds that were discovered to have the H5 virus, such as swans found in Croatia in October 2005, were already dead -- suggesting they were victims rather than vectors.

Streaming Birds

This week on BirdNote you can learn more about Western Scrub-Jays, Aphelocoma californica, on the Move; The Comeback of the Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus (featuring Ruth Taylor's photograph of Bell, the resident female peregrine falcon, nesting on the Washington Mutual Bank (WAMU) tower in downtown Seattle); Nesting Great Horned Owls, Bubo virginianus (first of a series about the nesting season); How the Robin Got its Name; and on Friday (today), you can learn more about the upcoming Skagit Bald Eagle Festival (February 4-5). BirdNote programs are two-minute vignettes that incorporate the rich sounds of birds provided by Cornell University and by other sound recordists, with photographs and written stories that illustrate the interesting -- and in some cases, truly amazing -- abilities of birds. Some of the shows are Pacific Northwest-oriented, but many are of general interest. BirdNote can be heard live, Monday through Friday, 8:58-9:00AM in Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia on KPLU radio and now also in North Central Washington state on KOHO radio. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss mp3/podcast].

You might be interested to follow the birding adventures of David and his wife, Gayle, as presented on their audio magazine of birds and birding, On The Wing. They index a variety of their birding adventures in the UK and other places, including some of my old stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest. [mp3/podcast].

Miscellaneous Birds

The parents of Toga -- the penguin chick whose disappearance last month was followed around the world -- have a new egg (pictured), British zookeepers said this week, prompting dozens of well-wishers to send congratulatory e-mails. Toga, a 3-month-old jackass penguin, Sphenicus demersis, disappeared in December from Amazon World, on the Isle of Wight in southern England. Despite scores of reported sightings and an on-air confession from a man who called a television station to admit to stealing the bird, Toga has not been found and is presumed dead. Zoo officials have installed closed circuit television cameras and motion sensors to make sure that Toga's expected sibling remains safely with his parents, who are a rare species of penguin found on the southern coast of Africa.

While the cost of chasing birds to the far corners of the earth is high, virtually everyone afflicted with this obsession claims the rewards -- beauty, mystery, awe and longer lists -- are well worth it. ''A tiny warbler that weighs maybe 3 ounces and is not more than 3 inches long can fly from the edge of the taiga in Canada to Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. The more you see them, the more amazing they are to you. You can't ever get enough,'' says Financial reporter Christine Williamson, who lives in Chicago when she is not chasing birds across the globe. American birders spend over $32 billion annually on their hobby and about 18 million travel to see birds, according to a 2001 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The average birder that year was 49 with an above-average income and education level. ''In addition to seeing these incredibly beautiful and diverse birds, ranging from flightless penguins to little tiny hummingbirds, it takes you to places that are just stunning and show a diversity of life and the diversity of this planet,'' said Tom Snetsinger. Tom is the son of legendary birder, Phoebe Snetsinger who saw more birds -- 8,450 of the world's approximately 10,000 species -- than any other person who ever lived. Phoebe Snetsinger was already an avid birder when she was given less than a year to live after a diagnosis of malignant melanoma, so she hurled herself into birding trips more than ever. She ended up living another two decades before dying in a bus crash in Madagascar. ''Birding is a lens to look at the world. It guides me to places I'd otherwise never go,'' said Tom. GrrlScientist note: I absolutely agree with Tom. I have experienced more habitat types, learned more about ecology and geology, met more people, seen more animals and had more incredible experiences as a direct result of birding than most people I know -- except other birders with more money!

There is an epidemic of bird ticks this winter in the Carolina Piedmont, and it's right on schedule. For some super-close-up photos and intriguing information about these gloriously repulsive ectoparasites, please scroll down on the link provided to This Week at Hilton Pond. As always, they include a list of birds banded during the period, including several mugshots of a partial albino American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis (pictured). Fortunately, they also include suggestions for dealing with a tick-infested bird.

The Fine Print: Thanks to my bird pals; Dawn, Joel, Bill, Larry, Ellen and Ron for some of the news story links that you are enjoying here.

I also appreciate long-time readers, Jamie, Tony and anonymous blog reader, for nominating
Birds in the News for a 2005 Koufax Award for Best Series! Voting will probably begin at the end of January. There will be an announcement here, along with more details, when voting begins.

Previous : : Birds in the News : : Next

tags: , , , ,

Academic Job Applications: none sent this week, but I am preparing to send out several postdoc applications soon.

Survival Job Applications: none this week. The academic semester has begun, so I can plan on becoming quite lean over the next five months unless someone decides to hire me.

Survival Job Rejections: 1


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

Friday, January 20, 2006

Birds in the News #44

Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis.
Photo by Arthur Morris, Birds as Art.

Birds in Science

Two University of Canterbury biologists are part of a team whose evolutionarily-informed approach to conservation is aiding the recovery of New Zealand’s critically endangered parrot, the kakapo, Strigops habroptilus (pictured). Bruce Robertson and Neil Gemmell, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, are members of a research team that has just had a paper published in the Royal Society of London’s prestigious journal Biology Letters. The manuscript outlines how the team, led by Robertson, used sex allocation theory to remedy a conservation dilemma. A key prediction of sex allocation theory is that females in good condition should produce more sons. The kakapo, which today has a population of 86 located on a handful of small island sanctuaries, is the subject of much global conservation interest. They only breed every two to five years and about 58% of eggs do not hatch. Providing breeding females with extra food over the past decade has improved breeding frequency and chick survival, but at a recently-recognised cost: females in better condition were producing more sons. “Left unchecked, the recovery of this already male-biased species could be prolonged by more than 100 years, dramatically increasing the risk of losing this charismatic bird to extinction,” Dr Robertson said. Only females below a predicted breeding threshold weight were given ad libitum food in the months before commencement of mating in mid-January to bring them up to the desired optimum weight. Females above the predicted breeding weight threshold were put on a diet to avoid raising their body condition to that previously associated with male-bias sex allocation. “This is a world first, using evolutionary theory to inform conservation practises and the first time anyone has used sex allocation theory to manipulate sex ratios with a critically endangered species. Our work has not only remedied the immediate problem of an overproduction of sons, but also highlights the value of incorporating evolutionary theory into modern conservation practice."

People Helping Birds

Ridgway's Hawk, Buteo ridgwayi (pictured), is a forest raptor endemic to the New World island of Hispaniola. Once commonly distributed throughout the island, the hawk has been reduced in the last century to a single declining population of 80 to 120 pairs, confined to less than 208 km2 of native rainforest in the Dominican Republic's Los Haitises National Park. In 2004, the Peregrine Fund, York University (Canada) and the Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola initiated a research project to examine the nesting ecology and conservation genetics of Ridgway's Hawk. This is the first time that nests have been monitored in detail since the species was listed as Critically Endangered. Researchers found that human disturbance was the number one cause for nest failure for these critically endangered birds. [BirdLife Caribbean Newsletter PDF 2.5 MB]

A team of international bird experts will begin surveying the Bangladeshi coast Tuesday in search of the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus (pictured), whose population they believe has dwindled to just 350 pairs in the wild, organizers said Monday. The spoon-billed sandpiper, a small shore bird with a bill shaped like a teaspoon, lives and breeds in the Russian tundra. After a long, arduous journey of nearly 3,730 miles, these birds winter along the coastal areas of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. The population of the species has been declining over the years for a combination of reasons, and a 2000-2005 survey found an estimated 300-350 breeding pairs in sparsely populated Siberia, said Christoph Zockler from Cambridge, England who will lead the Bangladesh survey. "We ringed some young birds, but none returned home to breed. So what's going on?" said Zockler, who has been following the birds for five years. "We hope to uncover the mystery along the fly path." Enam Ul Haque, a Bangladesh water fowl census coordinator said; "We hope our survey will yield results that will help save them."

The biggest ever British Birdwatching Fair has produced record funds for vital conservation work in the forests of south-east Asia. Over 18,000 bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts visited the British Birdwatching Fair in August 2005. The three-day annual event is held at Rutland Water and is jointly promoted by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. Martin Davies, the RSPB’s International Funding Unit manager and one of the organisers of the Bird Fair, expressed his delight at the contribution the event can make to international projects. "From the wetlands of Madagascar to the dry forests of Peru, conservation projects have been directly helped by funds raised at the Birdfair. British birdwatchers should be truly proud of what they have been able to help achieve," he said.

Stinky needs a free ride to Florida, and soon. An Onslow County wildlife center in North Carolina is looking for help in transporting a juvenile brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis (pictured at top), to a new home in Miami. "Stinky" was found starving and injured on the beach in Surf City in December, when he was just four months old. He now has an eight-foot wing-span and smells pungently of fish after recovering at Possumwood Acres in Hubert. The Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Miami has agreed to take him. But transporting Stinky is the problem: Possumwood Acres can't afford the cost of moving the bird. Officials say a free flight would be the optimum solution to ensure that the bird is fed the way he needs to be during travel and to limit stress, while also providing great public relations for the airlines that decides to help out.

People Hurting Birds

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, vultures are teetering on the brink of extinction. Their rapid decline has been blamed on a veterinary drug, diclofenac, which the vultures ingest when feeding off treated cattle carcasses. New research shows the widely used anti-inflammatory drug is highly toxic to an entire family of vultures and may cause the birds' demise around the globe (pictured: Oriental white-backed vulture, Gyps bengalensis). The situation was "extremely urgent," said Debbie Pain, a research scientist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in England. "Populations of three vulture species affected by diclofenac in South Asia have declined by more than 97 percent since the early 1990s," Pain said. Vultures play a critical role in human and environmental health. For example, when cows die in India and Pakistan, it is custom to leave the carcasses where they are. In India, this is partly due to religious Hindu reasons because the cow is considered sacred. The rotting carcasses also become breeding grounds for diseases such as anthrax. "If a carcass is unconsumed for a day, anthrax within the animal has a chance to form spores, and these spores are incredibly resistant," said Rick Watson of the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. "That's how the disease spreads. So you set yourself up for increased incidence of disease -- both animal and human."

Birds Annoying People

Terre Haute, Indiana, has become the Panama City of America’s crow population. But at least that Florida coastal town gets some economic jolt from the college students who flock there for spring break. While those kids might throw up on the Panama City sidewalks, they’re also spending money on hotels, food and party supplies. There are other cities on the crows’ list of vacation hotspots. For example, their roost in Auburn, NY, mushroomed to 63,000 birds in 2004 before that town took action. “They seem to like to come into the city,” Auburn Mayor Tim Lattimore said by telephone last week. “They’re very intelligent birds. Very social birds. On weekends, their cousins fly in to visit.” Their tactics included using pyrotechnics similar to those in Terre Haute, accompanied by recorded crow distress calls and handheld laser lights. Auburn paid the New York USDA division $13,000 for the work, but the federal agency spent $32,000 itself on the project. It worked. “It was a real positive experience,” Chipman said.

Avian Influenza News

Much has been written in recent months about the role of wild birds in spreading the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus. But there is a distinct lack of evidence to support these assertions. "No species migrates from Qinghai, China, west to Eastern Europe," says Dr Richard Thomas, BirdLife International's Communications Manager. "When plotted, the pattern of outbreaks follows major road and rail routes, not flyways. And the absence of outbreaks in Africa, South and South-East Asia and Australasia this autumn is hard to explain, if wild birds are the primary carriers." Movement of infected poultry and poultry products is a likely cause of spread. South Korea and Japan are two countries to have suffered outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry and wild birds following importation of infected duck meat. Both countries stamped the virus out by culling infected poultry around disease areas, and imposed strict controls on poultry and poultry meat imports. "Neither country has suffered a recurrence of the virus despite the influx each autumn of hundreds of thousands of wild migrant birds," Richard Thomas points out. GrrlScientist note: I have been saying this very thing for years, based on traditional migratory paths of wild birds compared to the dates and locations when influenza outbreaks are first identified. It's about time that this information becomes more widely known and accepted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday it expected more human cases of bird flu following the death of four people in Turkey, but said the risks to humans were steadily diminishing. The WHO confirmed laboratory test results in Ankara, which revealed that four people from two families in eastern Turkey died of bird flu this month and a further 16, mostly children, were infected with the H5N1 virus. "We do expect to see some (more) cases because it takes time before the virus in birds has completely disappeared," said Dr. Guenael Rodier, head of the WHO mission to Turkey and an expert in communicable diseases. Human victims had been confined to East Asia until this month, when three infected children from the same family died in eastern Turkey, showing the deadly H5N1 strain had reached the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. "Now is the right time to look beyond outbreak control to look at medium- and long-term efforts, particularly on the animal side, and also keep a constant surveillance in Turkey and neighbouring countries," he said.

Would you estimate the percentage of movie fans in the world by polling at a cinema? Would you calculate the number of overweight Americans by taking a survey at Weight Watchers locations? Not if you were aiming for any sort of statistical accuracy; such methods would not give you samples at all representative of a larger population. Regrettably, just this sort of sampling bias may have lead to huge errors in avian flu mortality numbers. While stony-faced newscasters somberly report that more than 50% of people infected with avian flu ultimately die, the death rate may be much lower. A study published in the January 9th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine found that as many as 600 to 750 people in Vietnam may have come down with a mild variant of the avian flu—one that does not carry lethal consequences. This suggests that current mortality estimates, which are derived from only the most severely ill patients, are biased. We may be underestimating the virus' transmission rate while overestimating the deadliness of avian flu. "Our study suggests that this milder form may be more prevalent than the more deadly disease that we heard about earlier," said Anna Thorson, a researcher at the Sweden's Karolinska University Hospital and lead author of the study.

Thousands of chickens mysteriously dropped dead at several farms in Trinidad over the last four weeks but authorities ruled out the deadly bird flu virus as the cause. "What they are saying to me is that [avian influenza] is not to be worried about," Narine told a local radio station. Narine said health officials believed the chickens in Trinidad were dying because of a fungal disease of the respiratory tract caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, a kind of mold (pictured). GrrlScientist note: Aspergillosis infection is very common in birds kept in conditions with overcrowding, poor hygiene and with little or no ventillation. In two words; chicken farms.

Streaming Birds

The schedule for this week on BirdNote is .. Monday, the call of the loon; Tuesday, seabirds in decline; Wednesday, migratory owls; Thursday, Bohemian Waxwings, Bombycilla garrulus; and Friday, a swirl of Snow Geese Anser caerulescens. BirdNote programs are two-minute vignettes that incorporate the rich sounds of birds provided by Cornell University and by other sound recordists, with photographs and written stories that illustrate the interesting -- and in some cases, truly amazing -- abilities of birds. Some of the shows are Pacific Northwest-oriented, but many are of general interest. BirdNote can be heard live, Monday through Friday, 8:58-9:00AM in Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia on KPLU radio and now also in North Central Washington state on KOHO radio. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [mp3/podcast].

Ivory-billed Woodpecker News

Jerome Jackson's long anticipated comments regarding the Ivory-billed Woodpecker have finally been published by the Auk (123:1-15, 2006), one of three top-tier ornithological journals in the world. This article is publically available as a free download courtesy of the American Ornithologists' Union. [PDF, 15 pp.] The cover, which features the art of Julie Zickefoose, for this issue of Auk will appear here as soon as it is released.

Parrots in the News

Parrots were big in the news this week. Our first story is about a pet parrot who attacked a man who broke into its owner's apartment, and the resulting bite and blood marks helped police identify the suspect. A blue and gold macaw hybrid named Sunshine attacked Michael L. Deeter, 44, after he broke into the apartment, police said. Sunshine had blood on its beak and Deeter had marks on his hand consistent with those made by a parrot. Deeter told police the bird bit him very hard after he entered James Erb's apartment and he still had the marks to prove it when he was arrested, authorities said. He allegedly got away with about $100 and a camcorder. As for the bird, Sunshine did not come away unscathed -- all but one of its large tail feathers had been pulled out.

Our second parrot story describes how a gossipy parrot split up a pair of lovebirds when a computer programmer discovered that his girlfriend was having an affair when his pet parrot kept repeating her lover's name. The African grey parrot, Psittacus erithacus (pictured), named Ziggy, kept repeating "I love you, Gary" as his owner, Chris Taylor, sat with girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa of their shared flat in Leeds, northern England. But when Taylor saw Collins's embarrassed reaction, he realized she had been having an affair -- meeting her lover in the flat whilst Ziggy looked on. Ziggy even mimicked Collins's voice each time she answered her telephone, calling out "Hiya Gary," according to newspaper reports. "I wasn't sorry to see the back of Suzy after what she did, but it really broke my heart to let Ziggy go," Taylor said. Taylor revealed that he had also parted from Ziggy because the bird continued to call out Gary's name in his ex-girlfriend's voice, media reports said. GrrlScientist note; this is actually an old news story that I've linked to in Birds in the News, issue 38. But this time, I received 8 or 9 reader recommendations to include this link in this issue, more than I've ever gotten for any news story since I've been putting these things together, so here is the story again, by popular demand.

Our third parrot story tells how the movie star parrots (pictured, photo by Eric Luse) from San Francisco's Telegraph Hill just might get a happily-ever-after ending to the real-life saga of their favorite trees. In a finale fit for a sequel to their big-screen debut, the birds' beloved Monterey cypresses appear close to being spared from the ax. "We want to save those trees," said Mark Bittner, who wrote the best-selling book about the colorful birds and co-starred with them in a popular documentary film. The parrots "are my friends, and if I didn't help them, it would be absurd." An agreement could be reached as early as this week in a highly publicized, long-running feud between a property owner who wants to chop down the cluster of trees he sees as a liability and parrot lovers so intent on saving them that they have thrown themselves in front of buzzing chain saws. "It's a very emotional issue," Foster said. "On one side you have a group that has a relationship with the birds, and on the other hand you have a property owner with a liability issue."

Miscellaneous Birds

US Geological Survey has a National Wildlife Health Center webpage listing a variety of free books about animal health issues for download as PDFs in English, Spanish and Italian. Included in this listing is the beautifully illustrated 30-page Avian Necropsy Manual for Biologists in Remote Refuges [PDF, 2.87 MB], as well as important online information such as Coping with Diseases at Bird Feeders.

Fewer migrating ducks, geese and wading birds are wintering in the UK because they are staying closer to their Arctic breeding grounds due to climate change. New studies by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have revealed that ducks, geese and waders are attracted by the relatively warmer winter conditions in the Gulf Stream that protects the British Isles but, claims the BTO, global warming could be persuading migrating birds to stay in cooler northern and eastern waters. Signs are growing that all is not well for a range of geese, ducks and wading birds. Species such as the grey (black-bellied) plover, Pluvialis squatarola, and dark-bellied brent goose, Branta bernicla bernicla (pictured), whose populations peaked in the early 1990s, after long periods of increase, numbers are now declining steadily.

With more than 18,000 collectible owl memorabilia, Pam Barker half-kiddingly thought she might have a world's record. The Guinness Book of World Records has now certified that she was right. Barker, 47, sent her count, a video and photographs to Guinness last spring. A couple of weeks ago, she got a certificate verifying her claim. The collection - all 18,055 items - had been owned by Dianne Turner, a collector who had recently died. A family friend was cleaning out the house and put the owls up for sale for $7,000. Barker offered about half. Although Barker didn't know Turner, she's put the world record in Turner's name. "Her husband gave her three owls after they got married," Barker said. "That started it all." Barker is now selling off the collection, and has priced everything in the store. She'll sell it piece-by-piece if she has to, although she'd like to find a home for the entire collection. "My husband would like his store back," she said.

This week, the 300th installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond," the ongoing series of photo essays about natural history in the Carolina Piedmont -- and beyond. This week, the Piedmont naturalists describe a very unusual bird captured for banding at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History near York, SC. They include a mini-quiz and photos of this mystery bird on their site, a tally of birds banded during the week, plus some miscellaneous nature observations.

The Fine Print: Thanks to my bird pals, Ian, Mary, Arpit, Christine, Mike, Bill, Caren, Sara, Ellen and Ron for some of the news story links that you are enjoying here. Thanks to Ian for fact-checking this document.

I also appreciate long-time readers, Jamie, Tony and anonymous blog reader, for nominating
Birds in the News for a 2005 Koufax Award for Best Series! Voting will probably begin at the end of January. There will be an announcement here, along with more details, when voting begins.

Previous : : Birds in the News : : Next

tags: , , , ,

Survival Job Applications: none this week. After an unending stream of negativity and rejection, I decided to begin my first formal week of unemployment in 2006 by hiding in snowy Morris, Minnesota, thanks to help from a lot friends (I've actually been unemployed since 23 December 2005 but was too depressed to register with the unemployment office until last week).


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist