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Posted by: atowhee | January 26, 2019

WINTERING SWALLOWS, URBAN GULLS AND VANISHING MONARCHS (NOT ROYALS)

January 26, 2019

I made an early morning, foggy drive into Portland this morning.  If there were birds they would have been invisible behind the curtain of gray.  Returning home in late morning I stopped at Tualatin River NWR.  There were three Barn Swallows working the pond nearest the visitors center.  Likely these birds have been in the area all winter.  Global warming means more and more migratory birds are changing their annual habits.  Why fly thousands of miles when you can winter closer to home? I have marked the two speeding swallows….the big dark bird on the far left is a cormorant:barsx2_liPintail, wigeon, coots…BTW know what a widgeon is?  See bottom of this blog…dux asleep

Across from Powell’s Books, where I was headed, I saw some indigenous critters, well-adapted to a man-made habitat: the street corner.  Two mature Glaucous-winged Gulls working a pile of trash, savoring only the finest tidbits.gulls-pland

We may be seeing a precursor of the way the extinctions are going to happen during this time of extreme planetary destruction.  Follow the fate of the once-abundant monarch butterfly.  Click here for piece published today by a California writer. 
Thirty years ago my eldest son was a biology major at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.  He wrote a paper on the wintering monarch populations there–numbering in the tens of thousands at that time.  Often to be found hanging from dangling limbs of the exotic eucalyptus and pine trees, which bloom in California’s wet winter that far south.
Here are the exact numbers from my son’s paper, written about the winters of  1990-1 and 1991-2:
“Pismo Beach North (this is main site that the public can visit)
200k in 1990-91 at the peak
215k in 1991-92 at the peak

Pismo Ranger Station (smaller pine site)
19k 1991-92 at the peak”

In a recent Guardian an article traces the changes made in California’s Silicon Valley since the days of the Ohlone, who got there before the Spanish Empire and their vicious missionaries who came to “convert” and enslave the locals.   This piece does describe the epidemics that nearly wiped out the Indian population.  It does not disclose that even before Europeans and their guns arrived, the Indians had more slowly done great damage to the native wildlife.  Why did Europeans in 18th and 19th Century find a wildlife paradise when they arrived in the Bay Area?  European diseases had already arrived first and the Indian population had decreased markedly, removing those alpha predators, allowing ducks and deer and elk populations to soar.

While in Powells’ this morning I looked through a four-volume set of books on all the world’s duck species.  It was published in 1922 by Houghton-Mifflin.  Note the name of these ducks drawn by Allan Brooks, one of the two leading bird artists in North America at that time (along with Louis Fuertes): “Widgeon.”widgeonThe archaic spelling with a “D” continued in formal use well into the 20th Century.  The 1941 Birds of the Western States by Roger Tory Peterson used “widgeon” for European Widgeon, the American species was called “Baldpate” in that book.

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