BBC reported that scientists investigating families within the Passerida group of perching birds have identified 10 separate branches in their tree of life. One of their findings was that the spotted wren-babbler sat on its own branch and was not related to either wrens or wren-babblers. The new scientific name for the species is Elachura formosa. It was formerly known as Spelaeornis formosus. It is a small perching bird that is found from the eastern Himalayas to southeast China. Read more at: BBC Nature – New bird family discovered in Asia.
Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline has just posted their first detailed wildflower report of 2014. Here is what they have found.
If you are driving on the 395 to the Sierra ski resorts, take a detour for wildflower sightings along Nine Mile Canyon. Actually there are 3 or 4 canyons coming out of the Eastern Sierra just above the Inyo/Kern County border that are fun to explore. Nine-mile though has easiest access. There is a good smattering of flowers along the shoulder and protected draws. You’ll see Fremont phacelia (Phacelia fremontii), desert sunflower (Geraea canescens), forget-me-not (Cryptantha cicumcissa), desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana), Fremont pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii), a sweet gilia species (Gilia sp.) and desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata).The Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia) are starting to bloom as well.
Joshua Tree National Park has posted a new wildflower report of for 3/7/14. They report:
With the recent rainfall, there are some new plants showing their colors and more flowers coming into bloom. Look for the yellow flowers of the desert fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) and western tansymustard (Descurainia pinnata ssp.ochroleuca) along the west entrance.
Look closely for the pink flowers of the beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris) along the West Entrance and in Wilson Canyon. Farther south, the red blooms of the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) are showing bright along the Pinto Basin Road, Cottonwood Basin, and next to the Bajada nature trail.
Weekly reports are posted on our website at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/blooms.htm
DesertUSA has a wildflower report for Saddleback Butte State Park on 3/7/14:
Saddleback wildflowers are exploding! There are carpets of yellow coreopsis with gilia mixed in at the north half of the park/picnic area, and the south half/campground area is covered with fiddleneck and a mix of other wildflowers. It smells lovely and the color is beautiful! Come out for a picnic, or stay the night among the wildflowers. No telling how long it will last, but there’s still a lot of buds on the flowers so we’ve likely got a few weeks. Saddleback Butte State Park is a state park in the Antelope Valley of the western Mojave Desert, in Southern California. It is located east of Palmdale, near the community of Lake Los Angeles.
See photos and more reports for Southern California at: Desert Wildflower Reports for Southern California by DesertUSA.
The Fresno Blossom Trail Website reports on 3/7/14:
Weather in the 70s this weekend = good blossom viewing – enjoy the countryside and the charming communities around the Fresno County Blossom Trail.
Follow reports at: Blossom Trail Update.
Henry Coe State Park has a new wildflower bloom update today at the Pine Ridge Association website. To see what is in bloom including photos of flowers in bloom go to: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.
Press Release from WildEarth Guardians
Feds Protect Habitat for Jaguars in the United States
Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at last protected habitat deemed essential for the survival and recovery of the jaguar in the United States. The long-awaited rule designates 764,207 acres in Arizona and New Mexico as “critical habitat” for the imperiled cat. The jaguar was listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) throughout its range in 1972, and listed explicitly in the United States in 1997.
Press Release from International Dark-Sky Association
First International Dark Sky Park in the Southeast US Designated
TUCSON, AZ AND SPRUCE PINE, NC, 25 February 2014 – The Appalachian Mountains of have stood as silent witnesses to the uninterrupted rain of starlight for nearly a half-billion years, but artificial light now threatens this nightly show. In honor of notable local efforts to preserve the natural nighttime landscape of North Carolina, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) announced today it has designated the first International Dark Sky Park in the southeastern United States. In recognizing the Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park, IDA is pleased to acknowledge the work of Mayland Community College (MCC) in preserving a threatened dark-sky location while advancing its educational mission and vision of bringing the experience of primeval night to locals and visitors alike. Read More…
Carrizo Plain National Monument has a wildflower update for March 6, 2014
There are no wildflowers on the monument at this time. It’s been a very dry year on the monument and we aren’t expecting much of a wildflower season.
Press Release from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
2014 Wildflower Forecast
While cooler than usual weather may delay the wildflower season in some parts of Texas, the good news is that many areas should have great blooms, and a few already show the first stirrings of spring.
“All signs point to a good wildflower season,” said Damon Waitt, the senior botanist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “We’ve had good fall precipitation and good winter precipitation in many parts of the state—not just rain, but sleet and snow as well.”
Fall and winter moisture are important as many popular wildflowers—including Texas bluebonnets, Indian blanket and Texas star—get a jumpstart on their spring growth by germinating during the winter and establishing themselves as rosettes. These clusters of leaves spread low across the ground to retain heat in the winter before the plants grow rapidly once temperatures climb.
Texas Bluebonnet Sightings has a new report for March 6:
There are signs the 2014 Texas Bluebonnet season might be getting off to an early start. Let’s cross our fingers it doesn’t happen!
Corpus Christi has already reported various bluebonnet patches along I-37 north of downtown already in full bloom. They are on the smaller side but a welcome sight nonetheless.
There were, however, no additional blooms north of Corpus Christi to San Antonio along I-37 as of February 28, 2014.
There are reports there are blooms along I-10 in the median between Luling and Columbus — not any large fields but periodic blooming plants. This is typical for this area. It’s always one of the first to begin blooming in the state.
Saw a few blooms in the Texas Hill Country in Marble Falls and along FM 1431 just outside Marble Falls. No fields or large patches, mostly Mavericks here and there. Moisture is definitely needed in the Hill Country for the plants already on the ground to get plump and juicy. Everyone pray for precipitation!
We hiked up to the Donner canyon waterfalls before coming down thru Mitchell Canyon
I spotted the first Fairy Lantern of the season on Wednesday. Of course,
many will come soon..
Lots of Brittle Bush and some Desert Chicory along the Iris O. Dewhirst Pima Canyon Trailhead.
Follow reports for Southern Arizona at: Desert Wildflowers Tucson – Southern AZ – DesertUSA
DesertUSA has the following March 3rd wildflower update for Landers/Giant Rock area:
the bloom is progressing nicely. There is a lot more of most of the wildflowers I’ve reported the past couple weeks, and the green is covering a much larger area. The highlight of my day was finding Mojave lupine, which I have seen only once before (2003, in Red Rock Canyon, Kern Co.). Other new wildflowers were a few Joshua trees, Desert tobacco, Creosote bush, and a Phacelia and Camissonia sp.
See photos and older reports for Southern California at: Desert Wildflower Reports for Southern California by DesertUSA.
Press Release American Bird Conservancy
Bird Groups Raise Alarms over Wind Industry Installation of Six Giant Wind Turbines in Critical Great Lakes Bird Migration Corridor
Washington, D.C., March 3, 2014) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) charge that millions of migrating and federally protected birds, including an active Bald Eagle nest, will be threatened by an Ohio wind development currently under construction. The concern was raised in a letter sent this week to federal officials.
The groups say that a local business park is attempting to install six massive, 300-foot-tall wind turbines in the same area of Ohio that saw a single large Air National Guard-proposed wind turbine project shelved just last month by federal officials because that project did not comply with major wildlife conservation laws. The site for both projects is Port Clinton, Ohio, on the southern shore of Lake Erie.
DesertUSA has the following March 6th wildflower report for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument:
The flowers at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument were noteworthy among stops this week at several parks in southern Arizona during this dry flower season. Though I was told there are many more flowers there on a good year, I was impressed with brilliant yellow from Brittle Bush on the Ajo Mountain Drive. Also on that drive, the desert floor was dotted with Pincushions. On closer look, many places also had Easter Bonnets and Desert Stars hugging the desert floor. Several of the washes had blooms that included Parry Penstemon, Poppies, Chia, Goodding’s Verbena, Rattlesnake Weed, Lupine, Orange Mallow and Phacelia. The Buckhorn Cholla was just starting to bloom. With a careful look, I counted 20 plus species in bloom at this impressive National Monument.
See photos and older reports at: Desert Wildflower reports for Phoenix and Northern Arizona Area – DesertUSA.
Press Release from USGS
ANCHORAGE— Nearly 25 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill injured wildlife off the coast of Alaska, a new report issued today by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that sea otters have returned to pre-spill numbers within the most heavily oiled areas of Prince William Sound.
Sea otters in the path of the oil incurred heavy mortality when 42 million liters of Prudhoe Bay crude oil were spilled in Prince William Sound in March 1989, with an estimated loss of several thousand otters. Through long-term data collection and analysis, scientists found that sea otters were slow to recover, likely because of chronic exposure to lingering oil. Other studies documented persistence of oil in the sea otter’s intertidal feeding habitats.
“Although recovery timelines varied widely among species, our work shows that recovery of species vulnerable to long-term effects of oil spills can take decades,” said lead author of the study, Brenda Ballachey, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “For sea otters, we began to see signs of recovery in the years leading up to 2009, two decades after the spill, and the most recent results from 2011 to 2013 are consistent with recovery as defined by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.”
Scientists assessed recovery by estimating the number of living sea otters based on aerial surveys and comparing that to pre-spill numbers. They also collected carcasses of otters that had died in the spill area. Carcasses were evaluated to determine how old sea otters were when they died. Historically, and prior to the spill, most dead otters were either very old or very young, but following the spill, more middle-aged otters were dying as well. The ages of dead animals has now returned to the pre-spill pattern.
Recovery also was assessed using studies to detect oil exposure using gene expression as a biochemical indicator. The most recent genetic evidence suggested a reduction in oil exposure since 2008.
Scientists concluded that the status of sea otters in western Prince William Sound is now consistent with the criteria established for population recovery set by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
The sea otter was one of more than 20 nearshore species considered to have been injured by the spill.
The publication “2013 update on sea otter studies to assess chronic injury from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Prince William Sound, Alaska” is available online.
Death Valley National Park has the following wildflower report for March 4, 2014
With the ongoing drought in California, don’t expect many wildflowers in Death Valley this spring. Wet winter storms are necessary for a good bloom in the desert, but this year has been very dry. The rain that fell this last weekend should give a boost to flowers that have already sprouted, but it is too late for many new seeds to sprout and come into full bloom before the heat and dry winds cause the delicate annuals to wither.
Spotty rainstorms last autumn did cause some annuals to sprout in the southern extreme of Death Valley. Look for areas of roadside flowers around Jubilee Pass on the southern Badwater Road. Along the Harry Wade Road, Ibex Dunes and Saratoga Springs, there are slopes and washes with scattered patches of flowers. Although there is good variety, the plants in these locations are blooming while still small, a sign they are bolting to a quick finish to set seed before drying up. The recent rain should help them keep going. In the Emigrant Canyon / Towne Pass area watch for wildflowers that tend to be much larger and more robust than those down south, but they are appearing as individuals instead of patches.
Overall, I would not come to Death Valley specifically to view wildflowers, but if you are already here you should keep your eyes open for color, and be sure to stop the car to take a closer look.
Press Release from Defenders of Wildlife
IDAHO’S WAR ON WOLVES ESCALATES
BOISE, Idaho – On Friday, February 28, Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced that, working together with Wildlife Services, they succeeded in gunning down 23 gray wolves from a helicopter in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border. The state agency said this killing was necessary to boost elk harvest levels in the area, despite independent scientific peer reviewers’ observations that habitat loss, not predator influence, was the major factor in this localized elk herd decline.
Wildlife Services is currently the object of a formal review being conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General for effectiveness, justifiability and transparency, yet when asked by Defenders of Wildlife in emails on the subject prior to Idaho Fish and Game’s announcement, neither agency revealed its aerial gunning mission that resulted in the deaths of 23 wolves in the state. Defenders is now requesting that a moratorium be placed upon Wildlife Services’ killings of wolves and other top predators until the Inspector General has completed its audit of the agency’s programs.
Borregohiking.com has a new wildflower report for the east fork of PInyon Wash in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
A great hike up east fork of the Pinyon wash (not on the map).
Back along Harper Flat and down the main Pinyon wash.
Blooming: Indigo Bush, Chuparosa red orange and yellow (yellow is rare), Spiny Senna, White Sage.
The Chuparosa is really good in the main wash and even the Creosote Bush is real colorful.
Press release U.S. Department of Interior
Secretary Jewell, NPS Director Release New Report Showing National Parks Remain Strong Economic Engines, Support 243,000 Jobs Nationwide
WASHINGTON – Boosted by an additional 4 million visitors in 2012, national parks across the country continued to be important economic engines, generating $26.75 billion in economic activity and supporting 243,000 jobs, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
Wildflower Watch from Benham, Texas Wildflowers reports
March 4, 2014: Over the last week we saw some “townie” bluebonnets pop out and get us excited about Spring, but then the big freeze came! They are iced over, but we're not too worried about the ice impacting them negatively. The next few weeks will be very telling, so be sure to keep your eyes out and check back here often!
Follow reports at: Brenham – Washington County, Texas
The Fresno Blossom Trail Website reports:
Rain didn’t cause many problems for the Fruit and Almond orchards currently in bloom – expect temps in the 70s and blossoms this weekend.
Follow reports at: Blossom Trail Update.
The 19th Annual GODWIT DAYS SPRING MIGRATION BIRD FESTIVAL takes place in Arcata, CA on April 16 to 22, 2013. Observe many bird species and wildlife through a choice of field trips, lectures, workshops, and boat excursions led by experienced local guides. Tour the expansive mudflats, the wild river valleys and the rocky ocean coast of this sector of the Klamath bioregion in northwest California. Registration is open
The festival is held during the peak of Spring Migration. Shorebirds are abundant and there are opportunities to see many other species, including Marbled Murrelet, Spotted Owl, and Snowy Plover. The keynote speaker will be wildlife artist Keith Hansen.
Texas Wildflower Sightings has a new wildflower report for 3/3/14
Tiny red gems of paintbrush beginning to bloom all the way from Austin to Columbus. Some patches of bluebonnets beginning to bloom just north of Bastrop and between La Grange and Ellinger. The largest blooms were between La Grange and Ellinger. The plants seem a bit droopy after the cold snap last night. I hope they can weather the next blast and perk up and continue to bloom.
See older reports at: Texas Wildflower Sightings.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR posted a new wildflower report for March 3rd:
The hills have a slight tinge of green and there are a few tiny poppy plants with just one flower. There are also a few other tiny flowers that can be spotted here and there along the trails. We’d had less than a half inch of rain over the winter but just received another 3.5 inches this week! We will likely have many more plants sprout in about two weeks, but their shallow roots leave them vulnerable to late season freezes and early heat waves. This could be another “March Miracle” year but there’s no guarantee how long it will last. Mid April will likely be our peak.
Press Release from Pt. Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore has one of the largest concentrations of breeding harbor seals on the mainland in California. Resting and pupping harbor seals come onshore in various parts of the park particularly in Tomales Bay, Tomales Point, Double Point, Drakes Estero, and Bolinas Lagoon. Each year, several thousand seals congregate within the Seashore especially to give birth on the sand bars and remote beaches. The National Park Service asks park visitors to avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season.
ScienceDaily reported that researchers have discovered two new to science species of butterflies in the eastern USA. They are superficially similar to a very common butterfly species but they are different in the shape of sexual organs and genetic makeup.
The Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius) is a small brown butterfly, just over an inch in wingspan, with eyespots along the edge of wings. It is one of the most common eastern US butterflies and found in shaded, wooded areas. DNA research found that there are two similar but distinct species.
They are the “Intricate Satyr” (Hermeuptychia intricata) named for the difficulty in recognizing this distinct species and its intricate ventral wing pattern. It was initially noticed in Brazos Bend State Park in East Texas. It is widely distributed all over eastern USA in several states, including Florida and South Carolina.
In studying the DNA sequences and genitalia of Satyr populations from South Texas a second new species was recognized, the “South Texas Satyr” (Hermeuptychia hermybius).
Visually the Carolina Satyr and Intricate Satyr appear more similar to each other than the Southern Satyr. However DNA shows the Southern Texas Satyr is a close relative of Carolina Satyr, but Intricate Satyr is rather distant from either of them.
Read more and see illustrations of the butterflies at: Two new butterfly species discovered in eastern United States — ScienceDaily.
DesertUSA has the following update from Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve reports: We got almost 4 inches from this storm! We went from a season total of .7 to 4.2 inches!!! This means we MIGHT have a great year after all- we’ll have lots of seedlings coming up, but the plants that sprout this late will have shallow roots and they’ll be more vulnerable to freezes, hot spells and drying winds. So it’s not guaranteed, but it’s certainly going to be a vastly better season than we were expecting!
See more wildflower reports for Southern California at: Desert Wildflower Reports for Southern California by DesertUSA.