Why can’t humans affect the climate?

If you have insights on this please help me understand. 

As noted this week, discussions of anthropogenic climate change have peaked since President Trump’s decision to renege on US commitments to the Paris Climate Accord.
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Google trend on interest in “climate change”.

One of the primary reasons for denialism of climate science is a pervasive notion among fundamentalist Christians that humans cannot change the climate; only God can do that. Can someone enlighten me on the source of that idea?
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Senator Snowball, your time is up.

Humans have caused a great many species extinctions. Humans have developed all but about 1% of the tallgrass prairie. Humans have dammed rivers to make giant lakes; we’ve made new land with sediment dredged from river bottoms and coastal waterways; we’ve blown the tops off mountains to access coal seams within. Humans have cut a canal between two continents to link oceans. Humans have affected the atmosphere in any number of ways, e.g., thinned the ozone layer, filled the air with so much soot that people die from asthma attacks, completely altered the pH of northern lakes through acid precipitation . . .

What’s so special about climate that we can affect all of these other things but somehow only God can monkey with climate?

Posted in birds/nature, deforestation, editorial, Endangered Species Act, environment, evolution, life, skepticism and science, weather, wildlife, wind power | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Battle of the Predators – Cooper’s Hawk versus Barred Owl

Who would win in a fight between a Cooper’s Hawk and a Barred Owl?  Hold that thought.  Now imagine it’s two owls versus one hawk.  Okay, proceed.

Two nights ago, I had just finished some mowing when I heard a Barred Owl not too far away.  Then I heard another, so I started recording them on my smartphone. What followed was one of the coolest wildlife spectacles I’ve ever experienced. Here’s the audio:

Fight between Cooper’s Hawk and two Barred Owls.

As soon as I started recording, it was clear that my local Cooper’s Hawk was none too happy with these Barred Owls. I don’t know what actually started the skirmish.  Perhaps the owls had gotten a bit too close to the accipiter’s nest?  Maybe it was the Coop who instigated the problem, by perhaps nabbing a fledgling owl?  I just can’t say.

What I can say is that the animosity between hawk and owl escalated to crashing through the branches, so they were really going after each other.  Ultimately picture this: The Cooper’s Hawk erupted from the trees on top of one of the owls. It had the owl gripped by the back of the head and threw it down to the ground – right in front of me – before “kekekekek”-ing one last time and flying off. The beaten owl sat on my lawn for a few moments to regain its composure and then flew off with the other owl.

This was a vicious throw-down. Barred Owls are no wimps but from where I stood, a lone female Cooper’s Hawk triumphed over two of them, and for all I know mortally wounded one in the process. I’ll provide any updates I can as warranted. . .

Posted in animal behavior, bird evolution, birds/nature, environment, life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Elm Sawfly – something I learned today

Last night I found this really cool caterpillar in the woods:

Cool, right?  So I did some research to try to identify it.  Nothing.  That caterpillar showed up nowhere in online guides to caterpillar identification. ‘Cause it’s not a caterpillar.

It’s a sawfly, specifically the Elm Sawfly.  So it’s not a butterfly or a moth, it’s a fly!

Waitaminute – it’s not a fly either.

The Elm Sawfly is in the order hymenoptera, with bees, wasps, and ants.  Here’s an adult.

Okay, so sawflies are a kind of wasp (with about 8000 species described). You can tell them from typical wasps because sawflies do not have that tiny wasp waist.  Despite appearances, they are completely harmless.  Adults have no stingers and they do not feed, so they cannot really bite.

The “saw” part refers to the serrated edge on the female’s ovipositor. With it, she cuts into leaves or stems to lay her eggs.  The eggs hatch and develop into the caterpillar-like larvae.  They feed on leaves like proper caterpillars, then weave cocoons around themselves to pupate overwinter.  When the pupa emerges as an adult the following spring, the cycle has been completed!


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Why prairies matter and lawns don’t

The Roaming Ecologist

Prairies – those critically endangered and complex ecosystems understood by few and misunderstood and destroyed by millions of people.

Lawns – those myopically obsessive (and evil) urban, suburban, and increasingly rural monoculture eyesores that displace native ecosystems at a rate between 5,000 and 385,000 acres per day* in favor of sterile, chemically-filled, artificial environments bloated with a tremendous European influence that provide no benefits over the long term; no food, no clean water, no wildlife habitat, and no foundation for preserving our once rich natural heritage.  And there’s the unbearable ubiquitousness of mowing associated with such a useless cultural practice, which creates a ridiculous amount of noise pollution, air and water pollution, and a bustling busyness that destroys many peaceful Saturday mornings.  The American lawn is the epitome of unsustainability.

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Anatomy and feather structure in a road-killed Barred Owl

On 20 May 2017, I was out in the early morning and chanced upon a rather freshly deceased Barred Owl that had been struck by a car here in Stillwater, OK.  The bird was in excellent shape so I collected it with the intent of preparing a fresh museum study skin for the Collection Collection of Vertebrates at Oklahoma State University.  When I got it home, however, I noticed that its tail was completely missing and it would not make such a great specimen. Here are some views of it that at least illustrate some Barred Owl anatomy photographically.

You can access video clips and my explanations of feathers and what-not here.

Of course, owl feathers are most fun under UV light: Owls, bustards, and turacos have a class of feather pigments (porphyrins) that glow under UV light.  Here they are in action, with the brightest glow in the youngest feathers.

Posted in bird evolution, birds/nature, environment, skepticism and science, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hummingbird rescue!

The Waterthrush Blog

I get a lot of weird calls from time to time. For some reason, I’m preceived as some kind of “A-Team” for whatever bird problem you might have. On those occasions when I invent advice that actually works, I’m thrilled!

Yesterday a fellow called me out of the blue because he had a hummingbird in his office. He was on the 4th floor of a modern building with a huge atrium, but he didn’t have a window (rats!) and he had no idea how the bird got in there.

My mind raced: How could I actually capture this little bird? If I put a net across the office door, there’d be a good possibility that the bird would zip through and take up permanent residence in the atrium. If I went after it in the office with some kind of butterfly net, the chance of injuring the bird would be…

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Gretchen Newberry – migration through the Prairie Potholes

I mentioned migrating cranes in a previous post, but for sheer numbers alone, nothing beats the migrating geese, ducks, and shorebirds that pass through the Prairie Pothole Region. Check out this video I took in March. I’ve been helping out Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge with their spring counts. Not only do they manage the […]

via Migrating Birds —

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