April Photo Spotlight
Bloodroot by Wendy Rothwell
Killing Wolves Isn't the Answer
Posted April 2016
On December 17, 2015, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposed weakening hunting restrictions and allowing anyone with a small game license to kill up to two wolves and an unlimited number of coyotes per year. They would do this by removing the game seal currently needed to kill these animals. Fortunately the Government of Ontario rejected the proposal.
Moose populations are in decline in northern Ontario but science does not support killing top predators as a successful management practice. Even the government's own study
indicates that other factors (including hunting pressures) are affecting the moose population more than wolves. In fact, removing keystone species can have dramatic negative effects on the entire ecosystem, as was discovered when wolves were killed off in Yellowstone National Park in the US and subsequently reintroduced
. We are happy that the government has turned down this ill thought out proposal.
Trash Collection in the Ocean
Posted April 2016
You may have heard of the infamous Great (North) Pacific Garbage Patch that is estimated to be between 700,000 to 15,000,000 square kilometres in size. But you might not know that it is just one of five garbage accumulations where currents converge in the oceans. The second largest is the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, but trash also accumulates in the Indian Ocean Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre and South Pacific Gyre. In 2016 a Netherlands foundation called The Ocean Cleanup
will be testing a barrier design that uses currents to gradually trap waves of waste, while it allows fish and other types of creatures to pass through. The goal is to employ this technology on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 2020.
Plastic pollutions cause the death of millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals each year. Turtles in particular are sensitive to plastic debris as they mistake it for jellyfish and if they eat it they can become sick or even starve. Plastics can also entangle marine life, preventing them from moving freely or being able to eat. Let's hope that the test is a success.
Do Birds Go Grey?
Posted April 2016
There is no need to ask "Does she... or doesn't she?" when it comes to a bird's colouration. Birds don't go grey. And now science has been able to explain it in minute detail that wasn't available before. It has been widely known that the colour we see when looking at feathers is produced by manipulating the reflection of light and not by pigmentation, as with human hair, but the mechanism at work has eluded science until now.
Using a powerful high-energy x-ray instrument called a synchrotron, scientists were able to build up detailed images of the spongy nanostructure within a Eurasian Jay's feather barb, down to a scale of a billionth of metre. Inside the spongy nanostructure there is a network of sub-microscopic holes that accounts for the overall hue of the plumage. A feather barb can go from white to blue purely by changing the size of the sub-microscopic holes. This explains why the brightly coloured feathers of many birds do not fade in sunlight or go grey with age. Unlike human hair these feathers don't rely on the continuous production of the dark pigment melanin, which decreases with age.
If you do see a bird with white feathers it could be either an albino (very rare) or leucistic bird. Leucism affects only birds that have a melanin pigment in their feathers, like grackles.
The study can be found here
Young Ornithologists' Workshop
The Long Point Bird Observatory is looking for keen teen birders (ages 13-17) to apply for the 2016 Doug Tarry Young Ornithologist Workshop, held August 6-14, 2016.
Participants will receive hands-on training in field ornithology including bird banding, field identification, preparing museum specimens, and more. Applications are due April 30, 2016
. More information and how to apply here
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