Somewhere outside, among the normal grinding and banging city sounds in the dark of morning, there was now and then a flurry of birdsong. I had woken up around 5 a.m. to what I thought was my phone alarm clock but was a missed international call. Googling the country code in the disruptive blue light of the phone I discovered the call was from Belarus and was probably a scam.
The spring equinox is here; day and night are in balance, with day about to take over. What are the birds up to? The Cornell ornithology lab’s tracker says the Eastern phoebe and the tree swallow have migrated back in this week. The noise outside was probably the year-round starlings, though.
The Press of Atlantic City reported that the South Jersey Transportation Authority wants to mow a patch of grassland that is maintained as habitat for endangered upland sandpipers, because it claims the birds pose a risk to airplanes at Atlantic City International Airport. “Environmental groups are concerned that mowing the grass would attract larger birds, like Canadian geese,” the paper wrote. “Clashes between large birds and aircraft poses a greater risk to safety, they say.”
Other things are in the springtime air. In Houston, a huge and smoky chemical fire that burned for four days, consuming tanks full of “gasoline blends, base oils, xylene, pyrolysis gasoline and nap[h]tha” was finally put out this morning. Yesterday, officials had reassured the public that “the air is safe to breathe, probably because the intensity of the fire is pushing the thick plume high into the atmosphere.”
And things are in the water. Minnesota Public Radio marked the beginning of pesticide season with a writeup of a new study in Nature:
Researchers at South Dakota State University studied 20 captive white-tailed deer over two years. Some were given water laced with imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide commonly used on crops and in backyards to control insects.
The scientists also studied a control group of deer that was not intentionally exposed to the chemical — but neonicotinoids are so pervasive in the area that researchers had to change the study when they discovered the control group had the insecticide in their bodies.
“This really shocked us, because we didn’t put that into the experimental design, and we realized that our whole study was contaminated because this imidacloprid was already present in the environment,” said study author Elise Hughes Berheim.
Also last week a study in Nature Sustainability found that honey from beehives in different locations in Vancouver had “proven its efficacy as a biomonitor” through the analysis of the different levels of lead isotopes among the heavy metals in it. Every spring brings something new in the natural world.