Best of our wild blogs: 29 Apr 15

LKCNHM Now Open to the Public!
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

A Peek Into the Past – Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
My Itchy Fingers

Lorong Halus Wetlands (NParks CIN Garden Bird Count Survey)
Psychedelic Nature

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New York state to turn lights out for migrating birds

Hilary Russ PlanetArk 28 Apr 15;

On their arduous flights North to their breeding grounds, birds migrating up the U.S. East Coast will have one less peril to worry about - bright lights from state-owned and -managed buildings in New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday said that state buildings will turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11 p.m. until dawn during peak migration in the spring and fall.

The state is along the Atlantic Flyway, one of four major routes for birds coming North in the spring from their warmer winter hideouts.

To get here, many migrating species - including colorful warblers and other song birds - fly at night and navigate by the stars, using constellations to guide them.

But outdoor nighttime lights, especially in bad weather, can disorient the birds and cause them to crash into windows, walls, floodlights or the ground.

The phenomenon, called "fatal light attraction," has killed an estimated 500 million to one billion birds annually in the United States, the governor's office said, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Migrating birds even fly right through the towers and canyons of New York City. Earlier this month, a Chuck-will's-widow - a brown, nocturnal insect-eater with a lizard-like head so flat and large it can swallow small birds whole - spent several days just a few blocks from Times Square, perched atop a branch in New York City's Bryant Park on 42nd Street.

Now bright lights will be turned off by New York state during the spring rush north from April 15 until May 31 and again during the fall migration south to warmer climes from Aug. 15 until Nov. 15.

By joining with the National Audubon Society's Lights Out program, the state buildings follow other well known structures that have also agreed to limit lighting, including Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building and the Time Warner Center.

"This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York's forests, lakes and rivers," Cuomo said in a statement.

Lights Out efforts are already protecting birds in the east coast cities including Baltimore and Washington, and in other U.S. metropolitan areas including Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco, according to Audubon.

Bird lovers can learn more about the Lights Out program by visiting the state's new website

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Sandra Maler)

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Climate indicators suggest El Nino is forming - Australian weather bureau

Colin Packham PlanetArk 29 Apr 15;

Climate indicators are nearing levels associated with an El Nino weather event, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

Pacific Ocean sea temperatures now exceed El Nino thresholds, the bureau said, while trade winds have weakened over the last few weeks - suggesting coupling between the ocean and atmosphere may be occurring.

Should this pattern continue, the bureau said, an El Nino will develop.

The weather bureau earlier this month put the chance of the weather event arriving at least 70 percent, potentially as early as June.

An El Nino can cause lower rainfall in Australia and Asia, and more rains in South America.

Such conditions would be unfavorable for production of wheat in Australia and sugar production globally providing some support to prices, which have slumped in recent weeks.

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures hit a six-month low on Monday, while ICE May raw sugar were trading near a six-year low in March.

The group head of sugar at Wilmar International Ltd last week told Reuters that there was a risk sugar prices could rise if an El Nino emerged.

(Editing by Richard Pullin and Ed Davies)

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UN, Vatican team up for climate change agenda

NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Apr 15;

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The United Nations and Vatican joined forces Tuesday to warn about the dire effects of climate change, gathering religious leaders, Nobel laureates and heads of state to present a united front ahead of make-or-break environment talks later this year in Paris.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Pope Francis for framing the need to combat global warming as an urgent moral imperative, saying his upcoming encyclical provided an "unprecedented opportunity" to create a more sustainable future for the planet.

Ban opened a Vatican conference on the environment that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical, which is expected in June. While popes past have all taken strong stands in favor of environmental protection, Francis will be the first to address climate change in a pontiff's most authoritative teaching document.

The conference gathered Francis' key environmental advisers, the presidents of Italy and Ecuador, religious leaders from different faiths, Nobel laureates and respected climate change scientists. They were unanimous in agreeing that climate change is real, it's mostly human-induced, the poorest suffer the most from it and collective action is needed to stop it.

In a joint declaration, the participants said they "appreciate that (nature) is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home." It said the Paris climate talks "may be the last effective opportunity" to negotiate agreements to keep global warming under the 2 C (3.6 F) limit set by world governments in 2009.

Francis' encyclical has generated more excitement and anxiety than any papal document in recent times: Environmentalists are thrilled that Francis will be lending his voice to the conservation cause, while climate skeptics have argued that a pope has no business getting involved in the debate.

View galleryPope Francis shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General …
Pope Francis shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting at the Vatica …
But Ban said that while neither he nor the pope is a scientist, "what is important is ... to mobilize the will of the people and to lead the people."

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, one of Francis' key advisers, stressed that the document won't delve into the science of global warming, but rather focus on pastoral issues created by it.

"The Bible tells us that Adam was commanded to serve and preserve the Earth, but we're clearly not doing that," said Dr. Peter Raven, a leading authority on evolution and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which hosted the event.

Chemist Paul Crutzen of the Netherlands, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for work on the ozone layer, showed a series of slides detailing concentrations of pollution in the atmosphere from man-made activities.

"This is something I would like to present to the skeptics who say that human impact" has had no role in the warming of the earth, he said.

The skeptical Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, sent a team to Rome urging the pope not to lend his moral authority to the U.N.'s climate agenda and warning that he would just be confusing Catholics by writing an encyclical about it.

AP writer Karl Ritter contributed from Rome.

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