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Brainy birds; age of embers; hydrogen-fueled trains


CaptBLI writes—The Daily Bucket – Tiny things that fly: “The largest flying thing I am presenting today is the smallest Heron.  Still, this bird is the size of a Raven.  Everything else that flies in this diary is less than an inch long.  Let’s begin. I went for a stroll around the city park in Oxford, MS. on Friday September 18th.  I was there early enough that the grounds crew were trimming. […] This is a Zabulon Skimmer (Poanes zabulon). […] If you look closely, you will see the proboscis sucking in nectar.

Sugar Maple leaves growing close to the ground on a small sapling
Sugar Maple leaves

lostintheozarks writes—The Daily Bucket – The Colors of Autumn…are not quite here yet! “Douglas County, Missouri. October 2, 2020. (36 degrees Fahrenheit). We went looking for Autumn earlier this week and really didn’t find it. This area is where we generally find the most vibrant colors in the Fall, but those colors are still almost a month away. However, if we stay as dry as we are right now, there may only be brown on those hillsides by late October. [So, some photos from 2013] [T]he leaves on some small sugar maple saplings are turning bright red (not so much the larger trees yet).

A swarm of wild honeybees.

Lenny Flank writes—Photo Diary: A Honeybee Swarm Searches for a New Home: “While taking my daily walk in the Sawgrass Lake Nature Preserve in St Pete (which is across the street from my house), I happened to see this. At first I wasn’t sure if they were going into that tree stump or coming out, but as I got closer I could see scout bees returning:  And knew that it was a swarm that was resting here while the scouts were all out looking for a new home.  (When a beehive gets too big, a new queen will be raised and the old one will take half the colony and leave to find a new location.) Most of the wild honeybees in Florida have been ‘africanized’ (the so-called ‘killer bees’), but swarming bees are not all that interested in defense (after all, they have no hive yet to defend), so I was able to get pretty close and have a good look.” 

Lenny Flank writes—Photo Diary: Another Week’s Worth of Florida Critters: “Some birdies, bugs, and various critters seen during the past few days.” 

Mangrove Tree Crab with some lunch.

Kestrel writes—Dawn Chorus: Who’s That Bird? “One of the wonderful things about Dawn Chorus appearing here every Sunday morning for more than a decade now is that we have a terrific cross-section of visitors. We have birders, non-birders, amatuers, experts, biologists, passersby, photographers, you name it. Some of you just like looking at the pictures and don’t know or care what the names of the birds are. Some of you know so much that you could practically write an encyclopedia on, say, raptors (looking at you, lineatus). Being stuck at home for nearly seven months has kept me from getting out birding plus it’s been the summer doldrums anyway. I was fooling around the other day and came upon the idea of a quiz about birds.”


OceanDiver writes—The Daily Bucket – hints of fall color: “September 2020. Pacific Northwest. Our fall colors aren’t as spectacular as other parts of the country, but some things stand out before we transition fully into our fairly monochromatic green/grey of winter. Rose hips are a splash of bright color. The Baldhip rose hips in the title image are more ephemeral than the Nootka rose hips, which are prolific and grow aggressively in every direction. The other day I thought I was looking at a male woodpecker 25 feet up in a tree…turned out to be rose hips! Rose thickets are all over. The leaves will fall soon leaving branches, thorns and hips. […] Nootka rose hips will persist right through winter. So will Snowberries. Not highly prized by wildlife.” 

Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)
Acorn woodpecker clasping its namesake in its beak.

funningforrest writes—The Daily Bucket. First Fall Colors and Two “First” Birds: “Sunday, September 27, 2020. So I’m sitting in my living room watching a YouTube video on roller coasters and bwap, the power goes out. 7:58 a.m. It’s time to go take that long bicycle ride I had been wanting to do for a couple of weeks (but the wildfire smoke had been keeping me indoors).  Damn the smoke, full pedal ahead. […]  I was so glad the power went out because if I’d stayed inside I might have missed the fact that the smoke was gone and it was a gorgeous day!  I grabbed my camera and water bottle, pumped up the bike tires a bit and took off. […] A bit further along Chandler Road there was a congregation on top of a power pole.  Although I only show one in these photos there were several all at one time, flying on and off and occasionally pecking at the wood crosspiece.

Besame writes—Overnight Science News Digest: None of us are bystanders| We should be more like wolves: “Tonight’s science stories coalesce around Newsom’s message about the need to identify areas of vulnerability and solutions that address the raw reality of the human effect on the rest of nature, including climate change. This story about wolves is part of the solution, we need to be more like wolves and care for the pack, although since modern humans are only 200,000 years old it might take us awhile to catch up to wolves. Let’s take steps to be sure we have that long.” 

The NCL, as compared to the prefrontal cortex of a primate

skralyx writes—Birds’ neural structure and activity indicate that they are conscious: “The carrion crow has become only the third (known) member of a very exclusive club, one made up of those beings that can have subjective experiences. Beings that are aware of what they are perceiving. Beings that are consciousSo say Andreas Nieder, Lysann Wagener, and Paul Rinnert of the University of Tübingen in Germany in their September 25 publication in the journal Science. These researchers trained carrion crows to report whether or not they’d seen a flash of light. Sometimes it was bright and easy to see, sometimes it was dim and near the threshold of their ability to detect it, and sometimes there was no flash at all. The crows wouldn’t know how to report what they saw until a few seconds later, when another cue was given. This way, they couldn’t prepare a response until they were asked, so they’d have to judge, remember, and decide whether or not they’d seen anything.” 

6412093 writes—The Daily Bucket–Soros and my friends, the yellow jackets: “CHARGES: Red Woodman, aka “6412093” hereinafter RWM, obtained funds from SOROS, a limitless source of money for radicals around the world.  RWM alleged the fund would be directed toward breeding damselflies and dragonflies, which would eat pesky bugs, thus alleviating pesticide use, and undermining the chemical industry, and in turn, capitalism itself. However, in fact, RWM has not bred a single damsel or dragonfly,  because what he thought were damsel/dragonfly eggs, were actually aphids. SOROS seeks damages of 30,000, double the amount lent. LIDDY purports to be the acting District Attorney of Dutchess County.  He asserts that RWM committed mail and wire fraud by writing on the internet about his “experiments,”  and denied taxpayers his “honest services.” LIDDY further asserts these are predicate offenses, and justify racketeering charges: (RICO). LIDDY seeks triple damages, paid to him personally.” 

BrownsBay writes—The Daily Bucket: Mountain Wildflowers: “Before summer faded, I wanted to pen this diary of mountain wildflowers seen on a hike in early August.  The autumnal equinox has passed and the flowers you see have faded, leaves withered.  The deep snows have yet to fall.  But soon they will. I did this hike with my older son, the first of my two.  I wanted only to bring one of our two dogs, so we chose Daisy over Buddy.  Daisy is a sprightly lass of mixed breed that needed some bound up energy drained away. The hike we chose was Thorp Mountain Lookout.  We were hoping for clearing weather and some good views from the lookout.  It had rained the day before and the system was moving out.  When we reached the lookout it was cloudy, no views, and a little windy.  We layered up with jackets and I added a sweaty layer I took off on the hike up. The hike is mostly wooded but opens up the higher you get. There is a little side trail that leads to Thorp Lake.”


Lefty Coaster writes—Sir David Attenborough on 60 Minutes “Our planet is headed for disaster”: “Tonight’s 60 Minutes was truly outstanding. Three excellent stories: ‘How many of Florida’s felons will be able to vote?’, ‘Why a private section of the border wall is allegedly failing’, and then they went to the Sir David Attenborough interview that blew me away. […] Attenborough: The way we humans live on Earth, is sending it into a decline. Human beings have overrun the world. We’re replacing the wild with the tame… Our planet is headed for disaster.  ” 

A Siegel writes—Ashamnu: we have transgressed on climate change: “In our political sphere, there was once too much ‘climate silence’, a  silence in our political leadership and among too many of us in the of rabid climate science denial and on the damage we are doing to the planetary system, the risks of climate change, and the urgent necessity for meaningful change to change our path toward something that enables sustainable prosperity for humanity.  In September 2020, on this Yom Kippur, on the eve of what might be the most momentous election of U.S. (even global) history, that silence should gone with fires in the West, running out of the alphabet for Atlantic storms, melting Arctic and Greenland, messed up weather patterns, and … Yet, even as climate rates highly in voter concerns (even with mounting COVID19 deaths, a rearing economy, small business closures, Black Lives Matter, protests around the country, Trump threatening democracy), climate rates low in reporter interest and isn’t on Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace’s agenda for the first presidential debate. Yom Kippur — including the viddui — is not typically focused on politics and political action. It is, however, a time for reflection on our relationships and actions, including setting ourselves on the paths to addressing our failures — in essence, soul-searching to lay out a self-improvement agenda.”

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—RealClearEnergy Is Really, Clearly Invested In Climate Denial: “Back in February, we pointed out that despite a relatively good reputation that should’ve been permanently destroyed by their racist Facebook shenanigans, the RealClear brand has been pretty plainly corrupted by the Koch cash it’s received, and is regularly running denial content by people with obvious financial reasons to promote fossil fuels. At this point, it seems like they’re proud of it. In the last week they’ve run: a piece attacking California and defending Trump on wildfires, written by Death’s PR man Steve Milloy; a piece praising natural gas by a guy from a Koched-up wing of George Mason; an anti-renewable energy screed by an ‘anti-science propagandist’ and anti-wind activist John Droz Jr.; an anti-China and anti-climate take by Rupert Darwall, longtime denier and now a senior fellow at RealClear Foundation; a pro-gas piece by the CEO of the American Gas Association (AGA); and an argument in favor of Gulf oil drilling, by the head of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a group Geoff Dembicki exposed as a Koch et al front back in 2011 (see his recent VICE piece about Big Oil tapping Big Tobacco’s lawyers to defend themselves in court!)

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Longtime Climate Denier Tony Heller Gets YouTube Ban For COVID Denial: “A couple years ago, Youtube (belatedly) started to do something about the disinformation rampant on its platform, and began putting disclaimers on climate denial videos that pointed to more reliable information. Unfortunately, that didn’t exactly solve the problem. The girl Heartland wants to make into their own pro-fossil-fuels-Greta, for example, can be seen as the forefront of the next generation of denier grifters, digital natives comfortable with creating their own videos. But she’s hardly the only denier that’s used the youtubes, and far from the first to exploit the ease with which videos can be used as vehicles for disinformation or outlandish conspiracy theories like Dilbert guy’s satanic numerology. Only slightly less bizarre are the conspiracies presented by Tony Heller, formerly known by his blogging pen name Steve Goddard. His pet conspiracy theory is that scientists alter temperature records to show more warming where there hasn’t actually been any, so his schtick is to pull the raw data, add his own trend lines, and claim there’s no warming.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Someone Warned Against COVID-Like Climate Lockdowns, And Deniers Are Pretending It’s An Embrace: “Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve cautioned against celebrating the lockdown’s emission reductions, and called out how deniers misrepresent the economic shutdown as climate policy, complete with anti-semetic dog whistles. Now they’re kicking the disinformation up a notch further, by attacking an academic who warned that we should take action on climate change now to prevent having to do something as drastic as COVID-like lockdowns for climate change. To reiterate: the point of her op-ed is that a climate lockdown would be very bad and we should do what it takes to avoid it. To deniers, though, a rejection of climate lockdowns is actually an embrace of them, at least according to the Washington Times’ Valerie Richardson, and the deniers she quotes.” 

Pakalolo writes—Climate fires have tipped us into a new era – the age of embers: “Yale Environment 360 notes ‘just as global warming has propelled the Arctic Ocean past a tipping point which will lead to a largely ice-free Arctic in summer in the coming decades. Wildfire scientists say that rising global temperatures and worsening droughts mean that the world has entered a new era of mega-fires.’ California is burning yet again. This fact should be the top story today and every day. But it can’t because of the monsters occupying the White House and their endless distractions and scandals.” 


Extreme Weather & Natural Phenomena

Paul Hogarth writes—California fire season has been a nightmare, and it’s not over: “This has been the worst season for wildfires on the West Coast, ever. Climate change is here, and the effects will get worse. According to CalFire, this year our fire season has been 26 times more severe than in 2019—and the scary part is how early it started. Thousands of families are without power, drinkable water, medical supplies, safe shelter, and access to food. Daily Kos has identified 23 charities in California, Oregon, and Washington State that are working to provide immediate relief. Please chip in whatever is meaningful to you to help west coasters weather this disaster. If you think this won’t affect the upcoming election, think again. With half a million Oregonians currently under some sort of evacuation order and nearly 400,000 Californians having lived in a mandatory evacuation order at some point during this season, the last thing on their minds is how they will vote. California and Oregon have good laws that allow for absentee voting, but if your house has burned down and you lost everything, voting will not be a top priority. That’s why the work of all these charitable organizations is so crucial.


Fossil Fuels & Emissions Controls

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Exploring Fossil Fuel Propaganda at The Local Level in California and Pennsylvania: “At the Energy and Policy Institute, Itai Vardi does a commendable job sorting out the ‘tangled web of individuals and groups representing business interests and conservative think tanks’ that “are generating an echo-chamber of messaging against Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order adding the state” to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap and trade program. Vardi basically describes a miniature, Pennsylvania-specific version of the national climate denial networks, with the typical fossil fuel and industry money funding going to self-proclaimed ‘free market’ groups, with ties to local lawmakers, and pseudo-media outlets where they invite their fellow-fossil-funded friends to trash climate policy.  Think that’s bad? Well, it gets worse!

tjlord writes—Trump to approve a $22 Billion rail line to ship crude by rail from Alberta to Alaska”: “This popped up on one of my other news feeds just now — the link is here (props to Eye on the Arctic for this).  The project is the ‘A2A’ project — a rail line from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Delta Junction, AK with connections to ‘ports near Anchorage.’ One of the main intentions is to use this for crude by rail — likely to include tar sands oil. The bigger point in my mind is the risk of an accident. Much of the crude by rail can use ‘diluents’ — lighter crude products to make the crude less viscous. In the event of an accident, these volatiles can evaporate as a very combustible vapor. This is where the burning tank cars come from in US crude by rail accidents.”

xaxnar writes—Another step towards a zero carbon world: “ Green hydrogen is called that because no greenhouse gases are released producing it by using electric current to split it out of water — electrolysis. If the electricity is coming from renewable energy, it’s all good. Hydrogen cracked out of fossil fuels — blue hydrogen — is cheaper to make, but  also involves production of CO2 as a byproduct. Brown hydrogen is created by gasifying coal, and it includes a number of other gases. It was an early way of making gas for gaslights, etc. There is a market for hydrogen besides transportation. Hydrogen is used in a number of industrial processes, including making fertilizer. New developments in producing green hydrogen have a lot of potential applications. That’s why this news from Siemens is a good thing. […]  Siemens Smart Infrastructure and WUN H2 GmbH signed a contract to build one of the largest hydrogen production plants in Germany. It will be built in Wunsiedel in the north of Bavaria. With a power intake of six megawatts in the initial development phase, the plant will run solely on renewable energy and will be CO2-free. The electrolysis plant from Siemens Energy will have the capacity to produce over 900 tons of hydrogen per year in this first phase. When fully expanded, it will be able to supply up to 2,000 tons.” 

Dan Bacher writes—New Sierra Club Report Says CRC’s Failure Could Leave California Taxpayers with $900 Million Burden: “The Sierra Club released a new report today (October 1) revealing that the financial failure of California Resources Corporation (CRC), a spin-off of Occidental Petroleum, could leave California taxpayers bearing more than $900 million in costs for the remediation of thousands of CRC’s abandoned wells. CRC is California’s largest oil and natural gas producer with the state’s most ‘diverse operations,’ according to the CRC website. CRC spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on lobbying the Governor’s Office, the Legislature and regulatory officials in California. For example, CRC spent $310,198.35 in the first quarter of 2020 and $344,959.57 in the second quarter.” 


Styracosaurus writes—Gavin Newsom has planted a seed – we need to nourish it: “California Governor Newsom has signed an executive order to require the state air resources board to ban new gasoline powered cars within 15 years. We need to create an environment for this action to succeed. One of the immediate criticisms is the lack of infrastructure for widespread use of electric vehicles.  We need enough charging stations to make electric vehicles a viable alternative to gas powered vehicles. Gas powered vehicles already have a “charging” station infrastructure. They are called gas stations. They will become uneconomic if there are no gas powered cars, but they could have a new life if they add electric charging stations. Oil companies are run by people, many of whom are quite aware of the dangers of AGW. At the same time, they are business people. I inherited a small amount of Chevron stock, and I have read their stock-holder reports. Chevron, and I assume other oil companies as well, have business plans to try to make a profit under various oil use scenarios. They will make more profit if oil use is stable or grows.” 

Coradia hydrogen train in Austria. Wasserstoff-Zug.Copyright: ÖBB/Marek Knopp
Coradia iLint train in Austria

xaxnar writes—There are many ways forward on Climate Change. Here’s one: “Climate Change is being driven primarily by one thing: greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Transportation accounts for roughly a third of emissions. (It varies from locale to locale, country to country.) That’s why this story is good news: UK’s first hydrogen-powered train makes mainline debut. …Today’s trials of HydroFLEX, which have been supported with a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport, follow almost two years’ development work and more than £1 million of investment by both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham. Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases, instead using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. …The Transport Secretary also announced the ambition for Tees Valley to become a Hydrogen Transport Hub. Bringing together representatives from academia, industry and government to drive forward the UK’s plans to embrace the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel could create hundreds of jobs while seeing the region become a global leader in the green hydrogen sector. This is not the only hydrogen-powered passenger rail project. Alstom has been developing the Coradia iLint train sets, which are now starting to enter service.” 


Angmar​​​​​​​ writes—Regenerative Culture: “It’s Time to Think Big on Climate Change”: “A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it. The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming, such as those of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in that it does not couch its conclusions in the language of uncertainties, and it does prescribe policies.”


Merry Light writes—Saturday Morning Garden Bogging – Vol. 16.40 It’s Not Over Until It’s Over Edition: “October means the end for the annuals in the garden. I usually look around to see what needs saving by cover or cutting, whether leisurely or in a frantic one-day sweep.  The forecast last Sunday night was for light frost so it was kind of a frantic sweep. Fortunately, it never materialized. I had a few tomatoes left on the vine of the Early Girl and some pretty red verbena, so I was happy about that because I wasn’t quite ready to quit for the year. The fall perennial flowers are going strong. Plumbago is spreading through the front garden. I got a couple of starts from a friend some years ago and it’s very happy. The leaves turn a beautiful bronze color and really look nice with the blue flowers. […] Marigolds and mums are looking great now that the weather is cooler.” 


annieli writes—Baumexplodiertfest” The European ‘forest cities’ of which Trump was enamored in the debate: “ That debate was revelatory, because we were exposed to yet another Trump falsehood about that raking of forest floors, because he’s king Swidden. And we so wanted Joe Biden to ask him ‘which city.’ We did get another Trump ‘sir’ story without the exploding trees. […] Trump could have actually gotten some eco-fascist mileage out of it, assuming he’d actually read studies favoring ‘forest cities’ but alas, he’s just too stupid or drug-addled, much like his use of ‘stand back’ and ‘stand by’ for the Proud Boys.” 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

RockyMtnHigh writes—Last night was ugly; here’s some beauty – public lands style: “After the ugliness of last night’s shit show of a “debate”, I thought it might be nice to share a little beauty with a photo essay from some of Colorado’s public lands.  September has been National Public Lands Month, so join me in enjoying these beautiful places that are part of our inheritance from previous generations — and our obligation to pass on to the future. I’d also like to recognize the original stewards and inhabitants of these lands, including the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pawnee, Puebloan, Shawnee and Shoshone people. Please join me in celebrating our public lands by sharing some of your favorite public land images in the comments!”

Username4242 writes—Sacred Land of Blood and Gold: Exploring the Black Hills, Part 2. (Video): “Part 2 of my journey through the Black Hills, visiting Bear Butte and Devil’s Tower (also known as Bear Lodge to the Lakota). A beautiful place with a dark history, but one I was grateful to wander.


HalBrown writes—I hope people in Texas trust their Commission on Environmental Quality and the CDC on deadly amoeba: “This is a kind of under-the-radar story unless you live in one of these eight Texas cities which were alerted to the presence of a brain-eating amoeba found in their water supply (read article). Many American’s belief that scientific institutions like the CDC and Dr. Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) tell the truth has been eroded under Donald Trump. Now we have a story very much involving a life or death disease in Texas where, if one contracts it, the survival rate for Covid-19 looks like a walk through the park where the worst that can happen is you’ll have an allergic reaction to a bee sting.” 

Dan Bacher writes—Governor vetoes bill to reform California’s top toxics regulator, the DTSC: “Governor Gavin Newsom last night vetoed AB 995, a bipartisan bill to reform the  state’s top toxics regulator, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and clean up toxic pollution in frontline communities throughout California. It was the last environmental justice priority bill on Newsom’s desk — and a coalition of environmental justice organizations were deeply disappointed with the veto. Sponsored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the bill would create a five member Board of Environmental Safety within the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to provide policy direction to and oversight of the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The bill would also have restructured the Hazardous Waste Control Account (HWCA), created a Hazardous Waste Facilities Account (HWFA), and made other changes. The DTSC has been under fire in recent years for “rampant regulatory failures and mismanagement, including over the Exide battery smelter, considered one of the worst cases of environmental racism in the country,” according to a press release from the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).” 


Meteor Blades writes—Earth Matters: ‘Slow-walking’ offshore wind; rescuing animal wildfire survivors with drones:Earth Matters is a Daily Kos compendium of wonderful, disturbing, and hideous news briefs about the environment. Sen. Whitehouse calls out Trump for “slow-walking” offshore wind permits: The Rhode Island Democrat, one of the noisier climate hawks in the Senate, accused the Trump regime of dragging its feet in approving offshore wind farms to give natural gas suppliers a boost. GreenTechMedia reports that  the infant U.S. offshore wind industry, with around 25 gigawatts of electricity-generation capacity set to be installed over the next decade, is being made to wait for federal permits for siting its 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind off the coast of Massachusetts. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking more environmental reviews, which means a delay of Vineyard and, effectively, the larger offshore industry as a whole. ‘I think what we’re seeing is a deliberate slow-walk, and not just staff unfamiliarity and hesitation [at BOEM],’ Whitehouse said in an interview played Monday at Greentech Media’s Power & Renewables Summit. His state is currently home to the only offshore wind farm in the United States, the 30-megawatt Block Island project owned by Ørsted. ‘It’s almost comical to see this completely anti-environment administration feign great solicitude for the ocean environment as it delays these projects,’ he said.

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