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8 months ago

Woodpecker species holding its own in Alabama

On the banks of the Coosa River, a federally endangered woodpecker continues to hold its own, with a little help from friends.

For more than 30 years, Alabama Power Company biologists have worked to protect and expand red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) populations on Lake Mitchell, which contains the largest population of RCWs on private property in the state.

The aptly-named woodpecker measures about 7 inches tall and is black and white except for the red streak males have along the side of their heads.

Each spring, Alabama Power partners with federal and state agencies to identify and track the bird through banding. In early May, biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will scale pine trees up to 30 feet to check on that year’s offspring.

The baby birds, just 6 to 9 days old, will be given a unique band of colored rings along their tiny legs.

“Their eyes are shut, and they are still pretty much featherless, but the size is about right where you can put bands on them,” said Eric Soehren, an ecologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “If you wait too long – you can go 10 or possibly 11 days – but by then their eyes have opened up, and it’s a lot harder to pull them out. There is a small window of time in which you want to target.”

The bands will allow scientists to track the birds over their lifetime. Some birds from Lake Mitchell have turned up more than 100 miles away.

The first survey of red-cockaded woodpeckers was conducted in 1985. After last year’s nesting season, 11 active clusters produced a total of 17 fledglings – nine males and eight females. That’s in addition to 31 adult birds, bringing the total population of RCWs in 2017 to 48.

In addition to tracking, Alabama Power assists the woodpecker by providing habitat for the species.

While most woodpeckers carve openings in dead trees, RCWs bore holes exclusively in mature, living pine trees. To give the birds more nesting habitat, Alabama Power carves openings in trees using chainsaws.

“At the end of the next season, we will look at the number of birds there and compare that to the number of tree cavities at each cluster. If the number of birds exceeds the number of cavities, then we will hire consultants to go out and install artificial cavities for the birds,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power. “That way, all the birds will have a place to live.”

Alabama Power also helps keep the longleaf pine forests that woodpeckers depend on healthy with regular prescribed burning and tree thinning.

“The habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers really would not exist without thinning and prescribed burning at Lake Mitchell,” Fitch said. “We have prescribed burning at each cluster every other year or as needed to maintain an open, park-like area for RCW habitat.”

About the red-cockaded woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker primarily feeds on ants, beetles, cockroaches, caterpillars, wood-boring insects, spiders and, occasionally, fruits or berries.

RCWs are a cooperative breeding species, which means some of the male birds from previous years will help take care of their half-siblings and future generations.

The nesting season runs from April to June and breeding females typically lay three to four eggs each season. Group members incubate eggs for 10 to 11 days. Once hatched, nestlings remain in the tree cavity for 26 to 28 days.

Upon fledging, the young often remain with the parents, forming clusters with three to four members. Groups can grow to as large as 10 birds; however, there is only one breeding pair within each cluster.

The “helpers” are all male as juvenile females generally leave the cluster before the next breeding season in search of solitary male groups.

The main predator of RCW nests is rat snakes. To combat these predators, the birds keep sap flowing from the pine trees as a defense mechanism.

The red-cockaded woodpecker plays a vital role in Southern pine forests. Several other animals, such as nuthatches, bluebirds, bees, wasps and other woodpeckers, use cavities excavated by RCWs.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

1 min ago

Roy Moore warns Kavanaugh-type smear tactics could be used against GOP in 2020; Not ruling out future political run

In an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Tuesday, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore discussed time since his December 2017 election loss to now-Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) and what the future could hold for him.

Moore looked back at the 2017 special election and pointed to inconsistencies, which he said might have been the difference in the race he lost by a 1.7-percent margin.

He also warned how the reported tactics used against him, like the so-called Project Birmingham, could be used against Republicans in future elections.

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Moore discussed the inconsistencies and referenced the allegations of out-of-state voters participating in the 2017 election.

“There were a lot of things that were fraudulent about this race,” Moore said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “There was a lot of out-of-state voting that came in. Straight-voting didn’t appear normal in a lot of counties. There were a lot of things to call this election into question.”

Recently, Moore released the results of a polygraph test he took days after the 2017 special election and explained as to why he did not do so sooner as to help his chances in the 2017 election possibly.

“I’ve been in the campaigns and the political eye for over 40 years,” he said. “I’ve run approximately eight times in the state, counting primaries and general elections, and several times in the county. People know what I stand for and when you’re telling the truth, you don’t need a polygraph examination to defend against false allegations. I think a lot of people recognize they were false. We got some 650,000 votes – that’s a lot of votes. I don’t think that necessarily was – but I did take one. I put that in an affidavit challenging the election. That’s where that came out.”

“The important thing is I did take one,” he added. “I haven’t seen anybody else take one. You don’t need that to prove your innocence when you’re telling the truth.”

Moore likened his situation to Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and added if he had been given the opportunity, he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh.

“I think people see in Brett Kavanaugh what they did to me,” Moore said. “I think they saw it had some effect on my election. And they did it again on Brett Kavanaugh, and he survived it. I’m glad he did. I think he’s conservative. He’ll do a good job. I would have voted for him. I won’t say anything about my [2017] opponent. He didn’t vote for him. I think it is important to recognize that justices on the Supreme Court have an influence for many, many years. I think it’s a very important vote and people of Alabama want a conservative.”

Moore warned that this line of attack can be used again in 2020 and advised President Donald Trump to get out in front of it.

“I have no doubt that disinformation on social media is going to be played out again in the 2020 election,” he added. “I think when they see it works, they’re going to try it again in 2020 and I think the president ought to do something now to protect himself and I think that Democrats and Republicans should recognize the immorality of disinformation. People putting out false stories on social media and I think that’s exactly what they did to me, then they merchandise it.”

Moore would not rule out a 2020 run, but said his current focus has been to clear his name coming out of the 2017 special election loss.

“As far as politics go, I haven’t done anything, run anything,” he said. “If I do, I’ll let people know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t made plans yet.”

“Right now, I’m busy with the fraudulent accusations and trying to clear up what happened in the last election,” Moore added. “That’s kept me pretty busy, so I haven’t made any plans yet.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

40 mins ago

‘Having Cancer’: Alabama girl shares moving story, lessons learned through adversity

Wise beyond her years. Brave beyond belief. Resilient beyond reason.

McKaylee Borklund, an 11-year-old who lives in the Birmingham area, has had her life thus far shaped by her battle with brain cancer. But, she has not let it define her.

Instead, as the Alabama girl shared in an essay for her sixth-grade language arts class, she has looked upon the face of adversity and seen the bright side, learning important, lasting life lessons along her journey.

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McKaylee’s essay as follows:

Having Cancer

A responsibility that I have had for a little while now is cancer. I have brain cancer, and I was diagnosed with it on January 8, 2008. I go to St. Judes Research Hospital every year. I went through treatment when I was young for about 2 years. When I went through treatment, I stopped growing for a year, that is why I am really short. I also got hearing loss from the treatment [so] that is why I have hearing aids. When I was young it was hard to keep a good attitude and even now it is.

One of my challenges of having cancer is going to the hospital every year. It’s hard and scary because of the needles, scars, and surgerys [sic]. However, my family started to turn it into a vacation.

I was scared to go on the trips but my family made the trips fun. It’s hard to see sick kids, but it makes me feel like I’m not the only one going through cancer.

Treatment was another challenge for me. Everytime [sic] I was done getting needles I would start singing and dancing. I wouldn’t want to eat, but my family would come up with creative ideas to get me to eat. I was really scared of treatment, but they had a treasure box at the end.

My hardest challenge was keeping a good attitude, and it still is. I was scared to fall asleep so I would sing Amazing Grace to make it better, and I still do. I would get scared of needles, but I knew St. Judes was trying to help me. It can be hard to be different but I always try to look on the bright side of things.

The lessons that I have learned from having cancer is that it’s ok to be different. I also learned that being different is special. Three challenges that I have because of cancer is I have to go to the hospital every year, treatment, and keeping a good attitude.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, McKaylee’s mom said that the sentiments expressed in the girl’s essay are typical of how she has handled the decade-long journey, adding that McKaylee has had “an amazing attitude” throughout.

“It’s touching to see how someone – and I told her this after I read it – well, people have complained about a lot less. And if anyone has an excuse to complain about life, it would be her. But she always chooses to have a good attitude and make the best out of everything. As a mom, you couldn’t want anything different from your kids. She’ll always be successful if that’s her attitude in life,” Borklund said. “It just made me really proud of her.”

McKaylee pictured during treatment vs. recently (right).


Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

7 Things: Shutdown day 33 brings no real movement, Trump administration wants Supreme Court to weigh-in on citizenship question, SOTU appears to be a go and more …

7. Covington Catholic kids get a White House invite; Their school had to close until further notice

— President Donald Trump already said the kids were treated “very unfairly” and now could meet with the kids at the White House as early as tomorrow. The school was closed Tuesday because law enforcement didn’t think it was safe to open the school.

— The native elder at the center of this made-up controversy has had his version and the media’s version of events, as well as his life story, exposed as a lie.

6. Alabama resident and Yellowhammer News founder Cliff Sims claims President Donald Trump was ready to give NASA a blank check to get to Mars

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— The president wants men on Mars and he wanted it done by the end of his first term, telling the acting agency head, “What if we sent NASA’s budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else you’re doing now. Could it work then?”

— Then acting-NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. told the president that he did not think it was possible. Sims noted that President Trump was disappointed and told an astronaut he wanted it done “at worst” during his second term.

5. Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) didn’t mention the name of a girl killed by an illegal — her mother attacked him for it

—  Ellin Jimmerson who lost a daughter to an illegal immigrant during a police chase in Huntsville took to the pages of AL.com to assail the congressman for not mentioning her daughter by name only as “Tad Mattle’s girlfriend.”

— Brooks and any following this story knows of Jimmerson’s activism (she even employed her daughter’s eventual killer) and made the decision to not mention her daughter’s name in deference to the mother’s position.

4. Now the Mueller probe is all about the Russians and the National Rifle Association

— After the story about Trump “suborning perjury” exploded, the media took the weekend and decided the hook of collusion now hangs on the interactions between the NRA, the Trump team and the Russians.

— Those interactions include the Trump administration sanctioning a Russian NRA member, an alleged spy who infiltrated the NRA (making them victims instead of accomplices) and a whopping $2,500 in donation from Russia that came comprised mostly of “routine payments” like membership dues or magazine subscriptions.

3. The State of the Union will apparently go on as scheduled; House #2 breaks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

—President Donald Trump seems to be prepared to ignore House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s cynical ploy to delay his January 29th State of the Union address until after the government shutdown is over, but Trump is preparing two speeches: one for a formal House delivery and one for delivery outside of Washington.

— There is still talk that President Trump may take the State of the Union on the road to Texas or Arizona, but this seems increasingly unlikely. The president has asked the sergeant-at-arms for a walkthrough in preparation for the event.

2. The case that could determine if Alabama loses a Congressional seat could be heard by the Supreme Court

— The Department of Justice, which lost a previous ruling about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, plans to seek a Supreme Court audience and have it done on an expedited basis to decide the issue definitively by the end of June.

— There are multiple cases being brought on this matter from all different perspectives, including a case where Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Congressman Mo Brooks are interested parties.

1. Day 33 of the government shutdown brings competing for Senate billsno real plans and fears that the FBI is being crippled, but one Democrat congressman and one liberal media pundit is saying “give Trump the money

— Both Democrats and Republicans are bringing long-shot bills to the Senate in attempts to appear like they are doing something on the government shutdown without actually doing anything.

— The latest government in crisis story du jour is about how the FBI can’t function in a government shutdown, with anonymous agents claiming the shutdown is jeopardizing their ability to conduct operations and claim it will bring on “sub-par applicants” in the future.

5 hours ago

Innovation the topic of discussion at Mobile school choice event

Students, parents, educators and elected officials continued their participation in School Choice Week with a discussion about some of the innovative approaches to education made available through school choice.

At a recent event in Mobile, State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) and State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) took part in a panel discussion hosted by the National Coalition for Public School Options, according to a coalition release.

The common belief among the panelists was that parents should have the greatest say in their children’s education, a principle fundamental to the school choice movement.

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Parents want their children to succeed more than anything in the world,” Pringle said. “And they want options so they can give their kids the best education they can get.”

Albritton was quick to point out that school choice has brought new ways to improve education while also issuing a reminder that there is still work to be done.

“Charter schools were an innovation that took a whole lot of work, but we did it,” he said. “Slowly, surely, we’re starting to realize that more choice is better, but we still need to overcome some bias against it.”

A consensus also formed among the panelists that virtual education should be one of the options made more fully available to parents in Alabama as part of that innovative approach.

“I think you will start to see more and more of a blend, where students in virtual schools, and home school students, start to participate more in band, sports, etc, and students in brick and mortar schools start to more fully utilize virtual learning,” said Pringle.

Albritton and Pringle were joined on the panel by Wei Barr, her daughter Abby Barr and Alabama Virtual Academy Head of School Kayleen Marble.

Abby Barr, a sophomore in the Alabama Virtual Academy, thinks the focal point of education should shift toward learning and away from testing.

“I want to see schools more focused on the individual and less focused on teaching for tests,” Abby said. “It seems silly but the future of education is to actually focus on learning and less on testing what you’ve already learned.”

Efforts to reform education through school choice have ramped up in recent weeks, including the formation of a new group spearheaded by Phil Williams of the Alabama Policy Institute.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

13 hours ago

Cliff Sims’ ‘Team of Vipers’ continues to climb best sellers list

Leaving both The Wonkey Donkey and Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild in its wake, Cliff Sims’ new book Team of Vipers reached number six on Amazon’s best sellers list by late Tuesday.

Team of Vipers chronicles Sims’ time working in the Donald Trump White House, including his daily encounters with the president and those around him.

Tantalizing excerpts from the book have begun to leak out ahead of Viper’s January 29 release.

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The Washington Post provided insight into a fascinating interaction Sims had with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly:

Sims recounts that Kelly once confided to him in a moment of exasperation: “This is the worst [expletive] job I’ve ever had. People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired. If that ever happened, it would be the best day I’ve had since I walked into this place.

The outlet also shared a raw look at Trump’s relationship with former speaker Paul Ryan:

“Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a– for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’” Trump told Ryan, then a Wisconsin congressman. “Why do you think Nancy [Pelosi] has held on this long? Have you seen her? She’s a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth another Republican gets elected. But they stick with her .Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?”

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie also has a Trump-themed book slated for release on January 29. It has not cracked Amazon’s top 50.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.