White storks are back again


This is a video about a white stork nest in Ankeveen, the Netherlands.

As I wrote earlier, in January the white storks had returned to their nest in the village.

During several cold winter weeks, I had not seen them after that.

However, today they were in the meadow below the nest. Though it it is still freezing most of the day.

Seven new Dutch fungi species a month discovered


The Dutch Mycological Society reports that during the past 14 years, about seven fungi species, new for the Netherlands, are discovered every month.

Not many of these new species are gilled mushrooms, or agaricales, probably the best known fungi.

The newly discovered agaricales include Psathyrella berolinensis and Cantharellus melanoxeros.

Most of the newly discovered fungi species are ascomycota. Many of them are very small.

Amicodisco virella, photo by Stip Helleman

For instance, Amicodisco virella, rare everywhere in Europe, and discovered in the Netherlands recently.

Omphalina chlorocyanea in the Netherlands: here.

Dutch fungi atlas: here.

Lightning Makes Mushrooms Multiply: here.

Wilson’s phalarope in Arabia


This video is called Female Wilson’s Phalaropes feeding.

This is a National Geographic video on the dugong and the environment in the United Arab Emirates.

From The Gulf Today in Dubai:

Rare bird in Abu Dhabi

WAM / BY A STAFF REPORTER

Abu Dhabi: Last month, a new bird species was discovered at Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. Wilson’s Phalarope, Steganopus tricolor, a small wader, is the first ever record of this species in the United Arab Emirates. This is a remarkable new find because this bird is generally found only in the America.

The species has only been recorded on four previous occasions in the Middle East, in Oman (twice) and in Turkey (twice in the 1980s). The species is well known for its far-flung wanderings, and is recorded annually in western Europe in autumn. It has also reached the Falkland Islands, southern Australia and even Antarctica.


The species feeds either by swimming in shallow water, frequently spinning in circles as it does, or by walking along the shoreline. Both methods were observed at Al Wathba, and the bird was seen to stalk floating insect prey and then seize it with a sudden stab of its long, very fine bill. Given that there is little other suitable habitat in the area, EAD experts believe it may remain in the vicinity for some time, feeding up before it departs northwards.

This 5 km area, which was declared a protected area upon the orders of the late UAE president Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1998, has long been recognised as one of the most important sites for birds in the UAE. Visited by thousands of migrants every winter, including waders, ducks and birds of prey, it is also the site of the UAE’s first breeding colony of the charismatic Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus. For years, the Reserve has been attracting the attention of scientists and birdwatchers that are keen to study both common species and rarer visitors.

Once formal descriptions and photographs of the Wilson’s Phalarope have been assessed by the EBRC, it will become the 435th wild species on the official UAE Bird List, maintained by the EBRC in association with EAD.

“This new record is a welcome addition to the growing list of birds in the UAE and once again highlights the importance of reserves for migratory birds,” said Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

“The presence of three flamingos, two tagged in lake Tuzla of Turkey in 2007 and and one at Lake Uromiyeh in Iran in 1989 also highlights the importance of Al Wathba for the flamingos and other waterbirds. This clearly shows the importance of Al Wathba as a migratory stopover for many birds. Continued protection of a network of such coastal and inland wetlands sites is critical for the conservation of waterbirds and wetland biodiversity and also in attracting new species such as the Wilson’s Phalarope,” said Dr Salim Javed, Deputy Manager, Bird Conservation at EAD and Manager of Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.

The ornithological importance of the UAE has been nicely illustrated in the UAE Interact. At any one time during migration periods (July – November and April – May) probably in excess of 250,000 waders are present on intertidal areas of the country’s Gulf coast. Taking into account the likely turnover of shorebirds on this Eurasian/West Asian – Arabian Gulf – African flyway, the mudflats of the southern Gulf probably support several million individuals over the course of a year. The current UAE population of Socotra cormorants is around 200,000, which is about 15-33 per cent of the estimated total world population. Individual sites are regionally important for wader species, namely Abu al Abyadh for its crab plover Dromas ardeola colony and migratory populations of lesser sand plover Charadrius mongolus, Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus and grey plover Pluvialis squatarola, Khor Dubai for its high densities of Kentish plover, greater sand plover Charadrius leschenaultii, lesser sand plover and broad-billed sandpiper Limicola falcinellus and Khor al Beidah for its large wintering population of crab plover and parties of up to 90 wintering great knot Calidris tenuirostris. The summer population of crab plover is estimated at over 1,200 shared between Abu al Abyadh and another colony on the island of Umm Amim, while the largest wintering population of over 500 birds is at Khor al Beidah.

Red-necked Phalarope breaks longevity record: here.

June 2010: The Greater Flamingo has been found to be the most abundant bird species in the UAE, according to a recent census of waterbirds. More than 15,000 of the birds were recorded from 15 sites: here.

Britain: Ravens ‘not behind’ wader decline: here.

Baby Indonesian coelacanth filmed for first time


This video is called Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae).

From Practical Fishkeeping:

Baby coelacanth filmed for first time

Scientists have captured the first ever pictures of baby ‘living fossil’ coelacanths.

Japanese marine researchers have found and successfully filmed the young fish at a depth of 528ft in Manado Bay off Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.

Video footage shows the 31cm long baby coelacanth, coloured blue with white spots, swimming slowly among rocks on the seabed for about 20 minutes.

Masamitsu Iwata, a researcher at Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki, northeast of Tokyo is quoted saying: “As far as we know, it was the first ever video image of a living juvenile coelacanth, which is still shrouded in mystery.”

These fish typically live at depths of 150- 700m so the researchers used a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle to film the coelacanth. Scientists believe that this fish was newly born as a similar size pup was once found inside a pregnant coelacanth.

Coelacanths exist in fossil records back to 410 million years ago were thought to have been extinct for over 65 million years until a specimen was discovered swimming in the waters off Africa in 1938.

Up until the late 1990s, it was thought that there was only a single species of coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae found in the western Indian Ocean off the coast East Africa and the Comoro Islands.

However a PhD student studying coral reef ecology discovered a second species off the coast of Indonesia in 1997. This species Latimeria menadoensis, is the one identified off Sulawesi.

These grow up to 2 metres in length and can weigh up to 100kg. They live in deep water caves, reefs and volcanic slopes and because of this, relatively little is known about their breeding habits.

They are ovoviparous, giving birth to as many as 26 live pups which develop from huge eggs in the oviduct, feeding off a large yolk sac until birth.

Until this expedition young had only been observed twice in pregnant females and never swimming in the wild. Scientists hope the discovery will shed light on the habitat and breeding habits of coelacanths.

One of the world’s oldest fishes, coelacanths, can live to 100 or longer w/o showing signs of aging: here.

Marine life of Ternate, Indonesia: here.

Ugandan wildlife art


Elephants, by Ismael Kateregga

From the East African in Kenya:

Uganda: Monet Makes the World Go Round

Frank Whalley

15 February 2010

column

Wildlife is the latest passion of Kampala artist Ismael Kateregga.

And he brings it to life on the canvas thanks to long hours of meticulous observation in the Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth game parks of his native Uganda.

Zebras at Lake Mburo caught in a startled half-turn … elephants [see also here] confronting the artist at Queen Elizabeth, with trunks curled and ears spread wide in classic threat displays.

These are small pictures, each perhaps 10cm square – painterly jottings on a canvas notebook; swift studies of mass, form, light and shade.

On a far larger scale is caught a herd of buffalo pausing from grazing to look suspiciously at the painter straight in the eye; and ready to turn on a 10 cent piece to ram him deep into the bush.

Kateregga has caught the tension of their bodies and their combined strength with admirable economy.

However for one of the most successful pictures in his current show – on until the end of the month at the capital’s Tulifanya Gallery – Kateregga did not have to go further than one of Kampala’s recreational parks.

It is of a flock of marabou storks huddled together with their shoulders hunched like a bunch of MPs plotting in the corner of a corridor.

What is remarkable about all these wildlife paintings – and there are 18 of them on show – is that they are largely monochrome; either a soft blue or a gentle sepia.

An exception is the painting of marabous where in parts the overall blue is suffused by a glowing pink, like a blush on the throat pouches, backs and bills.

This restrained palette both forces one to focus on the subject rather than admire the skills of an Impressionist better known for his use of colour, and causes the artist to weigh each stroke with care while producing an accurate tonal scale across the canvas.

“Exploring light, shade and form without colour; it’s a new phenomenon for me,” Kateregga said.

He began his wildlife studies last year after seeing for the first time works by his hero, Claude Monet whose pictures he had seen previously only in reproduction.

He told me he was immediately captivated by Monet’s broad studies of water lilies from his garden at Giverny, completed in the last 30 years of his life.

And although Monet died in 1925 those pictures – plus a view of the Seine in Paris – struck Kateregga as looking as fresh as though painted yesterday.

Kateregga told me, “I thought it would be a challenge to concentrate on form through light and shade and for once leaving out colour, which can be a distraction.”

It was the bones of the pictures he admired, more than the colours which had danced before him in the reproductions he had seen.

Until then he had built a reputation based on his shimmering flickers of urban life, classily composed and painted with a sure touch which owe more than a passing debt to the Impressionist master.

These paintings for which he is best known are also at the Tulifanya.

Any casual visitor can spot why they are so popular … colourful, capable, painted in a style that is fully accepted and not too challenging to the eye.

Typical is the largest picture in the exhibition, a view of Kikuubo Lane in downtown Kampala.

Bustling, bursting with life, alive with colour, yet disciplined and coherent. Not surprisingly it has already sold.

There are many more like it on the walls.

Lovely though they are, I think Kateregga’s move into monochrome is an excellent thing.

More disciplined, and underpinned by rigorous draughtsmanship these paintings point a way forward – away perhaps from the superficial sugary delights of Monet but more towards the master’s underlying structural brilliance.

By going back to basics, Kateregga will hopefully move more towards himself.

Frank Whalley runs Lenga Juu, a fine arts and media consultancy based in Nairobi.

Good news for Ugandan wildlife: here.

Africa Climate Exchange: here.