Oldest osprey ‘Lady”s 62nd egg

This video is called Loch of the Lowes Osprey, The First Egg 2011.

From the BBC:

16 April 2012 Last updated at 11:39 GMT

‘Oldest’ breeding osprey lays 62nd egg at Loch of the Lowes

Loch of the Lowes Osprey Webcam viewers spotted the egg on Saturday

An osprey which is thought to be the UK’s oldest breeding female has laid her 62nd egg at a Perthshire reserve.

The bird, known as Lady, returned in March to the Loch of the Lowes reserve near Dunkeld, where she has nested for 22 consecutive years.

On average, ospreys live for between 10 and 15 years in the wild.

The egg was spotted on Saturday evening by Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) staff and volunteers monitoring the webcam trained on the nest.

It follows last week’s “puzzling” behaviour by the bird, who showed all the tell-tale signs of egg laying before completely changing her behaviour.

Officials at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who manage the reserve, said Lady could have laid a “phantom egg”, or the egg could have been damaged or destroyed.

If the egg which is now being incubated hatches, a chick can be expected in the next five or six weeks.

Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger Emma Rawling said: “After a mystery on the nest last week I’m so relieved that we can confirm there definitely is an egg in the nest now.

“Our 24 hour nest protection now becomes even more important – we will be monitoring the nest for as long as the ospreys are here and we hope we’ll see young hatch in a few weeks’ time.”

Ms Rawling said Lady kept “surprising” experts at the SWT.

“She still seems committed to breeding, even at her advanced age. I’m sure that her fans watching on the webcam across the world will be keeping their fingers crossed that these eggs hatch very soon,” the ranger added.

Failed to hatch

In 2010, experts feared Lady would die after she fell ill and stopped eating.

However, thousands of people watching via webcam witnessed the osprey’s sudden recovery days later.

Lady returned to her nest the following year, but her eggs failed to hatch. At this point Ms Rawling said staff at the SWT “feared that might have been the last we would see of this bird”.

But Lady returned to the Loch of the Lowes again this year after completing the 3,000-mile migration from West Africa.

Female ospreys normally produce about 20 chicks in a lifetime. Lady has produced 61 eggs and has now seen 48 fledge.

See also here.

Osprey chicks in the UK: here.

New frogs discovered in the Philippines

Newly discovered Platymantis frog species; credit: Arvin Diesmos

From Fauna & Flora International:

Two new frog species discovered in the Philippines

Posted on: 17.04.12 (Last edited) 17th April 2012

Pioneering assessment survey provides new information on the ecology and natural history of many species of vertebrates.

A biodiversity resource assessment conducted in the Southern Leyte Province of the Philippines in November, has resulted in the discovery of two new species of frog and a total of 229 recorded flora species, 31 of which are endemic.

Despite its reputation for having fragmented and degraded forests, this impressive list of fauna and flora demonstrates the under-appreciated biodiversity of the Philippines.

The assessment was led by Fauna & Flora International, the National Museum of the Philippines, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau-DENR and DENR Region 8. Aimed at generating species inventories and practical information on key species-habitat associations, study results will inform forest and biodiversity management planning.

The month-long ground surveys in Southern Leyte covered six municipalities – Silago, Hinunangan, Sogod, Maasin, Tomas Oppus and Malitbog – and recorded a total of 229 flora species, 31 of which are unique to the Philippines.

The discovery of two undescribed forest-dependent species of frogs of the genus Platymantis is a significant result from the assessment, which is pioneering the detailed documentation of new and important information on the ecology and natural history of many species of vertebrates, endemic to Leyte.

The frogs, yet to be formally named, inhabit the montane and mossy forests of the Nacolod Mountain range. Both species differ markedly from other known Philippine Platymantis frogs by their body size, coloration patterns and calls. The two species are allied to two different species groups, the Platymantis guentheri group and Platymantis hazelae group. This is the first time that a member of the hazelae group has been discovered in Mindanao faunal region, of which the island of Leyte belongs to.

The National Museum of the Philippines reports that herpetologists from the United States and the Philippines are now working on formal taxonomic descriptions.

The total species includes: 10 that are classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered (most of which are Dipterocarp trees) and 20 Vulnerable species; 212 terrestrial species comprising 112 types of birds (41 of these are unique to the Philippines and 11 are threatened with extinction), 36 species of mammals (17 of which are unique to the Philippines) and 64 species of amphibians and reptiles (mostly found only in the Philippines).

The assessment indicated the general preference of Southern Leyte’s fauna to forest and riverine environments. The information generated now provides a baseline that can be used to predict impacts of habitat change on species. For local government units in Southern Leyte, the findings provide the scientific basis in designing appropriate management systems and monitoring protocols useful in establishing local forest and biodiversity areas, and will steer the rehabilitation of forests towards an efficient and more ecologically sound path.

It is anticipated that a significant number of species will be recorded from Southern Leyte with continued field sampling, especially if the surveys are conducted during the drier months of the year and if a wide range of habitat and elevational zones (from lowland Dipterocarp to mossy forests) are sampled.

New Purple Crab Species Found in Philippines: here. And here.

Early Australian withdrawal from Afghan bloodbath

This video is called Stop the War Coalition – Obama and Australia-US Alliance Protest – Canberra 17th November 2011.

From Associated Press:

Australia pulling troops early from Afghanistan

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force of any country outside NATO

Posted: Apr 17, 2012 1:48 AM ET
Last Updated: Apr 17, 2012 3:27 AM ET

Australia expects to pull most of its troops out of Afghanistan nearly a year earlier than planned, the prime minister announced Tuesday, saying Australian soldiers have nearly completed their mission to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces in the decade-long war.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard cited security improvements and the death of Osama bin Laden and many of al-Qaida‘s senior leaders among the reasons behind the accelerated withdrawal, which will likely see most troops home by the end of 2013. But one opposition lawmaker suggested the strategy was an attempt by Gillard to win over war-weary voters ahead of federal elections.

“This is a war with a purpose. This is a war with an end,” Gillard said in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra. “We have a strategy, a mission and a timeframe for achieving it.”

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force provided by any country outside NATO. The soldiers’ primary objective has been training an Afghan National Army brigade to take responsibility for security in Uruzgan province.

Canada has more than 900 soldiers in Afghanistan currently acting in a training mission. The country’s combat mission ended in July 2011.

Early exit hinted at in November

Australia had originally planned to withdraw its soldiers by the end of 2014, though Gillard had hinted at an early exit in November when she said the troops’ mission could be finished before then. The U.S. plans to withdraw all of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Gillard said she expects Afghan President Hamid Karzai to announce in the next few months the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces in Uruzgan and other provinces. Once that process starts, it will take 12 to 18 months to complete. Based on that timeframe, most of Australia’s troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013.

Still, Gillard declined to give a specific date for the conclusion of the withdrawal, saying the start of the process is dependent upon Karzai’s announcement.

“When this is complete, Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan will look very different to that which we have today,” Gillard said. “We will have completed our training and mentoring mission. … And the majority of our troops will have returned home.”

Australia will consider keeping some special forces soldiers in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and will help fund the ongoing costs of Afghan security forces, Gillard said. The prime minister said she and Karzai will sign a partnership agreement at a meeting of NATO nations’ leaders in Chicago next month.

“Australia has an enduring national interest in ensuring that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists,” Gillard said.

Public support sliding

Australia’s military deployment in Afghanistan maintains bipartisan political support, but opinion polls show the popularity of the commitment among the Australian public has plummeted amid the rising death toll. Thirty-two Australian soldiers have been killed in the conflict.

See also here.

Australian government announces accelerated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: here.

About 50 people attended an April 17 rally in King George Square to mark a global day of action against military spending. The rally, organised by Just Peace Brisbane, called for Australian military funding to be radically cut back in the upcoming federal budget; here.

Blood and Formula One in Bahrain

This video is called Amnesty International on sentenced Bahrain medics.

From the United Kingdom Press Association:

Call to cancel Bahrain Grand Prix

(UKPA) – 20 minutes ago

Formula One chiefs have been urged by Labour to cancel this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix amid continued clashes between police and anti-government protesters.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said that proceeding with the event would “send the wrong signal”.

At the start of what is expected to be a week-long run of demonstrations, police and protesters were engaged in a running battle on the outskirts of the Bahraini capital Manama. Practice for the Grand Prix is scheduled to begin on Friday, with the main race taking place on Sunday.

Mr Alexander said: “F1 bosses should call off the scheduled Bahrain Grand Prix. To go ahead at present risks sending the wrong signal at a time when the authorities in Bahrain should be focused on delivering real reform.”

And a new report by a leading human rights group said torture and ill-treatment are continuing in the Gulf kingdom. Amnesty International said it had evidence of people being kept in prison for participating in anti-government protests without using violence.

It found that security forces continue to respond to demonstrations with excessive force, and that a 14-year-old boy and 81-year-old woman died after tear gas was fired into their homes in recent months.

In a report, the campaigning charity said that the Bahraini authorities were “more concerned with rebuilding their image” than introducing human rights and political reforms. It concluded that recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November have been “only partially and superficially” implemented.

The latest skirmishes took place in Salmabad, a village six miles from the centre of Manama and 11 miles north of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) where the race is due to be held. The clashes, on the third day of mourning for the death of local cameraman Ahmed Ismael Hassan Al Samadi, were similar to what has regularly taken place in recent months.

A 2,000-strong group including men, women and children marched through the streets calling for the end of the reign of King Hamad, whose minority Sunni government rules over a majority Shia population.

See also here.

Bahrain ‘more interested in image than human rights': here.

F1: F1 journalists turn war reporters in Bahrain: here.

Teargas, petrol bombs and riot police: How MirrorSport‘s Byron Young escaped the violence in Bahrain: here.

Sport as propaganda: Bahrain’s vile Grand Prix: here.

Bahrain Grand Prix 2012: ‘no Formula One over our blood’ cry protesters ahead of weekend’s race: here.

While the US and its allies declare the ceasefire in Syria a failure and invoke human rights and democracy to justify stepped up intervention, these same powers turn a blind eye to the escalating crackdown in Bahrain: here.

The Council on Foreign Relations is the most establishment of foreign policy think tanks in Amreeka, and we know the US military establishment loves Bahrain, its Saudi backers and the nice naval base it provides. Still, considering the repression of protestors, the torture, the kidnappings, and all that oppression by a kleptocratic ruling family representing the minority of the population, how come CFR’s Ed Husain is so gung-ho about the Khalifas? Here.