Snow bunting decline, research


This video from Canada is called Snow bunting song, what might females learn from it, by Sarah Baldo.

From Wildlife Extra:

Snow bunting decline prompts migration study

Novel approach to track migration of Arctic-breeding avian species

January 2013. Animals move around the globe in billions, often – like the Snow Bunting, one of the iconic Arctic-breeding species – covering huge distances and enduring the most extreme frigid weather conditions. In this conspicuously white sparrow-sized bird, animal migration epitomizes a stunning success of biological adaptation – with Snow Bunting representing the only songbird to breed as far north as the Arctic Circle. Indeed, there is nothing north of the snow bunting’s breeding ground except the North Pole and the polar ice cap. These passerines thrive in chilly, alpine conditions, playing and singing in temperatures dipping as low as -20F.

64% decline in North America

Although snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) have so far been considered common and widespread, enjoying stable numbers and extensive nesting and wintering habitats, their North American populations have shrunk by 64% over the past four decades, according to the National Audubon Society.

Climate change

These alarming statistics may reflect how nature and wildlife are responding to climate change and rising temperatures. Because snow buntings need snow and cold, the increasingly warmer winters are the species’ primary long-term threat. And although considerable attention is currently being paid to the conservation of migratory birds, this species remains still relatively under-studied. New data and novel methods of research are needed to assess the conservation implications of habitat changes in wintering locations as well as the effects of climate change on their breeding success. Fresh light on the migration patterns of remote populations of this avian species is shed by the recent work of a group led and inspired by Prof. Oliver P. Love – a wildlife biologist from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

In the article “Strong Migratory Connectivity in a Declining Arctic Passerine“- Christie Macdonald and her colleagues try to determine how snow bunting populations are linked in space and time. Considering that the snow bunting poses an extra challenge to monitor due to its inaccessible breeding locations, nomadic lifestyle and small body size, they argue, combining multiple sources of data is the most appropriate approach to track patterns of the birds’ migratory connectivity.

Sub-populations

The authors discovered that the population of snow buntings in North America is divided. The individuals to the east of Hudson Bay do not regularly mix with the ones to the west of Hudson Bay. These two sub-populations also migrate different distances. The article supports the idea that thorough studies into this species need to embrace a versatile mix of data – including geolocator technology, stable-isotope analysis, mark-recapture (banding) data along with citizen science data. Macdonald and her colleagues show strong evidence for an east-west parallel migratory system, with Hudson Bay acting as a migratory divide. While band recoveries suggest strong migratory connectivity among eastern wintering populations (more than 95% of band recoveries reveal connections between western Greenland and eastern North America), novel application of geolocators and stable-hydrogen isotope analysis to a Canadian breeding population reveal a high degree of migratory connectivity within western North American wintering populations.

Migration routes

Both sub-populations need to be conserved in order to save the overall population and, more importantly, the effects of global warming and other anthropogenic changes on one sub-population may be different from its effects on the other sub-population.

The mixed-data approach described in Animal Migration (with geolocators being used for the first time on arctic-breeding passerines) is innovative and still uncommon but a better understanding of winter movement and connectivity between wintering and breeding populations should help direct timely conservation efforts for this and other iconic Canadian Arctic-breeding avian species.

The study was published in Animal Migration – an open access journal by Versita.

National garden bird count, rare birds


This is a video from England about a kingfisher.

This blog has mentioned the national garden bird count in the Netherlands before, especially the top ten species results.

Besides them, also rarer bird were counted that weekend of 18-19 January.

Translated from Birdlife in the Netherlands:

So, no less than 665 sparrowhawks were counted and over 50 goshawks; the goshawk is increasingly seen in cities. Also, owls, kingfishers and black woodpeckers were observed. The number of hawfinches this year was particularly high: 433, against 95 in 2012. Also 108 waxwings were counted, this species was almost absent in 2012.

Kenyan rare antelope research


This video says about itself:

Jan 9, 2013

Learn about the plight of the world’s most endangered antelope, the Hirola, and what is being done to keep them from extinction! This short video showcases an interview with passionate Kenyan conservationist, Ian Craig, and the team from the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy. It’s inspiring to see what can be achieved when a caring few come together to protect their natural heritage. By Giovanna Fasanelli.

From Wildlife Extra:

World’s rarest antelope GPS collared for first time in Kenya

Hirola can now be monitored in an attempt to save this critically endangered species.

January 2013. A first ever attempt to GPS collar wild hirola in their native range has been hailed a success by conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Boni Forest and Tana River

A total of nine animals were identified by field-workers in Kenya who spent eighteen months monitoring their habitat. Seven herds of hirola were identified between Boni Forest and the Tana River in north-eastern Kenya. Adult hirola were carefully captured and GPS collars fitted before they were left to roam free once again.

90% decline in population

Cath Lawson, ZSL’s EDGE Programme coordinator says: “Hirola is an EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) species – one of the most unique and threatened animals on the planet. Over the past thirty years numbers have plummeted by almost 90 percent, and they continue to decline.

“As the sole representative of its group, the loss of the hirola would be the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in more than 100 years,” Cath added.

Each herd collared

GPS collars were fitted to at least one individual per herd, allowing conservationists to record vital information on population growth, group movements and behaviours. Conservationists in the field work closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service and local communities to locate hirola herds by distinguishing the footprints and faeces of hirola from those of other ungulates found in the same area.

4-500 alive today

There are an estimated 400-500 hirola living today, but these animals continue to be severely threatened by some combination of drought, predation, poaching, and habitat loss.

ZSL’s EDGE Fellow and University of Wyoming doctoral student Abdullahi Hussein Ali says: “GPS radio-collars record one location every three hours throughout the year, and provide us with vital information on movement patterns which we wouldn’t otherwise get.

“Because of the elusive nature of the hirola, identifying different herds for collaring was not an easy task. This particular habitat had also recently been hit by drought, so it made our job harder as it caused the hirola to disperse further in search of greener pastures,” Ali added.

The GPS collars will drop off remotely in June 2014. Results from this study will provide much-needed information on the basic ecology and natural history of the hirola. This will form the basis of developing conservation efforts and monitoring of this rare and beautiful antelope in north-eastern Kenya.

Dinosaur age crocodile discovery


Relatives of the newly described Jurassic crocodile

From the BBC:

28 January 2013 Last updated at 02:00 GMT

‘Blood-biting’ predator identified

Prehistoric remains discovered more than a century ago have been identified as a new species of marine super-predator.

Researchers said the 165-million-year-old creature was distantly related to modern-day crocodiles.

Parts of its skeleton were found near Peterborough in the early 1900s and are held at Glasgow’s Hunterian museum.

The species has been named as Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, meaning “blood-biting tyrant swimmer”.

Scientists found that the partial skeleton – including a jawbone and teeth – belonged to a group of crocodiles that were similar to dolphins.

The animal’s pointed, serrated teeth and large gaping jaw meant it would have been suited to feeding on large-bodied prey.

A team of experts led by the University of Edinburgh said it would help scientists better understand how marine reptiles were evolving about 165 million years ago.

‘Missing link’

The researchers believe the species represents a missing link between marine crocodiles that fed on small prey, and others that were similar to modern-day killer whales, which fed on larger prey.

Their findings have been published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Dr Mark Young of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “It is satisfying to be able to classify a specimen that has been unexamined for more than 100 years, and doubly so to find that this discovery improves our understanding of the evolution of marine reptiles.”

Dr Neil Clark, palaeontology curator at the Hunterian, said little research had been done on the specimen since it was first listed in 1919.

He added: “It is comforting to know that new species can still be found in museums as new research is carried out on old collections.

“It is not just the new species that are important, but an increase in our understanding of how life evolved and the variety of life forms that existed 163 million years ago in the warm Jurassic seas around what is now Britain.”