Loch Ness Monster, plesiosaur or ‘log monster’?


This video is called How I Drew a 3D Loch Ness Monster.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Has the mystery of the ‘Log Ness Monster’ been solved?

Tom Bawden, environment editor

Friday 21 November 2014

A recent spate of Nessie sightings has flummoxed experts and locals alike.

After an unprecedented 18 months without a “confirmed sighting”, several people have come forward in the past few weeks with reports of mysterious beasts emerging from the waters of Loch Ness.

So, more than 80 years after the first modern sighting of Nessie, has the monster made a comeback?

Alas, the truth could be a little more mundane. The Woodland Trust conservation charity has come forward with an infuriatingly humdrum explanation – they’re just logs.

The charity claims that “deadfall” washed out by rivers from nearby Urquhart Bay Wood would explain the recent sightings – and possibly why the monster has been spotted so often in the past.

“Large amounts of wood flows out of the woodland through the two winding rivers that flow into Loch Ness each year, peaking when water is high in late autumn and spring.

“I think that some of that debris explains the long thin, sometimes stick-like, shapes seen,” said a spokesman for the trust.

Urquhart Bay Wood is effectively a “Nessie spawning ground”, according to the trust, which added that its trees perform a very useful function.

“Urquhart Bay is a really important wet woodland, made up of species such as ash, alder, rowan and willow. It’s one of very few intact floodplain woodlands remaining in the UK and has European importance. Challenges such as flooding, movement of the rivers and accumulation of woody debris make it an interesting place to manage,” the Woodland Trust spokesman said.

Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster date back to the 6th century and have often been explained away as being boats, waves made by boats, or other animals. The first modern sighting was in 1933, when a man called George Spicer and his wife saw “a most extraordinary form of animal” cross the road in front of their car.

One of the more intriguing explanations came in 2006, when Neil Clark, the curator of palaeontology at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum, concluded two years of research by linking Nessie sightings to elephants.

He said the theory made sense because the circuses that frequently visited Inverness in the past century would often stop on the banks of Loch Ness to give the animals a rest. The trunk and humps in the water would bear similarities to some of the most famous Nessie photographs.

“The circuses used to take the road up to Inverness and allow their animals to have a rest, swim about in the Loch and refresh themselves,” Dr Clark said at the time.

Which North American warbler should artist paint?


This video from the USA says about itself:

Bird Watching: Spring Warblers in Central Park, New York City

During their spring migration many beautiful birds pass through Central Park. Shown are just 18 of the colorful migrating Warblers with their stunning plumage: Palm, Prairie, Yellow, Worm-eating, Magnolia, a graceful American Redstart, Hooded, Black-throated Blue, Northern Parula, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Ovenbird, Black-and-white, a Northern Waterthrush singing and foraging, Canada, Common Yellowthroat, a Yellow-rumped bathing and a Black-throated Green Warbler preening and drying off after a bath. Filmed April 12 – May 26, 2014 in Central Park, New York City.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Dear Friend of the Cornell Lab,

As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology heads into its centennial year, artist Jane Kim has begun painting an epic mural of birds, celebrating 375 million years of avian evolution and diversity around the world.

By the time Jane finishes a year from now, the mural, “From So Simple a Beginning,” will trace the diversity of birds through the ages, featuring life-size portraits of species from all 231 extant bird families. We need your help, though, to decide on one more species to join this ambitious mural: Which warbler should Jane paint to represent this brightly colored songbird family?

Warblers are one of the main attractions of spring birding in North America—they’re brilliant little jewels that come in a great variety—so we’ve created a fun and easy way for you to cast votes on which warbler best suits our beautiful bird mural.

The winning warbler will be one of the mural’s 250-plus portraits reminding us every day of the diversity of the world’s birds and the need to protect them today and in the century ahead.

Pick Our Warbler

We’ll announce the winning warbler in our Thanksgiving eCard.

Seeing 5,000 bird species in one year?


This is called 30 Amazing Bird Species in 1 Video. It says about itself:

Watch peafowl, birds of paradise and many more interesting birds and see their magnetic nature.

From the Portland Tribune in the USA:

Put a bird on it – or maybe 5,000 of them

Thursday, 13 November 2014 06:00

Written by Jennifer Anderson

Man aiming for species-spotting record part of Wild Arts Fest

Noah Strycker has lived for months at a time in some of the most remote places on Earth — Antarctica, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, the volcano fields of Hawaii, the Amazonian Ecuador, the Australian Outback and the Farallon Islands — doing nothing but studying birds.

He’s seen thousands of species — penguins, finches, fairy-wrens, bowerbirds, mockingbirds, pelicans, albatross, hawks, crows and even the endangered Hawaiian nene.

He figures he’s observed about 2,500 species of birds on six continents, a fifth of the world’s bird species.

And he’s just getting started.

The 28-year-old Oregonian is a professional “birder at large,” a photographer, public speaker and author of two books about birding and his travels.

In January he’ll embark on an epic quest to see 5,000 species of birds by the end of the calendar year. The current, official record is 4,341, set by a British couple in 2008.

Strycker expects he’ll have no trouble crushing the record, with a plan to visit about 35 countries on all seven continents on a continuous around-the-world birding trip.

“The idea is to connect with local birders in each place to highlight stories of bird conservation and to see a ton of birds,” he says. “Nobody has even come close to 5,000 in a year before, but nobody has really tried.”

Strycker, who keeps an updated blog with bird photos from each place he’s traveled (noahstrycker.com), says he’ll keep a daily blog of his big birding year on the National Audubon Society’s main Web page (audubon.org).

After the big year, he has a book deal with Houghton Mifflin to write about the adventure.

In the meantime, Strycker will be one of the local bird-centric artists whose work will be showcased next week at the Audubon Society of Portland’s 34th annual Wild Arts Festival, a creative celebration of all things feathered.

The 70 artists and 35 authors will gather in the light-filled space at the Montgomery Park building in Northwest Portland to share their like-minded passion for birds.

All feature nature or wildlife as a subject, use natural materials as a medium, and use their art to promote environmental sustainability.

As in past years, there will be novelists, photographers, poets, children’s authors, nonfiction writers and visual art of all kinds.

The annual 6×6 Wild Art Project is a compilation of bird-themed paintings done by 200 artists on a 6-inch square canvas. The project’s theme this year is “yard birds.”

Each canvas will be available for sale.

Strycker will be promoting his second and latest book, “The Thing With Feathers,” published in March, detailing the secret lives of birds and their connection to humanity.

His first book, “Among Penguins,” 2011, documents his time living with 300,000 penguins in Antarctica at the age of 24.

Wandering the hills

One of the most famous authors at the Wild Arts Festival, meanwhile, will be Ursula Le Guin, the 85-year-old science fiction novelist who lives in Portland.

Le Guin this week will be receiving a National Book Association award considered one of literature’s most prestigious honors.

She’s being honored with a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, which recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on the country’s literary heritage.

Raised in Napa Valley in the 1930s and ‘40s, Le Guin says she was especially influenced by her summers of solitude and silence, “a teenager wandering the hills on my own, no company, ‘nothing to do,’ were very important to me. I think I started making my soul then.”

Her stories — set in imaginary “subworlds” — grew out of her experiences, Le Guin says.

For example her first trip to the Eastern Oregon desert led to “The Tombs of Atuan.”

She checks her science facts, but “most of my research is into the geography of my own imagination,” she says. Le Guin says she started writing when she was 5 years old and never stopped.

‘Study ourselves’

For Strycker, he started watching birds at age 10 and never stopped. He recalls when his fifth-grade teacher suction-cupped a bird feeder on their classroom window.

“The other kids in my class thought birds were pretty dumb,” Strycker says. But he was hooked. “You never know where that spark will come from,” he says.

He’s been able to make a full-time living of his pursuits, funding most of his traveling through the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

In Antarctica, he worked as a seasonal guide on an expedition cruise ship. He now earns an income through his writing, speaking, expeditions and other bird-related projects.

In addition to his literary work — as associate editor of Birding magazine and contributor to about a dozen different bird-related publications — he is a five-time marathoner and completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in four months in 2011.

There’s a reason, Stycker and other artists say, that they are driven to put a bird on it.

“I think that, by studying birds, we also study ourselves,” says Strycker, who lives in Creswell, just outside of Eugene. “Directly, there are many parallels between bird and human behavior (perhaps more than we like to admit). More than that, for me, birds are an entry point to the outdoors and all kinds of adventures. They take us to places we’d never go otherwise.”

Old books about birds


Pheasants, wood pigeons, wrynecks, 19 October 2014

On 19 October 2014, in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, there were not only the recent natural history books of the Jan Wolkers Prize nominees, and the old natural history books discussed by nominee Alexander Reeuwijk. There was also this 1904 book about birds. Again, all photos in this blog post are cellphone made.

This bird book, Het Vogeljaar (The Bird Year), is by famous Dutch naturalist Jac. P. Thijsse. In later editions, pictures like this one would be replaced by photos. This picture shows pheasants, wood pigeons and wrynecks.

Wryneck, 19 October 2014

This detail of the picture shows a wryneck.

Colourful birds, 19 October 2014

Second hand bookshop Moby Dick (called after the famous Herman Melville novel) from Noordwijk had brought late nineteenth-early twentieth century books to the museum. Like this one from 1886 by Dutch author A. Nuyens. The picture shows colourful birds: starling, red-backed shrike, golden oriole, Bohemian waxwing, jay, hoopoe and kingfisher.

Snowy owls, 19 October 2014

Next to it, this book, by Irishman Francis Orpen Morris: A History of British Birds. The photo shows a male and a female snowy owl.

Flycatchers and waxwing, 19 October 2014

A book from Germany was present as well. It was Deutsches Vogelbuch für Forst- und Landwirte, Jäger, Naturfreunde und Vogelliebhaber (1907). Kurt Floericke was the author. Albert Kull made the pictures. This page shows various Old World flycatcher species, and a Bohemian waxwing.

Cranes, 19 October 2014

Finally, a picture of cranes. Two demoiselle cranes, and a Siberian crane.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.