In this video, common frogs in the water try to protect their eggs.
Still, a common newt manages to feed on the eggs.
Renée Sips from the Netherlands made the video.
This video from the USA is called Gulf Oil Spill Birds – Don’t Let Kids Watch.
Scientists fear BP blowout killed far more birds than officially reported
By Bob Marshall, Staff writer
April 15, 2014 2:43pm
Almost from the start, wildlife advocates described the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a war on the Gulf ecosystem. Few quibbled with that analogy as a record 210 million gallons spewed into the Gulf just 50 miles from one of the world’s most productive coastal estuaries.
Yet four years later, wildlife workers, especially those concerned about birds, are skeptical of one metric commonly used to assess wars of any kind: the official body count.
For example, the official count of brown pelicans killed by BP’s oil stands at 577, which doesn’t seem like a big hit on a population estimated in the neighborhood of 85,000. Similarly, the total of 6,381 for all birds killed in the Gulf from populations numbering in the hundreds of thousands would seem insignificant.
But wildlife specialists say those numbers are likely low by a factor of at least 10 — and no one should think the worst is over for the pelicans and a host of other less heralded bird species in the northern Gulf.
Accurate counts of wildlife deaths in spills are always difficult because stricken animals frequently crawl away to die or sink to the bottom of a water body, while others make easy targets for predators, said Melanie Driscoll, the National Audubon Society’s director of bird conservation for the Gulf Coast.
To compensate for those factors, spill specialists use multipliers supplied by computer models.
In the Exxon Valdez event — a smaller spill in a smaller area than the Deepwater Horizon — scientists put the number of dead birds at 225,000, a figure arrived at after applying multipliers ranging from 10 to 30 to the total number carcasses of various species that were actually recovered.
“In some cases the multiplier can be 12 or 5 or even 20,” said Driscoll. “I’ve seen a number as high as 50 by one group for dolphins and whales in this spill. So that would mean if 20 dead dolphins were collected, you multiply that number by 50, and you get 1,000 – which would be much closer to the actual damage done.
“In this spill I would expect the multipliers for birds to be huge.”
That’s because recovery operations during the Deepwater Horizon disaster faced additional complications. The spill occurred at the beginning of the five-month nesting season for pelicans and other birds, and it covered a much larger area than the Exxon Valdez — 68,000 square miles compared to 11,000.
“The decision was made not try to recover dead birds from the nesting islands to avoid causing even more deaths,” said Driscoll. “That meant most of those sites were not searched until late August or early September at the earliest” — months after the disaster struck, in April.
The delay meant adult pelicans, their eggs and then their young were being contaminated as long as BP’s oil was in Barataria Bay. Plastic and cloth booms placed around the islands to collect the oil provided only marginal protection because the pelicans’ daily food searches took them into the oil-fouled waters beyond the booms.
Less fortunate adults were completely soaked in oil, and the heart-breaking photos of their struggles soon became iconic images of the disaster.
Pairs returning to their nests with oil on their feathers smeared the toxic substance on porous eggs they were incubating. And when the surviving young were old enough, they walked and swam through the weathered oil around the booms.
Driscoll said by the time search teams entered the islands, many birds that had died from oil contamination likely had decomposed or had been eaten by scavengers. Nor could there ever be an accurate count of the eggs that failed to hatch due to the oil.
She said the real toll on all birds in the northern Gulf could reach six figures because the delay in counting could mean “thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of carcasses just disappeared.”
The location of this spill would only add to the multiplier, she said. In the sub-tropical Gulf, predation takes place 24/7, 365, which means anything of food value doesn’t last long.
“It’s an incredibly productive system so that means there is also an incredible number of predators,” Driscoll said. “And this was spread over a really huge area, which complicated the collection as well.”
The difficulty of coming up with an accurate number has been compounded by the paucity of post-spill research on birds in the impacted area, Driscoll said.
“Of the $500 million BP set aside for research on Deepwater Horizon impacts, dozens and dozens of studies have been done on oysters and fish, and I know of just two that have been started on birds,” she said.
“I understand the studies on oysters and fish; everybody needs to know what’s happening in the food chain. But we are four years removed from the spill, and we don’t have answers to questions like what the long-term impacts could be.”
Research by government agencies as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment has been kept from the public. That’s because monetizing the damage done to fish, wildlife and habitat plays out like a personal-injury lawsuit, with opposing sides reluctant to tip off the other to their findings.
One study in Minnesota on the breeding success of white pelicans, winter residents of coastal Louisiana, is a cause for concern. October arrivals in Gulf waters, the whites would have missed most of the surface oil, but they spent the next six months feeding on fish in bays polluted by the disaster. The researchers collected 200 eggs that didn’t hatch and looked for evidence of oil contamination.
“The study is still under way, but of the first 30 un-hatched eggs they looked at, 90 percent had the chemical signature of Deepwater Horizon oil,” Driscoll said, “and 80 percent had the signature of the dispersant Corexit, which was widely used during the spill.
“Now there may have been other reasons why these eggs didn’t hatch. But what they found is significant — and it’s the kind of research we should be doing on many other species here in the Gulf, but we aren’t.”
One clue to the long-term impact of the spill on Louisiana brown pelicans could arrive this summer as many of the birds born during the disaster enter their first spawning season.
But while Louisiana residents are understandably focused on their state bird — which ironically was taken off the endangered list five months before the spill — Driscoll said the ornithological community has graver concerns about other species.
“Pelicans got a lot of attention, and deservedly so, but the reality is their populations have been doing quite well with all the help they’ve received from humans over the last 40 years,” she said.
“They have a fairly large population with as many as 70,000 to 80,000 in Louisiana alone, and many more in other states. But there are only 6,000 Wilson’s plovers in the entire Gulf, so losing even a small number of that species could be a real problem.”
In fact, the official list of birds killed by the spill shows only two Wilson’s plover carcasses collected. But that doesn’t assure Driscoll that the plover population escaped major damage.
“A body count in these spills is just that — a count of the carcasses that were found, not an accurate picture of how many were really killed,” said Driscoll. “What’s been so frustrating in our community is the lack of information.
“We just don’t know yet, and we might not for a long, long time.”
This video from England is called Dorset Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves.
From Wildlife Extra:
1,500 acres of wildlife-rich land purchased in Dorset
April 2014: Nearly 1,500 acres of outstanding wildlife habitat has been bought by Dorset Wildlife Trust and its partners as part of a new conservation project in east Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch, called ‘The Great Heath Living Landscape’.
The areas purchased include: Lytchett Bay, Upton Heath, Holes Bay, Parley Common and Ferndown Common. These sites provide habitats for many rare and threatened species, including the Dartford Warbler and all six UK reptiles, including the nationally rare smooth snake and sand lizard. This purchase mean two outstanding areas of natural heritage; the New Forest National Park and the Wild Purbeck Nature Improvement Area can be linked together.
DWT’s Director of Operations, Brian Bleese said: “The purchase of this land is a real investment in the future of Dorset’s heritage, and will make a huge contribution to the quality of our natural environment for decades to come. We are very excited about taking the project into the next phase to help local people and communities benefit from the wealth of wildlife around them.”
The Great Heath Living Landscape is a partnership of Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Erica Trust, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Borough of Poole, Dorset County Council Countryside Service and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. The project is supported by Bournemouth Borough Council. Christchurch Borough Council, East Dorset District Council and Natural England.
This video from Britain is called Wildlife in our garden.
From Wildlife Extra:
Butterflies have had an early spring into action
Small tortoiseshells not only came out of hibernation a couple of weeks early, they were also seen in incredible numbers compared to previous years
April 2014: UK garden wildlife has sprung into action early this year according to the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) garden birdwatch scheme. This scheme monitors the changing fortunes of birds and other garden wildlife through its network of ‘citizen scientists’. Observations collected by BTO Garden BirdWatchers are analysed by BTO researchers and published in leading journals.
Butterflies demonstrated the most dramatic patterns of emergence. Small tortoiseshells not only came out of hibernation a couple of weeks early, they were also seen in incredible numbers compared to previous years, with 23 percent of Garden BirdWatch gardens reporting them. In comparison, their previous highest emergence peak was 12 percent in 2012.
Brimstone butterflies also had a very good start to the year. The first few individuals were not seen much earlier this year than in previous years but the peak emergence in 2013 was just four percent compared to 21 percent of gardens reporting them in March this year.
Hedgehogs were also seen far earlier in the year than is usual, with the first individuals … being reported during late February, almost a month earlier than was the case in 2013, and up to two weeks earlier than in any of the last five years.
In contrast, amphibians, such as common frog and smooth newt, were not seen earlier than usual, but there appeared to be something of a mass emergence, with a surge in reports from participants’ gardens. From early March, both species were seen in more Garden BirdWatch gardens than they have been for the last five years.
Clare Simm, from tBTO’s Garden BirdWatch team, commented: “As you can see, Garden BirdWatch is not just about birds. Our volunteers provide us with vital information on other taxa too, helping us to understand how important gardens are as a habitat for all wildlife. It’s too early to tell how the early emergence of these species will affect them, but it is an exciting contrast to the patterns of emergence that we saw last year.”
This video from Britain is called BBC – Natural World – Return Of The Eagle Owl.
However, now there is a new webcam, closer to the new nest site. It is here.
This video from New Zealand is about Otago skinks.
From Wildlife Extra:
Endangered skinks collected in NZ for breeding
Eighty-five endangered grand and Otago skinks have been collected near Wanaka in New Zealand as part of a as part of a breed-for-release programme
Ongoing decline in western grand and Otago skink populations has prompted the Department of Conservation (DOC) and several other agencies to collect the skinks from their Grandview Range habitat in the Lindis. The skinks will be housed temporarily at zoos, wild life parks and eco-sanctuaries throughout New Zealand, as part of a breed-for-release programme.
“This programme aims to increase numbers of both species so they can be released back into secure sites within their former range,” Grand and Otago Skink Project Manager Gavin Udy said. “It is a great example of conservation agencies and individuals working together to ensure the ongoing survival of an iconic, unique and endangered New Zealand species,”
Grand and Otago skinks are two of New Zealand’s most distinctive and impressive lizards. Known as giant skinks, they are the country’s largest lizards, with Otago skinks growing up to 300mm in length and grand skinks 230mm.
These omnivorous lizards are diurnal, and don’t hibernate. They can live for up to 20 years in the wild, and give birth to live young – two or three a year. Both species are unique to Otago and are two of New Zealand’s rarest reptiles. They are now found in only eight percent of their former range and have the highest possible threat status, ‘Nationally Critically Endangered‘.
This video from California in the USA says about itself:
Four new species of carnivorous sponges: Adapting to life in the deep sea
14 April 2014
This video describes four new species of carnivorous sponges from the Northeast Pacific Ocean that were discovered by MBARI scientists. Carnivorous feeding in sponges is an adaption to the food poor deep-sea environment, where filter feeding — the typical way sponges feed — is energetically expensive. Instead, these sponges trap small crustaceans with microscopic hooks. Once trapped, sponge cells mobilize, engulf the prey, and rapidly digest it. In addition to consuming small crustacean prey, one of these species appears to be consuming methane-oxidizing chemosynthetic bacteria.
For more information visit here.
From Wildlife Extra:
Four new species of killer sponges discovered
April 2014: Four new species of carnivorous (killer) sponges living on the deep seafloor, from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California have been discovered by scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
It was only discovered that some sponges are carnivorous about 20 years ago. Unlike other sponges most carnivorous sponges do not have specialised cells called choancytes, whose whip-like tails move continuously to create a flow of water which brings food to the sponge. Therefore these sponges, explains lead marine biologist Lonny Lundsten “trap larger, more nutrient-dense organisms, like crustaceans, using beautiful and intricate microscopic hook.”
These animals look more like bare twigs or small shrubs covered with tiny hairs. But the hairs consist of tightly packed bundles of microscopic hooks that trap small animals such as shrimp-like amphipods. Once an animal becomes trapped, it takes only a few hours for sponge cells to begin engulfing and digesting it. After several days, all that is left is an empty shell.
The four new sponges are named as Asbestopluma monticola, (which was collected from the top of the extinct underwater volcano Davidson Seamount off the coast of central California), Asbestopluma rickets (named after the marine biologist Ed Ricketts), Cladorhiza caillieti, (found on recent lava flows along the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a volcanic ridge offshore of Vancouver Island), and Cladorhiza evae, which was found far to the south, in a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field along the Alarcon Rise, off the tip of Baja California.
This video is about bear bile farms in China.
From Wildlife Extra:
130 bears to be rescued in China, the largest number ever
April 2014: In an unprecedented move that will be the biggest bear rescue in the world a bear bile farm in China is to be converted into a bear sanctuary by Animals Asia who will then care for its 130 bears, after a plea by the farmer for help. In a bear bile farm bears are kept in captivity to harvest bile, a digestive juice produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine with over 10,000 bears believed to be in farms in China suffering daily extractions in tiny cages and horrific conditions.
From May 5, Animals Asia will take 28 of the sickest bears, 1,200km in a multi-vehicle convoy back to our existing sanctuary in Chengdu for urgent veterinary attention. Then Animals Asia will also take over the care of the bears on the Nanning bear farm and start the two-year process of turning it into a sanctuary.
The move was instigated by Mr Yan Shaohong, General Manager of Flower World, which runs the bear farm as part of a wider state-invested horticultural business.
The initiative has been hailed as historic by Animals Asia CEO and founder Jill Robinson MBE, who sees it as a significant step in our ongoing campaign to end bear bile farming.
“China has long been outraged by this cruel practice and our statistics show 87 percent of Chinese are against bear bile farming. This negotiation is a result of years of growing awareness and increased opposition, with the bear farmer showing the moral integrity to do the right thing.” she said. “We believe it can be the start of a wider conversation, with all parties represented, with the aim of finally ending bear bile farming in China. We should never underestimate the importance of rescuing 130 bears, but we believe it can represent so much more than that.”
Mr Yan has described the decision to approach Animals Asia as one fuelled by the desire for the company to get out of the increasingly unpopular and ultimately unprofitable industry. He was also determined that the bears would not be sold onto other farms and continue to suffer cruelty.
“In the last two years, there has been a lot of discussion about the practice of extracting bear bile. After several rounds of discussion among the management team of Flower World, we reported the idea of conversion to our superiors and received their approval and support. We decided not to invest further in bear farming – it’s time for change.
“We figured out that selling bears directly to farms could return some of our investment but it wouldn’t be satisfying. Some of the bears here are sick, some had bile extracted previously and some are new-born cubs. If we only transfer those bears into another bear farm, the living condition of them still cannot be guaranteed. We had to find a good placement for those bears – a trustworthy partner with professional skills.
“We visited the Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu. The centre provides comfortable shelters and a living area simulating a natural environment for bears, where they can have abundant and delicious food, and clean and spacious dens. The animal welfare level in the centre for bears has confirmed our plan to work with Animals Asia. We believe the future for our bears would be improved by working with Animals Asia.”
The bears at Nanning Bear farm have not had their bile extracted in over two years since Mr Yan decided to end the practice. However many still suffer health problems as a result of earlier extractions as well as issues due to their confinement in small cages, poor diets and lack of veterinary care.
For more information on how supporters can help click here.
This video is called Rescue the Bears.
The bears in the bear bile industry are mainly Asiatic black bears.
Can the Gobi bear—the world’s rarest bear—be saved? Here.
A grey-lined hawk on a wire.
We continued to La Fortuna town. Its original name was El Borio. The name changed in 1968: an Arenal volcano eruption then killed many people, but El Borio was untouched. The new name is about the good fortune of the town during that eruption.
Until recently, Arenal was a working volcano, attracting many tourists and making the town touristy.
A great-tailed grackle flying.
A tropical kingbird on a wire.
We continued, seeing the white-throated magpie jay already mentioned.
A bit further, a white-fronted parrot in a tree.
A red-lored parrot, feeding in another tree.
As we continued further, a crested guan.
A chestnut-mandibled toucan in yet another tree.
A white hawk flying.
The top of the Arenal volcano was covered in clouds.
Finally, a beautiful sunset near a bridge.
This video is called Giant Galapagos Tortoise (extreme closeup!)
Inside the Galapagos Islands’ Giant Tortoise Rehab Effort
By Jeffrey Marlow
You’re sailing from the Spice Islands across the open ocean to the South American port of Guayaquil, your financial motives rooted somewhere along a broad spectrum of morality and lawfulness. Several months have passed, and food stores and morale are low. Fortunately, you know a spot that will save the day, a cluster of rocky islands jutting out of the east Pacific near the equator.
For centuries, the Galapagos Islands have been a convenience store for ocean-going journeys, the resident Giant Tortoises serving as the perfect solution to the constant challenge of acquiring fresh meat at sea. These enormous beasts could handle the rigors of shipboard life and could be harvested at any time. Ships throughout the 18th-20th centuries would stop at the Galapagos, herd dozens of tortoises onto the decks, and sail off, assured of a reliable protein source for the remainder of their journey. At one point, an American whaling vessel lost track of a captive tortoise, which ambled out of the hold two and a half years later in Nantucket. Befuddled onlookers promptly killed it and made a stew.
And so, slowly but surely, the Giant Tortoise population was decimated. By the mid-1900s, conservationists began to recognize the problem, just as the increasing rate of international tourism and commerce was introducing another mortal threat to the species.
This one came in the form of fire ants, a voracious invasive species with a taste for baby tortoise. “Within 20 minutes of hatching,” says naturalist Ernesto Vaca, “they swarm and make the baby tortoise disappear.” Other human-transported pests, like rats, dogs, and cats, have developed similar dietary proclivities. With the species now facing a genuine threat to its survival, the Centro de Crianza was founded on Isabela Island, and conservationists went into crisis mode, airlifting tortoises with helicopters and initiating a breeding program.
It took a while to develop effective breeding techniques, but today, the Centro boasts a near-perfect success rate from egg to teenage tortoise. The rescue program continues in full force, as the habitat surrounding Isabela Island’s many dome-shaped volcanoes have been deemed unsafe for tortoises because of the fire ant threat. Employees and volunteers venture into the dense forest to retrieve tortoise eggs, which are then placed into computer-controlled incubators back at the Centro. The sex of the fledglings is determined by egg incubation temperature – above 37.5 °C leads to females, below produces males – allowing the Centro to generate its ideal ratio of 60% females and 40% males. Just before hatching, the eggs are buried in sand to simulate natural conditions and ensure that baby tortoises can dig upward and outward, a capability that bodes well for future robustness. Until the young tortoises are two years old, they’re placed in cages to offer protection against rats. By five, they’re in open-air enclosures, having received microchips that will track their movements once released into the wild.
And that, after all, is the ultimate goal, to repopulate the Galapagos with one of its most iconic species. Already, several hundred adults have been reintroduced to Espanola, an island particularly hard-hit by wave of threats over the decades. But the long-term prognosis is murky, especially as the invasive species that predate upon tortoises continue to grow in numbers. One option is to bolster the invasive species eradication efforts; another is that the animals will merely live the first few years of their lives in controlled conditions. But for now, the stabilization of the Giant Tortoise population is a victory in itself, a promising example of how conservation efforts can bring an organism back from the brink. As human impact on the unique Galapagos ecosystems increases, the model of tortoise rehab may prove useful in protecting other species from extinction, allowing the islands to maintain their unique treasure trove of biodiversity.