Bird migration in the USA, now


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

The Great Migration – KQED QUEST

16 March 2010

For thousands of years and countless generations, migratory birds have flown the same long-distance paths between their breeding and feeding grounds. Understanding the routes these birds take, called flyways, helps conservation efforts and gives scientists better knowledge of global changes, both natural and man-made. QUEST heads out to the Pacific Flyway with California biologists to track the rhythm of migration.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Species on the move: mid and late July 2014

28 July, 2014

Although most of the US is firmly in the midst of typical summer conditions, fall migration is already under way for many species. BirdCast will begin its weekly series of forecast and analysis and species on the move in early August, but there are changes a foot now to discuss! And migrants to see, so get out there, bird your local patch, and submit all of your data to eBird! Here we briefly highlight a few changes of potential interest.

Some changes are subtle, such as in Yellow Warbler and Chipping Sparrow. Yellow Warblers are on the move at night, with the first flight calls for this species probably apparent since the beginning of July in some parts of the country. In the figure below, one can see the current frequencies of occurrence for this species across the four BirdCast regions as well as historical frequencies from 2004-2013.

Changes in Chipping Sparrow are also subtle but apparent depending on where you are. Again, nocturnal listening in some parts of the country, particularly the West, may highlight these subtle movements in a more tractable manner, albeit acoustic, than typical day time birding.

More striking changes in the last week have probably come in the form of increasing numbers of shorebirds across the continent.

In the West, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Red-necked Phalarope have all increased in frequency of occurrence in complete checklists.

So too have Greater Yellowlegs, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Short-billed Dowitcher in the Great Plains; Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper in the Northeast and Upper Midwest; and Spotted Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper in the Southeast and Gulf Coast.

Pterosaur exhibition in the USA


This video from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in the USA says about itself:

4 March 2014

They flew with their fingers. They walked on their wings. Some were gigantic, while others could fit in the palm of a hand. Millions of years ago, the skies were ruled by pterosaurs, the first animals with backbones to fly under their own power. In the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, rare fossils, life-size models, and hands-on interactives bring these ancient animals to life.

Step back in time to see pterosaurs, including giants such as Tropeognathus mesembrinus, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, and find out how they moved on land and in the air. Get a first-hand look at the rare pterosaur fossils that have helped paleontologists learn all that we know about these animals. In a virtual flight lab, use your body to pilot a pterosaur over a prehistoric landscape. Encounter the exceptional creatures that flew in the age of dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is on view from April 5, 2014, through January 4, 2015. Learn more about the exhibition at http://www.amnh.org/pterosaurs.

This video, linked to the erxhibition, is called Pterosaur App and Card Game.

See also here.

Grizzly bear ‘highway’ discovery in Canada


This video from the USA is called Grizzly Bears and Wolves of Yellowstone (Full Documentary).

From The Star in Canada:

Grizzly bear ‘highway’ found on West Coast

First Nations researchers find centuries-old paw prints that show bears are very predictable in both the times of day they’re active and the routes they take

By: , Star Reporter,

Published on Fri Jul 25 2014

First Nations researchers have discovered what they believe is a grizzly-bear highway of sorts: centuries-old paw prints worn deep into the mossy floor of the Pacific Coast rain forest.

“I suspect that these grizzly bear paths have been here as long as grizzly bears have been here,” said William Housty, director of Coastwatch, a scientific initiative led by the Heiltsuk First Nation.

The Heiltsuk people have been in the area for 9,000 years and Housty believes the grizzly bear roadways along the waterways go back generations.

“Grizzly bears are very similar to humans in the way that they nurture their young, and raise them to know the territory around them,” Housty said in an email from the woods.

Heiltsuk people have shared and maintained the same roadways over generations, creating a lasting connection between the Heiltsuk and grizzly bears, Housty said.

The society set up to stop the logging that threatened to clear cut the area and hurt salmon spawning spots along the Koeye River in the late 1990s.

Healthy salmon stock means the grizzly and black bears, wolves, mink, marten and bald eagles have a food supply.

When the logging stopped, the bear populations rebounded, he said.

Grizzly bears can weigh 363 kilograms (800 lbs.) and stand 2.4 meters (eight feet) on their hind legs, but Housty insists the grizzly bear study isn’t dangerous, as long as it’s done with respect and good sense.

“We do spend a lot of time in the wild, on foot with these bears, and have never once had a negative encounter with any of them,” Housty says.

“We have the greatest respect for the bears, and always make sure to let them know when we are in the area, and there seems to be a mutual respect from them as well. Never have we ever carried a fire arm when doing this study, however we did carry bear spray. But overall, I do not consider the study to be dangerous.”

He’s one of three technicians working on the study, but there are also youth and family camp programs operating in the same study area, meaning there can be from 40 to 60 people in the Koeye watershed at one time during the summer months.

He said his group are currently working with the neighbouring Kitasoo, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv First Nations, as well as with academic institutions such as the University of Victoria and Raincoast Conservation Society to take a more regional approach to this study.

In the study, individual grizzly bears were identified through DNA analysis of hair samples, obtained by putting salmon-scented bait inside wire snares to catch the grizzly hair.

As they got to know the grizzly bears, Housty said it became clear they have routines, much like humans.

“There are certain areas where grizzlies go to feed on salmon and berries, and if you spend enough time, you can pinpoint an exact time when they go to feed at the same time every day — usually at dusk and dawn,” Housty said. “They also do the same when it comes to berries. They work in cycles, and move to and fro within the watershed chasing berries and trickles of salmon that are coming in. It is very easy to predict when bears will be out and about.”

Big British jellyfish survey


This video is called Vicious Beauties – The Secret World Of The Jellyfish.

From Wildlife Extra:

National Jellyfish Survey gives a tally of UK sightings for the first time in 40 years

A new report by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the University of Exeter details over 5000 reports of jellyfish sightings of eight different species sent to MCS by beach-goers between 2003 and 2011.

The National Jellyfish Survey is the largest of its kind in the UK and has been attracting a growing number of jellyfish sightings, with 2013 proving a record year when 1,133 reports were received.

This is also turning out to be a good year, with over 500 reports received by mid-July.

“Our survey puts jellyfish on the map in the UK,” said Dr Peter Richardson, Biodiversity Programme Manager for the MCS. “In this latest paper we show where and when these species now occur throughout UK coastal waters.

“The last time the national picture was described was well over four decades ago, so this study provides a very timely update.”

Prof Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said, “By taking stock of our jellyfish in this way, we provide an important baseline of information which will help us understand how jellyfish species react to environmental changes that influence our coastal seas, including climate change.”

The main species found in British waters are the moon, compass, lion’s mane, blue and barrel jellyfishes.

Other species seen in lesser numbers are the mauve stinger, Portuguese Man of War (not a true jellyfish but a close relative) and the wind sailor (also a close relative of jellyfish). These together make up approximately 10 per cent of survey records and are not recorded every year.

“The remarkable number of barrel jellyfish reported from South West England this year is quite unusual,” said Prof Godley,

“We’re not sure why, but the very mild winter probably meant more adults survived at depth, which will have returned to the surface in spring as waters warmed up.

“This year’s strange barrel jellyfish results highlight the importance of running the survey year in and year out to track these unusual events and discover if they turn into trends”.

The survey depends on an army of over 3,500 jelly-spotting volunteers, who have been diligently sending in their sightings every year since 2003.

Dr Richardson said, “Our paper shows that publicly driven, collective citizen-science can help us understand our environment on a scale that would otherwise be unaffordable.”

A jellyfish photo-ID guide can be downloaded here and to take part in the survey, jellyfish encounters can also be reported here.

Survey participants should always remember to look carefully at jellyfish before reporting them, but should not touch them as some species have a powerful sting.

New Dutch beetle species discovery


This video from the USA is called A Red Palm Weevil in Virginia Beach.

On 28 July 2014, Dries Mulder found a beetle in Haaften in the Netherlands.

It turned out to be a red palm weevil. That species had never been seen in the Netherlands before.

National garden butterfly count in the Netherlands


This video is about Dutch butterflies.

On 1, 2, and 3 August 2014, there will be a national garden butterfly count in the Netherlands.

North American mastodons and mammoths, new study


This video from the USA is about mastodons and mammoths.

From LiveScience:

Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ohio Valley Were Homebodies

By Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | July 28, 2014 01:55pm ET

People may imagine mammoths and mastodons as enormous beasts that roamed the vast North American continent more than 10,000 years ago. But the mammoths and mastodons of present-day southwestern Ohio and northwestern Kentucky were homebodies that tended to stay in one area, a new study finds.

The enamel on the animals’ molars gave researchers clues as to where the mammoths and mastodons lived throughout their lives and what they ate. They discovered that mammoths ate grasses and sedges, whereas mastodons preferred leaves from trees or shrubs. Mammoths favored areas near retreating ice sheets, where grasses were plentiful, and mastodons fed near forested spaces, the researchers said.

“I suspect that this was a pretty nice place to live, relatively speaking,” lead researcher Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. “Our data suggest that animals probably had what they needed to survive here year-round.” [Image Gallery: Stunning Mammoth Unearthed]

Both animals, now extinct, likely came to North America across the Bering Strait land bridge that connected Alaska to Russia when sea levels were lower than they are today, Crowley told Live Science in an email.

Mammoths — which had teeth ideal for grinding grasses, as well as curved tusks and humped heads — are more closely related to elephants than mastodons are, Crowley said. Mammoths came to North America during the mid-Pleistocene Epoch, about 1 million years ago, she added.

Mastodons arrived much earlier. They had spread across America by the Pliocene Epoch, around 5 million years ago. Their molars were shaped to crush plants, such as leaves and woody stems, and they had long, straight tusks that could grow up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long, Crowley said.

In the study, the researchers looked at the remnants of carbon, oxygen and strontium, a naturally occurring metal, in the enamel of molars from eight mammoths and four mastodons that lived in Ohio and Kentucky about 20,000 years ago.

The carbon analysis helped researchers learn about the animals’ diet, whereas the traces of oxygen told them about the general climate at the time. Strontium provides insights into how much the animal traveled as their molars developed. Researchers can look at the type of strontium within the enamel and determine where it came from by comparing it to local samples of strontium in the environment.

“Strontium reflects the bedrock geology of a location,” Crowley said. This means that if a local animal has traces of strontium in its tooth, researchers can deduce where that type of strontium came from in the area. “If an animal grows its tooth in one place and then moves elsewhere, the strontium in its tooth is going to reflect where it came from, not where it died,” she said.

Surprisingly, the researchers said, the strontium in the mammoth and mastodon teeth matched local water samples in 11 of the 12 mammals. Only one mastodon appeared to have traveled from another area before settling in the Ohio Valley.

The findings, however, only apply to the animals that lived in that region. “A mammoth in Florida did not behave the same as one in New York, Wyoming, California, Mexico or Ohio,” Crowley said.

The study was published July 16 in the journal Boreas.

‘Monkeys use researchers as human shields’


This video is called Samango monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis).

From Science:

28 July 2014

Monkeys use researchers as human shields

A team of researchers in South Africa believes monkeys may be using their presence to guard against predators, according to a paper published online earlier this month in Behavioral Ecology.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

The samango monkeys of South Africa usually have a good reason not to stray too far from the forest. Although they spend much of their time loping through the trees they know to keep within a certain range: climb too high and they’re targets for eagles, too low and they could be a big cat‘s lunch.

However, it seems there is an exception to this behaviour – and that’s when people are around. A new study from the journal of Behavioural Ecology reports that samango monkeys under observation by scientists use the researchers as “human shields”, counting on their presence to avoid being picked off by a leopard.

Desertas petrel, newly discovered vulnerable bird species


This video is called The View From The Ground – Desertas Islands (Madeira, Portugal) HD.

From BirdLife:

Newly born, the Desertas Petrel turns into one of Europe’s conservation challenges: are we ready for it?

Fri, 25/07/2014 – 11:40

The 2014 Red List of Birds update gives birth to a new European species, the Desertas Petrel, classified as Vulnerable.

The first time I heard about the Desertas Petrel, all I wanted to do was to climb on the peak of Bugio, one of the Desertas islands part of the Madeira archipelago in Portugal, where the bird breeds, and see this funny little pal with my own eyes.

What I didn’t know while climbing up was that Bugio would offer me an unforgettable wildlife experience: the red rock of the cliffs gives way to a plateau, 342m above sea level, with no trees or shrubs, but hundreds of seabird nests.  As the birds were spending their day at sea or guarding their deep nesting burrows, we could only see them at night – at the time, we didn’t have burrowscopes that would allow us to look inside burrows during daylight.

That was back in 2003 and we believed that the petrels on Bugio were the same species as those breeding in Cape Verde, so-called “Fea’s Petrel”.

The release of the 2014 Red List of Birds update officially treats the birds of the Bugio colony as a species in its own right called Desertas Petrel. This decision is based on solid scientific data, notably genetic studies, collected over the years by many BirdLife and other globally renowned biologists, and is outlined in HBW and BirdLife’s new Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World.

This year’s update involves the addition of 361 new species and the reassessment of over 4,000 bird species. It also tells us that seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide – and the Desertas Petrel is no exception: as soon as it was recognised as a new species, it was assessed as “Vulnerable”. If we are unable to eliminate the threats that currently affect the species, such as habitat deterioration and disturbance, its small population size could result in it becoming Critically Endangered in a relatively short period of time.

BirdLife is the Red List Authority for birds for the renowned IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which provides an authoratative overview of the species most in need of conservation action. The 2014 update will help the BirdLife Partnership redefine its conservation work on the ground and protect species like the Desertas Petrel which require urgent action.

Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe