Golden eagles in southern Scotland


This video from Canada says about itself:

16 August 2011

Birds of prey expert John Campbell teaches his nephew to put an identifying band on a golden eagle chick. Close up and personal views of the nest, its reluctant inhabitant, and the birds’ food sources. Spectacular views of Southern Alberta. The banding is part of a program to protect the species. The band goes on fairly tightly because the birds’ legs don’t grow further in diameter as the bird grows.

From Wildlife Extra:

Golden eagles could return to southern Scotland

Improvements to habitats in the south of Scotland could lead the area to become a stronghold for golden eagles.

A study carried out by the Scottish Natural Heritage showed that the area could potentially support up to 16 pairs, almost four times the present number.

At the moment there are thought to be no more than one or two pairs in Galloway and no more than three in the Scottish Borders.

Prof Des Thompson of SNH, who led the research, told the BBC “We would now like to see on-the-ground, practical work to improve the habitat for golden eagles in the south of Scotland.

“With habitat improvements, we could see connections with the small reintroduced population in Ireland. This would help both groups of eagles and could even help bolster the population in the north of England.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management, said: “These magnificent birds should be given every opportunity to recover and reoccupy lost range, and must be protected in practice from the effects of human persecution, which remains a significant threat to this species, and in particular to this perilously small and isolated population.”

The total number of golden eagles in Scotland is 440 pairs, with most of the birds found in the Highlands and Islands.

New horned dinosaur discovery in North America


This video is called Meet Mercuriceratops gemini.

From Tech Times:

Meet Mercuriceratops gemini, a horned-dinosaur with a Roman god’s helmet

By Alexander Saltarin, Tech Times

June 19, 11:13 AM

Scientists have discovered and named a new type of horned dinosaur. Due to the frills on the dinosaur resembling the wings usually found on the helmet of Mercury in depictions of the Roman god, the scientists decided to christen the dinosaur as Mercuriceratops gemini.

The discovery was made after a team of scientists analyzed and studied fossils found in two locations in North America. Some of the fossils were found in Alberta, Canada while the others were found in the state of Montana. Analysis of the fossils showed that the new horned dinosaur would have weighed as much as 2 tons and would have grown to a length of around 20 feet. However, the most distinct feature of the Mercuriceratops is its unique frill. The later part of the scientific name “Gemini” is a reference to the fact that two similar fossils were found in two different locations.

“Mercuriceratops took a unique evolutionary path that shaped the large frill on the back of its skull into protruding wings like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars,” said Cleveland Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Michael Ryan. “It definitively would have stood out from the herd during the Late Cretaceous.”

Ryan is also the lead author of a paper on the subject published in the online journal Naturwissenschaften.

Scientists believe that the Mercuriceratops thrived during the Late Cretaceous Period approximately 77 million years ago. The name the scientists have chosen literally means “Mercury horned-face,” which aptly described the way the dinosaur’s face would have appeared. The fossil samples found in Canada were discovered in the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. The park is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many discoveries have been made in the area. The American fossil on the other hand was found in the north central part of Montana.

The new dinosaur was of particular interest to paleontologists due to the fact that the shape of its skull was unlike any other dinosaur previously known. A dinosaur’s frill, which is often referred to as a neck shield, protects the necks of some dinosaurs like the Triceratops and the newly discovered Mercuriceratops from predators during attacks. The butterfly shaped frill found on the Mercuriceratops shows that evolution had numerous tricks up its sleeves in terms of dinosaur morphology.

Bears find mates through wildlife crossings


This video from Canada is called The Alberta Story: Banff Wildlife Crossing.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife crossings help bears find mates

February 2014: The wildlife crossings of the Trans-Canada Highway have helped bears safely cross the road and find mates on the other side of the road, research shows.

Roads connect human populations across vast distances but they can have an adverse effect on the populations of wildlife for as well as being possible victims of traffic accidents. Noisy traffic can also deter animals from approaching busy highways and groups can become isolated and fragmented with little chance for genetic mixing.

To counteract this fragmenting effect wildlife underpasses and overpasses have been built along major roads including the Trans-Canada Highway, Canada’s primary east-west transportation route. The highway runs through Banff, Canada’s oldest national park which is home to an array of wildlife, including two species of bear.

The researchers studied 20 of the 25 bear crossings along the Trans-Canada Highway using hair-snagging traps.

Through collecting thousands of hair samples over their three year study the team were able to identify hundred of bears including 15 grizzlies and 17 black bears who crossed, sometimes frequently, the Trans-Canada Highway. They found that bear populations were not isolated on either side of the road and that male and female bears from both species were using crossings to successful migrate, breed and carry genes over the road.

The team behind this study say young bears may be learning to use the crossings from their mothers.

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New Edmontosaurus dinosaur discovery


This video is called Scientists Discover Duck Billed Dinosaur And An Unusual ‘Fleshy Comb’.

By Emily Chung, CBC News in Canada:

Alberta dinosaur’s head adorned with fleshy comb

Other dinosaurs may have looked quite different from what bones alone show

Dec 12, 2013 11:02 AM ET

An unusually well-preserved fossil of a duck-billed dinosaur has revealed a body part never seen before on any dinosaur.

The Edmontosaurus regalis specimen found west of Grand Prairie, Alta., last year had a soft, fleshy comb on its head, similar to those found on roosters.

“It’s a structure that was completely unexpected,” said Victoria Arbour, a University of Alberta paleontologist who co-authored the scientific paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, describing the new fossil.

“It kind of makes us wonder what other dinosaurs might have had.”

Edmontosaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur with a duck-like bill that grew to be 12 metres long — about the length of a bus. It was thought to have roamed North America in herds during the late Cretaceous, about 75 and 65 million years ago, and belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs, which were the most common dinosaurs on the continent at the time.

Fossils typically only preserve the bones of an animal, not fleshy structures such as a rooster’s comb or an elephant‘s trunk.

Phil Bell, lead author of the paper, said the new findings are “equivalent to discovering for the first time that elephants had trunks.”

Bell, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, added in a statement, “These findings dramatically alter our perception of the appearance and behaviour of this well-known dinosaur.”

In particular, the existence of the comb adds to evidence that Edmontosaurus was a social animal, as ornaments like combs and crests are typically used for communication among animals such as roosters, especially in relation to competition for females.

“We might imagine a pair of male Edmontosaurus sizing each other up, bellowing, and showing off their head gear to see who was the dominant male and who is in charge of the herd,” Bell said.

Bell was a paleontologist with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum currently under construction in Grand Prairie, Alta., when he uncovered the fossil last summer with geologist Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna. The museum is named after a renowned University of Alberta dinosaur expert who also co-authored the new paper.

Not a true mummy

It was a rare fossil type of fossil that paleontologists describe as “mummified.” Arbour said such fossils aren’t true mummies, in which flesh is preserved under very dry conditions.

Rather, they are simply well-preserved fossils in which the bones are in the same positions relative to each other that they would have been in life, with impressions of the skin preserved on top.

At the time Edmontosaurus roamed Alberta, its habitat was actually a subtropical, swampy coastal area, Arbour said.

It’s not clear what conditions lead the preservation of skin impressions, she added, but it likely involves the animals dying in a flood and being quickly buried by sand or mud.

She added that even when skin impressions are preserved, they are often only visible in certain lighting or when the rock breaks a certain way, which may be why combs hadn’t been noticed on earlier “mummified” Edmontosaurus fossils.

“It’s something that’s kind of easy to miss.”

Such impressions would have been lost from the fossils when paleontologists later cleaned the rock away from the bone.

While earlier hadrosaurs had bony crests, researchers thought the crest had been completely lost in Edmontosaurus. The new discovery suggests that, in fact, the dinosaurs’ crests had changed, but remained an important feature.

Bell said it also suggests that similar structures may have been missed in other dinosaurs.

“There’s no reason that other strange fleshy structures couldn’t have been present on a whole range of other dinosaurs, including T. rex or Triceratops.”

See also here.

Alberta dinosaur brought to life by NAIT students. Digital media students give flesh and feathers to bare bones of Drumheller fossil find: here.

Rare northern hawk-owl in Dutch city


This video from Canada says about itself:

Northern Hawk Owl

Grand Valley and Larsen Pasture Roads, near the gate of Direct Energy (north access) gas well, NW of Cochrane, Alberta – April 20, 2012.

Recently, there was a report on this blog, about a Finnish canoeist saving a drowning northern hawk-owl.

Today, more northern hawk-owl news: an individual of this species, very rare in western Europe, is now in Zwolle city in the Netherlands.

Dutch Bird Alerts reports that it is easiest to see the bird from the local BP petrol station.

Let us all hope that the owl will not drown in BP oil, like happened to Gulf of Mexico seabirds

Here is a photo of birdwatchers which came to see this bird.

Alberta, Canada wildlife needs more protection


This video is called Wildlife in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

From Wildlife Extra:

More protection needed for vulnerable wildlife in Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta

July 2013. A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS Canada) calls for the designation of new Wildland Provincial Parks in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta to protect vulnerable wildlife and provide for their safe passage in an increasingly fragmented landscape. The report focused on determining important, secure habitats (“safe havens”) and landscape connections (“safe passages”) for six species-bull trout, West Slope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. These species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change.

Nestled between Banff and Waterton Parks, the Southern Canadian Rockies in Alberta has been overshadowed by these two iconic national parks. Yet this area contains spectacular landscapes, supports one of the most diverse communities of big animals in North America, and is a stronghold for the six vulnerable species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south.

In the report entitled Protecting and Connecting Headwater Havens, WCS Canada’s award-winning Conservation Scientist, Dr. John Weaver concluded that “Once abundant populations have disappeared from some regions, but remnant ones persist in remaining strongholds. These represent hope and opportunity to protect and recover the wildlife heritage of Alberta. Designation of new Wildland Provincial Parks would demonstrate stronger commitment to safeguard these headwater havens of wildlife and water treasures in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta.”

Weaver assessed 6,452 square kilometres of land to determine its conservation value for the vulnerable species and the cumulative challenges of expanding industrial resource extraction and mechanized recreation facing each of them. For example, about 20 percent of the land is prime habitat for the threatened grizzly bear but may serve as ‘attractive traps’ due to the high density of roads. As climate changes, warmer winters will reduce mountain snow cover and suitable habitat for the rare wolverine, a species highly adapted to persistent snow pack. Reduced stream flow and warmer stream temperatures will diminish habitat for westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout, native fish adapted well to cold waters – while favouring introduced rainbow trout and brook trout.

Recommendation to designate 257,065 ha of Crown land as Wildland Provincial Parks

Weaver recommends designating 257,065 ha of Crown land as Wildland Provincial Parks because it would be a smart investment that would conserve 66 percent of important habitats on 40 percent of the land. Vital places with particular concentration of present and future habitat include Castle Special Place, lands on the north and south of the Crowsnest Pass, the headwaters of the Oldman River, and the headwater basins of the Highwood River. The new direction would recognize the value of wildlife diversity and headwater sources of clean water but require improved management of other land uses.

“This report will help inform discussions and decisions about land management in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta,” said Weaver. “These spectacular landscapes provide some of the best remaining strongholds for vulnerable fish and wildlife. Protecting lands for conservation will help ensure that this rich diversity of fish and wildlife will be enjoyed by people today and generations yet to come.”