EuroBirdwatch, 4-5 October 2014


This video is called Eurobirdwatch 2013 – Maramures Romania.

From BirdLife:

Join us for a fascinating birdwatching weekend on 4 – 5 October

By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 12/09/2014 – 13:08

EuroBirdwatch – BirdLife’s biggest birdwatching event in Europe and Central Asia – will take place this year on the weekend of 4 – 5 October. Join us to explore the beauty of birds and experience the magic of bird migration!

Created in 1993, EuroBirdwatch aims to give the opportunity to the youngest as well as the oldest, to confirmed nature lovers as well as the simply curious, to observe the unique migration of birds and to promote efforts to save threatened bird species and their habitats.

As they have done every year on the first weekend of October since its inception, BirdLife national Partners will be organising a wide variety of activities and events across Europe and Central Asia. These will include birdwatching excursions, special birdwatching events on organic farms, contests for children to identify birds by their song, bird fairs, trips to watch birds in national parks and many more activities.

In 2013, EuroBirdwatch was celebrating its 20th anniversary. To mark this special occasion, that year 19,000 people, including children and families, took part in many events organised by the BirdLife Partners in Europe and Central Asia. More than two million birds of different species were counted and reported to the BirdLife Research Center.

Participate in EuroBirdwatch 2014!

Book your time for the weekend 4 – 5 October. Find your national EuroBirdwatch coordinator, which will be the BirdLife Partner in your country. Choose your event and enjoy your birdwatching!

If you are a BirdLife Partner and you want to take part in EuroBirdwatch 2014, to find useful information for registration and organisation please contact Birgit Gödert-Jacoby, EuroBirdwatch Advisor.

Asian fossil birds, new research


This video says about itself:

Two of Papua New Guinea‘s many birds of paradise – the Magificent and the King – put on an show of dancing and hanging upside down in spectacular courtship display.

By Hanneke J.M. Meijer:

The avian fossil record in Insular Southeast Asia and its implications for avian biogeography and palaeoecology

Abstract

Excavations and studies of existing collections during the last decades have significantly increased the abundance as well as the diversity of the avian fossil record for Insular Southeast Asia. The avian fossil record covers the Eocene through the Holocene, with the majority of bird fossils Pleistocene in age. Fossil bird skeletal remains represent at least 63 species in 54 genera and 27 families, and two ichnospecies are represented by fossil footprints. Birds of prey, owls and swiftlets are common elements.

Extinctions seem to have been few, suggesting continuity of avian lineages since at least the Late Pleistocene, although some shifts in species ranges have occurred in response to climatic change. Similarities between the Late Pleistocene avifaunas of Flores and Java suggest a dispersal route across southern Sundaland. Late Pleistocene assemblages of Niah Cave (Borneo) and Liang Bua (Flores) support the rainforest refugium hypothesis in Southeast Asia as they indicate the persistence of forest cover, at least locally, throughout the Late Pleistocene and Holocene.

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Migratory birds and Asian, African and European children


This video says about itself:

9 Jan 2014

Spring Alive has been spreading widely in Africa. Check how great they are doing in Nigeria where many children are enthusiastically engaged in birds oriented actions thanks to the Spring Alive project.

From BirdLife:

Spring Alive 2014 has arrived!

By Rebecca Langer, Thu, 06/03/2014 – 15:14

BirdLife and its Partners in 50 countries are proud to announce the launch of Spring Alive 2014. Now nine years old, Spring Alive brings together children, their teachers and families in Europe, Central Asia and Africa to observe and record the arrivals of five species of migrant birds:  Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Common Swift Apus apus, and European Bee-eater Merops apiaster.

Spring Alive 2013 broke all previous records. During Eurasian and African seasons, a total of over 286,000 observations of migratory birds were recorded on the Spring Alive website, and by the end of the year over 54,000 children, 900 teachers and supervisors and 500 volunteers from 49 countries had joined in a range of Spring Alive activities.

While the program began as a pan-European project to track the northward spread of spring migrants, now it involves many more indoor and outdoor events to engage children, schools and the wider community in the conservation of migratory birds. One example is the new pilot program Spring Twin, which matches schools in Europe and Asia with schools in Africa. Children will exchange letters, emails and diaries, and send one another videos they have shot before publishing them on the Spring Alive YouTube channel.

Spring Alive is coordinated by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland), with national coordinators in each participating country. This year, with the announcement that Azerbaijan will be joining in, at least 50 countries will be taking part.

“2014 is set to be an even bigger year for Spring Alive”, said Karolina Kalinowska, International Spring Alive Manager. “Now that we have accustomed children to recording their observations of the first spring migrants, we want to get them more involved in the conservation of migratory birds.”

Although it is still early in the year, in the southern Mediterranean early signs of spring are already popping up. Unfortunately, the joy of spring and the promise of some of the best birdwatching of the year is overshadowed in Malta by the Government’s intention to again allow spring hunting season, in violation of EU law. This translates into 10,000 hunters being allowed to legally shoot European Turtle-dove and Common Quail returning to Europe to breed. Experience suggests that too many of them will also be illegally targeting protected species, from songbirds to waders, herons and birds of prey: here.

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Flying snakes, new research


This video is called Flying Snakes – The Physics Of Snakes That Fly.

From Wildlife Extra:

Flying snakes intrigue scientists

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease…

March 2014: Forget Snakes on a Plane, there are some species of snakes in the world that are at home in the air. Three species of snake in the genus Chrysopelea are known to glide, and one, Chrysopelea paradisi, has even been seen turning in mid-air. They can travel as far as 100ft through the air, jumping off tree branches and rotating their ribs to flatten their bodies and move from side to side.

Animal flight behaviour is an exciting frontier for engineers to both apply knowledge of aerodynamics and to learn from nature’s solutions to operating in the air. Flying snakes are particularly intriguing to researchers because they lack wings or any other features that remotely resemble flight apparatus.

Before you envision flying snakes raining down from the sky, the ones involved in this study are small — about 1m in length and the width of your thumb — and live in the lowland tropical forests of Asia and Southeast Asia.

Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Jake Socha, renowned for his work with flying snakes, recently teamed with Boston University and George Washington University researchers to explore the snakes’ lift and wakes using computer simulations.

Previously, experiments in a wind tunnel had returned an unexpected finding: the snake’s shape is not only good at generating a force of lift, but it also gets an extra boost of lift when facing the air flow at a certain angle.

“After experiments uncovered this, we decided to use computer simulations to try to explain it,” says Lorena Barba, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the George Washington University.

So much of the aerodynamics of animal flight — especially that of flying snakes — remain a mystery. Scale is important, but also the manner in which flight is achieved.

“Rather than fixed wings, animal fliers have flapping wings,” explains Barba. “In the case of gliders, their small scale means they’re always in a flurry of whirling winds. By understanding how they can be graceful and efficient under these conditions, we can in turn use that knowledge to create small flying machines that are equally graceful.”

Whirls of wind can be particularly useful: these little vortices “can give flying snakes an extra lift,” notes Barba. “The shape of the snakes in flight — which is a flattened version of its shape at rest — gets help from little vortices around it.”

Next, the researchers would like to include more elements of the snake’s real gliding conditions into their computer simulations, such as its full body forming an S-shape, rather than working with just a section.

“This will be more difficult to do in a computer model, but it will probably reveal more about the complicated flow patterns snakes take advantage of to be such gifted gliders,” Barba says.

European Union threatens European vultures


This video says about itself:

Vanishing Vultures

31 May 2011

The Indian sub-continent had the highest density of vultures in the world – 85 million in total. However, over the past few years 99% have disappeared – mostly due to the use of the veterinary drug Diclofenac.

The loss of such an important scavenger has had devastating effects – putrefying decomposing carcasses are thought to be the cause of anthrax and rabies outbreaks. The extinction of this species would have global health consequences.

The films were premiered at the British Council in 2006, and have since been broadcast in 15 different languages on the national network – along with special screenings for the Prime Minister and other key politicians.

There has been an immediate reaction from the public and national press. The films also appeal to farmers – many, previously unaware of the problem, have now switched to a safer alternative to the drug.

Manufacture and sale of the drug Diclofenac has been banned with immediate effect nationwide – to give the remaining 1% of vultures a fighting chance for survival.

From BirdLife:

Vulture killing drug now available on EU market

By Rebecca Langer, Wed, 05/03/2014 – 10:09

Diclofenac is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that has wiped out vulture populations in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Now, a repeat of this ecological disaster is threatening Europe. Despite the fact that safe alternative drugs are readily available, Diclofenac has been authorised for use on domestic animals in Italy, and in Spain where 80% of European vultures live, and is now becoming widely available on the EU market. According to experts in SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, this may cause a European mass die off of endangered and ecologically valuable wildlife.

Vultures have long suffered from unfavourable public opinion in Europe, but as species that are built to do the dirty work of ecological recycling, they are essential to the health and well-being of ecosystems. In Europe, four rare vulture species exist and are continuing to face threats to their survival. Egyptian Vulture is listed as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List of Species while Cinerous Vulture is listed as Near Threatened. Fortunately, thanks to decades of conservation efforts and millions of euros invested, vulture populations are recovering. The introduction of Diclofenac now puts these efforts and investments in jeopardy.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, Diclofenac was regularly used in the 1990’s to treat cattle. When the animals died, Diclofenac remained in the body and was eaten by vultures, causing their almost immediate death. In about 10 years, the vulture populations in these countries has declined by 99%, bringing some of the most common and iconic large birds of the Indian subcontinent to the verge of extinction. This also led to serious human health consequences as the availability of unconsumed carrions led to an increase in stray dogs and spread of diseases such as rabies. Thanks to joint campaign efforts from the RSPB and its partner SAVE, Diclofenac has been banned in India and we are beginning to see signs of recovery for the Indian vulture population.

The EU and its Member States have a legal obligation to conserve vultures under the EU Birds Directive and EU Veterinary Drugs legislation that require avoiding ecological damage. An immediate ban on veterinary Diclofenac is needed to protect our vultures from the fate of their Asian cousins, and would also send a crucial signal encouraging African countries to stop the spread of Diclofenac, which is already affecting the highly endangered populations of African vultures.

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