Scottish rats and Manx shearwaters, new research

This video from the Azores says about itself:

Releasing juvenile Manx Shearwaters in Corvo

26 Aug 2009

Some juvenile seabirds are attracted by artificial lights and fall in the village of Corvo during their first flights. We caught them, ringed them and released them the next morning.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rat tagged on Scottish isle

February 2014: In one of the first projects of its kind a rat on the Isle of Rum has been tagged and its travels round the island logged via satellite.

Researchers on Rum National Nature Reserve (NNR) hope the results (due at the end of this month) will help them understand the impact of brown rat behaviour on nearby colonies of the Manx shearwater seabird.

From April until September the Rum Cuillin come alive after dark with the sound of these amazing birds, no bigger than pigeons, returning to their breeding burrows after spending the winter off the east coast of South America. On Rum, they nest in burrows high in the mountains, fishing by day and returning to their nests at night.

Brown rats are recent colonists to the island and probably arrived on boats. As on all offshore islands where rats have jumped ship, they have an adverse effect on native species.

Understanding rat behaviour is vital to assess their likely impacts on Manx shearwaters and other species, as Lesley Watt, the SNH Rum reserve officer, explained.

“Rats are thought to be responsible for numerous global seabird population declines through predation on eggs, chicks and adult birds, though historically they have not been thought to have an impact on the Rum Cuillin colony,” she said.

“But we are concerned that rat numbers and predation may increase in the future. So we need to know more about the ecology of the rats to inform our future management policy for this globally import Manx shearwater breeding site.

“We are all intrigued about what we’ll find out when our roaming rat data is analysed and we view the results.”The rat-related work is part of a three-year Magnus Magnusson PhD studentship, funded by SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Anglia Ruskin University is carrying out the work with the National Wildlife Management Centre, part of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).

The way rats use their whiskers is more similar to how humans use their hands and fingers than previously thought, new research from the University of Sheffield has found: here.

New orchid species discoveries on Azores volcano

This shows details of the flowers of Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, a newly recognized and exceptionally rare orchid recently discovered on the Azorean island of São Jorge. Credit: Richard Bateman

From LiveScience:

New Orchid Species Found on ‘Lost World’ Volcano in the Azores

By Douglas Main, Staff Writer

December 10, 2013 07:32am ET

For years, there was only one formally recognized species of orchid on the Azores, a cluster of volcanic islands west of Portugal, though some claimed there were two species. However, a recent, three-year study to describe these Azorean flowers found that three species of orchids exist on the islands, including two that are newly recognized.

One of the new species was found atop a remote volcano and is arguably Europe’s rarest orchid, said Richard Bateman, a botanist at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Researchers were surprised to find the new species atop the volcano, which had “a really ‘Lost World’ feel to it,” he told LiveScience.

The orchids likely originate from a single species that arrived by seed millions of years ago. They soon developed smaller flowers, unlike their ancestors, which had large blooms. The most widespread orchid on the island, the short-spurred butterfly orchid (Platanthera pollostantha), is known for these small flowers, Bateman said. [Photos: The Orchids of Latin America]

Analysis of other orchids found on the islands soon turned up another species, known as the narrow-lipped butterfly orchid (Platanthera micrantha).

But then scientists happened upon an even rarer and more striking orchid, with large flowers, like those of the plants’ ancestors. “In a sense, evolution has reversed itself,” Bateman said. This species, now known as Platanthera azorica or Hochstetter’s butterfly orchid, was originally collected more than 170 years ago, but hadn’t been further studied or recognized as a unique species.

Mónica Moura, a researcher at the University of the Azores, happened upon the flower, and noticed it was different. “I immediately recognized the flowers as being exceptionally large for an Azorean butterfly orchid,” Moura said, according to a release describing the study.

The new species require urgent conservation; the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environmental organization, currently lumps all of these into a single species, which is incorrect, Bateman said.

The two rare orchids are threatened by invasive species and habitat destruction, Bateman said. Much of the unique dwarf forests that once covered the Azores—and in which the rare orchids are found—have been destroyed by inefficient dairy farming and other development, Bateman added.

Like many other orchids, the two rare orchid species have symbiotic relationships with fungi that allow them to survive. Without a certain type of fungi, the seeds can’t germinate, Bateman said. It’s possible these rare species can only survive in the presence of a single fungal species, which helps them germinate and supplies them with nutrients as adult plants, he said. More widespread species can likely partner with a variety of fungi, he added.

Azores bullfinch news

This video from Portugal is called SPEA Azores Bullfinch LIFE Priolo Project.

From BirdLife:

Home of the Azores Bullfinch receives tourism charter

Wed, Oct 24, 2012

Terras do Priolo (Lands of the Priolo) is the name given to a remote and beautiful area in the eastern part of the island of São Miguel in the Azores, the only place on earth in which the Endangered Azores Bullfinch, or Priolo Pyrrhula murina, is found. Nearly half its territory is included in protected areas.

Now Terras do Priolo has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas by the EUROPARC Federation Council. The Charter is a practical management tool that enables all relevant stakeholders to work in partnership to develop a common sustainable tourism strategy and action plan, while maintaining and improving the conservation value of the area in the long term. The Charter has currently been assigned to 107 national parks and other protected areas in 13 countries.

Lands of Priolo comprise the only territory where the rare Azores Bullfinch exists, in the eastern councils of São Miguel Island in Azores (Portugal). In 2012 this area was awarded with the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) and since then it has engaged all local stakeholders to promote sustainable tourism and conservation in the area: here.

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Stranded sperm whale saved, video

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, on this video of today:

Off the coast of Stellendam [a Dutch lifeboat] has succeeded in pushing a stranded sperm whale back into the sea. The animal of more than 12 meters long was swimming towards the shore this morning, and had beached on a sandbank.

See also here.

Sperm whale strandings: here.

The Azores is one of the best places in the world to see sperm whales: here.

Killdeer nest in Azores

This video from North America is called Killdeer Bird Nest with Chicks.

From Birdwatch in Britain:

Killdeer found nesting in Azores

Birdwatch News Team

Posted on: 13 Jun 2010

An American wader has been added to the list of breeding birds on this side of the Atlantic following the discovery of a Killdeer with two juveniles on Santa Maria in the Azores.

The amazing find was made by island resident Alan Vittery, who discovered the birds by chance on 29 May. He had seen Killdeers on a number of occasions on the island since last autumn, though had no idea they were still present and breeding in May. He told Birdwatch: “I had to collect our neighbours from the airport and passed by the rapidly receding pools. I saw a Killdeer and was photogaphing it when two juvs walked past! They disappeared into cover so I went back the following morning and took more photos.”

Killdeer is one of the less frequent American wader to reach the Western Palearctic, but the Azores is – unsurprisingly – the location most likely to attract the species. The Birding Azores website lists 18 records, half of them in the last 10 years, though it does not include all the sightings from Santa Maria this winter. Multiple occurrences are not unknown and include three together on Corvo in January this year, although Alan Vittery believes as many as five different adults may have appeared on Santa Maria in the months prior to breeding taking place.

As the latest Nearctic shorebird to nest in the Western Palearctic, Killdeer joins a very select list which includes Pectoral and Spotted Sandpipers (both of which have bred in Scotland) and White-rumped Sandpiper (which has been seen displaying on Svalbard).

A confirmatory photograph of an adult Killdeer with one of the juveniles appears in the July issue of Birdwatch, on sale in UK newsagents from 17 June.

See also here.