Gray wolves returning to California?


This 2013 video from the USA is called Lone Gray Wolf OR-7 On The Move to California.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Are Gray Wolves About To Return To California?

Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014 by eNature

Wolves were once common along much of the West Coast, ranging from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state through Oregon to Southern California.

Decades of hunting and other extermination programs, many intended to protect livestock, drove wolves out of West Coast states in the early 1900’s. Until recently, the last wild wolf in California was recorded in 1924, when it was shot in Lassen County. Those in Washington were eliminated in the 1930’s and in Oregon in 1946, where the last wolf was killed for a bounty.

In the wake of successful wolf recovery efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains and near the Great Lakes, the animals have begun to return to their traditional ranges on the West Coast, with viable populations now established in Washington and Oregon, and recent signs of wolves in Northern California.

Washington

Reliable reports of wolves returning to Washington arose in 2005. The state now has five wolf packs in central and eastern portions of the state, made up of three breeding pairs and at least 27 individuals. Naturalists have identified several additional wild areas in Washington that wolves could occupy, particularly on the Olympic Peninsula.

Oregon

Wolves began returning to Oregon in 1999, and the first pack, the Imnaha, was first observed in 2008. Four confirmed packs are now in eastern Oregon, made up of one breeding pair and at least 29 wolves.

And there’s room for more wolves in the state. Naturalists have identified several other wild areas in Oregon that wolves could occupy, including extensive habitat in the Cascade and Siskiyou Mountains.

California

After an 85 year absence, a gray wolf was observed in California in December 2011. The 2 ½-year-old male, known as OR-7 or Journey, had traveled more than 700 miles from the northeastern corner of Oregon, arriving in California’s Siskiyou County.

Journey could be the first of many California wolves. Wolves were once common in in most areas of the state and there is plenty of sparsely populated potential wolf habitat in Northern California and the Sierra Nevada.

And there’s a lot more to Journey’s story since we first posted it in 2012.

This last May a remote camera in the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest, near the California-Oregon border, captured photographs of Journey along with a female wolf who appeared to be traveling with him. Wildlife biologists believed the wolves had paired and mated. And if the pair had cubs, the wolves would be the first known to have bred in the Oregon Cascades in a century.

Then on June 2, biologists found and photographed two wolf pups they believed to have been sired by Journey. They took fecal samples for DNA testing in order to make decisive confirmation, the results of which are still pending.

The birth of these wolf pups so close to the California border makes it quite likely that wolves will return on a long-term basis to the state. Anticipating such an occurrence, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 on June 3, 2014 to protect wolves that may find themselves in California under the state Endangered Species Act.

So we’ll see what happens over the next few years.

For now, wildlife biologists, who originally had not planned to replace OR-7’s tracking collar when its three-year batteries finally died, have decided to replace the collar in order to keep track of what they hope may be a new pack of wolves. And it’s pretty clear that Journey’s journey, and that of his offspring, is far from over.

Wolf Recovery Is Generally Good News For Ecosystems

The return of wolves is good news for the ecosystems that they repopulate, since wolves and other predators play a vital role in regulating populations of prey species such as deer and elk. And regulating those populations benefits a number of other species.

For instance, wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park has made elk herds more mobile. This increased mobility as reduced the elks’ consumption of stream-side vegetation, which has significantly benefited beaver and songbird populations.

As for people, wolf reintroduction and recovery continues to be somewhat controversial. But it seems that QR-7 and his peers aren’t too concerned about our policies and politics— they just want a great place to live.

Sort of like all those humans who have migrated to California!

More details on the wanderings of OR-7, the wolf known as Journey, are here.

Schwarzenegger rewriting history in portrait painting


Arnold Schwarzenegger posing with his portrait

By Lydia O’Connor in the USA:

Schwarzenegger Reportedly Has Maria Shriver Painted Over In Portrait, Fails Miserably

09/11/2014 5:23 pm EDT

An undeniable blotch on an official portrait of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is a hasty cover-up job to erase estranged wife Maria Shriver’s face from the painting, sources told the New York Post and San Francisco Chronicle.

The portrait, which Schwarzenegger sat for in 2003 but was just unveiled Monday, originally featured an image of Shriver’s face on a lapel pin, a staffer at the state Capitol told the Post.

“Whoever touched it up did not do a very good job,” tour guide Richard Granis said of the painting originally done by renowned Austrian artist Gott­fried Helnwein. “It was softball sized, right there on his left lapel.”

Schwarzenegger and Shriver split in 2011 when it came to light that he had engaged in extramarital affairs and fathered a child with a household staffer more than a decade earlier. The couple has not finalized a divorce and for years faced rumors of a reconciliation, though the conspicuous smudge may end those whispers once and for all.

At 6 feet tall, the portrait is larger than those of other modern-day governors, The Associated Press reported, and was paid for by Schwarzenegger.

Columbian mammoths’ red hair discovery


This video is called BBC: Columbian Mammoth, Death by Tar – Ice Age Death Trap.

From Smithsoniam.com in the USA:

Rare, Red Mammoth Hair Found on Californian Artichoke Farm

Columbian mammoths roamed Western North America thousands of years ago, and now we have a better idea of what they looked like

By Mary Beth Griggs

September 5, 2014

Columbian mammoths were redheads. Well, at least one Columbian mammoth was. Back in 2010, two brothers on an artichoke farm in California came across the bones of many prehistoric animals, including the remains of a 46-year-old mammoth with a small tuft of its hair still intact.

Archaeologist Mark Hylkema spoke to Western Digs about the find.

“What was particularly significant is that the hair was red,” Hylkema said. “It was the same color of my golden retriever.” “We can envision cattle on the landscape today,” he added. “Picture herds of red-colored mammoths.”

Hair from other mammoth species has been recovered, particularly from wooly mammoth remains, which have been found preserved in ice (also with a reddish-hued coat in some cases). But finding the hair of a Columbian Mammoth is a very rare occurrence, as they tended to live in more temperate climates, which don’t tend to preserve hair or tissue as well as more icy climates. A fact sheet about the Columbian mammoth published just a few years ago by the San Diego Zoo lists its pelage (fur) as unknown, because there just weren’t enough samples of hair to figure out what it would have looked like. Now, with this find, we have a better idea.

Researchers have recovered about 40 percent of the mammoth and many other creatures from the site, but many of the remains weren’t in good condition, unlike the remains found at the La Brea Tar Pits. Excavation of the site has stopped, but researchers are still working on the remains already recovered, and the mammoth discovery has obviously left an impression on the farmers, who began selling “Mammoth” brand artichokes after the big find.

Baby raccoon blind orphans in California


This video from the USA is called Orphaned raccoons at WildCare.

By Ed Mazza in the USA:

Baby Raccoon Orphans Will Steal Your Heart

09/04/2014 4:53 am EDT

These adorable baby raccoons are just six days old — and because the animals are born blind and deaf, they need help with absolutely everything.

The little orphans are being cared for by staff members at WildCare, a rescue and rehab organization in San Rafael, Calif.

Check out the clip above to see how they’re fed.

Baby raccoons are so helpless they can’t even pee by themselves. Wildlife workers actually have to help (and yes, you can see that in the video, too).

“These babies will live in an easily-transportable carrier for the next couple of weeks,” the organization wrote. “But as they grow and their eyes and ears open (baby raccoons, like many baby mammals, are born with their eyes and ears sealed shut), these curious animals will need space to play, explore and learn the ropes as raccoons.”

They’ll first learn to play in a pen, and then be placed into a pre-release cage. After about four months of foster care and rehabilitation, the young raccoons will be released into the wild.

You can learn more about WildCare or make a donation to support the raccoons and other wildlife on the organization’s website. Or you can support a wildlife rehabilitator near you by using the locator on the Humane Society website.

(h/t KGO)

Good burrowing owl news from California


This video from the USA is called The Burrowing Owl‘s Cozy Home.

From the San Jose Mercury News in the USA:

Alviso: ‘Charismatic’ burrowing owl protected by special habitat

By Andie Waterman

08/26/2014 12:04:21 PM PDT

SAN JOSE — As a crow perches on a mound of earth, a pint-size chestnut-feathered owl emerges in front of it. The crow sits still, but the owl leaps forward, collides with the crow head-on and knocks it backward. The owl swoops away.

The confrontation in Alviso was captured on a motion-sensor camera that is documenting the rising population of burrowing owls at a South Bay preserve — a trend that runs counter to an overall decline in the species.

And the photos and videos are providing a look at how the owls live.

“We get a look at the secret lives of burrowing owls,” said Stephanie Ellis, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS).

Josh McCluskey, burrowing owls project manager for SCVAS, is among those who have been reviewing the footage of the western burrowing owl since the March installation of motion-sensor cameras that monitor a 180-acre owl habitat near the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility in Alviso.

Since 2012, a partnership between the Audubon Society and San Jose’s Environmental Services Department, with the help of environmental studies experts and students from San Jose State and De Anza College, has created ideal conditions for the burrowing owl habitat.

That year very few owls lived on the Alviso site. Now there are 14 adults and 29 chicks.

“This is the one place where their population can be built up to repopulate other areas, to be able to create habitats for them elsewhere,” said Shani Kleinhaus, burrowing owl environmental advocate with the Audubon Society. “This is the one place where the population is increasing in the Bay Area.”

The burrowing owls — who are on average 9 inches tall and weigh a quarter of a pound — are the only species of owl that lives in underground burrows. They are found in various places in California, such as the Bay Area and Imperial Valley, and also some locations in Mexico and Canada.

They are unusual among owls, according to Philip Higgins, biologist for the city of Mountain View, because they don’t have ear tufts, are awake during the day as well as at night and do not hoot.

The Bay Area’s burrowing owl population in the mid-1980s was estimated to be around 560 to 640 adult owls, three-fourths of them in the South Bay. By the 1990s the population had decreased by about 50 percent, and in 2009 there were only an estimated 70 adults left in the South Bay.

Two years ago, Higgins warned the burrowing owl — listed by the state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a “species of conservation concern” but not yet endangered — could become extinct by 2032.

A plan to create buffer zones to protect the owls was drawn up that same year by Higgins and Lynne Trulio, professor of environmental studies at San Jose State. They blamed the decline on habitat loss and lack of sufficient prey.

When the then-San Jose-Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant (now the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility) filed an environmental impact report in 2009 for future development of 2,600 acres of mostly barren land around the plant, the Audubon Society sought a dedicated space for the owls, and the city allocated 180 acres for the habitat.

Volunteers from the Audubon Society and city staff members began building artificial burrows and dirt mounds on the Alviso site for the owls, who make a mess in the burrows and then leave. The mounds attract squirrels, which create tunnels that owls can move into later.

Owls “can move to the next burrow, then the ground squirrels will move back in and the ground squirrels are very clean and they’ll clean it all out and make it nice and neat,” said McCluskey. “And then the owls will move right back in.”

Volunteers also mowed the grass for the owls, which need grass to be shorter than 5 inches to scan the area for predators and prey, and put in perches to make scanning easier.

A year later, they saw more owls in the area, six adult pairs and 10 chicks.

“I like to call it a recipe and the recipe was really basic, like pound cake,” said Ken Davies, the city’s environmental services department compliance officer. “Put three things in there and you get this nice thing.”

In addition to the Alviso site, owls are still present and protected at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, Moffett Field, and Mineta San Jose International Airport. But the Alviso habitat is considered ideal because it is restricted from the public and can be controlled.

“The only way to save them is to use existing sites,” said Higgins. “If you lose one of (the sites), you’re just increasing the chances of the bird becoming extinct in the area.”

Installing motion-sensor cameras in March of this year made it easier to keep track of the owls, and gave observers insight into owls’ lives.

Much of the city staff and Audubon Society’s work involves the grind of separating photos of windswept brush from owl photos. But there have also been photos of young owls divebombing into each other to practice their hunting skills, and a video of an owl chasing a squirrel out of its burrow.

“They’re a very charismatic bird,” said Kleinhaus —… They come out during the day. … They’re real acrobats, they can hover, they can flip, they can do very amazing stuff.”

Humpback whales, what do they eat?


This video from California in the USA is called Surfer Almost Swallowed by Whale.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Does A Humpback Whale Really Eat For Dinner?

Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by eNature

Despite the title of the video above, Humpbacks don’t eat surfers!

Eves so, that video has received lots of attention around the internet when it appeared— and for good reason.

It shows a surfer’s VERY close encounter with a humpback whale off the beaches of Santa Cruz, in Northern California.

But it’s also interesting because it’s a great close-up view of how a Humpback feeds and the sort of marine life that makes up its diet.

How To Eat Without Teeth?

Humpbacks are baleen whales and have no teeth. They feed by using the large plates of baleen in their mouths to filter out shrimp-like krill and other small creatures from the water. Plated grooves in the whale’s mouth allow water that was taken in to easily drain, leaving a mouth full of dinner.

But most folks don’t realize that baleen whales such has humpbacks also consume fish— mainly small schooling fish they hunt in same fashion as krill.

In the video you can clearly see lots of small prey fish scattering in all directions just before and as the whale breaches. (Double click on the video if you want to see a bigger version of it). You an also see the whale’s baleen plates and the water rushing from its mouth as it filters out its prey.

Blowing Bubbles For Dinner

Humpbacks are energetic hunters, taking krill and small schooling fish such as herring, mackerel, pollock, and haddock. They’re also quite clever and have been known to use a technique called bubble net feeding.

A whale or group of whales swims in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey, encircling and confining the school in an ever-smaller cylinder. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the ‘net’ with their mouths open, filtering huge quantities of water and capturing thousands of fish in one gulp.

It’s a pretty amazing thing to observe…

And one other fun thing to note in the video is all the seabirds following the whales as they feed. These birds know that breaching whales panic fish and make them easy pickings for an alert bird. Looking for flocks of seabirds working the ocean’s surface is time-honored way for fisherman to locate schools— and for whale watchers to find whales.

Have you had a chance to see Humpbacks or other whales? We always love to hear your stories.

Rare bees not rare on Texel island


This video from the USA is called A huge Sand Bee colony near Palmdale, California.

Warden Erik van der Spek on Texel island in the Netherlands reports about a bee species, which is rare in the Netherlands as a whole.

Andrena argentata sand bees, however, are not rare in the sand dunes of Texel. Sometimes, there are colonies of thousands of individuals.