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.

Caspian terns’ new roosting place on sandbank discovered


This video from California in the USA is called Caspian Terns Up Close & Personal.

Warden Nico Jonker on Ameland island in the Netherlands reports about a recently discovered roosting place for Caspian terns.

Since the beginning of this month, about 10-22 Caspian terns gather on Engelsmanplaat sandbank, east of Ameland, to sleep.

This biggest of tern species is rare in the Netherlands. On 15 August, the Caspian terns will be counted again.

Whale fossil discovery in California


This video is called Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard.

From Associated Press:

Rare whale fossil pulled from Calif. yard

By MATT HAMILTON

Saturday, August 2, 2014 1:06 AM EDT

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — A search-and-rescue team pulled a rare half-ton whale fossil from a Southern California backyard Friday, a feat that the team agreed to take on as a makeshift training mission.

The 16- to 17-million-year-old fossil from a baleen whale is one of about 20 baleen fossils known to exist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County paleontologist Howell Thomas said. Baleen is a filter made of soft tissue that is used to sift out prey, like krill, from seawater.

The fossil, lodged in a 1,000-pound boulder, was hoisted from a ravine by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search-and-rescue volunteers. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.

Gary Johnson, 53, first discovered the fossil when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family’s home.

At the time, he called another local museum to come inspect the find, but officials passed on adding it to their collection. In January, a 12-million-year-old sperm whale fossil was recovered at a nearby school, prompting Johnson to call the Natural History Museum.

“I thought, maybe my whale is somehow associated,” said Johnson, who works as a cartoonist and art director.

Thomas wanted to add the fossil to the county museum’s collection of baleen whale fossils, but was puzzled over how to get the half-ton boulder from Rancho Palos Verdes, located on a peninsula about 25 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The sheriff’s department search-and-rescue unit declined to send a helicopter, but offered to use the fossil recovery as a training mission. The volunteer crew typically rescues stranded hikers and motorcyclists who careen off the freeway onto steep, rugged terrain, search-and-rescue reserve chief Mike Leum said.

“We’ll always be able to say, ‘it’s not heavier than a fossil,”‘ Leum said.

New rail species discovery in California


This 2009 video from the USA is called California clapper rail calling.

But … was it really a clapper rail?

By Molly Samuel in the USA:

There’s a New Bird Species in California, Sort Of

August 4, 2014

An endangered bird that lives in the Bay Area is not what scientists thought it was. The California clapper rail is a noisy, rare bird that looks a little like a small chicken and only lives in marshes around San Francisco Bay. But it’s not, in fact, a clapper rail. It’s a subspecies of something else.

“The rails have been confusing people for a really long time,” explains James Maley, the collections manager at the Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College. He says the rails in California have baffled scientists since they were first described, 140 years ago.

The roots of the confusion go back to the East Coast, where there were two rail species: king rails and clapper rails. Then there were a bunch of different subspecies scattered around North and South America, including three here in California. One of those is the one we’ve been calling the California clapper rail.

At first scientists thought the western birds were a subspecies of the king rails, then they decided the birds were clappers.

“But nobody could figure it out,” says Maley. “I looked at the genetics and figured out the birds in California are actually neither king or clapper rails.”

Turns out, they’re their own thing, which Maley named, “Ridgway’s rail,” after Robert Ridgway, the ornithologist who first described the birds.

The newly-minted Ridgway’s rail includes three subspecies: our local California Ridgway’s rail; the light-footed Ridgway’s rail in Los Angeles and San Diego; and the Yuma Ridgway’s rail in Arizona, Nevada and eastern California. All three of them are endangered; changing their name does not change their status.

It’s part of a larger split Maley proposed. Two rail species will now be five: king rails in the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean; clapper rails in the eastern U.S. and Cuba; mangrove rails in South America; Aztec rails in the Mexican highlands; and the Ridgway’s rails.

This all became official when the American Ornithologists’ Union, which has the last word on North American bird species, released its “check-list supplement” at the end of July.

Bird books will need an update, and serious birders will get to add another species to their lists if they’ve seen both East Coast clappers and what are now Ridgway’s. Another thing that will have to change are all those informational brochures and signs at Bay Area parks. For instance, this pamphlet, from the East Bay Regional Park District.

When I called to ask what they usually do about this kind of situation, Carol Johnson of the East Bay Parks was at a loss.

“I can’t remember the last time a species changed its name like that,” she said. But she added, the parks reprint their pamphlets relatively regularly, and she’ll just add the new name to the list of things to change.

This sort of thing could come up again. Maley says changes like this, based on genetic research, are becoming more common. In a place as well-studied as California, the people discovering new species are wearing lab coats, not pith helmets.

“There are a lot of species out there that we didn’t know were species until we looked at their genes,” he says.

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.

Music for peace, all over the world


This music video is called Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World.

By Richard Maunders in Britain:

Globally harmonised

Tuesday 22nd July 2014

RICHARD MAUNDERS reports on a unique international music project which promotes peaceful global change

MARRYING Rolling Stone Keith Richards with Aztec Indian percussionists, Mexican horns, an Australian didgeridoo, a Congolese bassist and an array of other talented international musicians may come across as a bit off the wall.

But in the case of the remarkable eight-track album Making The World A Better Place, the experiment is something of a triumph. Hundreds of musicians from 31 countries across six continents have been brought together by Playing For Change, a movement formed in California to inspire, connect and bring peace to the world through music.

This album is the third such collection recorded in a quest to enhance the cause. In 2005, co-founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke committed to the ideal that through music change can be made and that all races, cultures and societies should be able to live in peace and harmony together.

They created the concept of Songs Around The World by uniting together musicians from many different countries, races and cultures to perform together on the same number.

Although most are well known and the music is superb, the achievement of this album is the clever knitting together of so many talents — young and old, with different beliefs and backgrounds — to join in what is a festival of humanity and respect.

Their conviction — that we are all together, inhabiting one world, for peace and humanity — is a message few would disagree with, even though there may be differences as to how best to achieve such noble ideals.

The performances are brilliantly conceived, beautifully photographed and expertly recorded even though in some instances the “recording studio” sometimes includes the open air, city streets, backyards, bars and the countryside.

The Playing For Change team recorded artists in countries including the Congo, South Africa, Mali, Jamaica, Mexico, Serbia, Portugal, Brazil, Cuba and more over a two-year period.

The result is an infectious set in this musical odyssey around the planet.

Household names such as Keith Richards, Los Lobos, bluesmen Keb Mo and Taj Mahal, Toots Hibbert — of the legendary Toots And The Maytals — and others rub shoulders with street musicians, African choirs and instrumentalists, Cuban guitarists and even a fabulous female Japanese honky-tonk pianist. It’s a cocktail of effervescent music that stirs the senses.

Two pieces of an outstanding collection stand out. There’s a spirited version of the anti-war anthem Down By The Riverside, led by Granpa Elliott, a New Orleans street musician for more than 60 years. He’s joined by Choeur la Grace, a Congolese choir singing the chorus in their own language, with the brilliant Preservation Hall Jazz Band adding a rousing finale.

This music video is called Playing For Change – Down by the Riverside/A Better Place.

The best, however, is saved for the last performance. More than 75 Cubans around the world from Havana and Santiago to Miami and Tokyo came together to sing Jose Marti’s patriotic verses on a passionate rendition of Guantanamera.

This music video is called Guantanamera | Playing For Change | Song Around The World.

US singer Jackson Browne was so impressed with Cuba that he writes in the sleeve notes: “Travelling with playing for change to Havana and Santiago de Cuba was one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of my life.”

If there is a criticism it has to be the lack of “revolutionary” edge. There is no Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger material here, for example, and maybe in future the Playing For Change Foundation might consider tackling poverty and hunger in its remit. Yet this is a vibrant and inspirational journey across the musical spectrum and one for all to enjoy.

The CD/DVD on Timeless Media is available at www.playingforchange.com, along with updates of Playing For Change’s British tour next month.

California red-legged frog now state amphibian


This video is called California’s Amphibians: SAVE THE FROGS! Academy 2013-August 28.

From KPCC in the USA:

California red-legged frog named state amphibian

July 08 2014

The frog made famous in a tale by Mark Twain is now California’s official state amphibian.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation elevating the red-legged frog on June 30. The state library updated its online list of symbols the next day, although the bill doesn’t officially take effect until January.

Members of an afterschool club at Sea View Elementary School in Imperial County proposed AB2364, which was carried by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez of Coachella. The red-legged frog is only found in California and was large enough to serve as a meal for Gold Rush-era miners.

It is now protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

It joins the grizzly bear, the California redwood and square dancing (the state folk dance) as one of 36 state symbols.

The Fall and Rise of the Amphibian Empire: here.

Baby pygmy seahorses, video


This video from the California Academy of Sciences in the USA says about itself:

Baby Pygmy Seahorses

30 June 2014

Meet the Academy’s brood of baby pygmy seahorses—the first ever to be born in an aquarium! Get close up view of these adorable babies in this behind-the-scenes video.

Tiny but fierce: New research shows that seahorses can growl when threatened: here.

Disco clam light, new research


This video from California in the USA is called Disco Clams Light Up the Ocean Floor.

From Wildlife Extra:

The secret of the disco clam’s light show is revealed

The Ctenoides ales file clam, also known as the disco clam, is one of the few creatures to use silica micro-structures to reflect light, according to new research published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The clam does it so well that for years divers and scientists alike believed that it was generating its unique electric display with light-producing chemical reactions known as bioluminescence.

Lindsey Dougherty, a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, first shattered that idea last year with a series of presentations showing that the lips were lined with reflective silica spheres.

For the new study, Dougherty and her colleagues used an electron microscope to look at the spectral signature of the structure of the clam’s lip tissue.

On one side were those microscopic balls of silica — the primary element in glass and quartz. The other side was dark, and only reflected light on the red-end of the visible light spectrum.

Because red light doesn’t transmit well underwater, the dark side of the clams’ lips are effectively non-reflective.

Conversely, the silica-side reflects 85 to 90 per cent of all white light when underwater.

“They’re almost ideal reflectors in blue-green water environments,” said Dougherty.

The team confirmed this by using computer models to see how the spheres’ structures reflected light at four different wavelengths.

Using a high-speed camera, they were able to see exactly how the clams make the flash: by rapidly rolling and unrolling their lips, exposing the dark and reflective sides at a rate of about two times per second.

Disco clams can be found all the way from Australia to Indonesia in water from 10 to 160ft deep.

Even in shallow waters, the clams tend to squirrel themselves away into relatively dark nooks, which explains why it seemed so natural to think that their display was bioluminescent.

From an evolutionary perspective, lightning lips are a pretty costly adaptation. They need special muscles to control the furling motion, and silica is a rare element in the ocean.

Dougherty said there are three possibilities: The lips are to lure in mates, attract prey, or ward off predators.

In the future, she’s going to be researching the clams’ eyes (they have up to 40). Knowing how the clams see could unlock the secret behind their most prominent light-show feature.

See also here.

Monarch butterfly migration, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

Pacific monarchs migrate 2,500 miles between California and Mexico. This 10 minute segment captures some of the thousands of butterflies along the journey.

From Wildlife Extra:

Inbuilt compasses help monarch butterflies migrate

How new generations of monarch butterflies, despite never have travelled the distance before, find their way from their breeding sites in eastern United States to their overwintering habitat in central Mexico has long puzzled scientists.

Previous studies have revealed that the butterflies use a time-compensated sun compass in their antenna to help them make their 2,000 mile migratory journey to overwintering sites.

However how they found their way under dense cloud cover remained a mystery.

US scientists, using flight simulators equipped with artificial magnetic fields, found that if they changed the fields the monarchs oriented in the opposite direction, to the north instead of the south.

“Our study shows that monarchs use a sophisticated magnetic inclination compass system for navigation similar to that used by much larger-brained migratory vertebrates such as birds and sea turtles, ” said co-author Robert Gegear, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“For migratory monarchs, the inclination compass may serve as an important back up system when daylight cues are unavailable.

“It may also augment hand-in-hand with the time-compensated sun compass to provide orientation and directionality throughout the migration process.”

To work, the compass is light dependant, relying on a certain wavelength of ultra-violet ray that can penetrate dense cloud.

However this study also opens up the possibility that the monarch survival could be vulnerable to potential disruption of the magnetic field.

“Greater knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the autumn migration may well aid in its preservation, currently threatened by climate change and by the continuing loss of milkweed and overwintering habitats,” said senior study author Steven Reppert of UMass Medical School.

“A new vulnerability to now consider is the potential disruption of the magnetic compass in the monarchs by human-induced electromagnetic noise, which can also affect geomagnetic orientation in migratory birds.”