Rare two-barred warbler in the Netherlands

This video says about itself:

Two-barred Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus)

25 May 2011

Freshly arrived migrant, Two-barred Greenish Warbler, feeding in coastal trees at Lighthouse Point, Beidaihe, NE China.

Dutch Bird Alerts reports that on 23 November, a two-barred [greenish] warbler was ringed in Flevoland province in the Netherlands. It was a young female in winter plumage. See also here.

This species nests in Siberia and northern China and is very rare in western Europe.

Hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper travels 8,000km

This video says about itself:

Journey of Spoon-billed Sandpiper

27 June 2013

The aim of the project was to promote the conservation of a Critically Endangered bird species called Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The population is now less than 200 pairs. Each year, this small shorebird has to fly from their breeding ground at Siberia, Russia down to South East Asia for wintering. The main threats it is facing are intertidal habitat loss throughout its migratory and wintering ranges, as well as bird trapping.

This project involved 500 children and helpers from 12 areas and 8 countries (Russia, Republic of Korea, Japan, mainland China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh). Children helped colouring the animation one picture by one picture. About 1200 pictures were coloured.

The project was organized by the China Programme of BirdLife International/Hong KongBird Watching Society and was sponsored by the Eric Hosking Trust.

From Wildlife Extra:

A hand-reared sandpiper travels 8,000km

November 2013; A rare hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper has been spotted for the first time in the wild, more than 8,000km from where it was released in Russia.

Twenty-five of the critically endangered birds have been raised over two years by an Anglo-Russia conservation team on the Russian tundra, before being released to join their wild-born counterparts in migrating to South-East Asia. However until now it was unknown whether any would be spotted until they return to Russia to breed aged two-years-old, so the news one has been seen in Thailand, on the coast near Bangkok, and another in southern China was welcomed.

WWT Head of Species Conservation Department, Baz Hughes said: “This is really exciting news. We now know that spoon-billed sandpipers, raised by our avicultural staff on the Russian tundra, can migrate with their wild counterparts to wintering areas a quarter of the way around the globe.”

Conservationists take eggs from wild spoon-billed sandpiper nests, prompting the parent birds to lay a further clutch. The hand-reared chicks are safe from predators and, with the wild-raised chicks from the second clutch, it increases the total number of birds fledging by up to ten times. The hand-reared birds are all marked with small white plastic leg flags. Marking birds allows them to be identified later and helps reveal information about their movements and behaviour.

Christoph Zöckler, Coordinator of the East Asian- Australasian Flyway Partnership’s Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force said: “We’ve learnt an enormous amount about spoon-billed sandpipers’ movements over the last few years but there are big gaps. While we still don’t know all the places they stop over on migration, we can’t protect them or address any threats they face there.”

Saving wetlands and their wildlife

This video from the USA says about itself:

(Recorded in 1989) A wacky and entertaining video featuring Bill Nye “The Science Guy” talking about the importance of wetlands. Produced by the Washington State Department of Ecology with funds from the National Oceanic Administration (NOAA) under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

From the University of Essex in England today:

Helping protect the world’s wetland landscapes

23 minutes ago

Action to help preserve some of the world’s most valuable ecosystems is behind a major international project, led by the University of Essex.

The culmination of the five-year project has been the development of an integrated action planning toolkit on wetland conservation and management, which can be adapted to help provide bespoke solutions to protect valuable ecosystems around the globe.

Launched today at events in China, India and Vietnam, the Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) toolkit offers researchers, technical planners and policymakers a systematic approach to conserve and to sustainably manage wetland ecosystems and biodiversity. …

This major initiative focused on highlands in Asia as they often harbor endemic species not found elsewhere or species threatened with extinction globally, such as the marbled eel in China and the golden mahseer and snow trout in India. What is concerning environmentalists is that these valuable ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from deforestation, land-use change, overfishing, flooding and worsening climate change impacts.

Oldest mating insect fossils discovered

This image shows a holotype male, on the right, and allotype female, on the left. Credit: PLoS ONE 8(11): e78188. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078188

From Phys.org today:

Earliest record of copulating insects discovered

1 hour ago

Scientists have found the oldest fossil depicting copulating insects in northeastern China, published November 6th in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Dong Ren and colleagues at the Capital Normal University in China.

Fossil records of mating insects are fairly sparse, and therefore our current knowledge of mating position and genitalia orientation in the early stages of evolution is rather limited.

In this study, the authors present a fossil of a pair of copulating froghoppers, a type of small insect that hops from plant to plant much like tiny frogs. The well-preserved fossil of these two froghoppers showed belly-to-belly mating position and depicts the male reproductive organ inserting into the female copulatory structure.

This is the earliest record of copulating insects to date, and suggests that froghoppers’ genital symmetry and mating position have remained static for over 165 million years. Ren adds, “We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic.”

Good Chinese bird news

This video is called Nordmann’s Greenshank (Yubu Island. October 9, 2013).

From Wildlife Extra:

New hope for two of the most threatened birds in the world

Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank found in record numbers in China

October 2013. An international survey team found a sensational record total of 140 Spoon-billed Sandpiper and 1,200 Nordmann’s Greenshank, two of the rarest and most threatened birds of the world in Rudong Jinagsu Province on the Chinese coastline.

Entire world population

“We believe the entire world population of the adult population of both Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmannn’s Greenshank are staging at the highly productive intertidal flats on the coast of Rudong” stated Dr Nigel Clark from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in the UK, highlighting its vital importance for the survival of both species.

Special wetland reserve created

Representatives of the local and provincial government announced the creation of a special wetland reserve for Spoon-billed Sandpipers during a workshop following the survey. “This is a historic moment in the conservation of the species. For the first time since our efforts to conserve the species began in 2000, we can realistically hope to save the species from extinction” concluded Dr Christoph Zöckler, coordinator of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) Task Force, who organized the survey and workshop with Jing Li and Tong Menxiu from SBS in China.

Intertidal wetlands of outstanding international conservation importance

The survey, conducted by the conservation network SBS in China on October 15th-19th supported by an international team of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) Task Force confirmed the outstanding international conservation importance of intertidal wetlands along the 120km of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong, Jiangsu Province.

Threatened by continuing reclamation for agricultural and industrial development

Many of the most important intertidal wetlands along the Jiangsu coast are threatened by continuing reclamation for agricultural and industrial development. However, local and provincial authorities now recognise the international importance of the area as shown by their announcement of the creation of a new protected area for spoon-billed sandpiper. This, together with two shellfish reserves which overlap with most of the wader feeding areas give the first protection to this vital link in the chain of wetlands that these two species depend on to get from their breeding areas in the arctic to the wintering sites in tropical SE Asia. It is hoped that these fledgling reserves will eventually achieve protection at provincial and national level.

“Our surveys confirm the intertidal wetlands of Rudong as the most important remaining stopover site for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper during its entire 8000km long migration route. Protecting these internationally important intertidal wetlands is vital for the sandpiper’s survival, and also for the maintenance of the shellfishery and other vital services provided by tidal-flats.” stated Jing Li (Coordinator of SBS in China).

As part of this work, Prof. Chang Qing, of Nanjing Normal University, who advises the Forest Department of the Jiangsu Province on environmental issues stated: “We now hope to create a working group of local government and NGOs that involves all stakeholders in the future planning of wetland reserves and their management.”

“I am very pleased to see so many Spoon-billed Sandpiper here in Rudong” concluded Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy of the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources, SBS Task Force Chair. He added: “I will encourage my ministry to include both, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, which breed exclusively in Russia, into the recently signed bilateral agreement on migratory bird conservation between China and Russia.”

November 2013: The People’s Republic of China has designated five more Wetlands of International Importance, bringing its total to 46 Ramsar sites covering over 4 million hectares. Dongfanghong Wetland, located on the transition zone between the Wanda Mountains and the Ussuri River along the border with the Russian Federation, supports rare and globally threatened wildlife such as the critically threatened Baer’s Pochard duck and the endangered Oriental stork and tiger: here.

Waterbirds increase more rapidly in Ramsar wetlands than in unprotected wetlands: here.

Good spoon-billed sandpiper news

This video says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Hatch

Spoon-billed Sandpipers lay 4 eggs in a simple tundra nest comprised of a shallow depression, most often in mosses, lined with a few dwarf willow leaves. The nest is incubated by both adults on half-day shifts — the male most often during the day and the female at night. After 21 days of incubation the eggs begin to hatch in a process that takes a day or more to complete. When the young finally emerge from the nest they stumble about on well-developed legs and feet and begin to feed themselves. After the last chick emerges, the male begins his job of leading the chicks as they grow towards independence about 20 days later; the female soon departs and begins moving south. This piece captures the first moments of life at a wind swept Spoon-billed Sandpiper nest.

Video includes commentary by The Cornell Lab‘s Gerrit Vyn.

Filmed July 7, 2011 near Meinypilgyno, Chukotka, Russia.

Today, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Resighted, 10,000 Miles Later

Some unexpected good news has us looking back at this 2011 video of an endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper hatching its young in Russia. The adult male in this video was recently spotted in wetlands near Shanghai. In the intervening years, this one-ounce bird has flown the 3,200 mile journey between Russia and China three times and is still going strong—a symbolic moment of tenacity and hope for this critically endangered species.

Read the full story of videographer Gerrit Vyn’s encounter with this bird in Last of Their Kind, in our Living Bird magazine.

American rock song on Chinese traditional instrument, video

This 21 September 2013 music video is called Guns ‘N RosesSweet Child o’ MineGuzheng Cover.

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

This Unconventional Cover Of A Guns N’ Roses Song Is Beyond Awesome

Posted: 10/07/2013 11:19 am EDT

Vancouver musician Michelle Kwan rocks out with this most holy of covers, showing that nothing is more rock ‘n’ roll than an ancient Chinese string instrument.

You may not have guessed that a guzheng would so delicately capture the essence of Guns N’ Roses’ harmonious hit “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” In fact, you might not even know what a guzheng is.

For those of you who don’t know, a guzheng is a Chinese plucked zither, related to the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. If you don’t know what those are either, you’ll have to watch the video above to find out.

Enjoy the teenage musician’s unlikely hard rock ode and be warned: things get really intense around 2:37.

Good Chinese crested tern news

From BirdLife:

China’s rarest seabird benefits from colony restoration

Fri, Oct 4, 2013

Until this year, there were only two known breeding colonies of the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini: the Mazu Islands off the coast of Fujian, and the Wuzhishan Islands off Zhejiang.

However, this summer an innovative tern colony restoration project has apparently established another.

Earlier this year, a small island called Tiedun Dao in the Jiushan Islands – an archipelago where Chinese Crested Terns used to breed – was chosen for colony restoration. The restoration team expected it would take some years before there was any hope of attracting the birds back. Their plan was to use decoys and playback tern calls to initially attract Great Crested Terns Sterna bergii to Tiedun Dao. It was hoped that the Great Crested Terns would initially colonise the island, their numbers would then gradually grow, and that Chinese Crested Terns, which have always been found nesting within large colonies of Great Crested Terns, might eventually follow too.

Yet by late September, and at the first attempt, a substantial new colony of Great Crested Terns had arrived on Tiedun Dao, raised hundreds of young and, among them, at least one Chinese Crested Tern chick (below) also successfully fledged.

© Fan Zhongyong

Juvenile Chinese Crested Tern over Tiedun Dao – September 28th, 2013. © Fan Zhongyong

In early May 2013, a team from the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History and Oregon State University cleared vegetation and placed 300 tern decoys on Tiedun Dao. Solar powered playback systems were installed among the decoys broadcasting contact calls of Great and Chinese Crested Terns from the Wuzhishan Islands colony.

A few Great Crested Terns visited during the first week in June and showed some initial nesting behaviour but only stayed a few days. This alone was considered a successful first season for the project. With no further signs of any visiting birds in the following five weeks, the breeding season was thought to be over and monitoring was suspended.

western decoy array

Newly installed decoys and contact call playback equipment. © Stefanie Collar

When another international team including members from BirdLife International, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, the Oregon State University, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History and the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve visited in mid-July, they restarted the playback system. To their surprise and delight, almost immediately a few Great Crested Terns were attracted in and were seen flying above the decoys. Their numbers grew to several hundred within a few days and by the end of July a high count of 2,600 Great Crested Terns had been recorded and hundreds of pairs had laid eggs and begun incubation. Among them were 19 adult Chinese Crested Terns – the highest single count since the species’ rediscovery in 2000. At least two pairs also laid eggs and initiated incubation.  Despite typhoons, that made further monitoring difficult, by late September approximately 600 Great Crested Tern, and at least one Chinese Crested Tern chick, had successfully fledged.

© Fan Zhongyong

Juvenile Great Crested Terns being fed on Tiedun Dao – September 28th, 2013. © Fan Zhongyong

Commenting on the recolonisation project, Mr Yu Mingquan, Deputy Director of the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, who is very pleased with its success, said, “We will do our best to ensure good management of the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve and we also hope to receive more support for the conservation of the tern colony here in Xiangshan.”

“The success on Tiedun Dao is a landmark for contemporary conservation in this region.” responded BirdLife’s Senior Asia Conservation Officer, Simba Chan. “No one dared imagine that the first year of such a challenging restoration project would be so successful, it just goes to show what can happen with a good idea, strong local commitment and a bit of luck.”

Jim Lawrence, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager, also commented, “This is a wonderful example of the conservation success that can be achieved through coordinated international collaboration when it is backed by solid science, local enlightenment and strategic funding support. Congratulations to all concerned.”

This BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme project is sponsored by several international funders including the Japan Fund for Global Environment, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Wildlife Without Borders), the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong and BirdLife International supporter – Mark Constantine. In China, the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History provided vital match funding. These three Chinese organisations also coordinated conservation action in China and provided significant logistical support there that helped make the first year of the project such a resounding success.

Prehistoric fish discovery in China

This video says about itself:

A Silurian placoderm with osteichthyan-like marginal jaw bones

27 Sep 2013

An exceptionally-preserved placoderm from the Silurian of China. Digital dynamic restoration of specimen IVPP V18620 (holotype of Entelognathus primordialis gen. et sp. nov.) showing the cheek complex, sclerotic ring, mandible, submandibular and gular series in external and internal views.

By Molly Michelson in the USA:

Fish Face!

September 27, 2013

Meet your distant relative, Entelognathus primordialis, possibly the first earthling with a face. Or at least a familiar face.

Entelognathus primordialis (where Entelognathus means “complete jaw”) is described this week in Nature. Discovered in a quarry in China, the remarkably well-preserved fossil is somewhat 3D, displaying a modern type of jaw.

E. primordialis is a placoderm, an early class of fish that lived 430 to 360 million years ago. These fish were covered with an armor of bony plates and gave rise to two later groups—bony fish and cartilaginous fish.

The evolution of jaws is one of the key episodes in the evolution of vertebrates, but the gap between jawed and jawless vertebrates is so large that it has been hard to work out the individual evolutionary steps in the transition. Min Zhu and his colleagues hope to make the link with E. primordialis.

The 419 million-year-old fish fossil has jawbone features previously restricted to bony fishes, but has the full body armor seen in placoderms. It would have been around 20 centimeters (eight inches) long.

Prior to this recent find, most scientists agreed that placoderms had no jaw and were more similar to the cartilaginous fish, like modern day sharks, while the bony fishes are believed to be our ancestors. According to Nature News:

Such fishes went on to dominate the seas and ultimately gave rise to land vertebrates.

In addition to facing off with placoderms, the new study puts cartilaginous fishes into a whole new light—perhaps they are even more evolved than previously thought.