Bewick’s swan cygnet loses its parents


This video from England is called WWT Slimbridge: Bewick’s swans feeding on maize in the frost.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bewick’s swans migrate but leave cygnet behind

February 2014: A Bewick’s swan cygnet appears to have abandoned by his parents at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire. Yesterday WWT researcher Julia Newth, who recognises the hundreds of swans in the flock by their individual face markings, saw that one family had acquired an additional youngster.

The lone cygnet has latched onto Slimbridge regulars Wooton and Stinchcombe and their four cygnets, but is spending much of its time calling in the hope of being reunited with its own parents.

Bewick’s swans migrate in large family groups and due to recent mild weather all but 10 of the Slimbridge flock have departed already.

Julia Newth said: “Occasionally, cygnets become separated from their parents during migration when there is perhaps bad weather, but it is rather more unusual to see such a separation before the journey has begun.

“We’re all waiting to see whether the parents return. If they don’t, and the cygnet leaves with its adopted family, we will call on our extensive network of swan researchers along the 2,500 mile journey to Russia to keep an eye out for them and check whether the lone cygnet manages to stay with them.”

Away from Slimbridge, where the swans are uniquely recorded by their facial markings, the swans are tracked by coded plastic rings on their legs. The lone cygnet has not been ringed but its adopted parents, Wooton and Stinchcombe, have white leg rings with the codes BAU and BAS.

Along the 2,500 mile migration between Slimbridge and Arctic Russia, the swans rely heavily on a chain of wetland sites for opportunities to rest and feed.

The Bewick’s swan study at Slimbridge celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month. Its findings have opened up the social structure of Bewick’s swans’ lives, revealing their lifelong pairing and strong family bonds. The longest-running dynasty is known as the ‘gambling’ dynasty, after a young swan was ringed and named Casino in 1971. Over the years that she returned to WWT Slimbridge she brought back 32 cygnets, who in turn have brought back cygnets of their own. This winter, three generations of the family have stayed at WWT Slimbridge, bringing their own respective partners and families, making them one of the most dominant and successful dynasties in the flock.

The study has also revealed the occasional anomaly, such as in 2010 when a regular pair, Saruni and Sarindi, returned with different partners. It was only the second instance of a swan ‘divorce’ in the entire study of more than 4,000 pairs.

For more information on swans visit www.wwt.org.uk/swans.

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English Sandwich tern migration to Africa


This video from England is called Sandwich terns return to RSPB Coquet Island.

From the Farne Islands Blog in England:

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Mines a double!

Saturday 22nd February comments: This summer, for the first time on the Farne Islands, we ringed just over 100 Sandwich Tern chicks with small red darvics; special red plastic rings which have a unique three letter code enabling observers to read them in the ‘field’ with telescopes.

As a result we had a ‘return’ from a beach in Gambia in November as bird ‘UFA’ was spotted roosting amongst other terns on a beach. Now make that a double. News has just arrived that another of our Sandwich Terns has been seen, this time further south of Gambia in the Bijagos Archipelago off Guinee-Bissau. The bird fitted with the red darvic ‘UKS’ was noted on 22nd January.

This sighting shows you the value of such a ringing scheme and we hope this is the first of many sightings in future years so if you’re going abroad this winter, you may be a lot closer to the Farnes than you think!

Sandwich Tern ‘UKS’ movements:

17th July 2013 ringed as a chick on Inner Farne
13th August 2013 seen at Findhorn Bay, Moray
18th August 2013 seen again at Findhorn Bay, Moray
22nd January seen on a beach at Bubaque, Guinee-Bissau

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Prehistoric human discovery in England


This video from Britain says about itself:

The earliest human footprints outside Africa found in Norfolk | Natural History Museum

7 Feb 2014

A series of footprints that were left by early humans over 800,000 years ago have been discovered by a team of scientists led by the British Museum, Natural History Museum and Queen Mary University of London.

The footprints left in ancient estuary muds were found at Happisburgh in Norfolk and are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe. Find out more about the discovery: here.

Archaeological finds from Happisburgh and other locations around the country feature in our Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition, open between 13 February and 28 September 2014: here.

From Associated Press:

Million-year-old footprints found

Last updated 15:42 08/02/2014

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists have announced the discovery of human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

A team from the British Museum, London’s Natural History Museum and Queen Mary college at the University of London uncovered imprints from up to five individuals in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh on the country’s eastern coast.

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was ‘‘a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.’’

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors.

They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

University of Southampton archaeology professor Clive Gamble, who was not involved in the project, said the discovery was ‘‘tremendously significant”.

‘‘It’s just so tangible,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the closest we’ve got to seeing the people. ‘‘When I heard about it, it was like hearing the first line of (William Blake’s hymn) Jerusalem — ‘And did those feet, in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green?’ Well, they walked upon its muddy estuary.’’

The researchers said the humans who left the footprints may have been related to Homo antecessor, or ‘‘pioneer man,’’ whose fossilised remains have been found in Spain.

That species died out about 800,000 years ago. Ashton said the footprints are between 800,000 — ‘‘as a conservative estimate’’ — and 1 million years old, at least 100,000 years older than scientists’ earlier estimate of the first human habitation in Britain.

That’s significant because 700,000 years ago, Britain had a warm, Mediterranean-style climate. The earlier period was much colder, similar to modern-day Scandinavia. Natural History Museum archaeologist Chris Stringer said that 800,000 or 900,000 years ago Britain was ‘‘the edge of the inhabited world.’’

‘This makes us rethink our feelings about the capacity of these early people, that they were coping with conditions somewhat colder than the present day,’’ he said.

‘‘Maybe they had cultural adaptations to the cold we hadn’t even thought were possible 900,000 years ago. Did they wear clothing? Did they make shelters, windbreaks and so on?

”Could they have the use of fire that far back?’’ he asked.

Scientists dated the footprints by studying their geological position and from nearby fossils of long-extinct animals including mammoth, ancient horse and early vole.

John McNabb, director of the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins at the University of Southampton — who was not part of the research team — said the use of several lines of evidence meant ‘‘the dating is pretty sound.’’

Once uncovered, the perishable prints were recorded using sophisticated digital photography to create 3-D images in which it’s possible to discern arches of feet, and even toes.

Isabelle De Groote, a specialist in ancient human remains at Liverpool John Moores University who worked on the find, said that from the pattern of the prints, the group of early humans appeared to be ‘‘pottering around,’’ perhaps foraging for food. She said it wasn’t too much of a stretch to call it a family.

‘‘These individuals travelling together, it’s likely that they were somehow related,’’ she said. Research at Happisburgh will continue, and scientists are hopeful of finding fossilised remains of the ancient humans, or evidence of their living quarters, to build up a fuller picture of their lives. The footprint find will form part of an exhibition, ‘‘Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story,’’ opening at the Natural History Museum next week.

The footprints themselves, which survived for almost 1 million years, won’t be there. Two weeks after they were uncovered, North Sea tides had washed them away.

The oldest human footprints ever discovered outside of Africa have already been washed away: here.

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English roe deer swimming, video


This video from Britain says about itself:

Wildlife Weekly – Episode 10

6 Feb 2014

Oh deer, we are up to our necks in it!

It isn’t just surfers who find novel ways of negotiating the Severn Bore.

These beautiful roe deer decided to swim for it when it [sic; they] passed by WWT Slimbridge at the weekend.

This week’s Wildlife Weekly presented by Dave Paynter takes us out in the thick of it for a look at the wet weather and the conditions this has created on WWT Slimbridge‘s famous reserve.

We also visit Geoff Hilton, one of the scientists working in our Conservation team here, who shows how they are able to track the lives of geese on their journeys across the planet.

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Jackdaws communicate with their eyes, new research


This video from Britain says about itself:

The eyes have it

5 Feb 2014

Researchers in Cambridge and Exeter have discovered that jackdaws use their eyes to communicate with each other — the first time this has been shown in non-primates.

While what humans do with their eyes has been well studied, we know almost nothing about whether birds communicate with members of the same species with their eyes.

The new study, published today in Biology Letters, shows that jackdaw eyes are used as a warning signal to successfully deter competitors from coming near their nest boxes.

See more here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Jackdaws communicate with their eyes say scientists

February 2014: Jackdaws use their eyes to communicate with each other say scientists, the first time this has been shown in non-primates.

The researchers in Cambridge and Exeter found jackdaws use their eyes as a warning signal to successfully deter competitors from coming near their nest boxes.

Gabrielle Davidson of the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “Jackdaw eyes are very unusual. Unlike their close relatives, the rooks and crows – which have very dark eyed – jackdaw eyes are almost white and their striking pale irises are very conspicuous against their dark feathers.”

Just before the spring breeding season arrived last year, Davidson installed one of four different pictures in 100 jackdaw nest. The pictures were either black (the control), a pair of jackdaw eyes, a pair of jackdaw eyes in a jackdaw’s face, or a jackdaw’s face with a pair of black rook eyes. She then filmed the effect the different pictures had on the birds’ behaviour.

“Jackdaws are unique among the crow family in that they nest in cavities in trees. These hollows are natural – the birds cannot excavate their own nest cavities as some woodpeckers do – so they have to compete for a limited resource. And because jackdaws nest in close proximity to each other, they fight a lot to gain the best nesting sites,” she explained.

After analysing 40 videos of jackdaws peeking into each other’s nest boxes, she found that compared with the other nest boxes, those that contained the picture of a jackdaw with its bright eyes was much more likely to deter the birds from landing on it, and that the birds spent less time near such a nest box.

“Before now we knew very little about why some birds have brightly coloured eyes. In jackdaws, the pale eyes may function to improve their ability to defend their nest and chicks from competitors. It also raises the question of whether this is unique to jackdaws, or if other cavity nesting birds also use their eyes in a similar way,” she said.

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Birds wintering in England, video


This video from England says about itself:

Slimbridge WWT Jan 2014 an amazing wetland!

29 Jan 2014

Thousands of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Wigeons and Common Cranes enjoy the Slimbridge reserve in full flood.

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Darwin’s childhood garden now Wildlife Trust property


This video from England is called Visit Charles Darwin‘s Shrewsbury, the birthplace of evolution!

From Wildlife Extra:

Darwin’s garden purchased

January 2014: A wooden remnant of naturalist Charles Darwin’s childhood garden in Shrewsbury, Shropshire has been bought by Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

“No other part of Darwin’s childhood home is accessible to the public, so when we were offered the chance to buy this slip of woodland next to the river, we were thrilled at the opportunity to open up a cherished corner of his world,” said Colin Preston, Director of Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

While much of the land previously attached to The Mount, his birthplace, has disappeared under housing, other parts survived in private gardens, including the land the Trust has bought.

Through the wood, alongside an ice house once used by the Darwins, runs a path with views down to the River Severn. It was here 200 years ago, that the young Darwin was sent every day before breakfast to walk the path at the bottom of the garden. It was known as the Thinking Path and provided a regular time for thought and reflection. The habit became ingrained in Darwin’s daily routine and when he and his wife Emma bought Down House in Kent, they made their own Sandwalk through the grounds, carrying on the tradition of morning walks with their children.

The Trust intends to restore the Thinking Path, open up views and carry out essential boundary and safety work. The garden will be opened for group visits at various times throughout the year and schoolchildren will have the chance to walk in Darwin’s footsteps, inspiring them to enjoy and explore the natural world.

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Women can sing in British Canterbury Cathedral at last


This video from England is called Canterbury cathedral’s first girls choir to make debut.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Canterbury Cathedral‘s girls’ choir to break 1,000 years of all-male tradition

Tonight a 900-year tradition of male-only choirs at Canterbury Cathedral will come to an end, when the brand-new Canterbury Cathedral Girls’ Choir makes its debut at Sung Evensong

11:09AM GMT 25 Jan 2014

One of Britain’s most ancient cathedrals will put an end to more than a thousand years of all-male tradition today, when a girls’ choir is due to make its debut.

Canterbury Cathedral has had various forms of sung worship since it was founded towards the end of the Dark Ages, back in the sixth century.

But the singers have always been male.

All that will change when the voices of 16 schoolgirls will soar towards the cathedral’s vaulted ceiling on Saturday.

The girls, aged between 12 and 16, were chosen after rigorous auditions led by choirmaster David Newsholme.

“They all wanted the opportunity to sing in this magnificent building,” he said. “They felt rightly that this was going to be an historic event and they wanted to be a part of that.”

Unlike members of the boys’ choir, who live at the cathedral and rehearse every day, the girls come together just once a week.

Canterbury is not the first British cathedral to have a girls’ choir – others took the lead some 20 years ago – but the move has special resonance as Canterbury is the mother church of the world’s 80 million-strong Anglican community.

It is also another sign of change in an institution that’s struggling to achieve consensus on the divisive issues of female bishops and gay clergy.

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Students discover new supernova


The new supernova discovery by University College London

From University College London in England:

Supernova in Messier 82 discovered by UCL students

22 January 2014

Updated 23 Jan 2014 – 9:30am

Students and staff at UCL’s teaching observatory, the University of London Observatory, have spotted one of the closest supernova to Earth in recent decades. At 19:20 GMT on 21 January, a team of students – Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack – assisted by Dr Steve Fossey, spotted the exploding star in nearby galaxy Messier 82 (the Cigar Galaxy).

The discovery was a fluke – a 10 minute telescope workshop for undergraduate students that led to a global scramble to acquire confirming images and spectra of a supernova in one of the most unusual and interesting of our near-neighbour galaxies.

“The weather was closing in, with increasing cloud,” Fossey says, “so instead of the planned practical astronomy class, I gave the students an introductory demonstration of how to use the CCD camera on one of the observatory’s automated 0.35–metre telescopes.”

The students chose M 82, a bright and photogenic galaxy as their target, as it was in one of the shrinking patches of clear sky. While adjusting the telescope’s position, Fossey noticed a ‘star’ overlaid on the galaxy which he did not recognise from previous observations.

They inspected online archive images of the galaxy, and it became apparent that there was indeed a new star-like object in M 82. With clouds closing in, there was hardly time to check: so they switched to taking a rapid series of 1 and 2 minute exposures through different coloured filters to check that the object persisted, and to be able to measure its brightness and colour.

Meanwhile, they started up a second telescope to obtain a second source of data, to ensure the object was not an instrumental artefact. By about 19:40 GMT, the cloud cover was almost complete, but it was just possible to make out the new object in the second data set: this was a real astronomical source.

There were no online reports of any prior discoveries of this object, so it seemed clear that this was a new transient source, such as a supernova. It was important to move quickly to alert astronomers worldwide to confirm the discovery, and most importantly, to obtain a spectrum – which would confirm whether or not it was a supernova, rather than some other phenomenon, such as an asteroid that happened to lie in front of the galaxy.

Fossey prepared a report for the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the organisation that catalogues supernovae. He also alerted a US-based supernova search team who have access to spectroscopic facilities.

Spectra collected by astronomers at other observatories around the world suggest that it is a Type Ia supernova, caused by a white dwarf star pulling matter off a larger neighbouring star until it becomes unstable and explodes.

The IAU’s official report last night (UK time; daytime 22 January in the US), confirms that Fossey was the first to report the new supernova, and gives the supernova the designation SN 2014J.

The two images here show the Cigar Galaxy before and during the event. Above, an image taken on 10 December 2013, and below the image taken by the students on 21 January 2014. A bright spot of light (labelled) is clearly visible, even though the exposure is shorter and the rest of the galaxy appears darker.

The supernova is one of the nearest to be observed in recent decades. The closest by far since the invention of the telescope was Supernova 1987A (the remnant of which was recently studied by UCL astronomers) in February 1987, located at a distance of 168 000 light years. This discovery is more distant at around 12 million light years, about the same as the 1993 discovery of a supernova in nearby Messier 81.

The students said:

Ben Cooke: “The chances of finding anything new in the sky is astronomical but this was particularly astounding as it was one of the first images we had taken on this telescope. My career plan had been to continue my studies in astrophysics. It’s going to be hard to ever top this though!“

Guy Pollack: “It was a surreal and exciting experience taking images of the unidentified object as Steve ran around the observatory verifying the result. I’m very chuffed to have helped in the discovery of the M 82 Supernova.“

Tom Wright: “One minute we’re eating pizza then five minutes later we’ve helped to discover a supernova. I couldn’t believe it. It reminds me why I got interested in astronomy in the first place.”

Matt Wilde: “To be honest it was just a really odd experience. We were expecting a standard quick look through the telescope and a chance to use the camera for the first time before the clouds moved in, that’s all. When we started looking and Steve began getting a bit more excited none of us could really believe what was going on. I can’t wait to get back on a telescope next week now.“

Notes

Magnitudes of the supernova were measured from discovery images in R and V filters, obtained in poor sky conditions, with reference to the nearby star BD +70 587. The object’s magnitude is estimated to be: V=11.7 (2014 Jan 21.818), R=10.5 (2014 Jan 21.805). This is bright enough to see with a good quality amateur telescope.

Astronomers for the first time have imaged the core of a supernova in its final minutes: here.

Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system, lets off steam: here.

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Small bat crosses sea from England to the Netherlands


This video from Britain says about itself:

Nathusius pipistrelle bats advertising for mates

2 Nov 2012

Each autumn male Nathusius pipistrelle bats “sing” to attract mates. They often do this from mating roosts in buildings, trees and bat boxes. In this video you can see and hear one of these tiny bats advertising from underneath a roof tile. I’ve slowed and lowered the frequency of the call so you can hear the fabulous vocalisations that these amazing bats produce.

In 2012, 34 Nathusius pipistrelle bats were ringed in Blagdon in England.

Now, NOS TV in the Netherlands reports that one of these small bats was found in the Netherlands, late in 2013.

The pipistrelle was found dead at a farm in Franekeradeel local authority in Friesland province; about 500 meter from the sea coast.

Until now, it was not known that Nathusius pipistrelle bats were able to cross the North Sea. They are too small for attaching GPS gear to them.

See also here. And here.

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