Rare birds in Florida


This video is called Birds of Florida.

From the Herald-Tribune in the USA:

Cold winter brings rare birds to Florida

By VALERIE GARMAN
Halifax Media Group

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.

PANAMA CITY BEACH – Bay County has been a destination for a more literal type of snowbird this winter.

Frigid temperatures across the country have brought some migrating birds farther south than they usually fly, with some making the trek all the way from the Arctic Circle.

“We’ve had a number of birds that have been quite rare for Bay County,” Bay County Audubon Society member Neil Lamb said Monday. “Probably the most exciting we’ve seen is a snow bunting that is out at Deepwater Point at St. Andrews State Park, where the [St. Andrew] Pass and Grand Lagoon meet.”

The arctic snow bunting doesn’t usually travel farther south than Ohio for the winter. Ironically, the bird was first spotted by a human snowbird about a week ago among the Savannah sparrows and yellow warblers common to the state park’s sand dunes.

“They’re one of the Arctic regulars and they winter usually down in the Great Plains part of the U.S.,” said Lamb, who led a walk with the Audubon Society on Saturday to seek out the snow bunting. “It’s quite unusual.”

Colder-than-usual temperatures in the northern states also have brought huge numbers of loons and ducks to the area this year.

While most of the visiting loons and ducks are species commonly seen in the winter, Lamb said he also recently spotted another arctic bird, a red-throated loon, among a flock of about 55 others in St. Andrew Bay.

The bay also has served as a winter home to thousands of ducks, more than usual this year, as they fatten up on feasts of fish and shrimp to prepare for the long journey back home.

“If you look at the weather reports, the Great Lakes have been totally frozen over for the first time in years and years,” Lamb said. “When the water’s frozen, the ducks can’t survive on ice. They have wings, so they’ll go where there’s open water.”

Some spotted species include red-breasted mergansers, hooded mergansers and redhead ducks.

Lamb said news of the rare bird sightings also have brought a boost for ecotourism in the area, with bird enthusiasts from across the Southeast hoping to catch a peek.

“It’s been bringing quite a few people into the area,” said Lamb, who noted there are three times as many bird watchers as there are hunters.

Avid birders often upload their finds to an online documentation site, eBird.org, which sends out “rare bird alerts” when unusual species are reported in a user’s region of interest.

“We’re always on alert,” Lamb said.

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Boys’ mass grave at Florida prison discovered


This video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Black & White Boys At Dozier Reform School ‘Worst Nightmare’

10 July 2013

An anthropological investigation into abuse and death at the now closed Arthur G. Dozier Reform School for Boys found a record of 98 students died between 1914 and 1973-19 more than what a state probe previously uncovered. Several men who were boys at Dozier Reform School speak out about the abuse they experienced as students at Dozier.

By Jake Dean in the USA:

Fifty-five bodies found at Florida’s former reform school

5 February 2014

An excavation in the makeshift graveyard at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida last week uncovered 55 bodies in unmarked graves. These grisly findings are in addition to several other bodies found on the grounds of the campus, once housing 1,400, by an initial investigation carried out in 2009 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

The excavation efforts are led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor of forensic anthropology at the University of South Florida, and involve 50 other researchers from nine different agencies in attempting to locate the missing bodies that have been buried there, and to determine the cause of their deaths.

During a press conference, Dr. Kimmerle expressed her motivation for leading this mission: “This project has always been about fulfilling a fundamental human right for families who, like all of us, have a right to know what happened to their loved ones and are entitled to bury their relatives in manner which they deem proper.”

The team used ground-penetrating radar to help find the grave shafts of at least 50 unmarked graves. The actual campus cemetery contains only 13 bodies, marked by pipe crosses to symbolize their death.

During the excavation, the research team found thousands of artifacts, which will help to date and more accurately record the identities of the boys buried. Some of the artifacts include belt buckles, buttons, coffin hardware, and a marble in a boy’s pocket.

Also known as the Florida School for Boys and Florida State Reform School, the juvenile detention center was operated by the state of Florida from 1900 to 2011. Well before the excavation took place, the school was notorious for allegations of physical and sexual assault against the boys incarcerated there. An investigation by the US Justice Department, as well as countless other accusations, led to the institution’s closure on May 26, 2011. Significantly, the official reason given by the state for closing the school was a lack of funds.

The school was intended for boys who committed crimes such as theft and murder. A change in the state’s law, however, lowered the requirement to include minor infractions from “incorrigibility” to “truancy,” leading to an increase in the number of boys who were sent there.

Boys who were sent to the school refer to themselves as the “White House Boys.” The designation refers to the building in the school where abuse took place. Boys as young as five years of age were subjected to beatings and rape, and were hog-tied and locked in isolation, sometimes up to three weeks, in the “White House.”

Students who died at the school were buried in unrecorded locations, and frequently had their deaths cited as “unknown” in the death certificates. School officials on multiple occasions did not report the deaths to the state, and failed to provide a death certificate or conduct any form of investigation. Some of the bodies were burned in the school incinerator, making it impossible to locate all the boys’ bodies in order to determine the cause of death.

As a result of the extensive research conducted by Dr. Kimmerle’s team, it was determined that a minimum of 98 boys died between 1914 and 1973. Many of the victims were young black males, ranging from the ages of 6 to 18. During their research, the team also discovered that 7 died while attempting to escape, and 20 died after having been there less than three months.

It would be no exaggeration, given the number of bodies discovered and the countless anecdotal stories related by those who survived the experience, to assume that many of the deaths did not result from natural causes, but from a range of violent and barbaric acts.

Researchers also suggest that many of the children buried may have been killed. Only further research will establish the cause of their deaths. Five sets of DNA samples have already been sent to the University of North Texas Health Science Center to identify some of the bodies.

The University of South Florida was commissioned on August 6th, 2013, to begin the excavation of remains. Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, had attempted to prevent the investigation by various means, including refusing to authorize the permit for it. The team was forced to appeal to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, when Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet authorized Dr. Kimmerle to begin the excavation.

The first public exposure of the Dozier School took place in October 2008, when five former wards emerged publicly, telling their stories of physical and sexual abuse. The account was published in a Tampa Bay Times series entitled “For Their Own Good.” Since 2008, more than 500 people have come forward with similar stories, all giving similar testimony.

In 2009, a follow-up investigation by the Tampa Bay Times caused the governor to order a state investigation into the accusations. The FDLE, which carried out the investigation, determined in its 18-page report that the deaths of the 31 boys buried at the school were due to a fire that took place in 1914 and a subsequent flu outbreak. The FDLE report only relied on the school’s record to calculate the number of deaths and to map out the cemetery.

The authorities also ruled out allegations that the boys were killed by the guards and buried there. Because of lack of any first-hand information, Florida’s state attorney for the district, Glenn Hess, declined to open any formal criminal investigation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011 launched its own investigation into the school, ultimately leading to its termination. The DOJ released its report on December 2, 2011. Among its findings was the failure of Florida’s oversight system to “detect and sufficiently address harmful practices at both the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and the Jackson Juvenile Offender Center.”

The report also stated that the school failed to properly protect the youth from harm, failed to provide any rehabilitation services in violation of due process rights, displayed indifference to the risk of self-injurious or suicidal behaviors, and implemented unconstitutional means of disciplinary confinement.

Despite the findings from the DOJ and the discovery of the bodies, Florida has yet to even open a criminal investigation of those who worked at the school. Another dig is scheduled for Dr. Kimmerle’s investigative team next month in the hope to find more bodies and to discover the truth behind the deaths of the boys.

The horrors being uncovered in Florida, spanning as they do a century of American history, including the likely attempt by the authorities to cover them up, targeting the most vulnerable sections of the working class, testify once more to the bankruptcy of the present social and political system.

Pennsylvania: Kids for Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals: here.

The U.S. Is Locking People Up For Being Poor: here.

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Leatherback turtles, new study


This video says about itself:

Leatherback Turtles 21 May 2013

These two Leatherback Turtles were observed feeding on Moon Jellies approximately 8 nautical miles Southwest of Mexico Beach, FL. It was amazing how they allowed me to swim within 4 feet of them for about 9 minutes as they fed on Moon Jellies.

From The Robesonian in the USA today:

UNCP professor leads study to help protect leatherbacks

20 hours ago

A blockbuster scientific study that tracked ocean-going leatherback turtles may help save the endangered reptiles whose numbers have plummeted as commercial fishing continues to take a toll.

John Roe, a biology professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and reptile expert, is the lead author of a satellite-tracking study that began more than two decades ago and included 15 scientists from leading universities and institutes. The study tracked 135 leatherback turtles as they trekked across the Pacific Ocean. It was released online on Jan. 8 by The Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) of London and will be published in print form on Feb. 22.

The leatherback population has declined by 90 percent since 1980 due in large part to longline fishing vessels hauling them in as “bycatch.” Using GPS to track the travels of the world’s largest ocean-going turtle, it may be possible to untangle them from the multi-billion dollar fishing industry, Roe said.

“The high profile of this paper helps the turtles’ cause; it’s a huge industrial issue,” Roe said. “It’s an important study, and many conservation groups are behind it.”

The study represents “the largest compilation of satellite-derived position estimates with fisheries information to predict times and locations of bycatch risk for any species of marine vertebrate.” Roe analyzed huge volumes of data, which gives “strong evidence of predictable time and location of leatherback movements” all of which “make the problem of leatherback bycatch more manageable.”

Some of the participating scientists work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitat.

Leatherback turtles travel thousands of miles to and from nesting sites, and their movements are predictable,” Roe said. “They follow jellyfish, their sole food source, and fishermen follow similar patterns.”

It’s difficult to get data from the industry on leatherbacks hooked on longlines, but fishermen do not intentionally catch the large turtles, which can damage their equipment.

The study, which began in 1992 and ran through 2008, is a remarkable cooperative effort among many groups who tag turtles, according to Roe.

“Knowing that many people are putting satellite transmitters on turtles, we were able to collaborate with them to get a better picture of what’s going on in the ocean,” he said.

Universities represented in the ongoing research are UNCP, Indian-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Cornell, Duke, Stanford, Maryland and Drexel. Institutes participating were NOAA and the Leatherback Turtle Conservation Trust. Funding came from the Lenfest Oceans Program of the Pew Charitable Trust, the tagging of Pacific Pelagics Program, Drexel’s Betz Endowment and the Schrey Endowment of Indiana-Purdue.

Several leading international turtle scientists were co-authors, including the study’s senior scientist James Spotila of Drexel, Stephen Morreale of Cornell, and Frank Paladino of Indiana-Purdue, who is Roe’s mentor.

“I was able to maintain a relationship with this group from my time as a post-doctoral fellow,” Roe said. “I pushed the study forward and crunched the numbers.”

As lead author, Roe is also the spokesman for the paper, and interest in the study has been high. Thus far, BBC News, Nature World and Science Daily have reported on it. Roe has done an interview with WHYY, Philadelphia public radio.

Roe said acquiring more data would narrow the field of collisions between turtles and fishing vessels. A related study of leatherbacks in the Atlantic will be published online in the coming months.

“Turtles and whales are in the spotlight globally,” Roe said. “There has been success in some areas like shrimping on the East Coast of the Atlantic where turtle excluder devices have been incorporated in nets. But leatherbacks are not coastal turtles and remain in deep water, which makes regulation more difficult.”

The study identified hot spots of conflict. In the eastern Pacific, leatherbacks are at the highest risk in the South Pacific Gyre, an enormous ocean eddy past the Galapagos Islands and south of the equator. In the western Pacific, the highest potential for bycatch is near nesting beaches of northwest New Guinea.

In Pembroke, Roe stays busy with his students tracking box turtles, a terrestrial species that is North Carolina’s state reptile. Roe, who joined UNCP’s faculty in 2010, earned his doctorate from the University of Canberra, Australia. He has studied turtles and snakes Down Under, across the Pacific and from Michigan to North Carolina.

“I expect to have some papers on box turtles ready for publication in a year, and I am looking at some turtles of conservation concern in the Lumber River,” he said. “There is no shortage of interesting reptiles.”

See also here.

The last large populations of the leatherback turtle are at risk because their migratory routes in the Atlantic Ocean clash with the locations of industrial fisheries, a new study shows: here.

Just recently in San Jose, Costa Rica police officers rescued a leatherback sea turtle from poachers who planned to kill the animal and sell it. Apparently these poachers who planned to capture the sea turtle were doing illegal actions. In Costa Rica selling a leatherback sea turtle or its eggs is illegal because these kinds of turtles are endangered. However, on the black market leatherback turtles sell for very high prices, which is most likely why poachers were trying to capture this marine animal: here.

The Definitive Ranking Of Animals Riding On Turtles: here.

Florida great white shark research


This video is called Jonathan Bird’s Blue World: Great White Sharks.

From The Florida Times-Union in the USA:

Scientists track great white sharks off Fla.

By MATT SOERGEL

Published: January 20, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – The search for great white sharks just off the coast of Jacksonville is about to get a lot more serious.

By the end of this month, the University of North Florida‘s shark-­research program expects to place as many as 10 sensors in the Atlantic.

The devices will be near the beach, perhaps a half-mile or mile from the sand. The great whites come in close.

The nonprofit shark research group Ocearch last January tracked a 16½-foot great white named Mary Lee in the surf zone in Jacksonville Beach.

They then brought their research vessel on an expedition to Jacksonville and caught and tagged 14-foot Lydia. Meanwhile, the satellite tag on Katharine showed that shark hanging around near Cape Canaveral.

GPS devices, caught by satellite every time they rise to the surface, track the Ocearch sharks.

The sensors store information but can’t transmit it instantly; it will have to wait until researchers travel to them and download the data.

Jim Gelsleichter, a shark expert at UNF, said his school’s sensors will most likely be attached to buoys in Nassau Sound, Fort George Inlet, the Mayport area, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine.

Chris Fischer, founder of Ocearch, is on an expedition in the Galapagos Islands. He said he was “thrilled” by the new sensors off Jacksonville, calling them a crucial link in researchers’ understanding of great whites.

Placing the sensors close to shore is a big plus, too, Fischer said. The tracking devices show some great whites spend much more time poking into inlets and cruising along beaches than was once believed.

“What’s really surprised us is the coastal portion of their life, which particularly seems significant in the Southeast,” he said.

Ocearch’s high-profile spottings of great whites in the area created a buzz. Mary Lee, a celebrity shark, even has a Facebook page.

It’s unclear whether there are more great whites off Jacksonville.

“Finding white sharks is tough,” said Greg Skomal, a shark expert at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries who accompanies the Ocearch vessel on its expedition to Jacksonville. “Counting them is even tougher.”

But Skomal said there has definitely been a big rebound in the great white population off Cape Cod.

Thanks to tracking devices implanted in Cape Cod sharks, scientists know they frequently range as far south as Florida. So it seems likely that more Cape Cod sharks equals more Florida sharks.

“I don’t think it’s any reason to run up and down the beach screaming,” UNF’s Gelsleichter said. “But the scientist in me is curious about it.”

Gelsleichter, an assistant professor of biology, has been fascinated by sharks since he saw “Jaws” at age 6.

He’s now directing the university’s Shark Biology Program, which studies the many species of sharks in the area. Great whites, the apex predator of the ocean, attract the most media attention, even if they’re not much of a threat to humans on the East Coast.

In July 2012, a swimmer was bitten off Cape Cod and survived; that was the first great white shark injury there in 75 years, Gelsleichter said.

Meanwhile, the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History said there has not been a single documented instance in Florida’s recorded history of a great white attacking a human.

Scientists once thought the animals summered off Cape Cod and wintered in the Southeast, a pretty simple pattern.

But it looks now that they’re off the Southeast coast, even during warmer months. “We’re seeing good evidence to show that the animals are not just winter residents,” Gelsleichter said.

UNF’s devices will be able to pick up any of the Ocearch-tagged sharks, along with about 20 others tagged by harpooners off Cape Cod. Each shark emits a distinct signal, so scientists will be able to identify and track each one.

UNF already has three devices working, but they’re at popular diving spots far offshore. They picked up the presence of two great whites last winter.

Much remains to be learned about the travel patterns and life cycles of the great white.

“I think definitely that we’re an important part of the puzzle,” Gelsleichter said.

After lingering off the Volusia County coast for about a month, Katharine, a 2,300-pound great white shark, moved north this week, but only to Flagler County: here.

Great white sharks live much, much longer than we thought and that has huge implications for conservation efforts: here.

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Snowy owl moves to Terschelling island


This video from the USA is called Arctic Snowy Owl Spotted In Florida As U.S. Becomes Frozen Tundra.

First, there was a snowy owl present on Texel island in the Netherlands. Then, it moved to Vlieland island. This afternoon, about 2pm, the owl flew from Vlieland to Terschelling island. To the coastal dunes of Terschelling.

UPDATE 22 January 2014: the Vlieland owl is not the same as the Terschelling one.

On the other hand, the northern hawk-owl is still on the same spot today in Zwolle city in the Netherlands.

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Bahraini torture princes in Florida Ironman


This video says about itself:

I was sexually assaulted and tortured to extract false confession – Bahraini medic.

31 March 2013

She explained that she was arrested from her own apartment along with 19 other doctors who disappeared from their homes and hospitals.

While the Bahraini absolute monarchy‘s police keep oppressing free speech and art, and while some of the Bahraini royals are on a very expensive (for both the Bahraini and the Greek people) holiday in Greece … other Bahraini royals are in Florida, USA.

By Erin McDonough in the USA:

Bahrain Royals Lead Team In Ironman, Despite Torture Allegations

10/30/2013 5:26 pm EDT

Two Bahraini princes, Nasser and Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa are currently training in Florida for the upcoming Ironman [Triathlon] competition, which takes place on Saturday. Bahraini human rights organizations have accused both men of serious human rights offenses. Rachel Burke Peterson, Director of Communications at Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, joined HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin to discuss whether or not the US government and the Ironman competition should take action in order to address the alleged human rights violations.

Following the advent of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, pro-democracy protests erupted across Bahrain in the winter of 2011. The ruling regime responded with an immediate crackdown, deploying a strong security force.

The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights reports that both Nasser and Khalid Khalifa were responsible for the torture of several pro-democracy protesters. Further, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has reported that “Following [Nasser Khalifa’s] directives more than 150 professional athletes, coaches and referees were subjected to arbitrary arrests, night raids, detention, abuse and torture by electric cables and other means.”

Peterson said that the Ironman organization should address these reports and hold the Khalifa brothers accountable for any human rights abuses.

“Our main concern is that to allow them to participate in the Ironman competition… it sets a precedent,” she said, “that…those that commit human rights abuses are no longer going to be held to standards that we would consider to be international.”

While Peterson expressed frustration with the lack of reportage on this story, she feels that overall the US government is increasingly willing to censure Bahrain for human rights crimes.

“We are seeing a turn in the US narrative towards Bahrain and our hope is that [this turn] will [continue to] strengthen,” she said, “and that the United States’ government as well as other leaders throughout the world can encourage the government of Bahrain to stop its human rights violations, to end the culture of impunity, and to listen to their citizens’ demands.”

I hope that Ms Peterson is right on what she perceives as maybe the beginning of a rift between Washington and its dictatorial Bahraini royal allies. Lately, there are indeed some signs of such a beginning of a rift between the US government and the regime of Bahrain; and the regime of Saudi Arabia. This is because so far, there has not been a United States military attack on Syria. Some Gulf royals see that postponement (let us hope: postponement for ever) of such a bloody attack as a sign that President Obama is a “pussy“; contrary to the strong involvement of Gulf royals (including the Bahraini torture royals now in Florida) in fanning the fires of war in Syria.

However, in the near future, there may very well be strong pressure on Obama by the military-industrial complex, by neo-conservatives and by “liberal hawks” within his own administration, to show that he is not a “pussy” by having a bloody attack on Syria after all. If there would be such a dangerous escalation of war, then one may expect strongly that Washington would drop even its most timid criticisms of human rights violations by the Bahraini, Saudi, etc. autocrats; in the name of not upsetting valuable allies in supposedly “humanitarian” warfare.

Panama City Race Organizers, Police Won’t Scrutinize Bahraini Royals Accused Of Abuse: here.

Wanted for Justice in Bahrain: Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa: here.

Bahrain police close art display on pro-democracy uprising: here.

Britain: Google says there was a report, an hour ago, in the Daily Telegraph; headlined Prince Charles risks controversy by meeting Bahraini leader. However, that page has mysteriously disappeared on the Telegraph site. (Self-)censorship?

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