Good green turtle news from Ascension island


This video is called Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Eating.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife reaps huge benefits from Ascension Island’s new conservation legislation

The remote UK overseas territory of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, has achieved remarkable results in conserving its green turtle populations.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department report that the number of green turtles nesting has increased by more than 500 per cent since records began in the 1970s.

As many as 24,000 nests are now estimated to be laid on the island’s main beaches every year, making it the second largest nesting colony for this species in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a paper in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

Lead author Dr Sam Weber said: “The increase has been dramatic. Whereas in the 1970s and 80s you would have been lucky to find 30 turtles on the island’s main nesting beach on any night, in 2013 we had more than 400 females nesting in a single evening.”

The Ascension Island’s government has announced that it is committing a fifth of the territory’s land area to biodiversity conservation.

New legislation enacted by the island’s governor, Mark Capes, has created seven new nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that include the island’s three main turtle nesting beaches, along with globally important seabird colonies that are home to more than 800,000 nesting seabirds.

The legislation was developed as a result of a two-year project run by the Ascension Island Government and the University of Exeter to develop a national biodiversity action plan for the territory.

Dr Nicola Weber, Ascension Island Government’s Head of Conservation, said: “The decision to give legal protection to our most iconic wildlife sites follows extensive public consultation and has received a high level of support from across of the community.

“It speaks volumes as to how seriously environmental stewardship is currently taken on the Island”.

Dr Annette Broderick, who is leading the project for the University of Exeter and who has been researching sea turtles on Ascension Island for the past 15 years, said: “Green turtles were an important source of food for those on the island and passing ships would take live turtles onboard to ensure fresh meat for their voyage.

“Ships returning to the UK would stock up with turtles for the Lords of the Admiralty, who had a penchant for turtle soup.

“Records show a dramatic decline in the number of turtles harvested each year as fewer and fewer came to nest and since the 1950s no turtles have been harvested.

“We are now seeing the population bounce back, although our models suggest we have not yet reached pre-harvest levels.”

Turtles were legally protected on Ascension Island in 1944 and the population began its slow climb back.

“Because sea turtles take so long to reach breeding age, we are only now beginning to see the results of conservation measures introduced decades ago,” said Dr Weber.

“It just goes to show how populations of large, marine animals can recover from human exploitation if we protect them over long enough periods.”

See also here. And here.

This video is called Conservation on Ascension.

Young Laysan albatross webcam update


This video from Hawaii is called Laysan Albatross, Eye Of An Albatross & Kaloakulua Struts Her Stuff, 5/5/14.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, about Kauai island in Hawaii:

The young Laysan Albatross Kaloakulua has now entered a transitional stage where much of her down has been replaced by shiny new adult feathers. Her remaining downy fluff will disappear over the coming weeks as she nears her first flight. During her daily explorations she has discovered the other albatross chick in the yard and has even begun running and flapping her wings! Tune in and enjoy the world through albatross eyes. Watch the webcam here.

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Thousands of dolphins, video


This video says about itself:

Drones Over Dolphin Stampede and Whales off Dana Point and Maui

25 February 2014

Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, at great personal risk, has recently filmed and edited a 5-minute video that contains some of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, footage ever taken with a drone from the air of a huge mega-pod of thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, and heartwarming close-ups hovering over a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom as an escort whale stands guard nearby, filmed recently in Maui.

According to N.O.A.A. Southern California has the greatest density of dolphins in the world. We have pods up to 10,000 strong stretched out for miles like the wildebeests of Africa. Over 400,000 common dolphin alone. We also have the largest concentration of blue whales on earth.

Capt. Dave explains, “This is the most beautiful and compelling five minute video I have ever put together. I learned so much about these whales and dolphins from this drone footage that it feels like I have entered a new dimension! I have not been this excited about a new technology since we built our underwater viewing pods on our whale watching boat. Drones are going to change how we view the animal world. Wow!”

Capt. Dave had to film this off a small inflatable boat, launching and catching the quadcopter drone by hand where a miss could mean injury to him from the four propeller blades or loss of the drone. He actually lost one drone on takeoff when it nicked his small VHF radio antenna on the 14 foot rigid inflatable he was filming from and it went into the water. Alone six miles offshore Capt. Dave , without thinking , dove into the cold, late-January waters off Dana Point to retrieve the valuable footage taken on a flight a half hour earlier that morning. “I had my hat and glasses on, I was fully clothed with long-johns on to keep warm and my cell phone and wallet in my pocket,” Captain Dave explained. “It was a stupid move, but the copter started sinking so fast it was my only hope to get the amazing footage I had just shot”. Since then he has attached flotation to the skids, which would save the footage, but every flight over the water still risks the DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter with a small GoPro HERO3 Black camera on it, as the $1,700 rig is not waterproof and the skids will not keep it upright on the ocean.

“I get so nervous every flight over the water now, after the accident, my hands start shaking,” explains Capt. Dave. “My wife says no more drones if I lose this one. But she said that before I lost the other one. Now that she’s seen what it can do, I think she’s just as hooked as I am”.

“This technology, that offers such steady footage from the air for such a low price and is so easy to fly, is new. This was a ten or twenty thousand dollar copter a few years ago and flying those took a great deal of skill. I can’t wait to see what footage this year will bring with this drone, getting a different perspective on the amazing sightings we already have off Dana Point. There is debate in many states right now about making use of these drones illegal. People are justifiably concerned about invasion of privacy. But it would be a shame to have this new window into a whale’s world taken away.”

Entanglement in fishing gear takes the lives of nearly 1,000 dolphins and whales ever day around the world. Captain Dave formed Orange County’s first whale disentanglement group in 2008 and has been involved in disentangling several whales, including a gray whale named Lily, whose disentanglement in Dana Point Harbor made national headlines. He authored the award-winning book, “Lily, A Gray Whale‘s Odyssey”, which won eight awards in 2013 including the prestigious Benjamin Franklin award for Best New Voice from the Independent Book Publishers Association.

A Special Note From Captain Dave:

Attention any would be whale videographers: please only attempt this if you are extremely familiar with whale behavior as it is illegal to do anything that causes the whales to change their normal behavior with big fines- and the authorities do watch YouTube. Different areas have different laws on approaching whales. I am a whale watch captain with nearly 20 years of experience. All laws were obeyed by us during filming. In Maui we sat watching whales from a distance for hours before they moved closer to us. You can never approach them there closer than 100 yards. The Mom and calf as you can see in the film were completely undisturbed by the small drone. NOAA is currently reviewing drones and may create laws or guidelines for using them around whales.

Fully licensed music by David Hollandsworth, themusicase.com.

Video footage is copyright David Anderson/DolphinSafari.com and may not be used without permission.

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Young Laysan albatross practice courtship


This video from Kauai island in Hawaii says about itself:

28 Feb 2014

The afternoon for our Laysan albatross nestling started with a quick feed from the male parent Kaluakane. What happened afterwards was a surprise; two banded non-breeding albatross (K405 and K256) were caught on the cam practicing courtship in front of our nestling. An un-banded non-breeder also joins in the dance. This clip shows highlights from the courtship, the entire event continued for almost 30 minutes.

To watch the Laysan Albatross cam live visit here.

For regular updates see our Twitter feed.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes about this video:

The young birds are between about 3 and 7 years old. They have no nests of their own and are just starting to learn their elaborate courtship dance—and this afternoon they decided to practice on camera. It’s a bewildering, sometimes ear-splitting set of head-bobbing, bill-clacking, whinnying, moaning, preening, and nuzzling.

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World’s oldest bird has baby


Albatross Wisdom and her baby, photo by Ann Bell/USFWS

From Business Insider:

At 63, The World’s Oldest Wild Bird Just Had A Baby

Jennifer Welsh

Feb. 7, 2014, 2:37 PM

At 63 years young, the oldest wild bird that we know of, Wisdom the Laysan albatross, has had another baby!

Almost exactly a year after her last chick was born, the new baby started cracking out of its shell. Refuge workers first spotted the baby bird on Feb. 4, according to the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The birds live on the on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Hawaiian archipelago. They arrive every year to mate, build a nest, lay an egg and incubate it, then hatch and brood their chick. The birds mate for life and take turns sitting on the egg.

It takes 365 days to lay and incubate the egg, then raise the chick. The albatross only lays one egg a year and then usually takes a breeding year off. But Wisdom amazingly, usually has a new chick each year.

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Albatross nest webcam on the Internet


This video is called Dancing Laysan Albatrosses.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Watch an Albatross Family Grow—Live From Hawaii

We’re betting this is the smallest albatross you’ll ever see: a three-day-old Laysan Albatross chick on our newest Bird Cam. Two months ago, its parents built a nest on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, and started taking turns incubating. We visited last week to install one of our high-definition nest cameras just as the chick began to pip out of its egg. (Watch now)

Don’t miss this chance to watch a new life develop into an animal whose elegance, power, and beauty have inspired cultures across the North Pacific and sailors from around the world. Our pan-tilt-zoom camera offers great views of the beautifully marked adults and the wispy-feathered chick alike. Watch the parents shelter and feed the chick as it grows—from less than six inches long today to a bird with a wingspan of almost seven feet by the time it fledges, in July.

We’ll be chronicling the birds’ activities on Twitter (@AlbatrossCam)—please add your own observations to the conversation, and share your screen captures in our Flickr Bird Cams Group. You can learn more about Laysan Albatross in our species guide and through our albatross nest FAQs.

We’ll continue to post updates on the Bird Cams Facebook page and on Twitter at @birdcams. Thank you for watching and for your continued support!

Sincerely,

The Bird Cams Team.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

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Newly discovered Hawaiian flower endangered


This video is called Colors of Hawaii – The Flowers of Hawaii.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

New to Nature No 116: Cyanea kauaulaensis

This Hawaiian bellflower has only just been described – but is already on the danger list

Quentin Wheeler

Sunday 5 January 2014

There are no clearer bellwethers of the widening biodiversity crisis than newly named species that are already critically endangered when christened. A recent example is the bellflower Cyanea kauaulaensis described from Maui by Dr Hank Oppenheimer of the University of Hawaii and Dr David H Lorence of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo. Sadly, this new plant joins nearly 200 native species in Hawaii that have fewer than 50 known individuals in the wild and that are the focus of Hawaii’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program. This lovely plant belongs to the lobelioid bellflowers, all of which are endemic to this island chain. With 125 species, the lobelioids constitute the greatest plant species radiation not only of Hawaii, but of any archipelago on Earth.

Lobelioids belong to the family Campanulaceae that has about 2,000 species around the world with notable diversity in areas of the northern hemisphere. The bellflower family often have milky sap and they vary in habit from short herbaceous forms to shrubs and small trees. Cyanea is the largest of the lobelioid genera with 78 known species that are typically un-branching or branching near their base, bearing a cluster of leaves at the their top and fleshy fruits in season.

While the new species has been observed to grow to two to four metres, some members of the genus attain more than nine metres. Their spindly appearance may relate, in part, to their growing in dense forests where light is limited and where shelter from strong winds permits the survival of such wispy forms.

DNA studies have confirmed that lobelioids are monophyletic, that is, they have all descended from a single common ancestral species that found its way to Hawaii 8-10m years ago. In spite of their evolutionary success measured in numbers of species, lobelioids are ecologically vulnerable. They do not tolerate disturbances of their surrounding forest well and their populations have been diminished by grazing feral pigs, among other stresses. A number of species have not been seen in the wild for years and are most likely already extinct.

Variation in the length of their tubular flowers and elevations where different species are found imply partitioning among species by both environmental factors and a diversity of pollinators. Spines and thorns on the leaves and stems of many Cyanea seemed curious at first to botanists as there were no native animal grazers in Hawaii and in their absence on islands plants tend to loose such defenses. As it turns out, there used to be large geese and ducks on the islands before they were hunted to extinction long before the arrival of European explorers.

Cyanea kauaulaensis is endemic to a couple of leeward valleys on the western end of the island of Maui. Its many-branched habit combined with undivided glabrous and unarmed leaves, small and narrow corollas, and bright orange nearly round to oval fruits distinguish it from all other members of the genus. A dozen or so specimens were collected in 1989 during a botanical survey of land owned by Pioneer Mill, but they were misidentified as C. glabra, a species previously known from windward eastern Maui and thought possibly extinct. C. kauaulaensis, however, is restricted to riparian sites growing on talus or basalt boulder-strewn slopes along both sides of perennial streams. Kaua’ula valley has a large, amphitheatre-shaped head and is bordered by impressive canyon walls reaching 700m that limit direct sunlight to mid-day. Annual rainfall is high, averaging about 3,000mm.

The plants were found growing in clumps. Bent branches were seen to take root and form runners producing erect stems or growing vine-like. Up to six metres in length, these vegetative expansions were frequently leaning on or tangled with nearby plants. The new species flowers from late summer through January and produces mature fruits in March and April. Because of its small numbers and limited geographic range, it is considered critically endangered. It may have lost its avian pollinators and dispersers of its seeds and may be vulnerable to floods, landslides, slugs, rats and competing non-native plant species among other threats.

All-female albatross couples helping nesting colonies


This video is called Dancing Laysan Albatrosses.

From ABC in Australia:

Albatross colony shows benefits of same-sex pairing

Wednesday, 27 November 2013, Stephen Pincock

When males are thin on the ground, pairs of female albatrosses can work together to raise the next generation by themselves, Hawaiian researchers have found.

The findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, have emerged from an unusual colony of Laysan albatrosses that live on the island of Oahu, where females significantly outnumber males.

A decade ago researchers found that 31 per cent of breeding pairs in the colony consisted of two unrelated females who had formed partnerships, some lasting years, to raise young.

“We genetically sexed birds in this colony … and realised that what we had assumed were a male and a female were in fact two females,” says Lindsay Young, a wildlife biologist from independent research organisation Pacific Rim Conservation.

Laysan albatrosses can only lay and incubate one egg each year and will not lay another if that year’s egg is lost. In the Oahu colony, male birds that have a regular partner will sometimes also mate with another female, says Young.

“Basically, the males are cheating on their regular partners and this is how the eggs of two females are fertilised. The two females then pair together to cooperate in rearing the chick.”

Best of a bad job

In their latest paper, Young and her colleagues explored this situation in more depth, monitoring 145 female Laysan albatrosses in the colony from 2003 to 2012 as they incubated eggs and fed their offspring.

On average, pairs of females successfully raised an average of one chick every four years, less than half as many per year as the male-female pairs, which raised an average of two chicks every three years.

The researchers also found that birds in female-female pairs lived shorter lives. This is probably because one was forced to incubate the eggs immediately after laying, instead of going to sea to feed.

“Normally, males take the first long incubation shift of three weeks while the female goes to feed after laying an egg, and after that they alternate every three to seven days,” says Young.

Although the female-female pairs were less successful overall, their partnerships were better for the colony than not reproducing at all, the researchers note.

So the take home message is that for these albatrosses same-sex pairing can be a beneficial and evolutionarily adaptive strategy, Young and colleagues write.

“Compared with the option of not breeding at all, female-female pairing may indeed be ‘making the best of a bad job’ in response to a shortage of males.”

‘Choosy’ males

Intriguingly, the researchers also found that females who successfully reared a chick with another female were more likely to find a male partner in following seasons.

“Males as well as females were capitalising on the female shortage by being ‘choosy’ and only pairing with the females who had the highest chance of raising an offspring,” says Young.

“Typically we think of females as being the choosy sex and selecting for male ornamentation (think peacocks),” she says. “But in this case the males are being choosy by picking the best mothers for their offspring.”

Fukushima disaster continues


This video from Hawaii is called Birds and Fish Dying from Eating Fukushima Tsunami Debris.

Fukushima water crisis: Water recycling system urgently needed, ex-chairman of U.S. nuclear watchdog says — The Asahi Shimbun: here.

The Japanese government may have underestimated by 20 percent the internal radiation doses in workers during the initial phases of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, a U.N. panel said: here.