Conger eel in Dutch canal

This video says about itself:

Conger Eels off Irish West Coast

Monty Hall dives with Conger eels off Roundstone on the Connemara coast.

Dutch IMARES researchers report that on 28 November 2013, a young conger eel was caught in the Noordzeekanaal in the Netherlands.

This was the first time ever that this fish species was found in that canal.

This conger eel was 43 centimeter. Adults may get much longer.

The young conger eel was caught during monitoring of the migration of adult European eels from the Netherlands to their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

During that monitoring in 2012, there had been another unusual species as well: a lesser spotted dogfish.

New British and Irish bird atlas

This video from Britain is called Unpacking Bird Atlas 2007-11.

From Wildlife Extra:

The new Bird Atlas shows vast changes for Britain’s birds

November 2013: The results of the BTO project to map all of our birds in both winter and the breeding season, and from every part of Britain and Ireland, have now been published as the Bird Atlas 2007-11.

Over 40,000 volunteers spent four years scouring the countryside in search of birds, submitting their records to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), to integrate local information on bird numbers into coherent national pictures of the state of Britain and Ireland’s bird populations.

Andy Clements, BTO Director said, “Bird Atlas 2007-11 is the amazing product from the efforts of tens of thousands of wonderful volunteer birders who care passionately that their observations help birds. Their information, collected over four years, presents a richly detailed view of change brought to life in this beautiful book. It inspires future research to fuel bird conservation for a decade.”

Over the last 40 years the British breeding areas for 74 (38 percent) of our bird species have expanded beyond their previously known range, whilst for 72 (37 percent) of them the range has shrunk, and for 47 (24 percent) it has remained relatively unchanged. But what is rather surprising is that for nearly all of them there has been a shift in where they live.

For example 40 years ago the little egret was very much a bird of the Mediterranean but in 1996 this small white heron bred here for the first time. Since then it has increased its range in Britain by a whopping 16,350 percent.

The green woodpecker has become more common in eastern England and has spread northwards into parts of eastern Scotland. Meanwhile, it has begun to disappear from western Wales, an area that is also losing its lapwings, kestrels and starlings. The yellowhammer is also disappearing from our countryside. Forty years ago the species could be heard singing in almost every village of Britain and Ireland but are now missing from large swathes of Ireland, western Scotland, southern Wales and northern England, representing a 32 percent loss for this formerly widespread breeding bird.

Simon Gillings, BTO Senior Research Ecologist says, “Conservation scientists have been desperate for a new atlas. Its comprehensive coverage of all areas and all species gives us the depth of information we need to learn from our recent conservation successes, and plan for the challenges of tomorrow.”

‘British army murdered Irish civilians’

This video from Britain is called Secret army unit had ‘licence to kill’ unarmed civilians Northern Ireland.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Army ‘terror’ unit murdered unarmed Irish

Friday 22nd November 2013

Ex-members speak out on Britain’s secret cell

A Covert British army unit which operated in 1970s Northern Ireland gunned down and murdered unarmed civilians with seeming impunity, former members have alleged.

As well as targeting suspected IRA members, it is claimed that the shadowy Military Reaction Force (MRF) also carried out drive-by shootings of nationalists despite there being no independent evidence that they were members of the paramilitary group.

Former members of the unit told the BBC’s Panorama programme that they believed they were not subject to military regulations prohibiting firing unless their lives were in immediate danger – known as the yellow card.

One said: “We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group. We were there in a position to go after IRA and kill them when we found them.”

The reaction force had around 40 hand-picked men from across the British army. They operated in west Belfast at the height of the Troubles in the early 1970s but were apparently disbanded after 18 months.

Another ex-member said: “If you had a player who was a well-known shooter who carried out quite a lot of assassinations … it would have been very simple, he had to be taken out.”

Seven former members of the force said they believed the yellow card did not apply to them and one described it as a “fuzzy red line,” meaning they acted as they saw fit. Some said they would shoot unarmed targets.

Among those unarmed civilians believed to have been shot by the MRF was Patrick McVeigh, a member of the Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Club who was fatally shot in the back in 1972.

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International NI, said the charity had long called for an independent investigation into allegations of extra-judicial executions by the security forces in Northern Ireland.

He said that senior police inquiries had been conducted but never fully published.

The revelations underlined the charity’s call for a new, mechanism to investigate rights violations and abuse in Northern Ireland which must include those who “pulled the strings.”

See also here. And here. And here.

A new book sheds much-needed light on the extent of police collusion during the Troubles, writes PAUL DONOVAN: here.

Dutch pintail duck news

This video is called Northern Pintail courtship.

Translated from Birdlife in the Netherlands:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Sunday, November 10th, near Den Oever a whopping 3664 migrating pintails were seen. This is a record number, never before have so many migrating pintail ducks been observed. There were many pintails elsewhere as well. Probably ​​the combination of clear atmosphere, falling temperatures and northerly winds made the pintails go south massively.

Birder Bob Woets is a happy man. On 10 November he counted at his usual migration site near the beginning of the Afsluitdijk at Den Oever 3664 migratory pintails (source: This is a Dutch record. Earlier, on October 11, 1981 at Maarsseveen (Utrecht province) 2710 pintails on migration had been observed.

November 2013: Northern Ireland’s Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Britain and Ireland, has lost more than three quarters of its overwintering water birds say researchers at Queen’s University Belfast. The study, by Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, found the number of diving ducks migrating to the lake for the winter months has dropped from 100,000 to less than 21,000 in the space of a decade: here.

Rare Irish lady’s-tresses orchid discovery in Scotland

Irish lady's-tresses orchids

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare orchid found in Scotland

Rare orchid found off Scotland’s west coast

November 2013: An extremely rare orchid growing on an island off the west coast of Scotland has been discovered by RSPB Scotland volunteers, where it has never before been recorded. Irish lady’s-tresses, named for its resemblance to plaited hair, is thought to grow at very few sites in the UK and Ireland, meaning the discovery of around 160 plants on Oronsay is a significant find.

Due to its rarity, the reproductive habits of Irish lady’s-tresses aren’t well known, but in this case, they have probably been lying dormant underground for many years just waiting for the right conditions in which to flower.

Volunteer Gill Watts, who found the orchids with her husband Richard, said: “We were actually surveying for marsh fritillary butterflies when we spotted all these white flowering spikes coming out of the ground. We thought at first they might be a more common orchid, but after checking with the RSPB reserve manager, we managed to positively identify them.“They’re amazingly beautiful flowers, with a musky vanilla fragrance. We didn’t quite believe what we’d found at first, because we know they’re so rare. And to top it all, we learned that it had been our privilege to make the first ever record of this plant for Oronsay!”

Oronsay, a tidal island just off Colonsay, is an RSPB Scotland nature reserve that is actively farmed to create homes for nature, particularly choughs and corncrakes. Its seal colony was featured on the BBC programme, Hebrides: Life on the Edge.The management of the particular field where the orchids were discovered, was altered a number of years ago to provide good conditions for devil’s-bit scabious. This is the food plant of marsh fritillary butterfly caterpillars, another species suffering steep declines in the UK.

The butterflies have now been breeding on Oronsay for several years and their range has expanded across the island. Meanwhile, the good conditions for devil’s-bit scabious have also proved just right for Irish lady’s-tresses.

Deborah Long from Plantlife, said: “2013 has been an exceptional year for orchids. And what is more exceptional than a new site for the very rare Irish lady’s-tresses orchid? Plantlife have been working on this species for over 10 years and with new research indicating the extreme fragility of its populations in Scotland, to find a new population on an RSPB reserve inspires hope for the future of the species. Given appropriate management, it just shows that Irish lady’s-tresses orchids can come back to their homeland.”

See for related orchids in the Netherlands: here.