103-year-old orca still swimming


This video is called Amazing Orca Killer Whales In The Wild [Full Nature Wildlife Documentary].

From Wildlife Extra:

An orca called Granny swims into the record books

Just in time for Canada’s Mother’s Day last Sunday an orca named J2 – more commonly known as Granny – arrived in the waters between Point Roberts in Washington State, USA, and East Point on Saturna Island in British Columbia, reports The Province newspaper. This was not unusual as J-Pod – the name researchers have given this group of orcas – would normally be expected in the area. What did excite Captain Simon Pidcock of Ocean EcoVentures in Cowichan Bay was the continuing appearance of Granny because she is believed to be 103 years old. She is the world’s oldest known orca and has lived far in excess of the average lifespan of 60 to 80 years for a wild animal.

There was no doubt the orca was Granny, according to Pidcock. He recognises the senior cetacean by her saddle patch, a distinctive white patch each whale has behind its dorsal fin. “They’re like our fingerprints,” he said.

Granny is also recognisable because of a half-moon-shaped notch on the trailing side of her dorsal fin.

Granny is one of the southern resident group of orcas that inhabit the coastal waters from Haida Gwaii, on the north coast of British Columbia, to Northern California for about eight months of the year. Michael Harris, executive director of Pacific Whale Watch Association, which has members in both the US and Canada, said J-Pod had been spotted off the Russian River in Northern California just over a week before.

“The thing I found really interesting is that she’s in the shape to travel, to make the trek she just did with J-Pod,” said Harris. “That’s 800 miles in not even eight days. It’s amazing.”

She appears healthy because of the lack of a “peanut head,” which Pidcock said is a divot-like depression around the animal’s blow hole which appears when they are malnourished. Her endurance and healthy appearance may come from feasting on recent big chinook salmon runs near the Columbia River.

Granny’s birth date of 1911 is an extrapolation by researchers based on her offspring.

She currently has a great-grandchild travelling in J-Pod. Pidcock said researchers also determine age based on the size of the whales, and Granny’s current bulk can be compared to photographic images taken of her in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The oldest orcas in captivity are both about 50 years old, according to the Pacific Whale Watch Association, and belong to the northern and southern resident groups that travel through the Pacific Northwest.

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Attracting butterflies to North American gardens


This video from North America says about itself:

Warm weather in the spring time brings with it the butterfly migrations of Red Admiral, American [Painted] Lady, Painted Lady, Eastern Comma and Question Marks, among others. The Monarch is among them but not as abundant for my location. Normally these all zip by at light speed rarely stopping for more than a brief rest. I was fortunate enough to get up close with one, which was not an easy task. The blue flower towards the end is Amsonia ciliata, which is basically the same as Amsonia hubrichtii but the flowers are slightly larger.

From the National Wildlife Federation in the USA:

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, but also because of their usefulness in pollinating flowers.

Attracting butterflies involves incorporating plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. The insects need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults.

Butterfly Garden Necessities

Plant native flowering plants

  • Because many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction, it is particularly important to install native flowering plants local to your geographic area. Native plants provide butterflies with the nectar or foliage they need as adults and caterpillars. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has lists of recommended native plants by region and state.
  • Plant type and color is important - Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.
  • Plant good nectar sources in the sun - Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Butterfly adults generally feed only in the sun. If sun is limited in your landscape, try adding butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.
  • Plant for continuous bloom - Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span. Try to plant so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.
  • Say no to insecticides - Insecticides such as malathion, Sevin, and diazinon are marketed to kill insects. Don’t use these materials in or near the butterfly garden or better, anywhere on your property. Even “benign” insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to butterflies (while caterpillars).
  • Feed butterfly caterpillars - If you don’t “grow” caterpillars, there will be no adults. Bringing caterpillar foods into your garden can greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies, while giving you yet another reason to plant an increasing variety of native plants. In many cases, caterpillars of a species feed on only a very limited variety of plants. Most butterfly caterpillars never cause the leaf damage we associate with some moth caterpillars such as bagworms, tent caterpillars, or gypsy moths.
  • Provide a place for butterflies to rest - Butterflies need sun for orientation and to warm their wings for flight. Place flat stones in your garden to provide space for butterflies to rest and bask in the sun.
  • Give them a place for puddling - Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling,” drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist.

Common Butterflies and the Plants Their Caterpillars Eat

Acmon Blue – buckwheat, lupines, milkvetch
American Painted Lady – cudweed, everlast
Baird’s Swallowtail – dragon sagebrush
Black Swallowtail – parsley, dill, fennel, common rue
Coral Hairstreak – wild black cherry, American and chickasaw plum, black chokeberry
Dun Skipper – sedges, grasses including purpletop
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – wild black cherry, ash, tulip tree, willow, sweetbay, basswood
Giant Swallowtail – prickly ash, citrus, common rue, hoptree, gas plant, torchwood
Gray Comma – gooseberry, azalea, elm
Great Purple Hairstreak – mistletoe
Gulf Fritillary – maypops, other passion vines
Henry’s Elfin – redbud, dahoon and yaupon hollies, maple-leaved viburnum, blueberries
Monarch – milkweeds
Painted Lady (Cosmopolite) – thistles, mallows, nievitas, yellow fiddleneck
Pygmy Blue – saltbush, lamb’s quarters, pigweed
Red Admiral/White Admiral – wild cherries, black oaks, aspens, yellow and black birch
Silver-Spotted Skipper – locusts, wisteria, other legumes
Spicebush Swallowtail – sassafras, spicebush
Sulphurs – clover, peas, vetch, alfalfa, asters
Variegated Fritillary – passion flower, maypop, violets, stonecrop, purslane
Viceroy – willows, cottonwood, aspen
Western Tailed Blue – vetches, milkvetches
Western Tiger Swallowtail – willow, plum, alder, sycamore, hoptree, ash
Woodland Skipper – grasses
Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw

Download the Attracting Butterflies tip sheet (pdf).

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United States songbirds migrate with the wind, new study


This video from Canada says about itself:

Indigo bunting, Blackburnian warbler, stop on migration at my bird feeder

14 May 2013

My first sighting of Indigo bunting, Blackburnian Warbler, photos and video on their way North, Woodslee, Ontario.

From Wildlife Extra:

US songbirds are found to migrate with the wind

Millions of tiny songbirds, many weighing less than an ounce, migrate thousands of miles from North America to Central and South America each year. How they do it has been somewhat of a mystery, but now scientists have discovered how far they take advantage of prevailing wind patterns to save calories.

“Most of what we’ve known about migration routes comes from ducks and geese,” said Frank La Sorte, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology research associate and lead author of the paper in the Journal of Biogeography. “But terrestrial birds are much smaller and they aren’t reliant on the same kinds of habitats. There really isn’t a narrow migration path for them, and they aren’t necessarily in the same place in spring and fall.”

The findings from this study are important as they may help refine ideas about how and where to plan for conservation along migratory pathways.

“All these species migrate at night, at high altitudes, where we can’t see them,” La Sorte said. “But when the sun comes up in the morning they have to find somewhere to land. So any new knowledge about where they’re travelling is valuable to conservation planners.”

For years US scientists assumed songbirds followed the same well-defined “flyways” that ducks, geese, and shorebirds used to travel up and down the continent. There is one known wildfowl flyway along each coast, one up the Mississippi River valley, and one in the centre of the country. Those flyways were marked out from studies which compiled data from recoveries of birds with leg rings and records kept by hunters, but those methods don’t work for small songbirds that migrate at night.

The new work solved this problem with a fresh approach using crowd-sourced data submitted to the Cornell Lab’s eBird project between 2004 and 2011. The researchers analysed thousands of people’s sightings to develop, for each of 93 species, an aggregate picture of where a species is during spring and autumn migration. Although they weren’t tracking individual birds, collective sightings gave them an indication of how the species were migrating. They then used computer models to sort species with similar movement patterns into groups and compared migration routes with seasonal patterns of prevailing winds at night.

The study revealed that most US land birds fit into three main groups: a western one of 31 species, a central group of 17 species, and an eastern of 45 species. Examples of each group include the black-throated gray warbler, the clay-coloured sparrow, and the American redstart, respectively. The researchers noted that the flyways for these are much more spread out across the continent than those of wildfowl, and routes in the central and eastern groups overlap considerably.

The analysis also revealed that many more land birds than previously realised follow different routes through America in spring and autumn — particularly in the East, where many species cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single overnight flight.

Unlike wildfowl, which migrate north and south along the same relatively narrow routes, rather like lorries on a motorway, songbirds are more like passenger cars touring back roads. They are less tied to a single wetland habitat, so they can fan out. By shifting routes, birds take advantage of stronger tailwinds in spring and less severe headwinds in autumn. Tailwinds represent a huge advantage for small birds heading north to their breeding grounds, while finding weaker headwinds allows southbound birds to make the best of a bad situation.

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American crows, new studies video


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

To Know the Crow: Insights and Stories From a Quarter-Century of Crow Study

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

American Crows have followed us into our suburban and urban neighborhoods, becoming one of our most familiar birds. They have socially intricate lives, with more complex goals than converging at your local dumpster—in fact, socially, they are probably more like us than any primate. Ithaca is home to the longest running study of marked American Crows anywhere: it is now 26 years since Kevin McGowan first began banding them.

McGowan, a scientist who works in the Cornell Lab’s Education program, and his collaborator Anne Clark, of Binghamton University, gave a seminar about their research to a packed house at the Cornell Lab. Watch this archived video of their talk to hear their crow studies and stories, including tales of family values and treachery, stay-at-homes and travelers, dynasties and disease:

(Note: if you want to skip the introductory matter, the main talk begins at about 7:10)

The talk took place on April 21, 2014. It was part of the Cornell Lab’s long-running Monday Night Seminar series, a tradition established decades ago by Lab founder Dr. Arthur Allen.

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How to watch birds in North America, videos


This video from the USA, part of a series with the other videos below here, says about itself:

Learn the most fundamental skill for identifying birds: recognizing them by size and shape. Birding experts Chris Wood and Jessie Barry show you how to compare different birds and employ your observations to make a confident ID.

Join them in the field to practice these techniques on common birds and learn how to distinguish similar species such as Hairy and Downy woodpeckers.

This video is called Inside Birding: Behavior.

This video is called Inside Birding: Habitat.

This video is called Inside Birding: Color Pattern.

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International Migratory Bird Day, 10 May


This video from Canada says about itself:

Inglewood Sanctuary celebrates International Migratory Bird Day

29 April 2013

Each spring, millions of birds return north from their wintering grounds. To honour this event, City of Calgary Parks is hosting a free family event. Enjoy guided tours, interpretative programs and refreshments while learning about migratory birds who summer in our city.

From Wildlife Promise blog in the USA:

International Migratory Bird Day is Around the Corner!

4/29/2014 // By Becca Shapiro

This May, celebrate International Migratory Bird Day! On May 10th, International Migratory Bird Day will aim to share the many ways that migratory birds matter to us and the earth.

Each season, migratory birds travel long distances between breeding and non-breeding sites. Beyond providing recreational fun for bird lovers and wildlife gardeners, birds help to vegetate areas by dispersing seeds and pollinating flowering plants, trees and shrubs. The goal of International Migratory Bird Day is to motivate people of all ages and backgrounds to simply get outside and learn about native birds and what you can do to help protect them.

Attracting Birds to Your Yard

It’s important to protect tropical forests where migratory birds overwinter, as well as the important breeding grounds in Canada’s boreal forest, but there are things that you can do closer to home to help migratory birds, whether they’re species that are just passing through or those that end their migration in your neighborhood.

When trying to attract birds to your garden at home, there are a variety of measures you can take. Consider the different things birds need to survive: food, water, cover, and a safe place to construct a nest.

Begin with water – a simple birdbath is a great place to start. Keep the birdbath about 10 feet away from dense shrub or other areas that may attract predators to keep the birds safe from harm. Also make sure to change the water every 2-3 days in the summer and use a heater in the winter.

To provide food sources to birds, install native plants to offer seeds, berries, nuts, and nectar. Think about recreating the plant ecosystem of your local area. This will also attract insects, a primary source of protein for birds. Bird feeders also provide supplemental food during times of scarcity.

Birds will build nests out of almost anything they can find. Building a brush pile in a corner of your yard can provide materials for birds to make nests. Keeping dead trees around your garden can offer cavity-dwelling places for birds to raise young. You can also put out nesting boxes, but make sure they have ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes near the bottom.

Once you’ve provided, food, water, cover, and a safe place for birds to raise their young, you’ll be ready to certify your wildlife garden in time for International Migratory Bird Day. To find International Migratory Bird Day happenings in your area, check out the IMBD Events Map. And just because it’s being celebrated on May 10 doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate birds and the outdoors every day!

Celebrate Garden for Wildlife Month by becoming a Wildlife Gardener with National Wildlife Federation. It’s free and you’ll get great wildlife gardening tips and learn how to certify your garden as an official habitat.

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American robin in the Netherlands for first time


This is an American robin video from the USA.

An American robin (Turdus migratorius) has been seen in the Netherlands today. It is a new species for that country.

See also here.

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