New orchid species discoveries on Azores volcano


This shows details of the flowers of Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, a newly recognized and exceptionally rare orchid recently discovered on the Azorean island of São Jorge. Credit: Richard Bateman

From LiveScience:

New Orchid Species Found on ‘Lost World’ Volcano in the Azores

By Douglas Main, Staff Writer

December 10, 2013 07:32am ET

For years, there was only one formally recognized species of orchid on the Azores, a cluster of volcanic islands west of Portugal, though some claimed there were two species. However, a recent, three-year study to describe these Azorean flowers found that three species of orchids exist on the islands, including two that are newly recognized.

One of the new species was found atop a remote volcano and is arguably Europe’s rarest orchid, said Richard Bateman, a botanist at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Researchers were surprised to find the new species atop the volcano, which had “a really ‘Lost World’ feel to it,” he told LiveScience.

The orchids likely originate from a single species that arrived by seed millions of years ago. They soon developed smaller flowers, unlike their ancestors, which had large blooms. The most widespread orchid on the island, the short-spurred butterfly orchid (Platanthera pollostantha), is known for these small flowers, Bateman said. [Photos: The Orchids of Latin America]

Analysis of other orchids found on the islands soon turned up another species, known as the narrow-lipped butterfly orchid (Platanthera micrantha).

But then scientists happened upon an even rarer and more striking orchid, with large flowers, like those of the plants’ ancestors. “In a sense, evolution has reversed itself,” Bateman said. This species, now known as Platanthera azorica or Hochstetter’s butterfly orchid, was originally collected more than 170 years ago, but hadn’t been further studied or recognized as a unique species.

Mónica Moura, a researcher at the University of the Azores, happened upon the flower, and noticed it was different. “I immediately recognized the flowers as being exceptionally large for an Azorean butterfly orchid,” Moura said, according to a release describing the study.

The new species require urgent conservation; the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environmental organization, currently lumps all of these into a single species, which is incorrect, Bateman said.

The two rare orchids are threatened by invasive species and habitat destruction, Bateman said. Much of the unique dwarf forests that once covered the Azores—and in which the rare orchids are found—have been destroyed by inefficient dairy farming and other development, Bateman added.

Like many other orchids, the two rare orchid species have symbiotic relationships with fungi that allow them to survive. Without a certain type of fungi, the seeds can’t germinate, Bateman said. It’s possible these rare species can only survive in the presence of a single fungal species, which helps them germinate and supplies them with nutrients as adult plants, he said. More widespread species can likely partner with a variety of fungi, he added.

Caspian tern in Portugal, video


This video is about a Caspian tern in Alvor, Algarve province, Portugal.

Portuguese birdwatching festival


This video is about birdwatching in southern Portugal.

From BirdLife:

2013 Sagres Birdwatching Festival celebrates bird migration

Thu, Sep 19, 2013

The Sagres Peninsula, which is the only place in Portugal where the autumn migration of soaring birds can be observed, will host the fourth edition of the Birdwatching Festival from 4th to 6th October 2013.

The event is the biggest in Portugal devoted to birds and will include a range of activities with the aim to complement birdwatching with the enjoyment of nature, meeting the needs of both children and adults. The festival is organised by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and the association Almargem, and is part of the rural development project “Um Outro Algarve” (Another Algarve).

Although birds will be the event’s main attraction, this year there will also be fieldtrips and mini-courses on topics such as astronomy, mushrooms, nocturnal butterflies or sharks. “This diversification of activities aims to make the most of, and familiarise people with, the region’s natural heritage, focusing on the development of nature tourism”, states Nuno Barros, Marine Program Assistant at SPEA.

During the festival it will also be possible to take part in dolphin watching activities, or even to go horse riding accompanied by pack donkeys. Local businesses are offering special prices on accommodation, tourist activities and restaurants.

Sagres, in the municipality of Vila do Bispo, is one of the most important areas for birdlife in Portugal. The area is home to unique species in the region of Algarve: from August to November, it becomes the main migratory corridor in the country for storks, eagles, vultures, hawks and falcons, and almost all the species of soaring birds found in Portugal can be seen here, as well as a number of rarities.

The programme and the registration procedure can be found at the official website of the 4th Sagres Birdwatching Festival.

For more information: please contact Nuno Barros, Marine Program Assistant at SPEA.

Recently, the independent record label Second Language released the third volume of its compilation, Music & Migration III. The CD celebrates migratory birds and it includes exclusive contributions from international artists, such as Chris Watson, Mark Fry and Colleen. The third volume follows the success of previous releases in 2010 and 2011 and is dedicated to BirdLife International on its 20th Anniversary and particularly celebrates its global work for migratory birds. Read more here.

Bird migration in Zeeland, the Netherlands: here.

USA: The growing popularity of birding received several shots of affirmation over the past week, highlighted by national media reports of a birding landmark, and the launching of a new young birders club in Northeast Ohio: here.

Bolivian president victimized in Snowden witch hunt


Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we now know that United States spying organisations not only spied on millions of United States and other citizens, but on allied governments, including in Europe, as well.

These spied upon governments include France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as far as I know.

However, it seems that people high up the bureaucratic pecking order in France, Portugal, etc. seem to think that participating in witch hunting Snowden, basing themselves on untrue rumours about Snowden‘s whereabouts instead of on facts, is more important than doing something against the massive spying on their countries.

This video is called Bolivian Minister: Morales’ Plane Rerouted On Suspicion Snowden On Board.

From AFP news agency:

Bolivian leader’s plane diverted over ‘Snowden‘ suspicions

by Dmitry Zaks, Agence France-Presse

Posted on 07/03/2013 8:44 AM | Updated 07/03/2013 10:39 AM

MOSCOW, Russia (UPDATE) – US fugitive Edward Snowden’s struggle to find a safe haven sparked a diplomatic row Tuesday, July 2, after Bolivia President Evo Morales‘ plane was diverted to Austria over suspicions he might be on board.

The incident happened hours after Morales had said his country would consider a request for political asylum if Snowden submitted one.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca accused France, Italy and Portugal of having denied airspace to the plane, forcing it to reroute.

“The president was forced to land in Vienna,” he told reporters in La Paz. Morales’s life had been endangered by what he described as a forced emergency landing, he added.

“There were unfounded rumors that Mr Snowden may have been on board the aircraft,” Choquehuanca said.

“We have no idea who made up this huge lie.”

Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg confirmed to AFP that Morales’ plane had landed at Vienna and that Snowden was not on board.

“President Morales will leave early Wednesday morning [July 3] for La Paz,” the Bolivian capital, he added. Austria did not know why the plane had landed at Vienna, he said. …

Hope from Latin America

As Snowden’s options narrowed however, there was some comfort from Morales’ response.

And another leftist Latin American leader, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, also offered him a degree of hope.

Maduro, who like Morales was in Moscow for a two-day energy summit, praised Snowden’s actions in leaking information on US spying activities.

“What is happening now should not be — he never killed anyone or planted any bombs,” he added.

But Maduro refused to entertain Russian media speculation that he might take Snowden on a plane with him from Moscow.

From Associated Press:

In a midnight press conference, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia said that not only France and Portugal, but also Italy and Spain were denying the plane permission to fly through their airspace.

He described Morales as being “kidnapped by imperialism” in Europe.

“The ambassador for Spain in Austria has just informed us that there is no authorization to fly over Spanish territory and that at 9 a.m. Wednesday they would be in contact with us again,” said Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra, adding that the Spanish government had put as a condition for passage the “revision of the presidential plane.” …

While Bolivia’s foreign minister had earlier said officials did not know who was behind the “lie” that Snowden was on Morales’ plane, the country’s defense minister later expressed no doubt.

“We want to declare very firmly that it was an American story that Edward Snowden was on this flight,” said Saavedra at the VIP terminal of Vienna’s airport. “This is a plot by the U.S. government to destroy president Morales’ image. We say this simply is a lie. And we will confirm this.” …

In Venezuela, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said that changing the flight’s route without checking on how much fuel it had endangered Morales’ life.

“All the countries that have denied permission for the flight of our brother president, Evo Morales, must be held responsible for his life and his dignity as president.”

Another possible landing spot for Snowden is Ecuador, where Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange has been seeking asylum.

“We are willing to analyze Mr. Snowden’s request for asylum and this position has not changed,” said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Tuesday. “What we have said is that we will be able to analyze the request when Mr. Snowden is in Ecuadorean territory or in an Ecuadorean mission.”

Patino added that two weeks ago a hidden microphone was found in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where Assange is holed up. “We want to find out with precision what the origin of the apparatus is.” …

On Monday, WikiLeaks posted a statement attributed to Snowden on its website, in which he slams Obama for “using citizenship as a weapon.”

“Although I am convicted of nothing, (the United States) has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” Snowden says in the statement. “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

“Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”

See also here.

And here. And here.

Planet without a visa! – Putin turns his back on brave whistleblower Snowden: here. And here.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologised on Tuesday for telling Congress earlier this year that the National Security Agency did not collect data on millions of US citizens: here.

On Tuesday, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein apologizing for statements that he had made in March before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Clapper sought to justify lies he made at the time regarding National Security Agency spying programs by claiming he had made a “mistake”: here.