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.