Hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper breeding in the wild


This video says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Courtship

Within days of arriving on the breeding grounds, Spoon-billed Sandpiper courtship begins. Males perform display flights over favored areas to attract females and establish territories and females select a mate. Once together, a pair becomes inseparable. They forage within earshot of each other, copulate frequently, and prospect for potential locations to nest. This video, shot during the first few days of a pair’s seasonal courtship, captures some of these rarely witnessed behaviors including an attempted copulation and a nest scrape display.

Video includes commentary by The Cornell Lab [of Ornithology]‘s Gerrit Vyn.

Filmed June 6, 2011 near Meinypilgyno, Chukotka, Russia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper returns home to breed

An extensive hand-rearing programme, aimed at saving the highly endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, is celebrating the news that for the first time one has returned to its Russian ancestral grounds to breed, two years after she was released.

This is a major milestone for the programme, which is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo and the RSPB working with colleagues from the BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.

It aims to give the chicks a head start to ensure they survive their crucial first days of life, and stabilise the species’ population, which is estimated at 100 breeding pairs in the wild.

The team carefully removed eggs from breeding grounds on the tundra of the Chukotka region in eastern Russia to be monitored, hatched and nourished in the nearby village of Meinypil’gyno before being released.

Rearing and releasing birds on the breeding grounds increases the number of young birds in the wild in autumn by about 25 per cent.

But this is only the start as, once released, the birds embark on a 5,000 miles migration to South Asia, facing exhaustion, starvation, illegal hunting and getting caught in fishing nets in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Pavel Tomkovich of Birds Russia said: “Two years ago I attached a tiny plastic leg flag to this bird, so that we’d recognise it if it was ever seen again.

“The odds were severely stacked against that happening, but amazingly she was spotted, first by birdwatchers in Taiwan in April and now we see her here at her birthplace ready to have young of her own.”

Norbert Schäffer, the RSPB’s head of international species recovery, said: “It’s great to see parts of the plan to protect this precious species coming together, but it’s a long road and there is still a lot more to do in terms of tackling the problems on the flyway.

“This is a huge international effort involving many different partners and with everyone doing their bit.”

Siberian Dutch yellow-browed warbler in Cornwall


This video is called Yellow-browed Warbler – Phylloscopus inornatus.

According to the RSPB in Britain, about the yellow-browed warbler:

A small, green warbler similar in size to a goldcrest. The yellow ‘eyebrow’ is distinctive, as is the coal tit-like call. Yellow-browed warblers breed in Siberia and occur in the UK every year as they migrate south-westwards.

From the BTO Bird Ringing ‘Demog Blog’ in Britain:

10 April 2013

Dutch-ringed Yellow-browed Warbler

Way back in April 2008 we received details of a ‘Willow Warbler‘ found dead outside Richard Lander School in Truro, Cornwall. This is perhaps a slightly early date for a returning migrant, but the interesting bit was that it was wearing a ring from the Dutch Ringing Scheme.

Following issues tracing the ring in The Netherlands, we have only just received the ringing details and these were rather surprising. Ring Y11467 was actually just the second foreign-ringed Yellow-browed Warbler to be found in the UK! It had been originally ringed on 3rd October 2007 on Schiermonnikoog (in red on the map here), an island off the north coast of the country, and had possibly spent the winter at one of Cornwall’s many sewage works.

These works regularly attract wintering Yellow-broweds, especially so in recent years, with no fewer than five seen on one day at Carnon Downs Sewage Works in February 2012. Below is one of two birds present at Gwennap Sewage Works, Cornwall, in January 2013.

Yellow-browed warbler, Gwennap

The only previous record of a foreign-ringed Yellow-browed was a Norwegian bird ringed in September 1990 and recaught on Fair Isle five days later (blue on the map). The only British-ringed bird to be found abroad was one ringed at Portland Bird Observatory in October 1988 and recaught the next day on Guernsey (green on the map).

Spoon-billed sandpiper nest video


This video says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpipers lay 4 eggs in a simple tundra nest comprised of a shallow depression, most often in mosses, lined with a few dwarf willow leaves. The nest is incubated by both adults on half-day shifts — the male most often during the day and the female at night.

After 21 days of incubation the eggs begin to hatch in a process that takes a day or more to complete. When the young finally emerge from the nest they stumble about on well-developed legs and feet and begin to feed themselves. After the last chick emerges, the male begins his job of leading the chicks as they grow towards independence about 20 days later; the female soon departs and begins moving south. This piece captures the first moments of life at a wind swept Spoon-billed Sandpiper nest.

Video includes commentary by The Cornell Lab’s Gerrit Vyn.

Filmed July 7, 2011 near Meinypilgyno, Chukotka, Russia.

Read more about this here.

Orphaned Amur tiger cubs in Siberia


Wildlife Extra writes about the subject of this video:

Three orphaned Amur tigers cubs found in Russia – Video

Orphan Amur tiger cub video 

December 2012. On November 27, three young tigers appeared near a military unit located 8 km away from Yakovlevka village, Primorsky Krai, in the Russian Far East. The cubs tried to kill a domestic dog on a leash, but a guard scared the animals back into the woods.

A group of tiger specialists went to the scene immediately and tried to find out why the cubs were alone in the woods. Unfortunately, no tracks of any mother tiger were found. The specialists decided to catch the cubs and take them to the Amur Tiger Rehabilitation Centre in Alekseevka village where the animals will be provided with food and medical treatment.

Please help David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to support these orphans and their work for tigers in Russia through their projects TigerTime and their Russia Project.

It is hoped that the three cubs will be released back into the wild to play a vital role in the future survival of these magnificent big cats.

Anti-Siberian tiger poaching camera traps


This video from India is called Tiger Queen ~ National Geographic.

From Wildlife Extra:

Camera traps deployed to catch tiger poachers in Russia

First time camera traps are used to catch illegal activity

November 2012. Conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) will be the first to use camera traps specifically for catching trespassers. Camera traps are typically used to capture images of endangered species for conservation purposes. But in a bid to increase anti-poaching efforts, special camera traps will be camouflaged and hidden in Russian forests to record illegal entry by would-be poachers.

Lazovsky Nature Reserve and Zov Tigra National Park

As part of ZSL’s ‘Forest Eyes’ project, a total of 30 camera traps will be set up in Lazovsky Nature Reserve and Zov Tigra National Park in the Russian Far East, equivalent to a total area a little larger than London. The two protected areas are 15 to 20 kilometres apart and separated by public land used mostly for hunting and logging. This results in people taking advantage of the area between the nature reserve and the national park to trespass onto nearby protected areas.

ZSL tiger conservationist Linda Kerley says: “The images from camera traps set up for humans will better inform us of any illegal activity in protected areas, so inspectors can be notified and patrols changed accordingly. We will be able to monitor the area more effectively and ensure we are doing all we can to try and change people’s attitudes and behaviours towards poaching,” Linda added.

7 tigers disappeared

Around five years ago, seven tigers disappeared from the protected areas and conservationists believe it was very likely they were poached. In the past year alone there were three seizures in the area, so it is critical that anti-poaching projects are effective. There are now 14 to 20 tigers that roam the national park and the nature reserve, and numbers remain stable.

ZSL’s conservation manager Sarah Christie added: “We hope the awareness of extra camera traps targeting people who encroach on protected areas will deter poachers from trying to kill tigers and their prey animals.”

ZSL has been involved in Amur tiger conservation in the Russian Far East for nearly 20 years. With the launch of ‘Forest Eyes’ conservationists will work with the support of the local Government to raise awareness of conservation efforts to protect the remaining Amur tiger population.

Stopping tiger poaching in Russia


This video is called In The Shadow Of The Siberian Tiger – Part 1 of 5.

From Wildlife Extra:

Russia to clamp down on wildlife crime

Kremlin boosts protection for tigers

October 2012. Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species will all be considered crimes under new legislation proposed by the Kremlin, following discussions with WWF.

Tiger hunting is probably the biggest factor in the decline of tigers this century which has seen the world has lost 97 per cent of its wild tigers, including four sub-species to extinction. There may be as few as 3,200 of the endangered animals remaining. But until now, law in the Russian Federation, home to many of the world’s remaining tigers, only considered the actual killing of an animal to be a crime. Poachers who are stopped carrying the animals or their parts claim they found them dead.

“It is a significant step towards protection of tigers and other endangered species threatened by trade and poaching,” said Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF Russia who was heavily involved in discussions with the government. Russia has agreed for its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to prepare the draft law in cooperation with WWF.

Tiger skins

Recently one man was found in possession of the remains of six tigers, another one with eight tiger skins. Under the current law they only might be eligible for an insignificant fine.

WWF and its partner TRAFFIC, the wildlife monitoring network, are campaigning for greater protection of threatened species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants. Demand for ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations dangerously close to extinction. WWF is calling on governments to combat illegal wildlife trade and reduce demand for illicit endangered species products.

“Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species becoming a crime is a long-awaited measure that we believe will dramatically reduce poaching,” Chestin said.

Tiger habitat protection

WWF is also happy to see steps being made towards more protection for tiger habitats. The Primorsky region, where 90% of the Russian tigers live, was requested to ensure no commercial timber harvest takes place in the regional protected areas and nut harvesting zones. Regional administration was also ordered to prevent any commercial logging in upper and middle stream of the Bikin River.

Amur tigers

By the 1940s, hunting had driven the Amur tiger to the brink of extinction-with no more than 40 individuals remaining in the wild. The subspecies was saved when Russia became the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection.

By the 1980s, the Amur tiger population had increased to around 500. Continued conservation and antipoaching efforts by many partners-including WWF-have helped keep the population stable at around 400 individuals. In 2010, the Russian Government adopted the Strategy for Tiger Conservation, making commitments to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 and to stiffen punishment for those caught smuggling tiger products.

Camera traps are typically used to capture images of endangered species for conservation purposes. But in a bid to increase anti-poaching efforts, special camera traps will be camouflaged and hidden in Russian forests to record illegal entry by would-be poachers: here.

Birds: Illegal Mist Nets in China: here.

Siberian flowers from Ice Age fruit


This campion plant grew from a 32,000-year-old fruit. Photo AP/Institute of Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

From DISCOVER Magazine:

After 32,000 Years, an Ice Age Flower Blooms Again


Permafrost is like nature’s freezer.

by Eric A. Powell

Deep in the frozen tundra of northeastern Siberia, a squirrel buried fruits some 32,000 years ago from a plant that bore white flowers. This winter a team of Russian scientists announced that they had unearthed the fruit and brought tissue from it back to life. The fruits are about 30,000 years older than the Israeli date palm seed that previously held the record as the oldest tissue to give life to healthy plants.

The researchers were studying ancient soil composition in an exposed Siberian riverbank in 1995 when they discovered the first of 70 fossilized Ice Age squirrel burrows, some of which stored up to 800,000 seeds and fruits. Permafrost had preserved tissue from one species—a narrow-leafed campion plant—exceptionally well, so researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences recently decided to culture the cells to see if they would grow. Team leader Svetlana Yashina re-created Siberian conditions in the lab and watched as the refrigerated tissue sprouted buds that developed into 36 flowering plants within weeks.

This summer Yashina’s team plans to revisit the tundra to search for even older burrows and seeds.

The flowering plant of this article is Silene stenophylla.

See also here. And here.

Asian leopard and snow leopard discoveries


Recent camera trap images from the rocky terrain of Afghanistan’s central highlands have revealed a surprise: a Persian leopard, an apex predator long thought to have disappeared from the region. Read the full story here.

Five snow leopards photographed in Tajikistan valley: here.

Candid Camera Study in Afghanistan Gives Hope for Snow Leopards: here.

And in Siberia, snow leopards have been photographed for the first time.

A rare Himalayan snow leopard has been captured on cameras installed at the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand: here.

ScienceShot: What the Snow Leopard Ate: here.

Ancient Siberian hominin discovery


This video, about the Denisova cave, is called Scientists Discover New Race of Human Beings.

From New Scientist:

Stone Age toe could redraw human family tree

10 August 2011 by Colin Barras

ON THE western fringes of Siberia, the Stone Age Denisova cave has surrendered precious treasure: a toe bone that could shed light on early humans’ promiscuous relations with their hominin cousins.

New Scientist has learned that the bone is now in the care of Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who revealed the first genetic evidence of interbreeding between ancient humans and other hominins (New Scientist, 30 July, p 34).

There are tantalising hints that the find strengthens the case for a third major group of hominins circulating in Eurasia at the same time as early humans and the Neanderthals. It might possibly even prove all three groups were interbreeding (see diagram).

The Denisova cave had already yielded a fossil tooth and finger bone, in 2000 and 2008. Last year, Pääbo’s DNA analysis suggested both belonged to a previously unknown group of hominins, the Denisovans. The new bone, an extremely rare find, looks likely to belong to the same group.

It is a very exciting discovery, says Isabelle De Groote at London’s Natural History Museum. “Hominin material from southern Siberia is rare and usually extremely fragmentary.”

The primitive morphology of the 30,000 to 50,000-year-old Denisovan finger bone and tooth indicates that Denisovans separated from the Neanderthals roughly 300,000 years ago. At the time of the analysis, Pääbo speculated that they came to occupy large parts of east Asia at a time when Europe and western Asia were dominated by Neanderthals. By 40,000 years ago, Homo sapiens was also moving around much of the region. But the Denisovans remain known only from the finger and tooth fossils – not enough information to formally assign them to their own species.

That may change with analysis of the newly discovered toe bone. It was found in the same layer of the cave floor as the finger bone, by Maria Mednikova at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow (Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia, vol 39, p 129).

Mednikova says this suggests it belonged to a contemporary individual, alive roughly 40,000 years ago. But her studies show the finger and toe bones belonged to distinct people. In addition, the toe bone is stocky and its shape is somewhere between that of a modern human and a typical Neanderthal.

Others are less convinced. Erik Trinkaus at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, who has written extensively on hominin foot bone morphology, says the bone’s sturdy appearance is interesting but inconclusive from a taxonomic perspective.

What’s needed is DNA evidence. For now, though, Pääbo’s team remain very tight-lipped about what, if anything, they have found. “We have no results we are ready to talk about yet,” Pääbo told New Scientist.

Neanderthal Use of Fish, Mammals, Birds, Starchy Plants and Wood 125-250,000 Years Ago: here.

Neanderthal man lived on a diet of seafood in the caves of southern Spain much longer ago than previously thought, new archaeological findings show: here.

Humans and Neandertals may not have interbred, after all: here.

Not just a Neanderthal crush: modern humans interbred with more archaic hominin forms while in Africa: here. And here.

IT LOOKS like Neanderthals may have beaten modern humans to the seas. Growing evidence suggests our extinct cousins criss-crossed the Mediterranean in boats from 100,000 years ago – though not everyone is convinced they weren’t just good swimmers: here.

Humans reached Asia in two waves: Some early migrants interbred with mysterious Neandertal sister group: here.

Dutch Neanderthal discoveries: here.

European neanderthals were on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans: here.

A jawbone and its teeth discovered in a South England cave, Kent’s Cavern, in 1927 is more than 41,000 years old, suggests new dates linked to animal remains in the same cave. Meanwhile, two teeth excavated from a southern Italian site, Grotta del Cavallo, in the 1960s and attributed to Neanderthals may instead belong to modern humans. At 43,000 to 45,000 years old, they are the oldest anatomically modern human remains identified in Europe: here.

The discovery of stone axes in the same sediment layer as cruder tools indicates that hominins with differing tool-making technologies may have coexisted: here.

People love to get their hands on the latest and greatest technology, and scientists had long believed that early humans were no exception. Paleontologists theorized that our ancestors didn’t start leaving Africa until they had developed advanced hand axes. But a new study finds that early humans began to migrate out of the continent with more primitive tools even though better technology had been invented: here.

For years, evolutionary biologists have predicted that new human species would start popping up in Asia as we begin to look closely at fossilised bones found there. A new analysis of bones from south-west China suggests there’s truth to the forecast: here.

You could call it the original baptism of fire: the moment hominins first began controlling flames. There is now evidence that moment came at least 1 million years ago, a finding that will reignite the debate over whether human anatomy was changed forever by cooking: here.