Hoopoes and their eggs, new research


This video from Israel is called Hoopoe Nest (HD) V1 – Part 1 of 2.

And this video is the sequel.

From Wildlife Extra:

The colour of a hoopoe’s eggs may signal the health and strength of the mother bird

Hoopoe females protect their chicks from ‘bad’ bacteria by coating their eggs in ‘good’ bacteria.

The substance that they spread on the eggs with their bills and belly feathers comes from their uropygial, or preen glands. This causes the eggs gradually to change colour when they are incubated, from bluish-grey to a more saturated greenish-brown.

Studies led by Juan J Soler of the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, CSIC in Spain, and published in Springer’s journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, have shown that the preen gland secretion of incubating hoopoes is brown in colour and holds antimicrobial properties.

The colour is due to a combination of symbiotic bacteria found in the uropygial gland that provides protection against pathogenic bacteria.

These symbiotic bacteria help to protect the bird’s embryos from trans-shell infections, and are highly effective against Bacillus licheniformis, a well-known feather-degrading bacterium.

The darker the colour of the secretion, the more of the ‘good’ bacteria are present, and therefore the better the protection against ‘bad’ bacteria so a bird’s embryos and feathers stay healthy.

The researchers speculated that the egg colouration might be a way through which the female hoopoe signals to the male that, for future reference, she is good breeding material.

It is thought that the colour informs the male of the abundance of the antimicrobial bacterial community found in the female’s glands – a quality that she will be able to carry over to their offspring should they mate in the future.

Although further experimental work is needed to establish the validity of this signalling hypothesis, Soler hopes that the new results will encourage such research in hoopoes as well as in other birds.

See also here.

Spanish dictator Franco’s mass graves uncovered


This video says about itself:

Exhumations, Memory, and the Return of Civil War Ghosts in Spain

21 May 2014

Francisco Ferrandiz, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Since 2000, the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and the Post-War years, mostly involving the largely abandoned graves of civilians killed in the Francoist rearguard by paramilitary groups, has become a central element in contemporary social and political debates in the country about the nature of the armed conflict and the dictatorial regime following it. Although exhumations have become a crucial tool for symbolic reparation and have triggered claims for justice for the crimes committed and now unearthed, the social process unleashed by their opening is way larger, and relates to the emergence of a fragmented and heterogeneous political culture focused on the memory of the defeated in the war. This emergent political culture is expressed in multiple acts of ‘memory recovery’ and ‘dignification’ of the diverse victims of Francoism beyond exhumations, in political acts such as concerts, homages, book publishing, street renaming, battleground tourism, pressure over Francoist monuments, or even academic conferences.

In this talk, the complexity and dynamism of this process is analysed, including from political and legal initiatives of great social and media impact to local actions on the ground, at times failed, ephemeral or almost imperceptible, but no less crucial. Regional differences, associated to uneven public memory policies, will also be considered. In the last few years, the politics of dignification of those defeated in the war is increasingly incorporating elements drawn from international law, such as the concept of ‘crimes against humanity’ or the category of ‘forced disappearence.’ This revitalization of the memory of the defeated in the Civil War has also been accompanied by a resurgence of winners in the war, which have inaugurated an active brand of neofrancoism.

Dr. Ferrandiz is a staff researcher interested in the anthropology of the body, violence and social memory (in Latin America and in Spain), with focus on the analysis on the current process of exhumation of mass graves from the Civil War (1936-9). To cite only a few, his ranging interests include cultural memory, human rights, forensic archaeology, forensic anthropology, to crimes against humanity.

Session 8 in the public, one-credit course Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe.

Organized by the IAS Reframing Mass Violence Research Collaborative. Cosponsored by the Human Rights Program, and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This talk occurred on May 8, 2014, from 3:00-4:30pm in 1-109 Hanson Hall.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Mass graves from Spain’s civil war uncovered

18 August 2014

The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory has found mass graves in the Estépar Mountains on the outskirts of the Spanish northern city of Burgos.

A team consisting of 50 Spanish archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic scientists estimates that four mass graves could include between 300 to 400 corpses.

Archaeologist Juan Montero told El Diario, “We have managed to contact sixty families. Everyone is well aware that given the large number of mass graves and the lack of economic resources, due to there being zero government involvement, the tasks of identifying the victims are going to be tremendously complex.”

This music video from Spain is called Ave Maria, Antonio José, BURGOS 2012 03 10.

Among those who are said to be buried there are the composer Antonio José Burgos and his brother Julio, and the father of the writer Francisco Ayala, the last representative of the poets and writers of the Generation of 1927. …

According to local historian José Ignacio Casado, most victims come from those who were arrested and then released. Waiting for them were Falangists, soldiers and members of the Guardia Civil, who would execute them in what were known as “sacas” or “paseos” (“strolls”). Many of these prisoners were released from jails and concentration camps, driven to isolated places at dawn and shot.

The number of bodies in each grave matched the number of released prisoners who stayed in Burgos prison. Ignacio explained to El Diario, “I can tell you that it is those who left prison on September 29 and 30, 1936. Some cases may vary, but we can know who they were by identifying them and their ages with the documentation on those released from the prisons.”

Witnesses described to the Internet daily Público how the victims were executed. After being arrested, and to prevent them from cheering liberty and republic, they were gagged with straps, which were then washed in vomit and saved for the next execution. The executioners forced them to dig their own graves. They were shot at close range, and finished off with rifle butts.

Burgos witnessed one of the most notorious repressions during the Civil War. It is estimated that 2,500 people were executed, mainly consisting of members of the trade unions UGT and CNT, local politicians and mayors of Izquierda Repúblicana, and members of the Socialist Party (PSOE), and in some cases peasants and workers whose crime had been to claim unpaid wages.

According to Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust, 200,000 people were executed between 1936 to 1945 by the fascists.

The regime of General Franco and post-Franco revisionist historiography have justified the repression as a response to the “red terror”. In fact, the fascist repression was planned well in advance, targeting the organised working class and any whom they deemed oppositionists.

In May 1936, two months ahead of the coup, General Mola, in charge of the northern sector, passed instructions to the military bases: “The action must be extremely violent as soon as possible to reduce the enemy, which is strong and well-organised. Of course, we will arrest all the leaders of the political parties, associations or unions that are not affiliated with the [National] movement, applying exemplary punishment to those individuals in order to strangle rebel movements or strikes.”

On July 19, two days after the coup, Mola sent another order: “It is necessary to spread terror, eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do…. All those who oppose the victory of the movement to save Spain will be shot.”

Since the death of Franco and the end of the fascist dictatorship in 1978, successive governments have attempted to cover up the crimes of fascist regime.

After its election in the 2011, the Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy reduced by 60 percent the budgets dedicated to the Law of Historical Memory (LHM), passed by the previous Socialist Party government, and abolished the Office of Victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship, which coordinated the exhumation of the remains of those that disappeared. For 2013-2014, the budget for LHM ceased to exist, forcing the associations dedicated to recovering the remains to rely on donations.

Last September, the Popular Party government refused to extradite four fascists indicted by Argentinean judge María Romilda Servini, who declared that under universal jurisdiction they could be charged under international law if the Spanish judiciary did not carry out prosecution.

This came four years after judge Baltasar Garzón, who began an investigation into Franco-era crimes, was subjected to an intense campaign of vilification that led to his prosecution and being barred from practising as a judge for 11 years.

Against Servini, the PP and the opposition PSOE closed ranks in defence of the 1977 Amnesty Law, passed during the transition from fascism to bourgeois democracy following Franco’s death in 1975, which prevents any reckoning and investigation into the crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship. In response, the former leader of the Stalinist-led United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, called for a mere modification of the law.

The government has remained completely silent on the latest list of recommendations sent in July by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which call for a “schedule indicating the measures that will be taken.”

While the recommendations are not binding, Madrid has an obligation to reply.

The efforts to conceal the past crimes are not motivated only by historic concerns. Under conditions where the economic crisis and austerity have caused 21 percent of the population to be classified as poor, where 2.3 million children—27.5 percent of the total—live under the poverty line, and where 25 percent of workers are unemployed, the same conditions that led to the revolutionary explosions of the 1930s and the ruling class’s pre-emptive counter-revolution, are being created.

The ruling class sees the need to justify past dictatorships in order to set up a new one and to smash any opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

Hundreds of thousands of birds poisoned in Spain


This video is called Spain: Deadly Danger for Europe’s Vultures.

From BirdLife:

Hundreds of thousands of birds accidentally poisoned every year

Elodie Cantaloube, Mon, 28/07/2014 – 13:12

Two thousand, three hundred and fifty five Red and Black kites, 2,146 Griffon Vultures, 638 Black Vultures, 348 Egyptian Vultures, 114 Spanish Imperial Eagles and 40 Bearded Vultures were found poisoned in Spain between 2000 and 2010, according to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. All these birds are threatened species and protected under EU law.

Every year around the world, hundreds of thousands of birds are the accidental victims of products used in common activities, including: agricultural pesticides, poison baits, the use of lead for hunting and fishing and veterinary treatments toxic to birds such as diclofenac.

When they do not kill them, these substances usually affect the reproductive success of the adults, which can threaten the survival of vulnerable bird populations and species.

Yet, experience shows that it is possible to minimize and prevent poisoning of birds without much effort and costs, by following experts’ recommendations. BirdLife Partners are very active on the issue, including SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).

In Spain, bird poisoning is mainly the result of poison baits used to kill predators and rodents. Many of these poisons are very strong, and are not only harmful to birds but to the wildlife in general, while more nature-friendly alternatives exist. After years of campaigning by SEO/BirdLife, the Spanish government has finally adopted, in 2004, a national strategy against illegal use of poison baits in the environment, aiming at developing dissuasion techniques and increasing crime prosecution, while raising people’s awareness. Conscious that the success of the strategy relies on civil society’s acceptance, SEO/BirdLife has been working since then in engaging with key stakeholders on the development, implementation and monitoring of the strategy.

The veterinary use of diclofenac is also an increasing issue in the country. This drug, used to cure cattle, is extremely toxic to certain bird species, notably Vultures and Eagles. Although it has caused the dramatic 99% decline of the Vulture population in South Asia, it is still being prescribed to pets and livestock in Spain, where an important fraction of the European Vulture and Eagle populations live. In order to stop an ecological catastrophe from happening in Spain and in Europe in general, SEO/BirdLife, together with the rest of the BirdLife Partnership, is currently campaigning for a ban of veterinary diclofenac at EU level.

As to the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), it has been collecting inputs from many experts worldwide within the last two years. This information has been used to produce recommendations, to prevent, minimise, and where feasible eliminate causes of bird poisoning. A series of guidelines, focusing on migratory birds, was presented to the Convention of Migratory Species on July 1st in Bonn. The Convention, constituted of experts from conservation organisations, including BirdLife, and national and local authorities, will discuss the document. If endorsed it will save many migratory birds from one of the various plagues they are confronted with they are confronted to.

For more information, please contact Willem Van Den Bossche, European Nature Conservation Officer at BirdLife Europe.

Saves vultures from diclofenac: here.

Rare birds in Spain


This video from Honduras says about itself:

Phalaropus tricolor

Wilson’s Phalarope

Falaropo picudo

Reserva Hábitat/Especie El Jicarito, Choluteca, Honduras

27 diciembre [December] 2013

The Wilson’s phalaropes on this video are the smaller birds which keep turning around.

They are in winter plumage, like the bigger birds on the video; marbled godwits, I’d say.

From Rare birds in Spain on Twitter:

29.7.2014 Phalaropus tricolor 1 ind[ividual] + Phalaropus lobatus 1 ind[ividual], Punta de la Banya, Delta de l’Ebre, Tarragona (Jordi Martí-Aledo).

Phalaropus lobatus are red-necked phalaropes.