Goats better than herbicides, new study


This video is called common reed (Phragmites australis).

From Duke University in the USA:

Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass

18 hours ago

Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites’ spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

“We find that allowing controlled grazing by goats or other livestock in severely affected marshes can reduce the stem density of phragmites cover by about half in around three weeks,” said Brian R. Silliman, lead author of the new study and Rachel Carson associate professor of marine conservation biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“The goats are likely to provide an effective, sustainable and much more affordable way of mowing down the invasive grass and helping restore lost ocean views,” he said.

In fenced-in test plots at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, Silliman and his colleagues found that a pair of the hungry herbivores could reduce phragmites cover from 94 percent to 21 percent, on average, by the end of the study. Separate trials showed that horses and cows would also readily eat the invasive grass.

In addition to restoring views, the controlled grazing allowed native plant species to re-establish themselves in the test plots over time. The native species diversity index increased five-fold.

“For more than two decades, we’ve declared major chemical and physical warfare on this grass, using all the latest manmade weapons,” Silliman said. “We’ve used helicopters to spray it with herbicides and bulldozers to remove its roots. More often than not, however, it returns.

“In this study, we show that sustainable, low-cost rotational livestock grazing can suppress the unwanted tall grass and favor a more diverse native plant system,” he said.

Silliman said the re-emergence of native marsh plants could happen even faster and be more sustained if managers combine grazing with the selective use of herbicides to eradicate any remaining phragmites and then re-plant native species in its place.

The research findings appear this week in the open-access online journal PeerJ.

“This could be a win-win-win-win situation,” Silliman said. Marshes win because native diversity and function is largely restored. Farmers benefit because they receive payment for providing the livestock and they gain access to free pasture land. Managers win because control costs are reduced. Communities and property owners win because valuable and pleasing water views are brought back.

The approach has been used for nearly 6,000 years in parts of Europe and recently has been successfully tested on small patches of heavily phragmites-invaded marshes in New York, he notes. “Now, it just has to be tested on a larger spatial scale.”

The only drawback, he added, is that “people have to be okay with having goats in their marsh for a few weeks or few months in some years. It seems like a fair trade-off to me.”

Birds in the USA, new report


This video from the USA is called The State of the Birds 2014 report.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

State of the Birds Report: Conservation Works, but There’s More Work to Do

This week, the Cornell Lab and partners released the 2014 State of the Birds Report. The report commemorates Martha, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon, whose tragic passing 100 years ago spurred the creation of the world’s greatest conservation movement.

In the last century we’ve saved Wood Ducks and Bald Eagles, Kirtland’s Warblers and Brown Pelicans, and more. The new report offers the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever, identifying a Watch List of 228 high-concern species as well as 33 Common Birds in Steep Decline to begin conserving now. See the full report and download the lists.

Rare birds in North America update


This video is called Birds of Western Canada – Ducks, Geese & Coots.

From the American Birding Association:

Rare Bird Alert: September 5, 2014

By , on September 5, 2014

This week could reightly be called the week that Alaska exploded. Granted, this time of year means that there are groups of birders on two of the ABA’s most noted vagrant traps, Gambell and St. Paul Island, dedicated to finding Asian strays, but even by the exceptional standards that birders on those islands set year after year, this last week has been extraordinary.

We may as well get used to starting with Alaska this week, because I get the feeling we’ll be starting with Alaska regularly for the next few. On Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, birders seemed to hit the jackpot over and over again. The most notable find so far is likely the ABA’s 4th record of Tree Pipit (ABA Code 5), an accommodating individual present at least through the writing of the post. Also at Gambell one and likely two Brown Shrikes (4) have been hanging around, as well as a Eurasian Hobby (4) and a Yellow-browed Warbler (4) as recently as yesterday. Coming close to matching Gambell’s truckload of rarities, on St. Paul birders found a Jack Snipe (4) and a Siberian Rubythroat (4) . Lest you think all the action is on the islands, a Long-billed Murrelet (3) was photographed in Homer.

One first record this week, a report that went public only a few hours before this post published. In British Columbia, a Green Violetear, a first provincial record and the third for Canada, was photographed at Port Alberni. More on this as it develops. Also in the province, a Little Stint (3) was well-photographed in Sidney, a Ruff (3) was seen at Ladner, and a Lark Bunting at Port Hardy.

Washington also had a Ruff (3), this one at Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor.

Vagrant shorebirds in Oregon took the form of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (3) in Coos. Meanwhile, an Indigo Bunting was seen inDouglas.

Excellent for Idaho was a young Sabine’s Gull in Valley.

A pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visited two separate feeders on opposite sides of California this week. One was in San Luis Obispo and the second in Eureka. These are the 13th and 14th records for the state.

A nice find in Nevada was a Lark Bunting in Washoe.

Vagrants in Utah this week include an American Redstart in Weber, an Ovenbird and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in Davis, and aClay-colored Sparrow in Salt Lake.

Colorado also had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, this one in Phillips, and an Eastern Towhee was found in Logan.

Arizona’s recurring Sinaloa Wren (5) has made its appearance for the third straight year at Fort Huachuca in Cochise.

In Texas, a Greater Pewee was seen in Houston, where it has spent the last 5 winters.

A Crested Caracara in Barber, Kansas, is that state’s 7th.

A Little Gull was seen this week on Yankton Reservoir, which straddles Nebraska and South Dakota, and the bird was seen on both sides of the line. Unique to Nebraska, however, was a Long-tailed Jaeger found in Lincoln.

A Long-tailed Jaeger was also seen in Marion, Iowa, this week, along with a Red Phalarope near Saylorville.

A Mottled Duck in Mason, Illinois, is around that state’s 10th record. A Ruff(3) was also seen in Chatauqua.

In Ohio, a Reddish Egret in Delaware is a remarkable record, and only that state’s 2nd.

Always a nice bird inland, a Great Black-backed Gull was photographed in Hamilton, Tennessee.

Infrequent in recent years, birders on a trip out of Hatteras, North Carolina, were surprised to get great looks at the enigmatic Bermuda Petrel (3).

In Virginia, a Wood Stork has spent the better part of two weeks in Clarke.

Less notable as the years wain, a White-winged Dove was seen in Cape May, New Jersey.

An apparent Brown Booby (3) was photographed in Queens, New York.

In Ontario, a Glossy Ibis was found near Hamilton.

Great for Quebec, a Lark Bunting was photographed at Côte-Nord.

Rare for Connecticut, a Parasitic Jaeger was spotted in the Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound.

And yet another Brown Booby (3) stopped off on a fishing boat on the Grand Banks, Newfoundland, that province’s 3rd record.

Assata Shakur’s autobiography, new book


This video is called Eyes Of The Rainbow – a documentary film with Assata Shakur.

By Carlos Martinez:

Inspiring account of a black activists struggle

Monday 1st August 2014

Assata: An Autobiograhy

by Assata Shakur

(Zed Books, £8.99)

ASSATA SHAKUR remains an essential text for understanding both the prison-industrial complex and the state of race relations in the US, as well as providing a profound insight into the successes and failures of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Born in 1947, Shakur — then Joanne Deborah Byron — grew up between North Carolina and New York, experiencing the intense racism that prevailed, and still prevails, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

As a black, working-class woman she became acutely aware of the special oppression she and others like her faced. When a college student, she came across activists — especially from newly liberated Africa –— who challenged her anti-communist prejudices and her internalised stereotypes.

They encouraged her to get involved in the struggle for black power and against capitalism and imperialism. This led to her membership of the Black Panther Party and, later, the Black Liberation Army.

The larger part of the book is devoted to documenting Shakur’s experiences with the US “justice” system in courts and prisons between her arrest in 1971 and her escape eight years later.

Few readers would fail to be shocked at the extent to which this human being, whose real “crime” in the eyes of the state was to be a loud campaigner for justice and equality, was tortured and abused in prison — often at the hands of openly fascistic prison officers.

Her account also serves as a crucial reminder that there remain many political prisoners in the US, languishing behind bars for decades on trumped-up charges and that international pressure must be maintained and intensified until Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners are freed.

As the book demonstrates, it’s a fight that must be maintained against a phenomenally unjust prison system which disproportionately targets poor and non-white people.

This is not restricted to the US — a recent study showed that black people in Britain are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be imprisoned.

Shakur’s profound and thought-provoking reflections on the decline of the black power movement deserve to be studied and discussed, as they could help illuminate a path for the current generation of organisers and activists.

Apart from the FBI’s large-scale covert assault on the Panthers and others, she focuses too on subjective elements —adventurism, sectarianism, amateurishness, the failure to consistently raise levels of political consciousness and alienation from the masses — which hampered the movement.

Shakur’s continuing relevance is not lost on the FBI. Last year it added her to its list of “most wanted terrorists” and she is the first woman to enjoy this honour — good to see US imperialism doing its bit for gender equality.

Thankfully, she is safely in exile in Cuba, a country she describes as “one of the largest, most resistant and most courageous palenques (palisades) that has ever existed on the face of this planet.”

Essential reading.

See also here.