American pine martens, new research


This 2015 video from the USA is called The Ever-Adorable Pine Marten.

From The University of Montana in the USA:

Previously unknown pine marten diversity discovered

June 22, 2017

The elusive American pine marten, a little-studied member of the weasel family, might be more diverse than originally thought, according to new research published by a University of Montana professor.

A study by Natalie Dawson, research professor in UM’s Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences and director of UM’s Wilderness Institute, suggests that the forests of northwest North America may harbor not one, but two distinct species of the mammal. The research, published in a recent edition of the Journal of Mammology</em>, also points to the presence of hybrid marten populations in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, where the two species converge.

Dawson, whose work builds on previous research conducted in the 1950s by late UM Professor Philip Wright, examined hundreds of DNA samples to differentiate between the separate populations. She said her findings are exciting because hybridization in different species of mammals is still relatively new, especially in natural ecosystems.

“This is one of the few cases where there has been long-term hybridization between species that still maintain their distinctiveness in their respective localities,” she said. “This research also illustrates the importance of historical climate change as a driver for biological diversity in the mountains and landscapes of Montana, as well as throughout the rest of North America.”

Currently, Dawson is furthering her research by examining historical pine marten skulls housed in UM’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum in hopes of understanding the morphological, or physical, characteristic differences between the two species.

British Conservatives neglect Grenfell disaster survivors


This video from London, England, says about itself:

Tottenham Residents Find Out Their Building Has The Same Cladding As Grenfell Towers

22 June 2017

Residents of the River Apartments building in Tottenham have just found out their building is covered in the same cladding as the Grenfell Tower. Here is their response.

By Robert Stevens in Britain:

Grenfell Tower fire victims and survivors treated with contempt by UK authorities

22 June 2017

Those who perished in horrific deaths and the survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno—which has killed at least 79 people—are overwhelmingly poor and working-class.

Their deaths were the result of the policies of successive governments, going back nearly four decades, through which the social rights of working people, including the right to safe housing, have been eviscerated.

Numerous representatives of the political elite and their media backers have engaged in handwringing and mock indignation over the fate of the victims. Their real attitude, however, is shown in the way that the survivors and their families have been treated by the authorities, with undisguised class hatred and contempt.

This is sanctioned from the very top of government. For days, there was no governmental or local authority assistance for the victims. It took two days for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to make a 30-minute visit to the site, where she was kept away from the public on “security” grounds. Only after the awareness of growing anger in London and nationwide finally hit home in ruling circles was an emergency relief fund initiated. This was after public donations had already raised more than £3 million—totally independently of the government.

The official “Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund” is a pittance of just £5 million. Of this, a minuscule £500 is being made available as an upfront payment to those who were burnt out of their homes. Another £5,000 is supposedly to be transferred into their bank accounts, which many cannot access, as their entire possessions went up in flames. As of Tuesday, the £5 million has barely been touched, with one news channel reporting that a total of just £330,000 has been paid out to survivors.

This is approximately half of the amount spent on refurbishing the Tower with the combustible cladding that almost certainly enabled the fire to spread with such devastating speed.

Moreover, it stands in stark contrast to the £369 million in taxpayers’ money that has been granted to the Royal Family for a 10-year refurbishing of Buckingham Palace, which stands in the same London borough. The lives of 80 people, if not many more, and the destitution of an untold number displaced—who have lost everything they possessed—is valued at just a tiny fraction of the amount being lavished on one family, already amongst the most privileged in the country.

The work on the Queen’s official residence, estimated to be worth £2.2 billion, will include replacing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers. When it was announced last year, a statement from Buckingham Palace read, “An independent specialist report concluded that without urgent work there is a risk of serious damage to the palace and the precious royal collection items it houses from, amongst other scenarios, fire and water damage.”

No such concerns ever crossed the minds of those in power responsible for Grenfell Tower, and the fate of around 600 people, who were left without the most basic safety requirements, including a central fire alarm and sprinkler system.

It was clear to all from the very outset that the fire was a major catastrophe requiring a massive emergency response. Yet no such co-ordinated action was organised by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council—despite it being the wealthiest local authority in the country—to offer emergency respite, including the provision of food, drink, warmth and shelter to those devastated by the crisis. This was their response to working class people, some of whom fled the blaze in terror wearing just t-shirts and their underwear.

It was the local population and others who rushed to the area, coming from as far afield as Birmingham, to organize support and help for those who fled the inferno. Many of those assisting were visibly shocked at the lack of any official emergency operation, complaining they had worked for days providing food, clothes and shelter, with no assistance from the authorities.

The inaction of the RBKC meant that hundreds of people made homeless by the fire, including those who lived in rented social housing adjacent to Grenfell—told to vacate their homes on safety grounds—were not provided with any proper alternative accommodation. Instead many were dumped at the nearby “official rescue centre”—Westway Sport and Fitness Centre. Here they were forced to sleep on the sports hall floor, on rubber mats with sleeping bags and makeshift pillows.

Seeing their plight, many Londoners offered survivors rooms in their houses and access to food, drinks and shower facilities.

Rather than provide decent accommodation for the victims and demand government step in to ensure it, RBKC has sent around 250 of those affected by the fire to stay temporarily in dingy hotels all over the capital.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday show, West London film producer Nisha Parti, who has been helping victims of the fire, said, “Victims were going to hotels, arriving at hotels, with no one from the council to greet them, to check them in, to give them clothes and food.” Parti revealed that Kensington and Chelsea council were giving just £10 a day to the survivors on arrival at the hotels, an amount even lower than the daily amount allotted in welfare payments to the unemployed. This barely allowed its destitute recipients to pay for a sandwich and a beverage.

Reports also emerged that RBKC council were sending Grenfell and nearby residents into accommodation miles away from London. The council denied claims that people have been sent outside of central London.

This however is contradicted by accounts, including the detailed statement given by one survivor, who lived in a flat on Grenfell’s 17th floor and who managed to escape from the blaze with his aunt.

In a video widely shared on social media, the young man explained that, “Another guy, they took him out of the hotel [the council originally sent him to] and they sent him to Preston…They [the council] are putting pressure on people that if you don’t accept their offer [of accommodation] you are making yourself intentionally homeless.”

He also revealed that one of his neighbours—whose wife had died in the fire and who “was in a terrible place right now and losing it”—was “put in an old people’s home. He’s not going to get rehoused now. That’s it.”

He continued, “They are doing some disgusting things. They are cutting corners and we are already scared about what’s going to happen to us.”

By announcing the fund, May was acknowledging the scale of opposition that was developing against her pro-austerity government and the ruling elite, fuelled by the blatant refusal of the government and the Conservative-run local authority to assist survivors. May said, “Frankly, the support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough.”

Yet even as she was forced to state this, after denying it for days, May would not guarantee those made homeless would be rehoused in the borough, only that “as far as possible” they would be placed “within the borough or neighbouring boroughs. Some people may actually want to go to another part of London.”

Shortly after May’s statement, furious local residents descended on Kensington Town Hall to demand “Justice for Grenfell” and that those suffering be afforded basic, civilised treatment. Thousands more participated in a demonstration that marched through central London.

The Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, “We are still hearing stories of people not being allocated properly. There’s one woman this morning and her child, they have been moved three times since Wednesday into different accommodation.”

On Tuesday evening, almost a week after the fire, Sky News reported that a number of survivors were still sleeping in the Westway Centre. They feared, it reported, that if they went elsewhere council officials would wash their hands of them entirely and prevent them from being rehoused in the borough. Sky reported that it had been told that a number of people were sleeping in cars and even in parks since the fire and had received no assistance.

The callous disregard for human suffering by the powers that be and the humiliating treatment that survivors have been subjected to over the past week is an object lesson in the real priorities of the ruling elite.

The terrible, entirely preventable, catastrophe unleashed on the Grenfell residents and the working-class community around it reveals the true face of a society in which a sated layer of multi-millionaires and billionaires wallow in unimaginable wealth and privilege while working people are condemned to live in death traps.

This video from London, England, says about itself:

22 June 2017

Labour Party MP David Lammy in his first question in the new session of parliament shares his personal friendship with one of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and challenges Tory Party Prime Minister Theresa May over the current state of the criminal investigation.

Grenfell Tower survivors could be made intentionally homeless for turning down homes 200 miles away, claims MP. Labour MP David Lammy claims residents face being moved as far away as Lancashire: here.

Albatross conservation update


This video says about itself:

World’s Largest Albatross Colony – Blue Planet – BBC Earth

30 January 2017

Black browed Albatross feast on the fish that live in the nutrient rich and stormy South Atlantic seas off the coast of the Falklands.

From BirdLife:

22 June 2017

How we’re saving the kings of the ocean

By Stephanie Winnard

It has been another busy year for the Albatross Task Force, and our teams have made good progress in reducing the bycatch of vulnerable seabirds in some of the world’s most deadly fisheries. We sum up one year of successes below and in our full annual report.

Albatrosses are one of the most threatened groups of birds in the world, with 15 of 22 species currently at risk of extinction. One of the major causes of their decline is being caught accidentally as bycatch on baited longline hooks or struck by trawl cables and dragged under the water.

Horrifyingly it’s estimated that around 100,000 albatross die every year in longline and trawl fisheries around the globe. For birds that are long-lived yet slow to breed, these deaths have lead to huge population declines with some colonies having halved in size since the 1990’s.

To combat these needless deaths the Albatross Task Force was set up in 2006 to find solutions to this problem, and work with fisheries and governments to save the albatross. Over the last 12 months the team has made good progress towards saving vulnerable seabirds in some of the world’s most deadly fisheries, the details of which are in our new report.

8/10 of our high priority fisheries now have regulations in place to protect seabirds, following an announcement from Argentina that seabird regulations are to be introduced by May 2018 that will require trawlers to use bird-scaring lines.

The benefit for seabirds in Argentina will be huge, as the main trawl fleet is responsible for the death of 13,500 black-browed albatross per year, an impact we expect to reduce by over 85% based on our experimental results.

Across the Atlantic in Namibia, since seabird regulations came into force there, 100% of trawl and demersal longline vessels have now been provisioned with bird-scaring lines, constructed through our collaboration with a local women’s group, Meme Itumbapo.

By next year we hope to show that Namibia has achieved significant bycatch reductions similar to South Africa where we documented a 99% reduction in albatross deaths in the trawl fishery following the introduction of bird-scaring lines. This will be a major win for albatross, as our estimates for the two Namibian fleets suggest in excess of 25,000 seabirds were previously killed annually.

Our work in small scale fisheries has also leapt forward over the last 12 months; in Chile we have shown that modifications to purse-seine net design has the potential to reduce shearwater bycatch massively, and in Peru trials of net lights have virtually eliminated bycatch of not just seabirds, but also turtles and marine mammals.

This is all hugely exciting as no mitigation measures previously existed for these types of fisheries.

All of these successes have only been possible due to the collaborative efforts between our in country partners, the RSPB and BirdLife International, plus generous funding from RSPB membership, external sponsors and many kind individual donations.

We are extremely thankful for the continued support we receive, without which we wouldn’t be able to keep up the fight to save the albatross.

Threatened Spix’s macaw, Brazilian girl interviewed


This video says about itself:

RARE bird spotted in Brazil

24 June 2016

BREAKING. Extinct in the wild? Maybe not. 16-year old Damily has filmed a Spix’s Macaw in the wild! BLU IS BACK ⚡

From BirdLife:

19 Jun 2017

The Spix Mystery: one year later

By Edson Ribeiro, SAVE Brasil

On June 19th, 2016, Damilys and her mother Lourdes Oliveira woke up before dawn to look for the Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii in the forest near their house in Curaçá, a small town of about 30,000 in the dry Caatinga area of Bahia, Brazil.

The day before, a farmer had assured them he had spotted the rare bird – a surprising claim, since it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 2000. Much to her excitement, 16 year old Damilys not only saw it, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone. After she shared on social media, her video went viral. One year on, we caught up with her back in the forest where she sighted the Spix for the first time.

When you were told that a Spix’s Macaw had been spotted, did you believe it right away?

No, we didn’t believe it at all actually! We thought it would be impossible for the Spix’s Macaw to be back in the Caatinga. It may be its natural habitat, but after so many years without sightings it was unlikely to be true. When we actually saw it ourselves, that’s when we really believed it. In the same way, many people only believed it after seeing the video.

Had you had any false alarms of people spotting the Spix’s Macaw before?

Yes, we had two of them last year, but we didn’t know whether or not they were true. One of them happened before I took the footage. When we were in another expedition after we had spotted it, I heard it myself. But since we had our thoughts so fixed in the idea we can’t say for sure… However, since other people also heard it, we thought that maybe it could be close, and it had only been a few days since the footage.

Why do you know so much about this bird?

I started as a volunteer for SAVE Brasil‘s Spix’s Macaw Project (Ararinha Na Natureza). Since the Project began I’ve always taken advantage of all the opportunities I had to go to the field with the team. When this volunteering opportunity presented itself, I did trainings on vertical climbing and radio telemetry.  And now I’m still with the Project, going to the field, compiling data… it’s our daily routine.

Now we are starting to work with the Blue-winged Macaw Primolius maracana (Near Threatened) to observe and monitor them to help in the Spix’s Macaw reintroduction, since they’re closely related.

Do you still go out often to look for it then?

I’ve gone to all expeditions with the people of the Spix’s Macaw Project and until today I still have the hopes of seeing it again. The first expedition I went to lasted more than 15 days.

We also know that your grandfather Pinpin was an avid birder. Is it true the Macaw appeared right in the area your grandfather donated as a nature reserve?

It all started through him, he always had this will to protect nature. His dream was to donate part of his land to protect the environment and see the Spix’s Macaw fly around again, but he didn’t have enough information on how to do it.

There are many farmers’ associations here in Curaçá, and about four years ago my mom went to one of these association meetings and met the Spix’s Macaw Project staff. Then they presented some proposals and my mom saw that they matched with what my grandfather wanted. After this, he succeeded in making his land a protected area. He got us to open our minds, he has always loved nature, and he taught us that. That’s where all my passion comes from.

Do you think the rediscovery of this Spix’s Macaw has changed the way people in Curaçá see the Caatinga and nature?

The town is divided. One has to have an open mind to learn and see the value in nature. A lot of people see that it has changed, and the rediscovery has brought benefits to the town, but other people say everything is the same…However, most people did notice the change.

But are people looking forward to its comeback?

I believe so. People are very excited about the return of the Spix’s Macaw. We have worked really hard on the Project to raise awareness and people are excited because it’s a species that only existed in the Caatinga. The Spix’s Macaw is the symbol of Curaçá, after all!

The footage was certainly appreciated by the online community – it went viral on Facebook, was shared by more than 1500 people and reached more than one million users. Why do you think the video was such a hit with people all around the world?

We knew it would be a success, but not as much as it was! I think it resonated because it made people curious. I guess many people didn’t believe it and wanted to see the video to know if it was real. Even today, a lot of people still don’t believe it.

We’ve been told you want to study biology. Tell us more!

I’ve always enjoyed walking around here and getting to know new places, and before, I wasn’t aware that this type of work even had a name. Then, through the Project they explained it to me, and now I know this is want. The Project staff influenced me in this decision, and they are very supportive. I want to study biology and become an ornithologist!

Are you aware of any threats affecting Curaçá’s nature?

Yes, the most important threats are poaching, mining, and ranching. I think all species are at risk, mainly the ones that feed on fruits and survive of the Caatinga’s vegetation. Ranching is damaging the vegetation, and mining is worsening the deforestation.

So do you see yourself in the future being a biologist for the Spix’s Macaw Project?

More than a biologist. I see myself speaking the Spix’s Macaw’s language, doing all the reintroduction work I’m currently doing with the Blue-winged Macaw, monitoring the nests, picking up the chicks. I see myself doing the same with Spix’s Macaw chicks and achieving what my grandfather always wanted to see, flocks of Spix’s macaws flying around Curaçá again.

Saudi Arabia’s new warmongering crown prince


This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Bombing Yemen To Quell Demonstrations for Democracy

24 August 2016

The Saudi-led coalition is not just trying to deter Houthi leaders; they want to ensure that pro-democratic Yemeni demonstrations don’t touch the rest of the Arabian peninsula, says Bilal Zenab Ahmed of http://Souciant.com.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Hardliner becomes heir to throne in soft coup

Thursday 22nd June 2017

New crown prince has directed Riyadh’s brutal military campaign in Yemen

SAUDI ARABIA’S King Salman made his son the heir to the throne and deputy prime minister yesterday, at the expense of his nephew and counterterrorism chief.

Mohammed bin Salman — who was appointed defence minister in January 2015, months before the start of the Saudi-led war in Yemen — was named as the new crown prince.

He will retain the defence portfolio while taking on the deputy PM role.

Former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef was stripped of the title, along with his powerful post as interior minister in charge of security.

He told his successor: “I will rest now, and God help you.”

His interior minister job went to another young prince, Abdulaziz bin Saud, whose father is the governor of Saudi Arabia’s vast Eastern province, which is home to most of the nation’s Shi’ites [and much of the oil] and borders Qatar.

Yesterday’s royal decree stated that “a majority” of senior royal members — 31 of 34 — on the shadowy Allegiance Council supported the recasting of the line of succession.

Riyadh’s Gulf Arab neighbours all welcomed the announcement, but in regional rival Iran, the national TV news called it a “soft coup.”

Mr bin Salman was little known before his appointment as defence minister at the tender age of 29.

He has ruled out dialogue with Iran, pushed for the blockade of Qatar this month and led the war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and brought that country to the brink of famine.

Mr bin Salman has also supported floating part of state oil firm Aramco on the international stock markets to allow foreign part-ownership and investment.

In remarks aired on Saudi TV in May, he framed the tensions with Iran in sectarian terms, saying Tehran’s goal was “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shi’ite doctrine. He also vowed to take “the battle” to Iran.

Alongside Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, appointed in April 2015, Mr bin Salman appears to represent a more aggressive and interventionist Saudi attitude to the region.

Eurasian bird news


This 2015 video is about puffins and other seabirds of the Farne Islands, England.

From BirdLife:

16 June 2017

The Bird Bulletin – Vol. 11

By Gui-Xi Young

Welcome to the latest edition of ‘The Bird Bulletin’ – our weekly news brief. Every Friday morning, we bring you bite-sized updates from across Europe & Central Asia – kick start your weekend with “what a little bird told me!”

ANCHORS AWEIGH! Read BirdLife’s new marine blog ‘Journey to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge’ in which Marguerite Tarzia chronicles her month-long voyage across the high seas in search of whales and seabirds aboard the research vessel RRS Discovery! Read now…

Squid pro quoDr Vladimir Laptikhovsky – expert in all things cephalopod (octopus, squid, cuttlefish, etc.) – takes us down into the depths of the wild open ocean in search of food for hungry seabirds. Read more…

Nature vs. pesticides – A bittersweet victory: On Wednesday a whopping 363 MEPs voted against a proposed ban on the use of pesticides on ‘safe havens’ for farmland nature – just 13 votes shy of the needed overall majority. Nature may have ruled the day, but what was supposed to be a ‘no brainer’ vote, turned out to be a very close call. Read more…

Turkish delight! Doğa Derneği (BirdLife Turkey) is celebrating a major victory for conservation. This week, the Parliament withdrew a draft proposal that would allow building development in the protected olive pastures of Anatolia. Read more…

Well that’s all for today’s ‘Bird Bulletin’ – tune in next week for more cheeps, chirps and chatter.

Bye bye birdies!

Gui-Xi Young, Editor & Campaigns Officer – BirdLife Europe & Central Asia