US pro civil rights artist Frank Cieciorka dies

This video from the USA says about itself:

Clinical Associate Professor Ralph Fertig of the USC School of Social Work talks to his class about being a Freedom Rider in the South, sharing a very graphic description of the time he spent in a Selma, Alabama jail.

From ART FOR A CHANGE blog in the USA:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Frank Cieciorka: RIP

On November 24, 2008, artist Frank Cieciorka (che-CHOR-ka) died from emphysema at the age of 69. Starting in the 1980s he began to be recognized for his watercolor paintings of northern California landscapes, but it would be one of his early graphic art designs that assured him a place in history.

The iconic clenched fist has long been a symbol of the international left, its usage going back at least until 1917. But the symbol was transformed and revitalized in 1965 by Cieciorka, whose rendition of the pictogram struck a cord with a new generation of activists involved in the civil rights and antiwar struggles.

A New Yorker, Cieciorka came to California in 1957 to attend the arts program at San Jose State College. Upon graduation in 1964 he became a volunteer in Freedom Summer, the major civil rights campaign launched in ’64 to help African Americans register to vote in Mississippi. That same year the Ku Klux Klan kidnapped, tortured, and murdered three Freedom Summer volunteers – James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. From 1964-65 Cieciorka also served as a field secretary in Mississippi and Arkansas for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC – pronounced “snick”), one of the primary civil rights organizations of the day.

Cieciorka returned to the San Francisco Bay area in 1965, and created a woodcut print inspired by his experiences as a civil rights activist in the deep South. His image, simply titled Hand, made its way onto posters and flyers, but according to the artist, “It wasn’t until we made it into a button and tossed thousands of them into crowds at rallies and demonstrations that it really became popular”. I wore one of Cieciorka’s buttons as a sixteen-year-old, and I still regard his woodcut print as one of the most striking symbols to have come out of the turbulent 60s.

For more on the life and times of Frank Cieciorka, visit Lincoln Cushing’s Docs Populi.

“Neshoba: the Price of Freedom”, the powerful documentary opening at the Cinema Village on Friday in NY and at the Laemmle Music Hall in LA on September 10th, gets its title from the Mississippi County where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were slain in 1964. Chaney was an African-American from Mississippi while the other two men were New York Jews. There was evidence that Chaney was tortured and then buried alive in the earthen dam where all three were eventually discovered: here.

After Over Four Decades, Justice Still Eludes Family of 3 Civil Rights Workers Slain in Mississippi Burning Killings: here.


Zebra finches in Australian nest-boxes

This video is called Zebra finch in the nest.

From Emu:

Use of nest-boxes by the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata): implications for reproductive success and research

Simon C. Griffith A , B , Sarah R. Pryke A and Mylene Mariette A

A Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email:


Nest-boxes have been used widely and for many decades in Europe and North America to increase avian reproductive success in species management and conservation programs and to increase the amenability and efficiency with which a species can be studied.

Here we describe the establishment of a breeding population of Zebra Finches using nest-boxes in semi-arid, far-western New South Wales, over three breeding seasons (2005–07). The nest-boxes were used readily by Zebra Finches, with a total of 572 breeding attempts recorded in this study. After the introduction of nest-boxes, nearly all breeding attempts were made in these artificial cavities.

Zebra Finches breeding in natural nests are prone to high levels of nest predation (>60% in previous studies), but such predation was almost completely eliminated with nest-boxes, with <2% of nests being depredated. Not surprisingly, the reproductive success of pairs breeding in nest-boxes (58% of nests successfully fledged at least one young) was significantly higher than in the natural nests monitored at the same sites in a previous year, and by comparison with previous studies of the same species in other localities across Australia.

Our study of the Zebra Finch, a laboratory model used throughout the world, shows the effectiveness of artificial nest-boxes at decreasing levels of predation in the wild and increasing the capacity for research.

Garden birds use nest boxes all winter – if they are in the right place: here.

Zebra finches singing: here.

Simple rules can explain discrimination of putative recursive syntactic structures by songbirds: A case study on zebra finches Caroline A. A. van Heijningen, Jos de Visser, Willem Zuidema, and Carel ten Cate, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (17 november 2009/SH)

Great spotted woodpeckers nesting in Ireland?

This is a French video about a young great spotted woodpecker leaving the nest.

From Wildlife Extra:

Have Great Spotted woodpeckers colonised Ireland?

26/11/2008 14:26:35

Great Spotted Woodpeckers, until now absent from Ireland, have recently begun turning up in many parts of the country and remaining for extended periods. Are they temporary visitors or could they be here to stay?

November 2008. Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe to have no resident woodpeckers. Britain has three species. In some years, a so-called irruption of Great Spotted Woodpeckers – the commonest species on the Continent – takes place. This is brought about by the periodic failure of the pine cone crop – a major source of winter food – in Northern Europe and large numbers of the birds are driven out of Scandinavia to spend the winter further south. In such years, Ireland might be lucky to record the occasional bird, but rarely more than four or five birds and most years, none at all. And any that have turned up, predictably disappeared by March.

However, it is evident that over the last two years or so, a major change is underway. A number of these handsome black and white woodpeckers have not only been heard “drumming” in several woodland locations during spring, but they have lingered on into the breeding season. Drumming is the loud, rapid-fire tapping created by the bird beating its bill off a dead branch – the sound carries some distance and it is a woodpecker’s way of claiming territory and it is one of the best ways to locate them in a wood. Although a striking and noisy bird, it can be remarkably secretive too, especially when the trees come into leaf. Unfortunately, no nests were found, so breeding could not be proved in 2008.


However, in July, one lucky household in south Co. Dublin made a remarkable discovery – a juvenile, only a few weeks old and identifiable by its red crown, suddenly appeared on the peanut feeder. This exciting find was quickly followed by up to three more juveniles at feeders in various parts of Co. Wicklow and then others in Meath and Louth. This strongly suggests that an historic event is taking place – Great Spotted Woodpeckers have started to breed in Ireland. Could climate change have played a role in this, or are their other factors at play?

Birdwatch Ireland are very keen to monitor the progress of this species’ colonisation of Ireland and would ask anyone who hears or sees one to contact them by e-mail (, by post to BirdWatch Ireland, P.O. Box 12 Greystones, Co. Wicklow or by phoning 01-2189878, giving details of location, dates and if possible the sex of the bird. Females have a black and white head, males are similar but have a red spot on the back of the head and juveniles have a totally red crown (although these will have moulted into adult plumage by now).

Great spotted woodpeckers confirmed breeding in Ireland for the first time: here.

Great spotted woodpeckers colonising Ireland: here.

Oldest swimming turtle Chinese, not Scottish

Odontochelys semitestacea reconstruction

From LiveScience:

First Known Turtle Had Shell Shortcomings

By Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

posted: 26 November 2008

A half-shell turtle species that swam in China’s coastal waters 220 million years ago is the oldest turtle known to date, a new analysis of fossils reveals.

The turtle had a belly shell, but its back was basically bare of armor.

Last week, a team of scientists had reported the discovery of the oldest aquatic turtle, dating back 164 million years. That was a short-lived title. The new half-shell aquatic turtle, studied by Chun Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and his colleagues and dubbed Odontochelys semistestacea, swam around even longer ago.

Li and his team looked at remains that included two skulls and other skeletal bones unearthed in China’s Guizhou province in 2007. The analysis, detailed in the Nov. 27 issue of the journal Nature, suggests that today’s turtles must have originated from an aquatic-turtle ancestor. The results also provide support for a theory of how turtle shells evolved.

Shells start at belly

The specimens studied by Li showed many signs of being from primitive turtles. For instance, the researchers found Odontochelys had an elongated, pointed snout. Most modern turtles have short snouts. In addition, the roof of its mouth, along with the upper and lower jaws, were equipped with teeth, which the researchers say is a primitive feature for turtles whose mugs are now tipped with beaks but contain no teeth.

The fact that the turtle had a partial shell (only covering its belly) sheds light on an intermediate stage of shell evolution that scientists hadn’t seen. Before the discovery of Odontochelys, the oldest known turtle species (aquatic or land-based) was the terrestrial turtle Proganochelys, which lived about 210 million years ago. But this turtle had a fully formed shell, providing little evidence as to how the shell evolved.

One idea has been that the turtle shell evolved from bony plates on the skin that broadened and fused together to form the turtle’s armor. The entire structure would then fuse to the underlying ribs and backbone. (Modern reptiles, such as crocodiles, have these bony plates, as did some dinosaurs, such as ankylosaurs.)

See also here. And here.