Sea eagles back in Ireland after a century


This video from Estonia is called White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), close up view.

From the RSPB in Britain:

White-tailed sea eagles nest for the first time in 100 years

Last modified: 30 April 2012

The Golden Eagle Trust has today announced that a pair of White-tailed Eagles has been confirmed nesting near Mountshannon in County Clare – the first documented nesting attempt for the species in Ireland in over 100 years. Although the nest has not been examined for eggs to avoid any unnecessary disturbance, the behaviour of the birds indicates that they have nested. The re-introduction programme, which is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle trust, began in 2007 with the birds in question having been transported from Norway in 2008 and 2009.

This is a huge achievement for the organisation and a big step forward for bird conservation in Ireland, and we at the RSPB would like to offer our congratulations! We’ll keep you up to date on the arrival of any chicks.

To read more on this story, visit the Golden Eagle Trust’s website.

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Wheatears and ducklings


Today, again the “Baillon’s crake reserve”.

Near the southern entrance, a sedge warbler singing.

In the canals: grey lag geese, tufted ducks.

Mallard ducklings.

A gadwall duck. One of several mute swan nests.

A northern lapwing, flying and calling.

In the southern lake, a male teal.

A little ringed plover on a mud bank. Little ringed plover photos: here.

Several coots have chicks. Canada geese have goslings.

A redshank.

Common terns flying. A male shoveler swimming.

In the northern lake: Egyptian geese. A common sandpiper on a muddy island. The big group of black-tailed godwits of weeks ago has continued their spring migration to elsewhere. Still, I hear godwit calls and see one on the muddy island.

This is a wheatear video.

Two northern wheatears on the southern dike of the northern part of the reserve.

A couple of Egyptian geese with goslings, standing next to a black swan.

In the northern meadow, oystercatchers and a hare. A barnacle goose. A greenfinch singing.

Snow bunting and Greenland wheatear in Northern Ireland – Photos: here.

New Caribbean lizard species discovered


This video is called Lizards Snakes and Legs (Evolution).

From Wildlife Extra:

24 new species of lizards discovered on Caribbean islands are close to extinction

Skinks threatened by introduced mongoose

April 2012. In a single new scientific publication, 24 new species of skinks, all from islands in the Caribbean, have been discovered and scientifically named. According to Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State University and the leader of the research team, half of the newly added skink species already may be extinct or close to extinction, and all of the others on the Caribbean islands are threatened with extinction.

Mongoose predation

The researchers found that the loss of many skink species can be attributed primarily to predation by the mongoose — an invasive predatory mammal that was introduced by farmers to control rats in sugarcane fields during the late nineteenth century.

130 new species of reptile discovered every year

About 130 species of reptiles from all over the world are added to the global species count each year in dozens of scientific articles. However, not since the 1800s have more than 20 reptile species been added at one time. Primarily through examination of museum specimens, the team identified a total of 39 species of skinks from the Caribbean islands, including 6 species currently recognized, and another 9 named long ago but considered invalid until now.

Hedges and his team also used DNA sequences, but most of the taxonomic information, such as counts and shapes of scales, came from examination of the animals themselves. “Now, one of the smallest groups of lizards in this region of the world has become one of the largest groups,” Hedges said. “We were completely surprised to find what amounts to a new fauna, with co-occurring species and different ecological types.” He added that some of the new species are 6 times larger in body size than other species in the new fauna.

Unique placenta

Hedges also explained that these New World skinks, which arrived in the Americas about 18 million years ago from Africa by floating on mats of vegetation, are unique among lizards in that they produce a human-like placenta, which is an organ that directly connects the growing offspring to the maternal tissues that provide nutrients.

Long gestation

“While there are other lizards that give live birth, only a fraction of the lizards known as skinks make a placenta and gestate offspring for up to one year,” Hedges said. He also speculated that the lengthy gestational period may have given predators a competitive edge over skinks, since pregnant females are slower and more vulnerable. “The mongoose is the predator we believe is responsible for many of the species’ close-to-extinction status in the Caribbean,” Hedges said.

Mongoose introduced in 1872

“Our data show that the mongoose, which was introduced from India in 1872 and spread around the islands over the next three decades, has nearly exterminated this entire reptile fauna, which had gone largely unnoticed by scientists and conservationists until now.”

According to Hedges, the “smoking gun” is a graph included in the scientific paper showing a sharp decline in skink populations that occurred soon after the introduction of the mongoose. Hedges explained that the mongoose originally was brought to the New World to control rats, which had become pests in the sugarcane fields in Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Lesser Antilles.

While this strategy did help to control infestations of some pests; for example, the Norway rat, it also had the unintended consequence of reducing almost all skink populations. “By 1900, less than 50 percent of those mongoose islands still had their skinks, and the loss has continued to this day,” Hedges said.

Dramatic increase in “Critically Endangered” listing

This newly discovered skink fauna will increase dramatically the number of reptiles categorized as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in their “Red List of Threatened Species,” which is recognized as the most comprehensive database evaluating the endangerment status of various plant and animal species. “According to our research, all of the skink species found only on Caribbean islands are threatened,”

Hedges said. “That is, they should be classified in the Red List as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Finding that all species in a fauna are threatened is unusual, because only 24 percent of the 3,336 reptile species listed in the Red List have been classified as threatened with extinction. Most of the 9,596 named reptile species have yet to be classified in the Red List.”

Hedges explained that there are two reasons why such a large number of species went unnoticed for so many years, in a region frequented by scientists and tourists. “First, Caribbean skinks already had nearly disappeared by the start of the twentieth century, so people since that time rarely have encountered them and therefore have been less likely to study them,” he said. “Second, the key characteristics that distinguish this great diversity of species have been overlooked until now.” Hedges also noted that many potential new species of animals around the world have been identified in recent years with DNA data. However, much more difficult is the task of following up DNA research with the work required to name new species and to formally recognize them as valid, as this team did with Caribbean skinks. …

The research team reports on the newly discovered skinks in a 245-page article to be published on 30 April 2012 in the journal Zootaxa.

See also here. And here. And here.

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2012) — On May 1, USDA Forest Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Memphis Zoo, and other partners released seven young Louisiana pine snakes on a restored longleaf pine stand in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The release is the fourth in 2 years, part of a plan to restore a very rare snake to its range in Louisiana. Last year the partners released 20 newly hatched snakes; this year’s snakes are 6 months old and about 3 feet long: here.

Israel’s ex-intelligence boss opposes Iran war


This video is called “Don’t Attack Iran” Anti-War Protests in UK & Israel.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Israeli ex-spy chief opposes Iran attack

Sunday 29 April 2012

Israel‘s warmongering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was left fuming at the weekend after a former senior intelligence official publicly opposed his policy of a military strike on Iran and accused his government of failing to actively pursue peace with Palestinians.

Ex-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said that the plan being pushed by the Prime Minister and his Defence Minister Ehud Barak risked speeding up any Iranian nuclear programme.

Mr Diskin, who served as the head of the internal intelligence agency until last year, told a public meeting on Friday: “I don’t have faith in the current leadership of Israel.”

He added that “one of the results of an Israel attack on Iran could be a dramatic acceleration of the Iran programme.

“They will have legitimacy to do it more quickly and in a shorter timeframe.”

Iran says that its nuclear development programme is aimed only at meeting its energy needs.

However the Israeli right has been sabre-rattling for months over the prospects that Tehran is developing a bomb.

But last week Israel’s military chief Benny Gantz also said he believed that sanctions would be more effective than strikes in convincing Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.

From the Jerusalem Post in Israel:

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan on Sunday gave his support to former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin, who said Friday that he has no confidence in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak abilities to conduct a war.

Speaking on the sidelines of The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, Dagan said Diskin was speaking his “internal truth” and called him a good friend and a serious person.

On Friday, Diskin said Barak and Netanyahu are guided by “messianic” impulses and are lying about the projected effectiveness of an Israeli strike on Iran.

Ehud Olmert, Former Israel Prime Minister, Against Iran Strike: here.

Former Mossad chief pushes for dialogue with Iran: here.

Bahrain pro-democracy fight continues


This video is called In Bahrain.Torture in the road before arrest 21-4-2012.

Last week at this time, the Bahraini government was “celebrating” their Formula One race by arresting a British Channel 4 television news crew who attempted to report on conditions in the country. The video here is the report they have now been able to file with footage smuggled out when they were deported.

Bahrain Snap Analysis: The Regime’s Propaganda Struggles: here.

Bahrain announces retrial for hunger striker Khawaja: here.

A Bahrain court ordered retrials on Monday for a prominent hunger striker and 20 others convicted by a military tribunal in crackdowns against the civil rights movement in the Gulf kingdom: here.

The family of leading Bahraini opposition activist Abdulhadi al-khawaja has denounced the decision to retry him and 20 other activists. Khawaja’s daughter Maryam said the retrial is “sad news not good news”: here.

Britain: Crisis for Royals as King of Bahrain Accepts Jubilee Invite: here.

Mating butterflies, first swifts of spring


De Wilck is a nature reserve in the Netherlands. It is mainly meadows and water.

De Wilck, 29 April 2012

Today, near the entrance, a common tern and a kestrel flying.

Many black-tailed godwits nesting here, fly around, calling.

So do grey lag geese.

Many cuckoo flowers and rapeseed flowers.

Canada geese. Oystercatchers.

Two green-veined white butterflies, mating on a stinging nettle.

A shoveler duck swimming.

Northern lapwings. Redshanks calling.

Gadwall ducks.

A skylark flying and singing.

A hare running.

About ten swifts are back from Africa. My first ones of this spring.

Three barnacle geese flying.

A female mute swan on a nest along the footpath. Her mate, swimming in the ditch, tries to drive us away.

Angry mute swan, De Wilck, 29 April 2012

Ground-ivy flowers.

Panaeolus sphinctrinus mushrooms.

A linnet sitting on a fence.

As we walk back, a shelduck. Edible frog sound.