Leopard seal food, new research

This video says about itself:

Oct 29, 2012 by Nature Newsteam

Leopard seals can suck up prey, like fish or krill, and sieve the food out of the water using specialized teeth. Read more: http://www.nature.com/news/1.11672

From Discover Magazine:

Leopard seals suck

“It is an awe-inspiring experience to be faced with a 3-metre-long, 500 kilogram predator, the size of a racehorse, as it launches itself out of the water and slides on its belly for a couple of seconds, coming to a halt barely a metre away from where I stood, without any barrier between me and it.”

That was how Erich Fitzgerald met Sabine the leopard seal.

Leopard seals are like the lions of the Antarctic. They are huge, powerful predators, known for their brutal killing strategy. They bite penguins and seal pups with their big canines, and thrash them onto the surface of the water to flay and dismember their prey.

But Fitzgerald, David Hocking and Alistair Evans have shown that these predators can take smaller prey in a very different way. They suck krill and small fish into their mouths and sieve them in the manner of whales, by passing their mouthfuls of water through tightly interlocking teeth. It’s astonishing behaviour that allows them to dine from the top and bottom of the food chain. As Fitzgerald told me: “This is equivalent to a lion hunting down zebras, but also regularly feasting on ants or termites.

I’ve written about the story for Nature News. Head over there for the full details.


Children’s wildlife poetry competition

This video from Albania is called The Sound of Birds – 60 Minutes – Natural Sounds.

There is a wildlife short story writing competition for children in Britain.

And there is something for children who are better at poetry than at prose as well.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

Gruffalo author inspires new generation of natural poets

Last modified: 31 October 2012

Julia Donaldson, Children’s Laureate and author of the award-winning book The Gruffalo, has launched the RSPB’s 2012 Wildverse poetry competition for children.

The competition, in partnership with Pure and Fun Kids Radio, is open for entries from young people aged under 19. Poems can be any length, about any aspect of wildlife or nature.

Julia Donaldson, head judge of the competition, says; ‘I want children to feel the wind, the rain, the sunshine, listen closely and write about what excites them. I want to hear a story in a poem about something wonderful that they have experienced.’

Julia’s ten favourite poems will be read out on air on Fun Kids Radio between 21 and 24 December. The overall winner will receive a Pure Sensia radio system with colour touchscreen, and the runners up will receive a Pure One Flow radio so they can all listen to their poems being read out on Fun Kids.

Suzanne Welch, RSPB Head of Youth and Education, says; ‘The Wildverse competition has become a really popular annual event and it’s always a treat to read through each entry and become completely absorbed in nature the way children see it.’

‘There are fewer opportunities today for children to experience nature, but it’s so vital that they do in order to feel the masses of benefits that being out in nature offers and to ensure they feel the need to look after the natural world in years to come. We hope that this will be the perfect excuse for young people to get outdoors and have an amazing time in nature that they can capture on the page.’

E-mail Wildverse entries to wildverse@rspb.org.uk or send in the post to Wildverse, RSPB Wildlife Explorers, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL by Friday 23 November, 2012.

Prolific Blogger Award, thanks Sage Doyle!

Thank you, Sage Doyle, for nominating Dear Kitty. Some blog for the Prolific Blogger Award!

Prolific Blogger Award

Here’s what the award stands for: “A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive… keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content.”

I am really honoured that Sage Doyle, with his fine blog on subjects like poetry and prose, nominated my blog for this.

Here are the rules:

1. Every winner of the prolific blogger award pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers [and link to them; and notify them about their nomination at their blogs].

2. Every prolific blogger please link back to the blog from which he/she has received the award.

I try not to nominate the same bloggers all the time for awards. Here are my seven nominees:

1. Imbuteria’s Blog

2. BeeCee

3. FreeBirD

4. Wolfgang’s Powerpoint

5. Denisa Aricescu

6. Simple.Interesting.

7. SOY ASÍ Fotografía

Finally, seven things about me:

1. I was in several countries in Africa.

2. I was in some Asian countries.

3. I was in Antarctica.

4. I was in South America.

5. I was in Canada.

6. I was only ever in the USA for five minutes: the ferry from Vancouver island in Canada to Vancouver city in Canada passes through a bit of US territorial waters. On that ferry, I saw killer whales.

7. I was in eastern Europe.

Robin on the balcony

After the first chaffinch on the balcony … the first great spotted woodpecker on the balcony … this morning, for the first time a robin on the balcony.

This is a November 2011 video of a singing robin.

Dead British officer’s mother on the Afghan war

This video from the USA says about itself:

July 2, 2012

Obama says the war in Afghanistan is winding down because the US and its allies are succeeding in their war aims. Here’s the reality from the increasing number of US soldiers suffering life-changing injuries — losing, arms, legs, eyes — in a war that is only being waged to save the faces of politicians and generals who refuse to admit that it is lost.

From the BBC:

1 November 2012 Last updated at 09:42 GM

Soldier’s death in Afghanistan through the eyes of his mother

By Caroline Wyatt, Defence correspondent, BBC News

It is a mother’s story that is deeply moving but often painful to read, emerging from the deep wounds of the loss of an only son.

Or as Margaret Evison puts it in her opening chapter: “This is the story of a journey… through the love one has for others, the intensities of care and compassion we feel for each other and the structures we humans have built to protect ourselves from those great heights and depths. I understand more completely now: when there is love, there will also be pain and suffering.”

So far 437 British troops have now died in the war in Afghanistan. One of them was 26-year-old Lt Mark Evison, killed by a Taliban bullet as he led his men in Helmand in May 2009.

Mark survived long enough to be brought back to the UK, where he died of his wounds. His mother, father and sister were at his bedside.

Families’ anger

Three years on, Margaret’s book – Death of a Soldier, a mother’s story – is being published on Thursday.

It focuses on her experience of losing her only son, and her subsequent battles with the Ministry of Defence to find out more about the circumstances surrounding his death. The clinical psychologist began writing as she fought to come to terms with his death.

Tributes to Afghan death soldier

“In the very beginning it was therapeutic,” she says. “I would write whenever I was very upset, and I would write with no particular aim other than making myself feel better. And months later, I showed it to a friend and he said I should think about publishing it.”

But the book is also driven by anger. Margaret wants the MoD to tell her why the medical evacuation helicopter that was sent to rescue Mark was delayed, as her son’s life gradually ebbed away.

“They still haven’t told me why. After Mark’s inquest, my lawyers wrote to the MoD and they wrote back and said they didn’t have to tell me as the inquest was now over.

“I think it’s quite disgraceful that so many families end up angry with the MoD over their son or daughter’s deaths. I wasn’t angry at all until the inquest – and then I was.”

The radios Mark’s unit were issued with had also stopped working just before he was shot, leaving Margaret with even more questions.

For her, the book became a way to cope with the anguish. “It’s certainly made me more resilient about death. Because I work with cancer patients, I had to be able to talk to them without crying and for a long time, I used to well up. So it was useful in helping to deal with that.”

War doubts

It is also a chance for Margaret to pay tribute to Mark’s life, and the remarkable impact he had in his all too brief 26 years. It is clear that he was a young officer popular both with his men, and with his superiors.

He himself wrote a diary of remarkable maturity while serving in Helmand, questioning many aspects of the mission.

Margaret also described her own journey to Afghanistan, where she went to see for herself the place her son laid down his life. Today, she is no longer sure the campaign is worth the loss of so many lives.

“On the war in Afghanistan, I’ve become more cynical about it. I went there, and was surprised by how tribal it was. It has a very different culture which wouldn’t take easily to democracy.

Bringing democracy to Afghanistan was never the aim of the war. That was and is propaganda to sell the war to people in the NATO countries.

The official aim of the war was to get Osama bin Laden. He is dead now. The unofficial aims of the war are oil, gas, pipelines, other minerals, international power politics. The president of Germany, Horst Köhler, had an unexpected attack of honesty and mentioned that. For being honest about the war, he was speedily sacked.

“Revenge is quite important there, because there is little law, so revenge has become part of the culture. And that probably hasn’t helped the Western cause at all because there will be Afghans who feel strongly about the fact that their relatives have been killed.”

One does not have to be particularly “tribal” or revenge-minded to oppose a foreign occupation in which one’s relatives and many other people are killed.

She also pays tribute to the many other lives lost in Afghanistan before and since Mark’s death.

“I list the soldiers who have lost their lives there, and when you see it page after page after page, it’s quite remarkable. I feel sorry for the other families, as they’re suffering the way I am.”

USA: Kevin Martin, Truthout: If there was a draft, the war would be over in a month – if not sooner. The public wouldn’t stand for it, because this war fails miserably in meeting the real definition of a just war: here.

Baby elephant born in Amersfoort zoo

This video shows the birth of a baby male Asian elephant in Amersfoort zoo in the Netherlands this morning. Its weight is about 70 kilogram.

Apart from the calf’s mother Indra, the video also shows his elder sister Kina.