Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds

This video says about itself:

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From Reuters:

Besides destruction, Sandy brought lots of unusual birds

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK | Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:25pm EDT

While superstorm Sandy sent most people running for shelter wherever they could find it, bird enthusiasts rushed outdoors as soon as possible to scan the skies for birds that usually don’t visit these parts.

A powerful storm can take birds far from home or thousands of miles off their migratory course if they are swept up in the center of a storm and carried along until they reach the first spot where it is safe to land.

To greet them, there are often groups of intrepid bird watchers, or birders, eager to spot an extremely rare out-of-town visitor like the Leach’s Storm-Petrel.

Birders were quick to say on Friday that they were very upset by the devastation caused by Sandy, which killed scores of people, ruined homes and left many without power. But they also view dangerous storms as an opportunity.

Because the storm that ravaged the U.S. Northeast this week combined a hurricane from the south and winter winds from the north, it brought in a more peculiar group of birds than usual when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night.

“This was a storm that mixed species groups you don’t ever usually see together,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a New York-based researcher for Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

One birder discovered a Red-billed Tropicbird in New Jersey – more typically seen in the Caribbean – and brought it to a wild-life rehabilitator, according to Farnsworth, who studies reports on the online forum

Near Ithaca in Upstate New York, one visitor reported seeing an arctic bird, the Ross’s Gull, while another reported a sighting of the same bird near Lake Ontario, Canada.

“The same storm that brought this arctic bird also brought this Caribbean bird,” said Farnsworth, 39.

On Tuesday, as soon as they decided it was safe to go outside, several Manhattan birders headed to the banks of the Hudson River. They were delighted to catch sight of Jaegers, which are typically only found out at sea.

“It’s just exciting to be on the Hudson and see these birds that you’d normally only see out on a fishing boat,” said Dale Dancis, a retired teacher who declined to disclose her age.

Starr Saphir, 73, who leads bird tours in Central Park and appeared in a HBO birding documentary, “The Central Park Effect,” said she saw Forster’s Tern on Tuesday. “They had already migrated south so they got blown back,” she said.

Peter Post, 73, a retired social services worker who has been a birder for 62 years, said he spotted an American Oyster Catcher on the Hudson, far from its coastal habitat.

Post was disappointed he missed the Leach’s Storm-Petrel Farnsworth spotted on Tuesday. “It would’ve been nice,” he said.

Joseph DiCostanzo, 60, an ornithologist who works at the American Museum of Natural History, was lucky enough to see a Red Phalarope, usually an ocean bird, near the river through the window of his Manhattan home before he was able to go outside.

“My wife and I did try to go out. The problem was that they were closing all the parks,” DiCostanzo said.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by Todd Eastham)

While Hurricane Sandy has ravaged cities and communities across the east coast of the United States, its effect has been equally devastating on wild birds: here.

Hurricane Sandy and the Storm’s Effects on Bird Migration: here.

Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Here.

Response of Tidal Marsh Birds and Plants to Hurricane Sandy: here.

After Sandy, Staten Island Helps Its Own, but More Relief Still Needed: here.

VIDEO: In Staten Island, hordes of volunteers armed with shovels came out to help those who lost their homes: here.

How Natural Disasters Help Birds: here.


Indian rhino and tiger news


From Wildlife Extra:

14 tigers identified in Manas National Park & rhino gives birth

India/Bhutan cross border park tiger study finds 14 tigers

October 2012. The results of the first combined tiger monitoring study undertaken by Bhutan and India in the trans border Manas National Park identified 14 individual tigers, five each in Manas Tiger Reserve in India and Royal Manas National Park and four being common to both parks.

Rhino birth

One of the female rhinos translocated from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to the Manas National Park has given birth to a calf. The rhino, romantically designated as ‘Rhino 10′ was translocated in January 2012. A total of 18 rhinos – ten from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and eight from Kaziranga National Park have been translocated so far to Manas National Park.

The birth indicates that the translocated rhinos have adapted well to the new environment and are beginning to thrive. This is the first offspring to be born to a translocated rhino in Manas.

Under IRV 2020, Manas National Park has been provided much support to upgrade its infrastructure and monitoring capabilities to enable better protection for the translocated rhinos.

British government and torture in Afghanistan

This video from Canada is called Stephen Harper Avoiding Afghan Torture Questions.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Coalition tries to lift block on torture flights

Friday 02 November 2012

The government is seeking to lift a moratorium on handing over Afghan detainees to prisons where there is clear evidence of torture, legal action charity Reprieve claimed today.

Lawyers for Serdar Mohamed, who was tortured by the Afghan security services (NDS) after being transferred to their custody by British forces in 2010, told the High Court that the government possesses evidence that torture takes place in the prison to which he was sent.

They allege that the government has sought to suppress evidence of torture and said it is “shocking” that the Secretary of State for Defence is attempting to lift the moratorium, which was put in place after Mr Mohamed’s case first came to light.

Mr Mohamed’s transfer came one month after a previous legal challenge in June 2010, brought by peace campaigner Maya Evans, which led to a ruling that such transfers would be lawful if subject to the observance of specific safeguards.

He was handed over to the Afghans after this ruling and was subsequently tortured in Lashkar Gar prison and, apparently without Britain’s knowledge, transferred to Kabul prison where he has suffered further abuse.

After being tortured, Mr Mohamed was visited by a British monitoring team who took photographs of his injuries.

His allegations led to the British government placing a moratorium on all transfers of prisoners to the NDS.

Yet now it is seeking to lift that moratorium.

The High Court heard that Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Warsi failed to question assurances by the head of the NDS that detainees would not be tortured, despite evidence to the contrary.

The court also heard that British officials on a trip in 2011 failed to ask for an explanation for the presence of an electric flex in an interview between a NDS interrogator and a prisoner, “for fear of causing a scene.”

Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: “It is shocking that the government is trying to lift a ban on transfers to the Afghan security services with one hand, while covering up evidence of torture with the other.

“For now, they have not succeeded, but should plans for secret courts pass Parliament this will become child’s play. Our parliamentarians must stand firm against plans to do away with centuries-old traditions of open and equal justice.”

Near-extinct toads back in Tanzania

This video from the USA is called Kihansi Spray Toads at the Bronx Zoo.

From Wildlife Extra:

Spray toad reintroduced to Tanzanian gorge

Man-made mist recreates toads natural habitat

October 2012. The Kihansi Spray Toad, Nectophrynoides asperginis, was restricted to the smallest known range for any vertebrate species, with an estimated historic wild population of 17,000 toads found within 2 hectares of waterfall spray zone in the Kihansi Gorge of the Udzungwa Mountains in south-central Tanzania. Only discovered by scientists in 1996, the thumbnail-sized golden coloured toad was believed to be extirpated from its small patch of habitat in 2004, and was officially declared Extinct in the Wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in October 2009.

University of Dar es Salaam professors, Dr. Charles Msuya and Dr. Kim Howell, one of the scientists to discover the toad in 1996, jointly wrote, “The Kihansi Spray Toad is unique because of its specialized habitat. It was endemic to Tanzania, in the ‘spray meadows’ at the base of the Kihansi Falls that received more than 70 mm of ‘rain’ per day in the form of spray from the falls prior to the construction of the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project dam. Very few species of amphibians can survive in this habitat.

Gives birth to live young

The KST is also unusual because its life cycle does not have a free swimming tadpole stage, but rather, females give birth to tiny froglets.”

Dam and chytrid fungus probably extirpated wild population

The species’ rapid decline followed hydroelectric dam construction upstream from its habitat that resulted in a nearly complete loss of the “spray meadow” habitat that the species depended on, and coincided with the emergence of the amphibian chytrid fungus, a disease that has been implicated in amphibian extinctions in several parts of the world.

In November 2000, at the invitation of the Tanzanian Government, 499 toads were collected and transferred to the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s Bronx Zoo, and later the Toledo Zoo, to initiate a captive breeding program which is now represented by over 6,000 toads. In 2010, a captive colony was established in Tanzania by University of Dar Salaam and National Environmental Management Council researchers who had facilities constructed specifically for the conservation of the small toad in Dar es Salaam and at the base of the Kihansi Gorge.

In 2010, the Lower Kihansi Environmental Management Project (LKEMP) within Tanzania’s National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) and the University of Dar Salaam organized Tanzanian researchers and an international team of conservation biologists and pathologists from the Toledo Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, the IUCN SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group, Global Wildlife Conservation, and other partners to develop a plan for reintroducing the Kihansi Spray Toad to its native habitat. The reintroduction plan set a timeframe to address causes of the KST decline as well as carry out a series of experiments to ensure the species’ survival in the wild. At this stage, preliminary ‘soft’ release studies involving toads within mesh cages situated in the native habitat have shown success.

Misting system replicates spray zone

Prior to its reintroduction, several initiatives were made to restore the Kihansi Gorge ecosystem. These included the installation of an expansive misting system designed to replicate the spray zone habitat that was lost after dam construction, and building of bridges and walkways to facilitate monitoring of the gorge. Funded by the World Bank and the Government of Norway, the misting system has been running since late 2000 in order to restore and maintain the native vegetation that the toads once lived amongst, and the invertebrates upon which they fed.


The missing amphibian that has been the focus of much attention in Tanzania and around the world was returned to its niche within this unique ecosystem on October 30th 2012. The initial release represents a total of 2,500 animals flown to Tanzania from the Toledo and Bronx Zoos in June and earlier this month. The animals made their international journey safely and were acclimatized before their release. Future releases are expected as researchers work towards re-establishing a viable population in the wild.

“Most reintroductions for amphibians and reptiles have been designed to establish or augment a population of a rare species, but it is extremely exciting to be involved in actually returning a species that was extinct in the wild back to its native habitat.” said Dr. Kurt Buhlmann and Dr. Tracey Tuberville, research scientists with the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

US soldier accused of beating Japanese child

This video is called Okinawa-Island of Protest- Part 1.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

US serviceman accused of punching teenage boy

Friday 02 November 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Japanese leaders were fuming today after a drunk US serviceman allegedly broke into a flat and punched a 13-year-old boy on Okinawa.

The 1am attack came as US personnel were supposed to be subject to a night-time curfew after two US sailors were arrested for allegedly raping a woman two weeks ago.

The 24-year-old airman fell from a third-floor window after the assault and police are expected to arrest him when he leaves hospital.

Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto called the incident “unforgivable” and lodged a formal complaint with US ambassador John Roos.

After meeting Foreign Ministry officials Mr Roos said: “It is incredibly unfortunate that the purported actions of a few reflect badly on thousands of young men and women here in Japan, away from their homes, that are here for the defence of Japan.”

But the alcohol-fuelled assault is just the latest in a long line of US service members’ alleged crimes on the island, which have become a running sore with the local population.

The Japanese Communist Party said US forces have officially committed nearly 5,800 crimes since returning Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972, which they said was “the tip of the iceberg” as many more victims are scared to come forward.

US bases on Okinawa take up roughly 18 per cent of the island’s land and host more than half of the 52,000 US troops in Japan.

The injured attacker is based at the Kadena Air Base, itself a long-standing source of friction with Okinawa locals.

More than 100,000 people demonstrated in September against the deployment of the Osprey hybrid aircraft on the islands.

The aircraft has been involved in a number of safety failures and many object to it being stationed so close to built-up civilian areas.

It’s a particularly thorny issue as the US agreed to shut the base more than a decade ago after mass protests erupted following the rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen.

Base officials said they were “fully co-operating” with Okinawa authorities “to ensure justice is served.”