British coal tits in trouble

This video from Norway is called Coal Tit singing.

From Wildlife Extra:

Coal tits struggling after poor seed year – Appearing in gardens

Tough times for ‘Old King Coal’?

December 2012. New results from the British Trust for Ornithology‘s Garden BirdWatch suggest that the Coal Tit is one of a number of species struggling to find food this winter. Through its network of 14,000 ‘citizen scientists’, the charity has charted a substantial upsurge in garden use, with Coal Tits turning to feeders in huge numbers.

Bad year for tree seeds

It appears that tree seed crops have been poor this year, leaving many seed-eating birds with little natural food on offer in the wider countryside. As a consequence, many species have been turning to bird table fare. Perhaps the most noticeable of these arrivals has been the Coal Tit, a species usually recorded in roughly half of gardens during November and early December, but this year nearly three-quarters of gardens are being visited.

In addition to the patchiness of natural seed crops, the recent wet weather has also proved problematic for Coal Tits. The seed cones of conifers only open under dry conditions and damp weather leaves them firmly closed; Coal Tits have to then find food elsewhere and we have seen a resulting increase in the use of garden feeders. Coal Tits have visited more gardens in the last few weeks than during the same period in any of the 17 years over which the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey has been running.

Help the survey

This December, the BTO wants more birdwatchers to help chart the influx of ‘Old King Coal’ into gardens. Anyone who watches garden birds can get involved with the charity’s Garden BirdWatch project, which is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. Not only is the survey great fun but simple observations made by participants help to protect bird populations.

Coal Tits bring plenty of activity into gardens, as they dash restlessly to and from seed feeders. During autumn they spend much of their time storing food to ensure that they have plentiful supplies for the winter ahead. Research shows that they can remember such hiding places for around four weeks, so look out for individuals retrieving these morsels in the depths of winter.

Other birds in gardens

Dr Tim Harrison, of the BTO Garden Ecology Team, commented: “Off the back of a difficult breeding season, the rain over the past few weeks has hampered Coal Tits yet further, drawing them into gardens in search of food. They will often arrive in a crowd – look out for them travelling with Blue and Great Tits, and perhaps also with Long-tailed Tits and even Goldcrests.”

He added: “Other wonderful birds, including Goldfinch, Bullfinch and Nuthatch, are also amazing householders in unusually high numbers at present. With many natural foods seeming to be scarce, this winter is set to be one of the most exciting ever for garden bird lovers. Make your sightings count by getting involved in BTO Garden BirdWatch.”

For a free Garden BirdWatch enquiry pack, email, telephone 01842-750050, or write to Garden BirdWatch, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Mali, Africa’s most northern elephants

This 2013 video is called Mali Elephant Project.

From Wildlife Extra:

Secrets of Mali’s desert elephants revealed by GPS tracking

Africa‘s most northerly elephants in danger from poaching and human elephant conflict

December 2012. Satellite tracking of elephants living near Timbuktu has revealed the secret of their survival in the savage conditions of Mali’s desert. The elephants of Africa’s northernmost population use over 32,000 square kilometres of the Gourma region in their epic quest for food and water, the largest range ever recorded for the species.

Their circular migration route is also thought to be unique to this population. The findings, published this week in the journal Biological Conservation, have profound implications for efforts to ensure the continued existence of these elephants.

“It’s incredible these elephants have survived. They have a truly stressful life with the lack of water and food, and their giant range reflects that,” said Jake Wall of Save The Elephants, Kenya (also of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver), who led the study.

9 elephants tracked

Global Positioning System (GPS) collars were attached to nine elephants in March 2008. Over the next two years they were tracked moving in a large circular arc that extended into northern Burkina-Faso. Twice they had to cross a major highway.

Desert elephants coping with extreme conditions

The Gourma elephants are a desert-adapted species of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and frequently endure sand storms, water shortage, and temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Farenheit). A severe drought in 2009 dried out Lake Banzena completely, depriving the elephants of one of their key watering points.

Largest known elephant range

The tracking collars show that the Gourma elephants have an annual journey that encompasses an area of over 32,000 square kilometres, the largest known elephant range anywhere in the world. Although they walk similar distances to their East and Southern African relatives, their movements are spread out over an area 150 per cent larger than those reported in Namibia, and 29 per cent larger than elephants in Botswana.

Hot-spot conservation priorities

“Although the Gourma elephants are currently free to move over a wide range, we found they spend a large amount of time in relatively few areas – called ‘hot-spots’ – that we believe are critical for their survival. These elephant hot-spots should be considered conservation priorities,” said Wall.


The data also revealed the network of pathways that the elephants use. A mile-wide gateway in a sandstone ridge known locally as ‘la Porte des Elephants’ is revealed as a critical bottleneck. Currently there is little human settlement in the area but if that changes the elephants may become isolated from key parts of their range, said Mr Wall.

Human elephant conflict

The Gourma elephants have historically enjoyed relatively peaceful coexistence with the local Touareg, Fuhlani and Dogon peoples. Until recently these groups mainly practiced pastoralism but are now beginning to settle and turning to agriculture. Conflict between humans and elephants is increasing as a result.

The trigger for their immediate movement to their southern range is the start of the rainy season in April-May, but it is speculated that the timing of their north-south movement is the result of differing vegetation and plant protein levels as opposed to direct access to surface water.

Males and females don’t mix much

On surprise finding was that male and female elephants in Gourma used such different ways to find food and water that they shared only a quarter of their ranges.

“We think the difference is partly because of their tolerances towards people. Bulls generally take more risks and occupy areas that have higher human densities,” said Mr Wall. “They also have varying food strategies and we think that differences in the areas they occupy might be because of different vegetation types in those areas.”

Most northerly elephants in Africa

The Gourma elephants are believed to be the most northerly population of elephants in Africa since the loss of the Atlas Mountain’s population in the 1970’s, and are remnants of a much larger population that once extended across the entire north of Africa. Hunting by man and climatic changes have reduced their numbers and range considerably. Today there are estimated to be around 350 remaining individuals.

Poaching emerging as a risk

Until recently the ivory poaching crisis that is currently ravaging elephant populations across Africa had not impacted Gourma. This year at least three elephants have been killed in the region. With little protection for elephants in the area, their own tusks may yet prove a greater threat than the extreme conditions in which they have learnt to survive.

Bulgarian graffiti helps birds

This video says about itself:

Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and 140 ideas made this mural under the project LIFE+ Save the Raptors. Giant graffiti is painted on the wall of the 32th school in Sofia. It is part of communications and education activities under the project aiming to protect globally endangered Imperial Eagle in Bulgaria.

See more here.

Blog of the Year 2012 award, thanks ‘R’HubBlog!

Blog of the Year Award 6 star jpeg

Oh Ronnie of ‘R’HubBlog, you are so kind, to grace Dear Kitty. Some blog with the “Blog of the Year 2012″ Award!

It is the fifteenth time. That would be the fifteenth star, for this award for this blog. However, the maximum number of stars for the “Blog of the Year 2012″ Award is six.

So, no fifteenth star and no new nominations. Well: just one nomination. I am giving this star back to ‘R’HubBlog, to display on their blog.

I really appreciate ‘R’HubBlog thinking of my blog. If you have not met ‘R’HubBlog yet, then please check out their interesting blog, about music, alcohol addiction and many other subjects, here.

The “Blog of the Year” award is a little different from some other awards, because you accumulate stars.

Here are the ‘rules’ for this award:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.

4 You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience [I cannot join that group as I am not on Facebook].

5 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

6 stars image

Yes – that’s right – there are stars to collect!

Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different!

When you begin you will receive the ‘1 star’ award – and every time you are given the award by another blog – you can add another star!

There are a total of 6 stars to collect.

Which means that you can check out your favourite blogs, and even if they have already been given the award by someone else, then you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!