Hares’ mating season on video


This video shows hares during their mating season. They then behave like ‘March hares‘; even though this is a 4 April 2017 video.

Rudolf Bloem in the Netherlands made this video.

Saudi autocracy destroying country’s historic buildings


This video says about itself:

Armored vehicles attacking Al-Awamiyah – Feb 23, 2016

The Saudi security forces have attacked farming areas today Tuesday 23 Feb 2016 in Awamiyah; Eastern province in KSA, and killed a young Bahraini person (Ali Abdullah) and injured many others.

The security authorities in KSA confirmed the death of Ali Abdullah and repeated their usual justification in such circumstances by claiming Ali was wanted by the police.

Today’s events increased the tension in the Eastern province which is already very high after the execution of Shaikh Nimr Alnimr on 2nd Jan 2016.

Angry protestors replied by blocking the roads by burning tyres. Black smoke was seen in the sky.

The Saudi absolute monarchy is not only destroying beautiful historic homes and other buildings as part of their war on Yemen. They are also destroying the beautiful historic homes and other buildings of their own country. Not with warplanes, like in Yemen; but destruction is destruction.

From Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain in the USA:

ADHRB and UN Experts Urge Saudi to Halt Planned Demolition of Historic Awamiyah Neighborhood

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. Having experienced political turmoil in its Eastern Province associated with the Arab Spring in 2011, Saudi Arabia’s state practice is presently characterized by human rights abuses including widespread torture, arbitrary detention, censorship, and arbitrary execution. Read more here.

5 April 2017—Today, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on poverty, cultural rights, and housing called on the Government of Saudi Arabia to immediately halt the planned demolition of the historic Mosawara neighborhood in the Eastern Province town of Awamiyah. The rapporteurs warned that the demolition may result in the forced evictions of many of the neighborhood’s 2,000 to 3,000 residents and may exacerbate an existing housing crisis, leading to a further increase in housing and land prices. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain strongly agrees with the UN experts and calls on the Saudi government to immediately halt and cancel all plans to carry through with the demolition.

The Mosawara neighborhood is an historic quarter in the town of Awamiyah with a rich history and significant cultural heritage. The neighborhood’s architecture is unique: it is a walled village with mosques, farms and farmers markets, Shia places of worship, and businesses. According to Karima Bennoune, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, “the planned demolition would erase this unique regional heritage in an irreversible manner.” Despite its significance, the Saudi government is planning to redevelop the area into a commercial and service zone. Philip Alston, the Rapporteur on extreme poverty expressed concern that in the process of moving residents from the area, the government would “remove people from the areas where they live and work, resulting in loss of livelihood and difficulty in securing housing.” In this way, the redevelopment may worsen an existing housing crisis that is exacerbated by increasing housing and land prices.

The government is planning to move ahead with the redevelopment plan despite housing concerns and the concerns of the neighborhood’s residents. The experts noted that, “the demolition has been announced without any meaningful consultation with the residents, without having considered less damaging alternatives, or adequate[ly] informing them about the demolition plans.” The government has also pressured the residents to leave their houses and businesses, including by cutting the power to the neighborhood and refusing to allow charities to help elderly and sick residents.

“The Saudi government’s actions towards Mosawara and its residents are demonstrative of its high-minded approach to development. Though the plan for the neighborhood will surely harm hundreds of Saudis, the government seems not to care for their well-being,” states Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “Authorities must immediately halt the planned demolition and re-evaluate any development scheme, so as to place the needs and welfare of its citizens at the forefront of any future moves.”

Authorities’ demolition of Mosawara’s cultural heritage is emblematic of the kingdom’s view of cultural heritage sites. The Saudi government has embarked upon the concerted demolition of ancient landmarks, archaeological heritage, and cultural sites since before the kingdom was founded. Since 1925, the al-Saud family has overseen the destruction of tombs, mosques, and historical artifacts in Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, al-Khobar, and Awamiyah. It has destroyed sections of two cemeteries where family members and companions of the Prophet Muhammad were buried. The destruction encompasses secular as well as religious sites. During the government’s project to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi authorities destroyed 10,000 properties in Mecca, including 126 mosques and whole neighborhoods. As a result, the government has destroyed more than 90 percent of the country’s landmarks.

The planned demolition of the Mosawara neighborhood despite local concerns is illustrative of the Saudi government’s approach to historic and cultural sites. The destruction of the neighborhood will not only erase a unique historic area and a symbol of the region’s past, but has the potential to have significant detrimental effects on the residents of the neighborhood. The demolition may entail the forcible eviction of hundreds of residents and increase the level of poverty in the town. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain therefore calls upon the Saudi government to immediately halt and cancel the planned destruction of the neighborhood and to re-evaluate its development standards so as to protect culturally and historic significant sites.

Semipalmated sandpiper migration, new study


This video from Canada says about itself:

16 August 2015

Southbound migration of Semipalmated Sandpipers, upper Bay of Fundy

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office in the USA:

Sandpiper detectives pinpoint trouble spots in continent-wide migration

April 5, 2017

Understanding and managing migratory animal populations requires knowing what’s going on with them during all stages of their annual cycle — and how those stages affect each other. The annual cycle can be especially difficult to study for species that breed in the Arctic and winter in South America. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications tackles this problem for Semipalmated Sandpipers, historically one of the most widespread and numerous shorebird species of the Western Hemisphere, whose populations in some areas have undergone mysterious declines in recent years.

Stephen Brown, Vice President of Shorebird Conservation for Manomet, assembled a large group of partner organizations to deploy 250 geolocators, tiny devices that use light levels to determine birds’ locations, on adult sandpipers at sites across their breeding range in the North American Arctic. Recapturing 59 of the birds after a year to download their data, they found that the eastern and western breeding populations use separate wintering areas and migration routes. Birds that breed in the eastern Arctic overwinter in areas of South America where large declines have been observed. The researchers believe these declines are tied to hunting on the wintering grounds and habitat alteration at migration stopover sites, although their precise impacts remain unclear.

“This study was a response to the discovery of a large decline in the population of Semipalmated Sandpipers in the core of their wintering area in South America, and the need to determine which birds were involved. We didn’t know if the decline affected the entire population or just part of it,” says Brown. “Bringing together the 18 partner organizations that worked collaboratively on this project allowed us to track the migration pathways used by Semipalmated Sandpipers at the enormous geographical scale of their entire North American Arctic breeding range and provided critical new information about what sites are important to protect to support their recovery.”

“The authors here present one of the few studies that examine year-round connectivity, including stopover sites, of Arctic-breeding shorebirds,” according to the University of Guelph‘s Ryan Norris, an expert on migration tracking who was not involved with the study. “Multi-site, range-wide studies on connectivity, such as this, are critical if we are to understand the population consequences of environmental change in migratory birds.”

Spacecraft halfway from Pluto to dwarf planet 2014 MU69


This video says about itself:

3 April 2017

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object it will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019.

From Sci-news.com:

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Halfway from Pluto to Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

Apr 4, 2017 by Enrico de Lazaro

Continuing on its path through the outer regions of our Solar System, New Horizons has now traveled half the distance from the dwarf planet Pluto to its next target, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.

New Horizons is currently 486.19 million miles (782.45 million km) from 2014 MU69 and approximately 3.5 billion miles (5.7 billion km) from Earth.

“It’s fantastic to have completed half the journey to our next flyby,” said New Horizons principal investigator Dr. Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute.

“That flyby will set the record for the most distant world ever explored in the history of civilization.”

2014 MU69 was discovered on June 26, 2014 by astronomers using the NASA/ ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Also known as 1110113Y, it orbits the Sun once every 293 years.

According to NASA scientists, 2014 MU69 is a relatively small Kuiper Belt object (KBO).

It is estimated to have a diameter of 30 miles (48 km) — that’s more than 10 times larger and 1,000 times more massive than typical comets, but only about 0.5 to 1% of the size (and about 1/10,000th the mass) of Pluto.

The surface of this KBO is just as red as, if not redder than, Pluto’s surface.

New Horizons’ planned rendezvous with 2014 MU69 is January 1, 2019.

“The January 2019 MU69 flyby is the next big event for us, but New Horizons is truly a mission to more broadly explore the Kuiper Belt,” said New Horizons project scientist Dr. Hal Weaver, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

“In addition to 2014 MU69, we plan to study more than two-dozen other KBOs in the distance and measure the charged particle and dust environment all the way across the Kuiper Belt.”

Golden eagle migration in bad weather, new research


This 2015 video is called Golden Eagle | HD Documentary.

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office in the USA:

Eagles migrate through bad weather to arrive in time to nest

April 5, 2017

Migration is tough, and birds do everything they can to optimize it. How do factors like weather and experience affect the strategies they choose? A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows that older, more experienced Golden Eagles actually migrate in poorer weather conditions and cover less ground than their younger counterparts, but for a good reason — they’re timing their efforts around raising the next generation of eagles.

Adrian Rus of Boise State University (now at Australia’s University of Sydney), Todd Katzner of the USGS, and their colleagues studied GPS telemetry tracks to evaluate the migratory performance of almost 90 Golden Eagles in eastern North America and determine how performance related to season, age, and weather. Unsurprisingly, eagles flew faster and farther when they had strong tailwinds and thermals to help them along. What was counterintuitive, however, was that older eagles did not cover more ground than younger eagles despite their greater experience. Instead, older eagles migrated in poorer weather conditions and travelled more slowly.

The researchers believe this is because older birds face different pressures than younger birds. Even if the weather is bad and will slow them down, they need to start heading north earlier than young birds that aren’t breeding, because they have to get back to their breeding grounds in time to reclaim their territories and start nesting. “Younger eagles just need to survive the summer, so they can be choosy about when they travel north and only migrate when conditions are really ideal for fast soaring flight,” explains Katzner.

Lead author Adrian Rus, who worked on the study as an undergraduate, enjoyed the challenges involved in analyzing the migration data. “The best part about working on this project was using specialized software to visualize the golden eagle migrations and being able to pair it with meteorological data to answer my biological questions,” he says. “As a result, the project greatly improved my geospatial and statistical analysis skills and was instrumental my current graduate research in animal movement ecology.”

“Rus et al. provide an unusual demonstration of the interaction between migration experience and seasonal environments,” according to Oklahoma University‘s Jeff Kelly, an expert on avian migration. “It is likely that the migration experience that older birds have enables them to extend their summer season through early spring and late autumn migration despite declining atmospheric conditions. Rus et al.’s demonstration of this insight into the interaction between age and the migratory environment expands our thinking about the life history tradeoffs that occur across the annual cycle of migrants.”

Ecuadorean farmers against DynCorp mercenaries


This video from Britain says about itself:

More US militants to help Saudi Arabia’s massacre in Yemen

24 March 2016

The first batch of mercenaries from the private US military firm DynCorp has arrived in the Yemeni city of Aden to replace paid militants from another American company.

Under a USD-3-billion contract between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and DynCorp, mercenaries from the company are to be deployed to Yemen, where UAE forces are fighting against the Yemeni army and Popular Committees on Saudi orders, Khabar News Agency quoted an official with Yemeni Defense Ministry as saying.

DynCorp International is a USA-based private military contractor. Begun as an aviation company, the company also provides flight operations support, training and mentoring, international … Wikipedia

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia, United States, CEO: James E. Geisler, Founded: 1946, Parent organization: Cerberus Capital Management.

Subsidiaries: DYNCORP INTERNATIONAL OF NIGERIA LLC. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first group of the mercenaries recently arrived in the port city of Aden to replace those of Blackwater, a notorious American group now renamed Academi. He added that the new militants included special naval forces, who entered the port of Ras Omran southwest of Aden. DynCorp is a rival of Blackwater, which hires mercenaries and sends them to fight in foreign countries on paid missions.

Blackwater had decided to withdraw from Bab-el-Mandeb region after the Yemeni forces inflicted heavy losses on them. The UAE was forced to bring in the new mercenaries from DynCorp for the same reason. Yemen has been under military attack by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. At least 8,400 people have been killed so far in the aggression and 16,015 others sustained injuries. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Ecuador small farmers’ day in US court over crop spraying comes closer

Wednesday 5th April 2017

MORE than 2,000 Ecuadorean small farmers began a joint legal action against US military contractor DynCorp on Monday, claiming that it unlawfully invaded Ecuador in 2000 and sprayed farms with toxic chemicals.

International Rights Advocates (IRA), representing the farmers before a jury at Washington District Court, hailed the trial as a positive step.

The group has been trying to take DynCorp to court since 2001 in the face of numerous attempts by the transnational to dismiss the case.

“This is an historic case — a finding against DynCorp will bring justice to the Ecuadorean farmers, who have been waiting a long time to have their day in court,” said IRA executive director Terry Collingsworth.

“A jury will finally get the chance to hear the evidence that DynCorp aerially sprayed a toxic poison that was designed to kill hardy coca plants on thousands of Ecuadorean farms and killed their crops, their animals and caused untold misery for the farmers and their families.”

For the Ecuadorean farmers and their supporters, the trial is long overdue.

Former president Bill Clinton awarded $1 billion in military aid to then Colombian president Andres Pastrana, launching Plan Colombia.

The military campaign was allegedly intended to combat drug traffickers but was directed against the Farc liberation movement and poor rural communities seen as supporting the left-wing guerillas.

DynCorp was hired as part of Plan Colombia to carry out aerial spraying of Colombian farms with glyphosate to eliminate coca crops.

The plaintiffs claim, however, that DynCorp illegally entered northern Ecuador, spraying and causing serious damage to local crops, animals and residents’ health.

New worm-snail species discovered on Florida shipwreck


This 2015 video from the USA is called Florida Keys Snorkeling (Key West vs Key Largo).

From the Field Museum in Chicago, USA:

‘Spiderman’ worm-snails discovered on Florida shipwreck

New species could have major implications for coral reef restoration

April 5, 2017

Summary: Scientists have discovered a new species of worm-snail on a shipwreck in the Florida Keys. The new species, which is colorful and shoots mucus webs to trap food, is likely an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific and could have important coral reef conservation implications.

What’s brightly colored, lives on shipwrecks, filter-feeds like a whale, and shoots webs like Spiderman? If you can’t readily come up with an answer, that’s okay: until now, such animals weren’t known to science. But as of today, scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of snail that ticks all those boxes. According to its discoverer, the snail shows “amazing adaptations and are kind of cute,” and it could play an important role in coral reef restoration work.

“These worm-snails are particularly weird animals,” says Dr. Rüdiger Bieler, Curator of Invertebrates at Chicago’s Field Museum and the lead author of a paper in the journal PeerJ describing the new snails. “And while we find lots of unusual snails, this one could have a substantial impact on coral reef restoration efforts.”

Instead of having coiled shells like most snails, worm-snails have irregularly-shaped tubular shells that they cement onto a hard surface. And while most snails are slow movers, adult worm-snails don’t move at all — instead, they stick to one spot for the rest of their lives. That makes them good candidates to live on hard surfaces like ships and coral reefs. The new species, Thylacodes vandyensis, is named for the “Vandy,” the nickname the SCUBA diving community has given to the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, a retired naval vessel intentionally sunk to serve as an artificial reef in the lower Florida Keys. This ship is the only place the new worm-snails have ever been found, glued to the vessel’s hull.

“I first got interested in these guys when I saw their giant slime glands,” says Bieler. “Normally, snails produce a trail of slime so that they can glide on it in order to move. But worm-snails are stationary — what did they need slime glands for?”

It turns out, these snails don’t use their slime to move — they use it to hunt.

“The snails have an extra pair of tentacles down near the base of their body, almost like little arms. These tentacles are what they use to shoot slime,” explains Bieler. “They shoot out a mucous web, just like Spiderman — although in slow motion. Then, microorganisms get stuck in the web, and the snails use their mouths to pull the web back in and strain the food through barbs on their tongues called radulae in order to eat. They filter-feed, much like baleen whales.”

While the worm-snails are immobile, Bieler and his co-authors from The Field Museum, Florida International University, and Cape Breton University have reason to believe that the specimens they found in Florida are a long way from home — all signs point to these snails being an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific where they had not yet been recognized.

“We know the Atlantic worm-snail fauna very well, so the likelihood of finding a new species native to the Florida Keys is pretty small,” says Bieler. “These snails might have stowed away in bilge water or the hulls on cargo ships, and once they arrived here, they were the perfect colonizers.”

The shipwrecks making up an artificial reef in the Keys seem to have been an ideal new habitat for the worm-snails. The new snails join other animals that have already been confirmed as Pacific invasives on these artificial reefs in the Florida Keys: the Orange Tube Coral and a Giant Foam Oyster, the latter discovered by Bieler’s team on another regional wreck, the Thunderbolt, in 2003.

“The living coral reefs in the Florida Keys are already full of animals,” explains Bieler, “but the deliberately scuttled shipwrecks are empty, brand-new real estate. There were fewer organisms to compete with for space on the artificial reef, and fewer resident predators that could harm them.”

But it’s not necessarily a good thing that the worm-snails have taken so well to the shipwreck. “Worm-snails can be harmful to corals and other reef organisms,” says Bieler. “They can reduce coral growth and have been shown to serve as hosts for certain blood flukes, which are parasites of loggerhead turtles.”

On top of the risks that worm-snails carry, coral reefs are in trouble all over the world. “Climate change, pollution, overfishing, and other problems are putting our reefs in danger,” says Bieler. “And while artificial reefs, such as deliberately sunk ships, might help provide additional structures for corals and other marine animals to live on, we need to carefully monitor the species present. If we don’t, non-native and potentially invasive species like Thylacodes vandyensis might eventually make its way from the artificial reef to the natural reef and cause trouble for the animals living there.”

Discovering the newly arrived snail and clam species, says Bieler, is an important step to monitoring coral reef health. “The artificial reefs could serve as the canary in the coal mine,” says Bieler. “If we monitor their presence on the shipwrecks, we can keep tabs on them and potentially stop them from spreading to the living reefs.”

Despite the havoc that the worm-snails could potentially wreak, Bieler is glad to have found them. “The discovery of Thylacodes vandyensis helps highlight why museum collections are important. Without comparing countless snail specimens at The Field Museum and around the world, we wouldn’t have been able to identify these snails as a new species, and we wouldn’t be able to make the kinds of progress in monitoring and reef restoration that we’re now equipped to,” says Bieler. “Plus, they’re awfully interesting.”

See also here.