Cuban blue-winged teal and black-necked stilts


White ibises and great egret, 12 March 2017

Still 12 March 2017 on the islands north of Cuba. After we had seen the flamingos, tricoloured heron and Ernest Hemingway sculptures, there were still these two white ibises and this great egret along the mangrove coast.

And red knots. Short-billed dowitchers. Lesser yellowlegs.

Reddish egret, 12 March 2017

And a reddish egret.

Palm warbler, on 12 March 2017

On a shrub, this palm warbler.

Black-necked stilts and turtles, 12 March 2017

We continued to a lake, where there scores of black-necked stilts; and freshwater turtles as well. I think they were Cuban sliders; an endemic species of Cuba.

Black-necked stilts and turtles, on 12 March 2017

Greater yellowlegs were also present.

Black-necked stilts and blue-winged teal, on 12 March 2017

Besides black-necked stilts, and a common gallinule, there were also various duck species; like blue-winged teal.

Shovelers, 12 March 2017

And shoveler ducks, both males and females.

Stay tuned, as there were not only birds in Cuba on 12 March, but on 13 March and after as well!

New film on wildlife in Amsterdam, the Netherlands


This Dutch video is the trailer of the new film De Wilde Stad (the wild city). This film on wildlife in Amsterdam city will be in the cinemas in the autumn of 2017.

Murdoch’s O’Reilly sacked for sexual harassment


This 19 April 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

FOX News Bill O’Reilly FIRED For Sexually Harassing Co-Workers.

BILL O’REILLY IS OUT The Fox star has been let go from the network following a mass exodus of advertisers over sexual harassment allegations. Executives at Fox reportedly fear more will come out in the coming months. O’Reilly’s name has already been scrubbed from “The Factor,” a show he hosted to much acclaim for 20 years, and Tucker Carlson is taking over his time slot. This is what Twitter thinks O’Reilly will do next. Here’s how the rise of President Donald Trump led to O’Reilly’s fall. And take a look at the timeline of the “nine and a half months that shook Fox News.” [HuffPost]

BILL O’REILLY TO RECEIVE $25 MILLION PAYOUT FROM FOX As part of his settlement to leave the network. Here’s why his fall from grace was particularly steep and what it means for the culture at Fox. And yes, O’Reilly did once write a fictional novel about a fired newsman’s murderous revenge. [HuffPost]

First Roger Ailes, Now Bill O’Reilly: Sexual Harassment Scandal Ousts Top Men at Fox News: here.

Roger Ailes did sexually harass me,’ says former Fox journalist Alisyn Camerota. Ex-Fox News chair allegedly told Camerota, who spent more than a decade at the channel and is now at CNN, joining him in a hotel room would help her career: here.

Black employees allege discrimination by Fox, say bosses made them arm wrestle white colleagues: here.

Slender-billed curlew, extinct or alive? New research


This video says about itself:

Slender-billed curlew compared to whimbrel and curlew

25 June 2009

The only known video footage and sound-recording of Slender-billed Curlew! The recordings were made at Merja Zerga, Morocco. The video is by Andy Butler, January 1994. The call was recorded by Adam Gretton, January 1999 with subsequent edits, to remove background noise, by J P Gautier and J P Richard at the laboratoire d’Ethologie de Rennes, as publis[h]ed in Oiseax d’Afrique 1 by Claude Chappuis, and by Magnus Robb.

For comparison, footage and calls of Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew follow. Does anyone have any footage of the orientalis or sushkini subspecies of Eurasian Curlew or the alboaxillaris subspecies of Whimbrel?

For more information about the race to find the Slender-billed Curlew visit www.slenderbilledcurlew.net.

The Slender-billed Curlew call can also be downloaded from this website and makes the ultimate mobile phone ringtone! The more people who become familiar with this call, the higher the likelihood that they will be alert to hearing such a call in the field. It is the distinctive Slender-billed Curlew call described as Eurasian curlew-like immediately followed by 6-7 very short notes “ti-ti-ti…” becoming progressively higher in pitch and reminiscent of certain larger raptors.

The Eurasian curlew-like part of the call is softer, sweeter, faster and higher in pitch, consisting of four identical cour-lee calls with 0.25 seconds pause in between, second syallable distinctly higher in pitch than first. The tittering part of the call is higher pitched than the distinctive ‘bi, bi, bi, bi, bi, bi, bi’ of the Whimbrel. It was given by a single Slender-billed Curlew flying into a feeding area with a small group of Eurasian Curlews (Gretton 1991). This call was not heard during the previous year and as this individual had been shot and wounded in early December 1989 it is possible that the call is atypical.’

With thanks to Paul Doherty of Bird Images DVD Guides www.birdvideodvd.com for making this possible.

From BirdLife:

18 Apr 2017

Chasing ghosts: how technology is helping track the bird that mysteriously disappeared

The Slender-billed Curlew hasn’t been seen since 1995, and could very well be extinct. But before we write it off for sure, we need to scour its vast, inhospitable breeding range for straggling populations. A groundbreaking new technique, which studies tiny atoms left in the feathers of long-dead specimens, is telling us where we should look first.

How do you look for a Critically Endangered species’ final few nesting sites, when you were never really sure where they bred in the first place?

That’s the magnitude of the task facing conservationists who are attempting to chase the tail feathers of the world’s final remaining Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris population. That is of course, if any such population even still exists at all.

In an attempt to narrow the search for this lost species, a new paper published by BirdLife’s journal, Bird Conservation International, involving staff from, or linked to, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), has used data gleaned from tiny atoms, harvested from the feathers of deceased specimens, to pinpoint where in the vast Siberian wilderness we should begin our search.

How do you look for a possibly extinct species, when you didn’t even know where it bred when it was plentiful?

We didn’t always need to resort to such elaborate measures to catch a glimpse of this medium-sized wader. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was a somewhat common bird that wintered all across the Middle East, North Africa and central and eastern Europe.

But even in these bountiful times, the species’ breeding habits were poorly understood. We knew they retreated to remote Central Asia in spring, but not much more beyond that. To date, the only fully-documented Slender-billed Curlew nests are a handful that were discovered in the 1910s and 1920s, near the town of Tara in Omsk, Siberia.

Also poorly understood are the exact reasons for its rapid decline, although we can make a few educated guesses. Widespread hunting across its wintering grounds in the late 19th and early 20th Century had a noticable impact, and the extensive drainage of wetlands across the Mediterranean and North Africa only served to put further pressure on this migratory species. However, the threats the species faces across its breeding grounds, wherever they may be, are largely unknown.

Either way, eventually things got so dire that the Slender-billed Curlew stopped appearing at its wintering grounds altogether. The last fully-verified sighting was in Morocco in February 1995, and although there have since been claimed sightings in places as far apart as France and Ukraine, the species’ visual similarity to more common birds such as Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata and Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus means they are difficult to verify.

French racist Le Pen scared of leftist Mélenchon


Holocaust survivor Cleo Yvel protests against French neo-fascist Marine Le Pen, photo by Weyman Bennett

This photo shows Holocaust survivor Cleo Yvel protesting against French neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

France: Le Pen ramps up hateful anti-immigration rhetoric

Wednesday 19th April 2017

FRENCH far-right presidential challenger Marine Le Pen reacted yesterday to increasing pressure from left hopeful Jean-Luc Mélenchon by cranking up her anti-immigration rhetoric.

The National Front (FN) leader told a rally that she would suspend all legal immigration into France because she wanted to stop “a mad, uncontrolled situation.”

She and the bankers’ candidate Emmanuel Macron had previously seemed like the contenders in a two-horse race.

But Mr Mélenchon and conservative hopeful Francois Fillon, who is embroiled in corruption allegations, have both made progress in recent weeks.

Mr Macron sneered yesterday that choosing the left candidate would be like “Cuba without the sun.”

Mr Mélenchon criss-crossed Paris by barge on Monday to address supporters and set up holograms of himself yesterday to appear at several events simultaneously.

About a third of French voters are still undecided, opinion polls suggest, making this Sunday’s first round unpredictable.

See also here. And here.

Gentoo penguins in Antarctic winter, new study


This video says about itself:

Walk with Penguins in immersive 3D experience

19 April 2017

For the first time, you can instantly transport yourself to a sub-Antarctic penguin colony and immerse in the lives of Southern Rockhopper, King, Magellanic, and Gentoo Penguins. Watch in full HD as the penguins return from challenging journeys back to their colonies of fuzzy chicks.

Beautiful. Inspiring. Under threat.

Despite being loved the world over, penguins are the world’s second most threatened group of marine birds, with 10 of the 18 species threatened with extinction due to competition with fisheries, bycatch, marine pollution, disease, habitat disturbance and climate change.

The world’s largest nature conservation partnership, BirdLife International, has worked with London-based virtual reality and post-production specialist, Visualise, to create Walk with Penguins, an engaging 3D 360 short nature film used to connect audiences with penguin protection.

Urgent action is needed to better protect penguins, please visit here to show your support.

See also here.

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office:

Time-lapse cameras provide a unique peek at penguins’ winter behavior

April 19, 2017

Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras.

Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras. Year-round studies across the full extent of a species’ range are especially important in polar areas, where individuals within a single species may adopt a variety of different migration strategies to get by, and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses this unique approach to get new insights into Gentoo Penguin behavior.

Gentoo Penguins are of interest to scientists because they’re increasing at the southern end of their range in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a region where other penguin species are declining. Little is known about their behavior during the nonbreeding season, so Caitlin Black and Tom Hart of the University of Oxford and Andrea Raya Rey of Argentina’s Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Técnicas used time-lapse cameras to examine patterns in Gentoo Penguins’ presence at breeding sites across their range during the off season. They found both temporal and spatial factors driving winter attendance — for example, more Gentoo Penguins were present at breeding sites when there was open water or free-floating pack ice than when the shoreline was iced in, and more Gentoo Penguins were at breeding sites earlier in nonbreeding season than later.

The researchers deployed the cameras at seven sites including Argentina, Antarctica, and several islands. Each camera took eight to fourteen photos per day, and volunteer “citizen scientists” were recruited to count the penguins in each image via a website. Overall, the seven sites fell into three distinct groups in terms of winter attendance, each with its own patterns of site occupation. These findings could have important implications for understanding how localized disturbances due to climate change and fisheries activity affect penguin populations during the nonbreeding season.

“Working with cameras allows us to understand half of this species’ life without having to spend the harsh winter in Antarctica. It has been exciting to discover more about why Gentoos are present year-round at breeding sites without having to handle a single bird,” says Black. “I believe the applications for this technology are far-reaching for colonial seabirds and mammals, and we are only just beginning to discover the uses of time-lapse cameras as deployed virtual ecologists in field studies.”

“What most seabirds do away from their nest is often anybody’s guess. For Antarctic birds, this is compounded by the long periods of darkness that penguins and others must face in the winter,” adds Mark Hauber, Editor-in-Chief of The Auk: Ornithological Advances and Professor of Animal Behavior at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “This new research in The Auk: Ornithological Advances on Gentoo Penguins colonies reveals critical year-to-year differences in where the birds are when they are not nesting: In some years, only the most temperate sites are visited, and in other years both southerly and northerly locations are busy with penguins.”

Fossils may reveal 20-million-year history of penguins in Australia. Penguin history includes the ‘giant penguin,’ arrivals via multiple dispersals, extinctions: here.

Finding elusive emperor penguins: Both surveyors and satellites needed to study remote penguin populations: here.

Every penguin, ranked: which species are we most at risk of losing? Here.