Northern lapwing and snipe in Sweden

This video is about a northern lapwing and a snipe bathing in Sweden.


More German, French neocolonial wars

This video says about itself:

Germany sends second batch of Afghan refugees to Kabul

24 January 2017

Deported after years of living in Germany, 26 young Afghans arrived in Kabul with only one thought in mind: fleeing this war-torn country.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

Germany: Grand coalition expands foreign operations in Afghanistan and Iraq

8 March 2018

The incoming grand coalition government is preparing a massive expansion of Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. No sooner had the membership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted for the continuation of the government alliance with the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) than the expansion plans were announced.

On Wednesday the caretaker government decided to increase the previous upper troop limit in Afghanistan by about one-third, and send up to 1,300 soldiers to the central Asian country in future. According to reports, the Bundestag (parliament) should agree to this by the end of March.

By Francis Dubois in France:

After Burkina Faso bombing, France pledges to step up war in Sahel

8 March 2018 …

GSIM [Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims] was created by a merger in March 2017 between several Islamist movements including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and Al Mourabitoun, which were able to spread across the Sahel region after NATO backed Islamist militias in its 2011 war in Libya to topple Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. This war devastated the oil-rich country and divided it into zones dominated by rival warlords in shifting alliances with on various imperialist powers. Its consequences went on to destabilize the entire Sahel.

Libya now has become an internment zone for countless thousands of refugees who are locked up in European Union-sponsored camps in horrific conditions, tortured or even sold as slaves.

Macron’s reaction makes quite clear that Paris is preparing a new intensification of the war it has been waging across its former colonial empire with conditional assistance from Washington. This region, whose surface is as large as Europe’s, is rich in mineral and energy resources that Paris and the EU consider to be essential to the profits of European transnational corporations. This war policy led to street protests against Macron’s visit in Ouagadougou on November 27, the day before the Abidjan summit announced an intensification of France’s war in the region.

Like the other European powers, Paris sees the militarization of the Sahel was an important way to stop the flood of refugees who want to cross the Mediterranean. In January, the German parliament voted to increase from 350 to 1,000 the number of German soldiers deployed to the region, making Mali the largest foreign deployment of the German army.

Hawaiian stick spiders, new research

This video says about itself:

A long-tailed spider (Ariamnes cylindrogaster, family Theridiidae) moving along a long horizontal non-sticky line between the branches. This species is known to be a spider-hunting spider (araneophagy). I’m not sure if this one was spinning its unique simplistic web to catch other spiders. Eventually, the spider stretched itself as if mimicking a green pine needle hanging in the air. Filmed in the morning (9:23 am – 9:28 am) of early October 2015 in Japan.

From ScienceDaily:

Hawaiian stick spiders re-evolve the same three guises every time they island hop

March 8, 2018

We don’t usually expect evolution to be predictable. But Hawaiian stick spiders of the Ariamnes genus have repeatedly evolved the same distinctive forms, known as ecomorphs, on different islands, researchers report on March 8 in the journal Current Biology. Ecomorphs — which look the same and live in the same kinds of habitats, but aren’t as closely related as they appear — are surprisingly rare, and the researchers hope that these newly described ones might help us understand what’s behind this strange evolutionary pattern.

The stick spiders live in the forests of the Hawaiian archipelago, over 2,000 feet above sea level, on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and Hawaii. Although they’re nocturnal arthropods that can’t see well, they’re still brightly and distinctly colored. “You’ve got this dark one that lives in rocks or in bark, a shiny and reflective gold one that lives under leaves, and this one that’s a matte white, completely white, that lives on lichen“, explains Rosemary Gillespie, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

These different colorings allow the spiders to camouflage themselves against specific similarly colored surfaces in their respective habitats and avoid their major predator, birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers. But what’s remarkable is that as the spiders have moved from one island to the next during their evolutionary history, these same forms have evolved over and over again. This process produces new species that are more closely related to spiders of different forms on the same island than they are to lookalikes from other islands.

And it happens fast — at least in evolutionary time. A dark spider that hops from an old island to a new one can diversify into new species of dark, gold, and white spiders before gold and white spiders from the old island have time to reach the new one. “They arrive on an island, and boom! You get independent evolution to the same set of forms”, Gillespie says.

It’s also important that these forms are the same each time. “They don’t evolve to be orange or striped. There isn’t any additional diversification”, she says. This, she believes, suggests that the Ariamnes spiders have some sort of preprogrammed switch in their DNA that can be quickly turned on to allow them to evolve rapidly into these successful forms. But how that process might work is still unclear.

It hasn’t really been studied, because ecomorphs aren’t common. “Most radiations just don’t do this”, she says. Typical adaptive radiation, like with Darwin’s finches, usually produces a wide diversity of forms. And convergent evolution, where two different species independently evolve the same strategy for fulfilling a certain niche, doesn’t usually happen repeatedly. There are just a few good examples of this kind of fixed pattern of repeated evolution: the Ariamnes spiders, the Hawaiian branch of the Tetragnatha genus of long-jawed spiders, and the Anolis lizards of the Caribbean.

“Now we’re thinking about why it’s only in these kinds of organisms that you get this sort of rapid and repeated evolution,” Gillespie says. While it’s a question she’s still working on, the three lineages do all live in remote locations, have few predators, and rely on their coloring to camouflage them in a very particular habitat. They are also all free living in the vegetation: neither of the two spider groups builds a web, which means that they, like the lizards, are free to move about and find the kind of habitat they require for camouflage. She hopes that examining what these groups have in common will “provide insight into what elements of evolution are predictable, and under which circumstances we expect evolution to be predictable and under which we do not.”

She also hopes that this research will help the world to understand how much Hawaii’s vulnerable forests still have to offer. “Often, I hear people saying, ‘Oh, Hawaii’s so well studied. What else is there to look at?’ But there are all these unknown radiations that are just sitting there, all these weird and wonderful organisms. We need everyone to understand what’s there and how extraordinary it is. And then we need to see what we can do to protect and conserve what still waits to be described.”

Intelligence helping Costa Rican hummingbirds

This video says about itself:

7 February 2018

New experiments show that dominant male Long-billed Hermits have better spatial memories and sing more consistent songs than less successful males, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

It’s Brains Over Brawn for Male Long-billed Hermits Seeking Mates

In the glitzy world of hummingbirds, one species seems to profit more from mental prowess than physical flamboyance. For male Long-billed Hermits in Costa Rica, having a good spatial memory is a key factor in winning prime display spots. See the full story here.

Saudi Arabia heads the UN human rights panel, cartoon

Cartoon, Saudi Arabia heads the UN human rights panel, by Skelf

This cartoon, by Skelf in Britain, is called Saudi Arabia heads the UN human rights panel.

American barred owl nest webcam back online

This video from the USA says about itself:

Hooting and Crayfish Delivery, March 7, 2018 Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl Cam

Barred Owls are opportunistic predators with a diet ranging from rabbits to reptiles. From time to time, the male will even deliver fish and invertebrates (like this crayfish) to his partner in the nest!

Watch live at

Jim Carpenter, President and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard since 1999. Set more than 30 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, this Barred Owl box was first occupied in 2006. Since then, the box has hosted several nests, including successful attempts since 2013.

The camera system was updated in 2013 with an Axis P3364-LVE security camera and microphone mounted to the side of the box and connected to Jim’s house via 200 feet of ethernet cable.

To keep predators like raccoons from investigating the nest, aluminum flashing was wrapped around the tree. An infrared illuminator in the box means you can keep track of the owls’ comings and goings throughout the night (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls).

Since the birds aren’t banded, we can’t tell whether this is the same pair as in past years. Although male and female Barred Owls look alike in their plumage, females can be up to a third bigger than males. You can also tell the difference between them by watching their behavior; only the female incubates the eggs and chicks, but the male is responsible for the bulk of the feeding, ferrying prey items to the incubating female, and sharing them with her inside and outside of the box.

Learn more about Barred Owls in our AllAboutBirds Species Guide here.