Extinct spectacled cormorant, new discovery

Geographic locations of Bering Island and Shiriya. The red area indicates the possible past distribution of the spectacled cormorant, eventually residing only on Bering Island. Credit: Kyoto University / Junya Watanabe

From Kyoto University in Japan:

Giant, recently extinct seabird also inhabited Japan

Spectacled cormorant‘s distribution much broader than previously believed

July 11, 2018

Scientists report that a large, extinct seabird called the spectacled cormorant, Phalacrocorax perspicillatus — originally thought to be restricted to Bering Island, far to the north — also resided in Japan nearly 120,000 years ago.

Writing in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, the team indicates that the species underwent a drastic range contraction or shift, and that specimens found on Bering Island are ‘relicts’ — remnants of a species that was once more widespread.

The global threat of human activity on species diversity is grave. To correctly assess related extinction events, it is imperative to study natural distributions before first contact with humans. This is where archaeological and fossil records play crucial roles.

The spectacled cormorant, a large-bodied seabird first discovered in the 18th century on Bering Island, was later driven to extinction through hunting, following colonization of the island by humans in the early 1800s.

“Before our report, there was no evidence that the cormorant lived outside of Bering Island”, explains first author Junya Watanabe of Kyoto University’s Department of Geology and Mineralogy.

Studying bird fossils recovered from Shiriya, Aomori prefecture, Watanabe and his team identified 13 bones of the spectacled cormorant from upper Pleistocene deposits, formed nearly 120,000 years ago.

“It became clear that we were seeing a cormorant species much larger than any of the four native species in present-day Japan“, states co-author Hiroshige Matsuoka. “At first we thought this might be a new species, but these fossils matched bones of the spectacled cormorant stored at the Smithsonian Institution.”

Changes of oceanographic conditions may be responsible for the local disappearance of the species in Japan. Paleoclimate studies show that oceanic productivity around Shiriya dropped drastically in the Last Glacial Maximum, around 20,000 years ago. This would have seriously affected the population of the cormorant.

Although it might be possible that hunting of the species by humans took place in pre-historic Japan, archaeological evidence of this has yet to be discovered. The entire picture of the extinction event of the spectacled cormorant may be more complex than previously thought.

“The cormorant was a gigantic animal, its large size thought to have been achieved through adaptation to the island-oriented lifestyle on Bering”, adds Watanabe. “But our finding suggests that this might not have been the case; after all, it just resided there as a relict. The biological aspects of these animals deserve much more attention.”


Donald Trump very unwelcome in Britain

This video from Britain says about itself:

Asad Rehman – Together Against Trump

28 June 2018

Donald Trump is coming to Britain on Friday 13 July. By joining together in a Carnival of Resistance against his visit next month, we can show it’s not just Trump we’re stopping: it’s the racism, misogyny and exploitation that he represents, which we will uproot from our streets. Join us!

By Ceren Sagir in England:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trump will be met with ‘go home’ van on first day of visit

A SPOOF “go home” van will drive around central London tomorrow to welcome US President Donald Trump to Britain.

The van is a parody of the racist vans that Theresa May sent around London while she was home secretary.

The van’s message will warn Mr Trump to “go home or face protest” on the eve of widespread demonstrations against his visit, during which he will meet Ms May and Elizabeth Windsor.

The Another Europe is Possible stunt is being supported by Global Justice Now.

Another Europe is Possible spokeswoman Alena Ivanova told the Star that it was meant to highlight the “clear parallels” between Mr Trump and Ms May, especially on immigration.

“The link should be made that everything we oppose in Trump, we should also be opposed to in our own government”, she said.

Campaigners and politicians will inspect the van outside Parliament at noon, before it drives to Regent’s Park, where Mr Trump is expected to spend the night with the US ambassador. He is due to travel from dinner with Ms Windsor at Windsor Castle by helicopter.

On Friday, there will be major demonstrations, including the flying of the orange “Trump baby” blimp over Parliament Square.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said it will join the protest to make it clear that the visit must not be defined by Ms May’s “open arms” but opposition to Mr Trump’s “dangerous policies”.

General secretary Kate Hudson said: “Trump has torn up the Iran nuclear deal, threatened to kill millions with nuclear weapons in North Korea, and unveiled new ‘usable’ nukes, increasing the possibility of nuclear war.

“When he dropped the ‘mother of all bombs’ on Afghanistan it signalled that he won’t stop with threats. We have to recognise that a nuclear bomb could be next.”

Protesters will also gather outside the BBC’s HQ in Portland Place at 2pm tomorrow before marching to Trafalgar Square.

Britain: Home Office admits unlawfully separating man from three-year-old daughter. SAM TOBIN reports from the High Court.

Donald Trump’s visit will not be the lovefest May had hoped it would be. The demonstration against the US President on Friday is also against the Tories, writes LINDSEY GERMAN.

Britain must stop fawning on Trump’s White House. Let’s make the coming protests a challenge to an unjust order: here.

Helping California gnatcatchers survive

This 11 March 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

This episode of Nikon’s BATV features the birdlife of the San Diego area. In particular, James searches for some of the southern California specialties. In addition to the birds, he kayaks the La Jolla area to experience the Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions and dives the kelp forests in search of Garibaldi fish and Sevengill Sharks. The Golden Bird for this episode is the California Gnatcatcher.

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office:

If you build it, the birds will come — if it meets their criteria

July 11, 2018

A study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents a case study on how bird surveys can better inform conservation and vegetation restoration efforts. Previous conservation methods have emphasized plants as the key to recreating habitat preferred by a sensitive animal. However, this study shows that there’s more to the coastal sagebrush habitat of California Gnatcatchers than just having the right plants present. Abiotic components such as topography and soil are important drivers of the biotic components, including plants, which pair together to make the complete ecosystem these birds need. Given this more complete perspective, future conservation efforts would be wise to consider all of the variables that make up an animal’s habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Clark Winchell and Colorado State University’s Paul F. Doherty, Jr., set out to find a way to improve the traditional “single-species -oriented” conservation plan. They used bird survey data to more accurately identify favorable habitat for California Gnatcatcher occupancy and discovered that as the ratio of coastal sagebrush increased from 10% to 40%, the probability of colonization and presence of these birds tripled. The amount of openness in the sagebrush habitat also correlated with the birds’ occupancy probability (30-40% openness was ideal for the birds). Elevation and soil texture also influenced suitable habitat, with lower elevations and loam or sandy loam soils most preferred. Winchell and Doherty also found that the gnatcatchers preferred southern aspects, shallow slopes, and inland areas over other options. Being so detailed and using such a fine scale allowed more specific areas to be identified as suitable for gnatcatchers. Thorough research such as this will better aid conservation efforts, both by informing where restoration might be most successful and by providing restoration targets.

Winchell comments, “Restoration ecologists are generally not gnatcatcher biologists, and vice versa. Sometimes we tend to place restoration projects where land becomes available after political negotiations. We may want to consider what is that parcel of land trying to tell us — what does the land want to be, so to speak — versus assuming we can dictate the final outcome for a location. Considering the entire functionality of the surrounding ecosystem, including the physical components, the biological community, and understanding the dynamism of the ecosystem will lead to improved restoration and wildlife management outcomes and our study is one small step in that direction.”

These results correlating soil, vegetation, and gnatcatcher occupancy harken back to lessons that Aldo Leopold taught us — namely, to start with the land and work with the land when managing wildlife. Leopold’s holistic approach to conservation included the soils, waters, plants, and animals and is still relevant today.

German minister’s ‘joke’ on forcibly returned suicided Afghan refugee

This video from Germany says about itself:

Horst Seehofer faces calls to resign after deportee suicide | DW | 11.07.2018

It’s a joke that may come back to haunt Horst Seehofer. On Tuesday, while presenting his so-called master plan for migration, the interior minister crowed: “It just so happens that on my 69th birthday, without any orders from me, 69 people were sent back to Afghanistan.”

Little did Seehofer know when he made this remarks that one of those people had hung himself in a temporary camp in the Afghan capital some hours before. The 23-year-old Afghan Jamal Nasser Mahmoudi’s suicide was announced by Seehofer’s own Interior Ministry on Wednesday and confirmed by refugee workers in Afghanistan.

‘Little did Seehofer know’; is that true? The refugee’s suicide was probably before Tuesday 10 July; Seehofer’s ‘joke’ was late on the 10 July 2018 afternoon.

… Seehofer, who is also the leader of the Bavarian conservative CSU party, was already a controversial figure in Germany after leading opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy toward migrants. Many feared his rebellion could bring down the government. The governmental crisis was defused last week thanks to a compromise with Merkel’s CDU and their junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Seehofer’s approval ratings plummeted because of that public spat, and now voices demanding that he go are growing ever louder – even within the governing coalition.

SPD members tweet outrage

Some Social Democrats, already irritated by what they consider the Interior Minister’s posturing, took to social media to call upon him to stand down. “Host Seehofer is a pathetic cynic and unequal to his office in terms of character”, wrote the influential leader of the SPD youth wing, Kevin Kühnert, on Twitter. “His resignation [is] overdue. Anyone home, coalition?”

The SPD chapter in Germany’s most populous federal state, North Rhine–Westphalia, concurred, tweeting: “An Interior Minister so lacking in humanity damages our democracy to which we owe so much.” And Berlin SPD member of the Bundestag Cansel Kiziltepe called upon to German Chancellor to dismiss her interior minister. “Cynical, inhumane and misanthropic!” tweeted Cansel Kiziltepe. “Seehofer has human lives on his conscience and can no longer be tolerated as a minister, Mrs. Merkel!”

Seehofer has made himself into a burden for the grand coalition

Opposition fury at ‘constitutional minister’

The chairman of center-right Free Democrats in the state of Rhineland Palatinate, Volker Wissing, tweeted: “As interior minister, Horst Seehofer is also the constitution minister and as such the guardian of free democratic fundamental order and our values. He has conclusively shown that he is not up to the challenge.”

“An interior minister who publicly expresses his happiness at people being sent back to a country at war not only obviously lacks basic human sympathy, but also the qualifications for the job”, Left Party Internal Affairs Spokeswoman Ulla Jelpke wrote in a statement on her website. “In my opinion, Seehofer deserves to be fired.”

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Joke’ by German minister about expelled Afghans criticized

“I did not order it like that, but on the occasion of my 69th birthday 69 people were sent back to Afghanistan”, said the German minister of Home Affairs Seehofer, smiling, yesterday. Today that remark and smile are criticized strongly. One of the 69 expelled Afghans committed suicide shortly after his forced return to Kabul.

According to a human rights organization, he was a 23-year=-old asylum seeker who had gone to Germany as a minor eight years ago. Eventually, his asylum application was rejected and he was expelled along with 68 other Afghans.

Seehofer was very pleased with that, he said yesterday while laughing, especially because the majority of the expelled Afghans came from his CSU political party ‘home state’ Bavaria. In the coalition with sister party CDU of Federal Chancellor Merkel, Seehofer fought a fierce battle over migration policy. The CSU wants a much stricter admission policy than Merkel her supporters, … in the hope of taking votes from the anti-immigration [neo-fascist] AfD party [in the Bavarian election soon].

Call for resignation

His mirth about his ‘birthday present’ led to much criticism of him on social media, now that it has become clear that one of the expelled Afghans has committed suicide. There are calls for Seehofer to resign, including from the youth section of the social-democratic SPD, the coalition partner of CDU-CSU in the Berlin coaltion government.

Seehofer himself has not yet responded in public.

Afghanistan conflict: Civilian deaths hit record high, says UN: here.

Green turtles of the Persian Gulf

This video says about itself:

Mysterious Green Sea Turtles in the Persian Gulf Tracked By Scientists | National Geographic

19 June 2018

Green turtles in the Middle East are one of the world’s least understood turtle populations. An international team of researchers is wrangling dozens of turtles, rodeo-style, to learn more about their migration routes and locations of nesting beaches.

Up to 93 percent of green turtle hatchlings could be female by 2100, as climate change causes ‘feminization’ of the species, new research suggests: here.