Spiny babbler, Nepal’s only endemic bird


Hat tip for this: Moorbey’z Blog.

By Sanjib Chaudhary, 30 January 2019:

The Spiny Babbler, Nepal’s only endemic bird, fascinates ornithologists and bird lovers alike

Although more than 800 bird species are found in Nepal, the Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nipalensis) is the only bird that is endemic to the country. The greyish-brown bird, called Kaande Bhyakur in Nepali, lives in dense scrub and can be spotted more easily at elevations ranging from 500 meters to 2135 meters. Although the Spiny Babbler has been fascinating ornithologists the world around for years, environmental degradation is threatening this unique, much-loved bird.

The medium-sized bird is shy in nature and it’s difficult to observe them, except early in the breeding season when males often sing in the open. …

The Spiny Babbler, found only in Nepal, has fascinated ornithologists and bird lovers from around the world. Don Messerschmidt writes about ornithologist S. Dillon Ripley’s account of the bird in his book Search for the Spiny Babbler:

“It was a species that had defied scientists for years, since 1843 or 1844. At that time Brian Hodgson’s Nepali collectors working for him in the unknown vastnesses of Nepal had secured several specimens,” he writes. The Spiny Babbler “had remained a mystery ever since, one of the five species of Indian birds, which, along with the Mountain Quail, had apparently vanished from the face of the earth. But not quite, for if my guess was right, here it was hopping about large as life on the wooded slopes above Rekcha.”

The bird is threatened by the clearance of scrub for agriculture and expansion of urban areas. Outside protected areas, it is sometimes threatened by hunting, and the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley have seen a decline in Spiny Babbler numbers. However, the same habitat loss that is destroying the Spiny Babbler’s habitat in some areas might actually be creating more in others. As the forest continues to thin due to deforestation throughout the country, the scrub-dominated habitat that they call home is being created in its wake. But only time will tell what is in store for the population of Nepal’s only endemic bird.

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Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, Liverpool, England


The head of Leda, by Leonardo da Vinci, c1505-8

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 30 January 2018:

LIVERPOOL/NATIONWIDE

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing
Walker Art Gallery
Until May 6

This free exhibition of 12 Leonardo da Vinci drawings, coinciding with 11 other simultaneous shows nationally, marks the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master‘s death. It explores the diversity of subjects that inspired his creativity, including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

And it presents new information about his working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

How sauropod dinosaurs moved, new study


This video is called Sauropod OviparityWalking With Dinosaurs – BBC.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Long-necked dinosaurs rotated their forefeet to the side

Scientists investigated the tracks of sauropods

January 29, 2019

Long-necked dinosaurs (sauropods) could orient their forefeet both forward and sideways. The orientation of their feet depended on the speed and centre of mass of the animals. An international team of researchers investigated numerous dinosaur footprints in Morocco at the foot of the Atlas Mountains using state-of-the-art methods. By comparing them with other sauropod tracks, the scientists determined how the long-necked animals moved forward. The results have now been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“Long-necked dinosaurs” (sauropods) were among the most successful herbivores of the Mesozoic Era — the age of the dinosaurs. Characteristic for this group were a barrel-shaped body on columnar legs as well as an extremely long neck, which ended in a relatively small head. Long-necked dinosaurs existed from about 210 to 66 million years ago — they thus had been able to assert themselves on earth for a very long period. Also their gigantism, with which they far surpassed other dinosaurs, points at their success.

Sauropods included the largest land animals in Earth history, some over 30 metres long and up to 70 tonnes in weight. “However, it is still unclear how exactly these giants moved,” says Jens Lallensack, paleontologist at the Institute of Geosciences and Meteorology at the University of Bonn in Germany. The limb joints were partly cartilaginous and therefore not fossilised, allowing only limited conclusions about the range of movement.

Detective work with 3D computer analyses

The missing pieces of the puzzle, however, can be reconstructed with the help of fossil footprints of the giants. An international team of researchers from Japan, Morocco and Germany, led by the University of Bonn, has now investigated an unique track site in Morocco at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. The site consists of a surface of 54 x 6 metres which was vertically positioned during mountain formation and shows hundreds of individual footprints, some of which overlap. A part of these footprints could be assigned to a total of nine trackways (sequences of individual footprints). “Working out individual tracks from this jumbled mess of footprints was detective work and only possible through the analysis of high-resolution 3D models on the computer,” says Dr. Oliver Wings of the Zentralmagazin Naturwissenschaftlicher Sammlungen der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.

The researchers were amazed by the results: the trackways are extremely narrow — the right and left footprints are almost in line. Also, the forefoot impressions are not directed forwards, as is typical for sauropod tracks, but point to the side, and sometimes even obliquely backwards. Even more: The animals were able to switch between both orientations as needed. “People are able to turn their palms downwards by crossing the ulna and radius,” says Dr. Michael Buchwitz of the Museum für Naturkunde Magdeburg. However, this complicated movement is limited to mammals and chameleons in today’s terrestrial vertebrates. It was not possible in other animals, including dinosaurs. Sauropods must therefore have found another way of turning the forefoot forwards.

How can the rotation of the forefoot be explained?

How can the rotation of the forefoot in the sauropod tracks be explained? The key probably lies in the mighty cartilage layers, which allowed great flexibility in the joints, especially in the shoulder. But why were the hands rotated outwards at all? “Outwardly facing hands with opposing palms were the original condition in the bipedal ancestors of the sauropods,” explains Shinobu Ishigaki of the Okayama University of Science, Japan. The question should therefore be why most sauropods turned their forefeet forwards — an anatomically difficult movement to implement.

A statistical analysis of sauropod tracks from all over the world could provide important clues: Apparently the animals tended to have outwardly directed forefeet when the foreleg was not used for active locomotion but only for carrying body weight. Thus the forefeet were often rotated further outwards when the animal moved slowly and the centre of mass of the body was far back. Only if the hands were also used for the forward drive, a forefoot directed to the front was advantageous. The analysis furthermore showed that the outer rotation of the forefeet was limited to smaller individuals, whereas in larger animals they were mostly directed forward. The large animals apparently could no longer rotate their forefeet sideways. “This loss of mobility was probably a direct result of their gigantism,” says Lallensack.

United States political update


This 30 September 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Sanders & Bipartisan Coalition Reintroduce Resolution to End Support for Yemen War

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ken Buck (R-Co.) will hold a press conference today at 12:15 p.m. to announce the reintroduction of a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

This 29 September 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

“It’s About Oil Again..” [Democratic Congresswoman and presidential candidate] Tulsi [Gabbard] SLAMS Establishment With Tweet About Venezuela.

John Bolton makes a startling and revealing quote about our current involvement with Venezuela. And once again, Tulsi has no problem calling the establishment out on its bullshit.

This 27 September 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Hillary [Clinton]’s Back, Attacking Bernie [Sanders] and Praising Kamala [Harris].

How Not to Wake Up a Lioness


This 29 January 2019 video from Kenya says about itself:

Watch a massive male lion’s intense creep up to a sleeping lioness. Just as you think he is going to lie down next to her, he ends up waking her up in the absolute worst way possible!

This was filmed by 32-year-old safari guide, Joshua Loonkushu, on an evening game drive near the river. Joshua tells LatestSightings.com the story: “On the previous day, we had spotted this pride of lions that had just killed a wildebeest within the banks of the Sand River in Maasai Mara. I decided to head over there the next day to try and track them down. Luckily I managed to find them!

Jewish anti-nazis against honouring French fascist dictator


The antifa group Jewish Antifascist Action vandalized a plaque in New York honoring Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain. Photo Jewish Antifascist Action

By Aiden Pink in the USA:

Members of a Jewish antifa group defaced a plaque on Monday in New York honoring a French leader who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

The plaque in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan honored Philippe Pétain, a French general in World War I who later led the Vichy regime, which oversaw the deportation of more than 75,000 Jews to concentration camps, the vast majority of whom were killed.

The plaque commemorating Pétain’s 1931 parade in the “Canyon of Heroes” was splattered with red paint on Monday, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, by the group Jewish Antifascist Action. They also covered the surrounding area with other antifa-related graffiti.

“With Monday’s actions, Jewish antifascists and allied forces have served notice that fascist apologism will not be tolerated in our city in 2019; that anti-Semitic ideology and violence will be confronted with Jewish solidarity and strength; and that the Holocaust will be remembered not only with sadness and grief but also with righteous anger and action: ‘We will never forget. We will never forgive’”,the group said in a statement.

The group added that its action was done in solidarity with the Outlive Them Network, an international antifascist group that has called for global actions over the next few months. The network previously inspired actions in 18 across seven countries last November on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Former New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind pushed for the plaque honoring Pétain to be removed in 2017. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced later that year that the plaque would be removed, but the removal has not yet occurred.

Asian songbirds’ nests and roads, new study


This video shows a white-rumped shama singing.

From the American Ornithological Society Publications Office in the USA:

Road proximity may boost songbird nest success in tropics

January 29, 2019

In the world’s temperate regions, proximity to roads usually reduces the reproductive success of birds, thanks to predators that gravitate toward habitat edges. However, the factors affecting bird nest success are much less studied in the tropics — so does this pattern hold true? New research published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that interactions between roads, nesting birds, and their predators may unfold differently in Southeast Asia.

Rongrong Angkaew of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and her colleagues placed 100 next boxes for the cavity-nesting White-rumped Shama in forest interior and 100 near a road at an environmental research station in northeast Thailand. Monitoring nests and radio-tracking 25 fledglings from each site for seven weeks, they found that nest success was 12% higher and post-fledging survival 24% higher at the edge versus the interior — the opposite of the pattern commonly observed in temperate regions.

“There were some special challenges involved in carrying out the field work,” says Angkaew. “When we started setting up the nest boxes in the field, we found a lot of tracks and other signs of poachers and illegal hunting, so we had to avoid some parts of the forest edge in order to reduce human disturbance to our nest boxes, which could have affected nestling and fledgling survival rates.”

Predators caused 94% of nest failures and 100% of fledgling mortality, and locally important predators of small birds, such as green cat snakes, northern pig-tailed macaques and raptors appear to prefer interior forest habitat. Fledglings also preferred to spend time in dense understory habitat, which provides cover from predators and was more available near roads.

Overall, the study’s results suggest that the effects of roads on birds’ reproductive success depend on local predator ecology — the same rules don’t necessarily apply in different biomes. Angkaew and her coauthors hope that more studies like theirs will help identify key nest predators and assess their foraging behaviors in multiple landscapes, in order to determine the best ways to conserve vulnerable bird species in areas affected by human development.