James Bond’s Zapata rail re-discovery in Cuba


Zapata rail, painted by Allan Brooks

From BirdLife:

Rare glimpse of elusive rail

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 02/03/2015 – 15:34

An ornithological search-team have caught a glimpse of one of the world’s most threatened waterbirds, the Critically Endangered Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai. The sighting is the first documented in more than four decades and offers hope to conservationists working to ensure its survival.

First described in the early twentieth century, the only nest that has ever been found was by ornithologist James Bond -a name appropriated by Ian Fleming (himself a birder) for 007- and little has since been discovered about its behaviour and breeding ecology. Hopes were fading that viable populations of the Cuban waterbird remained.

The fleeting encounter, now made public, occurred in November 2014. After a series of coordinated surveys of south-west Cuba’s Zapata Swamp, ornithologists (including Andy Mitchell and staff from the Cuban Museum of Natural History) struck gold only after deciding to cut thin strips (rides) into the sawgrass to momentarily expose the secretive birds as they moved through the wetland.

“In the first instance, the head protruded from the sawgrass at the side of the ride,” recounted Andy Mitchell. “After a few seconds the bird emerged slowly into the open, stopped for a few seconds before moving off into the sawgrass on the other side of the ride.”

Now rediscovered, conservation efforts for Zapata Rail will target the wetland in which it was spotted, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area covering 530,695 ha of wetland in southern Matanzas province. A new project management plan will be developed to assess the species’ current population size, distribution and status.

The sighting is the latest victory in BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme, which aims to halt extinctions through rigorous science and practical conservation delivered by a range of partners on the ground.

This music video is called John Zorn – The Zapata Rail.

Most popular animals in Britain


This vido is called Children’s Favorite Animals – Learning English Animal Names | Kids Learning Video.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies, says YouGov

Dogs remain the nation’s favourite animal

Zachary Davies Boren

Monday 02 March 2015

Men and women like quite different animals, according to new research.

According to a silly YouGov analysis that has confirmed long-held suspicions of gender-based animal bias, men like lobsters, alligators and sticklebacks (it’s a type of fish) whereas women prefer cats, ponies and miniature pigs.

The country’s overall favourites are still predictably pets like dogs and cats, as well as the more exotic tigers and elephants.

But, by declaring their animal preferences via the YouGov website, some of the pollster‘s 190,000 members have helped reveal that some stereotypes really are true.

Men, whom one classic nursery rhyme claims derive from slugs, snails and puppy-dog tails, have an expressed affection for powerful, strange, and not-traditionally cute creatures.

Slow worms, crayfish, and ants feature on the list of animals loved by one gender but not by the other.

Male animal preferences

Women, on the other hand, choose cuddly critters like guinea pigs, hedgehogs and panda bears.

Besides the butterfly and the penguin, every one of the female-preferred is a mammal.

There’s not a single mammal amongst the more male-loved animals.

Female animal preferences

What’s in a number?

This poll is actually more complex than many of the higher-brow studies which YouGov regularly releases; that’s because of something called the Z-score.

YouGov explained: “For each preference by members of a given group, we find what is known in statistics as the Z-score.

“This is a measure of what is particularly true of the people in that group. Basically, it is how the attitudes and opinions of a particular group differ from the national average and how great the strength of that difference is.”

The Z-score for the animals preferred by women are much stronger than those by men, which means the difference in opinion over donkeys is much greater than the one over rattlesnakes.

This probably means that women like their creatures much more than men like theirs.

Read the full list here.

Papua damselfly named after wildlife Internet site administrator


Metagrion hueberae, photo: © Kelompok Entomologi Papua

Translated from the newsletter of Waarneming.nl in the Netherlands:

March 2, 2015

Metagrion hueberae was caught in 2009 in the Bird’s Head (Papua, Indonesia) by J. Kaize of Kelompok Entomologi Papua. He is a student at the University of Jayapura trained by volunteers of the Papua Insect Foundation. The genus Metagrion is endemic to New Guinea and adjacent islands and limited to streams and rivers in tropical rainforests. The official description of this species will be published in a scientific journal later this year.

The new species was named after Ms Anne Hueber, administrator for damselflies and dragonflies at Waarmeming.nl.

Save migratory birds by birdwatching


This video says about itself:

Champions of the Flyway – Birding Extreme!

17 August 2014

Extreme Birding in full power!

A major new international bird race has been taking place in Eilat, Israelone of the world’s most spectacular migration hot spots and rewarding birding destinations.

2015

The next Eilat Birds Festival will take place on the 15-22 March 2015, we are already taking bookings so don’t hesitate and migrate south to Eilat for a birding vacation of a lifetime!

See you in the field!

Jonathan Meyrav on behalf of the festival staff

From BirdLife:

The 2015 Champions of the Flyway race will take place 25th March 2015 – THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO GET INVOLVED!

By BirdLife Europe, Fri, 27/02/2015 – 09:22

In 2014, the Israel Ornithological Center (SPNI; BirdLife in Israel) and BirdLife International launched a new and exciting project – Champions of the Flyway. This annual race aims to raise funds to tackle the illegal killing of birds in Europe. This race is anything but common: teams from around the world come together and compete to observe and register as many bird species as possible within a 24 hour period.

Each year, the funds gathered by sponsors, participants and supporters will be used to support a different Conservation NGO’s work on illegal killing of birds. Last year, $30,000 was raised and given to Bird Conservation Georgia (SABUKO), which used the money for the Batumi bottleneck project. This project saw the creation of a feature length documentary about the incredible annual migration of nearly 1 million raptors over Western Georgia. This project also supported educational programs for children and work with local communities on the implications of illegal trapping and hunting.

Birders taking part in the inaugural 2014 event were of many different nationalities and represented many different businesses, conservation organisations and bird clubs. The 2014 winners were the Palestine Sunbirders, a joint Israeli-Palestinian team that recorded an impressive 169 species. Aware of their advantage in the field, they shared the coveted “Champions of the Flyway” title with the first place international team from the U.S., the Cornell Ebirders.

The next race for the Champions of the Flyway is taking place in Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city on the Red Sea, and one of the world’s most spectacular migratory hot spots. Donations raised from this event will go to BirdLife Cyprus, to help them tackle the overwhelming scale of illegal bird killing and trapping that occurs on this small Mediterranean island. See below how to participate.

BirdLife Cyprus plans to use the funds to tackle the illegal killing problem through a range of activities: continuing the systematic monitoring of birds that has been undertaken every spring and autumn since 2002; developing strategic action plans at a national level to deter illegal hunting and raise awareness at a social level; creating an awareness-raising campaign inspired by their 152 species affected by illegal trapping; and creation of a banding station for birds in Cape Greco to teach communities about birds and their habitats.

You can easily take part in the Champions of the Flyway in one of the following ways:

Create a Team – To take part in the race, please come to Eilat in spring 2015. All you need is to enlist 2 friends and create a team. Please feel free to contact us for more details.

Sponsor a team – You can sponsor any team to help cover their participation costs.

Donate on behalf of your team – All teams are competing against each other to raise the most funds and be awarded with the Protectors of the Flyway prize. You can choose a team and pledge a donation on their behalf through their Just Giving page.

Support our work against the illegal killing of birds – All donations will be processed through BirdLife International.

Please join us in the Champions of the Flyway campaign, spread the word and donate. This is a chance for birders and nature lovers to actually make a difference, to directly take part in bird conservation. Together we can stop the illegal killing and allow birds to fly safely through the sky.

You can keep informed and follow the race at Twitter “Champs of the Flyway” @Flywaychampions

‘Hunting dogs made Neanderthals extinct’


This video says about itself:

Neanderthal: Episode 1 – Evolution History Documentary

16 August 2014

Discovery Channel presents Neanderthal, a two-part, two-hour production documenting the experiences of a small clan of Neanderthals living in the Dordogne region of France at one of the most important junctures in human evolution.

Neanderthal is the story of the rise and demise of one the most successful human species ever to have walked the earth. A species that thrived – until modern man came along. Produced as a compelling drama following the lives of one group of Neanderthals, the special draws on cutting-edge scientific research that challenges the stereotype of the brutish savage.

The Observer: “Easily the year’s most exciting TV science programme… handled with such panache it’s impossible not to be drawn into the tribe’s strange, grim existence.”

This video is the sequel.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Humans eradicated Neanderthal rivals thanks to early dogs bred from wolves

Humans bred wolves to help them hunt in Europe 40,000 years ago

Ben Tufft

Sunday 01 March 2015

Humans were able to eradicate their Neanderthal rivals in Europe thanks to early dogs bred from wolves, according to a prominent American anthropologist.

Dogs were used by humans to gain a competitive edge in hunting that led to the extinction of Neanderthals on the continent 40,000 years ago, Professor Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University claims.

“We formed an alliance with the wolf and that would have been the end for the Neanderthal,” Prof Shipman told The Observer.

Her theory challenges the conventional academic wisdom that wolves were only domesticated a mere 10,000 years ago, coinciding with the rise of agriculture.

The professor believes that wolves were bred by humans as early as 70,000 years ago, when humans first came to Europe from Africa – leading to the domestic dogs we know today.

The theory would solve the mystery of why the dominant Neanderthals in Europe died out a few thousand years after the arrival of humans on the continent, despite having lived in the region for more than 200,000 years.

Prof Shipman argues that the alliance with the wolf, along with superior weapons and hunting skills, enabled humans to outwit their Neanderthal rivals and become the dominant species.

“Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired. Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows,” Prof Shipman said.

“This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off – often the most dangerous part of a hunt – while humans didn’t have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey.

“Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation,” she added.

A study published last year found that modern humans and Neanderthals lived alongside each other in Europe for 4,000 years, exchanging culture and genes.

In Asia humans and Neanderthals could have lived side by side for up to 20,000 years, as anatomically modern humans colonised the continent long before reaching Europe.

The last Neanderthals in Europe are thought to have died out in modern-day Belgium, where they lived in caves as their numbers dwindled.

Most scientists believe that Neanderthals quickly died out after the arrival of Homo sapiens to Europe, owing to competition for resources and possibly violent conflict.

Canadian film on songbirds, crowdfunding


This video says about itself:

Please support: The Messenger Documentary

9 February 2015

The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.

From British Bird Lovers:

Film About Songbirds Launches Crowdfunding Bid

Sunday, 01 March 2015

A Canadian independent film production company has turned to crowdfunding to help them finish a documentary about the plight of songbirds and the remarkable research work being done to help solve the problems they face.

SongbirdSOS Productions, which is based in Toronto, is asking the public to help them raise $50,000 CAD to enable them to finish The Messenger and support its distribution. The Messenger is described as a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of songbirds, and what it will mean to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.

SongbirdSOS Productions is owned by award-winning director Su Rynard and producers Joanne Jackson and Diane Woods. They teamed up with a French documentary production company, Films a Cinq, to make the film.

Director Rynard captured some beautiful slow motion footage of songbirds in flight during the production process. You can get a small taste of what to expect in the film in the fundraising video.

Travelling from the northern reaches of the Boreal Forest to the base of Turkey’s Mount Ararat to ground zero in Manhattan, the documentary team meet the people who are examining the threats to songbirds exposing the very real concerns behind their declining numbers.

Work began on the film almost 5 years ago. The first three years were devoted to creative development and raising money to shoot. In 2012 it won the Best Feature Documentary Pitch Award at Sunnyside of the Doc in La Rochelle, France. Shooting began in 2013 and most of 2014 was spent in the edit suite.

The money raised from the crowdfunding appeal will cover professional post production costs, including completing the sound mix, picture editing, colour grading, and mastering followed by an educational and social outreach campaign.

There has been an alarming decline in the global populations of songbirds in recent years. Destruction of habitat, increased urbanization and industrialization, climate change and the use of toxic chemicals as well as an unnatural abundance of predators and scavengers have all contributed to the loss.

Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, the author of Silence of the Songbirds says, “We may have already lost half the songbirds that filled the skies only 40 years ago. Within a few generations, many species may be gone forever.”

Scientific data from the 2012 European Bird Census Council shows that farmland birds have declined over 50% since 1980. The Eurasian Skylark has declined 51% since 1980. The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 also reported a loss averaging 50 House Sparrows per hour, and 835 Winter Wrens each day.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey indicates massive declines since the annual bird counts started in 1966. Bobolink 64%; Canada Warbler 66%; and the Wood Thrush 62%. This is just a small fraction of similarly disturbing statistical data.

The potential impact of this loss of important ecosystem services like pest control and pollination from diverse bird species is troubling and has far reaching implications.

The Messenger is aiming to change not only the way people think about bird conservation but also the natural world and wildlife in general.

You can support The Messenger by donating to their campaign here.