Australian bittern in Victoria


This video is called Australasian Bittern.

From Birdline Victoria in Australia:

Tuesday 30 June

Australian Bittern

Western Treatment Plant (Werribee)–Western Lagoons

Thanks to Paul Newman who spotted the bird, the bird spent most of the time in the drain on the left hand side as you enter Western Lagoons via Gate 2. It did, however, move around the centre ponds as well. Time was about 4pm.

Bernie OKeefe

New bird reserve in Scotland


This video from Britain says about itself:

22 December 2011

As difficult species go, the Long and Short-eared Owl pairing are amongst the most challenging to identify, especially in flight. The latest identification video from the BTO offers tips on how to separate both, in flight, perched and by calls.

From Wildlife Extra:

New RSPB reserve for Scotland

A tranquil area of wetland and grassland on the south-eastern edge of Alloa has become RSPB Scotland’s newest nature reserve, and the charity’s first in Clackmannanshire.

Black Devon Wetlands is a special place for birds and wildlife, such as snipe, short-eared owls, teals and black-headed gulls.

Work to improve the various habitats at the site has already started, with much more planned for the next few months. Visitors are also set to benefit from new paths, viewing areas and signage, and a series of events will be advertised in the near future.

RSPB Scotland’s Anne McCall, who’s the Regional Director for South and West Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to be taking on the management of the Black Devon Wetlands and we hope to transform it into a reserve that will not only help wildlife, but also provide local people with a great nature experience right on their doorstep.

“The Inner Forth is internationally recognised as an important place for birds, and the establishment of this reserve adds to a wider mosaic of habitats that are beneficial for a whole range of different species, as part of the RSPB’s landscape-scale project, the Inner Forth Futurescape.”

Black Devon Wetlands were originally created when soil was excavated from the site to cap an adjacent area of landfill. Its managed lagoons were first formed by Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust, and these were then extended in the mid 2000s by the council’s landfill project.

Councillor Donald Balsillie, Convener of Enterprise and Environment, said: “Clackmannanshire Council is pleased that the award-winning Black Devon Wetlands are being leased to RSPB Scotland to carry forward its development.

“The council and RSPB Scotland are working in partnership through the Forth Coastal Project, funded by the Coastal Communities Fund and the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, a Heritage Lottery funded project, to enhance the wetlands habitat and accessibility.

“This joint working will ensure the long term management by a respected conservation body for this unique natural heritage site located right on the doorstep of Clackmannanshire residents.”

This project has also been made possible with the contribution of the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community – EcoCo and Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust.

How parrots mimic human speech, new study


This video is called Parrots: Majestic Birds (Nature Documentary).

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists solve how parrots mimic humans

Ever wondered how parrots are ablie to mimic human speech? New research indicates that it is key structural differences in the brains of parrots that explain a parrot’s unparalleled ability to imitate sounds and human speech. This research was led by an international team of scientists led by Duke University researchers.

“This finding opens up a huge avenue of research in parrots, in trying to understand how parrots are processing the information necessary to copy novel sounds and what are the mechanisms that underlie imitation of human speech sounds,’ said Mukta Chakraborty, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Parrots are one of the few animals considered ‘vocal learners,’ meaning they can imitate sounds, and researchers have been trying to figure out why some bird species are better imitators than others. Besides differences in the sizes of particular brain regions, however, no other potential explanations have surfaced.

By examining gene expression patterns, the new study found that parrot brains are structured differently than the brains of songbirds and hummingbirds, which also exhibit vocal learning. In addition to having defined centres in the brain that control vocal learning called ‘cores,’ parrots have what the scientists call ‘shells,’ or outer rings, which are also involved in vocal learning.

The shells are relatively bigger in species of parrots that are well known for their ability to imitate human speech, the group found.

Until now, the budgerigar (common pet parakeet) was the only species of parrot whose brain had been probed for the mechanisms of vocal learning.

This team included researchers from Denmark and the Netherlands who donated precious brain tissue for the study. They characterized the brains of eight parrot species besides the budgerigar, including conures, cockatiels, lovebirds, two species of Amazon parrots, a blue and gold macaw, a kea and an African Grey parrot.

The researchers looked for specific gene markers that are known to have specialized activity in the brains of humans and song-learning birds.

They compared the resulting gene expression patterns in all the parrot brains with neural tracing experiments in budgerigars.

Even the most ancient of the parrot species they studied, the Kea of New Zealand, has a shell structure — albeit rudimentary. This suggests that the populations of neurons in the shells probably arose at least 29 million years ago.

Before now, some scientists had assumed that the regions surrounding the cores had nothing to do with vocal learning. In a 2000 study, Jarvis and Claudio Mello of Oregon Health & Science University concluded that the core and shell were actually one large structure. These differing views caused confusion about the sizes of the brain regions important for vocal learning. Jarvis teamed up with Steven Brauth from the University of Maryland and his former postdoctoral fellow Sarah Durand, to help reconcile this confusion.

‘The first thing that surprised me when Mukta and I were looking at the new results is, ‘Wow, how did I miss this all these years? How did everybody else miss this all these years?” said Jarvis, who is also member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. ‘The surprise to me was more about human psychology and what we look for and how biased we are in what we look for. Once you see it, it’s obvious. I have these brain sections from 15 years ago, and now I can see it.’

The new results support the group’s hypothesis that in humans and other song-learning animals, the ability to imitate arose by brain pathway duplication. How such a copy-and-paste job could have happened is still unknown.

‘How can you get a mirrored song system surrounding another one?’ Jarvis asks. ‘Each (vocal learning centre) has a core and a shell in the parrot, suggesting that the whole pathway has been duplicated.’

Most of the bird’s vocal learning brain regions are tucked into areas that also control movement. These areas in parrots also show some special patterns of gene expression, which the scientists speculate might explain why some parrots are also able to learn to dance to music.

‘It takes significant brain power to process auditory information and produce the movements necessary for mimicking sounds of another species,’ Chakraborty said. ‘The question is, how specialized are these parrot brains, and in what ways? Is it just a select group of specialized genes, or is it some specific projections that we haven’t discovered yet?’

The scientists are especially curious about whether the shells give parrots a greater ability to imitate human speech.

‘If that’s true, then we’ve answered a big question in our field that people have been wanting to know for many years,’ Jarvis said.

Sandwich tern research on Texel island


This 29 June 2014 video is about providing young Sandwich terns with colour rings in Utopia nature reserve on Texel island in the Netherlands.

Ecomare museum on Texel reports today about sandwich terns of Texel.

More about research about Sandwich terns, ringed on Texel, is here.

Ever since 2012, 70 Sandwich terns have been seen on Texel which had been ringed in the south-west of the Netherlands. 16 birds had been ringed in the north-east of Scotland. Other terns (four individuals or less) came from Belgium, Griend island, Ameland island, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Italy, or the Gambia.

In 2014, 88 young Sandwich terns were ringed at the nesting colony at Utopia nature reserve. Some have been seen again in England and France. Most one-year-old Sandwich terns spend their first summer in Africa, returning to Europe later. In 2015, more young Utopia terns were ringed.

A video about ringing these Texel Sandwich terns is here.

Orchids, long-tailed tits and beautiful beetles


Orchid, 28 June 2015

This photo, made with a macro lens like the other ones in this blog post, shows a southern marsh orchid in the Heempark on 28 June 2015.

As we entered the park, a robin singing.

In a ditch, mallards, and a coot couple with a nest.

A flock of long-tailed tits in a tree.

A juvenile robin cleaning its feathers on a branch.

Field horsetails.

Chaffinch and blackcap singing.

A lesser black-backed gull flying overhead.

A chiffchaff sings.

Southern marsh orchid, 28 June 2015

Quite some southern marsh orchid flowers.

Greater yellow-rattle, 28 June 2015

Greater yellow rattle flowers.

Field bindweed, 28 June 2015

While field bindweed intertwines with other plants.

Ring-necked parakeets call.

A common carder bee. Honeybees. Hoverflies.

Orchid flowering, 28 June 2015

Another orchid. Also a southern marsh orchid; but of the rare variety Dactylorhiza majalis subsp. praetermissa var. junialis.

Bladder campion, 28 June 2015

Bladder campion flowering; with field horsetail in the background of this photo.

Field horsetail, 28 June 2015

On this photo, field horsetails are the main subject.

A blackbird sings.

A Muscovy duck walks past.

Wild strawberries, 28 June 2015

Wild strawberry fruits along the footpath.

Milk-parsley, 28 June 2015

Milk-parsley: partially still flowering, in other plants the flowers are already gone.

Green dock leaf beetle, 28 June 2015

Near the milk-parsley plants many small beautiful beetles: green dock leaf beetles.

Dutch national bird election, 28 candidates with videos


This is a video of a kingfisher trying to eat a frog.

As this blog mentioned before, there is an election of the national bird of the Netherlands on the Internet.

There was already unofficial voting for five candidate bird species.

Today, the official long list of 28 species has been published. You can vote here. You vote for three species out of 28 there. These votes will be used for a making a shortlist, on which people will vote again later this year.

Two species which had been on the above mentioned unofficial list are not on this official long list: brent goose and marsh harrier.

This video is about jackdaws (and a peacock) in England. The jackdaw is one of the 28 Dutch candidates; as is the kingfisher; the peacock is not.

Then, another candidate: the spoonbill.

This is an Eurasian spoonbill video.

And now, videos about the other candidates.

This is a black-tailed godwit video.

This is a video of a great cormorant, drying its wings in the sun on Texel island in the Netherlands.

This is a grey heron video.

This is a barn swallow video.

This is a buzzard video.

This is a great crested grebe video, about their courtship dance.

This is a jay video.

This video is called Juvenile common swift practising flight in nest box.

This is a great spotted woodpecker video.

This is a house sparrow video.

This is a northern lapwing video.

This video says about itself:

Mute Swan Protecting its Nest – Helped by A Canada Goose

A mute swan did not like another swan getting too close its nest, meanwhile a family of Canada geese were trying to get past.

The mute swan is one of the 28 candidate species. The Canada goose is not.

However, the greater white-fronted goose is a candidate.

This video is called Bird migration in The Netherlands – Greater White-fronted Goose.

This is a great tit video.

This is a blackbird video.

This is a white stork video.

This is a robin video.

This is an oystercatcher video.

This video is about a singing starling.

This is a little owl video.

This video is about a kestrel nest.

This is a common tern video.

This video shows a mallard with ducklings.

This video shows young white-tailed eagles in slow motion. It also shows magpies; but magpies are not one of the 28 candidate species.

And, finally, this video is about herring gulls, and about great black-backed gulls. Herring gulls are candidates; great black-backed gulls are not.

Enchanted Kingdom, new wildlife film, review


This video is the trailer of the new film Enchanted Kingdom, aka Nature 3D. It is the first film in 3D by the BBC Earth filmmakers.

The theme of the film is wildlife in Africa, centred around water.

It was filmed in 13 African countries.

This is the first time ever that I went to a cinema and put 3D glasses on. They did enhance seeing the movie: an elephant‘s trunk seems to reach out to very close to the audience; there is more depth in mountain scenery; you see more clearly how various fish in a coral reef swim behind each other; etc.

Just after the beginning, a forest which exists because of rain water. Millions of army ants march through the rainforest, feeding on animals much bigger than the ants.

Then, a gorilla family.

Then, volcanism in Africa. It seems to make life impossible. However, at Lake Bogoria in Kenya, volcanism creates the right conditions for many lesser flamingoes to feed.

The movie continues to the almost waterless sandy desert in Namibia. And shows how snakes, lizards and insects adapt to that harsh environment. Much of this part of the film are macro lens recordings.

East of Namibia is Botswana. Also a rather dry country most of the time. Elephant herds have to migrate over long distances to find water at last. They have to be careful because of lion attacks.

Then, from an environment with little water to one of 100% water: a coral reef in the sea off Africa. Where hawksbill sea turtles, lionfish and many other animals live.

Then, to the highest level in Africa. Mountains of over 5,000 meter, like Mount Kenya. Near the top, water, especially during freezing nights, exists only in the form of snow or ice. Special plant species have adapted to these high altitude circumstances. So have gelada baboons in the Ethiopian highlands.

Eventually, the ice melts, and forms rivers which get bigger and bigger. Pied kingfishers dive for fish into these rivers. During their long migration to Maasai Mara in Kenya, wildebeest follow the water of the rain. They have to cross river water, where Nile crocodiles which have not eaten for a year may attack them.

This is a really good film. One of the good sides is that, contrary to the film Earth by the same filmmakers, and contrary to some other good wildlife films, the film Enchanted Kingdom does not have on screen greenwash propaganda for polluting corporate sponsors.