Sint Eustatius island wildlife, new research


This video from the Caribbean is called Welcome to St Eustatius.

From Naturalis in the Netherlands today (translated):

In recent weeks, a team of researchers from Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Anemoon Foundation have mapped the biodiversity of St. Eustatius island. Both above water and underwater. During the research numerous rare species and even some new species were discovered. Sneak preview: one of the special species is a wonderful Fingerprint Cyphoma. That’s a sea snail.

The blog posts (in English) of the people doing the research are here.

One of the blog posts mentions the discovery of

several [fish species] that have not yet been reported in the Lesser Antilles, such as Chaenopsis resh (the resh pikeblenny).

This video is about, especially underwater, wildlife on and around Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius islands.

Baby carp in botanical garden


Baby carp in botanical garden

These photos show baby carp, born recently in the pond of the botanical garden in Leiden, the Netherlands, photographed by a diver of the Dutch natural history society KNNV.

The caption mentions an aquarium and terrarium exhibition which will be in the botanical garden this September.

Polynesian rare birds news


This 2012 video says about itself:

Polynesian Ground Dove (Gallicolumba erythroptera) filmed on a motu of Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia. Part of a Noble Caledonia Expedition Cruise in French Polynesia on board M/V Clipper Odyssey.

Dr Brent Stephenson (ornithologist on board) organised this trip across the atoll to a rat-free motu (islet) where the Société d’Ornithologie Polynésie (MANU) are making great efforts to monitor, protect and extend the present habitat of this bird. Great efforts are made to make sure no rats are introduced. The Polynesian Ground Dove is critically endangered with only an estimated 100-200 individuals in the world. Nine birds were counted on this motu in 2011.

From BirdLife:

Operation Restoration – island update #4 – Endangered birds found, and sharks

By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 26/06/2015 – 10:30

The Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove is one of the world’s rarest birds. Named Tutururu by locals, there are only about 100 of these birds left in the world – all found in French Polynesia.

So finding them in good numbers on an invasive predator-free atoll was pretty exciting for our Operation Restoration team – who are working hard to save these birds (and many more native species) from extinction, and restore the natural ecological balance of the islands. It gives a very positive indicator of how these birds will bounce back after we have finished restoring their islands. But these birds still need your help.

With a huge amount of work still to do to restore 6 remote islands in the Acteon and Gambier archipelagos, this would have undoubtedly been a big morale boost for Steve Cranwell and the team, especially when faced with sharks snapping at their heels!

Find out more in the latest update below from Steve Cranwell, Project Leader and invasive species expert:

Steve’s reports via satelite phone 19th June

Sorry for the delay in communications – the magnitude of the practical reality of this operation set in, and we have been extremely busy fulfilling the myriad of tasks for this ambitious restoration effort! Amazingly (given all that could go wrong) we’re on track.

The ground team and helicopter crew, assisted by locals at each site, soon developed a slick and efficient operation for loading, whilst managing to keep loose bags and other paraphernalia potentially catastrophic to the helicopter in check…

This ground effort and precision flying meant that by the time we got to Vahanga and Tenania we were able to complete the operations there in half the time anticipated!

Some of the team spent the first week or so searching for Tutururu [local name for Polynesian Ground-dove] and Titi [local name for Tuamotu Sandpiper] on Vahanga. Despite being elusive, the efforts were rewarded with one male (named Charlie) and female Tutururu, and four Titi.

Some other team members have stayed on Tenararo to complete a census of Tutururu and Titi. This is the first time such a thorough assessment will have been made for this predator-free atoll. Initial reports indicate good numbers of both species.

When a lagoon channel crosses a monitoring transect, as it invariably does, there is a little adventure as overly attentive Blacktip reef sharks make a beeline for any submerged body part! Alertness and a stout stick has proved a sufficient deterrent (so far)…

On Temoe, a seabird census and vegetation survey was completed and a significant increase in Murphy’s petrel (several hundred to over one thousand!) was noted, from a similar survey made several years earlier.

Baseline surveys are being made for all sites which are being augmented with acoustic recorders as a means of tracking changes in the number of calls for species of interest.

More to follow shortly!

On behalf of us all,

Steve

Gannets share food, new study


Gannet colonies in Britain, Ireland and France

From the University of Leeds in England:

Gannets don’t eat off each other’s plates

Published Thursday 6 June 2013

Colonies of gannets maintain vast exclusive fishing ranges despite doing nothing to defend their territory from rival colonies, scientists have discovered.

A team of researchers led by the University of Leeds and the University of Exeter observed that northern gannets, which can fly hundreds of kilometres on a single fishing trip, avoided visiting the fishing grounds of gannets from neighbouring colonies.

The findings, published in the journal Science, could transform our understanding of animals’ foraging patterns because individual gannets do nothing to enforce this territory or communicate its boundaries when out at sea. A bird entering from a neighbouring colony would be free to fly and fish unhindered.

Co-lead author Dr Ewan Wakefield, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, said: “The accepted view is that exclusive foraging territories are associated with species such as ants, which aggressively defend the feeding areas around their colonies, but this opens the door to a completely new way of thinking about territory. We found the gannet colonies also had neatly abutting and clearly defined feeding areas. Gannets may be a byword for gluttony but, clearly, they don’t eat off each other’s plates.”

This 2014 video is called Torpedo Gannet Diving! – Nature’s Great Events w/ David Attenborough – BBC.

Researchers from more than 14 institutions in the UK, Ireland and France tracked the flights of nearly 200 northern gannets flying from 12 colonies around the British Isles.

Rather than seeing criss-crossing flight paths as the birds headed out from their colonies, they found themselves plotting a strictly segregated map. The most striking example was seen off the west coast of Ireland where gannets from two colonies, Bull Rock and Little Skellig, are within sight of each other yet head off in different directions.

The explanation has nothing to do with territorial behaviour, but instead seems to be a matter of mathematics reinforced by the culture of colonies.

Dr Thomas Bodey, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Exeter and joint-lead author of the study, explained: “Gannets get their chance when shoals of fish are forced to the surface, often by predatory whales and dolphins, but when the gannets start plunging into the water and feeding on a shoal, the fish start diving. You have to be one of the first gannets to get there and that is where the maths comes in: if you go into an area that is being used by birds from a closer colony, there is a higher chance that individuals from that colony will be there first.”

The same applies when waste is being thrown off the backs off trawlers, another key feeding opportunity for gannets.

Cultural transmission within the colonies then seems to reinforce the geographical calculus.

“Gannets readily follow each other when at sea. Finding such separation between colonies, even when visible from each other, indicates that competition for food cannot be the only explanation and suggests cultural differences between colonies may be important. As with humans, birds have favoured routes to travel, and if new arrivals at a colony follow experienced old hands then these patterns can quickly become fixed, even if other opportunities potentially exist,” Dr Bodey said.

The northern gannet is Europe’s largest seabird, with a wingspan of around 2m, and nests on steep cliffs and rocky islands. Attaching the matchbox-sized satellite transmitters and GPS loggers used to track the birds was sometimes a major challenge. At the biggest mainland UK colony at Bempton Cliffs in East Yorkshire, a military abseiling team from the Joint Services Mountain Training Wing was called in to help.

The UK supports 60-70 per cent of the world’s northern gannets and the discovery that colonies depend on particular sea areas has implications for the location of marine protected areas and offshore energy development.

The research also has wide ranging implications for our understanding of animal behaviour. Co-author Dr Keith Hamer, Reader in Animal Ecology in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, said: “We knew that species like ants that forage over short distances show segregation, but now we find that segregation not only occurs in gannets but that it is there just as strongly as in ants. That immediately opens the door to asking how many other species that we assumed would not show segregation actually do. There is no reason to believe that gannets are unique.”

Professor Stuart Bearhop, Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Exeter, said: “We understand an awful lot about what these seabirds do on land, but until recently we knew shockingly little about what they do at sea. The technology is now allowing us to leave the coast with them and we are discovering more and more of these amazing and unexpected patterns.”

The work was funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Centre National de la RechercheScientifique, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy, the Beaufort Marine Research Award and the European Union. It involved the Universities of Leeds, Exeter, Plymouth, Liverpool, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork, as well as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France.

Rare burbot, weatherfish reproduce in the Netherlands


This video shows a young burbot, found by Dutch RAVON ichthyologists near the banks of the Zwarte Water river in May 2015.

RAVON reports today that this spring two rare fish species: burbot and weatherfish, which both need shallow water for their reproduction, have reproduced successfully in the Zwarte Water.