Long-tailed duck, new species for Dearborn, USA


This is a long-tailed duck video.

From the blog of the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the USA:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dearborn adds another new species!

On 1 March 2015, Larry Urbanski found a Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) in the Rouge River near the Ford Rouge Plant. There is a photo attached to his eBird checklist (sign in may be required for one or both links) and the bird appears to be a male.

Mike O’Leary and I attempted to locate the bird this morning, and found a Long-tailed Duck that appears to be a female, or at least doesn’t look like the bird found yesterday. …

Long-tailed Duck is the 260th species on the Dearborn list.

Most of the Rouge River is still frozen solid. The areas in the Ford Rouge boat slip and adjacent waters stay open all year. Other waterfowl present included a couple hundred Common Mergansers, at least 24 Red-breasted Mergansers, Canvasbacks, a few Ruddy Ducks, Common Goldeneye, Redheads, and Greater Scaup. There were at least 20 Great Black-backed Gulls — a species not recorded in Dearborn until 1987. Ten sort of miserable looking Great Blue Herons hugged the shoreline, as did 10 Black-crowned Night-herons. There is a small pond inside the plant next to the river that accepts warm-water discharge from one of the steel mill facilities, and a bunch of night-herons have wintered there for years.

Many thanks to Larry Urbanski for this great find.

Posted by Julie Craves.

Mice in the Netherlands, new research


This video is about yellow-necked mice.

Translated from the Dutch Mammal Society:

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

For years the yellow-necked mouse in the Netherlands was only known from the extreme southeast of Limburg province. Since 2005 from the German border they are expanding to the west. Meanwhile, the species is known from all our provinces bordering on Germany. The question now is: are yellow-necked mice taking over, or may they occur in the same habitats together with common wood mice?

In Northwest Europe two species of wood mice live, common wood mice and yellow-necked mice. The yellow-necked mouse is clearly larger, but in terms of food spectrum it is virtually identical to the ordinary wood mouse.

So far, research has not yet established clearly whether yellow-necked mice supplant wood mice.

British spring flowers, cuckoos coming


This video says about itself:

Solitary bee foraging on Crocus tomasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’

1 March 2015

See how the small bee is moving around the anthers to collect pollen as well as diving its head down the base for nectar. Honeybees differ in that they will only collect either pollen or nectar. The bee was on the flower for a much longer time than a honeybee would have been.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

From carpets of crocuses to cuckoos on the move, spring is truly springing

Michael McCarthy

Monday 2 March 2015

Well it’s been a long wait, but spring is here now, at least by the Met Office definition, which classifies the new season as consisting of March, April and May (the older, astronomical definition has it beginning from the vernal equinox, which this year is 20 March, but we tend to go with the Met Office these days). And with Sunday being the first day of it, I went out to look for signs, and was not disappointed.

In Kew Gardens at the moment you can see what must be one of the most vivid springtime displays in the whole country: millions of blooms of early crocuses which are forming vast mauve sheets over the ground. The flower is Crocus tomasinianus, originally from eastern Europe, and in English sometimes called Whitewell purple. From a distance, the massed ranks of the blooms seem to glow, to shine like pale-purple light in the grass. It’s an astonishing spectacle.

The rest of Kew is still a bit bare, but the snowdrops are proudly out in the bluebell wood and there are subtler signs of the new season: the black-headed gulls on the lake are resplendent in their shiny new chocolate-brown headgear (which in winter shrinks to just a dark dot behind the eye), and the dunnocks, those nondescript but subtly attractive birds which we used to call hedge sparrows, are everywhere reeling out their song, which some people say is like the sound of a squeaking shopping trolley: streedly-streedly-streedly-stree.

Yet the most interesting sign of spring greeted me when I got back and switched on the computer: it was an email from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) giving the latest details of the BTO cuckoos in Africa. Since 2011, Britain’s leading bird research organisation has been satellite-tracking cuckoos on their mammoth migratory journeys from Britain to their African wintering grounds, and the project has revealed a wonderful wealth of hitherto unknown information: where wintering British cuckoos end up (the Congo rainforest), how they get there (some via Italy, some via Spain) and how they return (all of them via West Africa).

The journeys are arduous and full of risk, and sometimes the birds don’t make it: Indy, the cuckoo sponsored by The Independent, died in Cameroon in 2012. Currently 13 cuckoos are being tracked in Africa, including Chris (named after the naturalist Chris Packham) who has been going strong since 2011, and is thus being tracked on his fourth successive Africa trip; and what the BTO email told me was the heartening news that all of the birds are now on their way back, and heading northwards. There’s our spring down in Africa, flying steadily towards us.

They’ll be here in about six weeks, and when they arrive, their two-note musical call is the most instantly recognisable of all our springtime sounds. But the cuckoo, of course, has a double identity: it is not just the supreme spring-announcer, it is a notorious cheat, laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, (the technical term is a brood parasite).

Have you ever wondered how it does it? I mean, how it manages to get its single egg into the nests of its host species, such as reed warblers, meadow pipits and pied wagtails, where the cuckoo chick throws out the other eggs or nestlings and ends up as a monstrous intruder many times the size of the hapless foster-parents who are straining to feed it?

A new book tells in mesmerising detail how the host birds are first outwitted by the female cuckoo, and then by the cuckoo chick. Cuckoo – Cheating By Nature (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is by Nick Davies, the world expert on Cuculus canorus, the Eurasian cuckoo, our bird. He gives a riveting account not only of how the cuckoo evolves deceptive stratagems, such as eggs which mimic the eggs of the host, but also of how the host birds evolve defences, such as learning to reject any eggs which seems slightly different from their own.

This is in effect an “evolutionary arms race” and its complexities are elucidated with exemplary clarity and humour by Professor Davies, who is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at Cambridge and has spent the past 30 years studying cuckoos and discovering their tricks, at Wicken Fen to the north of the city. (He also, for good measure, discovered, through studies in the Cambridge Botanical Garden, that the humble and unglamorous dunnock, mentioned above, has the raciest sex life of any small songbird, everywhere looking for lurve).

His new cuckoo study, which is published next week, is an even more fascinating take on curious behaviour. I’ve just read it, and it’s a terrific read.

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.

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