Oak processionary caterpillars’ long line

This summer 2016 video shows a long line of oak processionary caterpillars on a road.

R. E. Houweling in the Netherlands made this video.

Saving Madagascar’s wildlife

This video says about itself:

Birds & More: Madagascar Safari

Extraordinary place. 80 % of the species are endemic. 6 endemic families of birds. The lemurs were wonderful, so different from monkeys, probably because of a lack of predators. The “spiny” forests are well named and feature the most fascinating baobab trees. The people came from Africa and Southeast Asia and have merged incredibly well. The politics do not seem to be racially based. Away from “Tana”, the capital city, it is an attractive country; 10/2009.

From BirdLife:

Conserving Madagascar‘s forest of hope

By Roger Safford, 20 Oct 2016

Developing the confidence of local communities and a BirdLife Partner to work together to protect their environment has brought encouraging changes for nature and people.

Some places are so rich in natural wonders, so extraordinary, so different from any other, so important for people, and yet so threatened, that we must pull out all the stops to save them. Madagascar is one such: an ‘island-continent’ almost as big as France, with wildlife so unlike even nearby Africa’s that it can hardly be bracketed with it, or any other region of the world. Within this vast area are a multitude of astonishing sites, and right up among the most remarkable of these is Tsitongambarika Forest. Most of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed over a long period, and in particular the lowlands have suffered, being the most accessible areas.

The rainforests of Madagascar form a chain extending down the east side of the great island, much of it on steep slopes and at high altitude. In a few places, mostly in the North, forest survives down on the hills, and very occasionally plains, by the coast; but in the South, forest in such places has virtually all gone. It is no wonder, then, that Tsitongambarika, as the only remaining area in southern Madagascar that supports significant areas of lowland rainforest, is such a treasure. Scaly and Short-legged Ground-rollers (Geobiastes squamiger and Brachypteracias leptosomus), once impossible dreams for visitors and still highly prized finds, are common.

Scaly Ground-roller is a particularly bizarre-looking creature, confined to Madagascar’s lowland rainforest, with markings unlike any other bird: subtle rufous, green and brown hues set off by black and white ‘scales’, and quite unexpectedly sky-blue patches revealed when the tail is spread. Like most other ground-rollers (an entire family restricted to Madagascar), they live on the ground, rummaging in the leaf litter or rotting wood, picking out animal prey. Its close relative, the Short-legged Ground-roller, looks somewhat similar, but is the exception, living mainly in the trees.

More in the ‘small brown job’ category – but on closer inspection a pleasing mixture of pastel shades of grey, brown, pink and rufous – the Red-tailed Newtonia Newtonia fanovanae was lost to science from 1930 to 1989, when it was rediscovered very close to Tsitongambarika; we now know it to be common there but there are very few if any other places where this can be said. Another species once lost is the elusive Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei; this is also increasingly frequently observed at Tsitongambarika.

However, it is arguably for the other fauna and flora that Tsitongambarika is most extraordinary. Being able to fly, birds tend to spread around the island’s forests (although not beyond them), whereas these other species have evolved and remain in situ as unique forms confined to tiny areas. Sometimes it seems that almost everything is endemic, not just to Madagascar, but to South-East Madagascar, and many species are known from no other site. Nearly all the lemurs are represented by local species, like the beautiful collared lemur Eulemur collaris, along with Fleurette’s sportive lemur Lepilemur fleuretae (Critically Endangered, with a tiny range), southern woolly lemur Avahi meridionalis, southern bamboo lemur Hapalemur meridionalis and others.

The reptile and amphibian fauna is almost unbelievably rich: among around 130 species in total, no fewer than 11 have been observed that simply are ‘not in the book’ and so appear, based on the views of highly experienced herpetologists, to be new to science, and recorded only at Tsitongambarika. Giant and dwarf chameleons abound, alongside cryptically coloured lizards (one gecko bearing a startling resemblance to Gollum from the Lord of the Rings stories), brilliantly coloured tree-frogs and snakes. The flora is, of course, just as extraordinary, with new species being found at such a rate that botanists have, like the zoologists, been unable to keep pace in describing them.

The bad news is that deforestation rates at Tsitongambarika have been among the highest in Madagascar. As in much of the country, deforestation is mainly a result of shifting cultivation by poor subsistence farmers lacking alternative land to grow food-crops and desperate to lay claim to land, which they can do by clearing forest. Further threats are from logging of precious hardwoods and hunting of wildlife in the forest.

But there is hope. Since 2005 the national NGO Asity Madagascar (BirdLife Partner), has been working to save Tsitongambarika Forest, as part of the BirdLife’s global Forests of Hope programme. Local people, as aware as anyone of the forest’s value, are also keen to conserve it, but need help to maintain and improve their precarious livelihoods without clearing forest; any change to their circumstances and the resources they need can be disastrous for them. Too often portrayed as the villains of tropical deforestation, local people can be the best conservationists, so long as their needs are properly considered and they take part in and benefit from management.

As one of the first steps in developing the forest conservation programme, Asity Madagascar carried out a comprehensive social and environmental assessment for the whole forest, which identified people most affected by protected area establishment and specified actions to meet their needs. Asity Madagascar then helped to establish a local organisation, KOMFITA, as an ‘umbrella’ body of community associations which, together with Asity Madagascar and supervised by the government, manage the forest.

KOMFITA ensures that the forest-edge community is consulted in all aspects of the project, the benefits are determined and shared fairly, and local people are properly involved (as ‘co-managers’) of the forest. The communities themselves define the Dina or resource management rules for the forest. These can include some controlled and agreed use of forest products, limited to certain zones so that other areas are left completely intact; they may also benefit from income related to forest conservation such as tourist guiding, or be supported to take up new ways of making a living by growing food for sale or subsistence away from the forest. Remarkable improvements have been made, for example through supporting simple composting methods in the cultivation of cassava, the local staple, or improved water management to grow rice close to the villages.

In April 2015, 600 square kilometres at Tsitongambarika, including the whole forest, was protected by the Government of Madagascar, in recognition of the progress made by Asity Madagascar working with local communities as well as of its overall importance. Problem solved? Sadly not, although a crucial step forward, which blocks many potentially damaging developments and helps to direct conservation support to the site. The Government of Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, can neither fund nor manage and enforce conservation plans for its many extraordinary sites; it needs, and has asked for, help. This is where the project comes in. Asity Madagascar and local communities have jointly been made managers of the new Tsitongambarika Protected Area, supervised by the Government and supported by many other organisations.

With support of the BirdLife, will allow Asity Madagascar and local communities to carry out longterm conservation plans for Tsitongambarika. It will strengthen their ability to conserve the forest while improving their livelihoods outside the forest, providing them with opportunities that, based on trials, they readily accept. But there must be rules, and the project will support enforcement, by local communities themselves but supported by Government authorities where necessary. Finally, the project will identify and secure long-term financing sources for conservation of Tsitongambarika.

Thirteen years ago, BirdLife launched a wetland conservation programme in Madagascar with the team that is now Asity Madagascar. Back then, the capacity of national (Malagasy) organisations to conserve big sites was minimal, and the country’s wetlands were on hardly anyone’s agenda. With BirdLife’s help, Asity has grown into a proficient protected area manager and advocate for conservation, and have secured protection for both of the huge wetland sites; no wetland species has been lost from the sites. Conservation work there continues as it will always have to, but so much has been achieved that it is time to look again at the forests. Let us all rally round to save them.

American blue jay stores safflower seed

This video from New York State in the USA says about itself:

Blue Jay packs Away Safflower Seed

18 October 2016

Watch LIVE at http://AllAboutBirds.org/CornellFeeders for news, updates, and more information about the pond and its surroundings.

This FeederWatch cam is located in the Treman Bird Feeding Garden at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Perched on the edge of both Sapsucker Woods and its 10-acre pond, these feeders attract both forest species like chickadees and woodpeckers as well as some species that prefer open environments near water like Red-winged Blackbirds.

Blue Jays store or “cache” up to thousands of seeds for insurance that they’ll have enough food over winter. Birds rely on various caching techniques to stay fed and keep away from predators: here.

Amethyst-throated hummingbird, first ever in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

18 October 2016

The first-ever Amethyst-throated Hummingbird spotted in the United States spent the afternoon sipping from the Perky-Pet feeder on our West Texas Hummingbird Cam, making multiple visits throughout the evening. The mega-rarity was first spotted by the cam host, who also documented its presence with still images.

Watch live at http://AllAboutBirds.org/TexasHummers

The West Texas Hummingbird Feeder Cam is nestled in the mountains outside Fort Davis, Texas, at an elevation of over 6200 feet. This site hosts a total of 24 Perky-Pet® Grand Master hummingbird feeders, and during peak migration can attract hundreds of hummingbirds from a dozen species that are migrating through the arid mountains.

Kestrel hovering, slow motion video

This video from Britain says about itself:

Kestrel Hovering – Birds Flying in Slow Motion

Filmed on October 20th 2016

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall

Turnstones, greenfinches and sanderlings

This 9 October 2016 is about a red knot resting amidst turnstones on the southern jetty of IJmuiden harbour in the Netherlands.

On 22 October 2016, to the southern jetty of IJmuiden harbour. Often, one can see migratory birds there. This time, we did not see red knots, though we had seen them here on earlier visits. We did see lots of turnstones.

The weather was sunny; there was little wind.

When we arrived in IJmuiden, we saw a carrion crow and a herring gull. In the marina, a great crested grebe swimming.

A flock of house sparrows in a common sea-buckthorn bush.

A kestrel flies past.


Three coots swimming in the marina.

A herring gull on a mooring dolphin has a green colour code ring: with the letters m.app.

Far away, across the harbour, scores of great cormorants on the northern jetty. there is one individual of a different, though related, species among them: a shag.

This December 2015 video shows a young shag on the IJmuiden southern jetty.

We pass the beach. Great black-backed gull. A group of sanderlings. A flock of mallards. A black-headed gull.

And some oystercatchers. Among them the second colour ringed bird of today. This oystercatcher has on the upper part of his right leg a black flag; below it, a lime coloured ring with a black letter Z. On its left leg, a metallic ring; with below it, a blue ring with a white 7.

We reach the part of the jetty past the coastline. A common seal swims.

An Eurasian rock pipit flies past.

A female common scoter swimming.

A swimming herring gull eats an eel.

An angler tells he has caught common dab, young cod and European seabass. At the beginning of the jetty is a sign, saying there is European seabass decline and anglers are not allowed to catch more than one a day.

A young brent goose, born this year. Much lighter colour than an adult.

We reach the end of the jetty. About twenty great cormorants fly past.

An angler catches a pouting.

As we walk back, a flock of both male and female common scoters.

22 turnstones together on the rocky side of the jetty.

A flock of sanderlings flies past.

On the other, northern, side of the jetty, a female eider swims.

A juvenile gannet flies past.

We are back at the beginning of the jetty, and go to the sand dunes.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly on a yellow field milk thistle flower.

Further in the sand dunes, a robin.

And a big flock of greenfinches.

As we walk around the Kennemermeer lake, we hear a water rail.

Marsh helleborine orchid plants.

A little grebe swimming. A group of common pochard.

In the water near the lake bank, autotroph iron bacteria.

We hear a magpie.

As we leave IJmuiden, a buzzard sits on an electricity pylon.