Rare albino mushroom discovery in the Netherlands


Albino larch bolete, photo by Peter-Jan Keizer

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

In September last year Peter-Jan Keizer discovered an albino form of the larch bolete fungus on the site of the former Soesterberg military airbase. There, larch boletes had been found before. Then, Mr Keizer saw the at first sight unknown mushroom. After investigation it turned out to be an albino mushroom. Keizer has sometimes previously found albino mushrooms, but these observations remain extremely rare.

Bumblebee on crocus, video


This video shows a bumblebee on crocus flowers, early this spring.

15-year-old Jessica den Bol from the Netherlands made the video.

Colombian hummingbird species rediscovered after 69 years


This video is called Birding in the Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia. It says about itself:

29 August 2013

Trip with the American Bird Conservancy to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia (Santa Marta Mountains), August 2013. We visited the El Dorado Reserve, flagship reserve of the ProAves organization in Colombia. A comfortable lodge and a great place to find many of the endemic birds that are in the Santa Marta Mountains. The road up to the lodge was an adventure, a rough road but very good for birding.

From ProAves in Colombia:

Spectacular Lost Hummingbird Rediscovered after 69 years amid Rampant Fires across the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia

An intense and prolonged dry season in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta combined with fires set by Kogi indigenous people for agricultural purposes has devastated its fragile high-elevation habitat (páramo), home to a suite of endemic plants and animals. Two conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez who work at ProAves’ “El Dorado” nature reserve in the mountain range, carried out investigations to document the fires. On March 4th 2015, they photographed the spectacular Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – a hummingbird that was last seen in 1946 and feared quite possibly extinct. Unfortunately, the habitat of the three birds they saw is threatened by ongoing fires. A scientific article detailing the rediscovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at http://www.proaves.org with further photos.

Described in 1880, the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) was last seen in 1946; thereafter, it disappeared. Restricted to the world’s highest coastal mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (rising to over 19,000 feet), the Helmetcrest was suspected to be facing severe threats as cattle ranching by indigenous people expanded across the sensitive high-elevation slopes of the mountain range. Each dry season, more of the fragile brush and forest is burned to make way for grasslands for cattle. The fragile montane forests of the Santa Marta mountains are unique as this isolated mountain range pre-dates the Andes of South America by over 100 million years

Over the past ten years, searches for the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest failed. Last year it was pronounced “Critically Endangered” by IUCN and BirdLife International and considered perhaps to be extinct. The species is dependent on stunted forest and bushes amongst natural páramo grasslands – habitat that is highly susceptible to fires during the dry season. The situation is even more difficult because the flowering plant the Helmetcrest depends on – the Santa Marta Frailejon (Libanothamnus occultus) – is itself threatened by persistent fires and has also been declared Critically Endangered. In 2013, according to a WWF report the páramo of the Sierra Nevada was being seriously affected by extensive cattle herds belonging to indigenous communities who repeatedly burn it for pasture.

The highest elevations of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were declared a National Park in 1964. Fifteen years later, in 1979, the park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Several indigenous reserves cover the mountain range, and some 50,000 indigenous people, mainly of the ethnic groups Kogi and Arhuacos, live in the area. In 2014, the journal Science published an article that identified the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park as the world’s most important protected area for the conservation of threatened terrestrial species – rated first across over 173,000 protected areas worldwide.

During a prolonged and particularly intense dry season in February 2015, National Park staff informed local conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez, who work for Fundación ProAves at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, of an ongoing crisis with fires set by indigenous peoples across the park. Seeking to document the environmental impacts of this burning, Carlos and Christian used their vacation time to explore the higher elevations of the mountain range and recorded multiple fires that were destroying fragile natural habitat.

At 11 AM on March 4th 2015 during surveys of the fire, Carlos Julio Rojas who lives in the Sierra Nevada excitedly noted:

“I saw the flash of a bird screeching past me and saw it perch on a bush nearby. I managed to take a quick photo of it before it flew off. I then reviewed the photo on the camera screen and immediately recognized the strikingly patterned hummingbird as the long-lost Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – I was ecstatic!! After reports of searches by ornithologists failing to find this spectacular species, Christian and I were the first people alive to see it for real.”

Christian took up the story. “We set up camp and for the next two days watched the area to document a total of three individuals of the Helmetcrest in an area of less than 10 hectares [25 acres] with three scattered tiny patches of forest clinging to the steep hillsides and surrounded by the remains of burnt vegetation. And the area is really important as we also discovered the Critically Engendered Santa Marta Wren alongside the Helmetcrest.”

“Sadly the survival of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest hangs by a thread,” says Carlos Julio Rojas. “The impacts of fire are everywhere with the charred remains of plants littered across the páramo. I spoke with the Arhuacos indigenous peoples, and they told me that the Kogi peoples are setting the fires and running pigs and cattle across the area. It is crucial that the fires are stopped immediately and that cattle and pigs are removed from the highest elevations to allow the fragile páramo ecosystem to recover before this unique hummingbird and its equally rare foodplant become extinct.”

A scientific article detailing the discovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at http://www.proaves.org.

Over one million inhabitants in the dry, arid lowlands around the Sierra Nevada depend on the filtration and provision of water from its páramo ecosystems. Further degradation of the páramo for livestock production not only endangers the survival of the Helmetcrest, but could also result in future severe droughts impacting over a million people in the region.

Hopefully, Colombian conservation entities, the National Parks authority, and the Kogi indigenous peoples can work together with Fundación ProAves to better protect the future of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the planet’s most irreplaceable mountain for both people and biodiversity.

Bees, birds and yellow flowers


This video is called Louie Schwartzberg: The hidden beauty of pollination.

From Plant Biology:

Bees, birds and yellow flowers: Pollinator-dependent convergent evolution of UV-patterns

Abstract

Colour is one of the most obvious advertisements of flowers and occurs in a huge diversity among the angiosperms. Flower colour is responsible for the attraction from a distance, whereas contrasting colour patterns within flowers aid orientation of flower-visitors after approaching the flowers. Due to the striking differences in colour vision systems and neural processing across animal taxa, flower colours evoke specific behavioural responses by different flower-visitors. We tested whether and how yellow flowers differ in their spectral reflectance depending on the main pollinator. We focused on bees and birds and examined whether the presence or absence of the widespread UV-reflectance pattern of yellow flowers predicts the main pollinator.

Most bee-pollinated flowers displayed a pattern with UV-absorbing centres and UV-reflecting peripheries, whereas the majority of bird-pollinated flowers are entirely UV-absorbing. In choice experiments we found that bees did not show consistent preferences for any colour- or pattern-types. However, all tested bee species made their first antennal contact preferably at the UV-absorbing area of the artificial flower irrespective of its spatial position within the flower. The appearance of UV-patterns within flowers is the main difference in spectral reflectance between yellow bee- and bird-pollinated flowers, and affects the foraging behaviour of flower-visitors. The results support the hypothesis that flower colours and the visual capabilities of their efficient pollinators are adapted to each other.

Two new moss species discovered in the Netherlands


This video is about mosses.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands, 8 March 2015:

At the edge of the blast site of Tata Steel in Velsen two new special moss species were discovered by Henk Siebel: Ceratodon conicus and Didymodon umbrosus.

Probably they came with transport (boat or truck) for Tata Steel, then the two new mosses settled in the industrial area.

These species had never been seen in the Netherlands before.

See also here.

Dutch fungi atlas will be published


Ecological Atlas of mushrooms in Drenthe

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

On March 13, the mushrooms atlas of Drenthe province will be presented. It is the first time that a book about mushrooms appears written in the Dutch language from an ecological perspective: where does a particular mushroom grow and what does its presence say on the local environment and soil conditions. The Ecologische Atlas van Paddenstoelen in Drenthe will be presented in Zwiggelte (Drenthe).

The eight-kilogram atlas was compiled by professional and amateur mycologists with good reputations at home and abroad. The atlas has 1.700 pages and consists of three parts. Due to the size and the significant and sustained efforts which underlie it, this atlas is already called by some “the mother of all atlases”.