Bats and Tour de France cycling in Dutch Utrecht


This Dutch video is about counting bats in Utrecht city in the Netherlands, from May to August 2015.

Utrecht is not just in the news because of bats these days.

Tomorrow, the Tour de France cycling race will start in Utrecht; with a time trial for all 198 participants.

This video shows where in Utrecht the cyclists will cycle tomorrow.

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.

Dutch corncrake news


This is a video about a singing corncrake (with chiffchaff sound in the background).

Translated from the Dutch Sovon ornithologists:

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

To hear the raspy sound of the mysterious corncrake, this spring you had to go primarily to Groningen province. Nearly three-quarters of the birds counted are in this province, especially in the vast grain and alfalfa fields of the Oldambt region. This is evident from the special census Sovon has been organizing since 2000.

Spoon-billed sandpiper in China survey


This video is called Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Courtship.

From the RSPB site in Britain, with photos there:

Continuing the international effort to survey the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper in China

Guest blog from James Phillips on a very successful Spoon-billed Sandpiper Survey in May 2015 on the Yellow Sea coast, China

Rudong County is just 2 hours’ drive north of Shanghai. The mud flats along this part of the Yellow Sea coast, in China’s Jiangsu Province, are a critically important staging post in the spring and autumn for migrating spoon-billed sandpipers (‘Spoonies’) and for the tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds that move along the East Asian-Australasian flyway between their breeding grounds in the Arctic and their wintering grounds far to the south.

In recent years, important numbers of spoon-billed sandpipers have been recorded in this area during spring and autumn, and international teams have carried out coordinated surveys here each migration season since autumn 2013.

We continued this approach and surveyed in the first half of May 2015 using a now established and agreed survey methodology.

The Team

It was a truly international team again this year with a fantastic group of observers all passionate about their waders and Spoonie conservation!

A group of field ornithologists at the top of their game! The team from left to right were Zhang Jun (China), Richard Gregory (RSPB UK), Andrew Baksh (USA), John Mallord (RSPB UK), James Phillips (Natural England UK), Adam Gretton (Natural England UK), Xiaohui Ge (Student at Nanjing Normal University, China), Professor Qing Chang (School of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, China) and Wei Liu (Student at Nanjing Normal University, China) not in shot but who is taking the actual team photograph!

Key aims of the Survey

This year we wanted to continue to build our knowledge and understanding on the number of Spoonies passing the Jiangsu Coast and gauge how long individual Spoonies actually stay here. We also wanted to see what areas were used by Spoonies on the different states of the tide. Gathering this information would help identify those areas that might be afforded further protection in the future to provide suitable stopover sites. Finally we wanted to find as many individually marked Spoonies as possible, particularly head started birds. You can read more about our Spoonies project on our Saving the Spoon-billed sandpiper website.

Which parts of the Jiangsu coast to survey?

The team surveyed three areas of mud flats along the southern Jiangsu coast. We focused on those areas that past surveys have shown to be of particular importance for spoon-billed sandpipers. As well as Spoonies we also wanted to get a handle on the number of migrating shorebirds using the different sites. As well as being important for spoon-billed Sandpipers these mudflats are critically important staging posts for many species of shorebird……….Including bar-tailed godwit, for which the Yellow Sea is their only refuelling station on their mammoth migration between Australasia and their Siberian or Alaskan breeding areas.

This video says about itself:

6 May 2014

Red Knots have recently been arriving in the Yellow Sea. These birds have spent the last few days feeding after their long journey from Australia. The entire population of a subspecies of Red Knot use this one site in Bohai Bay, China to refuel before their flight to their Arctic breeding grounds. If we lose this site we lose these birds.

The James Phillips blog post continues:

When was the best time to survey?

We chose the dates 3rd of May to the 12th May as these coincided with a very good high tide sequence and crucially this is the time when (we think) the majority of spoon-billed sandpipers pass through the Jiangsu coast on their way north to their breeding grounds on the Chukotka peninsular in the far north of Siberia.

What was our field work strategy?

For each site we surveyed, it was all about team work with each team member working in close proximity. We split the survey area into sections, with no more than 300m between each observer. This allowed us to get good coverage of a stretch of mud flat. On both the rising and falling tides it was all about finding Spoonies and recording everything we could for each bird we found. On the different tides we would also note the directions that waders were moving in and where they were going to. On the high tide the focus was slightly different, trying to find roosting flocks and get counts of each species present and if possible locate and count any Spoonies present within these flocks.

The timings of our surveys were based completely around the tide times. We would always be on site, ready and in position 2 hours before the high tide point resulting in some extremely early starts!

What information did we record for every Spoon-billed Sandpiper we saw?

We wanted to gather as much information as possible on all the birds we saw. This included:

The date, time and GPS location for each bird
The Plumage score 1-7 (A seven being a full adult bird in breeding plumage)
Whether and how the bird was marked (Which leg it was marked on, the colour of flag or rings and whether the flag was inscribed)
And if possible we would try and get a photo of every marked bird

What did we see and how many birds did we see!

Well we did very well. We recorded a minimum of 62 individual spoon-billed sandpipers during the survey period with a total of over 250 different sightings, including flocks of 33 and 13 birds! We recorded some 12 flagged birds including a number of head started birds which was very exciting. These birds are so important to the future recovery of the species and the fact we were seeing a number of these birds returning back north means that the strategy of head-starting chicks on their Siberian breeding grounds is truly working!

Heading back north!

It wasn’t just spoon-billed sandpipers! We also recorded some 40 species of wader during the survey period with the team regularly recording between 40,000 and 70,000 waders at the different sites we surveyed!

The coastal mudflats and areas of coastal reclamation are also important for Black-faced spoonbill currently IUCN Red listed ENDANGERED (EN) and Saunders’s Gull and Chinese Egret which are both currently IUCN Red listed VULNERABLE (VU). Whenever we saw these species we recorded them.

We had a great trip and the whole team would like to thank Zhang Jun and Jing Li for their help in making the arrangements and helping it all run so smoothly. We also like to thank the Links Hotel www.linkshotel.cn where the team were based throughout the survey period and to all the staff there for looking after us so well during our stay. The hotel is in a superb central location for all our survey work at the various sites along the southern Jiangsu coast.

Read more about our Spoonie research in a series of blogs ‘Spoonies in a haystack 2‘, ‘Spoon-billed sandpiper update from Rudong China‘ and ‘Spoon-billed sandpiper more from the survey team in China‘.

Australian fur seals, new research


This video is called The Life of Australian Fur Seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, Montague Island, 2011.

From Deakin University in Australia:

July 2, 2015

Humans once hunted them, but may now hold key to fur seal survival

Oil rigs and artificial reefs are often given a bad rap for their environmental impact but they may be playing a vital role in feeding one of Australia’s largest sea creatures, still recovering from centuries of hunting by humans, new research led by Deakin scientists has found.

Researchers from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences teamed up with National Geographic, the University of Tasmania and University of California Santa Cruz to investigate the feeding behaviour of the Australian fur seals in Bass Strait.

Associate Professor John Arnould said some seals carrying the National Geographic “crittercams” revealed they and other individuals congregated around human-made structures which act as artificial reefs attracting fish.

“These findings mean that man-made structures such as pipelines, cable routes, wells and shipwrecks could play a vital role in helping to improve the recovery rates of our fur seals,” he said.

“The Australian fur seal population is increasing at just two per cent a year and still sit at population levels below 60 per cent of what it was before the commercial sealing era in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

The researchers tracked the foraging patterns of 36 Australian fur seals from Kanowna Island in Bass Strait, using GPS loggers and dive recorders.

The research is published today in the latest edition of science journal PLOS One.

“While we know fish congregate around these structures, scientists don’t know a lot about their use by marine mammals and we were surprised at first to find the Australian fur seals were going to these area[s],” Associate Professor Arnould said.

“We found that 72% of the 36 seals we tracked spent time around the man-made structures, with pipelines and cable routes being the most frequented. More than a third of animals foraged near more than one type of structure.”

Associate Professor Arnould said man-made changes to natural habitats could often have negative effects on animals which lived in the regions surrounding them, including a reduction in foraging habitat, breeding sites and refuge from predators.

“Some species, however, can adapt to, and even benefit from, changes to their habitats,” he said.

“Indeed, man-made structures can provide a range of benefits for some species, from predator avoidance, thermoregulation, and breeding sites, to acting as important foraging areas.”

Associate Professor Arnould said seals and sea lions around the world had experienced variable rates of population recovery since the end of the sealing era.

“We have seen species that feed close to the surface have experienced rapid growth in numbers, populations of species that feed on the ocean floor, such as the Australian fur seal, have increased very slowly, are stable or in decline,” he said.

“It has been suggested that the low population recovery rates of these species could be due to them hunting in environments which for decades have been the focus of commercial fisheries using bottom trawlers that disrupt the habitat and remove the larger size-classes of species that the seals depend on for food.

“The Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) feeds exclusively on the sea floor of the continental shelf on a wide variety of fish, octopus and squid species.”

Associate Professor Arnould said all but one of the Australian fur seal’s breeding colonies occurred on islands within Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, which has an average depth of 60 metres and is considered to be a region of low food availability for marine predators.

“Therefore, structures like oil and gas rigs and pipelines that occur on the relatively featureless sea floor could provide a valuable prey habitat and promote foraging success for the species,” he said.

Explore further: Fur seal population bounces back while sea lions struggle

New ladybug atlas for the Netherlands


This video says about itself:

14 November 2011

This is a video I created about the life cycle of a ladybug, specifically the seven-spotted ladybug.

Translated from Dutch entomologists Jan Cuppen, Vincent Kalkman and Gerrian Tacoma:

2 July 2015

In 2015 and 2016 we are going to map the distribution of the Dutch ladybugs, with the goal of publication of an atlas in 2017.

In the Netherlands there are more than sixty ladybug species.

Besides forty fairly large, colourful and easily recognizable ladybug species, in the Netherlands there are also more than twenty species of the Scymninae subfamily. These are often small, hairy and difficult to name.

Below is information about all Dutch ladybugs.

Marsh tits in Poland, new research


This video shows first a nuthatch, then a great tit, then a marsh tit at a bird feeder.

From the Journal of Avian Biology:

Immense plasticity of timing of breeding in a sedentary forest passerine, Poecile palustris

Abstract

Numerous bird species have advanced their breeding seasons in response to climate warming. These changes were mostly brought about by phenotypic plasticity, i.e. flexible reactions of individual birds, rather than by microevolutionary change. Knowing the limits of plasticity is thus of paramount importance in any attempt to predict possible reactions of birds to climate warming. However, the breeding performance of the same individuals in contrasting environmental conditions, necessary to answer this question, is rarely observed.

Here, we provide data on the flexibility in timing of egg-laying of individual Marsh Tit Poecile palustris females breeding in an extremely late (2013) and early (2014) spring in Białowieża National Park (Poland). In both years the birds stayed in the same places in the primeval old-growth forest, free of direct human influences (no nest-boxes, no additional food). The weather variation was within the range of conditions observed during 40 years in the study area, and no climate warming occurred in the Marsh Tit’s pre-breeding period.

Females (n = 16) shifted the onset of laying by 13-23 (median = 20) days between the seasons. This range of individual flexibility encompasses almost the whole latitudinal range of the breeding dates found across Europe. Such a buffer of plasticity would probably be sufficient for Marsh Tits to adjust the onset of egg-laying to the forecasted range of climate change. A combination of temperature and photoperiod appears to be involved in fine tuning of the birds’ breeding times with spring conditions, but how the birds asses[s] and integrate this information remains poorly understood.