Welsh cuckoo flies to Chad in Africa


This video from Britain says about itself:

BTO Cuckoo Tracking Project – the story so far

26 April 2013

A recap of the BTO Cuckoo Tracking project, covering some of the findings, highlights and what’s coming next.

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters for making this important project possible.

Follow the progress of the Cuckoos and maybe sponsor one – http://www.bto.org/cuckoos.

From Wales Online:

His wings may be just 23cm long but he’s just flown 3,000 miles – this is ‘David’ the cuckoo from Ceredigion

17:08, 2 September 2015

Updated 17:16, 2 September 2015

By Liz Day

The British Trust for Ornithology is researching the migration of cuckoos. ‘David’ was tagged in Ceredigion and has just crossed the Sahara

His wings are just 23cm long and he has flown more than 3,000 miles in the last two months – meet “David” the cuckoo from Ceredigion.

David is blogging every step of his trip, with a little help from the British Trust for Ornithology, who are hoping his journey will help to shed light on population decline.

And since leaving Wales on July 10, David has flown thousands of miles passing through the likes of France and Italy to Bosnia and Montenegro and most recently crossing the Sahara.

‘We need to understand its cycle’

Chris Hewson, senior research ecologist, said: “We have lost more than half the number of cuckoos in the UK over the last 20 years.

“Clearly we need to understand all aspects of the cuckoo’s annual cycle before we can begin to suggest what might be driving the decline.”

In 2011, researchers launched a satellite tracking programme with the aim of discovering the causes of the decline. Five birds were fitted with satellite tags and monitored during their migration.

According to the trust, although cuckoos had been well studied during breeding season in the UK, little was known about the routes they take to Africa or where they spend the winter months.

‘We have learnt a lot of vital information’

Mr Hewson added: “If we can pinpoint areas of importance, then we can look at whether there are pressures which could explain the losses of the British cuckoo.

“We have learnt a lot of vital information which will help save our cuckoos but, there is still more to discover.”

According to the researchers, catching cuckoos is “not an easy task”, as they are known for their ability to escape from nets.

Male cuckoos like to sit in tall trees, so in order to catch them, the ringer has to persuade them to fly low.

They use large-mesh “mist nets”, made from fine nylon mesh, suspended between two bushes in a V-shape and play a recording of a female to lure them in.

Schoolchildren named birds

A model of a female cuckoo is also placed on a pole next to the net, attracting the males to mate.

When a bird is caught, a tag weighing 5g is attached to its body – about 4% of the body weight of an adult male.

The tags are solar-powered, transmitting for 10 hours and then going into sleep mode for 48 hours, to allow the solar panel to recharge the battery.

Most of the cuckoos tagged are adult males because they are larger and able to carry the tag more easily.

This year, 10 cuckoos are being tracked. The birds – Derek, Dudley, Coo, Charlie, Stanley, Larry, Peckham, Vigilamus and Disco Tony – were named by schools as part of a competition.

For more information, visit www.bto.org.

David’s journey

July 10 – David leaves Wales. He is the last of the tagged cuckoos to leave the UK. He flies 560 miles to the north of France.

July 24 – He leaves France and travels east to the Po Valley in Italy.

July 28 – David flies east to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

August 3 – His tag shows he has flown 130 miles to western Montenegro. He rests near Lovcen National Park.

August 26 – He flies south from Montenegro, covering 1,160 miles in three days.

August 29 – David crosses the Mediterranean Sea and reaches Libya.

September 1 – He crosses the Sahara Desert and reaches central Chad.

Rare nautilus seen for first time in 30 years


This video says about itself:

28 August 2015

The Allonautilus scrobiculatus has inhabited the earth for 500 million years and has only been seen twice, until now.

A rare species of nautilus, a marine mollusc, has been found by researchers for the first time in 31 years. It has been suggested that the Allonautilus scrobiculatus could be the rarest animal in the world.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in 30 years

A rare nautilus has been sighted for the first time in three decades. Allonautilus scrobiculatus is a species of nautilus, marine animals that are small, distant cousins of squid and cuttlefish. They are an ancient lineage of animal, often christened a “living fossil” because their distinctive shells appear in the fossil record over an impressive 500 million year period.

The animal was first discovered by biologist Peter Ward and his colleague Bruce Saunders off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea in 1984, when they realised that their differing gills, jaws, shell shape and male reproductive structures made them different to other nautilus species.

“Some features of the nautilus – like the shell giving it the ‘living fossil’ label — may not have changed for a long time, but other parts have,” said Ward. “It has this thick, hairy, slimy covering on its shell,” said Ward. “When we first saw that, we were astounded.”

This slimy nautilus turned out to be even more elusive than its siblings. Aside from another brief sighting by Saunders in 1986, Allonautilus disappeared until July 2015, when Ward returned to Papua New Guinea to survey nautilus populations.

“They swim just above the bottom of wherever they are,” said Ward. “Just like submarines, they have ‘fail depths’ where they’ll die if they go too deep, and surface waters are so warm that they usually can’t go up there. Water about 2,600 feet deep is going to isolate them.”

These restrictions on where nautiluses can go mean that populations near one island or coral reef can differ genetically or ecologically from those at another. The findings also pose a challenge for conservationists.

“Once they’re gone from an area, they’re gone for good,” said Ward.

Illegal fishing and “mining” operations for nautilus shells have already decimated some populations, Ward said. This unchecked practice could threaten a lineage that has been around longer than the dinosaurs were and survived the two largest mass extinctions in Earth’s history. As it stands now, nautilus mining could cause nautiluses to go extinct.”

Ancient big sea scorpion discovery in Iowa, USA


Pentecopterus decorahensis. Image: Patrick Lynch/Yale University

From Vice.com in the USA:

This Prehistoric Sea Scorpion Was the Size of a Person

Written by Becky Ferreira

1 September 2015 // 01:00 AM CET

The fossilized remains of an enormous sea scorpion have been found in a Iowan fossil bed at the bottom of an ancient impact crater. (Take a moment to let all that sink in.)

Named for a Greek warship called the penteconter, Pentecopterus decorahensis is like some kind of evolutionary fever dream. The newly-discovered species was decked out with lethal clawlike appendages and an idiosyncratic, paddle-shaped leg that was likely used for locomotion.

Measuring almost six feet long, Pentecopterus was a veritable giant in the seas of the Ordovician period, some 467 million years ago.

“It was probably the largest animal in its ecosystem,” paleontologist James Lamsdell told me. Lamsdell is the lead author of a paper describing the animal, published today in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

“From what we know, there was nothing else around that would have been likely to consider Pentecopterus prey,” he added. “It seems that Pentecopterus was the dominant animal in its ecosystem.”

This is even more impressive considering this species is the oldest eurypterid—the scientific term for sea scorpion—ever found in the fossil record. Eurypterids were a very diverse group of creatures that flourished for over 200 million years, before dying off at the dawn of the Triassic period. Among their ranks were the largest arthropods that ever roamed the Earth, and their close relatives live on today in the arachnid family.

The discovery of Pentecopterus pushes the evolutionary timeline of these influential animals back about nine million years, though Lamsdell said the eurypterid family tree’s roots run even deeper.

“We know that Pentecopterus is actually a relatively advanced eurypterid,” he told me. “The exciting thing about this is that it means that there must have been a number of other eurypterid groups around at the time too that we have yet to discover.”

“It is clear however that Pentecopterus was one of the earliest large predators in these complex ecosystems,” he added.

What’s more, Pentecopterus left behind the kind of beautifully fossilized remains that most paleontologists only dream about. “It is very rare to find such exquisite preservation in fossils of this age,” Lamsdell said. “I have never seen anything like this before in a eurypterid.”

The fine state of the specimens is due to the unique nature of Iowa’s Decorah crater where the fossils, which include both adult and juvenile members of the species, were excavated.

The crater was formed about 470 million years ago, when a 200-meter-wide meteorite impacted the Earth. The Ordovician oceans flooded the deformation, creating a shallow marine environment of brackish water. Here, Pentecopterus communities flourished, and when individuals died, they were etched into geological history by the crater’s deoxygenated seafloor, which provided perfect conditions for fossilization.

Indeed, according to Lamsdell, some of the fossils have even retained the creature’s hair and skin patterns. “The really exciting thing is that fine details like hair patterns can tell us a lot about the animals’ ecology,” he said.

“For animals with an external exoskeleton, hairs are the primary way in which they sense the world around them, as eyes can only be looking at one place at any one time,” he continued. “From looking at hair patterns we can see which parts of the animal were particularly sensitive.”

“For example, there are many hairs on the margins of the swimming paddle, meaning that it would have been very sensitive to changes in current flow, which would have helped it as a swimmer,” Lamsdell said.

So, to sum up: Paleontologists have inferred intimate details about a monster species of sea scorpion, the oldest yet found, which lived in the cozy fallout of a planetary collision nearly half a billion years ago. If that doesn’t rate high on your wow meter, you need to get it fixed.

See also here. And here. And here.

Birds and whales seen during Svalbard expedition


This video is called Ortelius, polar bear, Svalbard June 2015.

This morning, Dutch Vroege Vogels radio broadcast an interview with participants in the big Dutch Svalbard expedition who had counted birds from the expedition ship Ortelius.

They did not only see birds, but also cetaceans; including fin whale, minke whale and white-beaked dolphin.

Among the bird species counted were Atlantic puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes, glaucous gulls, ivory gulls, little auks and Brünnich’s guillemots.

Shark study in the Netherlands


This video says about itself:

15 April 2015

School sharks, Galeorhinus galeus, in a Fuerteventura beach (Canary Islands).

There used to be quite some sharks around the Dutch Wadden Sea islands; mainly starry smooth-hound sharks and school sharks.

However, ever since the 1970s, their numbers declined.

Recently, some fishermen say the numbers are going up again.

To see whether that is true, some shrimp fishermen will tag sharks which they catch, and release them.

Today, 28 August 2015, was supposed to be the start of this. However, the shark caught today was too small to tag, so it was freed without having been tagged.

Bird breeding news from Texel island


This video says about itself:

22 March 2013

The Dutch wadden island Texel is a paradise for birds. Photographer Sijmen Hendriks visited it several times from 2007 on . This slideshow video shows the result of these visits. Grey Plover, Avocet, Spoonbill, Stonechat, Brent Geese, Whitethroat, Hen Harrier, Sandwich Tern, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail and many more birds are featured in this video. Texel is the westernmost island in the Wadden Sea and is known for its rich bird life.

Warden Erik van der Spek from Texel island in the Netherlands writes today (translated):

In the Muy lake spoonbills, great cormorants and grey herons have nested in colonies. In 2015 as many as 106 spoonbill couples have bred. This number has never been so high. In 2014 there were 85 nests. The numbers of cormorants have declined: there were an estimated 848 nests in 2015 (census April 20). In 2014 there were still 882 nests. The cormorants may have relocated to De Geul; the colony there has increased explosively, with 661 couples in 2014 and 1040 in 2015.

De Geul

In the Geul there were counted at least 420 spoonbill couples. Since 2011, the number of breeding pairs here has remained about the same. …

Of the approximately 65 little tern couples on the Hors about half the young fledged. Of the others, the nests have been washed away. The four pairs of hen harriers together produced eight young birds; one nest failed. This is comparable to the situation in 2014.

Good kingfisher news


This is a kingfisher video from Austria.

Dutch ornithologist Jelle Harder reports that in 1914 the number of kingfisher nests in the Gooi en Vechtstreek region rose from 11 to 41.

The 1914-1915 winter was not harsh. So, will 2015 be an even better year for kingfishers?