New Spanish migratory bird atlas


This 2014 video is called Rare birds in Spain.

From BirdLife:

Coming soon: An atlas of Spain’s migratory birds

By Juan Carlos del Moral, Mon, 31/08/2015 – 09:37

Bird conservation’s key pillars are knowledge of the area of distribution, abundance, trend and size of the populations of birds. In countries like Spain, which see a large number of migratory birds, knowledge of migration routes and resting sites is also necessary. SEO (BirdLife in Spain) has been working for decades with the collaboration of thousands of volunteers to collect data.

SEO’s Bird Monitoring Unit launched the Migra initiative in 2011 to describe the movements of each migratory bird species that breeds or winters in Spain over one or several years. This means tracking, among other things, which species undertake long trips, their migration routes, resting areas during the trip, and wintering areas. In the short term, SEO aims to use Migra data and results from previous studies to compile and publish an atlas of bird migration in Spain.

Migra’s new marking systems – which include satellite transmitters, GPS data loggers and geolocators – establish the location of the bird several times a day for several years, allowing us to know exactly how long they stay in their breeding and wintering areas, when they begin their migration, the route they follow, their speed and altitude, how climate change and weather conditions affect migration, and whether the birds use the same route each time.

The data is stored in the device and can be recovered by recapturing the bird carrying it, downloading over a small distance or receiving them through a satellite system via the Internet. While these devices have their drawbacks and problems of their own (difficulty in recapturing birds to extract data; necessity of the device to be small, very lightweight and aerodynamic; batteries only last a few years), they have yielded much critical information. Since 2011, Migra has tracked data from 332 birds (98 are still active) belonging to 24 species, totalling 634,460 recorded locations (at the time of publishing).

Migra also helps fill the gaps in avian information: There is more data available for certain highly endangered and rare species, very limited information for many medium or large birds and virtually non-existent records for most small Spanish birds. It is important to know the migratory behaviour of each species as soon as possible, because without that information, we will lose track of what existed before and we will not have the basic information available to understand the changes in their biology.

What has been confirmed in recent decades is that many species have changed their migratory behaviour annually. Some of them have shortened their movements and do not cross to Africa (an increasing number of White Storks, Black Storks and Booted Eagles spend the winter on the Mediterranean coast or in the lower course of River Guadalquivir). These changes are thought to be at least partially due to climate change, resulting in milder winters and more food in the breeding areas.

But Migra is not only useful for scientific research. It can also be used as a tool for people to understand the spectacular phenomenon of migration. To this end, SEO proposes to expand the Migra website from Spain to all of Europe, Asia and Africa, across BirdLife International partners. Spreading awareness about migration and the perils migratory birds face among people not familiar with the subject could be a huge conservation tool.

New bird book from the USA, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

The Living Bird Book Trailer

20 August 2015

The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature is a new hardcover book from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Oct. 15th, 2015 by Mountaineers Books). With over 200 images by award-winning photographer Gerrit Vyn and essays by Barbara Kingsolver, Jared Diamond, John W. Fitzpatrick, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Scott Weidensaul, the book celebrates our joyful and complex relationship with birds. “The birds sang us back to life…” —Barbara Kingsolver, from the Foreword. In 2015 the Lab celebrates its 100th anniversary as one of the world’s most prestigious and educationally progressive birding organizations. Available wherever books are sold; pre-order here.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithaca, New York, is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. The nonprofit organization includes a vibrant community of 200,000 citizen-science participants from all walks of life, and 5 million bird enthusiasts of all ages who connect with them online at www.allaboutbirds.org. Learn more at www.birds.cornell.edu.

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 young school shark caught today was too small to tag, so it was freed without having been tagged.

School shark, too small for tagging