Cuckoos in nests help carrion crows


This video says about itself:

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius)

There were 5 birds together at Anarita Park, Cyprus, on 18th March 2015. Filmed with a Canon PowerShot SX50 HS hand held.

For information about the status and distribution of this species, see the following link.

From Wildlife Extra:

Carrion Crows in Spain thrive when they have a cuckoo in the nest

Carrion Crow chicks derive benefits from having to share their nest, researchers have found

A study in Spain has uncovered an interesting relationship between Carrion Crows and Great Spotted Cuckoos, reports Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

When the cuckoos lay up to three eggs in the nests of the larger crows, the chicks of both species are often raised together successfully, with the young crows ultimately growing bigger than the cuckoos.

So it’s not so bad for crow chicks as it can be for other species of birds who find their nests taken over by a cuckoo youngster.

When our Common Cuckoos utilise the nests of Reed Warblers, the growing cuckoo chick will push other eggs and chicks out of the nest.

When Great Spotted Cuckoos parasitise and take over Magpie nests, they do not evict the host’s young from the nest. They do, however, succeed in out-competing the magpie chicks for food, which often leads to the latter’s death.

Carrion Crow chicks, by contrast, sit back and wait for food to arrive while the cuckoo chick does all the begging, discovered Diana Bolopo of the University of Valladolid in Spain, who led a study into the pros and cons associated with this particular parasitic relationship.

Bolopo’s team filmed seven parasitised crow nests and six uninvaded ones in Northern Spain from the 2004 to the 2007 breeding seasons.

They observed how intensely the various chicks begged for food, and how adult Carrion Crows responded to these hunger cries when deciding which chick to feed first.

The sampled parasitised nests contained between one to five crow chicks, as well as one cuckoo chick.

The observations revealed that the cuckoo chicks raised alongside the crow chicks were not able to monopolise the food being brought to the nest.

It appears that crow caregivers prefer to feed crow nestlings rather than cuckoo nestlings.

The fact that cuckoo chicks begged more intensely than crow chicks balanced matters out so that the young ones of each species ultimately received an equal amount of food.

“Despite a higher begging intensity, Great Spotted Cuckoos do not out-compete bigger Carrion Crow nestlings,” says Bolopo.

She speculates that the cuckoo’s begging strategies are part of how it has evolved and adapted to a parasitic life in which it has to compete with either similar or larger-sized nest mates.

“It might actually be advantageous to crow chicks to share the nest with a cuckoo, because the crow chicks do not have to waste so much energy on begging intensely for food on their own.”

Saving Cuban crocodiles


This video says about itself:

Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)

17 October 2011

Watch the Cuban Crocodile and learn how to recognize its unique characteristics. This video captures behaviors and identifies the size, shape and distinctive markings of the Cuban Crocodile. The Cuban Crocodile can be found in the wild and at a number of zoos around the world. Our Cuban Crocodile video is an ideal study guide for students, kids and children who want to learn more about wild animals.

From Phys.org:

April 19, 2015

Kids of Cold War crocs going to Cuba on conservation mission

Cuba’s efforts to sustain the critically endangered Cuban crocodile are getting a boost from Sweden, home to a pair of reptiles that Fidel Castro gave to a Soviet cosmonaut four decades ago.

A Stockholm zoo on Sunday is sending 10 of the couple’s children to Cuba, where they will be placed in quarantine and eventually released into the Zapata Swamp, said Jonas Wahlstrom, the zookeeper who raised them.

“It’s the dream of any zoo director to be part of releasing animals into the wild,” said Wahlstrom, 62, clutching one of the stout-legged youngsters outside its enclosure at the Skansen aquarium and zoo in Stockholm. The 10 crocodiles each are about 1 ½ years old and a meter (yard) long.

The Cuban crocodile, once found across the Caribbean, is restricted today to two swamps in Cuba, where it is threatened by interbreeding with American crocodiles, habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Wahlstrom said he received his original couple during a 1981 trip to Moscow. They had ended up in the Soviet capital after Castro gave them to cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov in the 1970s as a token of friendship between the communist nations.

“He (Shatalov) brought them back to Moscow and he had them in his flat until his wife said: ‘No more!’ And then he had to give them to the zoo in Moscow,” Wahlstrom told The Associated Press.

But the zoo officials didn’t have a good space for the aquatic reptiles so they asked Wahlstrom if he could take them to Sweden.

“I had them as my hand luggage back from Moscow,” Wahlstrom said.

Zoo officials in Moscow confirmed the background of the crocodiles and their handover to Wahlstrom.

Later named Hillary and Castro—in a nod to international politics—the two crocodiles have become a star attraction at Wahlstrom’s zoo, where they have been breeding since 1984.

Wahlstrom said he’s sent hatchlings to zoos worldwide, but this is the first time he’s given any to Cuba for introduction into the wild.

Cuba’s representative to Sweden welcomed the move.

“We need this type of crocodiles,” Cuban Ambassador Francisco Florentino said as he inspected the animals before their departure Sunday.

With only about 4,000 animals remaining in the wild, the Cuban crocodile, or Crocodylus rhombifer, is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population is restricted to Cuba’s Zapata Swamp and the Isle of Youth.

This would be the first time that Cuban crocodiles raised abroad are introduced into the wild in Cuba, according to Natalia Rossi of the Wildlife Conservation Society. She’s been involved in other efforts to protect crocodiles in the Caribbean island nation but not the Swedish project.

However, the crocodiles first would be genetically screened to ensure that they come from a pure breed, Rossi said.

The Cuban crocodile can be distinguished from its American cousin by the way it walks and its characteristic bony ridge behind the eyes. But you cannot distinguish hybrid crocodiles from pure-bred Cuban crocodiles by their appearance, Rossi said.

Wahlstrom said he was sure his crocodiles were pure Cubans and expected them to adapt quickly to the real world.

“A crocodile is always ready for the wild,” Wahlstrom said. “They are always aggressive.”

As if to emphasize his point, the baby croc he was holding briefly writhed out of his grip and snapped at an AP journalist’s jacket.

Snow leopard discovery in Siberia


This video is called Silent Roar: Searching for the Snow Leopard (HD Nature Documentary).

From Wildlife Extra:

Photo proof of snow leopards in newly created refuge in Siberia

Camera trap images have been taken of snow leopards in the newly created National Park of Sylyugem National Park in the Altai mountains of Siberia.

Aleksei Kuzhlekov, a national park researcher, reports that, “four pictures of snow leopard were taken at different times, probably of three or four individuals”.

The Saylyugem National Park was created five years ago to protect wildlife in that region of Siberia, especially the snow leopard and argali mountain sheep, in an area totaling 118,380 hectares.

The creation of the reserve was much needed, because poachers had killed more than 10 snow leopards in the area in the 1990s alone, to sell their pelts and body parts on the black market for Chinese medicine.

The snow leopard is in the endangered category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with as few as 4,000 left in the world, of which only 2,500 are likely to be breeding.

The head of the local conservation department, Igor Ivanitsky, adds: “We were able to place the cameras in the right place by painstakingly working out the movements routes of the cats.

“Being then so successful with our camera trapping efforts tells us that the park is their main home and hunting ground.

“Park staff have also found snow leopard tracks and scats (droppings) in several places around the national park, giving further evidence that the big cats are thriving in their newly created refuge.”

Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of Biosphere Expeditions, which assisted in the creation of the new National Park says he is delighted with the news.

“We spent ten years working in the Altai, researching snow leopard presence, building local capacity and trying to create economic incentives for local people to keep their snow leopard neighbours alive.

“When we started, there was no national park, little awareness, research or infrastructure, and rampant poaching.

“Now we have a national park, national park staff, anti-poaching patrols, several research initiatives, much more awareness and many ways for local people to benefit from the presence of the snow leopard.

“Poaching continues to be a threat, as is the Altai gas pipeline, but all in all this is a remarkable turnaround and success story, and we are very proud to have played our part in this.

“We’ve had many successes through citizen science voluntourism over the years and this is yet another excellent illustration of how citizen science-led conservation expeditions can make a genuine difference.”

For more information visit Sailugemsky National Park and Biosphere Expeditions.

Sea otters in Canada, video


This video says about itself:

Sea Otters vs. Urchins in Canada’s Kelp Forests

7 April 2015

“When you see a sea otter, they’re usually either eating or digesting,” often munching on urchins, says ecologist Anne Salomon, a Pew marine fellow. That’s a good thing for some kelp beds. Without otters to control urchin numbers, the spiky shellfish can devour the beds, leaving barren seascapes behind.

Fifty years ago, sea otters were so sought after for their fur that they disappeared from the Canadian coast. But now they’re bouncing back and—as seen in this video—competing with humans for the region’s shellfish.

Sea eagles back on Orkney islands after 142 years


This February 2013 video from Sweden is called White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

From Raptor Politics in Britain:

White-tailed eagles nest in Orkney after 142-year absence

A pair of sea eagles are currently nesting on RSPB Scotland’s Hoy nature reserve. It is the first time these birds have attempted to breed in Orkney since 1873. The news suggests Orkney may become the next stop on the sea eagles’ celebrated recolonisation of Scotland. Alan Leitch, RSPB Scotland’s Sites Manager in Orkney, said, “This is a great moment for Hoy and Orkney. Sea eagles are utterly magnificent birds, with a wing span of up to 2.4 m or 8 feet. To see them over the hills of Hoy is a forceful reminder of the sheer beauty of nature.” “Too often with wildlife, once it’s gone it’s gone. It is a privilege to welcome these birds back to a landscape they inhabited for thousands of years.”

Sea eagles have a long history in Orkney. The Bronze Age burial tomb at Isbister, South Ronaldsay (the ‘Tomb of the Eagles’) famously contains their bones, while a Pictish symbol stone found at the Knowe of Burrian, Harray, features a beautifully carved bird.

Sea eagles became extinct across the UK in the early 19th century due to combination of widespread habitat loss and human persecution, with the last bird shot in Shetland in 1918.

Following successful reintroductions since the 1970s on Rum, Wester Ross and more recently in Fife, sea eagles are now reclaiming their former ranges. Success for the pair in Hoy, which have returned to Orkney of their own accord, would represent a significant expansion in breeding range for the birds in Scotland.

The nearest sea eagle territories to Orkney are in the north-west of Scotland, although the origins of the pair currently nesting in Hoy are not yet known. Either or both birds could have hatched in the wild in Scotland, or even in Scandinavia.

Alan Leitch continued, “As Hoy’s first breeding sea eagles in nearly 150 years, we expect this young pair will attract a lot of attention over the next few weeks or months.

“The birds are nesting on the Dwarfie Hamars. To give them the best chance of success, anyone keen to see the birds should keep their distance and ideally keep dogs under close control in the vicinity. The roadside car park for the Dwarfie Stone is a good place to watch from but lingering too long at the Dwarfie Stone itself could alarm the birds.”

“Nesting sea eagles are specially protected by law, so if you see any signs of disturbance please pass your concerns onto the police straightaway.”

The sea eagle is a globally threatened species: there are only around 10,000 pairs in the world, a third of which live in Norway. The re-introduction of sea eagles to their former haunts aims to expand their range and help ensure their survival.

Also known as white-tailed eagles, they are the UK’s largest bird of prey. The birds take around five years to mature enough to breed, but can live into their 30s, generally forming long-term and monogamous bonds with their mates.

The pair currently nesting in Hoy have frequented the area for the last three springs and summers. Both are young birds, thought to be four to five years old, and this is their first known nesting attempt. Although they are inexperienced parents and may not be successful in raising chicks this summer, RSPB Scotland staff are optimistic that the birds will persevere over the coming years to make Hoy their home.

The local RSPB Scotland team are happy to answer questions about the sea eagles, and can be contacted on 01856 850176 or at orkney@rspb.org.uk (office closed Monday 6 April).

April 17th, 2015

Cuckoo Hennah wins Africa-Britain race


This video from England says about itself:

Cuckoos On Dartmoor

21 August 2013

Discover more about the story of cuckoos on Dartmoor and hear about an exciting project that will be tracking their migration to Africa.

From Wildlife Extra:

The Great Cuckoo Race is won – but not by Dudley!

We have a winner! First back to Britain after his long migration from sub-Saharan Africa was Hennah, who was satellite tagged in the New Forest last May and was named after First Lieutenant William Hennah who was on HMS Mars in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Bookmakers William Hill has been betting on the inaugural Great Cuckoo Race, involving the migration of 17 tagged cuckoos, with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) tracking their progress from Africa to the UK.

Dudley had become the odds-on favourite after extending a commanding lead and touching down in France while all the other cuckoos were still in Africa. But Hennah came through at 25/1, arriving on 15 April after making fast progress on the final leg.

Hennah was last picked up on radar on the 9th February in Sierra Leone, but just as hope was fading that he was even alive, a faint signal was picked up from the New Forest, which steadily grew as the sunny weather charged his solar-powered tagging device.

BTO scientist in charge of the project, Chris Hewson, explained that the lack of signals over the desert, when we might expect there to be good exposure to the sun, could be down to Sahara dust on the solar panels which meant the tag was unable to charge and send a signal. Exposure to rain later would have washed this off and allowed the tag to transmit the cuckoo’s recent location.

William Hill gave a free £500 charity bet to BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham on the race, but his namesake Chris is still south of the Sahara and nowhere near the finish line – so William Hill instead will be doubling the amount and donating £1000 to the British Trust for Ornithology.

The bookmakers have made Dudley 2/1 favourite to win the race next year, with Hennah offered at 3/1 to repeat his success.

William Hill’s pioneering partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology was set up to raise awareness about the decline of the cuckoo, as populations have been in serious decline over the past century. Further details can be found at www.bto.org/cuckoos.

Russian gray whale Varvara, longest mammal migration


This video from the USa is called Gray Whale Migration.

From Treehugger.com:

Longest mammal migration ever recorded measures in at 14,000 miles

Melissa Breyer

April 16, 2015

And the remarkable journey is raising questions about the status of a critically endangered whale species.

In a study using satellite-monitored tags to track three western gray whales, a team of U.S. and Russian researchers recorded a stunning round-trip trek of 14,000 miles. The trio traveled from their primary feeding ground off of Sakhalin Island in Russia across the Pacific Ocean and down the west coast of California to Baja, Mexico and back home again.

One of the whales, dubbed Varvara by the scientists, visited the three major breeding areas for eastern gray whales, which are found off North America.

For a long time it was believed that western gray whales had gone extinct, but a small group was discovered in Russia off Sakhalin Island; they now number around 150 individuals and have been monitored by scientists from Russia and the U.S. since the 1990s. Meanwhile, populations of eastern gray whales were also in a tight spot, but conservation efforts have brought them back – today they are believed to have a population of some 18,000.

But here’s why Varvara’s visit to the eastern gray whales is interesting. Not all experts believe that the two species are in fact distinct, separate species. A number of scientists have proposed that western and eastern gray whale populations are not isolated and that the gray whales found in Russian waters are a part of an eastern population that is restoring its former range.

“The fact that endangered western gray whales have such a long range and interact with eastern gray whales was a surprise and leaves a lot of questions up in the air,” said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Past studies have indicated genetic differentiation between the species, but this suggests we may need to take a closer look.”

“The ability of the whales to navigate across open water over tremendously long distances is impressive and suggests that some western gray whales might actually be eastern grays,” Mate said. “But that doesn’t mean that there may not be some true western gray whales remaining.

He adds, “If so, then the number of true western gray whales is even smaller than we previously thought.”

Does this spell doom for the western whales? Protecting them has proven challenging. Five western grays have perished in Japanese fishing nets within the last 10 years and their feeding grounds off Japan and Russia include fishing areas, shipping corridors, and oil and gas production – as well as future sites oil sites. But with this new research, hopefully fresh data and visibility will inspire some momentum in conservation efforts. With so few of these wandering giants left, and maybe even fewer than we thought, the time is now.