Yellow-crowned wagtail on daffodil, video


This video shows a yellow-crowned wagtail on a daffodil in the Netherlands.

According to some, yellow-crowned wagtails are a subspecies of the western yellow wagtail. Others consider them a separate species.

They nest in Britain and near the English Channel coast. Less than 80 couples nest in the Netherlands.

Peter van Duijn made this video.

3.3-million-year-old stone tools discovery in Kenya


This video says about itself:

3.3-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools Found in Kenya

30 April 2015

Archaeologists find stone tools used by early human ancestors in Kenya that predate the oldest known tools found in Ethiopia by some 700,000 years.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Stone tool discovery pushes back dawn of culture by 700,000 years

Finding overturns idea that tool-making ability was unique to our own ancestors and is hailed as a “new beginning to the known archaeological record”

Hannah Devlin, science correspondent

Wednesday 20 May 2015 18.00 BST

The oldest known stone tools, dating to long before the emergence of modern humans, have been discovered in Africa.

The roughly-hewn stones, which are around 3.3 million years old, have been hailed by scientists as a “new beginning to the known archaeological record” and push back the dawn of culture by 700,000 years.

The discovery overturns the mainstream view that the ability to make stone tools was unique to our own ancestors and that it was one of a handful of traits that made early humans so special.

The new artefacts, found in Kenya’s Turkana basin, suggest that a variety [of] ancient apes were making similar advances in parallel across the African continent.

“It just rewrites the book on a lot of things that we thought were true,” said Chris Lepre, a geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University, who precisely dated the tools.

The Homo genus, from which modern humans descend, only emerged around 2.5 million years ago, when forests gave way to open grassland environments in Africa. Until now, it was widely assumed that environmental changes around this time triggered the shift towards a bipedal hunter-gatherer life style.

Jason Lewis, of Stony Brook University in New York and a co-author, said: “The idea was that our lineage alone took the cognitive leap of hitting stones together to strike off sharp flakes and that this was the foundation of our evolutionary success. This discovery challenges the idea that the main characters that make us human, such as making stone tools, eating more meat, maybe using language, all evolved at once in a punctuated way, near the origins of the genus Homo.”

The question of what, or whom, might have made the tools remains a mystery, but fossils from around the same period found at the site provide some clues.

The skull of a 3.3-million-year-old hominin, Kenyanthropus platytops [sic; K. platyops] , was found in 1999 about a kilometre from the tool site and a skull fragment and tooth from the same species were found just a few hundred metres away.

Other species from the same era include Australopithecus afarensis, which the famous Lucy fossil belongs to.

Professor Fred Spoor, a palaeontologist at University College London and part of the team that discovered K. platytops [sic; platyops], said the tools were “a very important find”. “Until now the thinking’s been that if you want to be part of this special club ‘Homo’, you need to be a tool-maker,” he said. “The period before three million years ago was seen as a rather boring period of evolution, but now we know there was stuff happening.”

Until now, hominins such as Australopithecus, from the earlier time period have been caricatured as “upright, bipedal chimpanzees that were just grazing the landscape with not much else going on,” he added.

To the untrained eye, the tools look unremarkable – barely distinguishable from ordinary rocks. But to scientists familiar with early humans, the hallmarks of tool-making were obvious. “I could immediately see the scars and features characteristic of a knapped stone,” said Sonia Harmand, of Stony Brook, who made the discovery.

Professor Spoor and others who have examined the collection of tools have been impressed by the quality of the evidence.

“This is a momentous and well-researched discovery,” said paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who was not involved in the study. “I have seen some of these artefacts in the flesh, and I am convinced they were fashioned deliberately.”

The collection of several dozen tools appears to have been made by two different techniques. In one case, a core stone was held on an anvil and hit from above with a hammer stone to chip off sharp flakes, which the scientists believe could have been used to slice meat and plants. Other stones appear to have been held in two hands and struck against the anvil, again producing slices of stone.

Although the end results appear primitive, they demonstrate a degree of mental sophistication that is unexpected for such early hominins. Modern chimpanzees use natural stones as “tools” to crack nuts, for instance, but they stop short of actively fashioning their own tools.

The researchers relied on a layer of volcanic ash below the tools, which matched ash elsewhere that had been dated to 3.3 million years ago, to set a “floor” on the site’s age. The date was then refined by analysing magnetic minerals at the site, which contain a record of the Earth’s periodically switching magnetic field.

The findings are published today in the journal Nature.

See also here.

Curlew freed from fishing line


Removing the fishing line from the curlew, photo by NIOZ

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

Curlew freed from fishing line – 18-05-15

A broken fishing line can create problems for a long time in nature. A curlew experienced that firsthand. The bird got one of its legs caught in such a loose end. The foot of the animal was already fully grown around it, indicating that it had already happened a while ago. Scientists from the NIOZ Royal Dutch Institute for Exploration of the Sea happened to see the curlew during their regular bird research on the uninhabited Wadden Island Griend. They managed to remove the line.

Sandwich tern webcam and research on Texel island


This 29 June 2014 video from Texel island in the Netherlands is providing 100 young Sandwich terns at Utopia nature reserve with colour rings for research.

Translated from Wadden.tv on Texel in the Netherlands, with webcam link there:

Nature reserve Utopia

Since May 2015 there is a webcam in the Utopia area. The webcam is in the middle of the colony of Sandwich terns.

Through this webcam, you can also enjoy these beautiful birds while you are at home. Through this webcam also the behaviour and especially the food supply of these Sandwich terns is monitored. This is done by researchers of Imares.

Besides the Sandwich terns one can also see the common terns, Arctic terns and avocets.

Enjoy watching!

Latest news from the Sandwich tern colony

May 19, 2015: This morning Imares researchers put 10 small bowls in the colony. These bowls are among the many nests and in this way, the researchers hope to catch the droppings of the Sandwich terns. The dung is then collected weekly and analyzed. This way they can deduce from the dung which food remains there are still in it, so what the terns have eaten. Through visual observations (including via the webcam) it is seen that they bring different types of fish. But the terns also eat while on their way, flying, and that often remains invisible. So we know that they catch from the sea swimming worms and eat them, hopefully this is also confirmed by the investigation of the poo.

Migratory birds in Chile, video


This video, in Spanish with English subtitles, says about itself:

Chiloé, The Island of Birds

This short film explains why migratory sea birds arrive to the island of Chiloé, and the different migrations that the birds make. It shows how important wetlands are in giving these birds shelter, as well as exposes their threats. At the same time, we can appreciate how birds have formed part of Chiloé culture, through activities such as the Migratory Birds Festival.

Lorikeets, originally from New Guinea?


This video from Australia says about itself:

Lorikeet Feeding Frenzy

22 November 2012

The feeding of the Rainbow Lorikeets at Bungalow Bay Koala Village which is on the North-east side of Magnetic island, just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland.

From Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 90, September 2015, Pages 34–48:

Molecular phylogenetics suggests a New Guinean origin and frequent episodes of founder-event speciation in the nectarivorous lories and lorikeets (Aves: Psittaciformes)

Highlights

We report the first DNA sequence-based phylogeny of parrots known as lories and lorikeets.

The group is inferred to have originated within the last 10 million years in New Guinea.

Dispersal and founder-event speciation have been important in their diversification.

Dispersal appears to have been primarily ‘downstream’ from New Guinea and Australia.

Some genus level changes to the group’s systematics are recommended.

Abstract

The lories and lorikeets (Aves: Loriinae: Loriini) are a readily recognizable, discrete group of nectarivorous parrots confined to the Indo-Pacific region between Wallace’s Line and the Pitcairn Island group in the central-east Pacific Ocean. We present the first phylogenetic analysis of all currently recognized genera in the group using two mitochondrial and five nuclear loci.

Our analyses suggest a New Guinean origin for the group at about 10 million years ago (95% HPD 4.8–14.8) but this origin must be interpreted within the context of that island’s complicated, recent geological history. That is, the origin and early diversification of the group may have taken place as New Guinea’s Central Cordillera arose and the final constituent terranes that form present-day New Guinea were accreted. The latter activity may have promoted dispersal as a key element in the group’s history.

We have detected several instances of dispersal out of New Guinea that we argue constitute instances of founder-event speciation. Some phenotypically cohesive genera are affirmed as monophyletic but other genera are clearly in need of taxonomic dismantlement and reclassification. We recognize Parvipsitta Mathews, 1916 for two species usually placed in Glossopsitta and we advocate transfer of Chalcopsitta cardinalis into Pseudeos Peters, 1935. Other non-monophyletic genera such as Charmosyna, Psitteuteles and, probably, Trichoglossus, require improved taxon sampling and further phylogenetic analysis before their systematics can be resolved. Cursory examination of trait mapping across the group suggests that many traits are ancestral and of little use in determining genus-level systematics.

Lorikeet and lori family tree, according to new research