Waterbirds in Kazakhstan counted


This video is called Birds of Kazakhstan. Cinclus pallasii (brown dipper).

From BirdLife:

Kazakhstan’s latest winter census sees fewer waterbirds in more wetlands

By Danara Zharbolova, Tue, 09/02/2016 – 11:18

Waterbirds (birds that live in freshwater habitats) cover tens of thousands of kilometres every year during their annual migration to warmer climates. To help determine their population status and trends, every January over 20 million waterbirds are counted in the Western Palearctic region, and up to 10 million in Sub-Saharan Africa by a network of about 15,000 volunteers for the International Waterbird Census.

The census, which began in 1967 in Europe and Asia, turns 50 this year. Coordinated by Wetlands International, today it covers more than 25.000 sites in more than 100 countries, making it one of the largest global monitoring schemes largely based on citizen science. The data it provides helps conservationists advocate for the right international and national policies to conserve waterbird populations and key wetland sites.

Kazakhstan began conducting its winter census in the central, southern and western parts of the country in 2004. Lead by the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK, BirdLife in Kazakhstan), the data of the winter census is used to identify changes in waterbird numbers and for monitoring key ornithological areas. This year, ornithologists surveyed 15 wetlands and counted more than 130.000 wintering birds from 80 species, including the Mallard, the Eurasian Wigeon, the Common Teal, the Ruddy Shelduck and the Greylag Goose.

The distribution of the species seen was unlike the previous years because of a warmer-than-usual winter that even brought out the crocuses. Wetlands in southern Kazakhstan were not frozen, leading to more sites being available for the birds than usual. For example, in the south, waterbirds were found not just at the Chardara reservoir, but also at the Koksaray, Badam reservoirs and Shohkakol lakes, which normally freeze over in the winter. More birds were also seen in the more northern reaches of the Caspian Sea.

“The weather was… mild and without precipitation. [Only] 40-60% of smaller water bodies in the southern region were covered in ice and birds were recorded on almost all of them, even if not in great numbers,” said Valeriy Khrokov, an ACBK board member. Counts are conducted in January because this is when many waterbird species congregate conspicuously at a relatively small number of sites where they can be readily counted.

Despite overall numbers being within the range of the last few years, some species did see a drop in population, owing mostly to the warm winter, according to experts. In the south, the population of the Mallard (56.800) was half that of 2012-2014, and the population of the Greylag Goose (2.530) was lower than four years ago. On Karakol Lake, the number of Mute Swans dropped from 3.500 to 2.000 between January 12 and January 16, which was much lower than the 14.000 recorded here in previous years.

However, there were some bright spots: the numbers of the Ruddy Shelduck doubled to 10.500 and volunteers counted 1.000 Greater Flamingos as well.

This year was also special for another reason: For the first time, students participated in this important task together with ornithologists. Around 30 students surveyed water bodies with 14 qualified recorders and learned to identify species. As a result, ACBK was able to cover the biggest number of wetlands ever, including all the really important sites.

Akai Gurley killed, New York policeman convicted


This video from the USA is called Video Shows Akai Gurley‘s Bloody Clothes in the Dim Hallway He Was Shot In.

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

NYC Cop Convicted Of Manslaughter In Death Of Akai Gurley

Officer Peter Liang fired in a dark housing complex stairwell.

02/11/2016 07:35 pm ET | Updated 14 minutes ago

Matt Ferner, National Reporter, The Huffington Post

New York City police Officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter Thursday in the 2014 shooting death of an unarmed black man in a darkened Brooklyn public housing project stairwell.

Liang’s single gunshot killed Akai Gurley, 28, who was walking down the stairs on Nov. 20, 2014.

NYPD said after the jury’s verdict that Liang had been fired from the department. He faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 14.

Liang said he drew his pistol as he and his partner patrolled the darkened 8th floor stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn. He said he flinched when he was startled by a noise, which he said caused the gun to fire.

The bullet ricocheted off of the stairwell wall and struck Gurley, who was on the seventh floor. Gurley, who was unarmed, died from a wound in his chest.

Liang tearfully recounted the shooting in court, claiming his finger was never on the trigger.

“I was panicking. I was in shock, in disbelief that someone was actually hit,” he told jurors.

Prosecution evidence contradicted the claim and showed pressure had to have been applied to the trigger in order for the weapon to fire. To test this notion, the judge allowed each of the 12 jurors to take turns pulling the trigger of Liang’s handgun. 

Liang and his partner testified they didn’t realize anyone had been shot for several minutes and said they didn’t try to perform CPR on Gurley because they felt untrained.

Gurley’s family was unmoved by the rookie’s tears.

“Peter Liang, my son was no accident,” Sylvia Palmer, the victim’s mother, said Monday. “You murdered my son. I need justice for my son. I need a conviction of Peter Liang.”

Convictions of police officers involved in shootings are exceedingly rare. The last time an NYPD officer was convicted in a shooting death of a civilian was 2005, when Bryan Conroy was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the killing of Ousman Zongo, an unarmed African immigrant. 

Sanctions for the use of lethal force are also rare. A 2014 New York Daily News investigation found that out of the 179 people killed by on-duty police officers during 15 years, just three of those deaths resulted in indictments.

North American nesting birds 2015 report


NestWatch Digest cover

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Dear Friend of NestWatch,

We’re excited to kick off another nesting season with you. To get things started, we’re sharing our brand new annual report, the NestWatch Digest. In it, you’ll find data summaries and highlights from the 2015 nesting season. Click here to read the report.

Thank you for your contributions,

The NestWatch team

Black holes colliding, video


This video says about itself:

11 February 2016

The Sound of Two Black Holes Colliding (Edited Longer Version). By LIGO

In Milestone, Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves As Black Holes Collide: here.

Astronomers from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Collaboration have published the first detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space and time. The announcement comes almost exactly a century after Albert Einstein, in mid-1916, predicted the existence of the waves on the basis of his Theory of General Relativity: here.

Saudi royals killing Pakistani protected birds


This video is about a MacQueen’s bustard mating dance. This bustard species, living in Asia, should be called MacQueen’s bustard rather than, like in the BBC article below here, houbara bustard (which is a related species in Africa)

From the BBC:

Pakistan’s secretive Houbara bustard hunting industry

By M Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Thal desert

11 February 2016

They’re a shy, rare bird breed, the size of a chicken – and hunting them is officially banned in Pakistan. But it is no holds barred when Arab royals begin their Houbara bustard hunting trips.

Arab princes and their wealthy friends like to hunt Houbara bustards both as a sport and because the meat is considered an aphrodisiac.

The birds migrate in the thousands from Central Asia to Pakistan every winter – giving the Pakistani elite a chance to engage in “soft diplomacy”.

Despite the hunting ban, the government issues between 25 and 35 special permits annually to wealthy sheikhs, allowing them to hunt the bird in its winter habitat.

The hunts are secretive, but controversial.

The hunting parties are given a limit of 100 birds in a maximum 10-day period, but often exceed their quota.

In 2014, the leaking of an official report that a Saudi prince had killed more than 2,000 birds in a 21-day hunting safari sparked an outcry.

The government imposed a “temporary moratorium” on hunting, but quietly issued permits for the hunting season later that year.

And in August 2015, after the Supreme Court ordered a blanket ban on hunting Houbara bustards, officials issued “partridge hunting” licences to Arab royals instead. But locals say that is not what they killed on the ground.

Several eyewitnesses told the BBC of bustard-hunting sessions that took place after the ban, in the remote desert town of Nurpur Thal and the village of Mahni, Bhakkar district.