Cuckoo Chris back in England, with news on bird migration

This video from England says about itself:

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 the BBC:

Chris Packham cuckoo reveals migration secrets

A cuckoo wearing a solar-powered satellite-tracked tag is the first to provide UK scientists with migration data for three years running.

Having flown more than 45,000 miles Chris, named after wildlife presenter Chris Packham, revealed overwintering in Angola for the first time.

The four-year-old returned to the Norfolk/Suffolk border on Friday, said the British Trust for Ornithology.

Mr Packham said the data was vital to help understand the cuckoos’ decline.

“We live in an age where technology is allowing us to learn so much more and this is undeniably exciting,” said Mr Packham, “but we also live in an age where species like that cuckoo are in dangerous decline.

“The information that scientists at the BTO have received from Chris’ tag is vital in helping to understand what might be behind these declines.”

First tagged in Santon Downham in 2011, the data has revealed many East Anglian cuckoos are migrating south-west through Britain and across Europe, which was an unknown migration route.

Chris, one of 12 tagged cuckoos, has revealed a “pioneering insight” into cuckoo wintering grounds, migration routes and speed of travel, said experts.

Chris Hewson, lead scientist for the project at the Norfolk-based BTO, said recent analysis had shown the birds were “fattening up for their migration in the region before taking flight”, suggesting their success “depends on the feeding habitats”.

“Improving these habitats could extend their life on the migration route, which in turn could help slow the decline of the species,” he said.

Although the longest-serving cuckoo in the BTO’s tagging programme, Chris was beaten back to the UK by Skinner, named after Norfolk wildlife expert Chris Skinner, who returned to the county on Monday.

Experts predict Chris will spend just six to eight weeks in East Anglia before making the 5,000 mile return flight to Africa.

See also here.

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US religious fundamentalists, Dutch nazis against Nelson Mandela

This video says about itself:

Nelson Mandela first interview 1961

Nelson Mandela‘s first interview in 1961 for ITN … . A young Mandela flushes out his strategy for reclaiming fundamental rights for black South Africans from his hideout before his arrest.

Nelson Mandela died. Billions of people all over the world sincerely mourn and honour this freedom fighter.

However, a minority of the tears now is not so sincere. Like in the case of British Conservatives who used to call Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, and to call for him to be hanged, while he was alive. Or in the case of the Spanish conservative ruling party, which used to prefer dictator Franco to Mandela while Mandela was alive, but who now shed crocodile tears as well.

On the extreme Right side of the political spectrum, some show their anti-Mandela bigotry even now.

The Westboro Baptist Church in the USA is infamous for its homophobia and its anti-Semitism.

Now, they are planning to disrupt the ex-president of South Africa’s funeral with an anti-Mandela protest. They say they thank God for killing Mandela. They claim that is because Nelson Mandela divorced and remarried. Extremely probably, they hate Mandela too for abolishing the anti-LGBTQ laws of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Plus they will hate Mandela for the usual far Right “reasons”, for supposedly being a “communist terrorist” etc.

We, the Baptist Convention of South Africa, as represented by its leadership, have noted with utmost disdain the insensitive, unbaptistic and unchristian statements issued by the Westboro Baptist Church in USA, about out former President, Dr Nelson Mandela: here.

Dutch neo-nazi party Nederlandse Volksunie (NVU) on 6 December 2013 put an article on their Facebook page (no, I will not link to them) by Geert Wilders admirer Joost Niemoller. The article claims that Mandela changed a South Africa where things supposedly went well under the Apartheid regime, to a “hell on earth”.

Constant Kusters, Nederlandse Volksunie fuehrer, proposes in the election platforms of his party for the 2014 Dutch local elections, to remove the name Nelson Mandela from streets, bridges etc. named after the South African freedom fighter in various towns in the Netherlands.

The NVU was founded in 1971, “with as key purpose to rehabilitate convicted WW-II war [nazi] criminals“, as Wikipedia says.

Soon after that, a Dutch football club played a European cup match in a big stadium in Portugal. The dictatorship in Portugal then waged bloody colonial wars in Angola and its other colonies. In Angola, Africans had to work on Portuguese coffee plantations in conditions very akin to slavery. In the Netherlands and other countries, anti-racists and anti-colonialists campaigned for a boycott of coffee from these plantations in Angola.

During the football match, millions of TV spectators saw big signs, saying in Dutch: “Importeer en drink Angola koffie” [Import and drink coffee from Angola]. The Portuguese regime had put these signs around the football pitch; tipped off to do so by their Nederlandse Volksunie sympathizers.

Present NVU fuehrer Constant Kusters was still a non-political toddler when this happened. However, he is continuing his party’s racist policies on southern Africa which date from the NVU’s earliest days.

Al Sharpton Rips Historical US Policy Towards Nelson Mandela: here.

12 Mandela Quotes That Won’t Be In the Corporate Media Obituaries: here.

World leaders continued to heap praise on anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela over the weekend. But it was at grass-roots level that true affection for the revolutionary leader was being expressed: here.

Latin American solidarity activists paid heartfelt tributes to South African liberator Nelson Mandela at the weekend: here.

Fred Phelps dies: here.

Mosasaur fossil discovery in Angola

The fossilized skeleton of a mosasaur with the bones of three other species of mosasaur in its gut. The marine monster likely scavenged upon carcasses brought to the west coast of Africa by trade winds. Credit: Michael Polcyn

From LiveScience:

DENVER — The mosasaur, a fearsome marine reptile that stalked the Cretaceous seas, scavenged its own kin, a new fossil find reveals.

A fossilized mosasaur found in Angola contains the partial remains of three other mosasaurs in its stomach, researchers reported here Tuesday (Oct. 29) at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

“These are three different species of mosasaur inside the belly of a fourth species of mosasaur,” said study researcher Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas. [T-Rex of the Seas: A Mosasaur Gallery]

The find isn’t the first example of mosasaurs digesting mosasaurs, but it illuminates an ancient ecosystem surprisingly similar to ones seen in parts of the ocean today.

A lean, mean, eating machine

Mosasaurs were at the top of the marine food chain from about 98 million years ago to the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago, when they went extinct. As is the case for modern whales, the first mosasaur ancestors were land-dwellers. They looked not unlike today’s monitor lizards, said study researcher Michael Polcyn, also a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University.

“By the time they’re in the water maybe 10 million years, they’ve fully adapted to the marine environment — so a downturned tail with a dorsal fluke and fins — and they were really making their living like a toothed whale,” Polcyn told LiveScience.

In other words, mosasaurs were as fearsome predators as today’s orcas, but with reptilian, fishlike bodies that could grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) in length.

A rich ecosystem

The mosasaur with a belly full of other mosasaurs was found at a site called Bentiaba in southern Angola. The fossils are embedded in sandstone cliffs and badlands along the Atlantic coast. During the Cretaceous, this area was just offshore from Africa.

“The incredible richness of the site continues to amaze us,” Polcyn said. “Each year we return, there is another significant discovery.”

The researchers first discovered the hungry, hungry mosasaur, a species called (Prognathodon kianda), in 2006, but weren’t able to excavate it until 2010. That’s when they realized the fossil record also recorded the mosasaur’s last meal.

The mosasaurs inside the belly are clearly digested, with their tooth enamel eaten away by stomach acid. One is small and eaten whole, but the other two are incomplete, mostly represented by skulls and vertebrae — “not the most nutritious and tasty stuff that you would eat,” Jacobs said. The evidence points to the large mosasaur as a scavenger, snacking on the corpses of dead mosasaurs brought to the area by the currents.

Mosasaur jaw and teeth. What big teeth you have! The jaw of the mosasaur Prognathodon kianda. Credit: Michael Polcyn

The mosasaurs are only part of the story. Paleontologists digging at the site have already uncovered seven mosasaur species, two plesiosaurs, nine sharks and rays, four kinds of turtles and many fish. Virtually all the bones show evidence of scavenging by sharks.

The ecosystem likely owed its richness to the trade winds, prevailing winds that blow between 15 degrees and 30 degrees North and South latitude. At the time, this stretch of coast fell squarely under the influence of these winds, Polcyn said. The winds drive ocean currents that cause upwelling, the circulation of nutrient-rich bottom waters up to the ocean’s surface. Such upwelling zones have robust food chains, starting from plankton and ending with large predators. The currents also would have pushed floating carcasses toward shore, Polcyn said.

Rich upwelling zones are common in the oceans today, including a spot off of Monterey, Calif., known for its sea otters and other fauna; a stretch of sea off the Atacama Desert in western South America; and the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem off the coast of Namibia.

The Benguela ecosystem is fueled by the same atmospheric processes that drove the mid-Cretaceous hotspot of life, Polcyn said. The continent of Africa has moved and rotated just slightly over the intervening millions of years, shifting the relative location of the upwelling.

The mosasaur specimen with a full belly is still being prepared by fossil technicians. Researchers have also uncovered other ancient beasts with creatures in their gut at the site, Polcyn said, and they plan to analyze those finds further.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Zambian lioness Lady Liuwa update

This video from Zambia says about itself:

The Last Lioness (Full Documentary) HD

Dec 11, 2011

A haunting call echoes across the Liuwa Plain. There is no answer, there hasn’t been for years. She has no pride, no support – she alone must safeguard her own survival. Her name is Lady Liuwa, and she is the Last Lioness. Isolated by a scourge of illegal trophy hunting that wiped out the rest of her species in the region, Lady Liuwa is the only known resident lion surviving on Zambia’s Liuwa Plain. For four years, cameraman Herbert Brauer watched her lonely life unfold, until, in her solitude, she reached out to him for companionship.

All rights belong to The National Geographic Society.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lady Liuwa update – Surviving lions have formed a small pride

Male and young lioness mating regularly

January 2013. After the younger of the 2 new lionesses was killed in a snare in June 2012, the second new lioness left the park and headed towards Angola. She was captured just before she crossed the border, and a decision was taken to put Lady Liuwa and the young lioness in a holding boma for several weeks. The decision proved to have been a wise one, and the two lionesses were released in October having bonded together well.

The lioness bonded well, and Lady was quick to establish her dominance over the young lioness (who in turn has shown appropriate submission) but has been tolerant, allowing the youngster to share wildebeest carcasses with her. Apart from a few growls at meal times, there has thankfully been no real aggression.

Wandering males leads to a lion death

On an unfortunate note, the two males (introduced into Liuwa in 2009) wandered north-west out of the park, with satellite tracking of the one collared male showing that he strayed 40 kilometres into Angola before doing a U-turn and hurrying back to the park. The second male did not return to the park and subsequent reports from local communities indicated that he had been killed in Angola after straying close to a village. The coalition of these two magnificent males was a stirring sight on the Liuwa plain and the loss is tragic.


Happier news ensued as the remaining male teamed up with Lady Liuwa and the young lioness, and the three have been co-existing as a unit ever since. The male and young lioness have been seen mating in November and there are hopes for cubs in 2013.

Liuwa National Park is managed by African Parks. African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. African Parks currently manages seven parks in six African countries – Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Zambia. The total area under management covers 4.1 million hectares, an area as large as The Netherlands.

New Angolan forest discovery

This video is about African wildlife.

From BirdLife:

Forest discovery improves prospects for Angola’s endemics

Fri, July 6, 2012

A large tract of near-pristine Afromontane forest has been found in Angola’s Namba Mountains, tripling the amount of this habitat that was thought to survive in Angola. The site meets the criteria for a new Important Bird Area (IBA), holding one globally threatened species, and assemblages of restricted range and biome-restricted bird species.

Afromontane forest is the most localised and threatened habitat type in Angola. By the early 1970s, only 200 ha was estimated to remain, mainly at the Mount Moco IBA (85 ha), and perhaps in the Namba Mountains, where most forest was thought to be degraded by logging.

Mount Moco and the Namba Mountains lie within the Western Angola Endemic Bird Area, which includes four restricted-range species associated with Afromontane vegetation. Two Afromontane endemics of global conservation concern, Endangered Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai and Near Threatened Angola Cave-chat Xenocopsychus ansorgei, are found at Mount Moco, but the francolin is now uncommon there. The Data Deficient endemic Grimwood’s Longclaw Macronyx grimwoodi is also found at Moco. Several other Afromontane specialists have been found only there or at one or two other sites in Angola, and face a serious threat of extirpation from the country.

Angola’s Afromontane forest and thicket holds 20 species, subspecies or populations of conservation significance, isolated and distinct from other Afromontane “centres of endemism”, the nearest of which is over 2000 km away.

New bird species discovered in Angola?

White-collared oliveback, photo by Jonas Rosquist © all rights reserved

From Wildlife Extra:

Possible new species of bird discovered in Angola

Olivebacks in Angola?

October 2011. Rockjumper Birding Tours take serious birders to most corners of the world, and often to places that few other birders go – So occasionally they make some very interesting observations. Rockjumper clients recently made what may be a very important discovery of a new population of Heteromirafra larks in Ethiopia. And now in Angola they have found what may be a new species altogether.

During Rockjumper’s recent tour to Angola, their group was birding the Northern Scarp Forests near Uige when tour leader Markus Lilje observed a group of three Olivebacks (Small, colourful finches in the waxbill family, genus Nesocharis) on the forest edge. No records of olivebacks exits for Angola, so this of course led to much …excitement!

They initially perched on dry leafless twigs affording excellent views and then flew to a more concealed site, but here allowed prolonged views. Markus was able to take a few photos (admittedly not great, but certainly better than none!).

These birds most closely resemble White-collared Oliveback N. ansorgei but differ in having a more slender body shape, longer tail and a white collar running on the back of the neck unlike the white collar on the throat of White-collared Oliveback. Furthermore, White-collared Oliveback is a highly localized bird endemic to the Albertine Rift, a great distance from Angola.

This exciting discovery may well prove to be a new species to science but this can only be verified by further research and observation.

Angola: Sable Antelope Conservation Needs U.S.$. Six Million: here.