Arctic seabirds and global warming, new research

This August 2018 video is about a long-tailed jaeger.

From the University of Barcelona in Spain:

Early breeding season for some Arctic seabirds due to global warming

October 7, 2019

The breeding season of some seabirds in Arctic regions takes place earlier as a result of the temperature rise caused by climate change, according to a science article with Francisco Ramírez, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona -as one of the main authors.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, surface-feeding seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are moving their breeding season to an earlier timing than the rest of species -about ten days before for over the last thirty-five years- due the ocean’s temperature rise and ice melting, which are signs of Spring onset in the Arctic.

The first author of this study -which is focused on the analysis of twenty-nine seabird species from thirty-six different locations- is Sébastien Descamps, from the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø (Norway). Other researchers from several institutions and research centers in Norway, Spain, Canada, France and the United States have taken part in the study.

When Spring arrives earlier

The Arctic is one of the most sensitive areas to the global warming effects. Ice melting and the continuous rise of temperatures -higher than the average worldwide- are dramatically altering the structure of the Arctic ecosystems.

“Polar systems are among the most threatened in the world. This is causing substantial changes in environmental conditions which condition the survival of the organisms that live in extreme latitudes. Birds, and specially seabirds, represent one of the most threatened taxonomic groups due the effects of global warming and the human activity impact (fishing, etc.)”, notes Francisco Ramírez, member of the Department of Animal Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

In Arctic regions, the time period with optimal conditions for the reproduction of seabirds is quite limited. The new study focuses on the analysis of the phenological response of seabirds, and in particular, the link between climate factors and the reproductive cycle of these birds in extreme latitudes.

A limited amount of time to successfully reproduce

“Arctic seabirds only reproduce during a particular time in Spring, when light and temperature conditions, as well as food availability, are optimal. However, this temporary window with optimal conditions does not last long, and if these animals are not able to adapt, they can fail when trying to reproduce,” comments Francisco Ramírez, the only researcher in Spain to take part in this international study.

Global warming is causing alterations in the breeding season of these seabirds. These try to move their breeding season earlier to adapt -more or less successfully- to this early spring environmental changes. Also, populations of seabirds do not show homogenous patterns when this phenomenon is studied. These seabirds in the north of the Pacific Ocean are the ones to have shown the highest change regarding time in their breeding season, authors note.

Ecology and feeding strategies of each species could also influence in the response of seabirds to this climate challenge. Seabirds that move their breeding the earliest get their food in shallow waters. These are, for instance, the long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus), red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris), the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), the glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus), the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), the Leach’s petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), and the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis).

Changes in the breeding season seem less in species that dive to catch preys, such as the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), the rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), the horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata), and the crested auklet (Aethia cristatella).

Surviving the climate crisis

Global warming caused by human activity is affecting organisms in many ways, although many of them are still unknown. However, not all evidence points out to the same direction. Sometimes we find results or evidence that could be contradictory.

“This can only mean there is still a lot to find out about how species respond to the environmental changes that are occurring and the consequences of these responses. Therefore, we have to take these changes, which are taking place in natural ecosystems in general and the arctic ones specifically, very seriously,” notes Francisco Ramírez.

In this context of change, not all living beings can respond in a similar way to the environmental changes caused by global warming. Some species move to higher latitudes or altitudes as the temperature rises, and others change their diet responding to the changes in food availability. There are even some species that have not shown a response, but all these behaviours can influence in the population dynamics of each species and the whole natural ecosystem.

Some of the analysed species in the study -such as red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris), the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), and the Leach’s petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) -are listed as vulnerable species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. “Regarding the Arctic birds, the changes we observe can have severe consequences in populations, especially if we think about the species with less abilities to adapt the environmental changes due global warming,” warns Ramírez.

Long-term study values in ecology

The study is based on the analysis of record and studies on the control of species in the natural environment carried out over the last thirty-five years. The long-term studies and availability of history data -environmental and biological data- are essential to assess the animals’ response to the environmental changes. “We can only infer the consequences of climate change by having a deep knowledge of these responses, and we have to act consequently if we want to preserve biodiversity,” notes Ramírez.

“However, our research system is strictly focused on short-term studies and penalizes those research projects that need data gathering for long periods of time. Therefore, databases such as the ones we used in this international study are only a few, and thus they are of great scientific value,” concludes the researcher.

It is common knowledge that glaciers are melting in most areas across the globe. The speed at which tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes are retreating is particularly alarming, however. In the first detailed investigation of all Peruvian mountain ranges, a research team has ascertained a drastic reduction of almost 30 percent in the area covered by glaciers between 2000 and 2016: here.

Another casualty of climate change will likely be shoreline recreational fishing, according to new research. The study finds some regions of the U.S. may benefit from increasing temperatures, but those benefits will be more than offset by declines in fishing elsewhere: here.

Pressure may be key to fighting climate change with thermoelectric generators: here.

Polluting emissions from Chinese thermal power plants declined significantly between 2014 and 2017, according to research involving UCL. The reductions are important in helping to control China’s national emissions which could lead to an improvement in air quality and considerable health benefits. A team of experts from the UK and China analysed emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and biomass power plants, with a focus on coal-fired power plants as the major contributors to ambient air pollution. The study, published today in Nature Energy, analysed data from 2014, when China introduced the ambitious Ultra-Low Emissions (ULE) Standards Policy for renovating coal-fired power stations to limit air pollutant emissions, to 2017: here.

Pectoral sandpipers on video

This video is about pectoral sandpipers.

They nest in Arctic Siberia and Arctic North America.

In Spitsbergen, I saw a male doing mating season behaviour. However, there was no female pectoral sandpiper present.

Arctic Ice Age hyenas discovery

This 17 January 2019 video says about itself:

Chasmaporthetes, also known as hunting or running hyena, is an extinct genus of hyenas distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Africa. It lived during the Pliocene-Pleistocene epochs, from 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago, existing for about 4.12 million years.

The genus probably arose from Eurasian Miocene hyenas such as Thalassictis or Lycyaena, with C. borissiaki being the oldest known representative. It was a fast runner and an important carnivore on 4 continents during the Pliocene.

At least nine species are currently recognised. The genus type species is Chasmaporthetes ossifragus. It was assigned to Hyaenidae by Hay (1921), Geraads (1997), and Flynn (1998).

The species C. ossifragus was the only hyena to cross the Bering land bridge into the Americas. C. ossifragus ranged over what is now Arizona and Mexico during Blancan and early Irvingtonian Land Mammal ages, between 5.0 and 1.5 million years ago.

Chasmaporthetes was one of the so-called “dog-like” hyenas (of which the aardwolf is the only survivor), a hyaenid group which, in contrast to the now more common “bone-crushing” hyenas, evolved into slender-limbed, cursorial hunters like modern canids.

The genus has entered the popular culture lexicon as a result of cryptozoologic claims, having been proposed as the likely origin of the American Shunka Warakin and the Cuitlamiztli.

Chasmaporthetes was named by Hay (1921), who noted the name to be a reference to the possibility that the beginning of the Grand Canyon was witnessed by the North American species, C. ossifragus.

The limb bones of Chasmaporthetes were long and slender like those of cheetahs, and its cheek teeth were slender and sharp-edged like those of a cat. Chasmaporthetes likely inhabited open ground and was a daytime hunter.

In Europe, the species C. lunensis competed with the giant cheetah Acinonyx pardinensis, and may have preyed on the small bourbon gazelle (Gazella borbonica) and the chamois antelope (Procamptoceras brivatense).

The North American C. ossifragus was similar in build to C. lunensis, but had slightly more robust jaws and teeth. It may have preyed on the giant marmot Paenemarmota, and competed with the far more numerous Borophagus diversidens.

A study on the genus’ premolar intercuspid notches indicated Chasmaporthetes was likely hypercarnivorous rather than durophagous as its modern cousins (excluding the aardwolf) are.

Like most of the animals of the time, reasons for its extinction are not known.

By Nicoletta Lanese, 6:00am, June 18, 2019:

Hyenas roamed the Arctic during the last ice age

Newly identified fossils confirm how the carnivores migrated to North America, researchers say

Modern hyenas stalk the savannas of Asia and Africa, but the animals’ ancient relatives may have had snowier stomping grounds: the Arctic. Two fossilized teeth, collected in Canada in the 1970s, confirm a long-held hunch that ancient hyenas ventured into North America via the Bering land bridge, scientists say.

The teeth belonged to members of the extinct genus Chasmaporthetes, also known as the “running hyena” for their unusually long legs, researchers report June 18 in Open Quaternary. Like wolves, the creatures could sprint over long distances. That ability that may have enabled the hyenas to make the long trek to America from Asia. Running hyena remains crop up across the southern United States and central Mexico. But before the Arctic discovery, a more than 10,000-kilometer gap lay between them and their closest relatives in Mongolia.

“This new Arctic find puts a dot right in the middle of that”, says paleontologist Jack Tseng of the University at Buffalo in New York. “It actually confirms previous hypotheses about how hyenas got to the New World.”

The teeth date to between 850,000 and 1.4 million years ago, Tseng says, placing the hyenas in the Arctic during the Pleistocene Ice Age, which began roughly 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. The large carnivores may have hunted ancient caribou, horses, camels and the occasional juvenile mammoth (SN: 4/6/13, p. 9).

Paleontologists originally dug up the teeth in the Old Crow Basin in the Yukon at a site nicknamed the “supermarket of fossils”. There, rushing water dislodges fossils from their soil beds and drops them along bends in the river. The spoils can be reached only by boat or helicopter, but it’s worth the effort — over 50,000 known mammal fossils have been collected in the basin to date.

For decades, the hyena teeth lay buried among fossil specimens in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. Few field notes referenced the finds, and an unpublished manuscript by archaeologist Brenda Beebe provided the only photographs. Tseng and his colleagues finally tracked the fossils down; they were a mere six-hour drive from his home base in Buffalo.

“Hyena are one of the groups with a really patchy fossil record in North America. This finding adds to our knowledge of how the species came over,” says paleontologist Julie Meachen of Des Moines University in Iowa, who was not involved in the study. The finding opens the door for further research on the migration of carnivores across the Bering land bridge (SN: 1/31/09, p. 5), Meachen says, and may help clarify which species competed for the same kills during the Pleistocene.

See also here.

Red-necked phalarope migration, new research

This 22 June 2018 video is called Wildlife photography – Getting close to the bird Red-necked phalarope.

From the University of Barcelona:

Red-neck phalarope: A migratory divide towards the Pacific Ocean and Arabian Sea

An exceptional strategy when winter comes

April 26, 2019

When winter comes, populations of red-neck phalarope from the Western Palearctic migrate to two different destinations -the Pacific Ocean or the Arabian Sea- following an exceptional migratory divide strategy which has never been described in this geographical area.

A part of these bird populations -which breed in Greenland, Island [ivceland] and the British Islands- cross more than 10,000 kilometres to reach the Pacific Ocean, while populations in Scandinavia and Russia go to the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean, more than 6,000 kilometres away from their breeding areas.

This migratory behaviour is now described for the first time in an article published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution -in which the researchers Raül Ramos and Jacob González-Solís, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio) take part.

An uncommon wintering species in the peninsula

The red-neck phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) is a migratory bird from the family of phalaropes that live in the tundra and high polar latitudes during their reproduction season. These small shore birds spend a part of their annual cycle -mainly the wintering period- at open sea, and therefore they are regarded as pelagic birds. During the migratory routes after breeding season -from August to September- this species can be occasionally seen in peninsular areas such as the Ebro Delta or the Atlantic and the Cantabrian coasts.

In the new study, led by the expert Rob S. A. van Bemmelen, from the Wageningen University (the Netherlands), the UB-IRBio team has collaborated placing geolocators -devices to monitor long distance migrations- in different breeding sites, the modelling of the habitat of different populations and the study of the ecology of the marine birds. The results show the existence of a migratory divide with two defined populations -but relatively close- in the geography of the Western Palearctic.

“In particular, populations of the North Atlantic and the Fennoscandia spend the winter in two geographical areas far from each other and under differentiated environmental conductions (climate, natural resources, etc.) determined by the wintering area,” notes Raül Ramos, Ramón y Cajal researcher from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB and IRBio.

“Red-neck phalarope populations of the North Atlantic stop along the way when migrating to the Pacific Ocean -covering almost the double of the distance- and migrate at a higher speed than the populations of Fennoscandia,” he continues. “They also have longer wings, a morphological feature that could be explained with the differences in the migratory pattern between both migratory bird populations.”

A migratory divide without geographical barriers

There are many cases of migratory divide in the European continent which are related to geographical barriers (for example, the Mediterranean). This is the case, for instance, of several species of sub-Saharan migratory birds with a dual migratory pattern: the models of populations that breed in the center and western areas of Europe migrate through the Strait of Gibraltar and the ones from Eastern Europe do so through the Arabian Peninsula.

However, regarding the red-neck phalarope, the migratory divide can occur without clear geographical barriers but as a reflex of the species’ biogeographical history. “The migratory route of the population of the North Atlantic towards the Pacific could be an evolutionary legacy of an ancestral population with its origins in North America. Therefore, the distribution range of this original nucleus would have spread to the east -to the British Islands- in a process that kept the primary migratory route of populations towards wintering areas of the Pacific Ocean,” notes Professor Jacob González-Solís, from the mentioned Department and IRBio.

Challenge: identifying global migratory patterns in the planet

Nowadays, the red-neck phalarope has a population between three and four million and the species shows a decreasing demographic trend in most of the breeding populations. It is catalogued as a least-concern species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is mainly affected due industrial pollution -in particular, agricultural pesticides- and oil spills that affect the Arctic breeding regions. Also, the decline of farming activity in breeding areas makes plants to grow uncontrolledly, therefore invading lakes where red-neck phalarope use to nest.

In this context, the new study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution shows the importance of international scientific collaborations “and the metapopulational studies to identify global migratory patterns to find a specific species to avoid the risk of falling into local specificities that do not allow generalizing a migratory behaviour,” says Raül Ramos.

Arctic terns, their overland migration

This 8 October 2018 video says about itself:

The Arctic Tern, the longest known migration known in the animal kingdom.

It was long believed that Arctic terns flew about 22,000 miles (35,200 km) on their journey from the Arctic region to Antarctica and back. Recent studies, however, revealed that the birds actually fly much farther.

Tiny instruments called geolocators were attached to a number of birds. About the weight of a paper clip, these amazing devices revealed that some terns flew an average of 56,000 miles (90,000 km) on the round-trip—the longest animal migration known. One bird flew nearly 60,000 miles (96,000 km)!

Why the revised estimates? No matter where they began their migration, the Arctic terns flew an indirect route. As shown in the illustration, a common Atlantic Ocean route took an S shape. The reason? The birds simply take advantage of prevailing wind systems. During their lifetime of about 30 years, terns may travel well over 1.5 million miles (2.4 million km). That is equal to three or four round-trips to the moon!

“This is a mind-boggling achievement for a bird of just over 100 grams [3.5 ounces]”, said a researcher. What is more, because Arctic terns experience the summers at both poles, they see “more daylight each year than any other creature”, states the book Life on Earth: A Natural History.

From Newcastle University in England:

Overland migration of Arctic Terns revealed

March 25, 2019

Data from a landmark study of the world’s longest migrating seabird reveals how overland migration is an integral part of their amazing journey.

Analysing the data from electronic tags retrieved from 47 Arctic Terns, the Newcastle University-led team has been able to characterise in unprecedented detail the route and stop-off points during this record-breaking bird’s 90,000 km annual migration.

This includes:

  • An 8,000km, 24-day, non-stop flight over the Indian Ocean, feeding on the move
  • An overland detour from the Farne Irelands to the Irish Sea and over Ireland to the Atlantic
  • A short stay on the New Zealand coast before completing the final leg of their journey
  • A stop-off at Llangorse Lake, in the Brecon Beacons National Park, during their return journey in the spring

Led by scientists at Newcastle University, UK, in collaboration with BBC’s Springwatch and The National Trust, 53 adult birds nesting on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast were fitted with geolocators over a three year period.

Weighing just over 100 g the Arctic Tern has the longest migration of any bird, travelling all the way to Antarctica for the winter and back to the Farnes, which are owned and managed by the National Trust, to breed in the spring.

So far, 47 tags have been retrieved and the research team, led by Dr Chris Redfern of Newcastle University, are starting to analyse the data.

“Technology is revealing details of the movement and behaviour of these amazing birds in unprecedented detail”, says Dr Redfern, whose initial findings in collaboration with Dr Richard Bevan are published today in the academic journal Ibis.

Arctic Terns feed on surface fish and other marine animals so it has always been assumed they would migrate via a coastal route, down the North Sea and through the English Channel.

“But instead our data has shown their regular route is to travel overland across the UK to the Irish Sea and some are going even further crossing Ireland to the North Atlantic.”

After that, it’s a long hard trek south, down the coast of West Africa and then out across the Indian Ocean.

“Our data suggests their flight over the Indian Ocean is an 8,000 km long haul without a break, probably feeding on the move,” says Dr Redfern. “For a bird that weighs less than an iPhone, that’s an amazing feat.

“Many of the terns have gone even further, ending up around New Zealand before turning south towards the East Antarctic, finally arriving four months after leaving Northumberland.

“The scale of their migratory journey across featureless oceans is breath-taking! In that context, the UK land mass between the Irish Sea and the Farne Islands must be no obstacle at all to an Arctic Tern and the quickest route to their breeding colony.”

The data also highlights key stop-off points off the coast of Lancashire and Wales in April and May as the terns make their way back to the Farne Islands to breed. Dr Redfern, who carried out the study with Dr Richard Bevan and the Natural History Society of Northumbria, said the detailed picture of Arctic Tern migration patterns would help with future conservation efforts.

“Understanding their behaviour in detail means we can start to build a picture of which areas are important feeding and breeding grounds.”

Longest flight ever recorded

More than two thousand pairs of Arctic Terns breed on the Farne Islands. Sitting two miles off the coast of Northumberland, the islands are home to 87,000 pairs of seabird, including Puffin, Eider Duck and Shag. The National Trust has cared for the Farne Islands since 1925.

Previous studies have shown these birds are likely to return each year to the same few square metres of ground, making it an ideal environment to carry out year-to-year tracking studies with geolocators.

Earlier data from the study, featured on BBC Springwatch in 2016, showed that one bird had flown an estimated 96,000km (almost 60,000 miles) from its breeding grounds on the Farne Islands to its winter quarters in Antarctica.

  • The bird started its migration on 25/7/2015 reaching the tip of South Africa by 25/8/2015
  • It then moved into the Indian Ocean where it spent nearly all of October (7/10/2015-31/10/2015; 1st staging area — 35.4 S, 71.9 E)
  • After this it moved to its second staging area (60.6 S, 70.1 E) on the coast of Antarctica (3/11/2015 — 15/11/2015)
  • It then slowly made its way along the edge of the Antarctic continent until eventually ending up in the Weddell Sea (3/2/2016) where it stayed until 23/3/2016 (3rd staging area — 69.6 S, 25.3 W)
  • Finally, it moved up to the tip of South Africa (4/4/2016) and made its way along the west coast of Africa and arrived in the Farne Islands’ area 4/5/2015

Over its lifetime the record-breaking tern could be flying as far as 3 million km between the Farne Islands and Antarctica, the equivalent of nearly four trips to the moon and back.

Rudolph the red list reindeer

This 2017 video is called Reindeer – A Day in the Life – Stories for Kids.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Rudolf the red list reindeer

PETER FROST says, whatever President Trump might say, climate change has reduced Arctic reindeer herds by more than half

JUST as I was getting ready to celebrate my atheist Christmas I heard some awful news.

Climate change over the last 20 years has more than halved the world population of wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

Exactly the same species is known as caribou in North America, but they are doing just as badly, says a new scientific report.

Numbers of reindeer have fallen from almost five million to around 2.1 million and the shrinking in numbers continues at a frightening pace.

President Donald Trump will no doubt cry “fake news”, but he’ll be hopping mad when he learns the body that did the research and issued the new report is based in Washington, just a few minutes sleigh ride from the White House.

The new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic was released at the American Geophysical Research Union (AGU) meeting this month.

The AGU is a not-for-profit organisation bringing together over 62,000 geophysicists from 144 countries.

AGU activities are focused on the organisation and dissemination of scientific information in the international field of geophysics — that is, atmospheric and ocean science, solid-earth science, hydrologic sciences and space science.

This latest AGU report reveals that weather patterns and vegetation changes are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for reindeer.

Some herds have shrunk by more than 90 per cent — “such drastic declines that recovery isn’t in sight,” says the Arctic Report Card that forms a key part of the new report. The report has discovered multiple reasons why a warmer Arctic is worse for reindeer.

Professor Howard Epstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Virginia, who was one of the many scientists involved in the research behind the Arctic Report Card, told the world media that warming in the region showed no signs of abating.

“We see increased drought in some areas due to climate warming and the warming itself leads to a change of vegetation. The lichen that the caribou like to eat grows at the ground level. Warming means other, taller vegetation is growing and the lichen are being out-competed.”

Another major factor is the number of insects. “Warmer climates just mean more bugs in the Arctic,” said Prof Epstein. “It’s said that a nice day for people is a lousy day for caribou.

“If it’s warm and not very windy, the insects are oppressive and the reindeer spend so much energy either getting the bugs off of them or finding places where they can hide from insects.”

Increased rainfall in the Arctic, often falling on snowy ground, leads to hard, frozen icy layers covering the grazing tundra. Reindeer simply cannot push their noses through the ice sheet to reach their food.

Real scientists — not the oil industry apologists that Trump wheels out on occasions — say the growing evidence suggests warming in the Arctic will continue.

“In all the years of publishing the report card, we see the persistence of the warming continuing to mount,” said Emily Osborne, Arctic research programme manager for the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), “and this is contributing to extreme weather events elsewhere in the world.”

Some other key points from the report included:

Plastic pollution. Tiny microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic just as it is in all oceans, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

Air temperature. For the past five years (2014-18) temperatures have exceeded all previous records since 1900.

Sea ice thinning. In 2018, Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past.

Toxic blooms. Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are coinciding with an expansion of harmful algal blooms in the ocean, which threaten food sources.

AGU scientists have also discovered that east Antarctica’s glaciers have begun to wake up in response to warming — clear evidence of unprecedented climate-driven change at both of our planet’s poles.

Meanwhile Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lives on as part of our Christmas celebrations. How long will it be before reindeer are only a ancient memory on Christmas cards?

Rudolph was invented as part of a sales campaign by US department store chain Montgomery Ward. A US adman created him in 1939. Santa’s red coat was also invented by another US adman to promote Coca-Cola in December 1931.

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen are Santa’s other reindeer and they first appeared in
the 1823 poem A Visit from St Nicholas. Rudolf didn’t feature in this poem.

The story of a bearded old man flying around the world delivering gifts is strange, but not as strange as the real origins of flying reindeer which are pictured on northern standing stones, some thousands of years old.

Ancient shamans knew the hallucinogenic properties of fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) to give wonderful dreams and visions and sometimes the impression that you could fly.

Sadly the mushroom was very poisonous, so in order to get the wonderful effects they fed the bright red and white spotted fungus to their reindeer and then drank their urine to enjoy the hallucinogenic properties.

In primitive tribes the time of the winter solstice was the time you would know if your food and fuel stocks would last to the spring. If the stock were sufficient the tribe could celebrate and so many festivals came into being.

So however you mark the winter solstice, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, Alban Arthan, Dong Zhi, Korochun, St Julia’s Day, Yuletide or any of the dozens of other ways people celebrate this time of the year all around the globe, enjoy it.

Join with me, pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, be it mulled wine, reindeer pee or anything else and have a seasonal drink. Merry Christmas!

Birdwatching in the Arctic, video

This 9 November 2018 video from Alaska says about itself:

Young Birders Event: Expedition Arctic – Andy

A mission to film the rare McKay’s Bunting dropped former Young Birder, Andy Johnson, on St. Matthew island in the Arctic. He was left there for a month and now, for the first time, tells the story of the incredible diversity of bird life he found there.

Climate change may have made the Arctic deadlier for baby shorebirds: here.