Young California condor’s first short flight

This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Hutton’s Bowl Condor Chick Makes Jump-Flight While Exploring Canyon – Sept. 24, 2018

California Condor chick #923 is growing up in front of our eyes. Over the last few weeks, the cross-canyon cam has captured the young condor exploring the farther reaches of the cliff side near the Hutton’s Bowl nest. As the chick continues to progress towards fledging, we’ll see it perform increasing amounts of wing exercise that sometimes lofts it into the air for short distances, like this jumping flight across a cliff side gap this morning. These short burst of wing activity will aid the chick as it navigates the canyon side near the nest, but they are not considered a fledge event.

Condor experts have defined fledging as the first flight that takes a nestling beyond a walking commute to the nest entrance and necessitates an aerial return to the nest entrance.

The California Condor cam is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This view of the Hutton’s Bowl California Condor Nest is a new view set up from across the canyon, giving a view of the nesting area as well as the surrounding cliff faces that the chick #923 has been traversing. If the chick’s not visible on this cam, be sure to check on the nest cam itself, here.


Californian plants, animals and drought

This 2005 video from the USA is called California’s Gold with Huell Howser- Carrizo Plain.

From the University of Washington in the USA:

California plain shows surprising winners and losers from prolonged drought

August 20, 2018

Summary: A long-term study has tracked how hundreds of species in the Carrizo Plain National Monument fared during the historic drought that struck California from 2012 to 2015.

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is a little-known ecological hotspot in Southern California. Though small, it explodes in wildflowers each spring and is full of threatened or endangered species.

A long-term study led by the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley tracked how hundreds of species in this valley fared during the historic drought that struck California from 2012 to 2015. It shows surprising winners and losers, uncovering patterns that may be relevant for climate change.

The findings are published Aug. 20 in Nature Climate Change.

“The Carrizo Plain is one of the global hotspots of endangered species, with endangered species at every trophic level: plants, rodents, carnivores”, said lead author Laura Prugh, a UW assistant professor of quantitative wildlife sciences, part of the UW School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences. “It also is an ideal laboratory to see how an exceptional climate event affects a whole ecosystem.”

By studying this natural laboratory for many years, researchers found that drought actually helped ecological underdogs by stressing the dominant species. Similar patterns are likely to hold up for other ecosystems, Prugh said.

“We think that even though these extreme climate events, in the short term, can be pretty devastating for some populations, in the long run they might be important in maintaining biodiversity in the system, by keeping inferior competitors from getting pushed out of the system entirely”, she said.

The results also showed surprising losers: carnivores, ranging from foxes to barn owls. These suffered when their favorite prey species became scarce in year three of the drought.

“A lot of times when people think about drought what they’re really concerned about is plants, and there isn’t as much focus on animal populations”, Prugh said. “Our results show that when these extended droughts occur, we really want to pay attention to animals at the top of the food chain, because they’re likely to be hit pretty hard.”

Prugh began the project in 2007 as a postdoctoral researcher with co-author Justin Brashares, at the University of California, Berkeley, to study the giant kangaroo rat and other endangered species that are abundant in the Carrizo Plain. She sought to understand the relationship between different species to see how protecting one might affect the others.

Then in 2012, the drought began — a prolonged dry spell that studies show may be the worst that California has experienced in 1,200 years.

“We saw our sites turn from these areas that were just beautiful and filled with wildflowers in the spring to what really looked like the surface of the moon”, Prugh said. “We realized that we were in a unique position to look at how this historic climate event affected an entire community.”

Field crews collected data on 423 species spanning plants, birds, reptiles, mammals and insects. Their field season went from late March through late August from 2007 onward, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The laborious endeavor took many forms. Researchers cordoned off random plots of land and counted plants inside each square. They dug holes and put pitfall traps to catch insects, and identified everything that fell inside over a two-week period. They set live traps to catch rodents and other small animals during the day, and different traps to catch nocturnal rodents. The volunteer-run Carrizo Plain Christmas Bird Count provided the best numbers for birds. While driving around at night, researchers shone flashlights to look for reflections off the eyes of nocturnal animals. Observers counted the numbers of pronghorn antelope and tule elk from small airplanes.

Over the years, the fate of hundreds of species show how the prolonged drought affected the ecosystem:

  • Plants suffered immediately from the drought, and the impacts grew gradually more severe every year
  • Giant kangaroo rats remained plentiful during the first and second year of the drought, but in the third year their numbers plummeted 11-fold
  • As populations of dominant species collapsed, plant and animals that had been rare became less so, including several other species of kangaroo rats
  • Some 4 percent of 423 species were named “winners” because their overall numbers actually increased during the drought
  • Toward the end of the drought, carnivores, such as coyotes, badgers and hawks, were the hardest hit, likely because their giant kangaroo rat prey had grown scarce

“If we’d given up earlier or narrowed our efforts, we would have missed this rare and powerful opportunity to quantify how an ecological community is impacted by a major environmental shock”, Brashares said. “Such shocks are intensifying on our rapidly changing planet, and we can’t predict and manage their effects if we don’t have studies in place to monitor them.”

Since the drought ended in 2015, the Carrizo Plain ecosystem has bounced back and the giant kangaroo rat population has also recovered.

“In terms of implications for climate change, it gives some cause for optimism in showing that ecosystems have a remarkable ability to handle some of these extreme events”, Prugh said.

Results suggest that focusing on how key prey species respond to a drought could help to predict the fate of top predators, Prugh said, and those key prey species could become a focus for conservation efforts.

Trump’s ICE arrests immigrant for driving pregnant wife to hospital

This 20 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

ICE Arrests Husband Taking Pregnant Wife to Hospital to Give Birth, Forcing Her to Drive Alone

In San Bernardino, California, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a man driving his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth last Wednesday, sparking widespread outrage. The ICE agents detained Joel Arrona-Lara when he stopped at a gas station, forcing his wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, to drive herself to the hospital for her scheduled C-section. The couple has lived in the United States for more than 10 years and has five children, including their newborn baby. For more, we speak with Joel Arrona-Lara’s lawyer Russell Jauregui, staff attorney at the San Bernardino Community Service Center.

“Keep out your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Trump administration moves to impose class-based restrictions on immigration: here.

US announces new barrier to citizenship for low-income immigrants: here.

Separated Mother’s Message to Her 3-Year-Old Daughter

This video from the USA says about itself:

A Separated Mother’s Message to Her 3-Year-Old Daughter

15 August 2018

Four months ago, “M” and her daughter applied for asylum at the San Diego border. But her daughter was sent to a foster care facility in Los Angeles and she was held at the Otay Mesa detention facility. With the help of her lawyer, she recorded this message for her daughter. Illustrator Mark Fiore has animated it.

Mark Fiore writes about this:

For this animation, I worked with KQED’s John Sepulvado, who brought out a video of a mother in indefinite immigration detention. Since the woman and her daughter (who were separated at the border when they were APPLYING FOR ASYLUM) were fleeing a Mexican drug cartel, we wanted to use cartoons instead of actual video.

As of now they are still separated and her 3-year-old daughter has now turned 4.

California wildfires kill lichen

This 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Lichen Identification Methods

From the field to the lab, we take a brief look at how lichens are identified by sight and by chemical spot tests. This video was made for a Lichenology class at Oregon State University by Jena Fay and Sara Lynch. Lichens mentioned here include Cladonia, Lobaria, Evernia, Usnea, Ramalina, Xanthoria and Bryoria. Happy identifying!

From the University of California – Davis in the USA:

Lichen is losing to wildfire, years after flames are gone

Wildfire is reshaping forests and lichen communities

August 9, 2018

As increasingly hot and severe wildfires scorch the West, some lichen communities integral to conifer forests aren’t returning, even years after the flames have been extinguished, according to a study from scientists at the University of California, Davis.

Lichen, an often overlooked organism that forms fuzzy, leaf-like layers over tree bark and rocks, is an unsung hero in forest ecosystems. It provides food for deer, caribou, and elk and is sometimes the only food source for flying squirrels, which are key prey for threatened spotted owls. Birds and insects use it to eat and nest. An important contributor to the nutrient cycle, it also helps fix nitrogen in forest soils.

“Lichen are beautiful, ecologically important, are all around us and tell us important things about the environment”, said lead author Jesse Miller, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis. “But even if you don’t notice lichens, you would notice the consequences in ecosystems when they are lost.”


For the study, published August 9 in the journal Global Change Biology, researchers sampled lichen communities in about 100 study plots across California’s Sierra Nevada region. Five wildfires had burned, at varying levels of severity, in and around the plots between four and 16 years before the study’s sampling.

The results show that lichen communities were largely unaffected by low-severity fires. This suggests that prescribed fires and natural wildfires under moderate weather and fuels conditions are compatible with lichen diversity.

But areas that experienced higher severity wildfires had significantly lower abundance and diversity of lichen.

In severely burned areas where most of the trees died, nearly all the lichen were gone, even 16 years after the fire.


The lichens‘ recovery is likely held back by the loss of tree canopy after the fire, the researchers said. The hot, dry microclimate left in the forest post-fire is not conducive to lichen growth. This indicates that lichen communities burned in Sierra Nevada forests likely won’t recolonize until mature trees regrow and the forest canopy is restored. This may exacerbate the effects of climate change that already threaten lichens.

“If the species could keep pace with the rate of climate change, the effects of fire might not be so bad”, Miller said. “But the concern is they might not. These fires happen so quickly and in such a large area, they could cause species ranges to contract faster than they are expanding.”

The study also indicates that the trend of increasingly dry forests and hotter, bigger and more severe wildfires could cause broad impacts to lichen diversity across the landscape, which could impact nutrient cycling and multiple food-chain interactions among wildlife.

The study areas included:

Yosemite, in areas burned by the Rim (2013) and Grouse (2009) fires

– Greater Lake Tahoe Basin, in areas burned by the Showers (2002) and Long (2009) fires

– Warner Mountains, in northeastern California, in areas burned by the Blue Fire (2001).

The study’s co-authors are Hugh Safford of UC Davis and the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region; and Heather Root from Weber State University in Utah.

The research was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region.

Prisoners paid $2 a day to battle California’s deadly wildfires. US activists say the scheme is ‘inhumane’ and exploitative: here.

Firefighter casualties mount from California wildfires: here.

The West Coast of the United States is shrouded in smoke from the 110 large fires (this does not include smaller fires within each complex of fires) that have erupted across the region during this fire season: here.