Canadian film on songbirds, crowdfunding


This video says about itself:

Please support: The Messenger Documentary

9 February 2015

The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.

From British Bird Lovers:

Film About Songbirds Launches Crowdfunding Bid

Sunday, 01 March 2015

A Canadian independent film production company has turned to crowdfunding to help them finish a documentary about the plight of songbirds and the remarkable research work being done to help solve the problems they face.

SongbirdSOS Productions, which is based in Toronto, is asking the public to help them raise $50,000 CAD to enable them to finish The Messenger and support its distribution. The Messenger is described as a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of songbirds, and what it will mean to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them.

SongbirdSOS Productions is owned by award-winning director Su Rynard and producers Joanne Jackson and Diane Woods. They teamed up with a French documentary production company, Films a Cinq, to make the film.

Director Rynard captured some beautiful slow motion footage of songbirds in flight during the production process. You can get a small taste of what to expect in the film in the fundraising video.

Travelling from the northern reaches of the Boreal Forest to the base of Turkey’s Mount Ararat to ground zero in Manhattan, the documentary team meet the people who are examining the threats to songbirds exposing the very real concerns behind their declining numbers.

Work began on the film almost 5 years ago. The first three years were devoted to creative development and raising money to shoot. In 2012 it won the Best Feature Documentary Pitch Award at Sunnyside of the Doc in La Rochelle, France. Shooting began in 2013 and most of 2014 was spent in the edit suite.

The money raised from the crowdfunding appeal will cover professional post production costs, including completing the sound mix, picture editing, colour grading, and mastering followed by an educational and social outreach campaign.

There has been an alarming decline in the global populations of songbirds in recent years. Destruction of habitat, increased urbanization and industrialization, climate change and the use of toxic chemicals as well as an unnatural abundance of predators and scavengers have all contributed to the loss.

Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, the author of Silence of the Songbirds says, “We may have already lost half the songbirds that filled the skies only 40 years ago. Within a few generations, many species may be gone forever.”

Scientific data from the 2012 European Bird Census Council shows that farmland birds have declined over 50% since 1980. The Eurasian Skylark has declined 51% since 1980. The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 also reported a loss averaging 50 House Sparrows per hour, and 835 Winter Wrens each day.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey indicates massive declines since the annual bird counts started in 1966. Bobolink 64%; Canada Warbler 66%; and the Wood Thrush 62%. This is just a small fraction of similarly disturbing statistical data.

The potential impact of this loss of important ecosystem services like pest control and pollination from diverse bird species is troubling and has far reaching implications.

The Messenger is aiming to change not only the way people think about bird conservation but also the natural world and wildlife in general.

You can support The Messenger by donating to their campaign here.

Beached harbour porpoise rescued in England


This video from British Columbia in Canada says about itself:

Helpless Porpoise Rescued

30 April 2011

On April 26, 2011, a rare live stranding of an adult Harbour Porpoise occurred on Salt Spring Island. Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre, a local non profit marine mammal rescue centre responded to the stranding. Staff members guided the struggling animal ashore, administered some basic, supportive care, and transported the porpoise to the Island Wildlife facility where the porpoise was kept afloat in one of its marine mammal tanks.

The porpoise was later transported to the Ganges Coast Guard Station and loaded aboard the Coast Guard hover craft, Siyay, which rushed the animal to the Vancouver Aquarium who have more Cetacean rehabilitation expertise.

From the Lincolnshire Echo in England, with video there:

Porpoise rescued from muddy river bank at Gibraltar Point

February 20, 2015

A porpoise became stranded in a muddy river bottom at Gibraltar Point near Skegness today.

Volunteers from Natureland Seal Sanctuary in Skegness came to its rescue after it became stranded when the tide had gone out.

The rescuers had to be roped up for their own safety due to the muddy conditions on the riverbank.

They managed to get the porpoise onto a stretcher before transferring it to the beach.

They then waded through the sea water until it was deep enough to release the porpoise.

Burrowing owls flying from Montana to Mexico


This video from the USA is called Burrowing Owl Family with 5 Owlets.

From the Billings Gazette in the USA:

Burrowing owls flew almost 2,000 miles, study finds

By Brett French

Just like retirees traveling south to escape the snowy winter, two female burrowing owls have been documented traveling almost 2,000 miles to central Mexico from Eastern Montana for the first time.

“Now we’re learning more about how incredible these birds are,” said David Johnson, of the Global Owl Project.

Last year, GLOW fitted 30 burrowing owls in the Northwest and Canada — including three from the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana — with tiny backpacks containing satellite transmitters. The devices track their migration routes and destinations in an attempt to give researchers insight into the birds’ population decline.

No one has completed a survey to arrive at a population number for the birds in Montana, according to Steve Huffman, executive director of Montana Audubon. “If you polled a bunch of owl experts, though, you’d probably find the range of the species is declining and Montana is no exception to that,” he said.

In Canada the bird is listed as an endangered species because of “habitat loss and fragmentation, road kills, pesticides, food shortage, fewer burrow providers and mortality on migration and wintering areas,” according to Parks Canada.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lists the bird as “potentially at risk because of limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas.” The Forest Service and BLM consider the owl a sensitive species.

With its burrowing owl migration study, Johnson said GLOW is hoping to keep the birds off the endangered species list in the United States by developing conservation strategies.

Unique bird

Burrowing owls date back in the fossil record millions of years, Johnson said. They may be one of the very few birds to nest underground, an adaptation to their prairie home where few trees exist.

Instead, the birds use abandoned badger, swift fox and prairie dog dens to nest in, often as far as 10 feet underground to escape the reach of predators like coyotes.

The owls are small, averaging about 9.5 inches long with 21-inch wingspans and tipping the scales at only 5 ounces. In addition to bugs, the owls will eat small mammals like mice and voles, birds, reptiles and snakes.

Most of the owls live about five to six years. The females migrate south around October to stay healthy for the spring breeding season when they return north. The exception is California’s burrowing owls, which reside there year-round.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how incredibly tough these birds are,” Johnson said.

When initially fitted with transmitters, the antenna was made of 70-pound test fishing line. The birds chewed through that, so Teflon tubing was substituted for the line. The satellite transmitters are expensive, costing $3,500 apiece, but they provide a clearer picture of the birds’ migration.

Every 48 hours the solar-charged devices turn on for 10 hours and send a signal every minute before going silent for another 48 hours. From these transmissions, Johnson has learned that the birds travel about 100 to 200 miles in a night, averaging 30 mph.

“When they migrate it seems to be pretty darn direct,” he said. “They don’t waste time.”

CMR biologist Randy Matchett watched the migration data pop up on his computer screen, impressing him with the birds’ speed and ability to fly high. Although the transmitters don’t contain an altimeter, it was evident by their route that the owls were flying over 10,000-foot peaks, he said.

“Everyone knows birds migrate long distances, but it is kind of neat to watch it alive in real time,” Matchett said.

Johnson said one of the surprises GLOW discovered when tagging some burrowing owls in Oregon was that a male flew north, rather than south, for the winter.

“The male’s goal was to go someplace to tough it out and get the best burrow” for the following spring’s mating season, Johnson said. “As the males get older, they get tougher.”

Newer gear

The satellite transmitters are a big step up from the old technology. As far back as 1912, ornithologists captured and placed numbered bands on birds to try to track them. Trouble is, the bands could only be recovered if the bird was recaptured or found dead, and they were no help in identifying migration routes.

Bands were more recently replaced by tiny light-sensitive monitors that could track the duration of sunlight hitting them, giving researchers an indication of where the birds had gone based on the length of days at different latitudes. The transmitters are relatively inexpensive — about $200 — compared to satellite trackers, but again they gave only a vague indication of migration routes and the birds had to be recaptured to recover the data.

The more expensive satellite transmitters – which weigh in at 6 grams compared to 3.2 grams for the ambient light geolocators – track the birds’ location within 150 meters, the battery’s voltage and the temperature. The units also have small solar cells to recharge the battery.

“It’s amazing it works at all, actually,” Johnson said.

Southbound

The Montana owls migrated south by traveling east of the Rocky Mountains to north of Mexico City. One has settled northeast of Guadalajara and the other is in the state of Durango. The third Montana owl was found dead before it left, possibly dinner for a predator.

Off the 22 GLOW-tagged owls that started their migration in October, 17 are now in Mexico. By March or April, the urge to fly north should send them migrating again.

“Now we’ll wait to see how they come back,” Johnson said.

Showing just how amazing the birds are, in 2013 a burrowing owl captured near Baker, Ore., came back to the exact same burrow after wintering south of San Francisco.

As a follow-up to the satellite transmissions, Johnson said GLOW will be examining the habitat conditions where the owls are wintering.

The study of owls has been a personal mission for the 58-year-old Johnson since a screech owl landed on his tent when he was an 11-year-old boy in Minnesota.

“It called for 20 minutes. Ever since then I’ve seen owls as close friends,” he said. “So I say I didn’t pick owls, they picked me.”

Since 1976 he’s been working on owl projects full time.

“I’m going to work on conservation of owls till my last breath,” he said. “Because the more I’ve studied and observed them, the more impassioned I’ve become.”

Bat news from Canada


This video from Canada says about itself:

11 July 2013

Little Brown bats have been dying by the millions so it was a great suprise to be blessed with the discovery of a very healthy colony in Kemble, Ontario.

From the Vancouver Sun in Canada:

Researchers net rare Spotted bats near Lillooet

By Matthew Robinson

December 30, 2014

A team of biologists netted a rare find on a recent nighttime research mission near Lillooet when they captured a half-dozen spotted bats.

The bats are numbered among fewer than 20 ever caught in Canada, and are among an estimated population of fewer than 1,000 in the country, according to a news release by staff at the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

The scientists caught the winged mammals in a mist net — a nearly invisible, in-air mesh fence that biologists use to safely snag and tag birds and bats. The intention of the biologists’ work is to learn more about the ecology of Pallid, Spotted and other related bat species in the area before White Nose Syndrome — a deadly fungal disease sweeping westward through North America — reaches B.C.

“Finding six spotted bats in one night, and seven in total this field season, is beyond our expectations,” said Jared Hobbs, a biologist with research firm Hemmera.

Spotted bats are large, but they don’t weigh much. They have a wingspan of more than 30 centimetres, but weigh just 15 grams — about the weight of a compact disc. They have the biggest ears of any B.C. bat and are recognizable for the white spot on each of their shoulders and on their rump, according to the Government of Canada’s Species at Risk registry. The hunting calls of spotted bats can be heard by the human ear, according to the release.

Cori Lausen, who co-leads the project with Hobbs, said spotted bats are not easily captured. As a result, relatively little is known about the species.

The bats are so hard to capture that it was not until 1979 that biologists discovered the species lived in the province, according to the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

“These bats are high-flying, so we used mist nets that were four times the height of those typically used, measuring about 12.5 metres high by 18 metres wide, and we focused on open grassland habitats,” said Lausen.

After netting their subjects, the researchers glued radio telemetry tags onto the backs of the bats so they can track their foraging and roosting habits.

White Nose Syndrome has killed millions of hibernating bats since spreading from the northeastern to central U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Bat populations have declined by an estimated 80 per cent since the syndrome was first documented in winter 2006-07, according to the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In some areas, 90 to 100 per cent of hibernating bat populations have died off as a result of the fungus.

The syndrome has not been detected in this province, but many biologists say it’s only a matter of time until it spreads.

The biologists’ work is being funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, a partnership between BC Hydro, First Nations, the federal and provincial governments and others, according to the release. The project is one of eight in the Bridge and Seton River watersheds that are receiving funding from the program in 2014-15.

Viking vessel discovery in Canada?


This video from Denmark says about itself:

Viking Age Bronze Casting

Traditional bronze casting using a sepia as mould. Made during a workshop held by Jess Vestergaard at Bork Vikingehavn 08/2012.

From Archaeology:

Possible Viking Vessel Identified in Canada

Thursday, December 18, 2014

OTTAWA, CANADA—Traces of bronze and glass have been detected on a piece of a small, 1,000-year-old stone vessel recovered from Baffin Island in the 1960s. According to Patricia Sutherland of the University of Aberdeen, Peter Thompson of Peter H. Thompson Geological Consulting, Ltd., and Patricia Hunt of the Geological Survey of Canada, who published their findings in the journal Geoarchaeology, the container was used as a crucible for melting bronze and casting small tools or ornaments. The glass formed when the rock was heated to high temperatures. Indigenous peoples of the Canadian Arctic did not practice high-temperature metalworking at this time, but a similar stone crucible has been found at a Viking site in Norway.

“The crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada. It may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico,” Sutherland told Sci-News.com. To read in-depth about some of the earliest evidence of Viking warfare, see “The First Vikings.”