From the Rare Bird Network in Britain, on Twitter:
Orkney: BLUE-WINGED TEAL 1 drake again today on Mainland. At the Shunan.
This North American species is rare in Europe.
From the Rare Bird Network in Britain, on Twitter:
Orkney: BLUE-WINGED TEAL 1 drake again today on Mainland. At the Shunan.
This North American species is rare in Europe.
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.
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
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.
This video from the USA says about itself:
4 October 2006
Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish one of the central tenets of our political culture, the idea of the “liberal media.” Instead, utilizing a systematic model based on massive empirical research, they reveal the manner in which the news media are so subordinated to corporate and conservative interests that their function can only be described as that of “elite propaganda.”
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite
If you think the news is balanced, think again. Journalists who should challenge power are doing its dirty work
Tuesday 20 January 2015 20.07 GMT
When people say they have no politics, it means that their politics aligns with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconciously echo them. Objectivity is impossible.
The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms. But until I came across the scandal currently erupting in Canada, I hadn’t understood just how quickly standards are falling.
In 2013 reporters at CBC, Canada’s equivalent of the BBC, broke a major story. They discovered that RBC – Royal Bank of Canada – had done something cruel and unusual even by banking standards. It was obliging junior staff to train a group of temporary foreign workers, who would then be given the staff’s jobs. Just after the first report was aired, according to the website Canadaland, something odd happened: journalists preparing to expand on the investigation were summoned to a conference call with Amanda Lang, CBC’s senior business correspondent and a star presenter. The reporters she spoke to say she repeatedly attempted to scuttle the story, dismissing it as trivial and dull.
They were astonished. But not half as astonished as when they discovered the following, unpublished facts. First, that Lang had spoken at a series of events run or sponsored by RBC – for which she appears, on one occasion, to have been paid around 15,000 Canadian dollars. Second, that she was booked to speak at an event sponsored by the outsourcing company the bank had hired to implement the cruel practice exposed by her colleagues. Third, that her partner is a board member at RBC.
Lang then interviewed the bank’s chief executive on her own show. When he dismissed the story as unfair and misleading, she did not challenge him. That evening she uncritically repeated his talking points on CBC’s main current affairs programme. Her interests, again, were not revealed. Then she wrote a comment article for the Globe and Mail newspaper suggesting that her colleagues’ story arose from an outdated suspicion of business, was dangerous to Canada’s interests, and was nothing but “a sideshow”. Here’s what she said about the bank’s employment practices: “It’s called capitalism, and it isn’t a dirty word.”
Canadaland, which exposed Lang’s conflicts last week, found that other journalists at the broadcaster were furious, but too frightened to speak on the record. But after CBC tried to dismiss the scandal as “half-truths based on anonymous sources”, Kathy Tomlinson, the reporter who had broken the story about the bank, bravely spoke publicly to the website. The following morning, staff in her office arrived to find this message spelt out in magnets on their fridge: “Jesse Brown snitches get stitches”. Jesse Brown is Canadaland’s founder.
CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.
This is grotesque. But it’s symptomatic of a much wider problem in journalism: those who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.
A study by academics at the Cardiff School of Journalism examined the BBC Today programme’s reporting of the bank bailouts in 2008. It discovered that the contributors it chose were “almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.” The financiers who had caused the crisis were asked to interpret it.
The same goes for discussions about the deficit and the perceived need for austerity. The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard. Those priorities have changed your life: the BBC helped to shape the political consensus under which so many are now suffering.
The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints. Every weekday morning, the Today programme grovels to business leaders for 10 minutes. It might occasionally challenge them on the value or viability of their companies, but hardly ever on their ethics. Corporate critics are shut out of its business coverage – and almost all the rest.
On BBC News at Six, the Cardiff researchers found, business representatives outnumbered trade union representatives by 19 to one. “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world,” the study said. This, remember, is where people turn when they don’t trust the corporate press.
While the way in which the media handle the stories that are covered is bad enough, the absence of coverage is even worse. If an issue does not divide the main political parties, it vanishes from view, though the parties now disagree on hardly anything. Another study reveals a near total collapse of environmental coverage on ITV and BBC news: it declined from 2.5% (ITV) and 1.6% (BBC) of total airtime in 2007 to, respectively, 0.2% and 0.3% in 2014. There were as many news stories on these outlets about Madeleine McCann in 2014 – seven years after her disappearance – as there were about all environmental issues put together.
Those entrusted to challenge power are the loyalists of power. They rage against social media and people such as Russell Brand, without seeing that the popularity of alternatives is a response to their own failures: their failure to expose the claims of the haut monde, their failure to enlist a diversity of opinion, their failure to permit the audience to see that another world is possible. If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?
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
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
This video from Canada says about itself:
11 July 2013
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.
This video says about itself:
The Girl Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was
Lina Fitzner: dance / choreography | Caroline Liffmann: choreography | Lee Hutzulak: sound / video | Alice Mansell: costume || Inspired by the Brothers Grimm | Dances for a Small Stage | The Legion on Commercial Drive | Vancouver, Canada | 12/02/03
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Forgotten fairytales slay the Cinderella stereotype
Stories lost in Bavarian archive for 150 years and newly translated into English offer surprisingly modern characters
Philip Oltermann in Regensburg
Friday 26 December 2014 18.20 GMT
Once upon a time … the fairytales you thought you knew had endings you wouldn’t recognise. A new collection of German folk stories has Hansel and Gretel getting married after an erotic encounter with a dwarf, an enchanted frog being kissed not by a damsel in distress but by a young man, and Cinderella using her golden slippers to recover her lover from beyond the moon.
The stash of stories compiled by the 19th-century folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth – recently rediscovered in an archive in Regensburg and now to be published in English for the first time this spring – challenges preconceptions about many of the most commonly known fairytales.
Harvard academic Maria Tatar argues that they reveal the extent to which the most influential collectors of fairytales, the Brothers Grimm, often purged their stories of surreal and risque elements to make them more palatable for children.
“Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairytale magic,” says Tatar, who has translated Schönwerth’s stories for a new Penguin edition called The Turnip Princess. “Suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination.”
Many of the stories centre around surprisingly emancipated female characters. In The Stupid Wife, a woman hands out her belongings to the poor but recoups her wealth after scaring off a band of thieves. In The Girl and the Cow, the heroine releases her prince after grabbing an axe and whacking off the tail of a large black cat.
Schönwerth’s decision to start collecting folk stories was directly inspired by the Grimms, who praised his efforts. In 1885, Jacob Grimm remarked that “nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear”.
In 1885, Jacob Grimm was already dead. He actually praised Schönwerth in 1858.
But while the Grimms collected their stories across the social spectrum, mainly in Hesse and Westphalia, Schönwerth’s tales were recorded predominantly among workers in Bavaria’s Upper Palatine region.
While the Grimms maintained an academic distance when processing their material, their deeply religious Bavarian counterpart had a tendency to dive straight into a world full of talking animals and mystical apparitions. Some of Schönwerth’s notes suggest that he shared some of his interviewees’ belief in creatures such as the Holzmädchen, or woodland maidens, who came to help the peasants at night.
Most of the tales don’t set the scene with “Once upon a time”, but start in medias res: “A prince was ill”, “A prince was lost in the wood”, or “A king had a son with hair of gold”.
Schönwerth’s critical revival is largely due to Erika Eichenseer, an 80-year-old retired teacher who has dedicated herself to exploring and promoting his oeuvre since the early 1990s. She runs regular storytelling evenings and theatre workshops inspired by Schönwerth’s stories across Bavaria. A fairytale trail in the woodland outside Regensburg, featuring contemporary artists’ takes on some of the stories, was unveiled in September.
Having at first been told that Schönwerth’s 30,000 pages of literary legacy in the city archives contained only records of local customs and sayings, she eventually unearthed more than 500 fairytales that had been gathering dust for more than 150 years.
The tales she discovered, says Eichenseer, weren’t children’s fairytales in the way we know them from the Grimms, but stories that explored the transition between childhood and adulthood in fantastical ways.
A number of them feature long periods of sleep, after which the main characters wake up with a changed shape or appearance. “People often say fairytales are cruel,” says Eichenseer. “But life is cruel. And children know that.”
A 2012 Guardian article on the discovery of Schönwerth’s tales triggered an avalanche of requests for interviews and commercial offers from around the globe, including an email from Warner Bros inquiring about film rights. “I just didn’t get back,” says Eichenseer; her nephew told her the studio mainly made action films, she says.
In the rest of Germany, interest has so far remained subdued. While Tatar insists that no other folklorists from the period measure up to Schönwerth, fellow fairytale expert Jack Zipes has questioned the tales’ literary merit, suggesting that there were “literally 50 or 60 collections that are more interesting than Schönwerth’s”.
The fact that some of Schönwerth’s folk tales were republished in the 1930s as part of a Nazi drive to foster “Aryan” traditions may have tainted their legacy in Germany.
Eichenseer has a different theory: “In Germany, there’s this attitude that goes, ‘We’ve got our Grimms, and we don’t need anybody else.’ The Grimms were better at selling themselves. Schönwerth was always a bit too shy.”