Acorn woodpeckers in Colombia, new study


This video says about itself:

Through the Lens: Acorn Woodpecker

23 April 2011

The Acorn Woodpecker is a favorite among bird watchers. It has a clown like appearance and the unique habit of storing acorns in a favored tree that is often used by generations of birds. Wildlife Photographer Marie Read shares her experience photographing the behaviors of these lively birds.

Learn more about Acorn Woodpeckers on All About Birds.

From PLOS one:

The Geographic Distribution of a Tropical Montane Bird Is Limited by a Tree: Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) and Colombian Oaks (Quercus humboldtii) in the Northern Andes

Benjamin G. Freeman, Nicholas A. Mason

June 17, 2015

Abstract

Species distributions are limited by a complex array of abiotic and biotic factors. In general, abiotic (climatic) factors are thought to explain species’ broad geographic distributions, while biotic factors regulate species’ abundance patterns at local scales

We used species distribution models to test the hypothesis that a biotic interaction with a tree, the Colombian oak (Quercus humboldtii), limits the broad-scale distribution of the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) in the Northern Andes of South America. North American populations of Acorn Woodpeckers consume acorns from Quercus oaks and are limited by the presence of Quercus oaks. However, Acorn Woodpeckers in the Northern Andes seldom consume Colombian oak acorns (though may regularly drink sap from oak trees) and have been observed at sites without Colombian oaks, the sole species of Quercus found in South America

We found that climate-only models overpredicted Acorn Woodpecker distribution, suggesting that suitable abiotic conditions (e.g. in northern Ecuador) exist beyond the woodpecker’s southern range margin. In contrast, models that incorporate Colombian oak presence outperformed climate-only models and more accurately predicted the location of the Acorn Woodpecker’s southern range margin in southern Colombia.

These findings support the hypothesis that a biotic interaction with Colombian oaks sets Acorn Woodpecker’s broad-scale geographic limit in South America, probably because Acorn Woodpeckers rely on Colombian oaks as a food resource (possibly for the oak’s sap rather than for acorns). Although empirical examples of particular plants limiting tropical birds’ distributions are scarce, we predict that similar biotic interactions may play an important role in structuring the geographic distributions of many species of tropical montane birds with specialized foraging behavior.

British royal in child abuse scandal, ex-policeman says


This video from Britain says about itself:

Is The Establishment Riddled With Paedophiles? Russell Brand The Trews (E244)

28 January 2015

Reaction to the delay in Parliament’s child abuse inquiry, the allegations of child abuse against former politicians and the recent allegations against Prince Andrew.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Royal family member was investigated as part of paedophile ring before cover-up, ex-cop says

The former officer claims the investigation was shut down for ‘national security’ reasons

Jon Stone

Monday 23 March 2015

A member of the Royal family was claimed to be part of a suspected paedophile ring under investigation by police in the late 1980s, a former police officer has said.

The former Metropolitan Police officer says he was told by a detective sergeant that the investigation into the ring, which was also claimed to include an MP, was shut down for national security reasons.

“I was in a car with two other vice squad officers. … The detective sergeant said he had just had a major child abuse investigation shut down by the CPS regarding a royal and an MP,” he told the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

“He did not mention names, but he said the CPS had said it was not in the public’s interest because it ‘could destabilise national security’.”

The police officer identified the two colleagues, the newspaper said.

Sir Allan Green, the Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS at the time the conversation took place, said he was not aware of any child abuse investigations shut down for national security reasons.

He however said he had been asked by a “senior person” if he had heard anything about a named MP being involved in child abuse. He said he had not.

The MP he was asked about has since died, Mr Green said.

The Metropolitan Police has pledged to investigate historical crimes by establishment figures “without fear of favour”.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was pleased that allegations of cover-ups were coming to light.

“We do think we are getting somewhere with these wider enquiries and we are seeing people coming forward. We have seen lots of coverage this week around allegations of cover-ups, and I think it’s helpful that this is being spoken about and people are coming forward.

“We will go where the evidence takes us, without fear or favour, I think that is what the public expect and that is what the investigators are doing and are keen to continue to do.”

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating 14 related allegations of impropriety by officer stretching from the 1970s to 2005.

The Home Secretary Theresa May said earlier month that child sexual abuse ran through British society like a “stick of Blackpool rock” and warned that the public did not fully “appreciate the true scale” of exploitation.

DJ Neil Fox charged with nine sex offences involving six people – three of whom were children: here.

US soldiers and military contractors were responsible for the rape and sexual abuse of scores of Colombian children, but faced no legal repercussions because of a treaty between Washington and Bogota granting them full immunity: here.

Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky to be charged over child abuse images. CPS draws up charges against Bukovsky, 72, who moved to Britain in 1976 after exposing Soviet misuse of psychiatry against political prisoners: here.

Colombian hummingbird species rediscovered after 69 years


This video is called Birding in the Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia. It says about itself:

29 August 2013

Trip with the American Bird Conservancy to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia (Santa Marta Mountains), August 2013. We visited the El Dorado Reserve, flagship reserve of the ProAves organization in Colombia. A comfortable lodge and a great place to find many of the endemic birds that are in the Santa Marta Mountains. The road up to the lodge was an adventure, a rough road but very good for birding.

From ProAves in Colombia:

Spectacular Lost Hummingbird Rediscovered after 69 years amid Rampant Fires across the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia

An intense and prolonged dry season in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta combined with fires set by Kogi indigenous people for agricultural purposes has devastated its fragile high-elevation habitat (páramo), home to a suite of endemic plants and animals. Two conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez who work at ProAves’ “El Dorado” nature reserve in the mountain range, carried out investigations to document the fires. On March 4th 2015, they photographed the spectacular Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – a hummingbird that was last seen in 1946 and feared quite possibly extinct. Unfortunately, the habitat of the three birds they saw is threatened by ongoing fires. A scientific article detailing the rediscovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at http://www.proaves.org with further photos.

Described in 1880, the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) was last seen in 1946; thereafter, it disappeared. Restricted to the world’s highest coastal mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (rising to over 19,000 feet), the Helmetcrest was suspected to be facing severe threats as cattle ranching by indigenous people expanded across the sensitive high-elevation slopes of the mountain range. Each dry season, more of the fragile brush and forest is burned to make way for grasslands for cattle. The fragile montane forests of the Santa Marta mountains are unique as this isolated mountain range pre-dates the Andes of South America by over 100 million years

Over the past ten years, searches for the charismatic Blue-bearded Helmetcrest failed. Last year it was pronounced “Critically Endangered” by IUCN and BirdLife International and considered perhaps to be extinct. The species is dependent on stunted forest and bushes amongst natural páramo grasslands – habitat that is highly susceptible to fires during the dry season. The situation is even more difficult because the flowering plant the Helmetcrest depends on – the Santa Marta Frailejon (Libanothamnus occultus) – is itself threatened by persistent fires and has also been declared Critically Endangered. In 2013, according to a WWF report the páramo of the Sierra Nevada was being seriously affected by extensive cattle herds belonging to indigenous communities who repeatedly burn it for pasture.

The highest elevations of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were declared a National Park in 1964. Fifteen years later, in 1979, the park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Several indigenous reserves cover the mountain range, and some 50,000 indigenous people, mainly of the ethnic groups Kogi and Arhuacos, live in the area. In 2014, the journal Science published an article that identified the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park as the world’s most important protected area for the conservation of threatened terrestrial species – rated first across over 173,000 protected areas worldwide.

During a prolonged and particularly intense dry season in February 2015, National Park staff informed local conservationists Carlos Julio Rojas and Christian Vasquez, who work for Fundación ProAves at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, of an ongoing crisis with fires set by indigenous peoples across the park. Seeking to document the environmental impacts of this burning, Carlos and Christian used their vacation time to explore the higher elevations of the mountain range and recorded multiple fires that were destroying fragile natural habitat.

At 11 AM on March 4th 2015 during surveys of the fire, Carlos Julio Rojas who lives in the Sierra Nevada excitedly noted:

“I saw the flash of a bird screeching past me and saw it perch on a bush nearby. I managed to take a quick photo of it before it flew off. I then reviewed the photo on the camera screen and immediately recognized the strikingly patterned hummingbird as the long-lost Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – I was ecstatic!! After reports of searches by ornithologists failing to find this spectacular species, Christian and I were the first people alive to see it for real.”

Christian took up the story. “We set up camp and for the next two days watched the area to document a total of three individuals of the Helmetcrest in an area of less than 10 hectares [25 acres] with three scattered tiny patches of forest clinging to the steep hillsides and surrounded by the remains of burnt vegetation. And the area is really important as we also discovered the Critically Engendered Santa Marta Wren alongside the Helmetcrest.”

“Sadly the survival of the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest hangs by a thread,” says Carlos Julio Rojas. “The impacts of fire are everywhere with the charred remains of plants littered across the páramo. I spoke with the Arhuacos indigenous peoples, and they told me that the Kogi peoples are setting the fires and running pigs and cattle across the area. It is crucial that the fires are stopped immediately and that cattle and pigs are removed from the highest elevations to allow the fragile páramo ecosystem to recover before this unique hummingbird and its equally rare foodplant become extinct.”

A scientific article detailing the discovery was published today in the journal Conservación Colombiana and is available online at http://www.proaves.org.

Over one million inhabitants in the dry, arid lowlands around the Sierra Nevada depend on the filtration and provision of water from its páramo ecosystems. Further degradation of the páramo for livestock production not only endangers the survival of the Helmetcrest, but could also result in future severe droughts impacting over a million people in the region.

Hopefully, Colombian conservation entities, the National Parks authority, and the Kogi indigenous peoples can work together with Fundación ProAves to better protect the future of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the planet’s most irreplaceable mountain for both people and biodiversity.

Spotted barbtails in Venezuela, new study


This is a spotted barbtail video from Colombia.

From The Wilson Journal of Ornithology in the USA, December 2014:

Breeding biology of the Spotted Barbtail (Premnoplex brunnescens)

Daniel Muñoz and Thomas E. Martin

ABSTRACT

The Spotted Barbtail (Furnariidae) is poorly studied but shows some extreme traits for a tropical passerine. We located and monitored 155 nests to study this species for 7 years in an Andean cloud forest in Venezuela.

Spotted Barbtails have an unusually long incubation period of 27.2 ± 0.16 days, as a result of very long (3–6 hr) off-bouts even though both adults incubate. The long off-bouts yield low incubation temperatures for embryos and are associated with proportionally large eggs (21% of adult mass). They also have a long nestling period of 21.67 ± 0.33 days, and a typical tropical brood size of two.

The slow growth rate of the typical broods of two is even slower in broods artificially reduced to one young. Nonetheless, the young stay in the nest long enough to achieve wing lengths that approach adult size.