Timor bush-warbler rediscovery

This video is about a great billed heron on Timor beach.

From BirdLife:

Timor Bush-warbler rediscovered

Fri, Dec 30, 2011

There had been no confirmed field observations of Timor Bush-warbler Bradypterus timorensis since two specimens were collected on Mount Mutis, West Timor, in 1932. A paper published online in BirdLife’s journal, Bird Conservation International (BCI), reports the rediscovery of the Timor Bush-warbler in Timor-Leste (East Timor) in 2009, prompted by the discovery of a previously unknown population of bush-warbler on the island of Alor, Indonesia, to the north.

Timor Bush-warbler was first recognised as a full species in 2000, when along with Russet Bush-warbler B. mandelli and Java Bush-warbler B. montis it was split from Benguet Bush-warbler B. seebohmi. The authors of the BCI paper assign all these species to the genus Locustella.

On Alor, at least 13 male bush warblers were heard singing from shrub and grass beneath woodland and forest edge at 859–1,250 m. On Timor, at least 40 males were heard from tall grassland at 1,720–2,100 m.

The songs are loud and can be readily heard from at least 100 m. However, the birds on both islands were skulking and hard to observe, even while singing. Brief direct views on Alor noted a large, buff-brown, long-tailed bush-warbler. Birds were observed to walk or scurry, mouse-like, on the ground on thin shrub and grass stems. Although they can fly, they do so rarely and probably mostly under cover.

There were substantial differences in habitat use by bush-warblers on Alor and on Timor, presumably resulting from island-specific differences in habitat availability, elevation and land-use pressure. High grazing pressure and repeated fires ensure that there is little or no suitable habitat over much of Timor’s montane habitat, except on steep slopes. There are few known threats to bush-warbler habitat on Alor, but ongoing assessments are needed.

Timor Bush-warbler is considered Near Threatened by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List, but will now require re-evaluation. The Alor population is currently well isolated from Timor (c.100 km between sites), and these islands have never been connected. The populations have little chance of interbreeding and the authors of the BCI paper say they should be considered as independent, evolutionarily significant units. Further field surveys are needed on both Timor and Alor to capture birds, clarify taxonomic relationships using molecular approaches, and further define habitat use and conservation status.

Timor cave may reveal how humans reached Australia

This video is called Human Ancestry Made Easy.

From Archaeo News:

An archaeologist has discovered the oldest evidence of occupation by modern humans on the islands that were the stepping stones from South-East Asia to Australia.

A cave site in East Timor where people lived more than 42,000 years ago, eating turtles, tuna and giant rats, was unearthed by Sue O’Connor, head of archaeology and natural history at the Australian National University.

Dr O’Connor also found ancient stone tools and shells used for decoration in the limestone shelter, known as Jerimalai, on the eastern tip of the island.

She said her discovery could help solve the mystery of the route ancient seafarers took to get here from South-East Asia.

It strengthens the view that they made a southern passage, via Timor, rather than travelling northwards via Borneo and Sulawesi, then down through Papua New Guinea.

Sea levels were lower when modern humans set off around the coast from Africa more than 70,000 years ago.

People who made it to the large South-East Asian land mass known as Sunda, however, still had to cross deep ocean channels to get to Australia, then joined to Papua New Guinea in a continent called Sahul.

Until now, the age of habitation sites found on the stepping stone islands in between had been much younger than those found in Australia, making it impossible to determine the route taken.

Although the Jerimalai site is at least 42,000 years old, it could be much older, Dr O’Connor said, because this was the detection limit of the radiocarbon dating method used.

She said the simple stone tools unearthed in the shelter were similar to those used by the species of hobbit-sized people who lived in a cave on the nearby island of Flores until 12,000 years ago.

But she was confident Jerimalai’s inhabitants were modern humans, Homo sapiens, and not small-brained members of Homo floresiensis, because of the evidence for their sophisticated behaviour found in the dig.

Fish such as tuna, for example, “could only have been captured in the deeper waters offshore using hooks, and probably also water craft”, she said.

The find, however, raised big questions, such as why modern humans appeared to have bypassed Flores on their way to Timor.

One possibility was that the hobbits were able to repel them. “It is clear that this region warrants a great deal more study,” Dr O’Connor said.

See also here.

New Guinea art older than thought, according to research: here.

Australasian migration from Vietnam, not Taiwan? See here.

Easter island: did rats and Europeans destroy it?

Hobbit research: here.

‘Hobbit’ fossils represent a new species, concludes University of Minnesota anthropologist: here.