This is a Dutch 8 November 2016 video about common cranes.
This is a Dutch 8 November 2016 video about common cranes.
5.8 million and counting – EuroBirdwatch 2016
By Gui-Xi Young, 2 Nov 2016
40 partner organisations, 1,070 events, 24,115 people and 5.8 million birds – welcome to EuroBirdwatch 2016.
You may have heard the old expression ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ but what about ‘it’s raining blue tits and wagtails’? Well, there is a first time for everything – this year, news of EuroBirdwatch 2016 made it onto the weather forecast on Swiss national television. And while the weatherman didn’t actually forecast ‘light showers’ of starlings broken by ‘sunny spells’ of sparrows, he did make a very accurate prediction for the first weekend of October: birds, birds and more birds!
Since its launch in 1993, EuroBirdwatch has steadily become a beloved fixture on the annual BirdLife calendar. Every October, our national partners across Europe and Central Asia host hundreds of local birdwatching events open to all. Experienced birders, inquisitive newcomers, the young and old alike turn out in their droves to observe, identify and count passing birds during the natural event of the season – the great autumn migration where millions of birds make their epic journey southwards to wintering areas in the Mediterranean and in Africa. There really is something for everybody: fun activities designed for children, public bird ringing, ornithological excursions, and photo exhibitions. But the stars of the show are, of course, the birds: from barn swallows, dunlins, sand martins … to Cory’s shearwaters, great cormorants and many, many more.
This year’s spectacle of the skies certainly did not disappoint. The data, pooled by BirdLife Switzerland (this year’s coordinating partner) speaks for itself: 40 partner organisations, 1,070 events, 24,115 people and 5.8 million birds.
For those impressed by sheer numbers, the huge flocks of chaffinches and starlings observed in so many participating countries must surely stand out – 161,245 starlings in the Netherlands and 265,102 chaffinches in Lithuania alone. Meanwhile, those who delight in the thrill of a rare sight will no doubt appreciate Slovakia’s first registered sighting of the Radde’s Warbler (Phylloscopus schwarzi) – a brown and buff little passerine known for its vagrant wanderings from its Siberian breeding grounds.
The aim of EuroBirdwatch is not only to share the joy of birdwatching but also to educate by introducing wider audiences to the specific needs of migratory birds and the potential perils they face along their flyways twice a year. In light of this aim, special mention must go to Montenegro where young pupils from a local school in Podgorica painted nesting houses for peregrine falcons which will be redistributed around the whole country. Could this be a new generation of future birders, conservationists and ornithologists in the making?
For a full overview of the birds counted – country by country and species by species – visit the EuroBirdwatch 2016 website.
OSPAR Wild – Protecting the Amazon of the Atlantic
By Marguerite Tarzia, Maria Dias & Ana Carneiro, 2 Nov 2016
Following rigorous and highly innovative scientific analysis, BirdLife has submitted a landmark proposal to OSPAR, requesting international protected status for an area in the North-East Atlantic – an area described as a veritable ‘treasure trove’ of marine biodiversity. Marguerite Tarzia (BL Europe), Maria Dias (BL International) & Ana Carneiro (BL International), who steered this impressive collaboration of over 60 seabird scientists, share their exciting tales from the deep…
A map that holds the secrets of the wild high seas…a map that pinpoints the precise location of untold treasures – ‘X marks the spot!’ Sounds like you have dived right into a Jules Verne novel doesn’t it? Is this fabled Atlantis finally found? Are we 20,000 leagues under the sea? Well, here at BirdLife, we find science to be stranger, and more spectacular, than fiction. Welcome to the majestic ‘Evlanov Seamount & Basin’, a veritable treasure trove of marine biodiversity far out in the North Atlantic.
Following rigorous, and highly innovative, analysis by a massive collaboration of over 60 seabird scientists, our marine team has identified an ecologist’s paradise – an ocean hotspot so rich in sea life biodiversity it could be described as the ‘Amazon of the North-East Atlantic’. For one, it’s a seabird magnet, being the area of the high seas with both the highest number of bird species (it’s an important foraging ground for at least 18) and the highest number of individual birds. It is estimated, conservatively, that the area supports at least 2.9 million seabirds throughout the year. Moreover, the area has been found to be an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) for 12 species, including the threatened Atlantic Puffin, Bermuda Petrel, Northern Fulmar and Zino’s Petrel as well as long-distance migrants such as the indefatigable Arctic Tern, which undertakes the longest migration of any other animal.
And that’s not all. The area is also consistently frequented (and for long periods of time) by some of the ocean’s most iconic creatures: marine megafauna such as Blue and Mako Sharks, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, and Leatherback Turtles. Sei Whales have also been tracked here from the Azores during their northward migration in summer. Interestingly, it appears that as these animals approach this unique area, changes in temperature and currents spur their natural instinct into action, prompting them to begin foraging activities.
So, how was this ecologist’s paradise found? The answer is beautifully simple: we followed the birds. Seabirds are an intrinsic part of the ‘circle of (marine) life’ – what flies above the waves can tell us a lot about what swims below. Also, as they are more easily monitored than their underwater counterparts, they are an ideal ‘homing beacon’ to use to identify important marine biodiversity sites – it’s a little like taking pigs out in search of truffles. Thanks to our Seabird Tracking Database – the largest collection of seabird tracking data in existence, built in collaboration with more than 160 scientists around the world – we were able to plot a direct course to this very special site by following over 2000 individual tracked birds.
In October, we presented these amazing findings to the OSPAR Convention (for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) and proposed that the site be safeguarded with the internationally recognised designation of Marine Protected Area (MPA). If this proposal is accepted by OSPAR, the MPA would be the first of its kind in the high seas of the North East Atlantic to be identified using seabird data as the main source of evidence. Moreover, it would fill a major gap in the global network of marine protected areas. High seas areas are hugely important for seabirds, particularly as a key stopover during the migration period or as a final winter destination. This is an important rest and recovery time after the energetic breeding period. However, it is also a dangerous time and winter ‘seabird wrecks’ (i.e. when thousands of birds die due to severe conditions far out at sea) are well documented in the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, so far, very little has been done to either identify important biodiversity rich ‘high seas’ areas or to protect them. The matter is also further complicated when sites worthy of MPA status lie in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). This is precisely the case with this proposed site – it lies in the ocean equivalent of no-man’s land. It is therefore vital to secure international cooperation on this front.
Our proposal was the just the first step and in the coming months, our search for ‘OSPAR Wild’ will highlight the ‘importance of being earnest’. We now wait, impatiently, with bated breath as 15 national governments (the signatories of the OSPAR Convention) slowly deliberate over our proposal. The scientific analysis clearly shows that this area is extremely important for seabirds and entirely merits protected status as an MPA. The governments in question need to now step up their game and answer a simple question: do they want to protect our marine environment or see it waste away while in the debating chamber?
Marguerite Tarzia is European Marine Conservation Officer, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia
Maria Dias is Senior Marine Science Officer, BirdLife International
Ana Carneiro is Marine Technical Officer, BirdLife International
For more information, contact Marguerite.Tarzia@birdlife.org
 OSPAR is named after the 1972 Oslo Convention on dumping waste at sea (OS) and the Paris Convention on land-based sources of marine pollution (PAR). It is a legislative instrument regulating international cooperation on environmental protection in the North-East Atlantic, involving the cooperation of the EU and 15 national governments: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Eli the eel: A mysterious migration – James Prosek
10 February 2014
View full lesson here.
They’re slippery. They’re slithery. And while they totally look like underwater snakes, eels are, in fact, unique fish that can breathe through their skin and even survive out of water. James Prosek tracks the life journey of Eli the Anguilla eel as she (yes, she) travels her mysterious “backward” migration from the sea to fresh water and back again.
Lesson by James Prosek, animation by Cinematic.
From Science Advances:
5 Oct 2016
The spawning migration of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) to the Sargasso Sea is one of the greatest animal migrations. However, the duration and route of the migration remain uncertain. Using fishery data from 20 rivers across Europe, we show that most eels begin their oceanic migration between August and December. We used electronic tagging techniques to map the oceanic migration from eels released from four regions in Europe. Of 707 eels tagged, we received 206 data sets.
Many migrations ended soon after release because of predation events, but we were able to reconstruct in detail the migration routes of >80 eels. The route extended from western mainland Europe to the Azores region, more than 5000 km toward the Sargasso Sea. All eels exhibited diel vertical migrations, moving from deeper water during the day into shallower water at night.
The range of migration speeds was 3 to 47 km day−1. Using data from larval surveys in the Sargasso Sea, we show that spawning likely begins in December and peaks in February. Synthesizing these results, we show that the timing of autumn escapement and the rate of migration are inconsistent with the century-long held assumption that eels spawn as a single reproductive cohort in the springtime following their escapement.
Instead, we suggest that European eels adopt a mixed migratory strategy, with some individuals able to achieve a rapid migration, whereas others arrive only in time for the following spawning season. Our results have consequences for eel management.
Eels may not take most direct route in epic ocean-crossing spawning runs. Meandering swims mean some fish may start journey one breeding season, spawn the next, tracking data suggest. By Susan Milius, 2:08pm, October 5, 2016: here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Dr. William Pelz, A People’s History of Modern Europe, Open University of the Left, 6-18-2016, Chicago, Illinois
By Steve Andrew in Britain:
Engrossing account of European history from below
Monday 26th September 2016
A People’s History of Modern Europe by William A Pelz (Pluto Press, £18)
VERY much written from the perspective of “history from below,” at best this book by William A Pelz is a well-written and engrossing read.
It’s a confident and no-holds- barred text that rapidly gets down to a thoughtful discussion of salient periods — inevitably selective — of European history from a left and feminist perspective.
The late medieval period is notably well addressed, particularly the European-wide peasant revolts and their relationships, good and bad, to Reformation figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Both indulged in anti-semitic abuse and eulogised their own rich backers when necessary — an aspect of both figures that most biographers choose to ignore.
It’s a book with a significant concentration on the trajectory of certain nation states and French history from the momentous events of 1789 right through to the 1871 Commune, and the much debated revolts of 1968 are brilliantly contextualised.
The same applies to the passages exploring German history from Bismarckian unification right through to the rise of national socialism which includes a detailed analysis of the massively influential Social Democratic Party.
Pelz provides an international rather than national perspective of the latter, viewing it as a dispute pivotal in ushering in undiluted neoliberalism.
Yet there’s a surprising dearth of information about the historic shift globally from feudalism to capitalism and the related role of racism, slavery and colonialism in facilitating this.
And any text of this nature is bound to provoke disagreement and Pelz’s over-reliance on the the works of British Socialist Workers Party theorists, apparent from sources cited, makes this all the more inevitable.
In Pelz’s world view, when the so-called Stalinist or social-democratic left achieves something, it’s evidently not enough. When it doesn’t, it’s because it never intended to in the first place, happy as it was in carrying out Moscow’s diktats or secure as it was in enjoying roles or benefits doled out by the Establishment. If only history or politics were that simple.
It’s questionable, too, whether this history-from-below account is as startlingly original as the author would appear to claim. Right-wing narratives that celebrate the role of the aristocracy, idealistic politicians, philanthropic industrialists and brilliant scientists might well be making a worrying comeback.
But a long-standing tradition of writing, from Engels’s Peasant War in Germany to the contributions of EP Thompson and Howard Zinn show that Pelz’s journey through the highs and lows of European history is by no means unique in its intent to tell history from the side of the oppressed.
This video says about itself:
13 July 2016
Bluethroat mothers work hard to keep their nestlings warm and dry in a nest on the ground under grasses or shrubs, lined with fur from cattle and reindeer. The female sits on this nest throughout the night; however, during the day she leaves to find food for herself and her chicks. To keep the location of her nest hidden from predators, she and other ground-nesting species often weave through the low vegetation away from their young before flying into the open.
Bluethroats live in Europe, Asia and Alaska.