Swifts on their way to Europe

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

One of the birds of a pair of Swifts breeding on three eggs in one of my nest boxes just entered with some nesting material. Recorded May 28th 2012.

The British Trust for Ornithology reports, on Twitter today, about Morocco:

European Swifts flying high over Marrakech. They are on their way!!!!

Israel’s Netanyahu’s unholy alliance with European anti-Semites

This video from France says about itself:

Le Pen’s National Front accused of backing Holocaust denier for office in Paris

15 March 2014

France’s far-right National Front party has placed a Holocaust denier on its list of candidates for the municipal elections in Paris. The candidate, Pierre Panet, has said he “shares the analysis” of Roger Garaudy, a convicted Holocaust denier but that he doesn’t elaborate on his views because it is illegal in France.

Not only in the USA are there anti-Semitic preachers like John Hagee who pretend to be friends of Israel. Not only is there anti-Semitic warmonger and phone hacker Rupert Murdoch from Australia, pretending to be a friend of Israel.

There are anti-Semitic European fascists like that as well.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Netanyahu’s Unholy Alliance With Europe’s ‘Anti-Semitic’ Far Right

By Charles Hawley / March 24, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

“Fear has won the election,” wrote the Spanish paper El País last Wednesday after Israeli voters once again made the right-wing Likud the country’s strongest political party. “In Israel, fear is king and the one occupying the throne is called Netanyahu.” Other papers across the continent were equally disheartened. “Netanyahu’s victory pushes a dignified settlement of the Palestinian conflict far into the future,” wrote Le Monde. In Germany, Tagesspiegel wrote: “At the end of the tunnel, only a tunnel can be seen.”

But one growing faction in Europe is welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu and his re-election with open arms. On the ultra-conservative periphery, among the xenophobic, nativist fringe, right-wing populists are unabashedly rejoicing. For them, Europe is engaged in a battle against encroaching Islam – and the hardliner Netanyahu, they believe, is doing yeoman’s work on the front lines. “Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory is a good thing for several reasons,” Geert Wilders, the vociferous anti-Islam incendiary from the Netherlands, said in an emailed statement. “We share his criticism of Iran . . . and his opposition to a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”

“We are very happy,” agrees Filip Dewinter, a leading member of Belgian right-wing party Vlaams Belang. “It is a good thing for Israel, but also good for right-wing parties in Europe because he understands that the first danger for Europe is Islamisation.” David Lasar, a foreign policy co-ordinator for the Austrian Freedom Party, echoed that sentiment. “For sure, I am very happy,” says Lasar, who has worked hard in recent years to develop ties with staunchly conservative parties overseas. “It is a very important step that Netanyahu has won the election.”

From the perspective of a European chauvinistic periphery that has increasingly been striving for mainstream legitimacy in the recent past, the enthusiasm is understandable. As groups like the Austrian Freedom Party, France’s Front National and the Swedish Democrats have long histories of anti-Semitism, recent years have seen them attempting to refocus their enmity on Islam and Islamists. With that shift has come a recognition that Israeli conservatives, with their rejection of a Palestinian state and hardline approach to Islamism, are their natural allies.

The Likud party has been cautiously returning the admiration. …

Sentiments like that are music to the ears of European right-wing parties. “For me, Netanyahu is quite a positive choice,” says Aymeric Chauprade, a member of European Parliament for Front National. “He is very strong against terror and against Islamists.” Kent Ekeroth, a Swedish parliamentarian with the right-wing Swedish Democrats, agrees: “It is far better that Likud won,” he says. “The Left doesn’t take the security situation seriously and, because of that, they are far more likely to appease the Arabs.”

Ekeroth was careful to insist that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his party. But his message chimes with the increasing number of right-wing populist pilgrims heading to Israel for talks with West Bank settlers, Likud parliamentarians and other conservative leaders. Ekeroth, Dewinter and Lasar have all made the trip, as have Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Wilders. Even Front National leader Marine Le Pen, whose father and party founder Jean-Marie was considered vehemently anti-Semitic, has expressed interest in visiting the country. …

The Swedish Democrats and the Austrian Freedom Party have very questionable pasts. They are still perceived as racists and anti-Semitic by many,” says Yehuda Ben-Hur Levy, a visiting fellow at the Centre for European Reform and a long-time observer of the European far Right. “This is to some extent a way to legitimate themselves – saying, ‘If we go to Israel, you can’t really claim that we are anti-Semitic’.”

Thus far, the right wingers’ visits to Israel have not been given the official stamp of approval. While delegates have often been received by parliamentarians acting independently, they have never been received by a Foreign Ministry delegation or given an official government welcome. But there is some hope on the right that Netanyahu’s re-election may change that. “The understanding between right-wing parties and Israel can only get better under Netanyahu,” says Dewinter of Vlaams Belang. The Austrian press even speculated in December that Strache might soon receive an official invitation.

Israeli daily Haaretz wrote about Herr Strache:

The honor of lighting the torch goes to the brightest jewel in this racist crown – Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was “Hitler’s spiritual grandson,” then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them. Commentators in Austria say that Strache is trying to copy Haider but that he is less sophisticated and ultimately more extreme than his role model. (A selection of Strache’s brilliant comments were published in his interview with Haaretz in March.)

The Newsweek article continues:

Such optimism may not be misplaced. Many conservatives in Israel now see the European right wing as being the only reliable partner on a continent where, they say, anti-Semitism has become rooted in the political mainstream. Right-wing parties, says Kleiner of Likud, “are better at recognising the real danger that Europe is facing from the Muslims . . . . They are less naive than the Left.”

Traditionally, Israeli governments (often secular, or at least not fanatically religious) used to define the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political conflict about land; not as a religious conflict. When a fanatical Islamophobic Australian Christian tried to burn down the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in 1969, Israeli police stopped that terrorist. As recently as 2014, Israeli police stopped a Christian fundamentalist terrorist from Texas from blowing up Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Defining the Israeli-Palestinian issue as political made that conflict difficult to resolve, but not insoluble.

However, defining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious conflict, as Netanyahu’s Likud party tends to do, pro-or anti-Islam, leads to a conflict where each side claims to have ‘God on its side'; to an insoluble conflict, where Israeli and Palestinian civilians are doomed to live in permanent war. European fascists, hating both Jews and Arabs, love to see both killing each other endlessly.

Such comments endear Netanyahu to the Right. “I am quite happy,” says Fiorello Provera, a senior member of the Italian right-wing party Lega Nord and a former European parliamentarian. “I think that Netanyahu is the right man for the difficult situation.”

Uri Avnery: The Israeli Salvation Front. The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us: here.

Smew helped by conservation

This video is called Smew (Mergellus albellus).

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare duck thrives in EU protected areas

The Smew, a duck that is a rare visitor to the UK in winter, is doing twice as well as two decades ago within areas protected by EU wildlife laws, reports the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Scientists studied data from wetlands throughout Europe and found that as a result of climate change nearly a third of these ducks now spend winter in north-eastern Europe, compared to just 6 per cent 20 years ago.

And in that region, numbers of Smew within Special Protection Areas designated by the EU Birds Directive have grown twice as fast as those on unprotected sites.

WWT’s Head of Species Monitoring, Richard Hearn, says: “The EU’s network of protected areas is obviously helping Smew adapt to climate change.

“Most Special Protection Areas were designated around 20 years ago using the data that we had then. Things have changed dramatically in the natural world since then and we need to respond to help ensure that Smew and other waterbirds remain well protected.”

The National Organiser of the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey, Chas Holt says: “The UK data that contributed to this study were collected by the dedicated volunteers of the UK’s Wetland Bird Survey.

“The published results are an excellent example of how collaboration across a species’ range can generate outputs that are of direct relevance to conservation.”

In Latvia and Sweden, however, the protected area network supports fewer than one in five Smew and in Finland that proportion drops to just one in 50.

Hearn says: “In this newly occupied region there aren’t enough protected areas and that could constrict the population as they spread north.”

The authors emphasise that protected areas also need to be maintained at the southern end of the birds’ range, in western Europe, so that they have somewhere to retreat during particularly harsh winters, such as during December 2010.

In the UK, a small population typically of fewer than 200 Smew can be found in winter at favoured gravel pits and reservoirs in lowland England. This UK population has approximately halved since the late 1990s.

These results are based on data from the International Waterbird Census, coordinated by Wetlands International, from 16 countries since 1990 and the findings were published in the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions.

Alpine long-eared bats, new study

This video says about itself:

The Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)

A relatively large European bat, the most impressive and distinctive feature of the brown long-eared bat is its large ears. Like most insectivorous bats, it uses echolocation to locate its prey, at frequencies between 27-56 kHz, with a Fmax of 45kHz and an average duration of 2.5ms. Brown long-eared bats also use prey generated sounds and vision to locate prey.

Flying slowly through cluttered habitats, preferably woodlands, it often gleans prey from the surface of vegetation. Found throughout Northern Europe, this is a fairly common bat, but nonetheless one of the more interesting European species.

From Earth Times:

Bats fly high and DNA techniques are classy

By Paul Robinson Paul Robinson – 12 Jan 2015 19:51:1 GMT

We owe the bats a favour as they have previously starred for us in several accounts of communication and evolution. Before, we have noted effects such as social networking and flight changes on the life of bats. This time, a paper on a relatively new species, the alpine long-eared bat, Plecotus macrobullaris explores its diverse habitat. Its discovery in 2002 was followed by surprising sightings far away around the Mediterranean coasts, where the climate is far from alpine.

This species is the only bat to feed above the tree line, but it uses its foraging ability there at lower altitude too. Any animal has to shelter in crevices or among rocks if there are no trees. The bat follows suit with its feeding discovered by using novel molecular techniques of analysis using DNA barcodes, found in the bat faeces. For the first time the prey are identified in this paper down to species level, which is great news for ecologists. The authors, Antton Alberdi, Inazio Garin, Ostaizka Aizpurua, Joxerra Aihartza of the University of the Basque Country publish in Plos One

The hunting strategy of the animal as it flies the alpine meadows is known now to involve 44 moth species that hide in narrow spaces, particularly in 6 named types of habitat. They were mainly noctuids but light relief for the researchers was provided by daddy-long-legs (tipulids) and the small elephant hawk moth. These occurred at many heights, indicating a broad range of elevations for their habitat (in 42.8% of the bats.)

Most of the moths inhabited subalpine meadows and the habitats bordering those, all of them open in character. The plants hosts for moths were grassland species while the wingspan of those caught averaged 3.8cm (almost 1.5”.) Obviously this is a moth specialist, as recorded from Turkey to Spain and Austria. Other long-ears (genus Plecotus) eat a greater variety of moths, probably because of the limited high-mountain environment. Techniques could affect results by missing less abundant moths however.

So how alpine is the bat? In summer, they can be found between 1500 and 2500m. Half of the samples reflected this, showing that meadows in flower enable the alpine bat to exploit a different food source from those hunting lower down the mountain. Great scientific interest lies in the co-evolution of moth ears to hear the bat and the bats echolocation to combat this. Plecotus spp. use low-intensity calls to avoid detection while hawking. — until it is too late!

As the first use of a highly-advanced technique this study advertises the utility of DNA bar coding. More species need to be added, especially as 4.3% of samples failed to match any known bar code. New species anybody? (This is unlikely as many species are still to be coded.) Also, the bat only visits the high pastures in June, so assumptions about spring habitat are on hold. The rest of the bat’s life history are due to be worked out, now we know what happens during the feeding and breeding season.

2015 European Spider of the Year

This 20 October 2014 video says about itself:

Ghost spider (Anyphaena accentuata) filmed on the edge of a woodland path in the Burgwald, Hesse, Germany.

The ghost spider is European Spider of the Year for 2015.

See also here.

Bringing European bison back

This June 2014 video is called Bringing Back Europe’s Bison | The New York Times.

From Rewilding Europe:

Rewilding Europe signs deal with Avesta Park and publishes Bison Rewilding Plan

17 December 2014

Today, an agreement was signed about deliveries of quality European bison individuals for releases in the wild, between Rewilding Europe and the Avesta Visentpark (Avesta Bison Park) in Sweden, one of Europe’s oldest and finest breeding stations for this endangered wildlife species. This symbolically coincides with Rewilding Europe publishing its new “Bison Rewilding Plan 2014-2024”.

The Wisent, or European bison, is one of the most charismatic symbols for the wildlife comeback in Europe. It is still threatened and listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. The ‘’Bison Rewilding Plan 2014-2024’’ has the ambition to help establish several long-term viable populations of this unique animal in a number of European countries during the coming ten years.

– “Avesta Municipality is proud to be able to help rewild the Wisent back to its original habitats”, says Anders Friberg, Chief Director at the Avesta Municipality. Through taking part in Rewilding Europe’s work in the Carpathians and other locations, Avesta assumes its continued responsibility for the future of the European bison, an important part of our history and brand. It was helped here to be saved from extinction in the 1920’s by Axel Axelson Johnson, who founded the Avesta Bison Park.

– “Today you might see a bison in Avesta, but already next week that same bison may be walking around in a wilderness area in the Carpathians. We are really happy to continue providing the animals needed for such reintroductions”, says Mikael Jansson, Manager of the Avesta Bison Park.

In May 2014, Rewilding Europe brought 17 European bison to the Tarcu Mountains in Romania, in partnership with WWF-Romania. Six of these animals came from Avesta. That first herd will be released into the wild and a second herd of bison – again including animals from Avesta – will be transported to the area during spring 2015.

– “We are very pleased that Avesta has offered us to regularly provide bison for the establishing and reinforcement of wild populations in Europe. We already know the good quality of the Avesta animals, from our cooperation around the bison release in the Southern Carpathians earlier this year’’, says Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe. ”In the Bison Rewilding Plan 2014-2024, that we officially launched in Sweden today, we have outlined Rewilding Europe’s contribution to the conservation and comeback of this wonderful species. We will work closely with a variety of organisations and bison breeders across Europe to establish new, as well as support existing populations of the species in different parts of our continent”.

Bison Rewilding Plan

In the Bison Rewilding Plan, Rewilding Europe sets the ambition to establish at least five new herds, each of more than 100 individuals, in up to five selected areas in Europe, including at least one meta-population of at least 500 individuals in the Southern Carpathians by 2025 and to increase the European bison population living in the wild from 2,371 animals (2013) to more than 3,500 in 2018 and over 5,000 in 2022.

– “This will help lead the bison out from the risk of extinction”, says Wouter Helmer, Rewilding Director at Rewilding Europe. “The European bison is a strong symbol for the promotion of a wider ecological restoration of European landscapes. Bison-related tourism will provide opportunities for new economic development in our rewilding areas, with local businesses and people actively involved”.

Rewilding Europe will apply the “IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations” (2012) for all bison reintroductions and population reinforcements. The Bison Rewilding Plan is fully in line with the IUCN Species Action Plan and it is in fact Rewilding Europe’s contribution to it. Advice on the selection of animals comes from the European Bison Conservation Centre (EBCC) and our recently signed memorandum with the Center ensures the genetic viability of the herds and the opportunity to establish viable herds in all areas where Rewilding Europe is working.

The “Bison Rewilding Plan 2014-2024” was made possible through financial support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery. It was developed in cooperation with the Zoological Society of London. The Plan will be reviewed and updated after five years (in 2019) to include lessons learnt from the first period of work.

You can download the “Bison Rewilding Plan 2014-2024” here.

You can be an active part yourself in supporting the European bison to come back, by helping to fund the next five bison to be rewilded. Check out this Super X-mas gift to anyone with an interest in nature and wildlife. And maybe put it on your own wish list too? Why not give a hairy beast to someone who understands to enjoy it? Click here to contribute your bison!