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!

CIA torture and European governments

This video from the USA is called Will Torture Report Lead To Prosecutions?

By Chris Marsden in Britain:

The European powers and CIA torture

20 December 2014

Innumerable redactions in the 525-page US Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its report into torture by the CIA cannot conceal the complicity of the major European powers in the horrific crimes perpetrated by US imperialism.

Last week it was revealed that Britain had requested that its role be excised from the document, itself only a summary of a 6,700-page still-classified report. Indeed, all references to the participation of other governments in acts of unspeakable brutality were omitted at the insistence of the CIA and the Obama administration.

The CIA requested that the names of countries hosting detention sites “or with which the CIA negotiated the hosting of sites, as well as information directly or indirectly identifying such countries, be redacted from the classified version provided to [Senate Intelligence] Committee members.”

However, the amount of black ink throughout the document indicates how extensively other countries are implicated—with Europe playing a lead role.

The eleven countries operating what were effectively proxy CIA facilities included Syria and Libya—both of which subsequently fell foul of US regime-change operations. But the smaller list of six countries with secret prisons (black sites) directly controlled by the CIA included Poland, Lithuania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania.

This latter list says a great deal about the “democratic” credentials of the regimes that emerged from the Western-backed “democratic revolutions” that toppled the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, and the US- and German-stoked civil war and dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

The CIA sites in foreign countries are identified only by a colour code, such as Detention Site Black, Blue, etc. Poland, one of the most important, was Blue.

Getting people to these sites to be tortured via the “extraordinary rendition” programme directly involved 54 governments (a quarter of the world’s states, with over 20 in Europe) in a vast criminal enterprise.

As part of ensuring this collusion, involving at least 1,000 CIA flights, millions of dollars were distributed as blood money. “CIA headquarters encouraged CIA stations to construct ‘wish lists’ of proposed financial assistance to redacted [entities of foreign governments], and to ‘think big’ in terms of assistance,” the report states. Washington paid Lithuania $1 million for establishing the Violet detention centre.

A central role was played by the UK, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain, including rendition of their citizens and, in the case of the UK, direct collusion in torture.

The Social Democratic government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was implicated in the rendition of Khalid El-Masri, a German-Lebanese citizen wrongly held by the CIA.

Italy participated in the abduction of cleric Abu Omar from Milan in 2003, to be tortured in his native Egypt. Twenty three US personnel (but no Italians) were later found guilty and given sentences of seven to nine years in a trial lasting three-and-a-half years. But none were ever remanded in custody, let alone imprisoned.

The UK was involved in rendition flights and interrogated suspects it knew had been tortured. Binyam Mohamed, a British citizen, was tortured and then sent to Guantanamo Bay. In 2010, the British Court of Appeal released an earlier ruling that MI5 had colluded in Mohamed’s torture.

Sami-al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj were abducted from Hong Kong in 2004 in a joint UK/US operation and sent to be tortured by former Libyan secret police. Saadi’s children, aged 6, 9 and 11, and his expectant wife were abducted in Bangkok and rendered by the CIA. Belhaj says he was interrogated by MI6 officers in Tripoli.

Demands for an investigation of these crimes were blocked in the European Parliament in 2007 and stonewalled wherever they emerged elsewhere.

The European powers have issued only pro-forma and self-serving statements on the Senate report’s findings. European Union spokeswoman Catherine Ray said that while the report “raises important questions about the violation of human rights by the US authorities and persons at the service of the agencies,” EU states “recognize President Obama’s commitment to use his authority to ensure that these methods are never used again.”

These are naked lies. They are made by Europe’s political elite in the knowledge that Obama did everything in his power to stop the report ever seeing the light of day. They are issued amid a counter-offensive in the US involving the CIA and leading Bush-era officials insisting that torture was justified, and with US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia proclaiming it to be in accordance with the US Constitution.

Experience testifies that the European powers, Canada, Australia and the rest will continue to collude with the US in perpetrating whatever crimes it sees fit to carry out, and they will commit their own share whenever necessary. Revealed by the report on CIA torture are not merely the crimes of a former US administration, or even of the CIA as an institution. The document points to a descent into criminality by all the world’s major powers.

The real concerns of European state leaders regarding the report’s findings are two-fold.

First, there is the personal fate of individuals, such as Britain’s Tony Blair. Manfred Nowak, a former UN special rapporteur who helped draft the 1984 UN Convention against Torture, told Bloomberg News that the report could lead to “a flood of litigation.”

Second, the political elite is worried that even the limited exposure of the crimes perpetrated will arouse resistance domestically and internationally to future predatory actions by the major powers.

“Those of us who want to see a safer, more secure world, who want to see this extremism defeated, we won’t succeed if we lose our moral authority,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron pontificated.

“The upholding of legal and democratic values must be the foundation of our joint fight against terrorism,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said. “Only in this way can we gain credibility for our actions in this fight.”

This hollow and hypocritical rhetoric will not wash. Those who have long hid behind the façade of “humanitarian intervention” and condemned every state targeted for regime-change for flouting the norms of “civilisation” and “democracy” stand exposed.

Their resort to torture is not an aberration, any more than the gutting of democratic freedoms carried out in every country in the name of the “war on terror.” It flows inexorably from the drive of the imperialist powers to subjugate the world and divide its resources and markets between them. Their system must be overthrown and the entire criminal gang placed on trial for war crimes.

Spectacled warblers and global warming

This is a spectacled warbler video from Spain.

From Bird Study journal:

Is the Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata expanding northward because of climate warming?

Giacomo Assandria & Michelangelo Morganti

Published online: 16 Dec 2014


The Spectacled Warbler shows a strictly Mediterranean distribution which is expected to expand northward in response to climate warming. To test this hypothesis, we defined the regular distribution of the species based on the literature and we tested whether: (1) spring temperatures in this area significantly increased between 1967 and 2010; (2) breeding attempts north of the regular range occurred progressively at northern latitudes.

Both of these hypotheses were confirmed, supporting the hypothesis that the species is expanding northward because of climate warming.