Waders of Scotland’s Western Isles


This video from the USA says about itself:

How To Identify a Dunlin Sandpiper by Sound and Field Marks

Birdwatchers from Kissimmee, Florida located in Osceola County in the Central Florida area travel a short 50 mile drive to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Merritt Island offers outstanding birding for birdwatchers upon every visit.

Sandpipers at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge were present in November 2010. This flock is identified as Dunlins since they have broad white wingstripes, black legs, slight downward curve to black bill, and a dark belly on one who walks in from the right and scratches. Two of the sandpipers have only one leg. All of the sounds heard on the video are of the Dunlin Sandpipers seen. Replay to familiarize yourself with their vocalizations while they are feeding in this birder’s video.

From the RSPB in Scotland:

Waders Galore in the Western Isles

The machairs of Uist have been confirmed as still one of the best places in Western Europe to see breeding farmland waders. A recent survey of the area by RSPB Scotland, the British Trust for Ornithology , Natural Research and Scottish Natural Heritage employees found over nine thousand pairs of breeding waders (Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Snipe).

Stuart Taylor (RSPB Uist Species Officer) said that the sheer numbers of waders around the machair are spectacular and draw in thousands of birdwatchers each year. “The birds thrive on the machair, benefiting from the open landscape with many low-lying wet areas and the crofters’ cattle management system.”

Mr Taylor explained that the birds also benefit from the almost total lack of ground predators. “After the last Ice Age, Uist was cut of from the rest of the mainland by the Minch before land mammals could colonize. The islands have no Foxes, Stoats, Badgers, Pine Martens or any other native predatory land mammals. This enables the birds to breed in higher concentrations than anywhere else and creates one of best bird displays in Britain.”

This survey was the fourth extensive survey since the early 1980s and showed the machair still holds a very important population of breeding waders, although there have been some worrying changes.

Mr Taylor said that there have been marked declines of both Ringed plover and Dunlin and most species are not doing as well on those islands which have abundant numbers of the introduced Hedgehog.

Recent work led by SNH and BTO investigating the effects of predators on the breeding waders, and crucially the relative importance of hedgehogs as a predator of wader nests, is expected to be reported on early next year.

Mr Taylor expressed thanks to all the crofters and landowners for allowing this survey to take place over their land. “ Without their help and co-operation this important work could not be done.”

12 December 2014

Ferguson police militarisation on exhibition drawing


Ferguson police, August 13, 2014, courtesy Petzel

From Quartz blog in the USA:

At Art Basel Miami Beach—which opened to the public today, but has been in preview and pre-party mode since Tuesday—the mood is decidedly beachside bacchanalian. Money, sex, and, sun compete with contemporary art for starring roles at the fair, which feels far removed from the outside world and its turmoil. That is, until one turns a corner at the convention center to meet a 10-foot-wide drawing in deepest, matte-black charcoal of a faceless Ferguson police force, its riot gear backlit in a smoky haze.

Untitled (Ferguson Police, August 13, 2014) was drawn by Robert Longo, a New York artist whose photorealistic drawings of pummeling waves and great white sharks convey extreme power. This piece, however, like Longo’s recent seven-panel drawing of the US Capitol Building, conveys something darker, commanding viewers—especially American ones—to pay attention to their current moment and place in society.

Longo used a composite of photojournalists’ images of the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, in the days after Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. A grand jury last week decided not to indict Wilson for Brown’s death.

“My intent with this work is to evoke the tradition of epic historical battlefield paintings,” said the artist in a statement. “The innumerable amount of images of massed militarized riot police in the streets was shocking to me. It was surreal to see this kind of show of police force on the streets of America, amongst the McDonald’s and Exxon stations…This was not a Hollywood movie. This was not Russia or China or the Middle East. It was here in America on an American street where a violent response to protest had reached an extreme level.”

While collectors and visitors at Art Basel in Miami gazed at Longo’s piece, New Yorkers marched up Broadway to protest yet another non-indictment of a police officer for killing a black man, Eric Garner. If the last few months are any indication, Longo may have American battlefields to portray for some time to come.

See also here.

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer, has had a deep influence on art there and throughout the US: here.

Artist Titus Kaphar Takes On Ferguson: here.

The militarisation of police is happening worldwide, but allowing our cops to act like soldiers threatens our future, writes Hamilton Wende. Johannesburg – The tear gas and gunshots of Ferguson, Missouri, resonate eerily through this country. South Africans watching this conflict taking place thousands of kilometres away on their TV screens experience a complex set of emotions: here.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, touting its recent ministry in Ferguson, Missouri: here.

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin killed in the USA


This video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

The Death of Trayvon Martin

A compilation and interpretation of concrete video and audio evidence from the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, FL. Security camera footage from The Retreat at Twin Lakes clubhouse is synched to George Zimmerman’s 311 call, and to selections of the 911 calls reporting the shooting. After an introductory set-up, the video proceeds in real time. Animated maps are provided to illustrate the movement of George Zimmerman’s truck and the arrival of the police, as revealed by the “light events” in the security footage, and the comments of the 911 callers.

This evidence combines to establish that George Zimmerman was untruthful in a variety of his statements to the police regarding the shooting.

There is a long stretch of the video where not much happens. I have left it unedited to preserve real time both a) for evidenciary purposes – it establishes that traffic inside RATL was minimal that evening other than Zimmerman’s driving around, and I didn’t want to be accused of editing anything out :-), and b) I want to provide viewers the opportunity to feel just how long Trayvon Martin was standing under the mailbox awning before Zimmerman showed up, to understand just far fetched some of Zimmerman’s claims are in terms of the passage of time.

The research and analysis presented in this video is a collective project of contributors to BCClist.com.

Note: The little box on the right mis-identifies the music used on the soundtrack. It links to the correct artist and album — ‘Half Mute’ by Tuxedomoon — but the track in the video is “KM/Seeding the Clouds” not “Midnite Stroll.”

From the Jamaica Observer in Jamaica:

Trayvon Martin déjà vu in Ferguson

Thursday, November 27, 2014

ON Monday, a United States grand jury decided that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted on any charge for the fatal August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson was never arrested, charged or subjected to any disciplinary action.

The grand jury announcement further jangled nerves already frayed by police killing of a 12-year-old black boy holding a toy gun in a playground in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday, and the unpunished killing, earlier, of Trayvon Martin who was armed only with candy and a soft drink. The widely expected verdict in this sordid affair reignites the unresolved debate about racism in policing in America.

The announcement came after the St Louis County Grand Jury met in secrecy 25 times and heard from 60 witnesses before deciding. In a CNN poll, 32 per cent of Americans thought Mr Wilson should be charged with murder and another 25 per cent that he should be charged with some kind of crime. It comes as no surprise that in the latest round of HuffPost/YouGov polling, 64 per cent of black Americans said Mr Wilson was at fault, compared with just 22 per cent of whites.

The whole process has been handled badly, starting with the mayor and the governor whose primary concern was to maintain law and order. Immediately after the Martin and Brown killings, the respective police departments started to supply the media with information suggesting that both youngsters were gang members and were so stupid that they attacked armed officers. Yet no weapons of any kind have been found.

Irrelevant and insensitive comments were made by people, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani who said that the shooting was an exception, because 95 per cent of African-Americans are killed by other blacks.

Some 74 per cent of black Americans saw the Brown shooting as part of a larger pattern and not as a freak accident. The number is probably higher in Ferguson, Missouri. The Attorney General’s Office, in a report on racial profiling, found that 86 per cent of traffic stops in Ferguson targeted African-Americans in 2013. The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world with 707 per 100,000 and African-Americans make up 40 per cent of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in prison, although they account for 12 per cent of the American population.

Wilson has expressed no regret, claiming that his life was in danger and that he acted in accordance with his training. Some eyewitnesses have stated that Brown had his hands up at the time of the fatal shot. If the “no remorse, I have done nothing wrong, I was defending myself” justification seems familiar, it is because neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman used it to exculpate himself in the killing of Martin.

Racial profiling is not only in the former confederate states. In Oakland, California, it is reported that 37 out of 45 officer-involved shootings between 2004 and 2008 were of blacks. None was white. One-third of the shootings resulted in fatalities. Although weapons were not found in 40 per cent of cases no officers were charged. One report claims that there is an extrajudicial killing of African-Americans by police and security guards every 28 hours in the US.

Something has to be done about the killing of unarmed young African-Americans by white cops, and it must start by holding them accountable.

Ferguson Thanksgiving: A Former Slave Proposed the Holiday 55 Years Before Lincoln. Why His Version Matters Today: here.

More than 300 arrested in Los Angeles during Ferguson protests: here.

Cleveland police released a video Wednesday of the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by a police officer this past weekend. The video clearly shows that a police officer shot Rice within two seconds of pulling up to a park gazebo where he was sitting: here.

Young Cape Verde sea turtles, new study


This video from Florida in the USA is called Loggerhead Turtle burying eggs and returning to the ocean.

From Phys.org:

Sea turtles’ first days of life: Scientists follow hatchlings from Cape Verde with tiny acoustic transmitters

Oct 23, 2014

With new nano-sized acoustic transmitters, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and Queen Mary University of London followed the pathways of loggerhead turtle hatchlings. According to the study, which was primarily funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean,’ local oceanic conditions are believed to drive the evolution of some unique swimming behaviors. The results are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from Cape Verde start their life with a swimming sprint and a ride on favourable ocean currents. In this way, they escape quickly from predator-rich coastal areas and make their way to the safer open ocean where they spend several years feeding and growing. In this study, tiny acoustic transmitters provided direct insight into these pathways for the first time. “Thanks to the new technology we can start to fill in key information gaps about the so-called ‘lost years’ Dr. Rebecca Scott states. Funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”, the marine biologist coordinated a joint study of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London.

“Scientists call this early life phase the ‘lost years’, because they were not able to follow new-born sea turtle hatchlings very far. Hatchlings essentially disappear into the sea until many years later when the lucky survivors return to where they born to breed”, Dr. Scott says. But with new techniques like nano-tags and ocean models we are able to see where the tiny young animals go. This is important because the dispersal experiences of hatchlings drive the development of their behaviours into adulthood. The more we understand about the biological and physical determinants of their dispersal and swimming behaviours, the easier we can protect this endangered species.”

In cooperation with the Turtle Foundation at Boa Vista, Cape Verde, the scientists collected hatchlings from two beaches in the northwest and southern tip of the island. Acoustic transmitters with a five millimetres wide and twelve millimetres long streamlined shape that weigh 0,4 grams in water were glued onto the shell of eleven hatchlings. The turtles were then followed at sea using a boat and acoustic receiver for up to eight hours and 15 kilometres. In addition, the swimming behaviour of 16 hatchlings were monitored in “hatchling swimming pools” for several days using data loggers made by engineers at GEOMAR. The turtles swam continuously during their first 24 hours after hatching and then switched to a pattern of activity at daytime and inactivity at night.

Due to the close proximity of offshore currents in this region, it seems the Cape Verdean hatchlings can sleep more at night than hatchlings from other places. For example in America, different research groups have shown that they would have swim a lot more to reach offshore currents”, Dr. Scott explains. “Deep oceanic water and favourable currents, which then determined the travel directions and speeds of our Cape Verdean turtles are situated very near to their nests. Therefore, it is very beneficial for turtles if local oceanic conditions drive the evolution of swimming behaviours that are unique to different nesting locations to ensure their best survival outcomes. It seems that turtles are born with these unique locally adapted behaviours.”

Finally, because larger animals kept swimming for a longer time than smaller individuals, a larger body size is thought to be a good sign of fitness. “But there is some evidence emerging that higher nest temperatures may reduce the size of hatchlings. Therefore, it might be possible that global warming decreases the fitness of the sea turtles by threatening them in more subtle ways than just obvious dangers like the loss of nesting beaches”, Dr. Scott assumes.

It has been discovered sea turtles, like humans, can suffer from decompression sickness (DCS), also known as the bends: here.

Florida green anoles adapt to invasive species


This video from the USA says about itself:

The largest Green Anole ever!

The Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) is an arboreal lizard found primarily in the southeastern United States and some Caribbean islands. Other common names include the green anole, American anole and red-throated anole. It is also sometimes referred to as the American chameleon due to its ability to change color from several brown hues to bright green. While many kinds of lizards are capable of changing color, anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons. The Carolina is a small lizard; male adults are usually 15 cm (5.9 in) long in adulthood, about half of which is its tail, and it can weigh from 3–7 g (0.11–0.25 oz). Exceptionally, these anoles will grow up to 20 cm (7.9 in) in length.

From Breaking News:

A lizard species in Florida has evolved very quickly to deal with invaders

24/10/2014 – 12:16:32

In as little as 15 years, lizards native to Florida – known as Carolina anoles or green anoles – have adapted to deal with the threat of an invading species of lizard, Cuban or brown anoles.

This video is called Egg-laying brown anole (Anolis sagrei), Aruba. This female brown anole was filmed during digging a hole in the sand in which she layed an egg.

After having contact with the invasive species, said to have first gone to America from Cuba in the 1950s, the native lizards starting perching higher up in trees. Over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up.

The change was rapid. After a few months the native lizards started moving higher up the branches and over 15 years, their toe pads had become larger with stickier scales on their feet.

“We did predict that we’d see a change, but the degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising,” said Yoel Stuart, a post-doctoral researcher in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study.

“To put this shift in perspective, if human height were evolving as fast as these lizards’ toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations — an increase that would make the average U.S. male the height of an NBA shooting guard,” said Stuart. “Although humans live longer than lizards, this rate of change would still be rapid in evolutionary terms.”

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” where similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches.

A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galapagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

The researchers speculate that the competition between brown and green anoles for the same food and space may be driving the adaptations of the green anoles. Stuart also noted that the adults of both species are known to eat the hatchlings of the other species.

“So it may be that if you’re a hatchling, you need to move up into the trees quickly or you’ll get eaten,” said Stuart. “Maybe if you have bigger toe pads, you’ll do that better than if you don’t.”

The research was published in the journal Science.

See also here. And here. And here.

Florida: Protecting a Home Where the Puffer Fish Roam in Biscayne National Park: here.

New whale species discovery off Florida?


This video is called Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei).

From Wildlife Extra:

Possible new whale species could be the world’s most endangered

A new species of whale may have been discovered off the coast of Florida. Scientists previously thought that the group of around 50 whales living in DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico were a [sub]species of Bryde’s Whale (pronounced ‘brooda’).

However, new genetic testing indicates that they might in fact be different species, and if so that would make them the most endangered whale on Earth.

The new testing has identified that the whales could be a distinct subspecies of Bryde’s Whale, or they could potentially be a new species altogether.

The DNA sampled in the tests also suggests that there were previously many more of the whales. “It’s unclear based on the genetics exactly when [the decline] occurred,” says Michael Jasny, Director of the Marine Mammal Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as reported on Mother Nature Network.

“It’s possible humans were involved in the decline, through whaling or industrial activities. There’s a suggestion in the published paper that oil and gas activity might have led to contraction of the range.”

DeSoto Canyon, where the whales live year-round, is adjacent to Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010.

Testing carried out on whales in the area after the spill showed high levels of toxic metals, and it is suspected that the new whale species in the Gulf would also have been affected by the incident.

Jasny, who recently petitioned the US government to list the whales as an endangered species, believes that the whale needs protection from local environmental stressors, including shipping noises and the widespread use of seismic ‘airgun’ surveys for oil and gas exploration. The airguns have been banned in the canyon, but continue in nearby areas.

“Sound travels much farther in seawater than it does in air,” Jasny explains. “We know noise from seismic surveys travels particularly far and can have a large environmental footprint. Great whales are especially vulnerable.

“We know that airguns can destroy the ability of whales to communicate, hundreds of miles or in some cases even thousands of miles from a single airgun array. We know it causes great whales to cease vocalizing, and that it can compromise their ability to feed.

“It’s hard to imagine how this population — or possibly this species — would survive without protection.”

Along with other conservationists, Jasny hopes that the species will be listed as endangered, as this will afford it further protection. However the US Fish and Wildlife Service have a backlog of endangered species, which will mean a long waiting period for adding the whale to the list.

Should it be decided that the whale will be added to the list, it will then go to the US Endangered Species Act, which could take two years to process.