Hundreds of manatees at Florida springs


This video from the USA is called Snorkeling & Kayaking with the Manatees of Three Sisters Springs, Florida on February 17, 2013.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Manatees descend on Florida springs in record numbers

A rush in tides prompted a dramatic surge in numbers

Roisin O’Connor

Tuesday 03 February 2015

Three Sisters Springs in Citrus County usually has an average of 65 manatees gathered at once during the cold weather, but a rush in tides at noon prompted a dramatic surge in numbers.

“We have a record number this year,” Ruettiman told USA Today. “We have 150 more manatees here than have ever been recorded in the past.”

Officials said the springs reopened to the public on 3 February but would be closed again as manatees returned to the interior of the springs with the rising tide.

Florida campus police militarization, students protest


This video from the USA says about itself:

Radley Balko on the Militarization of America’s Police Force: VICE Meets

28 August 2014

On August 9th, 2014 a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Brown fueled days of unrest in Ferguson. Protestors took to the streets and were met with heavily armed police officers in armored vehicles. It wasn’t long before Ferguson, a town of 21,000, resembled a war zone. This week’s VICE Meets is a conversation about the militarization of America’s police force, with journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko.

By Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, USA:

FSU students to protest police ‘militarization’

7:03 a.m. EST January 27, 2015

Members of the Tallahassee Dream Defenders and Students for a Democratic Society plan to have a rally today calling for Florida State campus police to “demilitarize” and give up weapons and a combat vehicle the department purchased through a federal military surplus program.

Such equipment, purchased by thousands of state and local police agencies across the county through a U.S. Department of Defense program, gained attention when it was used by law enforcement officials during last year’s riots in Ferguson, Mo.

“We feel that it’s unsafe for a campus police department to have such excessive fire power,” said FSU sophomore Mark Niekus, president of the Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society. “There is no conceivable use for them except for using them on students who do not follow the rules.” …

The program, known as the 1033 program, was created in the 1990s to help law enforcement agencies get equipment to assist primarily in counter-drug and counter-terrorism efforts. Through the program, FSU police purchased a brand new amour-plated Humvee for $1,500, which [FSU Police Chief] Perry said would normally cost $83,000, as well as 10 semi-automatic rifles for $680. …

Niekus said the event is in response to the Missouri riots, but took time to come together. The rally is at 2 p.m. today at the Westcott Fountain.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Thursday unveiled a new militarized police unit that will be trained and armed with heavy protective gear, long rifles, and machine guns to restrain terrorists and social justice protesters: here.

Coral discovery off Florida


This 2011 video from Florida is called Deep Water Coral Reefs: Oases of the Ocean: Recent Discoveries and Conservation.

From the Sun Sentinel in the USA:

Forests of rare coral discovered off South Florida

By David Fleshler

December 29 2014

A surprise discovery along the South Florida coast has revealed dense thickets of a species of coral thought to be disappearing from the region’s reefs.

More than 38 acres of staghorn coral has been found in patches on the reefs from northern Miami-Dade to northern Broward counties, in what scientists call a rare piece of good news for a species that has sustained severe declines, largely due to disease.

“This is a huge win for Florida’s corals,” said Joanna Walczak, southeast regional administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection‘s Florida coastal office.

Staghorn coral, which extends delicate branches up from the ocean floor, is among the most important coral species for its ability to build reefs, creating habitat for fish and other marine creatures and providing a natural wave-break that protects the coast.

The dense patches of the federally protected coral, discovered through dives and the analysis of aerial surveys, run from the area off Golden Beach through Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Although many of the coral concentrations lie far from shore, some are accessible to divers.

A scientist from Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center found the coral while doing a survey for the environmental agency, which wanted a better map of shallow reef system.

“This was an unexpected result of a project that was intended to improve our knowledge of the types and locations of near-shore reef habitats in southeast Florida,” said Brian Walker, research scientist at Nova’s National Coral Reef Institute, who conducted the study.

The northern limit for the species is roughly around Boca Raton, but in the past, it was densest in the Florida Keys. The species has been disappearing there, however, battered by a variety of problems, including coral bleaching and white-band disease.

Global warming contributed to the decline, with higher water temperatures touching off more frequent incidents of bleaching. That occurs when corals expel the algae on which they depend for energy, making them more vulnerable to disease, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ironically, that same warming may have made the water temperatures of Miami-Dade and Broward counties more hospitable for the species.

“Some have speculated that climate change might have contributed,” Walker said.

The department of environmental protection wanted a better map of the coral’s locations to improve the management of beach-widening, coastal development and other activities that could harm corals, as well as improve responses to incidents such as oil spills and illegal boat anchoring.

Along the Fort Lauderdale coast, a patch was found about 325 yards off Northeast 18th Street, another about 430 yards off Vista Park and one about 325 yards off the north end of the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, where A1A splits. Another patch stands about 540 yards off the center of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. It is illegal to touch the coral.

When he dove the sites, Walker saw a variety of marine creatures swimming and creeping around the corals. He saw reef croakers, fireworms and sea hares (a type of mollusk named for two earlike appendages). He saw threespot damselfish, which cultivate algae gardens on the corals by weeding out the algae species they don’t plan to eat.

Walczak, of the environmental protection department, said her office has begun putting more effort into studying the reefs north of Biscayne National Park, and “it amazes me that we’re still finding new and exciting discoveries.”

Florida sawfish news update


This video is called Sawfish Off Jupiter Florida.

From the Sun Sentinel in the USA:

Signs of hope for endangered sawfish

3 minutes ago by David Fleshler

Approaching Port Everglades in a helicopter, Ryan Goldman peered down at the water and saw a ray swimming at unusually high speed.

Behind it, he spotted two large and bizarre-looking predators: the endangered smalltooth sawfish, which use their long, serrated bills to hunt prey. The two 12-foot-long fish swam out of the inlet as the helicopter circled and Goldman, a biologist for Broward County who was in the air to count manatees, took photos.

The sighting in March may provide further evidence of a modest resurgence of one of the world’s most endangered fish, a giant that that can reach a length of 18 feet. Although they resemble sharks, sawfish are a species of ray. They use the saw, known as a rostrum, to slash at schools of fish and dislodge prey from the ocean floor.

Once ranging across the coast from North Carolina to Texas, the smalltooth sawfish has been reduced to a core habitat along the coast of Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida. Although the species can be found along the coasts of other countries, the U.S. population is believed to be isolated.

“They are the largest species of in-shore fish that anybody’s going to see,” said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, who is compiling a database of global sawfish sightings. “It’s bigger than any of the sharks, bigger than any of the groupers. … Its recovery as a species in the United States is totally dependent on what we do in Florida. We as Floridians have a special obligation to save the species.”

In the past few years, sawfish have been turning up more frequently in parts of their old range. Divers have encountered them in submerged wrecks off Jupiter. One turned up in Port Everglades in 2012, although it was dead and tangled in a fishing line.

“We’re seeing signs that the population may be recovering slowly,” said Dean Grubbs, associate director of research at the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory, who has placed satellite tags on the sawfish. “We are seeing some animals showing up in the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, the east coast of Georgia. We would expect, if the population continues to recover, for them to show up in Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

On a recent spearfishing dive north of Jupiter Inlet, Jim Fyfe saw two sawfish, one about 12 feet long, the other 14 feet. A video posted on YouTube shows each sawfish resting on the sandy ocean floor in about 75 feet of water. When Fyfe approached, they stirred and swam off.

In addition to spreading out to new areas, Burgess said, “we do have hints that there are more of them” in their core range.

But Gregg Poulakis, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he isn’t sure a recovery is underway.

“I think it’s a little too early to tell,” said Poulakis, who has done years of field research on sawfish. “There’s no analysis I’m aware of that shows the population is increasing. They’re stable for sure.”

The decline of sawfish was largely because the fish were accidentally caught in commercial fishing gear, such as longlines and shrimp trawls. They also have been caught by recreational fishermen who cut off the rostrum as a trophy. Another cause of decline has been coastal construction, which destroyed the red mangrove coastlines that sheltered juvenile sawfish.

But several protection measures have gone into effect, both before and after the sawfish was designated an endangered species in 2003.

In 1994 Florida banned the use of gillnets, large commercial fishing nets that hang vertically in the water. Sawfish habitat around the Keys and Everglades National Park received additional protections. And a public awareness campaign reminded recreational anglers it was illegal to kill sawfish and they should avoid harming any accidentally caught.

“People used to catch them, cut off the saw and throw the fish overboard,” Grubbs said. “People probably still do that, but for the most part that has ended.”

Countering this positive trend has been the rise of social media, which has led many to post photos and videos of themselves on YouTube, Instagram and other sites catching sharks, sawfish and other marine creatures, said Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International. To get better photos, they often haul them out of the water, an illegal act when it involves endangered species, which are protected by law from harassment.

“Through social media we’re seeing more mishandling of sawfish,” Fordham said. “Sawfish with tail ropes that had clearly been dragged. Sawfish should never be lifted out of the water or dragged.”

Unfortunately, she said, funding for public outreach on sawfish has been reduced, making it harder to spread the word on how to avoid harming them.

Poulakis said he still encounters sawfish with fishing line around their heads, often tight and biting into their flesh because the sawfish has grown. He said recreational anglers generally try to free the fish but understandably don’t want to get too close to a thrashing saw.

“Most of them try to untangle them as best they can,” Poulakis said. “We see pretty significant damage to the head area. It gets wrapped around. It really starts to dig in. We’ve seen cases where as the fish grows, it will get tighter. We cut that off.”

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.

Images of fire, protests, and tear gas from Ferguson, Missouri, Mexico City, and downtown Los Angeles have circled the globe through social media the last six months. They landed in the inbox of painter Sandy Rodriguez, who works out of a studio in South L.A.’s Leimert Park: 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.