Welsh, Icelandic puffins use tools, new research

This 27 December 2019 video says about itself:

Watch a puffin use a stick as a feather-scratching tool | Science News

A remote motion-sensitive camera captured a puffin on Grimsey Island in Iceland picking up a stick and using it to scratch its feathers in July 2018. It’s the second time researchers studying puffins have spotted such tool use and the first time it’s been documented in seabirds.

By Jonathan Lambert, 30 December 2019:

Stick-toting puffins offer the first evidence of tool use in seabirds

Two birds observed four years and a sea apart turned sticks into feather scratchers

Annette Fayet was scanning a colony of Atlantic puffins off the coast of Wales when something caught her eye. A puffin, gently bobbing on the sea, held a stick in its orange-black bill. Then, the seabird used it to scratch its back.

“I was surprised and excited,” says Fayet, an ecologist at the University of Oxford who studies puffin migration. Puffins (Fratercula arctica<) had never been seen using tools. In fact, no seabird had.

Fayet recorded the unusual behavior in her notebook, but it would take four more years before she got photographic evidence. In 2018 on Grimsey Island in Iceland, one of her motion-sensitive camera captured a puffin snatching a stick from the ground and using it to scratch its chest feathers.

Those observations, described December 30 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represent the only known example of a bird in the wild using a tool to scratch itself.

Scientists have long known that some birds use tools, mostly to extract food. Stick-wielding crows wow biologists with their ingenuity  (SN: 9/14/16), some parrots grind down seashells with pebbles and Egyptian vultures can crack ostrich eggs with rocks. But seabirds, which tend to have smaller brains, were written off as prospective tool users, Fayet says. The puffin discovery suggests that tool use in birds may be more widespread and varied than previously thought, she and her colleagues say.

“I’m not surprised that seabirds can use tools,” says Corina Logan, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study. She says so many creatures’ cognitive abilities remain undiscovered because detecting them takes so much time and energy.

Despite the small sample size, Logan says she’s convinced puffins can use tools in part because the behavior was seen in two populations four years and 1,700 kilometers apart. Most tool use in birds revolves around eating, but this study “expands our predictions about which species engage in [tool use] and why they might need or want to do so.”

The puffins might be using sticks to flick ticks, a common puffin parasite, from their plumage, Fayet and her colleagues suggest. Summer 2018 in Iceland, when the behavior was caught on video, was an especially bad tick season.

Sexism, Panama papers, other scandals in Iceland

This video says about itself:

Newly discovered video of public unrest on Austurvelli following the decision of the Icelandic government to join NATO in 1949, one of the most unpopular decisions in Iceland’s otherwise peaceful political history (1944-2007).

After 2007 came more protests.

This video says about itself:

Public protest in Reykjavik, Iceland following the financial crisis. Public demands answers, unsettled regarding the state of the economy and prospects of the job market. Captured by BBC. Oct 26, 2008.

The 2008 financial crisis hit people in Iceland harder than anywhere else, because of the right-wing government’s collusion with dodgy banking fat cats in an extremely Thatcherite economic policy.

Then, eight years later …

This video says about itself:

4 April 2016

Thousands of Icelanders “took to the streets” calling on the Prime Minister to resign, following allegations he benefited from offshore holdings in tax havens.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his wife are cited in the so-called Panama Papers as having hidden millions of dollars of investments in Icelandic banks through a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Read more here.

And now, in December 2018, there are again protests in Iceland against basically the same right-wing politicians. This time not only because of Panama and other financial scandals, but also because of misogyny, homophobia, etc.

1 December 2018 protest in Iceland, photo by Mbl.is/Kristinn Magnusson

This photo shows the 1 December 2018 protest in Reykjavik, Iceland.

From the Iceland Monitor, 30 November 2018:

Furore has ensued as sound recordings of MP’s of the Centre Party making comments about fellow women MP’s were made public by newspaper Stundin. The male MP’s made crude remarks such as one woman MP not likely to make it up the primary elections because she wasn’t as “hot” as last year.

The MP’s include Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who is the former Prime Minister of Iceland and hit headlines two years [ago] for involvement in the Panama Papers. He is now leader of the [right-wing] Centre Party.

Other MP’s are Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Bergþór Ólason, Karl Gauti Hjaltason, and MP’s for the [also right-wing] People’s Party, Ólafur Ísleifsson and Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir.  Sveinsson is Iceland’s former Foreign Minister and fronted the UN’s “He for She ” campaign, and wrote an article in the Guardian on the gender equality initiative.  …

The recording was made at Klaustur bar on November 20th and the conversation, according to witnesses, was very loud, reports Stundin.

The comments, some of them very crude and using swearwords aimed at women discussed the looks and intelligence of female MP’s.

Also in the recording, Sveinsson tells the others about how he appointed former PM Geir Haarde [of the right-wing Independence Party], found guilty of neglect after the economic collapse in 2008, as Ambassador in Washington DC.

From the BBC:

Iceland scandal over MPs’ crude and sexist bar talk

By Laurence Peter BBC News

3 December 2018

There are calls for several Icelandic MPs to resign after they were recorded using crude language to describe female colleagues and a disabled activist.

Icelanders were especially shocked that the MPs’ targets included ex-MP Freyja Haraldsdottir, a disabled woman and well-known disability rights activist.

Freyja Haraldsdottir expressed pain on Facebook over the abusive language, photo Mbl.is/Omar Oskarsson

On Facebook Ms Haraldsdottir – who has osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) – said former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson had apologised to her personally.

But she said the apology did not go far enough. “To apologise, while trying to explain, explain, and just lie about what happened, is not an apology.”

“There are a thousand and one ways to express differences of opinion other than mocking a woman’s body and appearance,” she wrote on Facebook (in Icelandic).

Society in shock

The four Centre Party MPs and two MPs from the People’s Party – all opposition politicians – were secretly recorded by a member of the public in a Reykjavik bar, Klaustur.

They are heard repeatedly using the word “bitch” and sexually charged language. A woman MP was in the group, but did not make similarly offensive comments.

The anonymous eavesdropper sent the recording to Icelandic media, and it then went viral on social media. He said he recorded them on his mobile phone because he was shocked by the language they used, the Iceland Monitor reported.

The MPs’ conversation was more than three hours long. …

In the recording one of the group allegedly mocks Ms Haraldsdottir’s disability by imitating a seal. According to Mr Gunnlaugsson, the sound came from a chair being moved, not from one of the MPs.

However, that proved to be a lie. And, like the Saudi absolute monarchy switched from lying that journalist Khashoggi was still alive to lying that Khashoggi was indeed murdered, but by ‘rogue killers’ who had nothing to do with Crown Prince Mohammed, ex-Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson switched from the chair lie to a bike lie. From the Iceland Monitor, 4 December 2018:

Centre party leader Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson said yesterday evening that the seal noise made at the Klaustur bar was not one of the MP’s but probably a bike skidding to a halt outside the bar. His chair sound theory was proved wrong by journalists.

Disabled former MP Freyja Haraldsdóttir has responded on Twitter that it must have been the sound of the wheels on her wheelchair skidding outside the bar window.

The scandal of the recorded bar conversation by six MP’s is being hashtagged as #klausturgate.

From the Iceland Monitor, 3 December 2018:

President of Parliament in Iceland, Steingrímur J.Sigfússon read a statement at Parliament today where he apologized on behalf of Parliament for the derogatory remarks made by six MP’s about women, disabled people and the queer community. The matter is now under investigation by the parliamentary ethics regulations committee.

“The words used are inexcusable and indefensible. It is particularly indefensible how they spoke about women, women in politics, disabled people and gay people. It is important for a modern democracy to eliminate this kind of discourse, this uncultured talk from politics and we all have to help.”

From the Iceland Monitor, 5 December 2018:

Iceland’s Minister of Culture [Progressive Party member] Lilja Alfreðsdóttir appeared on the Kastljós news programme tonight, speaking for the first time about her reaction to the comments made about her in bar conversation two weeks ago, recorded by a witness.

“I experience this as violence. They are perpetrators of violence”, said Alfreðsdóttir about the comments made by former PM Sigmyndur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Bergþór Ólason and former Minister for Foreign affairs and MP for the Centre Party Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.

The Klaustur bar politicians said about Ms Alfreðsdóttir, in Beavis and Butt-Head style, that they’d all like to ‘do’ her.

Beluga whale in England, whaling in Iceland

This 25 August 2018 video from England says about itself:

Beluga Whale is spotted in the River Thames leaving Londoners stunned

A beluga whale was spotted in the River Thames near London today, in what is believed to be the most southerly sighting ever recorded in Britain. Ecologist and ornithologist Dave Andrews could not hide his surprise as he tweeted videos of the mammal in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort in Tilbury, Essex.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, September 28, 2018

A whale in the Windrush’s wake

PETER FROST sees the whale in the Thames as just part of a much bigger issue

SEVENTY years ago in June 1948 at Tilbury the steamship Empire Windrush landed some 500 hopeful settlers from Kingston, Jamaica.

This week Tilbury, now one of London’s busiest docks, welcomed yet another exotic visitor.

A large white whale, an Arctic beluga, was seen feeding around barges on the Thames between Gravesend and Tilbury. After the whale was spotted by an early morning bird watcher, experts soon decided that the white body, absence of dorsal fin and bulbous forehead indicated that it was a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).

These sea mammals, which can grow up to 5.5m (18ft) long and weigh up to 1,600kg (3,530lb), normally live in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, so this beluga was a long way from home, which is usually the waters around Russia, Alaska, Canada, west Greenland and Svalbard.

In these Arctic waters the whales live in estuaries, on continental shelves, as well as in deep open water. They do sometimes swim up rivers in shallow waters, but they tend to stay in social groups.

That huge domed forehead has two main purposes — one brain, one brawn. It houses a sophisticated echo navigation system to find a way though the ice and, if the animal is trapped under sheet ice, it uses its head as a battering ram to open a breathing hole.

This whale was obviously way off course and experts wondered if it was in ill health or distressed. There have only been around 20 sightings of beluga whales off the UK coast previously, but these have occurred off Northumberland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

There has never been a beluga sighting in the Thames before.

This isn’t the first whale to visit London’s river, however. Ten years ago a six-metre-long female northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) swam into the river Thames and drew thousands to watch the dramatic rescue attempt. She too had ventured a long way from home in the deep waters of the north Atlantic. Tragically that Thames visitor died.

Initial excitement at the beluga sighting turned to worry and concern that the animal appeared unable to find its way back out to sea. Instead it headed upriver towards the capital but was reported to be swimming and eating well.

Whales aren’t adapted to life in fresh water so healthy whales normally stay in our rivers for a short period of time before returning to the sea.

They eat about 100 different kinds of primarily bottom-dwelling animals including octopus, squid, crabs, snails, sandworms and fishes such as capelin, cod, herring, smelt and flounder, swallowing the fish whole.

Only a few of these foods will be found in the Thames around Tilbury and the beluga will need between 40 and 60 pounds (18-27kg) of fish a day.

River authorities and conservationists have asked people not to approach the whale in small boats or by swimming. Most took the advice, but some large ships found it hard to avoid the animal.

The last British beluga sightings were off the Northumberland and Northern Irish coasts in 2015, and the mammals are usually only spotted in the North Sea off Scotland or the Northern Isles.

Whales in the Thames are rare. In 1456 William Caxton sighted a “grete fish” very near where this year’s beluga was first seen; in 1788, 17 sperm whales came ashore on the lower reaches; 1791 saw sailors from Greenwich chasing and killing a killer whale at Deptford; a 58-foot fin whale was dragged ashore at Gravesend in 1849.

Belugas are one of only four species of mammal that experience the menopause. Three are whales and the fourth humans.

Belugas in Canada’s Saint Lawrence River are so contaminated by hydrocarbons from aluminium smelting plants that they suffer more cancer than any other wild animal. Dead whales’ bodies there must be disposed of as toxic waste.

Belugas are a distinctive species, with flexible necks, a huge forehead, no dorsal fin and, unlike most cetaceans, they can also swim backwards. They are highly social species, living in pods of between two and 25, and communicating with high-frequency sounds.

They have even been known to mimic human language. They sometimes sing so sweetly that whaling crews once called them canaries of the sea.

While we worry about the fate of a single whale in the Thames, the Icelandic government and the Left-Green Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir are considering legislation to stop the mass slaughter of whales being carried out every year by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf, led and kept alive by the company’s owner and boss Kristjan Loftsson.

Nobody knows why he carries on. Hardly any Icelanders eat whale meat any more. Consumption seems to be almost entirely by curious holidaymakers visiting Iceland. Much of the other whale meat is sold to Japan at a loss.

An arrogant Loftsson seems to enjoy the angry reactions to his bloody slaughter. As I reported earlier this summer, his ships illegally killed a fully protected blue whale.

By the time experts got around to testing the DNA of the whale, Loftsson’s staff had mixed the meat of the blue whale with that of previously slaughtered fin whales. The whale was then declared a rare fin-blue hybrid — legal to kill.

In 2015, Iceland’s business newspaper Vidskiptabladid dug into the financial records for Hvalur hf.

While the company reported a profit of three billion Icelandic kroner (ISK), up about half a billion from the year previous, a closer look told a different story.

The paper found that, when operational costs such as maintaining ships, running the whaling centre and export costs were deducted from the company’s revenue from whale meat, the difference amounted to a loss of 72.5 million ISK.

It seems that the majority of Hvalur hf’s profits came from shares in the company Vogun hf, the largest shareholder of the fishing company HB Grandi. Vogun is 99.8 per cent owned by Hvalur hf. So profitable fishing actually pays for the loss-making whaling.

An international online Avaaz petition demanding the Hvalur hf company specifically, and Iceland in general, stop whaling has almost reached a million and a half signatures.

It is hard to discover just when, or indeed if, the Iceland parliament will debate the future of this bloody industry.

The Left-Green Movement and Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir have both said they are against whaling but so far have not said they will take any action to stop it.

It is just as important to do all we can to save all whales as well as helping the single beluga fighting for its life in the Thames. Let’s stop the killing forever.

Argentina-Iceland 1-1, celebration with birds

This 2015 video is about birds in Iceland.

This 2015 video is called 1000 reasons to visit Argentina. Birding in Argentina.

To celebrate today’s World Cup football match Argentina-Iceland, these videos. One bird video for each country, as they both made one goal.

This video is called Argentina vs Iceland 1-1 All Goals & Highlights 16/06/2018.

This is a surprisingly good result for small country Iceland against Argentina, one of the favourites. The Icelandic goalie stopped a penalty by Argentine star player Lionel Messi.

The coach of Iceland is part-time coach, part dentist on the Vestmannaeyjar islands.

Vestmannaeyjar means ‘islands of the Irish people’. As the original inhabitants of the archipelago were ‘maroon‘ Irish runaway slaves.

Iceland-Argentina, World Cup football today

This 15 June 2018 video says about itself:

Iceland: Can World Cup Debutants Stun Lionel Messi And Argentina?

In the distance, a plume of smoke rose from the eastern side of the island. Lava began to spew forth toward the town of Vestmannaeyjar, on Heimaey, the largest of the rocky Icelandic Westman Islands.

The Argentina-Iceland World Cup match in Russia is today.

How volcanism converted Iceland to Christianity

This 2017 video is about Ófærufoss waterfall in Iceland. It says abput itself:

Located near Eldgjá in central Iceland. Until the early 1990s a natural bridge spanned the falls, but it collapsed from natural causes. Pronunciation “oe-fai-ru-foss”.

a href=”https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180319090740.htm”>From the University of Cambridge in England:

Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland’s conversion to Christianity

March 19, 2018

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests.

A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately date a massive volcanic eruption, which took place soon after the island was first settled.

Having dated the eruption, the researchers found that Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, which describes the end of the pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god, describes the eruption and uses memories of it to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland. The results are reported in the journal Climatic Change.

The eruption of the Eldgjá in the tenth century is known as a lava flood: a rare type of prolonged volcanic eruption in which huge flows of lava engulf the landscape, accompanied by a haze of sulphurous gases. Iceland specialises in this type of eruption — the last example occurred in 2015, and it affected air quality 1400 kilometres away in Ireland.

The Eldgjá lava flood affected southern Iceland within a century of the island’s settlement by Vikings and Celts around 874, but until now the date of the eruption has been uncertain, hindering investigation of its likely impacts. It was a colossal event with around 20 cubic kilometres of lava erupted — enough to cover all of England up to the ankles.

The Cambridge-led team pinpointed the date of the eruption using ice core records from Greenland that preserve the volcanic fallout from Eldgjá. Using the clues contained within the ice cores, the researchers found that the eruption began around the spring of 939 and continued at least through the autumn of 940.

“This places the eruption squarely within the experience of the first two or three generations of Iceland’s settlers”, said first author Dr Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “Some of the first wave of migrants to Iceland, brought over as children, may well have witnessed the eruption.”

Once they had a date for the Eldgjá eruption, the team then investigated its consequences. First, a haze of sulphurous dust spread across Europe, recorded as sightings of an exceptionally blood-red and weakened sun in Irish, German and Italian chronicles from the same period.

Then the climate cooled as the dust layer reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which is evident from tree rings from across the Northern Hemisphere. The evidence contained in the tree rings suggests the eruption triggered one of the coolest summers of the last 1500 years. “In 940, summer cooling was most pronounced in Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Central Asia, with summer average temperatures 2°C lower”, said co-author Professor Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The team then looked at medieval chronicles to see how the cooling climate impacted society. “It was a massive eruption, but we were still amazed just how abundant the historical evidence is for the eruption’s consequences”, said co-author Dr Tim Newfield, from Georgetown University’s Departments of History and Biology. “Human suffering in the wake of Eldgjá was widespread. From northern Europe to northern China, people experienced long, hard winters and severe spring-summer drought. Locust infestations and livestock mortalities occurred. Famine did not set in everywhere, but in the early 940s we read of starvation and vast mortality in parts of Germany, Iraq and China.”

“The effects of the Eldgjá eruption must have been devastating for the young colony on Iceland — very likely, land was abandoned and famine severe”, said co-author Professor Andy Orchard from the University of Oxford’s Faculty of English. “However, there are no surviving texts from Iceland itself during this time that provide us with direct accounts of the eruption.”

But Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, Voluspá (‘The prophecy of the seeress’) does appear to give an impression of what the eruption was like. The poem, which can be dated as far back as 961, foretells the end of Iceland’s pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god: in other words, the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, which was formalised around the turn of the eleventh century.

Part of the poem describes a terrible eruption with fiery explosions lighting up the sky, and the Sun obscured by thick clouds of ash and steam:

“The sun starts to turn black, land sinks into sea; the bright stars scatter from the sky. Steam spurts up with what nourishes life, flame flies high against heaven itself.”

The poem also depicts cold summers that would be expected after a massive eruption, and the researchers link these descriptions to the spectacle and impacts of the Eldgjá eruption, the largest in Iceland since its settlement.

The poem’s apocalyptic imagery marks the fiery end to the world of the old gods. The researchers suggest that these lines in the poem may have been intended to rekindle harrowing memories of the eruption to stimulate the massive religious and cultural shift taking place in Iceland in the last decades of the tenth century.

“With a firm date for the eruption, many entries in medieval chronicles snap into place as likely consequences — sightings in Europe of an extraordinary atmospheric haze; severe winters; and cold summers, poor harvests; and food shortages”, said Oppenheimer. “But most striking is the almost eyewitness style in which the eruption is depicted in Voluspá. The poem’s interpretation as a prophecy of the end of the pagan gods and their replacement by the one, singular god, suggests that memories of this terrible volcanic eruption were purposefully provoked to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland.”

Reforestation in Iceland

This video says about itself:

Iceland Is Growing New Forests for the First Time in 1,000 Years | Short Film Showcase

13 January 2018

The landscape of Iceland has changed a lot in a thousand years. When the Vikings first arrived in the ninth century, the land was covered in 25 to 40 percent forest.

Icelandic conservative Prime Minister’s downfall in paedophilia scandal

This video from England says about itself:

Secrets of St Peter’s: Shocking child abuse at Catholic Church school revealed

25 June 2015

[British Daily] Express reporter Joanna Della-Ragione investigates shocking claims of historic child sex abuse at a former approved school, St Peter’s in Gainford, County Durham.

Speaking for the first time, the victims tell their own story and explain how the Catholic Church covered-up the appalling scandal.

Filmed and directed by Daniel Luccesi.

Warning: This film contains upsetting material.

Bjarni Benediktsson is the leader of the Independence Party of Iceland; a right-wing, pro-Big Business party, involved in Icelandic banking fraud and Panama papers financial scandals.

In January 2017, Bjarni Benediktsson became prime minister of Iceland in a coalition government.

Wikipedia writes:

In September 2017, the future of the Icelandic government and Bjarni’s tenure as prime minister was put in doubt when the Bright Future party withdrew from the governing coalition. Bright Future did this in the wake of reporting that government ministers of the Independence Party had concealed that Bjarni’s father, Benedikt Sveinsson, recommended that the criminal record of convicted pedophile Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson be erased.

The Minister of Justice, Sigríður Andersen, had informed Benediktsson about his father’s involvement in the letter of recommendation in July, and refused to disclose the recommendation’s author until compelled to by a parliamentary committee.[

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 15 September 2017:

Letter supporting pedosexual causes downfall of prime minister of Iceland

The Icelandic government has fallen because of a letter written by Prime Minister Benediktsson’s father in support of a convicted child abuser. A coalition party speaks of a breach of trust because the Prime Minister had kept that secret.

The father, Benedikt Sveinsson, in a letter had supported a friend who was sentenced to five years in prison for child abuse in 2004. The man had been abusing his step daughter almost every day for 12 years. In the letter, Sveinsson pleaded for ‘rehabilitation’ for the pedosexual; thus the man would be eligible for professions where declaration of good conduct is required.

Cover up

Although Benediktsson has already known this since July, Sveinsson’s support was initially kept secret. When there was a fuss about the prosecution of the perpetrator, Benediktsson did everything in order to keep his father’s name out of publicity. Only when a parliamentary committee urged, his involvement became known.

Coalition party Bright Future was indignant of the Prime Minister’s shenanigans and resigned from the government. Because of that, the wobbly coalition lost its majority in parliament after nine months. Benediktsson wants new elections before November.

Iceland’s government is collapsing in the wake of a pedophilia scandal.

Iceland PM sold bank assets hours before financial crash, leaks show. Exclusive: Bjarni Benediktsson, current Iceland leader, sold millions of króna of Glitnir assets before state took control in 2008: here.

American Bonaparte’s gull, first ever nest in Iceland

This video from Washington state in the USA says about itself:

Bonaparte’s Gull feeding

One of about 400 Bonaparte’s in outer Quartermaster Harbor, Vashon Island. Most were roosting on the water while a few were feeding. This bird has completed the transition from winter to breeding plumage, but many were still in transition. Taken on 1 May 2011.

From Club300 in Denmark, 26 June 2017:

Breaking breeding news: Bonaparte’s gull is breeding in Iceland, new breeding bird for the western Palearctic!

Read more, in Danish, here.