Northern lights in Iceland, video

This video from Iceland is called Aurora Borealis, December 7th 2014 over Reykjavik.

See also here.

Northern lights on Terschelling island: here.

Good seabird news from Spain

This video is about Látrabjarg seabird colony in western Iceland.

From BirdLife:

Great step forward for seabirds in Spain

By Elodie Cantaloube, Tue, 22/07/2014 – 16:17

Spanish landmark legislation increases 20-fold marine protected areas

Spain has officially established 39 new marine protection areas. The new sites are ‘Special Protection Areas for Birds’ (SPAs), designated under the European Birds Directive. The SPAs will offer protection to seabirds whilst they are at sea, complementing the existing network of sites on land.

Spain, with its Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines and islands, is extremely important for European seabirds. This includes Europe’s most threatened seabird – Balearic Shearwater, and other species endemic to the Mediterranean, such as the Yelkouan Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull.

The announcement is the culmination of many years of hard work by BirdLife’s Spanish Partner SEO/BirdLife, who has played a major role in this process: each of the 39 sites closely mirrors the Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas identified by the organisation, following nearly a decade of scientific research.

Previously, Spain’s network of protected sites for seabirds was made up mostly of small sites at colonies and along coasts and islands. These sites mostly protect seabirds whilst on land, but do not protect them in the environment where they spend the majority of their time: out at sea. These new sites, many of which are large in size, and include areas offshore, will add an additional 50,000km2 to Spain’s protected area network for birds, a whopping 20-fold increase.

“The announcement is extremely important”, said Asunción Ruiz, Director of SEO/BirdLife “Now seabirds can be protected when they venture away from the Spanish coast. Carefully managed, these sites could make a real difference to the recovery of our threatened seabirds.”

The ground work carried out by SEO/BirdLife to identify these sites, involved many years of research tracking seabirds and understanding their behaviour at sea. The information on Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas is collated on BirdLife’s Marine E-Atlas. Across Europe, these sites act as a ‘shadow list’ of sites which should be protected under EU law.

“It is extremely promising that Spain has moved to designate offshore sites and it is imperative for seabird conservation that other countries in Europe follow their example”, added Marguerite Tarzia, European Marine Conservation Officer at BirdLife “the addition of these sites means that Spain has gone from lagging behind other EU countries, to being one of the regional leaders in seabird protection at sea. It is important that the next steps include strong and effective management of sites, to ensure that the positive gains made today are followed through for real conservation outcomes.”

Good Scottish puffin news

This video is about puffins in Iceland.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Scotland’s threatened puffins have successful breeding season

After years of poor summers, birds have had good season and pufflings are ready to take wing, say experts

Alexandra Topping

Sunday 13 July 2014 15.35 BST

After several poor summers for Scotland‘s puffins, the “clowns of the sea” are gearing up to leave the country after a good breeding season, experts have said.

Changes to habitat and food brought on by climate change have created difficult conditions for breeding puffins in recent years, but early indications show that Scotland has enjoyed a positive breeding season, according to the Scottish Seabird Centre.

With pufflings now hatched and ready to take wing, visitors to Scotland have only a few weeks left before the birds – who come to Scottish islands including May, Craigleith, Fidre and Shetland – leave Britain’s northern shores in August, said the chief executive, Tom Brock.

The brightly beaked birds – which stay with the same breeding partner for life and return year upon year to the same nests – arrive in Scotland from mid-March to breed. After mating the female puffin lays one egg which is incubated by both the male and female. Pufflings are strong enough to leave the burrow after four or five weeks, and will take flight with the rest of their colony in August.

“It looks like it has been a good breeding season for puffins,” said Brock. “They have had lots of problems in the last few years with climate change, lack of food and winter storms but early indications are that it’s going to be a good breeding season for them.”

British puffins hit by storms

This video says about itself:

29 January 2009

In Iceland’s remote Westman Islands, warming weather is threatening a beloved mascot: the Atlantic puffin.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The accidental death of a seaside entertainer

Friday 28th February 2014

The recent, unprecedentedly violent, sea storms decimated the population of the lovable puffin, writes PETER FROST

Some of the worst sea storms for decades have wreaked havoc among our coastal wildlife. I reported on the way our seal population had been hit some weeks ago and now it is becoming clear that sea birds too have suffered huge losses in the storms.

Among the worst species hit by these storms are the colourful and comical puffin (Fratercula arctica).

This striking bird with its large brightly coloured bill is sometims known as the sea parrot.

Thousands of puffins are feared to have been killed in the recent storms that have hammered Britain for the last month. Dead puffins, as well as the corpses of many other seabirds such as razorbills and guillemots, have been found along many beaches.

Reports have also come in from further afield. The British Trust for Ornithology said it has received record numbers of reports of puffins being washed up dead on the coasts of France and Spain.

These are mostly ringed birds and their unique-numbered leg rings indicate they are from Britain.

Puffins venture far out to sea in winter as they hunt their favourite food, sand eels. Most will fly out to locations in the North Sea but many travel as far as the wild Atlantic Bay of Biscay.

In a normal winter very few dead puffins would be found all along the Bay coast from Brittany to northern Spain. This year, however, the body count has been as much as 10 times higher than normal.

Puffin populations have long been a cause for concern. The large-scale commercial dredging of sand eels – a key part of their diet – for fish farm food and fertiliser has been one major reason of their decline.

Native puffins which head out into the Atlantic for the winter months usually ride out the worst that the weather can throw at them.

Later some head back into the Bay of Biscay before returning home to the same breeding cliff-top burrows they used the previous summer.

The puffin is not a parrot despite its nickname. It is in fact an auk. Other British members of the auk family include razorbills and guillemots and small auks.

Ungainly on land, once at sea they swim well. Puffin feed mainly on small fish, which they catch by diving underwater, using their wings for speedy yet graceful propulsion.

Adult male and female puffins are identical except that the male is usually slightly larger. They nest in cliff-top colonies, digging a burrow in which a single white egg is laid.

The birds are often seen returning with their huge and colourful bills full of wriggling silver fish and sand eels which the chick swallows whole. It is a familiar but always thrilling sight for seaside bird-watchers.

The squarking puffin chick grows fast on such diet. Nest burrows and young chicks are at risk of attacks from other sea birds including gulls and skuas.

Skuas, in particular, have discovered they can easily steal a beakful of fishy food from a puffin just about to feed their chick.

After just six weeks the young puffin is fully fledged. Amazingly, one night it will abruptly swim out to sea and not return to land, or its parents, for several years.

Despite the terrible losses this winter our comical friend the puffin will be back breeding on Britain’s cliffs this summer I have no doubt.

We will expect the adults to arrive back at their breeding colonies in March and April and they will be gone again by mid-August.

Here are a few good places to see puffins. There are impressive breeding colonies at Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire; South Stack on Anglesey; on the Farne Islands and Coquet Island off Northumberland; the Isle of May off the Fife coast; and my own personal favourite puffins in Shetland and the Orkney Islands.

Death puffin on Texel beach: here.

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