United States herring gulls studied

This video is about Appledore Island in Maine, USA.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Life In A Gull Colony

by Taylor Heaton Crisologo, Cornell University, ’16

My first time in a gull colony was a riot of vocalizing birds and flashes of white wings. However, once the gulls settle, the finer details come into focus. By sound, the chorus of yeow calls and the occasional long call echoing through the colony. By sight, the great expanse of densely-packed nests dotting the nooks and crannies of the rocky terrain. By atmosphere, the sensation when a good breeze blows through and dozens of gulls lift off and hover lightly in the sky.

This scene was not always so lively. In 1900, only about 8,000 Herring Gull pairs were left in the United States due to feather collecting for ladies’ hats and egg collecting by hobbyists. Today, with federal protections in place for all native birds, there are at least 90,000 to 100,000 breeding pairs along the East Coast. The Herring Gulls that I study nest on Appledore Island, a small island off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. There, the colonies offer opportunities for students at the island’s field station, Shoals Marine Lab, to gain experience in field research through summer-long monitoring projects.

Typical Herring Gull nest monitoring is similar to the work enjoyed by other NestWatchers, with some added twists. Information is meticulously collected on nest context, nesting density (the distances between the nearest neighboring nests), and egg sizes. Herring Gull eggs average about 90 grams, or about 50 times the size of a Tree Swallow egg! Once the nesting profile is completed, each nest is monitored from incubation to fledging.

This summer, with the guidance of Dr. David Bonter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I investigated the connections among nesting success, shelter availability, and nest defense behavior. To test the importance of nest shelter on reproductive success, I placed artificial chick shelters at sites with little natural cover from predators and the elements. By linking the results of my experiments to the nest success data, I hope to gain further insight into the factors which may be limiting the survival of chicks in this system.

While I’m still analyzing my field data from the summer, one thing is certain: this breeding colony of Herring Gulls provided my first experience in ecology. My weeks spent nest monitoring and collecting data have offered me insight on staying positive, thinking critically and creatively, and rolling with the dive-bombing birds. I’m so grateful to the gulls for providing me with these data to ponder and for helping me start my career as an ornithologist. So thank you, gulls, for being the first birds to take me under your wings.

Interested in watching gull nests for NestWatch? Check out Taylor’s tips for successful gull nest monitoring.

How to see North American songbirds migrating

This video from the USA is called Studying Songbird Migration Patterns in the Gulf of Maine.

From Audubon magazine in the USA:

Migrating Songbirds Are All Around You. Here’s How to Spot Them

Forget traveling to a migration hotspot. Right now it’s easy to see small migratory songbirds no matter where you live.
By Kenn Kaufman

Published: 05/01/2014

I can’t help it. At this time of year, I’m obsessed with bird migration. I talk about it with everyone—even complete strangers. Often I hear responses like this: “Well, I’d like to see migrating birds sometime. But I don’t live on a flyway.”

Here’s the good news: We all live on a flyway. It’s true that some birds, such as geese and cranes, follow fairly narrow corridors of travel, and shorebirds will gather only at certain spots. But right now, in early May, hundreds of millions of small songbirds are migrating north, and they pass over every square mile of land and water in the temperate regions of North America. In fact, during their travels, a few of them will stop in just about every tree on this continent. So no matter where you are, you have a chance to see some migrating songbirds.

The nature of their travel

The stars of the show right now are small birds that travel large distances: songbirds that spend the winter in the tropics, coming north to spend the summer in the United States and Canada. These birds—dozens of species of warblers, thrushes, vireos, orioles, flycatchers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and more—migrate mostly at night. They take off just after dark, fly through the night, and land near dawn, if they’re over land at that point (if they’re over water, of course, they keep going). They may cover 200 miles or more during a night flight, and when they come down, they need to rest and feed and build up their strength for the next flight.

These birds have amazing navigational powers. A blackburnian warbler, for example, might fly from Maine to Ecuador in the fall, coming back in spring to the very same tree in Maine where it sang the year before. But during their night flights they are subject to wind and weather, so in the morning they might come down practically anywhere. If they still have energy left, they may fly several miles after sunrise, looking for a choice patch of woods or marsh or meadow. But eventually, each bird will settle for whatever spot it can find, and that spot will have to serve as its stopover habitat.

Where to look for migrants

The short answer is that you can look for them almost anywhere. Most of the migratory songbirds live in trees and shrubs, so they’ll settle for even one tree or one shrub, at least temporarily, if they have no other choice. (I once saw an ovenbird and two American redstarts in the shrubbery of a small planter at a bank building in downtown Philadelphia.) Small city parks often host a fine assortment of migratory songbirds; the surrounding square miles of concrete serve to concentrate the birds, as the tired migrants gravitate toward the small patches of green. Isolated trees in city backyards or hotel courtyards may act as stopover habitat for small birds that are just passing through.

Very large patches of habitat, such as large parks or forest areas, can be better for the birds but more challenging for the birders, as the migrants become harder to find in those surroundings. Songbirds in stopover habitat often gather in mixed flocks, so if you’re not seeing any birds, keep moving until you find a migrant—then look around to see if it has company.

When to look for migrants

Because these birds travel at night, early morning is the time when they’re most likely to be seen in marginal habitats. By later in the day, they may have moved on to look for another spot with taller trees or thicker thickets. If you have a backyard or a nearby park with only a few trees, try to check them first thing in the morning to see if any new visitors have arrived overnight.

Some nights produce much heavier bird traffic than others. Watch the weather to look for good flight nights. The ideal night in spring will be when areas just to the south of you have clear skies, warm temperatures, and steady winds out of the south. If storms move in during the latter part of the night, the rain will cause birds to come down wherever they happen to be at that point. A damp morning after overnight showers can produce a bonanza of new migrants in your local trees.

Be alert to the possibilities

Most people don’t see migrant birds because they don’t look for them. You can increase your chances simply by being aware of the possibilities. Get a bird checklist from your local Audubon chapter, borrow a basic field guide from the library, and try to get a general idea of the groups of migratory birds.

And above all, just take a second look at any bird that you notice. That brown bird under the hedge might not be one of the local city sparrows—it might be a Swainson’s thrush, just arrived from Panama. That yellowish bird in the tree might not be a local goldfinch—it might be a Cape May warbler that has just flown in from Jamaica. At this time of year, migratory songbirds are everywhere, pausing for a moment in practically every tree. Just by paying attention, you may get to make the acquaintance of some amazing world travelers.

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Tree swallow families share their nest

This video is about nesting tree swallows in Maine, USA.

From NestWatch in the USA:

Tree Swallows Share Nest

NestWatcher Ian Stewart discovered something unusual in a nest box in Greenville, Delaware, this past season. Two female Tree Swallows laid their eggs in the same box, for a whopping total of 10 eggs! Instead of abandoning this full house, both females appear to have stayed to incubate the eggs and feed the young. Although we cannot know for sure if two different females fed the young, because the birds were unbanded, it’s very unlikely that one set of parents could raise a brood this large without help.

All 10 eggs did hatch, although the last one was one or two days later than the others and did not make it. Several weeks later, nine baby Tree Swallows fledged from this nest box, a remarkable outcome for a nest that, under different circumstances, may have been abandoned by both females. See more photos from Ian here.

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Bermuda bluebirds in trouble

This video from Maine in the USa is called Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebird.

From the University of Chicago in the USA today:

Bluebirds struggle to find happiness on island paradise

55 minutes ago

Island plants and animals are often different from their mainland relatives. In general, the lack of top predators and large herbivores on isolated oceanic islands influences traits of island organisms. Consider, for example, the dodo: this island-dwelling, flightless bird was so fearless that it was hunted to extinction by humans within 200 years of first contact. Human interaction is just one threat to conservation. Differences in the threats posed by pathogens and parasites may also be important for conservation of today’s extinction-prone island populations.

Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are familiar to many people living in the eastern United States, and also to residents and tourists in Bermuda, an archipelago with a total area of about 54 square kilometers that lies in the North Atlantic about 1,100 km off the East Coast of the United States. Although the current outlook for the bluebirds in the U.S. is good, their Bermuda relatives have been designated as threatened and vulnerable.

Comparisons of island and continental bird populations can offer new insights to people interested in conserving island birds. We compared island (Bermuda) and continental (Ohio, U.S.) populations of the Eastern bluebird, studying these birds from egg to adult. We investigated how nestlings and adults differed in growth, size and shape, immune function, numbers of eggs and nestlings that pairs produce, and how frequently parents deliver food to their young. We also attempted to identify differences between continental and island birds that, either individually or as part of a broader phenomenon, might intensify the risks of decline typically associated with small and geographically isolated populations, such as the Bermuda bluebirds.

Our study showed that bluebirds in Bermuda differed in a variety of ways from bluebirds in Ohio. For example, adults in Bermuda were lighter weight and had longer wings than the Ohio birds. These differences contrast with the usual changes associated with small animals living on isolated islands. Parents fed their nestlings at equal rates throughout the season in both locations. However, island nestlings grew slower and, as the breeding season progressed, more chicks died in their nests in Bermuda, though no similar seasonal pattern was observed in Ohio. Overall, our results suggest that the Bermuda bluebirds may be adjusted to certain aspects of the island environment but not to others.

Efforts to conserve Bermuda bluebirds may be improved by focusing on the intraseasonal patterns in nestling mortality and, more generally, the survival rates of birds of all ages. Furthermore, conservation planners in Bermuda may benefit by considering the consequences of (1) introduced mammalian and avian predators and competitors and their removal and (2) human-driven changes in populations of the insects that bluebirds eat and feed their chicks. These factors may not only affect survival and mortality rates but may also shape bluebird physiology and reproduction. Ultimately, our study highlights the value of considering the match between an organism, its environment, and its evolutionary history on a population-specific scale. Without this context, identifying detrimental trends is a more challenging proposition.

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Atlantic deep sea corals, new study

This video is called Octocoral.

From Wildlife Extra:

Atlantic coral gardens attract greater protection

December 2013: Deep sea octocorals are an important element of the marine environment, providing shelter and hunting grounds for shrimps and a wide variety of fish species. Being soft animals that lack a stony skeleton they are particularly vulnerable to damage from fishing gear and drift nets.

A recent paper on the Gulf of Maine in the US, where a century of commercial fishing was thought to have cleared the area of this type of seafloor fauna, has revealed that impressive gardens of yellow and purple colonies of octocorals still flourish in pockets where the topography of the seabed has protected them.

The team that produced the paper for publication in the Biodiversity journal employed sophisticated video and still photography equipment to observe and measure the octocoral polyps at a depth of 200 to 250m. The researchers revealed: “We found areas with steep and vertical rock faces had the highest densities of octocorals… compared to areas with less vertical relief.”

Also observed in association with these corals were pandalid shrimps, Atlantic cod, cusk, pollock, silver hake and Acadian redfish.

The report concluded with a recommendation that these isolated and rare octocoral garden communities deserve a greater focus of conservation. National laws and international agreements now require the protection of vulnerable species such as deep-sea corals and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management is currently developing a deep-sea coral amendment which will freeze the footprint of the fishing industry and conserve current coral hotspots, which this report will have helped to identify.

Cold water coral: here.

Researchers studied nitrogen levels in the skeleton of a 130-year-old brain coral living 620 miles from the North American mainland and found that the nitrogen from human sources was less than had been estimated: here.

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Gilded dinosaur planters in the USA

This video says about itself:

The BEST of Discovery’s Dinosaurs

3 July 2013

Enter the prehistoric world when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. See them hunt and battle. See them roam in massive herds. Go back in time and experience what dinosoaur life was like.

By Ray Routhier in the Portland Press Herald in the USA:

December 8 2013

Little dinosaur planter evolves into big job for its Portland creator

A Portland artisan busily fills orders for her gilded reptiles after magazines discover them.

Brooke Hoerner says she has a problem: She can’t stop herself from making things.

Like the time she decided to make something for a former boyfriend who loves dinosaurs. She ended up fashioning him a gold-colored planter made from a dollar store dinosaur.

Now she can’t stop making the silly things.

That’s because people all over the country like them, really like them. And they are willing to pay $15 apiece for them, $27 for a pair.

Hoerner has gotten orders for about 1,400 of the little curiosities since Real Simple magazine picked the planters to be one of its “29 Great Gifts for Women” this holiday season. Down East magazine discovered Hoerner’s metallic gold dinosaur planters this year as well, and spotlighted them in its gift guide.

So Hoerner, 31, spent September making some 700 dinosaur planters in her downtown Portland apartment.

She still has several hundred more planters to make before Christmas, with new orders coming in every day.

Call it a Christmas dollar store miracle, or proof that everyone loves dinosaurs more than they might admit.

But after years of working at restaurants and trying hard to sell her handmade jewelry, Hoerner is busier than Santa’s elves trying to keep up with the growing national demand for a clever, fun trinket she never expected to sell.

“I have this problem, where I just have to make things,” said Hoerner, a Colorado native who moved to Maine about three years ago.

Hoerner makes jewelry out of stones and seashells and other things under the company name Alyce Paul Curiosities, named for her grandmother. So after making a few dinosaur planters for her boyfriend, she decided to put them up for sale on Etsy.com, an e-commerce site focusing on handmade goods.

“I would check Etsy for my jewelry and never sell anything. Then one day I got a message that I had finally sold something, and it was the dinosaurs,” said Hoerner.

Then in July the folks from the lifestyle magazine and website Real Simple saw an online picture of her planters and were instantly intrigued.

“How can you not smile a little when you walk into a space and see gilded dino planters?” said Stephanie Sisco, associate editor of Real Simple, in New York City. “These caught my eye because they bring that metallic trend to an especially unusual canvas. Every one of our editors had the same immediate gleeful reaction upon seeing them for the first time.”

Hoerner is making all these dinosaur planters while waiting tables one day a week and working for a ceramic artist three days each week.

On a recent Wednesday, Hoerner was using Krylon cans to spray-paint a half-dozen or so plastic dinosaurs, which she then skewered on a metal rod so they would dry faster.

Her work table was filled with tiny plastic dinosaurs waiting to be converted to planters, including a stegosaurus, an apatosaurus and a dilophosaurus.

Under her table were a dozen or more planter orders (there are usually two per order) in boxes waiting to be shipped out.

Over the table, attached to the ceiling, was a net holding dozens of tillandsias plants, known as air plants, that Hoerner buys from a supplier and inserts in her planters.

They don’t require soil, so they are perfect for stuffing in a tiny plastic dinosaur. Plus, they have a spiky appearance that seems to fit the dinosaur aesthetic perfectly.

Hoerner begins her planter-making sessions by scouring local dollar stores for dinosaurs, sometimes buying hundreds and cleaning the store out.

Back in her apartment she drills a hole in the dinosaur’s back, smooths out the edges of the hole with an knife, sprays them with paint and a finish, and then fills them with a plant. Then she packs and ships them.

In the future, Hoerner would love to make the dinosaurs herself, maybe ceramic ones, since she always prefers to make something rather than buy it.

For now, she’s psyched her planters have caught on and will keep making them with ready-made dinosaurs, since folks like what she’s doing.

“When Real Simple told me I had to guarantee I could fill 350 orders, I was a little overwhelmed but thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’ and decided to just go for it,” said Hoerner.

Because some people wait and hope for some good fortune, while others make their own – out of dollar store toys and Krylon paint.

Boreal chickadees survive North American harsh winter

This video from the USA is called Boreal Chickadee in the Maine Boreal Forest.

From BirdNote in the USA:

Boreal Chickadees Stay Home for the Winter

How do they survive the cold?

Boreal Chickadees live in the boreal forest year-round. How do they survive the harsh winter? First, during summer, they cache a great deal of food, both insects and seeds. Then in fall, they put on fresh, heavier plumage. And their feathers are denser than most birds’, creating a comfy down parka. Most impressive? The chickadees lower their body temperature at night from 108 degrees to just 85 degrees, conserving their stores of insulating fat. Hats off to the Boreal Chickadee, a truly rugged bird!

Sound file of podcast about this is here. Full transcript is here.

Learn seagulls’ languages, video

This video from the USA says about itself:

How Nature Works: Gull Territoriality

April 15, 2010

How can aggressive, predatory, and cannibalistic birds coexist in crowded breeding colonies? Explore the lives and territorial interactions of Herring and Great Black-backed gulls in a breeding colony on Maine‘s Appledore Island.

Good British berry year

This video from the USA says about itself:

North America and in particular Maine are home to wild blueberries.

This short video shows how the blueberries are harvested and frozen. It also talks about the current and past harvests, as well as the possible health benefits from eating blueberries.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bumper year predicted for autumn berries in UK

Woodland Trust predicts 2013 will be a bumper year for fruiting autumn berries and reveals that last year’s crop was the worst in over a decade, according to scientific records.

August 2013. Early indications from data collected by the public for the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project suggest that autumn will be late this year, but that the glorious weather in early summer will mean autumn wild fruit crops will flourish, having a positive impact on the UK’s native plant and wildlife species.

2012 was ‘exceptionally poor’

2012’s extremely wet conditions during the summer resulted in late leaf tints, late fruiting and exceptionally poor crops of wild fruit. In fact, last year’s Nature’s Calendar records displayed the lowest fruiting scores since the Trust started collecting records 12 years ago, for 14 of the 16 tree and shrubs species recorded by the project’s volunteers. The Trust is urging the public to record their sightings of this year’s early autumn sightings on its Nature’s Calendar website.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Nature’s Calendar Project Manager, said: “Although our records suggest that autumn fruiting will be late this year due to the delayed onset of spring flowering , if the warm weather interspersed with occasional wet spells continues, this should mean the fruiting of shrubs like bramble, rowan and blackthorn, is abundant.

Boost for birds and mammals

“Wildlife species will no doubt benefit from a bumper crop, and finally fruit-eating birds and mammals will be able to enjoy an autumn feast. Last year, birds and mammals suffered some of the poorest fruiting crop in years and this, coupled with the prolonged cold snap in spring, meant that many species had to endure a long period without a decent food supply.

She continued: “In order to better understand the impacts of long-term changing climate on some of the UK’s most-loved native species, we need the public to record their autumn sightings on our Nature’s Calendar website.”

The charity’s Nature’s Calendar project, which has phenology records dating back to the 17th century, allows people to record signs of spring as well as autumn by noting sightings such as fruit ripening, ivy flowering and leaf colouring. The records compiled by the public are used by government and scientists to aid the understanding of how flora and fauna is adapting to the changing environment.

More records needed

The Trust is urgently calling for more citizen science recorders. Crucially, the number of Nature’s Calendar recorders is falling year upon year and the charity needs to maintain a network of recorders in all parts of the UK to help maintain the scientific integrity of the data. Anyone can become a Nature’s Calendar recorder and make a real and valuable contribution to citizen science and the long-term studies into the impact of climate change on wildlife by visiting www.naturescalendar.org.uk.

Record guillemot, razorbill migration

This video, from Maine in the USA, is called Razorbill Father Leads Chick to Sea from Projectpuffin.org.

Nick van der Ham, in Camperduin in the Netherlands, on 28 November 2012 counted 14,739 razorbills and guillemots migrating along the Dutch coast.

A new record number for those birds on one day. The old record number was 13,614; from January 2005.

Guillemot eggs have special structures on their shells that make them self-cleaning, according to new research: here.