Rare dragonfly in southern Netherlands

This video from the USA says about itself:

Finding Uncommon Dragonfly Species

Mud Lake is a subalpine fen near Skalkaho Pass, Montana. Fens are infrequent, as such the community of species using this habitat are
uncommon to rare. I have visited this site several times looking for two particular dragonfly species found here: Lake Darner (Aeshna
eremita) and Subarctic Darner (Aeshna subarctica) [aka Bog Hawker]. This video captures the adventure and my happiness in finally finding and photographing them on September 9, 2013.

Translated from the Vlinderstichting in the Netherlands:

Monday, October 5th, 2015

In 2013 there already was a sighting of a bog hawker in the Kampina nature reserve in North Brabant province and this year they are seen again. That seems like this rare dragonfly is establishing itself there. They are otherwise only found in the northern half of the Netherlands.

Mammals, fish listen to birds’ sounds

This video from North America is called Red-breasted nuthatch mini documentary.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

When birds squawk, other species seem to listen

May 19, 2015

Christoper Solomon

Scientists believe bird calls are a sophisticated early-warning system alerting birds and other prey over wide areas to the presence and size of predators.

In the backyard of a woodsy home outside Missoula, Montana, small birds – black-capped chickadees, mountain chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches – flitted to and from the yard’s feeder. They were oblivious to a curious stand nearby, topped by a curtain that was painted to resemble bark.

Erick Greene, a professor of biology at the University of Montana, stepped away from the stand and stood by the home’s back door. He pressed the fob of a modified garage-door opener. The curtain dropped, unveiling a northern pygmy owl preserved by taxidermy. Its robotic head moved from side to side, as if scanning for its next meal.

The yard hushed, then erupted in sound. Soon birds arrived from throughout the neighbourhood to ornament the branches of a hawthorn above the mobbed owl, calling out “yank-yank” and “chick-a-dee”.

As a recorder captured the ruckus, its instigator grinned with delight. “For birds, this is like a riot,” Greene said afterward, adding that he heard “a whole set of acoustic stuff going on that’s just associated with predators”. The distinctions are subtle – “even good naturalists and birders can miss this stuff,” he added.

Studies in recent years by many researchers, including Greene, have shown that animals such as birds, mammals and even fish recognise the alarm signals of other species. Some can even eavesdrop on one another across classes. Red-breasted nuthatches listen to chickadees. Dozens of birds listen to tufted titmice, who act like the forest’s crossing guards. Squirrels and chipmunks eavesdrop on birds, sometimes adding their own thoughts. In Africa, vervet monkeys recognise predator alarm calls by Superb starlings.

Greene wants to better understand the nuances of these bird alarms. His hunch is that birds are saying much more than we ever suspected, and that species have evolved to decode and understand the signals. He acknowledged the obvious Dr Dolittle comparison: “We’re trying to understand this sort of ‘language’ of the forest.”

At his laboratory on campus, Greene, 57, plugged the recording of the pygmy owl fracas into a computer that he likened to an “acoustic microscope”. The calls appeared as a spectrogram – essentially musical notation. On the screen, they looked like a densely layered cake fallen on its side. One call may last only a second, but can have up to a dozen syllables. Parsing one of myriad encounters with a pygmy owl or other robo-raptors, even with the help of a computer, will take the researchers hours.

“It’s cutting-edge stuff,” said Jesse Barber, an assistant professor at Boise State University who studies animal acoustics. Greene is looking at communication “across large swaths of habitat, and this is really where the field has yet to go,” Barber said. “It’s a new frontier for animal communication work.”

Greene developed his fascination with birds and sound early on, growing up around Montreal as a “total nature nerd,” he said. As a boy, he listened to and played classical, jazz and Renaissance music. He recalled being “a harpsichord-playing, hockey thug, bird nerd.”

As a teenager, he met Peter and Rosemary Grant, then at McGill University in Montreal, whose studies of Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands were groundbreaking. Offered a year-long job as their field assistant, he dropped out of high school and never returned.

That experience helped him gain admission to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. There he spent much time playing obscure Renaissance instruments like the crumhorn – “which sounds like a pig being slaughtered,” he said – before attending Princeton for his doctorate in ecology, evolution and behaviour.

“What I’m doing now is really a natural marriage of those sorts of interests,” Greene said of his interest in animal communication. “It’s nature’s music, in a way.”

He and his wife, Anne, met before college while studying birds 800 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Theirs is a science family: Anne teaches science writing at the university, and the couple has two grown daughters working in the field – one teaches at a charter school in Brooklyn that has an environmental-sciences theme, and the other is working towards a master’s degree in aquatic biology.

Greene has spent much of his career at the University of Montana studying the pas de deux of predator and prey. As part of this dance, most animals, including birds, have evolved alarm signals to warn of danger. Greene’s interest in the subtlest bird alarms developed several years ago while studying lazuli buntings.

The buntings occasionally stopped responding to the artificial calls he broadcast and instead dived into the bushes. “And then maybe four, five minutes later, a Cooper’s hawk” – a major predator of small birds – “would cruise by,” he said. Clearly, some signal was spreading among them.

So-called “seet” calls, peeps produced by many small songbirds in response to a raptor on the wing, are well-known to ornithologists. Conventional wisdom held that the calls dissipated quickly and were produced only for other birds nearby. However, that’s not what Greene noticed: chatter sweeping across the hillside, then birds diving into bushes.

Studying the phenomenon, he documented a “distant early-warning system” among the birds in which the alarm calls were picked up by other birds and passed through the forest at more than 45km/h. Greene likened it to a bucket brigade at a fire.

The information rippled ahead of a predator minutes before it flew overhead, giving prey time to hide. Moreover, while raptors can hear well at low frequencies, they are not very good at hearing at six to 10 kilohertz, the higher frequency at which seet calls are produced. “So it’s sort of a private channel,” he said.

Greene turned to chickadees, which are highly attuned to threats. When one sees a perched raptor nearby, it will issue its well-known “chick-a-dee” call, a loud, frequent and harsh sound known as a mobbing call because its goal is to attract other birds to harass the predator until it departs.

In 2005, Greene was an author of an article in the journal Science that demonstrated how black-capped chickadees embed information about the size of predators into these calls. When faced with a high-threat raptor perched nearby, the birds not only call more frequently, they also attach more dee’s to their call.

Raptors tend to be the biggest threat to birds nearest their own size because they can match the manoeuvrability of their prey. So a large goshawk might only merit a chick-a-dee-dee from a nimble chickadee, while that little pygmy owl will elicit a chick-a-dee followed by five or even 10 or 12 additional dee syllables, Greene said.

The researchers next showed that red-breasted nuthatches, which are chickadee-size and frequently flock with them in the winter, eavesdrop on their alarm language, too.

Greene, working with a student, has also found that “squirrels understand ‘bird-ese’, and birds understand ‘squirrel-ese'”. When red squirrels hear a call announcing a dangerous raptor in the air, or they see such a raptor, they will give calls that are acoustically “almost identical” to the birds, Greene said. (Researchers have found that eastern chipmunks are attuned to mobbing calls by the eastern tufted titmouse, a cousin of the chickadee.)

Other researchers study bird calls just as intently. Katie Sieving, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, has found that tufted titmice act like “crossing guards” and that other birds hold back from entering hazardous open areas in a forest if the titmice sound any alarm. Sieving suspects that the communication in the forest is akin to an early party telephone line, with many animals talking and even more listening in – perhaps not always grasping a lot, but often just enough.

Greene says he wants to know not only the nuances of that party-line conversation, but also how far it stretches across the landscape – and who else is listening.

If chickadees indeed issue alarm calls that indicate the size and thus the danger of their predators, how many other species of birds – robins, crows – hear and evaluate those alarms based on their own body size? Perhaps a big Steller’s jay hears a chickadee’s frantic alarm in the face of a little pygmy owl and says, in effect, “I’m not worried”, Greene said.

Conversely, does the same jay hear a half-hearted chickadee alarm and suddenly perk up, understanding that this means a threat now lurks nearby for a bigger bird?

Here is where the stuffed animals come in. The researchers are using predators of different sizes – the owl, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks – to elicit responses. Back at the lab, Greene pointed to the alarm call on the spectrogram in response to the pygmy owl.

“All of these notes are acoustically very different, and they might have different meanings,” Greene said. “Sound humans hear simply as ‘chick-a-dee’ actually could contain information differentiating between a Cooper’s hawk and a pygmy owl. We know birds hear this as if it’s slowed down,” he said.

Burrowing owls flying from Montana to Mexico

This video from the USA is called Burrowing Owl Family with 5 Owlets.

From the Billings Gazette in the USA:

Burrowing owls flew almost 2,000 miles, study finds

By Brett French

Just like retirees traveling south to escape the snowy winter, two female burrowing owls have been documented traveling almost 2,000 miles to central Mexico from Eastern Montana for the first time.

“Now we’re learning more about how incredible these birds are,” said David Johnson, of the Global Owl Project.

Last year, GLOW fitted 30 burrowing owls in the Northwest and Canada — including three from the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana — with tiny backpacks containing satellite transmitters. The devices track their migration routes and destinations in an attempt to give researchers insight into the birds’ population decline.

No one has completed a survey to arrive at a population number for the birds in Montana, according to Steve Huffman, executive director of Montana Audubon. “If you polled a bunch of owl experts, though, you’d probably find the range of the species is declining and Montana is no exception to that,” he said.

In Canada the bird is listed as an endangered species because of “habitat loss and fragmentation, road kills, pesticides, food shortage, fewer burrow providers and mortality on migration and wintering areas,” according to Parks Canada.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lists the bird as “potentially at risk because of limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas.” The Forest Service and BLM consider the owl a sensitive species.

With its burrowing owl migration study, Johnson said GLOW is hoping to keep the birds off the endangered species list in the United States by developing conservation strategies.

Unique bird

Burrowing owls date back in the fossil record millions of years, Johnson said. They may be one of the very few birds to nest underground, an adaptation to their prairie home where few trees exist.

Instead, the birds use abandoned badger, swift fox and prairie dog dens to nest in, often as far as 10 feet underground to escape the reach of predators like coyotes.

The owls are small, averaging about 9.5 inches long with 21-inch wingspans and tipping the scales at only 5 ounces. In addition to bugs, the owls will eat small mammals like mice and voles, birds, reptiles and snakes.

Most of the owls live about five to six years. The females migrate south around October to stay healthy for the spring breeding season when they return north. The exception is California’s burrowing owls, which reside there year-round.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how incredibly tough these birds are,” Johnson said.

When initially fitted with transmitters, the antenna was made of 70-pound test fishing line. The birds chewed through that, so Teflon tubing was substituted for the line. The satellite transmitters are expensive, costing $3,500 apiece, but they provide a clearer picture of the birds’ migration.

Every 48 hours the solar-charged devices turn on for 10 hours and send a signal every minute before going silent for another 48 hours. From these transmissions, Johnson has learned that the birds travel about 100 to 200 miles in a night, averaging 30 mph.

“When they migrate it seems to be pretty darn direct,” he said. “They don’t waste time.”

CMR biologist Randy Matchett watched the migration data pop up on his computer screen, impressing him with the birds’ speed and ability to fly high. Although the transmitters don’t contain an altimeter, it was evident by their route that the owls were flying over 10,000-foot peaks, he said.

“Everyone knows birds migrate long distances, but it is kind of neat to watch it alive in real time,” Matchett said.

Johnson said one of the surprises GLOW discovered when tagging some burrowing owls in Oregon was that a male flew north, rather than south, for the winter.

“The male’s goal was to go someplace to tough it out and get the best burrow” for the following spring’s mating season, Johnson said. “As the males get older, they get tougher.”

Newer gear

The satellite transmitters are a big step up from the old technology. As far back as 1912, ornithologists captured and placed numbered bands on birds to try to track them. Trouble is, the bands could only be recovered if the bird was recaptured or found dead, and they were no help in identifying migration routes.

Bands were more recently replaced by tiny light-sensitive monitors that could track the duration of sunlight hitting them, giving researchers an indication of where the birds had gone based on the length of days at different latitudes. The transmitters are relatively inexpensive — about $200 — compared to satellite trackers, but again they gave only a vague indication of migration routes and the birds had to be recaptured to recover the data.

The more expensive satellite transmitters – which weigh in at 6 grams compared to 3.2 grams for the ambient light geolocators – track the birds’ location within 150 meters, the battery’s voltage and the temperature. The units also have small solar cells to recharge the battery.

“It’s amazing it works at all, actually,” Johnson said.


The Montana owls migrated south by traveling east of the Rocky Mountains to north of Mexico City. One has settled northeast of Guadalajara and the other is in the state of Durango. The third Montana owl was found dead before it left, possibly dinner for a predator.

Off the 22 GLOW-tagged owls that started their migration in October, 17 are now in Mexico. By March or April, the urge to fly north should send them migrating again.

“Now we’ll wait to see how they come back,” Johnson said.

Showing just how amazing the birds are, in 2013 a burrowing owl captured near Baker, Ore., came back to the exact same burrow after wintering south of San Francisco.

As a follow-up to the satellite transmissions, Johnson said GLOW will be examining the habitat conditions where the owls are wintering.

The study of owls has been a personal mission for the 58-year-old Johnson since a screech owl landed on his tent when he was an 11-year-old boy in Minnesota.

“It called for 20 minutes. Ever since then I’ve seen owls as close friends,” he said. “So I say I didn’t pick owls, they picked me.”

Since 1976 he’s been working on owl projects full time.

“I’m going to work on conservation of owls till my last breath,” he said. “Because the more I’ve studied and observed them, the more impassioned I’ve become.”

New horned dinosaur discovery in North America

This video is called Meet Mercuriceratops gemini.

From Tech Times:

Meet Mercuriceratops gemini, a horned-dinosaur with a Roman god’s helmet

By Alexander Saltarin, Tech Times

June 19, 11:13 AM

Scientists have discovered and named a new type of horned dinosaur. Due to the frills on the dinosaur resembling the wings usually found on the helmet of Mercury in depictions of the Roman god, the scientists decided to christen the dinosaur as Mercuriceratops gemini.

The discovery was made after a team of scientists analyzed and studied fossils found in two locations in North America. Some of the fossils were found in Alberta, Canada while the others were found in the state of Montana. Analysis of the fossils showed that the new horned dinosaur would have weighed as much as 2 tons and would have grown to a length of around 20 feet. However, the most distinct feature of the Mercuriceratops is its unique frill. The later part of the scientific name “Gemini” is a reference to the fact that two similar fossils were found in two different locations.

“Mercuriceratops took a unique evolutionary path that shaped the large frill on the back of its skull into protruding wings like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars,” said Cleveland Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Michael Ryan. “It definitively would have stood out from the herd during the Late Cretaceous.”

Ryan is also the lead author of a paper on the subject published in the online journal Naturwissenschaften.

Scientists believe that the Mercuriceratops thrived during the Late Cretaceous Period approximately 77 million years ago. The name the scientists have chosen literally means “Mercury horned-face,” which aptly described the way the dinosaur’s face would have appeared. The fossil samples found in Canada were discovered in the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. The park is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many discoveries have been made in the area. The American fossil on the other hand was found in the north central part of Montana.

The new dinosaur was of particular interest to paleontologists due to the fact that the shape of its skull was unlike any other dinosaur previously known. A dinosaur’s frill, which is often referred to as a neck shield, protects the necks of some dinosaurs like the Triceratops and the newly discovered Mercuriceratops from predators during attacks. The butterfly shaped frill found on the Mercuriceratops shows that evolution had numerous tricks up its sleeves in terms of dinosaur morphology.

Tyrannosaurus rex fragments pieced together by museum visitors

This is a Dutch TV video about the Tyrannosaurus rex discovery in Montana, USA, in 2013.

Last year, an expedition from Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, discovered a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in Montana. If there will be enough money, this dinosaur will become part of the Naturalis collection.

Some of the bones of this tyrannosaur are very fragmented. Small pieces were found among lots of sand.

The museum wants to piece cervical vertebrae and cervical ribs of the dinosaur together.

To do that, they need many people.

The museum asks visitors to help.

On 7,8 and 9 June, paleontologist Anne Schulp will tell them about the discovery of this Tyrannosaurus rex. Then, visitors will try to fit bone fragments together.

Sessions will be at 11am, noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm; with a maximum of 24 people per session.

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Ospreys in Montana, USA webcam update

This video is about feeding young ospreys at the Hellgate nest in the USA last year.

From the Cornell lab of Ornithology in the USA:

The Hellgate Ospreys are settling in atop three eggs following a late season snowstorm that struck Montana over the weekend. The nest bowl is deep enough this year that it’s difficult to see the eggs, yet thanks to eagle-eyed viewers we were able to document three distinct periods where Iris appeared to lay an egg (including one on Mother’s Day!). We’ll have to wait until the eggs hatch (likely 5-6 weeks from now) till we know how many eggs were laid for sure. The Hellgate Ospreys are being studied as part of the Montana Osprey Project. Watch webcam here.

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