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.

Southbound

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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Save Yellowstone bison in the USA


From eNature.com in the USA:

Help Protect Yellowstone’s Bison! Sign The Petition To Montana’s Governor Urging An End To Their Slaughter Take action today!

Bison Pair

These majestic creatures are being rounded up and shipped to slaughter when they wander beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park.

Please sign our petition seeking to end this unnecessary and heartless practice!

Dear Friend,

In the past two weeks, more than 50 wild Yellowstone bison that roamed outside the Park’s boundaries have been captured and shipped off to slaughter. This slaughter is completely unnecessary.

You can help to end the killing by signing this petition!

Bison

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of public land adjacent to Yellowstone for bison, if the Montana state government would only allow them to roam there. But state officials have resisted this common sense approach to managing bison for years.

Last year, state agencies released a historic proposal to give Yellowstone bison year-round access to these public lands, but no final decision has been made yet.

Will you sign our petition urging Governor Bullock of Montana act?

With Yellowstone bison being shipped to slaughter right now, it’s critical that the governor hears from you today.

So please sign this petition. Governor Bullock needs to know we ALL believe that it’s not OK to kill bison simply because they wander into Montana.

Thank you for your help– it really can help make a difference!

Sincerely,

Robin McVey

Robin McVey
Public Editor, eNature.com

Take action today!

P.S. eNature and Care2.com have teamed up to send periodic updates providing folks ways to help protect America’s wildlife. Please get involved by signing our petition today!

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New dinosaur species discovery in Spain


This video says about itself:

19 July 2013

Fossil evidence found in a Montana (USA) bonebed suggests that meat eating dinosaurs could die of poisoning from bacteria such as botulism, something theropod dinosaurs have evolved to avoid.

Narrated by John Hurt Planet Dinosaur tells the stories of the biggest, deadliest and weirdest creatures ever to walk the Earth, using the latest fossil evidence and immersive computer graphics.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Researcher in Spain Discovers New Dinosaur Species

LOGROÑO, Spain – Spanish researcher Ignacio Diaz Martinez says fossilized footprints found in northern Spain’s La Rioja region point to the existence of a previously unknown species of dinosaur.

Study of the footprints indicates that large number of a tall, bipedal, carnivorous dinosaur inhabited La Rioja 120 million years ago, Diaz told Efe.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the newly discovered species is the presence of claws on its feet, the 32-year-old PhD said.

La Rioja is especially rich in fossilized dinosaur footprints.

Diaz, who plans to hold off on naming the new species until his findings are endorsed in peer-reviewed scientific journals, said he would prefer a moniker related to La Rioja.

In his doctoral dissertation at the University of La Rioja, Diaz suggested the designation Riojadopus amei.

See also here.