Piping plovers, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

27 September 2011

Piping Plovers at Plymouth Beach, Plymouth, Massachusetts

From the Journal Star in the USA:

Color banding shows movement of piping plovers

January 25, 2015 9:15 am • By LAUREN R. DINAN / Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

It’s always around this time of year that I really start to miss summer. I miss those warm days, long walks, family picnics and looking for piping plovers. That might not be on everyone’s list of favorite summer activities, but it is the highlight of my summer.

Piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) are small, stocky, sand-colored shorebirds that spend the summer nesting here in Nebraska and the winter on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, southern Atlantic Coast and Caribbean. They nest on sandbars, reservoir shorelines and sandpit lakes along the Platte, Loup, Elkhorn, Niobrara and Missouri rivers in Nebraska.

The Nongame Bird Program at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have been color banding adult piping plovers and their chicks along the lower Platte River system in eastern Nebraska since 2008. So far, 431 plovers have been banded, 114 adults and 317 chicks, which is quite a few for a threatened species.

Color banding allows us to identify individual birds so we can better understand how the species is doing: are numbers up or down, are they successfully reproducing, and are they surviving the winter? All important issues for a species currently listed as threatened on the state and federal endangered species list.

Adult and chick survival varies from year to year and depends on a number of factors: weather conditions, the amount of available food and so on. Each summer, we construct individual encounter histories for all of the observed color-banded plovers, which allows us to estimate adult and chick survival.

Color banding also shows us how piping plovers move across the landscape. Plovers banded along the lower Platte system have been observed along the Missouri, Niobrara and the central Platte rivers. Plovers originally banded in these areas have also been found nesting along the lower Platte system. Adult plovers nesting along the lower Platte most often return to there the following year, but chicks hatched there are likely to nest elsewhere.

In 2014, three plovers originally banded along the lower Platte as adults and nine banded as chicks nested along the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska. Two plovers originally banded along the central Platte and nine originally banded along the Missouri nested along the lower Platte River system in 2014. The little guys do get around.

Color banding helps us understand where our plovers spend the winter. Our plovers spread out across their winter range from the southern tip of Texas to the Florida Keys and all the way up the Atlantic Coast to South Carolina. So far this fall and winter we have received reports of 23 lower Platte plovers along the Gulf Coast and two along the Atlantic Coast.

The plover pictured here, with its light blue flag and green-over-red, red-over-green bands, has been a fun bird to follow. This plover was color-banded as an adult in June 2014 at a sand and gravel mine in Saunders County. It hatched and raised four chicks and was last seen in Nebraska in late June. The next time the plover was seen, it was about 1,000 miles away enjoying the sun, sand and surf at Padre Island, Texas, in October 2014.

Which of our plovers will return to Nebraska to nest in the summer of 2015? We’ll find out soon, but gosh it’s hard to wait.

Michael Brown solidarity in Ireland


This 18 August 2014 video from the USA is called Rev. Osagyefo Sekou on the Lessons of Ferguson.

From the Derry Journal in Northern Ireland:

American civil rights campaigner to be main speaker at Bloody Sunday rally

by Greg Sharkey

The theme of this year’s annual Bloody Sunday march is ‘Resist’, to highlight what has been taking place in the U.S.A. Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, American civil rights campaigner, will be the main speaker after this year’s Bloody Sunday rally.

He will also be guest speaker at a number of events during this week, speaking about this upsurge in police violence against the black community, and why ‘Black Lives Matter’.

An impassioned gathering attended a vigil for Michael Brown‘s family and the people of Ferguson, Missouri at Free Derry Wall on Saturday November 30. Key speakers were Bloody Sunday family member, Kate Nash and veteran Civil Rights campaigner, Eamon Mc Cann.

Media images of several days protest on the streets of Ferguson were shown across the world, following the decision of the Grand Jury not to indict police officer, Darren Wilson, on any charges for shooting dead the American teenager on August 9.

There was much outrage throughout the world, with numerous demonstrations in solidarity with the Brown family, and on the wider issue of institutionalised racism.

Speaking to the Derry Journal before the Bloody Sunday March Committee held their vigil, Kate Nash said:

“As family members of the Bloody Sunday dead, we draw parallels with other unarmed and innocent victims killed by the forces of law and order.”

Regarding the judicial response, or lack of, in the Michael Brown case, Kate Nash drew similarities between their experiences and that of the Brown family, stating:

“You have a judicial system that’s meant to be independent and impartial, but in reality, is actually politically interfered with.”

Regarding similarities between Ferguson and what engulfed Derry, 42 years ago, Eamon Mc Cann said: “Distance and skin colour make no difference to the grief and anger that has erupted across the US since the decision not to prosecute the policeman who pumped six bullets into the teenager’s body.”

Eamon Mc Cann also warned of the dangers regarding the dramatic rise in the militarisation of policing in the US stating:

“We can recognise that scenario here too, and know that no good came of it for anyone involved.”

Over the course of the last two months, several killings by US police officers have occurred, along with countless instances of police brutality.

Twelve year old T[a]mir Rice was gunned down in Cleveland, Ohio, while playing with a pellet gun; and Jerame Reid was shot dead in New Jersey, as he got out of a car, with his hands up.

Shocking images of Eric Garner calling out, ‘I can’t breath’ as he was suffocated to death, while being violently restrained by several police officers; and, the failure to indict any police officer for this, has caused massive resentment.

Michael Brown’s family mulls lawsuit against Darren Wilson, Ferguson PD: here.

In Tamir Rice Case, Many Errors by Cleveland Police, Then a Fatal One: here.

From Watchdog.org in the USA:

Nebraska education board member’s blog has long been inflammatory

By Deena Winter / January 23, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. — State Education Board member Pat McPherson has been under fire for a week after his blog called President Obama a “half-breed,” but that merely continues a long line of inflammatory posts.

McPherson founded and co-edited the blog, Objective Conservative, that called Obama the racist name last week, but said he didn’t write or vet the offending post. He has rebuffed calls for his resignation from the governor, two U.S. senators, two congressmen, the NAACP, the state teachers union, the Omaha school board, Omaha’s mayor, Omaha city council members and his colleagues on the State Board of Education. Most are Republicans, as is McPherson.

After Nebraska first reported the blog’s racist half-breed posts, controversy erupted and McPherson shuttered the blog, but some editions can still be found on an archiving website called the Wayback Machine. A review of about a dozen of those old archived blogs found other offensive posts saying Democrats don’t have brains, accusing a Republican lawmaker of acting like an “emotional child,” referring to “snapping gals’ bras” and posting a meme suggesting tacos are good bait to catch illegal immigrants.

The blog posts were rarely attributed to a specific author, but usually simply posted by “Objective Conservative.”

Archived editions of the blog show Obama to be a favorite topic. In addition to the half-dozen times the president was referred to as a half-breed, he’s often called an “empty suit,” and in December, the blog called Obama a “sexist, lecherous president” because he only asked women questions at a press conference.

After a Missouri grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the blog mocked the fires blazing in Ferguson, posting a meme that said, “Ferguson Fire Sale, everything must go.”

The blog also suggested the Brown case and chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York had nothing to do with race.

Nas: In the wake of Ferguson and Eric Garner deaths, rap is refocusing on law enforcement: here.

NYT COLUMNIST: MY SON HELD AT GUNPOINT, AT YALE ”This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious ‘club.’ When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred. Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice.” [NYT]

Dozens of people gathered with candle lights and protest signs in Denver after local police shot dead a 16-year-old girl on Monday: here.

Police in Longview, Texas released footage Wednesday of officers killing a 17-year-old girl in the lobby of a police station on January 22. Officers Glenn Derr and Grace Bagley shot and killed 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard last Thursday, after officer Gene Duffie fired a taser at her. The three officers have been on paid leave since the shooting: here.

Cliff swallows evolve to avoid traffic


This video from says about itself:

May 31, 2011

A pair of Cliff Swallows building their mud nest under a bridge in Newbury, MA. With the mud being brought to the nest one mouthful at a time this truly is an enormous feat to stick this nest to the underside of a bridge.

From Science in the USA:

Evolution via Roadkill

by Sarah C. P. Williams on 18 March 2013, 12:30 PM

Cliff swallows that build nests that dangle precariously from highway overpasses have a lower chance of becoming roadkill than in years past thanks to a shorter wingspan that lets them dodge oncoming traffic. That’s the conclusion of a new study based on 3 decades of data collected on one population of the birds. The results suggest that shorter wingspan has been selected for over this time period because of the evolutionary pressure put on the population by cars.

“This is a clear example of how you can observe natural selection over short time periods,” says ecologist Charles Brown of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, who conducted the new study with wife Mary Bomberger Brown, an ornithologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “Over 30 years, you can see these birds being selected for their ability to avoid cars.”

The Browns have studied cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) in southwestern Nebraska since 1982. They return to the same roads every nesting season to perform detailed surveys of the colonies of thousands of birds that build mud nests on bridges and overpasses in the area. Along with studies on living swallows—counting birds and eggs, netting and banding individuals, and observing behaviors—the Browns also picked up swallow carcasses they found on the roads, in the hopes of having additional specimens to measure and preserve. They hadn’t planned studies on roadkill numbers, but recently they began to get the sense that they were picking up fewer dead birds than in the past.

When the researchers looked back at the numbers of swallows collected as roadkill each year, they found that the count had steadily declined from 20 birds a season in 1984 and 1985 to less than five per season for each of the past 5 years. During that same time, the number of nests and birds had more than doubled, and the amount of traffic in the area had remained steady.

The birds that were being killed, further analysis revealed, weren’t representative of the rest of the population. On average, they had longer wings. In 2012, for example, the average cliff swallow in the population had a 106-millimeter wingspan, whereas the average swallow killed on the road had a 112-millimeter wingspan.

“Probably the most important effect of a shorter wing is that it allows the birds to turn more quickly,” says Charles Brown. Previous studies on the dynamics of flight have illustrated the benefits of short wings for birds that perform many pivots and rolls during flying and shown that shorter wings also may allow the birds to take off faster from the ground, he adds.

When the researchers analyzed the average wing length of the living birds in the population, they discovered that it had become shorter over time, from 111 millimeters in 1982 to the 106 millimeter average in 2012. The data suggested to the Browns that roadkill deaths were a major force driving this selection. Birds with longer wings would be more likely to be killed by vehicles and less likely to reproduce, the team reports online today in Current Biology.

The data illustrate a “beautiful trend that never could have been predicted,” says evolutionary biologist John Hoogland of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg, who was not involved in the study. “We humans, because we’re changing the environment so much, are adding a new kind of natural selection to these animal populations.”

Few studies have looked at long-term changes in roadkill numbers, Charles Brown says, so more work is needed to determine whether similar trends hold for swallows in other areas, for other types of birds, or for mammals. “I would think that this would be a pattern that certainly might apply to other species,” he says. “But there’s almost nothing in the literature on historical trends in roadkills, because surveys typically last a season or two, not an extended period of years.”

The new findings could also apply to birds killed by wind turbines, Hoogland adds, and they illustrate the payoff that can come with careful data collection and observation. “I think the most important lesson from this research is the paramount importance of collecting data even when you’re not sure what it means or how it could lead to findings in the future.”

‘Pro-life’ laws killing women, Ireland, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Danielle and Robb share their story of how a restrictive Nebraska law impacted their family.

From the blog of Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund in the USA:

Savita’s Death Was Not an Isolated Incident

Posted: 11/19/2012 5:19 pm

By now news of Savita Halappanavar’s senseless death has traveled around the world, drawing attention to Ireland‘s near-total ban on abortion and the horrific consequences of such policies. This is not a stand-alone case. Every 90 seconds a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, totaling more than 350,000 deaths worldwide each year. Nearly all of these deaths occur in developing countries, where access to modern medical care is scarce.

What makes Savita’s story so shocking is that she died in a modern hospital in a developed European country. We health advocates spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the kind of access Savita (almost) had. Hers was a planned pregnancy. She herself was a medical professional, a dentist, who recognized the warning signs of pregnancy complications. When she felt severe pains, she and her husband didn’t have to travel far to reach a clean, modern hospital where her health problems were quickly diagnosed. And when she learned that she was miscarrying and that her life was in danger, she asked her doctor about her options and requested that her pregnancy be ended before it killed her.

Lack of access to medical care did not kill Savita — politics did.

The slow and painful death Ireland’s abortion ban forced Savita to endure, and forced her husband to witness, brings to mind another tragic story. Earlier this year, doctors in the Dominican Republic refused chemotherapy to a 16-year-old cancer patient because she was pregnant.

Think this couldn’t happen in the United States? Think again.

In Nebraska, Danielle Deaver experienced complications in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her water broke and doctors informed her that there was not enough amniotic fluid for her daughter to survive. Devastated, Danielle wanted to end the pregnancy, but her state’s ban on safe and legal abortion after 20 weeks gestation prevented her from doing so. Instead, Danielle was forced to continue her pregnancy and deliver a baby that died moments after birth.

Danielle, the young woman in the Dominican Republic and Savita show us what happens when politicians get between women and their doctors. Right now in Ohio, legislators are considering a bill that would impose similar restrictions on women in Ohio as those currently faced by women in Ireland. It would ban safe and legal abortion very early in pregnancy — even before some women know they are pregnant.

Savita and Danielle represent some of the most extreme outcomes of harmful policies, but by no means the full extent. Women across the country and around the world suffer in myriad ways because of politics that deny women the ability to make their own health care decisions.

They face challenges ranging from mental anguish after becoming pregnant from a sexual assault, to the judgment and shame created by bad policies, to the health consequences of complicated pregnancies, both intended and unintended.

The best way to honor the life and courage of Savita and women like her is to make sure no woman dies again in these circumstances. We need to ensure that laws and policies give women the ability to make decisions about whether to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child.

It’s time we let politicians know that we will no longer allow politics to interfere with women’s health. We have enough work ensuring that women and families can access quality medical care. Let’s leave the personal decisions up to them and their doctors.

Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cecilerichards

Before Savita, Irish anti-abortion rules already caused women’s deaths: here.

A pregnant, suicidal rape victim fought Ireland’s new abortion law. The law won. Anti-abortion activists claim that legal restrictions are in the best interests of women, but they never are. The Guardian view on Ireland’s abortion law: no choice at all: here.

Vulture fossil discovery in Nebraska, USA


This video is called Vulture restaurant.

From PLOS ONE:

A Late Miocene Accipitrid (Aves: Accipitriformes) from Nebraska and Its Implications for the Divergence of Old World Vultures

Abstract

Background

Old World vultures are likely polyphyletic, representing two subfamilies, the Aegypiinae and Gypaetinae, and some genera of the latter may be of independent origin. Evidence concerning the origin, as well as the timing of the divergence of each subfamily and even genera of the Gypaetinae has been elusive.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Compared with the Old World, the New World has an unexpectedly diverse and rich fossil component of Old World vultures. Here we describe a new accipitriform bird, Anchigyps voorhiesi gen. et sp. nov., from the Ash Hollow Formation (Upper Clarendonian, Late Miocene) of Nebraska. It represents a form close in morphology to the Old World vultures. Characteristics of its wing bones suggest it was less specialized for soaring than modern vultures. It was likely an opportunistic predator or scavenger having a grasping foot and a mandible morphologically similar to modern carrion-feeding birds.

Conclusions/Significance

The new fossil reported here is intermediate in morphology between the bulk of accipitrids and the Old World gypaetine vultures, representing a basal lineage of Accipitridae trending towards the vulturine habit, and of its Late Miocene age suggests the divergence of true gypaetine vultures, may have occurred during or slightly before the Miocene.