Rare Pacific right whales are back near US coast

This video says about itself:

31 October 2011

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry describes a magical but risky experience photographing an enormous [southern] right whale off the coast of New Zealand.

From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego, USA:

Research Highlight: The Sound of Hope

Rare whale species heard off continental U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years

Feb 09, 2015

Once upon a time in the ocean, North Pacific Right Whales thrived.

Their unique calls could be heard across the seas from Asia to North America. Intense whaling activities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries changed all that, decimating their population. Mid-twentieth century recovery efforts—backed by international whale-protection laws—were hampered by illegal Russian whaling in the 1960s and ’70s.

Today, only several hundred North Pacific Right Whales remain, divided into two groups: one in the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia and a second in the eastern Bering Sea off Alaska. For years scientists have been seeking any sign of the Bering Sea group because it is considered one of the most critically endangered cetacean populations in the world with only about 30 animals remaining.

Now, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers have reported some good news for the precarious population with a glimmer of hope that its numbers may be rebounding. A team led by Scripps researcher Ana Širović recorded the first evidence of these animals off the continental United States in decades.

Širović and her colleagues analyzed marine mammal sounds recorded in 2013 with four High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs), underwater microphones developed at Scripps that capture the calls and clicks emitted by various species. North Pacific Right Whales are known to produce distinctive low-frequency sounds—acoustically classified as up-calls, down-calls, gunshots, screams, and moans—that can travel across vast distances in the ocean.

To their surprise, the team discovered two Right Whale calls in HARP data recorded at Quinalt Canyon off Washington State, the first off the continental U.S. in more than 20 years, and separately at Quinn Seamount in the Gulf of Alaska.

“We had been looking for Right Whales for some time, knowing that the chances of hearing them were pretty small,” said Širović. “So it was very exciting and I was quite surprised when we heard their calls. It was a good day.”

“Our ability to detect rare species, such as the North Pacific Right Whale, has been dramatically improved by the development of new technology for listening underwater,” said Scripps Oceanography Professor John Hildebrand, a co-author of the study, published in Marine Mammal Science.

In 2013, two Right Whales were visually identified off British Columbia, Canada, marking the first such sightings that were made in the area in more than 60 years. Širović said there is no way of definitively knowing whether the animals seen were the same as the ones that were heard.

Nevertheless, the recent acoustic recordings and visual sightings may be good signs for the population of this rare animal and these instances “may offer a sliver of hope for its eventual recovery,” the researchers said in the report.

“Given the rarity of this species, and very few visual or acoustic sightings that have occurred outside the Bering Sea, our detections are an important indicator that this population is using a larger oceanic area of the North Pacific,” said Širović. “I think we are all doing this kind of work hoping to find good things to report. This was one of those good news moments. It was a happy finding.”

Kokako in New Zealand, video

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

13 December 2014

This kokako from Tiritiri Matangi was filmed feeding on juicy leaves.

From the Bird Ecology Study Group about this:

North Island Kokako feeding on leaves

03 Jan 2015

The North Island Kokako (Callaeas wilsoni) is of ancient lineage with very few surviving close relatives. Its closest cousin is the saddleback (Philesturnus spp.).

“The video clip below was taken on Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand. The island has been kept free of pests like rats, stoats and possums so that endemic bird species, which are mostly poor flyers, have a chance to re-establish their numbers.

“The tagged bird was seen on a branch at almost eye level, next to a path we took while returning to our waiting ferry.

“The bird can be seen holding down the leaf with one leg while tearing off bite-sized pieces to savour. After devouring the whole leaf, it hopped off to harvest another delectable juicy leaf.

“Its blue wattles and black mask gives away its identity.”

Teo Lee Wei & K

14th December 2014

New Zealand pigeon video

This video says about itself:

New Zealand woodpigeon feeding on yellow blossoms

13 December 2014

This pigeon was filmed at Zeelandia, Wellington. The commentaries in the video was made by our very knowledgeable volunteer guide at the sanctuary.

From the Bird Ecology Study Group:

New Zealand Pigeon (kereru)

24 Dec 2014

The New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is a rather large bird, ~ 50 cm long, often sighted sitting quietly on tree branches. Its distinctive white underparts enable the birdwatchers on the ground to spot it easily.

Baptist preacher prays for suicide of gay Christian author

This 2008 video from the USA is called Michael Moore vs Westboro Baptist Church.

From Christian Today:

New Zealand pastor prayed for suicide of gay Christian author

Published 08 December 2014

Carey Lodge

A Baptist pastor says he stands by his email to a gay Christian author who he referred to as a “filthy child molesting fag”.

“I pray that you will commit suicide,” Pastor Logan Robertson of the Westcity Bible Baptist Church wrote in a response to an email from Jim Marjoram, who was promoting his book detailing his struggles as a gay Christian.

“We’re not interested in your filthy lifestyle or book.” Robertson said in an email now posted online.

“Romans 1 clearly says God has rejected homos and they are worthy of death. You cannot be saved…The bible says you are vile, strange (queer), reprobate, filth, sodmote [sic], natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed (2 Peter 2:12).”

Robertson then refused to speak to ONE news reporter, Matt McClean, who is gay, about the incident.

He allegedly told McClean that he would not give an interview to a “filthy faggot”.

In a separate interview, however, he stood by his earlier claims. “I think every single one of them [gay people] should be put to death,” Robertson said.

“Christians shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not going to do it, it’s the Government’s job to be doing it.”

His words have been condemned by the National Leader of Baptist Churches of New Zealand, Rev Craig Vernall.

Vernall confirmed that Westcity Bible Baptist Church is not a member of the union, and said he was “appalled” by Robertson’s comments.

“It’s unfathomable to be that any Christian would pray for someone to commit suicide,” Vernall told GayNZ.com.

“We cannot and never would endorse his comments.”

Robertson is described as having a “love for the lost” on his church’s website, but Marjoram has said: “what you’re preaching isn’t love”.

“And if you call yourself a Christian…Jesus wouldn’t go anywhere near that,” he added.

It seems that Westcity Bible Baptist Church in New Zealand is rather like Westboro Baptist Church in the USA.

New Zealand Seabird of the Year vote

This video says about itself:

Seabird Diversity in the Southern Ocean

The New Zealand archipelago, particularly its subantarctic islands, is a global seabird hotspot. It’s home to 25 per cent of the world’s breeding seabird populations and a very diverse array of penguin, albatross, petrel and shearwater species.

NIWA seabird ecologist Paul Sagar outlines the major threats to seabirds on land and at sea. He explains how modern tracking technology is being used to study interactions between foraging seabirds and fishing vessels during the breeding season, and to track their enormous migrations between breeding seasons. These well-travelled seabirds serve as indicators of what’s happening in ocean ecosystems across the world.

From the New Zealand 2014 Seabird of the Year site:

Here’s where you can vote for your favourite seabird, and if you like, make a contribution to Forest & Bird’s work to protect New Zealand’s seabirds. Forest & Bird is New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organisation. To see what we are doing for seabirds click here.

New Zealand is a seabird superpower. More than a third of the world’s seabird species spend at least part of their lives here. Thirty-six of those only breed here. The Seabird of the Year poll is supported by Heritage Expeditions. Voting closes at midday on Monday the 24th of November.

New worm species discovery in the Netherlands

Cirriformia tentaculata in New Zealand

Translated from the Dutch marine biologists of Stichting ANEMOON:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A new marine worm species, new for the Netherlands, has recently been discovered. Recreational divers found Cirriformia tentaculata in the central Oosterschelde estuary, and published their findings in ‘Het Zeepaardje’, the bimonthly magazine of the Strandwerkgemeenschap. It is not known whether the species has only just appeared on the Dutch coast, or that it had already been present for a long time but had never been discovered before because of its unobtrusive way of life.

Much sea life is hardly visible to the eyes of sport divers. At least 300 species of worms are known from our coastal waters. Many species live hidden in the sand and mud bottoms.

So, probably many worm species in the Netherlands have not been discovered yet.

The origin of annelids: here.

New Zealand kiwis released into the wild

This video from New Zealand is called Newly Hatched Western North Island Brown Kiwi.

From the Waikato Times in New Zealand:

Releasing kiwis into the wild


We’re five minutes late through the door so collect dirty looks from tourists in bedazzled hats and souvenir T-shirts.

Myself and lens man Mike Scott are here for the 61st liberation of kiwi on Sanctuary Mountain in Pukeatua, and these kiwi seekers are impatient to begin the wild mission.

Parawera, a seven-month-old North Island Western brown kiwi who was rescued from Waimarino Forest, will be tracked, weighed, measured and examined to ensure she’s ready to move into the main enclosure where she can roam, breed and forage in a 3500-hectare certified predator-free haven.

Leading the way is kiwi tracking dog Bella, who is certified by the Department of Conservation to sniff out new chicks.

This is the coolest thing Max Cook, 6, has done all school holidays, and he’s on high alert. “Is that a kiwi?” he whispers in the direction of a robin.

Max, of Hukanui School, has seen kiwi once before in a “big glass jar” in a zoo in a place he can’t remember.

Biodiversity ranger Mark Lammas leads our gang of 15 into the southern enclosure. This is the kiwi creche, where the trust raises western brown birds before releasing them on to the main mountain.

“To begin with our aim was to get between 30 and 40 unrelated [kiwi] birds on to the main mountain and that was our founder population – from there those birds can be self-sustainable.”

Bella leads our trail, helped by blue antennae that pick up transmitters strapped onto each kiwi’s ankle. Each one emits a different signal, and we listen for the blip-blip of Parawera. It’s a game of hot and cold.

Bella pokes her nose into a burrow where Parawera was moments earlier.

The antennae give us joy next to a valley of fern and punga. Weaving through tangled webs of vines and tripping sticks, our troop descends into the bush. Lammas, Bella and kiwi handler Nola Griggs-Tamaki split from us to find the kiwi. We wait. Max makes a fan from a leaf and a stick. Kiwi ingenuity.

Finally with a rustle and a hush, Lammas emerges from behind the vines with a shape tucked into his jumper.

Bella sniffed her out from in the base of a hollowed tree.

Lammas wants me to hold her while he does the health check. Quick tutorial – finger between the ankles, firm grip on her legs, hand under her bum, “please don’t crush her”, and our national icon is trembling in my arms.

Her feathers feel like toe toe and her tiny heart is racing. This is her midnight and we’re a foreign dream.

At 1.2kg, the birds are considered large enough to fend off an attack from a stoat.

Parawera is strong and healthy at 1.35kg. Lammas says her “back steaks” are in great shape. It’s what they like to see, plenty of meat.

“I thought she was going to be smaller,” Max confesses, “but I felt her feet and they were a little squishy.”

Sanctuary Mountain has capacity for 300 pairs of kiwi, Lammas says. That should be reached in the next 10 or 20 years, then the trust will begin exporting kiwi from the mountain “and inject them into places where kiwi have become locally extinct”.

Our troop ceremoniously gathers around the base of a hollow tree, where a dark window invites Parawera to her new world.

Lammas can’t articulate what he feels in this moment. “There’s a part of liberating our national icon, words can’t express it. There’s a great sense of pride . . . to turn around the decline of kiwi.”

Bella stands guard, a watchdog in every sense of the word. Lammas releases her into the chasm then drags some weighty green ferns over the top.

Goodnight, kiwi.

Rising kiwi numbers may mask inbreeding depression: here