Snowy owls news update


This video is called Magic of the Snowy Owl.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Species on the move: Snowy Owl

29 December, 2014

Snowy Owls staged a major invasion last year, one that was covered far and wide by birders and the news media alike. Check out this great album from Ryan Schain of Snowy Owl candids! This irruption was most likely related to an abundance of rodents in and around northern Quebec that helped Snowy Owl pairs produce large numbers of young that irrupted into the US.

This invasion also caught the attention of a group of technological-minded scientists that took the opportunity to outfit these irregular Arctic invaders with state of the art tracking devices that collected, stored, and the returned information about the whereabouts of the individual birds. Amazing information is coming in from this effort, Project SNOWStorm, in tracking the movements of birds from last year’s irruption outfitted with trackers across their travels during the past year since being outfitted! Some individual owls are returning to the US, and the information that these trackers is returning is eye opening to say the least. Check out this and this!

That said, Snowy Owls are again on the move this fall, with numbers of birds reported across the northern tier of the US. See this link for a report earlier in the fall of 38 birds in Newfoundland, and also this link to see current reports all across the US and Canada. Presumably, the success of last year’s Snowy Owl bounty is translating into more owls present that can irrupt; but this year’s irruption is following a different course than last year, something Project SNOWStorm has been following and discussing and that is also apparent in comparing eBird data for these years.

For example, the images below show daily changes in the frequency of occurrence of Snowy Owls as reported in complete checklists to eBird for the Upper Midwest and Northeast. The autumn irruptions of 2013 and 2014 are both striking in their departures from the mean frequencies of occurrence for the 2001-2012 period (although irruptions are by no means average occurrences, we choose the mean for illustrative purposes). But note the differences between 2013 and 2014 from these two graphics and the last image comparing 2013 and 2014 frequencies. Clearly owls are on the move in 2014, but this year’s movement so far is nothing like the epic event of 2013. …

If you want to track the owls as Project SNOWStorm does, go here. If you want to track Snowy Owls on your own, please check in to eBird’s range maps, and use this alert to tell you where these fabulous creatures are as they are seen! And of course, please enter your data into eBird (and tell us what you can about the ages and genders of these birds!)!

How North American birds survive winter


This video from North America is called How Birds Survive The Winter Season – Mini Documentary.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

How Do Our Birds Cope With Winter’s Big Chill?

Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 by eNature

Winter’s chill is arriving, with close to Arctic conditions forecast for many of less temperate states over the next few days.

So how do our birds cope and what do they do for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes?

Birds have an amazing ability to find refuge from storms, but they do it in a variety of ways, depending on the species and the bird’s natural habitat.

Bluebirds, for example, often winter as far north as New England. They find protection against the cold and storms by communal roosting, often in a bird house. There are photographs of 13 male eastern bluebirds, all crowded into one bluebird house. This behavior shares warmth, and keeps the birds out of the wind, rain and snow.

Other cavity nesters, such as chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers, also seek out old nesting sites in dead trees or bird houses in which to roost or find protection during a storm.

Nuthatches, which sometimes nest behind a loose piece of tree bark, may seek the same kind of shelter against the cold.

Flocks of rosy finches often roost in an outcropping of rock where they can get out of the cold wind.

Bobwhite make a circle of the covey, huddled side-by-side, with head facing out. This allows them to share body heat, while being ready to escape in all directions, should they be attacked.

Ruffed grouse take a different tactic. They dive into a snow bank, and may stay there for several days until the storm passes. Many other birds retreat to dense, evergreen thickets where they are protected from the elements for the duration of the storm.

How are your birds coping with the cold?

Please share your stories— we always enjoy hearing them!

Identifying North American birds


This video, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA, says about itself:

Inside Birding: Size and Shape

Learn the most fundamental skill for identifying birds: recognizing them by size and shape. Birding experts Chris Wood and Jessie Barry show you how to compare different birds and employ your observations to make a confident ID.

Join them in the field to practice these techniques on common birds and learn how to distinguish similar species such as Hairy and Downy woodpeckers.

This video, also from the Cornell Lab, says about itself:

Inside Birding: Behavior

Recognizing behavioral clues is a key component of bird identification.

Improve your identification skills by watching Lab experts as they examine posture, foraging behavior and flight style.

This video, also from the Cornell Lab, says about itself:

Inside Birding: Habitat

Join birding experts Jessie Barry and Chris Wood as they explore the marshes, cypress swamps, and nearby mangroves of Florida’s Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in pursuit of the elusive Limpkin.

This video, also from the Cornell Lab, says about itself:

Inside Birding: Color Pattern

Color and plumage patterns are key components of bird identification. Improve your birding skills by watching Lab experts as they demonstrate how to recognize the color patterns that will help you identify birds with confidence.

November birds in North America


This video from the USA is called New Jersey Birds, November 2011, in HD.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

November Offers Plenty of Birds. Here’s Where to Look

For much of North America, the rush of confusing fall warblers has passed—but there’s still plenty of great bird watching to be done in November. Chances are, a weedy field near you is hosting throngs of beautiful sparrows; ponds are coming alive with migrating waterfowl; mudflats are like magnets for shorebirds; and raptors are passing overhead. Check out our full set of fall tips.

Avoiding poisonous mushrooms in North America


This video is called 10 Poisonous Mushrooms.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

There’s A Fungus Among Us— Here’s How To Avoid Poisonous Mushrooms

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by eNature

With fall’s arrival, mushrooms have been popping up all over. And as you might expect, there’s been a sharp increase in reports of people poisoned by eating wild mushrooms.

When we recently tweeted the blog entry below about dealing with poisonous mushrooms, it ended up being one of our most popular tweets ever.

Mushrooms are among the most mysterious of life forms. Some kinds are edible—and delicious. Others cause hallucinations and other psychological and perceptual effects, and have been used in spiritual rituals. Many species are unstudied, their ingestibility unknown. And a number of species contain dangerous toxins, many of which are not yet fully understood.

Every year poison centers and emergency rooms treat people who have been poisoned or made ill by mushrooms. These range from people taking “magic mushrooms” for their hallucinogenic effects to gourmands who have tragically misidentified a species to toddlers who have swallowed mushrooms growing in the backyard.

Unfortunately, no simple test can determine whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous. The only way to be certain is to positively identify the species you have found. Only experience can teach you to recognize characteristics that differentiate edible species from poisonous ones, and with some species you cannot be too careful. Some mushroom hunters will even examine a mushroom’s spores microscopically to be sure their identification is correct.

In short, before you eat any wild mushroom, check every possible feature and clue, consult field guides or scientific literature, and be 100 percent sure of proper identification (consulting experts if necessary). Only those who truly know what they’re doing should even consider eating wild mushrooms. If any doubt remains about the edibility of a species, do not eat it.

Many mushrooms cause mild to severe poisoning, and only a few cause life-threatening illness. Some mushroom toxins affect the central nervous system, others the peripheral nervous system, and most cause mild to severe gastrointestinal upset. Some people react adversely to species that are harmless to most or to species that they have eaten before without ill effects.

Below is a list of mushroom toxins, some of the species that contain them, and a description of the symptoms known to occur. (This is not a comprehensive list of all poisonous mushrooms.) If you suspect you have mushroom poisoning, contact a poison control center (call 1-800-222-1222 or visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers website) and seek medical attention immediately. Bring along samples, preferably uncooked, of the mushrooms you have eaten.

Toxin: Amanitin

Mushrooms: Amanita species including A. phalloides (Death Cap), A. virosa complex (Destroying Angel), A. verna, A. bisporigera, A. ocreata; Galerina species, including G. marginata, G. autumnalis, G. venenata; Lepiota species, including L. josserandii, L. helveola, L. castanea; and Conocybe filaris.

Symptoms of this very dangerous toxin occur 6 to 24 hours (rarely 48 hours) after ingestion, typically in 10 to 14 hours. They include severe abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, lasting for one or more days. A short remission takes place, and the victim may believe he or she has recovered. By the third or fourth day, however, pain recurs, along with liver dysfunction, jaundice, renal failure, convulsions, coma, and without adequate treatment, death within five to ten days. With sustained medical assistance, recovery can take place in one to two weeks. Toxic amanitas have caused about 90 percent of all fatal mushroom poisonings, and 50 percent of those who ingest amanitin die. As a rule of thumb, do not eat any Amanita species, and be especially careful in identifying Amanita look-alikes or any other white mushrooms.

Toxin: Monomethylhydrazine (MMH)

Mushrooms: Gyromitra species, including G. esculenta and G. brunnea; and related Helvella, Verpa, and Cudonia species.

Symptoms occur 6 to 12 hours (rarely 2 hours) after ingestion. They include a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting, watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pains, muscle cramps, faintness, loss of coordination, and in severe cases convulsions, coma, and death. With medical attention, recovery can occur within hours. The toxin, also known as gyromitrin, develops a compound similar to one used in the manufacture of rocket fuel. It is advisable to avoid ingesting any false morels.

Toxin: Orellanin

Mushrooms: Cortinarius species, including C. gentilis and others.

Symptoms occur 3 to 14 days (rarely to 21 days) after ingestion, and ultimately result in acute or chronic renal failure, which can result in death. A kidney transplant is sometimes required, and recovery can take as long as six months. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, thirst, frequent urination, and the sensation of being cold, accompanied by shivering. The seriousness of orellanin poisoning makes it advisable to avoid eating any “little brown mushrooms,” or LBM’s, that resemble Cortinarius species.

Toxin: Muscarine

Mushrooms: Clitocybe species, including C. dealbata and C. dilatata; most Inocybe species; some Boletus species.

Symptoms occur within a half hour and include profuse perspiration, salivation, tears, blurred vision, tunnel vision, abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea, constriction of the pupils, a fall in blood pressure, and slowing of the pulse. Although symptoms usually subside in 6 to 24 hours, severe cases may require hospitalization, and death has been reported in people with preexisting illness.

Toxins: Ibotenic Acid and Muscimol

Mushrooms: Amanita species, including A. muscaria, A. frostiana, A. pantherina.

Symptoms occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. They include dizziness, lack of coordination, delusions, staggering, delirium, raving, profuse sweating, muscular cramps and spasms, hyperactivity, and deep sleep. Recovery usually takes place within 4 to 24 hours; some cases require hospitalization. Other Amanita species are implicated in most fatal mushroom poisonings, and it is wise to avoid this genus altogether. Be sure to positively identify any look-alike species before eating them.

Toxin: Coprine

Mushrooms: Coprinus atramentarius, Clitocybe clavipes.

Symptoms are precipitated by the ingestion of alcohol, as a substance in the mushroom inactivates an enzyme that detoxifies alcohol in the system. This effect can occur as long as five days after eating the mushrooms. Symptoms, usually occurring about 30 minutes after the alcohol is taken, include flushing of the face and neck, distension of neck veins, swelling and tingling of hands, a metallic taste in the mouth, palpitations, and a drop in blood pressure. Nausea, vomiting, and sweating may then occur. Recovery is spontaneous and usually occurs within 2 to 4 hours.

Toxins: Psilocybin and Psilocin

Mushrooms: Psilocybe species, including P. baeocystis, P. caerulipes, P. coprophila, P. cubensis, P. cyanescens, P. pelliculosa, P. semilanceata, P. stuntzii; Conocybe smithii; Gymnopilus spectabilis; Panaeolus cyanescens, P. subbalteatus.

These are the toxins that give hallucinogenic mushrooms their effects. The reactions that result from ingesting these mushrooms vary considerably; none should be eaten casually. Symptoms occur within 30 to 60 minutes, rarely as long as 3 hours later. They include mood shifts, which can range from pleasant to apprehensive. Symptoms may often include unmotivated laughter, hilarity, compulsive movements, muscular weakness, drowsiness, visions, then sleep. Recovery usually takes place within six hours. The victim should be assured that the symptoms will pass.

Miscellaneous Toxins

Mushroom: Paxillus involutus

Symptoms occur one to three hours or more after ingestion. They result from a gradually acquired sensitivity to the species, and include destruction of red blood cells, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiovascular irregularity, and possibly kidney failure. They usually disappear in two to four days, but can last much longer in severe cases and may require hospitalization.

Mushroom: Amanita smithiana

Symptoms occur 4 to 11 hours after ingestion, and include abdominal pain and diarrhea, followed by kidney or liver failure. These poisonings are not well studied. They resemble orellanin poisonings, but the onset of symptoms is much quicker.

Gastrointestinal Toxins

A large number of mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms occur 30 minutes to 3 hours after ingestion. They include mild to serious and severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Recovery can take several hours or days, depending on the species, the amount eaten, and the health of the victim. Hospitalization is sometimes required.

Some edible mushrooms are also known to cause occasional adverse reactions, even in people who have eaten them before without any side effects. Symptoms occur within 2 hours. They include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Recovery usually takes place within a few hours.

So to sum it up— stay clear of wild mushrooms unless you’ve got expert advice and guidance. The stakes are too high to gamble with your health!

We’ve noticed lots of strange mushrooms recently here in the mid-Atlantic. And have had to keep the dogs from eating them…

Are they showing up in your neck of the woods?

North American Mycological Association website: here.

Why autumn leaves are colourful


This video is called Why Leaves Change Color: Untamed Science.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Makes Autumn’s Leaves So Colorful?

Posted on Monday, October 06, 2014 by eNature

Sometime between now and the middle of November, the trees in North America’s eastern broadleaf forests will reach their full fall glory.

From Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the Shenandoah Valley and beyond, leaf peepers will bring traffic to a standstill on beautiful fall weekends. By the carful and busload, they’ll come to gawk at the beautiful countryside.

But what will they be seeing? How do leaves end up in such spectacular colors?

Hidden Colors

Leaf color arises from various chemicals within trees. It’s the strength as well as the presence or absence of compounds like tannins, xanthophylls, and carotenes that determines fall hues in the scores of tree species found in the East.

Back in the spring and summer, when the millions of trees in these same woodlands were busily growing and producing food, their leaves were chock full of chlorophyll, and it was the chlorophyll that colored the forests varying shades of green. But chlorophyll is a mask, and once trees sense the change in the weather and start to stop chlorophyll production, the mask drops and the other colors of the leaves come to the forefront.

A Color For Every Tree

The fall colors can be so distinctive in some tree species that it’s possible to identify these trees from a distance merely by noting their hues. The brilliant red leaves belong to the Red Maple, American Mountain Ash, and Black Tupelo, plus sumacs, blueberries, and Virginia Creeper in the understory. Richer red foliage is typical of Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, and White Oak. Birches and beeches sparkle with bright yellow foliage, while Witch Hazel and Striped Maple are a less intense yellow, and walnuts, hickories and aspens attain a truly golden glow.

Of course, not all trees settle on a single color. Sugar Maples, for example, blaze in green, yellow, orange, and startling red, and Sassafras comes in various shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple.

If you want to enjoy the fall colors yourself, plan ahead and, if possible, venture out during the week as opposed to on a crowded weekend.

No matter when you go, though, spend a little time outside your car. The trees are even prettier close-up, along a quiet trail or down a less traveled side road.

Have you had time to enjoy Fall’s colors this year?

We always enjoy hearing about your experiences.

Monarch butterflies’ ancestry, new research


This video is about monarch butterfly migration.

From Science News:

Monarch butterflies’ ancestors migrated

The insects originated in North America, genetics study finds

BY Kate Baggaley

5:06pm, October 1, 2014

The earliest monarch butterflies arose in North America and were migratory, contrary to what scientists believed. Over time, the butterflies evolved populations in other locations, some of which stay put year-round, scientists conclude October 1 in Nature.

Because many of the monarch’s closest butterfly relatives live in the tropics and do not migrate, “the thought was that the butterflies [came] from South and Central America and became migratory from resident populations,” says Tyler Flockhart, a conservation biologist who concentrates on monarchs at the University of Guelph in Canada. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”