Australian bird names, new book


This video says about itself:

April 14, 2010

Join wildlife photographer Marie Read as she documents the bird life in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Read more about her trip in Living Bird magazine.

From CSIRO PUBLISHING:

Australian Bird Names

A Complete Guide

Ian Fraser
Jeannie Gray

Illustrations

352 pages, 245 x 170 mm

Paperback New – May 2013

ISBN: 9780643104693 – AU $ 49.95

Australian Bird Names is aimed at anyone with an interest in birds, words, or the history of Australian biology and bird-watching. It discusses common and scientific names of every Australian bird, to tease out the meanings, which may be useful, useless or downright misleading!

The authors examine every species: its often many-and-varied common names, its full scientific name, with derivation, translation and a guide to pronunciation. Stories behind the name are included, as well as relevant aspects of biology, conservation and history. Original descriptions, translated by the authors, have been sourced for many species.

As well as being a book about names this is a book about the history of ever-developing understandings of birds, about the people who contributed and, most of all, about the birds themselves.

Australian solar eclipse, Friday 10 May


From Australian Geographic:

Australian solar eclipse: Friday 10 May 2013

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers a majority of the Sun, creating a ring or 'annulus' of light. (Credit: Getty)
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers a majority of the Sun, creating a ring or ‘annulus’ of light. (Credit: Getty)

Aussies can catch a glimpse of a so-called annular solar eclipse this week, the only one until 2035.

ON FRIDAY MORNING, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Australia, for the last time until 2035.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon, in a distant part of its orbit around our planet, covers a large portion of the Sun’s area as seen from the Earth, hence a ring or ‘annulus’ is left around its edge. This is not to be confused with a total eclipse, the last of which was visible from Australia in November 2012. This annular eclipse is the first to be visible from Australia or New Zealand since 1999.

Send us your photos of Friday’s eclipse

The only sizable town that lies on the path of annularity – where a complete viewing of the eclipse is possible – is Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The Musgrave Roadhouse, north of Laura in Queensland, is also suggested as a vantage point. Those near Newman, Western Australia are expected to see a donut-shaped annular eclipse sunrise, while other parts of Australia will see a partial solar eclipse.

From Tennant Creek the eclipse will begin at 6:55am. reach its zenith at 8:07am and end at 9:33am.

Regions of Australia outside of the main eclipse path will see a partial solar eclipse – a ‘bite’ taken out of the Sun. The maximum of the eclipse in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane can be seen at 8:52am, 8:57am and 8:58am respectively (AEDT). Note that the Sun will not be completely covered, so it is important that you do not look directly into the sun at any time during the eclipse.

The path of the annular eclipse over northern Australia and Tennant Creek. (Credit: Andy Chong/2013 Australasian Sky Guide/Powerhouse Museum)
The path of the annular eclipse over northern Australia and Tennant Creek. (Credit: Andy Chong/2013 Australasian Sky Guide/Powerhouse Museum)

How to view an annular solar eclipse

Stuart Ryder from the Australian Astronomical Observatory says that while the annular eclipse is a novelty and a great photo opportunity, it is no comparison to a total solar eclipse.

“That tiny ring of uncovered Sun wipes out the dramatic effect of a total solar eclipse,” says Stuart. “The eye simply adjusts to the fading light over an hour or so, and most people on the eclipse path would not even be aware an eclipse was happening above them if it wasn’t in the news.”

Stuart warns that because it will not be completely covered, the public should not look directly into the sun at any time during the eclipse. The safest way to view the eclipse is to use projection. This involves creating a pinhole in a piece of paper or plastic, which is then attached to a tripod and adjusted until the image of the Sun can be seen on a screen.

Watching for ring-like shadows on the ground as the sun shines through gaps in leaves is also an effective way of viewing the eclipse.

Send us your photos of Friday’s eclipse

When to see the solar eclipse at its maximum

*All times are local
Perth – 6:36am (Sun will be below the horizon, so sunrise, at 6:54am, is the best time to see it)
Darwin – 8:07am
Adelaide – 8:15am
Melbourne – 8:52am
Canberra – 8:55am
Sydney – 8:57am
Brisbane – 8:58am
Hobart – 8:59am

- Text by Samantha Wheeler

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Eclipse photos: here.

Partial solar eclipse visible in Syria on November 3rd ~ 2013: here.

The full moon will appear to get a tiny bite taken out of it as it undergoes a shallow partial eclipse today. (See lunar eclipse pictures.): here.

Australian wildlife news, good and bad


Bronzeback Snake-lizard, rediscovered after 111 years. Image courtesy of Peter McDonald

From Wildlife Extra:

Two mammals and a bird declared extinct in Australia’s Northern Territory – Lizard rediscovered

Northern Territories revised Threatened Species List

December 2012. The rare bronzeback snake-lizard is one of 44 species added to the revised Classification of Wildlife, also known as the NT threatened species list.

Dr Simon Ward, Director of Species Conservation with Australian Northern territories Department of Land Resource Management (DLRM), said there were 73 changes to the list of threatened species as part of the 2012 revision.

“The new Classification of Wildlife includes 73 changes to the threatened species lists, seeing 44 species added to the list, 13 species removed from the list, 12 species increasing in conservation concern and four species decreasing in conservation concern,” Dr Ward said.

Rediscovered snake-lizard

“One of the additions to the endangered category is the bronzeback snake-lizard, which had not been seen in the Territory for more than 110 years. The species was moved from the data deficient category to the endangered list after Peter McDonald (Technical Officer DLRM) located 18 of the legless-lizards at the upper Coglin Creek Catchment in 2008.

“This is an amazing discovery and has provided us with invaluable information about the species, so we can no longer consider it Data Deficient.

“Another positive result is the improvement of Gouldian Finch populations in the Top End. The species’ status has been downgraded from endangered to vulnerable after several years of research and better land management; particularly fire management around nesting areas like the Yinberrie Hills.

“The NT Herbarium, within DLRM, also made a big effort to classify many of our lesser known species. This was driven by recent guideline changes and resulted in the addition of five plant species to the threatened category and 65 more plant species now listed as near threatened.

Two mammals and a bird declared extinct

“Unfortunately two mammal species and one bird species were formally listed as extinct as part of the 2012 revision, though they were last seen in the first half of last century, bringing the total number of NT species listed as extinct to 18.

“Although the revision resulted in an overall increase in the number of species considered threatened in the NT, DLRM will now work toward recovery plans, in an effort to protect our most vulnerable species from extinction in the Territory.”

The NT Classification of Wildlife was developed in 2002 and is reviewed every five years, making the Territory the only jurisdiction in Australia that regularly conducts these types of comprehensive reviews.

Rare Australian marsupial rediscovered


This is a Larapinta Trail video.

From Wildlife Extra:

‘Lost’ marsupial species found in Australia’s Northern Territory

08/06/2010 09:14:02

Long-tailed Dunnart found in West MacDonnell National Park

June 2010. Staff from the walking tour company Trek Larapinta have made an unusual wildlife find on the famous Larapinta Trail in Australia’s Northern Territory. The dead body of a Long-tailed Dunnart Sminthopsis longicaudata was recovered from a remote section of the trail; the animal appears to have died of natural causes.

This is an exceptional discovery. The last record of this species in the region was over a decade ago. Despite many searches by Park Rangers and scientists no trace of the creature has been found in recent years- until now.

Long-tailed Dunnarts

Long-tailed Dunnarts are one of the rarest and most elusive of native Australian marsupials. They are tiny nocturnal carnivores weighing less than 25g, and have been found in only a handful of remote mountainous desert areas. Their most conspicuous feature is their very long tail which is much longer than their body length and ends in a tuft of hair. Very little is known about the animal’s habits and some scientists think there may be less than 1000 of them left in the wild.

Mark Carter, the guide who found the dunnart and a former Parks Service Ranger, said: “We are really proud to have made this exciting discovery. It’s great to confirm that these animals are still out there and are not extinct in the MacDonnell ranges. Those of us who work on the Larapinta Trail know how vital these areas are for desert wildlife – this find really confirms that. Trek Larapinta has a strong focus on wildlife and we see it as an important part of job to collect data for the Parks and Wildlife Service on what we see and find out on the trail to help them manage the Park well.”

Extinct bird in Australian rock painting


Rock painting, with Genyornis?

From ABC Online in Australia:

Megafauna cave painting could be 40,000 years old

May, 31 2010

Scientists say an Aboriginal rock art depiction of an extinct giant bird could be Australia’s oldest painting.

The red ochre painting, which depicts two emu-like birds with their necks outstretched, could date back to the earliest days of settlement on the continent.

It was rediscovered at the centre of the Arnhem Land plateau about two years ago, but archaeologists first visited the site a fortnight ago.

A palaeontologist has confirmed the animals depicted are the megafauna species Genyornis.

Archaeologist Ben Gunn said the giant birds became extinct more than 40,000 years ago.

“The details on this painting indicate that it was done by someone who knew that animal very well,” he said.

He says the detail could not have been passed down through oral storytelling.

“If it is a Genyornis, and it certainly does have all the features of one, it would be the oldest dated visual painting that we’ve got in Australia,” he said.

“Either the painting is 40,000 years old, which is when science thinks Genyornis disappeared, or alternatively the Genyornis lived a lot longer than science has been able to establish.”

Mr Gunn says there are paintings of other extinct animals right across the area including the thylacine, or tasmanian tiger, the giant echidna and giant kangaroo.

“It does give you a window back to a time that you can pinpoint, and in the case of the Genyornis it’s a very long picture,” he said.

The traditional owners of the land in the Northern Territory say they are excited the painting could be Australia’s oldest dated rock art.

The Jawoyn Association‘s Wes Miller says the painting is one of thousands rediscovered across Arnhem Land in recent years.

“It verifies that the Jawoyn people were living in this country for a very, very long time,” he said.

“People say it, but once again this is clearly a demonstration of how long Jawoyn people have been in this country and other Indigenous groups. It’s great from that point of view. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

More on Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years: here.

The extinction of Australia’s ‘megafauna’ was caused by long-term hunting, new research suggests: here.

When the researchers analyzed the so-called Bradshaw rock artworks found in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, they didn’t find paint. Instead they found a black fungus, probably belonging to a fungi group known as Chaetothyriales, as well as a reddish organism that is suspected to be a species of cyanobacteria: here.

Dung fungus reveal that humans, not climate change, killed Australia’s giant beasts: here.

Climate change, not human activity, drove Australia’s megafauna to extinction, says Dr Stephen Wroe: here.

Australian freshwater fish endangered


This video says about itself:

10 April 2010

Critically endangered around the world, Australia is the last bastion for the Freshwater Sawfish (Pristis microdon). The team from Cairns Marine venture into the remote and inhospitable regions of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, home to an abundance of crocodiles, in order to collect a small number of juvenile specimens for conservation and display in public aquaria.

From Murdoch University in Australia:

Freshwater fish under pressure

Friday, 26 February 2010

Sources of groundwater such as springs are helping keep threatened species alive, by providing a supply of good water.

Habitat change, decline in water quality and introduction of exotic fishes has had a major impact on the freshwater fish of the South-West, according to Murdoch freshwater fish experts Drs David Morgan and Stephen Beatty.

The Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research researchers say extensive surveys in every river system in Western Australia’s South-West have shown major range reductions and loss of populations of the region’s unique freshwater fishes, a number being listed as endangered. …

“These areas of fresh groundwater intrusions in systems such as the Blackwood River effectively dilute the main channel and maintain permanent tributary habitats for threatened species, such as the Balston’s Pygmy Perch, and therefore it is very important to maintain this input – particularly in light of the predicted reduction in rainfall due to climatic change in the South-West,” Dr Beatty said.

“The surveys have mapped the introduction and colonisation of feral fishes such as goldfish [see also here] and mosquitofish that are also having a massive impact on these fishes.

“In fact, our research has shown that there are now more species of exotic fishes than natives in these waterways, with a number of new species having being recently recorded.”

The Freshwater Sawfish (also known as the Largetooth Sawfish or Leichhardt’s Sawfish) is a critically endangered species that can be found between latitudes 11 N and 39 S in the Indo-West Pacific oceans. It grows up to 23 ft (approx. 7 m) in length: here.

New species of stingray discovered off Western Australia: here.

Talking about fish in Australia; from the University of Queensland:

Poisonous friends help mimic

Friday, 26 February 2010

UQ research has found being a copycat works out pretty well for a certain reef fish.

Dr Karen Cheney, from the School of Biological Sciences, has revealed the secrets of an underwater imposter – the bicolour fangblenny.

“This fish resembles another poisonous reef fish – the yellowtail fangblenny – to avoid predator attack and to also avoid detection from passing reef fish, which they approach and attack to gain a meal of skin and fins,” Dr Cheney said.

“This is the first example of a mimicry system in which the mimic gains multiple benefits from its resemblance to another species.”

The research, conducted at Hoga Island, Indonesia, and at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, involved observing the number of attacks made by the mimic and how close it stayed to the fish it resembled.

Mimics who stayed in close proximity to models were more likely to be successful in securing food, Dr Cheney found.

To investigate whether the mimics also benefited from a reduction in predator attacks, Dr Cheney placed replicas – photographs glued to Perspex – of the bicolour fangblenny among potential predators.

“Significantly fewer predators approached the true replica compared with the other replicas,” she said.

Dr Cheney said it was possible that the mimic used its colour as a signal to warn potential predators not to attack.

A previous study conducted by Dr Cheney confirmed cleaner fish – which remove parasites from passing reef fish – used colour to advertise their services.

The study will be published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on February 24.

In a remarkable new finding, scientists have reported that certain coral reef fish use ultraviolet (UV) vision to tell the difference between their own and other similar species: here.

Top 10 Most Endangered Fish Species: here.

Britain: Teenage angler reels in 5lb goldfish: here.

March 2011. A biologist from the University of Toronto has discovered a new kind of tropical freshwater stingray. Dr Nathan Lovejoy’s 10 years of research with his collaborator, Marcelo Rodrigues de Carvalho of the University of Sao Paolo, confirmed the first new genus of stingrays from the Amazon region in more than two decades: here.

Object Recognition in Fish: Scientist trains goldfish to touch objects for food rewards: here.

Javan pond heron attracts many Australian birdwatchers


Javan pond heron

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Javan Pond Heron has Twitchers in a Flap

Last Update: Friday, March 16, 2007

By Anna Daniels

A winged creature from Indonesia has bird-lovers in a flap!

The Javan Pond-Heron blew in from Indonesia with Cyclone George and has now taken up residency in Darwin’s northern suburbs.

News of his arrival spread quickly with ‘twitchers’ from all corners of Australia flying in to catch a glimpse.

Sheryl Keates, from the Northern Territory Field Naturalists Club, was one of the first spotters on the scene.

“Many people have come to see this bird. People have been from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Broome-you name it they’ve been here and they’re still coming,” she said.

See also here.

Javan pond heron photo gallery: here.

Grey herons: here.

Darwin harbour ecology: here.

Rufous treecreeper in Western Australia: here.

North American bird photo gallery: here.