Bird photography contest in the USA

This video says about itself:

Canon: Bird Photography with Arthur Morris: Arthur’s Gear Bag

13 January 2015

From cameras and lenses to apparel and accessories, see what gear renowned wildlife photographer Arthur Morris brings with him on a typical trip and why.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Photo Contest Is Underway: Enter or Vote Now

Our annual photography contest, Home Tweet Home, is underway. Submit up to four photos by July 31 for chances to win birdy prizes, like an HD nest-box camera, nest box, bird feeder, and swag from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You need not be a photographer to participate; visit the contest website and vote for your favorite photos. Share with your friends, and help determine the winners in each of the four categories: Beautiful Eggs, Best Nest, Cutest Baby, and Feeding Time. Winning entries will be announced in our August eNewsletter. Good luck to all of our Home Tweet Home contestants! See official rules for details.

Also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

We love how new technology is so rapidly adopted by bird watchers to further their passions. High-def security cameras now watch over nesting birds, remotely-controlled drones monitor seabird colonies from the air, and inexpensive adapters turn smartphones into high-powered cameras. All of these new toys help us monitor birds while keeping a safe distance, but the latest and greatest “accessory” is one that has really split public opinion.

It’s called the “selfie stick,” a socially-provocative telescoping pole that remotely triggers your cell phone to take a picture of you and your friends (a.k.a., a “selfie”). Got a nest that is just out of reach? Selfie stick to the rescue! Snap a photo of the nest so you can count the eggs or nestlings. Some models can extend up to 32′ (10 m) and most allow for adjusting the angle of the camera. The devices use Bluetooth technology, or your camera’s timer, and work with a wide variety of smartphone models.

We credit this idea to Jeff Kozma, who is researching Gray Flycatchers in Washington. Jeff shared his photos with our Home Tweet Home contest, so you can see for yourself how it works. NestWatchers often ask how to report nests that are too high to see into, and the compact, portable selfie stick is one tool that can potentially help with this problem—no more taking a ladder into the field! And if anyone judges you for owning one, just tell them, “It’s for research.”

Dwarf planet Pluto, best ever photos

Close-up of mountains of Pluto

This NASA photo of today shows a close-up view of mountains on Pluto. There are no visible impact craters, NASA said, suggesting that the dwarf planet may be relatively young.

By David Freeman & Eliza Sankar-Gorton in the USA:

Dazzling New Pluto Photos Are The Best Ever Taken Of The Icy Dwarf Planet

07/15/2015 3:34 pm EDT Updated: 23 minutes ago

One day after its historic flyby of Pluto and almost a decade since its launch, NASA’s New Horizons space probe has delivered what we’ve all been waiting for: eye-popping photos of the dwarf planet and its moons.

(Scroll down to see the photos.)

NASA seemed to have trouble tamping down its excitement over the detailed images. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” the space agency tweeted late last night.

They weren’t kidding–just have a look.

Radioactive daisies after Fukushima, Japan

Deformed daisies in Fukushima, Japan

In 1976, Dutch singer-songwriter Fon Klement recorded a song called Elke Madelief, Radio-Aktief; meaning Every daisy radioactive.

Today, in Japan, that song becomes sad reality.

From Yahoo! News Canada:

Deformed daisies from Fukushima disaster site gain Internet fame

By Lisa Reddy

Monday, 13 July, 2015

Photos of flowers on Twitter and Instagram may be as commonplace as sunsets and selfies, but one Japanese amateur photographer has captured something a bit more unique than a beautiful bloom.

Twitter user @san_kaido posted a photo of mutated yellow daisies last month, found in Nasushiobara City, around 70 miles from Fukushima, the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster.  The photos show daisies with fused yellow centres and with the petals growing out the side of the flower.

The daisies are not the first deformed plants found after the disaster. In 2013, the Daily Mail posted photos of mutated vegetables and fruit, attributing the apparent abnormalities to high levels of radiation found in the groundwater.

The daisy photos come four years after the Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Power Plant meltdown which was caused after a devastating earthquake and tsunami knocked out three of the plant’s nuclear reactors.

Pluto and its moon Charon photographed

The last image taken before the July 14 flyby by the New Horizons spacecraft, released by NASA July 14

From World Science in the USA:

New Pluto images released with historic flyby

July 14, 2015

Courtesy of NASA and World Science staff

NASA has re­leased new im­ages of Plu­to with a his­tor­ic fly­by this morn­ing of the agen­cy’s New Hori­zons space­craft, launched in 2006.

The Pluto image, taken shortly be­fore the fly­by, has a reso­lution of about 4 km per pix­el, the scien­tists said in a media brief­ing July 14. That’s about a thou­sand times more de­tailed than the best im­ages taken from near Earth.

A re­lat­ed im­age tak­en July 11 also shows Plu­to’s larg­est moon, Char­on. Col­or da­ta be­ing re­turned by the space­craft now will up­date these im­ages, bring­ing col­or con­trast in­to sharp­er fo­cus, ac­cord­ing to agen­cy sci­en­tists.

Agen­cy sci­en­tists al­so re­ported the dis­cov­ery of a sys­tem of chasms on Char­on, larg­er than the Grand Can­yon on Earth.

The closest approach was about 7,700 miles (about 12,400 km) and took place at 7:49 a.m., according to NASA scientists.

New Horizons is currently out of communication from Earth so that it can focus on Pluto, they added, but is expected will start releasing additional data this evening and in the coming days and months.

The flyby “completes the reconnaissance” of the solar system by spaceships, started with Mars 50 years ago, said Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute, principal investigator for New Horizons, at the briefing.

Many more images will be “raining to the ground beginning tomorrow,” he added.

The images show Pluto and Charon as quite different, he added. “To my eye, these images show a much younger surface on Pluto, and a much older and more battered surface on Charon,” he remarked. This could be due to more active geology or atmospheric activity, changing the surface of Pluto, he said. “It sure looks” as though it snows, for example. But further images should help clarify this.

The piano-sized New Horizons craft zipped past Pluto at an estimated 30,800 miles (49,600 km) per hour.

In related findings, up­dat­ed mea­sure­ments ob­tained by New Hori­zons in­di­cate that Plu­to is 2,370 km (1,473 miles) wide, 18.5 per­cent the width of Earth. Mean­while Char­on is mea­sured as about half as wide as Pluto, or 1,208 km, about the size of Tex­as.

Pluto is a type of planet known as an “ice dwarf,” found in the Kuiper Belt region billions of miles from the sun. The Kuiper belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune, is the source of some comets and an object of astronomers’ interest in its own right, as it’s thought to contain ancient leftovers of the planet formation process.

Charon, Pluto's largest moon, in a NASA image released July 13

See also here.

Beetles, flowers and green woodpecker

Ladybird, 10 July 2015

This is a photo of a ladybug on milk parsley flowers which are finished. I think this is an eleven-spot ladybird. It is from 10 July 2015, when we were in the Heempark again.

Near the entrance, a chiffchaff singing.

A brown-banded carder bee on a thistle flower.

A group of long-tailed tits on a leafless tree, with a great tit not far away.

A lesser black-backed gull flies overhead.

Two muscovy ducks walking and grazing.

Sounds of a blackbird, a chaffinch, a jay and an edible frog.

Wild strawberries.

A blackcap sings.

A buff-tailed bumblebee.

Meadow brown butterflies.

Many of the flowers of two weeks ago here (orchids, bladder campion, greater yellow rattle) are gone now.

A green woodpecker calls, and flies from tree to tree.

Scarlet lily beetles, 10 June 2015

Orange-ish beetles mating on flowers. I would say: scarlet lily beetles.

Purple flowers, 10 June 2015

Finally, purple flowers.

Cactus flowers photographed

Cactus flowers opening

This is a photo of cactus flowers opening.

From National Geographic about this, with more photos there:

Cactus Flowers: Mother Nature’s Fireworks

Janna Dotschkal

Did you know that cacti can bloom? Yes, those prickly green plants burst out some of the most beautiful flowers you’ve ever seen.

For photographer Greg Krehel, these crazy cactus flowers have become an obsession.

“Since I was a kid I’ve always loved succulents and cacti. One year I ended up at a local garden shop and picked up [a] cactus for my collection. A couple years later it put out these awesome flowers, unlike others I had seen. It just kept blooming. It really went to town.”

Note: Many of these cacti are hybrids that were bred and cultivated by different individuals, hence the unusual names.

After seeing these stunning blooms, Krehel decided he needed to know more about the breed of cactus he had bought. He discovered it was a type of Echinopsis, cacti that are native to South America. Krehel says, “It turns out mine was a ‘snoozer’ compared to other varieties out there, even though I thought it was fantastic.”

Krehel was hooked. He started buying more blooming cacti and realized he wanted to find a way to capture the flowers’ incredible beauty.

Eventually he developed a method of focus-stacking images so that every part of the frame would be sharp, making every little detail visible.

Acorn woodpeckers in Colombia, new study

This video says about itself:

Through the Lens: Acorn Woodpecker

23 April 2011

The Acorn Woodpecker is a favorite among bird watchers. It has a clown like appearance and the unique habit of storing acorns in a favored tree that is often used by generations of birds. Wildlife Photographer Marie Read shares her experience photographing the behaviors of these lively birds.

Learn more about Acorn Woodpeckers on All About Birds.

From PLOS one:

The Geographic Distribution of a Tropical Montane Bird Is Limited by a Tree: Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) and Colombian Oaks (Quercus humboldtii) in the Northern Andes

Benjamin G. Freeman, Nicholas A. Mason

June 17, 2015


Species distributions are limited by a complex array of abiotic and biotic factors. In general, abiotic (climatic) factors are thought to explain species’ broad geographic distributions, while biotic factors regulate species’ abundance patterns at local scales

We used species distribution models to test the hypothesis that a biotic interaction with a tree, the Colombian oak (Quercus humboldtii), limits the broad-scale distribution of the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) in the Northern Andes of South America. North American populations of Acorn Woodpeckers consume acorns from Quercus oaks and are limited by the presence of Quercus oaks. However, Acorn Woodpeckers in the Northern Andes seldom consume Colombian oak acorns (though may regularly drink sap from oak trees) and have been observed at sites without Colombian oaks, the sole species of Quercus found in South America

We found that climate-only models overpredicted Acorn Woodpecker distribution, suggesting that suitable abiotic conditions (e.g. in northern Ecuador) exist beyond the woodpecker’s southern range margin. In contrast, models that incorporate Colombian oak presence outperformed climate-only models and more accurately predicted the location of the Acorn Woodpecker’s southern range margin in southern Colombia.

These findings support the hypothesis that a biotic interaction with Colombian oaks sets Acorn Woodpecker’s broad-scale geographic limit in South America, probably because Acorn Woodpeckers rely on Colombian oaks as a food resource (possibly for the oak’s sap rather than for acorns). Although empirical examples of particular plants limiting tropical birds’ distributions are scarce, we predict that similar biotic interactions may play an important role in structuring the geographic distributions of many species of tropical montane birds with specialized foraging behavior.