‘Extinct’ insect rediscovered in Edinburgh, Scotland


An illustration from British Entomology by John Curtis, the Bordered Brown Lacewing, Megalomus hirtus (Linn.)

From Wildlife Extra:

Insect thought extinct found in Edinburgh

The Bordered Brown Lacewing (Megalomus hirtus) has been rediscovered on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh after having not been seen for over 30 years, and feared to be extinct in the UK.

The last record was from Edinburgh in 1982. The new specimen was found by Mike Smith, an intern with Buglife as part of a project supported by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

Mike Smith, Buglife intern says: “Finding the lacewing has been a really exciting start to my project and now we know that it’s not extinct, we can start learning more about it.

“We think it might live on Wood Sage but we’re not sure and so we need to investigate further to make sure that this rare Scottish insect has everything it needs to survive.”

Colin Plant, the national recorder for lacewings, who confirmed the identification, says: “The rediscovery of the Bordered Brown Lacewing in Edinburgh is really good news for biodiversity.

“The discovery gives hope that other rare invertebrates might still be hanging on in areas where their micro-habitats still remain.

“The ongoing campaign by Buglife to preserve habitats remains key to the long term survival of a huge range of invertebrates.”

Further work will now be done to work out how healthy the population at Arthur’s Seat is, as well as searching other old sites where the lacewing had been found previously.

Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager at PTES, which has been supporting the internship, says: “It’s really important to support and nurture the next generation of conservation scientists and biologists here in the UK.

“Mike Smith, who discovered the specimen as part of his intern project, has shown what can be achieved by an enthusiastic and dedicated young researcher when given the backing and guidance they need.”

Scotland’s Loch Ness monster and media sensationalism


This 25 April 2014 video is called Skeptic’s Corner 17: Apple Maps Loch Ness Monster. See also here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The endless allure of a non-existent monster

Friday 21st august 2015

The Loch Ness ‘creature’ got its first mention as early as the 7th century and ever since it’s fuelled imaginations the world over. Now PETER FROST wades in with some sobering scepticism

In January of 1934 the Daily Mail, just as much of a reactionary rag as it is today, excelled itself with its most despicable and notorious headline.

“Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” it proclaimed above a paean of praise for Oswald Mosley and his fascist bully boys.

In the April of that same year it was the first London newspaper to report on a strange unknown creature in Loch Ness and the first to publish a photograph.

In the Daily Mail you could read about horrible slimy reptilian monsters emerging from the primordial depths to wreak mindless death and destruction.

But when you had finished with Mosley’s anti-semitic cretins, what did the Mail have to say about the creature in the Scottish loch?

Well, some of its story was nicked from the Inverness Courier which the year before was the first to report on the loch monster with an article headlined “Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness.”

The rest of its story and picture it bought from a prominent London gynaecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson. He wanted to remain anonymous and the picture was nick-named the “surgeon’s photograph.”

The Daily Mail paid Wilson £100 for the picture (over £6,000 today) but he was later fined £1,000 (£60,000 today) by the British Medical Association for allowing his name to be associated with it.

In his story Wilson claimed to have been walking by the loch when he saw the creature break the surface. He hurriedly took four photos, only two of which came out and one of them was rather blurry.

Tales of a beast in the loch had first came to national prominence in 1933 when a new loch-side motor-road gave easy access to unrestricted views of the loch.

One of the first sightings from the new road were from a couple named Spicer who reported seeing a 25ft (7.5m) animal with a long neck crossing the road in front of their car before splashing into the loch.

The Daily Mail sent big game hunter Duke Wetherell to investigate and, like many a good Mail reporter before and since, when he found no real evidence, he made some up.

He used a hippo foot umbrella stand from his hotel to make giant foot prints in the loch-side mud. The Mail printed the pictures.

It has even been suggested that the Mail’s man Wetherell created a plastic head and neck and attached it to a toy submarine that much later proved to be the real object in the surgeon’s photograph printed on the front page of the Daily Mail.

The legend of a loch monster is an old one. A 7th century book relates how St Columba told the legend of a man who had been attacked and killed by a water beast in Loch Ness.

Perhaps the commonest theory about the creature in the loch is that it is related to plesiosaurs, marine reptiles that existed in prehistoric times. No less a naturalist than Peter Scott held this view.

Since 1933 over a thousand sightings have been recorded. Most are controversial, with much argument and debate about their veracity.

Many have been proved to be inert floating objects, seals, swimming deer and driftwood. Over the years many hoaxers have eventually come forward to admit their deceit.

A million people visit Loch Ness each year and nearly nine out of 10 say they are there to try and spot the monster. They put more than £25 million into the local economy.

Despite all those visitors and despite the fact that virtually all of them today carry a high-definition camera, if only in their phone, there have been very few sightings and even less reliable photographs or film in recent years.

The best recent pictures are probably satellite images and both Google Earth and Apple Maps have had pictures that some think prove the creature’s existence.

The £1,000 prize for best monster picture of the year wasn’t claimed at all. The 2014 prize was won this January by somebody recording Google Earth images from his laptop in Sweden.

Does Frosty have a theory? Well I have taken the advice of a real expert and, if pushed, I’d put my money on a member of the cryptobranchidae family — more commonly known as giant salamanders.

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of nearly two metres (6ft 6in), is fat and lumpy, black in colour and lives in deep freshwater lakes, only coming to the surface very infrequently.

That description matches exactly many of Nessie’s reported sightings.

Whatever it is, or was, there is a very good chance that, like any tiny population in a remote and isolated location, it must be under great threat of extinction.

So with the lack of recent sightings it may be that the last specimen of whatever it was is lying rotting at the bottom of the loch and, as that is 755ft (230m) down, we’ll probably never know for sure.

But I am sure that won’t stop many people heading for Loch Ness for many years to come. I wish them all good hunting.

Scottish wildlife photography competition


This video from Scotland says about itself:

4 July 2014

This is what you could experience with a visit to the Scottish Seabird Centre.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scottish Seabird Centre launches 2015 photography competition

The Scottish Seabird Centre, visitor attraction, conservation and education charity, has launched its 2015 photography competition.

The categories to enter are: Landscape, Scottish Wildlife, Worldwide Wildlife, Environmental Impact, Creative Visions of Nature and World Flora – under 16s can enter in all categories.

However, as the Scottish Seabird Centre Nature Photography Awards are in their tenth year, to mark this anniversary there are two new categories: Nature’s Foragers and Nature Condensed.

Following the success of last year’s awards, which had over 430 entries, the judges for are Scottish Natural Heritage’s award-winning photographer Lorne Gill, professional freelance photographer Graham Riddell and Scottish Field Editor Richard Bath, and they will be joined by guest judges for the two new categories.

Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, says: “These awards will identify the best photographic talent from all age groups and encourage people to study, appreciate and share the wonders of the natural world in a sustainable way.

“Our Nature Photography Awards have grown significantly over the last ten years, and are now firmly established as a high quality and prestigious annual photography competition.

“The new categories make this year’s competition even more exciting. I would encourage amateur photographers and film fans worldwide to take a chance and submit their best images and short films.”

For the first of the new categories, and to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink, the Centre has introduced the category Nature’s Foragers where entrants are invited to consider our natural larder and how different species engage with it.

The challenge will be to compose an image that can say something about the diversity of natural provisions available or the canny way some wildlife find their lunch.

The guest judge for this category will be Hebridean author Fiona Bird who has written Kids’ Kitchen (Barefoot Books, 2009); The Forager’s Kitchen (Cico Books, 2013) and Seaweed in the Kitchen (Prospect Books, 2015).

Manuela Calchini, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, says: “The Year of Food and Drink is all about celebrating our outstanding culinary delights and unique dining experience.

“It’s fantastic to hear that the Scottish Seabird Centre has incorporated this message into their 2015 photography competition.

“Food and drink is such an integral part of our lives so I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for entrants to get snap happy and capture that prize-winning picture.”

Fiona Bird adds: “I am delighted to be invited to judge the foraging category. We should all relish the opportunity to explore and taste Scotland’s natural larder.

“Most foragers eat locally and every forager eats seasonally; they are, of course, mindful that if they pick all of the spring blossom there won’t be autumn berries, and the birds and the bees will lose out.”

For the second new category, budding film makers have the opportunity to enter for the first time in the Nature Condensed category.

Entrants in this category will create a maximum of one minute’s footage, focusing on any of the themes outlined in the photographic categories.

This new category will also have a guest judge, Laura Miller, News Anchor from STV Edinburgh.

Laura says: “‘I am delighted to be involved in the Scottish Seabird Centre Nature Photography Awards 2015 in this their tenth anniversary year.

“The competition is the perfect platform for local amateur photographers, young and old, and it showcases a wealth of talent.

“I feel privileged to be judging the inaugural ‘short film’ category and can’t wait to see this year’s entries.’’

The deadline for entries is Sunday 18 October.

Judges will meet to decide on a shortlist in each category. The shortlist will then be on display from 20 November in the Seabird Centre and online for the public to cast their votes, until Sunday 21 February 2016.

In each category there will be a winner selected by the judges as well as a winner selected by the voting public. Winning photographers have the opportunity to secure a whole host of prizes, which will be unveiled soon at http://www.seabird.org.

To enter the Nature Photography Awards visit www.seabird.org.

Common scoters not migrating together


This video is called Male common scoter (Melanitta nigra).

From daily The Independent in South Africa:

Birds of a feather don’t fly together

July 28 2015 at 08:53am

London – The British Royal Family famously never travel on the same plane to ensure the survival of the monarchy in the event of a disaster.

Now scientists say Britain’s most endangered duck employs a similar tactic by splitting up when it comes to their migration.

Despite its name, the common scoter is down to just 40 breeding pairs in the UK – mostly in the Scottish Highlands.

Researchers who tagged four birds nesting in the same loch found they flew to different winter locations in Scotland, Ireland and Morocco.

A spokesperson for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said: “The fact they stay apart in winter is a bit like the Royal Family never flying together – it means they can’t all be affected by a single issue like a storm or oil spill.”

The discovery is useful in the trust’s attempts to discover what is behind the falling population in Britain as the scoter is thriving elsewhere. “Whatever is causing their decline is more likely to be in the summer when they’re all together in the Highlands,” said the spokesperson.

Common scoters and other birds in Scheveningen, the Netherlands: here.

Zebra finch parenting, new research


This video says about itself:

Zebra finch courtship song

15 November 2012

A Zebra finch male sings to a female that he thinks is attractive. She’s just not that into him though. Better luck next time fella.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Bad parenting? Baby zebra finch don’t tolerate it. They look for better role models

By Darryl Fears

July 23 at 12:00 PM

Bad parenting is for the birds. Even baby zebra finch know this.

Newly hatched chicks whose parents are poor foragers often get stressed from lack of food, leading them to quickly write off mom and dad. Babies a few days old run off in search of better role models — adults that know what they’re doing.

In a two-year study that followed chicks from the moment they were hatched to the moment they were ready to leave the nest a little more than a month later, researchers found that “stressed chicks got away from their parents earlier,” said Neeltje Boogert, a biologist at the University of Cambridge who led the research. “They didn’t copy their parents behavior.”

Dumping clueless parents for better fill-ins is a positive sign for the finch. “If you had a rough start early in life, you might not be doomed,” Boogert explained. Nothing in the study suggested this behavior is applicable to other animals, or showed any parallels to humans, Boogert said.

Scientists have long studied the consequences of stress on individual animals to examine its impact on their behaviors, Boogert said. She wanted to take it another step by studying social animals such as the finch to determine how they coped. Boogert and her co-authors were slightly surprised to see youngsters diss their parents so quickly. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

When food is scarce, or the temperature in a habitat is too cold, resulting from bad parenting, stress hormones are chronically elevated. The consequence in animals, like humans, is often depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disorder and other detrimental impacts.

The question no one had sought to answer, as far is Boogert knew, is how a social animal would compensate. A study authored by Boogert last year said adding stress hormones to the diets of baby finch had a positive effect because they ended up with more friends by adulthood than young birds that were not stressed. But that study didn’t tell researchers why stressed chicks were making so many friends.

For the more recent research, Boogert fed stress hormones inserted in oils to newly hatched chicks in a lab at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Each finch in the small colony observed for the study was labeled with a bar code for tracking.

Observers noticed right away that finch chicks with elevated stress hormones followed adults different from their parents to feeding stations. In this case, the parents hadn’t done anything wrong — but the artificially stressed out chicks didn’t know that.

The study didn’t bother with studying how parents react to the put-down of being replaced. Clinical stares were glued on the jittery chicks.

“You can turn to other sources of information,” the author said. “I think it is actually a positive message. Instead of being stuck you can change who you’re going to follow and make a better life for yourself.”

See also here.

Atlantic puffins in Scotland, video


This video from Scotland says about itself:

16 July 2015

Got super close to a puffin colony on Treshnish with Staffatours, a boat trip from Oban.