Blue tits nesting earlier in spring


This December 2018 video is about blue tits singing.

From the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:

Warmer nights prompt forest birds to lay eggs earlier in spring

October 16, 2019

Summary: Rising night-time temperatures are causing woodland birds to build nests and lay eggs earlier in springtime, research shows.

As climate change continues to cause temperatures to rise, the breeding patterns of birds such as blue tits are being altered as evenings in spring get warmer, researchers say.

Previous research has shown that warmer springs have led birds to begin breeding earlier. However, until now, scientists had not identified the key factors that cause this behaviour.

With increasing spring warming, chicks may begin hatching after periods when caterpillars — their main food source — are most plentiful, scientists say.

Warmer temperatures are causing the peak in caterpillar numbers to occur earlier in the year, and birds like blue tits are responding too, but often not fast enough, the team says.

A team of biologists from the University of Edinburgh analysed data from 40 Scottish sites over a five-year period.

They found that birds decide when to reproduce based on night-time temperatures in springtime. Their findings suggest that colder temperatures may act as a constraint that delays the processes of building nests and laying eggs.

Blue tits were also found to lay eggs sooner if birch trees come into leaf earlier. This is some of the first evidence that birds use trees as a cue for timing breeding. Blue tits may use birch trees as a signal because they come into leaf earlier than other species, the team says.

Using data gained from two national citizen science projects, researchers found that night-time temperature and birch leafing have very similar effects on the breeding behaviour of woodland birds across the UK.

Dr Jack Shutt, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “Working out what information birds use to time breeding is key to us accurately predicting how this may change under future conditions, and what effect this will have on them.”

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Birds of Handa island, Scotland


This 7 July 2019 video says about itself:

Birding on Handa Island, Scotland 4K

Bird species in the video: 1. Northern Wheatear 0:39 2. Arctic Skua (dark morph) 0:42 3. Arctic Skua (light morph) 1:11 4. Great Skua 1:34 5. Northern Fulmar 3:27 6. Atlantic Puffin 5:14 7. Razorbill 6:55 8. Black-legged Kittiwake 7:52 9. Guillemot 8:39 10. Rock Pipit 13:29 11. Skylark 17:30 12. Red-throated Diver 18:14

Loch Ness monster, an eel, no plesiosaur?


This 5 September 2019 video about Scotland says about itself:

Could the Loch Ness Monster Actually Be a Giant Eel?

One team of researchers just released their verdict on the existence of the Loch Ness monster. Geneticist Neil Gemmell told reporters, “There is absolutely no evidence of any reptilian sequences in our samples.” In other words, “I think we can be pretty sure that there is probably not a giant scaly reptile swimming around in Loch Ness.” However, Gemmell’s team did find a lot of eel DNA in the lake. Could Nessie be a giant eel? “Maybe”, said Gemmell.

Scottish basking sharks studied


This 6 August 2019 Dutch video, with English spoken, is about basking sharks in Scotland. Scientists tag these sharks electronically for studying them.

Industrial fishing behind plummeting shark numbers. A team of researchers has discovered that sharks are much rarer in habitats nearer large human populations and fish markets. The team also found that the average body size of sharks and other marine predators fell dramatically in these areas, where sharks are caught and killed intensively for their meat and fins: here.

How puffins catch their food


This 2009 video says about itself:

Puffins | National Geographic

In Iceland’s remote Westman Islands, warming weather is threatening a beloved mascot: the Atlantic puffin.

From the University of Liverpool in England:

How puffins catch food outside the breeding season

July 17, 2019

Little is known about how seabirds catch their food outside the breeding season but using modern technology, researchers at the University of Liverpool and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have gained new insight into their feeding habits.

Seabirds, including puffins, are often elusive and spend much of their lives at sea, feeding exclusively there. The period outside of the summer breeding season is particularly mysterious as the birds spend their time far away from land.

Using depth recorders, researchers compared the feeding behaviour of puffins with two closely related species, guillemots and razorbills, to find out how deep and how long they dive for during the non-breeding period.

They fitted data logger to seabirds breeding on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland. These birds were then recaptured the following breeding season, when they returned to land again after months away at sea.

Puffins are excellent divers and, in a similar way to penguins, use their wings to “fly” underwater to catch their prey.

Yet the study found that despite this great diving ability, both common guillemots and razorbills can dive for even deeper and longer than puffins can and continue to do so outside the breeding season. As well as these important species differences, the study also found that the diving of all three species changed over the course of the year.

Lead author of the study, Ruth Dunn, a PhD student in the University’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Whilst we already knew that these birds are able to dive to great depths during the breeding season, in this study we found that after they left the breeding colony they didn’t dive as deeply as expected, often reaching depths of less than 15 meters, possibly because they were catching different prey.

“Despite these shallow dives, birds were very busy, particularly in in mid-winter when they were working harder than in the autumn and spring.”

Researchers also found that some birds were busier than others. Immediately after leaving the breeding colony, guillemot and razorbill fathers both dived more than their female partners.

This is because male parents accompany their chicks to sea and continue to feed it for several weeks after the breeding season has ended. Male birds therefore had to dive more frequently in order to catch enough fish to not only feed themselves, but to also meet the nutritional demands of their growing chicks.

In contrast with the other species, puffin chicks go to sea on their own. Therefore, the adults dive at a similar intensity throughout the post-breeding period, because there is not another hungry seabird beak to feed.

Francis Daunt of CEH, a co-author on the study, said “These insights into the winter feeding behaviour of puffins are extremely valuable since this species has shown marked declines in recent years, linked to higher mortality rates of adult birds in certain winters. These data show that the middle of winter is when birds are working hardest, which suggests that over-winter survival may be closely linked to the ability to find sufficient food.”

Scottish water voles and water


This 29 April 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Do water voles really need water? | Natural History Museum

Water voles are normally found near waterways. But in 2008, Cath Scott, Biodiversity Officer at Glasgow City Council, was called to an unusual finding: water voles living in urban areas a kilometre away from any water.

In this video, Cath tells us more about Glasgow’s unique population of water voles.

For more on this story, see here.

Bringing lynxes back to Scotland, new study


This 2017 video from Britain says about itself:

Rewilding the UK with Lynx

BBC’s Mike Dilger discusses the benefits of Lynx reintroduction.

From the University of Stirling in Scotland:

Proposed reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to Scotland

March 29, 2019

Experts have used an innovative approach to model the proposed reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to Scotland.

Researchers used state-of-the-art tools to help identify the most suitable location for lynx reintroduction in Scotland — and how this choice might affect the size of a population and its expansion over subsequent decades. Significantly, they believe their model will inform and enhance decision-making around large carnivore reintroductions worldwide.

The study was led by University of Stirling PhD researcher Tom Ovenden as part of his Masters in Environmental Forestry at Bangor University, with support from the University of Aberdeen.

Mr Ovenden said: “Reintroducing large carnivores is often complicated and expensive, meaning that getting things right first time is extremely important. Therefore, advances in modelling approaches, as utilised during our study, are extremely valuable.

“Our research considered several proposed reintroduction sites, showing how these models can be used as a safe and relatively inexpensive way of assessing the suitability of reintroduction proposals and providing the evidence required to inform decision-making at an early stage.

“Recent advances in both ecological theory and modelling approaches have made the incorporation of individual species’ complex behaviours in novel environments more realistic. We applied this approach to the potential reintroduction of Eurasian lynx in Scotland — and demonstrated the power of this new, sophisticated model. Our research demonstrates the potential of this approach to be applied elsewhere to help improve reintroduction success in large carnivores, from the safety of a modelling environment.”

The lynx is thought to have become extinct in the UK during the medieval period, around 1,300 years ago. In recent years, its potential reintroduction has been widely debated.

Using current land cover data, Mr Ovenden conducted an initial desk-based study to establish the current location and extent of suitable forest habitat for lynx in Scotland, updating historic work. Further research to identify the demographic and dispersal characteristics of the lynx elsewhere in Europe, provided the model with the necessary parameters.

The team used this information to investigate the suitability of three proposed release sites: the Scottish component of Kielder Forest, in the Borders; Aberdeenshire; and the Kintyre Peninsula. They used the model to assess how the lynx would establish a population, spread and colonise new habitat from each potential reintroduction site over a period of 100 years.

The results showed that Scotland possesses sufficient, connected habitat to offer a realistic chance of population establishment and that some sites are more suitable than others.

Of the three sites considered, the study indicated that the Kintyre Peninsula was the most suitable, with the population spreading across the Highlands in the 100 years following release. Significantly, the Central Belt would act as a barrier to colonisation between the Highlands and Southern Uplands providing evidence for two distinct habitat networks.

“This initial research is encouraging and suggests that Scotland is indeed ecologically suitable for the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx — but this suitability is highly dependent on where reintroduction takes place and more modelling work is required,” Mr Ovenden said. “Our research informs one aspect of a complex decision-making process that must involve a wide range of stakeholders and, as a result, it does not recommend whether we should, or should not, reintroduce Eurasian lynx to Scotland.

“We have established a solid foundation upon which more modelling can now be conducted, however, further research is required to assess other important issues — such as socio-economic factors and public attitudes — to enable informed, comprehensive decision-making. It is our hope that this tool will not only provide evidence to guide the current debate in Scotland, but can be used more widely in discussions around large carnivore reintroductions globally.”

Jo Pike, Director of Public Affairs at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “Returning the lynx to our landscape as a top predator could help restore the health of Scotland’s natural ecosystems. Any future reintroduction would have to be carefully planned, widely consulted on, and rigorously assessed against national and international guidelines. This research is a useful contribution to the evidence base that needs to be developed over the coming years.”

Notably, Mr Ovenden wrote his entire dissertation using solar power, while running the Handa Island nature reserve, in the Inner Hebrides, for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. He worked under the supervision of Professor John Healey, of Bangor University, and collaborated with Dr Steve Palmer and Professor Justin Travis, of the University of Aberdeen.

Mr Ovenden is now working towards a PhD at Stirling, in collaboration with Forest Research and The Scottish Forestry Trust, on the resilience of UK forests to extreme climatic events.

The study, Improving reintroduction success in large carnivores through individual-based modelling: how to reintroduce Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to Scotland, is published in Biological Conservation.