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.

David Cameron defeat on legalizing fox hunting?

This May 2015 video from Britain says about itself:

Doodle Time (David Cameron, fox hunting ban) • Timelapse, Illustration

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Tory plan to relax foxhunting ban set to fail after threat from SNP

SNP will vote down Tory motion to relax ban on hunting with dogs even though it would bring England and Wales into line with Scotland

Rowena Mason and Libby Brooks

Monday 13 July 2015 20.58 BST

David Cameron’s plans to relax the foxhunting ban are likely to fail after the SNP decided to take the provocative step of voting against a change in the law that only relates to England and Wales.

After a meeting of its MPs in Westminster, the SNP decided it would vote down the motion even though it would only bring the law in England and Wales into line with Scotland by allowing hunts to flush out foxes with a pack of dogs before they are shot.

If the vote goes ahead on Wednesday as planned by the Conservatives, it will set a new precedent for the SNP voting on English and Welsh matters in a move that could put the union under fresh stress.

It comes at a particularly sensitive time as the SNP is fiercely opposing the Tory plans to allow English MPs to veto laws that only relate to England, saying it would create two classes of members in parliament.

The free vote on foxhunting would already have been extremely close if the SNP were to abstain, as Cameron has a majority of just 12, but dozens of Conservatives are opposed to relaxing the ban, which currently limits hunting for pest control to only two dogs. The vote, which was promised in the Conservative manifesto, is now almost certain not to pass, as Labour will be whipped to vote against as well.

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, said it was “right and proper” to assert the Scottish interest on foxhunting given that there are moves in Holyrood to toughen up Scotland’s law on the issue.

“We totally oppose foxhunting, and when there are moves in the Scottish parliament to review whether the existing Scottish ban is strong enough, it is in the Scottish interest to maintain the existing ban in England and Wales for Holyrood to consider,” he said.

Robertson also indicated the SNP was not in a mood to be accommodating towards the Conservatives given its unhappiness with the devolution settlement offered in the Scotland bill.

“We are in a situation where the Tory government are refusing to agree to any amendments to improve the Scotland bill – which are supported by 58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs – and imposing English votes for English laws to make Scotland’s representation at Westminster second class,” he said.

“In these circumstances, it is right and proper that we assert the Scottish interest on foxhunting by voting with Labour against the Tories’ proposals to relax the ban – in the process, reminding an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is – just as we will vote against the Tory welfare cuts next week, and appeal to Labour to join us.”

SNP sources had last week indicated the party would probably abstain but it was coming under pressure from its activists not to be party to a Tory attempt to relax the law, even though it usually takes a decision on principle not to vote on English and Welsh-only matters.

Under the Scottish ban, enshrined in the Protection of Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, dogs can only be used if they are “flushing” foxes from cover towards waiting guns.

But the Scottish government has launched its own investigation into the effectiveness of this legislation after surveillance of five of Scotland’s 10 hunts suggested that they are routinely behaving as they did before the ban, with a complete absence of shotguns. Covert video footage taken by the League Against Cruel Sports over a three-month period apparently shows no practice of ‘flushing to guns’.

The Holyrood environment minister Aileen McLeod confirmed that MSPs intended to scrutinise the ban in a letter to the League, in which she said that she “would be very concerned” if the law was being flouted and that she was referring her concerns to Police Scotland.

SNP MPs have been struck by the strength of feeling on the issue. From the moment they were elected, new Scottish National party MPs reported being lobbied by voters in the rest of the UK who promised to holiday in Scotland and buy more whisky if they voted against the repeal of the hunting ban.

See also here.

Keep the Ban on Fox Hunting: petition here.

Swinhoe’s storm-petrels in the Atlantic

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – 2nd Fair Isle record! 2 in two weeks!

7 August 2013

Ringing and Documenting Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – Oceanodroma monorhis – August 7th 2013 2:30am. 8th record for Britain – 2nd for Fair Isle and Shetland! Both Fair Isle Records in the past 2 weeks! Caught at night with mist nets and sound recordings. Congrats to Dr Will Miles & Fair Isle Bird Observatory Warden David Parnaby. Also present Shetland Legend Denis Coutts & the young Logan Johnson the only birders to come to Fair Isle in the hope that the 1st Swinhoe’s would be recaptured but they were rewarded with a new unringed bird! Read more here.

From the Journal of Ornithology:

24 June 2015

Searching for a breeding population of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel at Selvagem Grande, NE Atlantic, with a molecular characterization of occurring birds and relationships within the Hydrobatinae

Mónica C. Silva, Rafael Matias, Vânia Ferreira, Paulo Catry, José P. Granadeiro


Long-distance dispersal plays a critical role in population dynamics, particularly in species that occupy fragmented habitats, but it is seldom detected and investigated. The pelagic seabird Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, breeds exclusively in the NW Pacific. Individuals have been regularly observed in the Atlantic Ocean since the 1980s, but breeding has never been confirmed.

In this study, we searched for evidence of breeding of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels on Selvagem Grande Island, NE Atlantic, between 2007 and 2013. During this period, six individuals were captured, sexed and characterized molecularly for two mitochondrial loci, cytochrome oxydase I and the control region, to confirm species identity, survey genetic diversity and estimate evolutionary relationships within the Hydrobatinae.

These individuals were confirmed to be Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels, and all except one are females. Phylogenetic analyses suggest sister relationship with Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel and dismiss misidentifications with other dark rump species. Patterns of genetic variation suggest that dispersal occurred likely by more than a single female. Despite the record of a pair duetting in a burrow, breeding could not be confirmed.

Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels are regularly occurring at Selvagem Grande, but capture/recapture patterns suggest that a possible breeding population is small and likely not self-sustaining. In seabirds, long-distance dispersal events may facilitate colonization of new habitats created in the context of predicted climate change impacts on the marine ecosystems.

Humpback whale off Scotland

This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

From the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in Scotland:

Humpback Whale in the Clyde

An adult humpback whale, possibly greater than 12 metres in length, has been sighted in the Firth of Clyde this week – the fifth such whale to be seen off western Scotland in the past month, compared with a usual total of just one or two per year.

The whale was sighted off Tighnabruaich in the Kyles of Bute on 6 July. On 8 July it surfaced alongside the Scottish Ocean Youth Trust’s yacht, spouting and swimmingly strongly in a northward direction into Loch Fyne. The whale was observed breaching out of the water and lob-tailing – a dramatic manoeuvre in which the animal throws its massive tail, up to five metres across, out of the water, creating a huge splash visible for miles. This behaviour could be used for communication, display or perhaps to ward off other animals.

Humpback whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction in Scottish waters, but in recent years Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has noticed an increase in the number of sightings reported to its online sightings database ( It is unknown whether this represents a genuine increase in population size, a range shift into Scottish waters, or more vigilant reporting from members of the public. Researchers in Ireland believe that humpback whales there are increasing in numbers.

Over the past month, there have been at least five different humpback whales documented off Scotland’s west coast, from the Isle of Lewis to the Firth of Clyde.

“Usually we expect just one or two sightings of humpback whales per year, so to have five in a month is very encouraging and exciting”, said Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s Sightings and Strandings Officer.

“Although humpbacks can put on a spectacular show and are humbling to watch, we appeal to people not to stress the whale by approaching in boats. This individual is not in its typical environment and may be lost in the sea loch. Besides, there are strict laws in place to protect this species from harassment”.

The trust encourages members of the public to become citizen scientists – both by reporting sightings of cetaceans and basking sharks online and by joining a research expedition aboard its sailing vessel Silurian. Participants are trained in scientific methods and assist in data collection to better understand the distribution of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the Hebrides. Information on entanglement risk in ropes and lines is also collected.

Morven Russell, Volunteer Coordinator, said: “By joining us aboard, volunteers will have the opportunity to witness first-hand the wealth of the Hebridean marine environment, whilst contributing to a better understanding and consequently more effective management of cetacean populations off Scotland’s west coast.”

This week’s sighting is the third confirmed humpback whale in the Firth of Clyde in recent years. On previous occasions, the whales apparently navigated their way out to the open sea. However, this is the first time that Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has documented a humpback so far north in the Clyde. Humpback whales are at high risk of entanglement in ropes and lines in the water and there have been at least two fatal entanglements in Scotland in the past 12 months.

Humpback whales have the largest forelimbs in the animal kingdom – leading to their scientific name Megaptera, meaning “giant winged”. They have 6m long flippers which make them prone to snagging ropes. Given that they cannot swim backwards, a simple entanglement can be fatal or lead to prolonged suffering.

“At the moment, the whale is swimming freely with no signs of distress or entanglement. Hopefully it will make it’s own way back to deeper water and come to no harm”, said Karl Hurd, Southwest Scotland Regional Coordinator of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which is the competent organisation in the UK for rescuing stranded and entangled whales.

New Zealand: The annual winter humpback whale count is under way in Cook Strait, but it may be the last for a group of former whalers: here.

Kayakers rescue trapped young dolphin, video

This video from Scotland says about itself:

30 June 2015

Three juvenile dolphins in Northbay on the Isle of Barra. One of the dolphins was completely trapped in seaweed and shallow water. After a successful rescue the dolphin joined the other two for a fine display of thanks! Rescue was performed by a group from Clearwater Paddling.

See also here.