Seal found in urban fresh water


This under water video is about common seals being fed at the shelter in Pieterburen, the Netherlands. The seals stay there until they are healthy enough to be freed again into the sea.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Seal in Oudegracht in Utrecht

The Oudegracht is a medieval, fresh water, canal in Utrecht city in the central Netherlands. Not close to the sea.

Today, 22:08

In the center of Utrecht a [common] seal has been found. The animal swam in the Oudegracht. It’s still a mystery how the seal ended up there.

It was removed from the water and is now in a dog cage in the police station, waiting until it will be brought to a shelter in Stellendam. There people will examine the seal’s health. …

A father and his daughter alerted the police who went to take a look. The seal had then passed to the bank to rest. There it was caught.

Update 28 August 2015: things go well for the seal.

English Farne Islands, ninety years of conservation


This video from England says about itself:

21 December 2014

Get up close to the fascinating seals of the Farne Islands and see the newborn pups of 2014. One of the UK’s biggest colonies of common seals lives on this tiny rock in the North Sea, where a team of dedicated National Trust rangers look after them for nine months of the year. You can find out more here.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

The Farne Islands, a sanctuary for seabirds and seals, celebrate 90 years as a British jewel of conservation

Puffins always draw the summer crowds to the islands off Northumberland, which are the favourite UK wildlife site of Sir David Attenborough

Kevin McKenna

Saturday 15 August 2015 12.20 BST

A couple of miles out to sea, off the Northumberland coast, some uncut jewels in the firmament of England’s natural heritage shimmer. The Farne Islands, ancient and sanctified by the hands of St Cuthbert, can only be reached on one of a fleet of boats that ferry hundreds of visitors each day in high summer. Drive through country roads until pasture gives way to sand and you are in Seahouses, the little coastal village where time, when it reached 1969, liked what it saw and decided to tarry.

Each summer the area rises anew out of coastal mists and returns you to childhood holidays of fish suppers and rococo confectionery. Gusts of petrol and herring lead you to a harbour braided by pastel-coloured dwellings. There, glorious Beryl Cook ladies, pink underneath straw hats and horn-rimmed sunglasses, chastise their children and say “sorry, love” as they barrel past you.

On one of Billy Shiels’s fabled vessels you head out to the islands with 60-odd others, drawn there by the sanctuary they provide for 23 species of seabirds and a sprawling colony of seals, which seem puzzled at these creatures who jostle and stretch to point their digital instruments in their direction. Ninety years ago this month, the National Trust finally bought the islands for £800 from the industrialist William Armstrong after a two-year public subscription, a transaction which must surely rank as one of the shrewdest transactions any national organisation has ever conducted. Because of it, millions have shared in a gold standard of conservation, education and access of which the heritage body is justly proud and which is being celebrated this summer.

Sir David Attenborough describes the islands as his favourite wildlife site in the UK. The puffins, all 39,962 breeding pairs, are the tourists’ darlings, but among the other seabird species are fulmars, Arctic terns, guillemots, razorbills, eiders and shags. A few handfuls of barn swallows, rock pipits and pied wagtails are also to be found bobbing and weaving about the place. In all, these islands are home to around 150,000 birds. In 1951, the islands became one of the first designated sites of special scientific interest and were declared a national nature reserve in 1993. Each day, the nine National Trust rangers in permanent residence perform a conservation high-wire act in which they balance their absolute commitment to conservation with a desire to educate the public about their work. As such they are always vigilant about visitor numbers to ensure minimal disruption to the breeding birds. Protecting their habitat is the rangers’ highest priority. It was only in 1971 that the National Trust was able to manage visitor numbers. Previously, the islands hosted an unedifying free-for-all each summer with unlimited numbers of people landing at will and roaming where they pleased.

In high season on these islands the birds must still protect their young from up to 400 pairs of human feet which the boats bring into their homes each day. The National Trust must balance the sacredness of the nesting sites with the bounty that tens of thousands of paying customers bring. These funds are necessary for funding the personnel and their science work. Nathan Wilkie, one of the rangers on Inner Farne, said: “People are generally very sensitive now to the vulnerability of nesting seabirds. They know they are guests in the homes of these birds and are very receptive to our simple guidelines while they are here.”

Today, we are witnessing the tailend of the puffins’ mass migration to their winter playgrounds. In a five-day period straddling the end of July and start of August, almost 80,000 of them embark on a startling natural airlift that sees them plot a course towards the north coast of Scotland and on to Iceland, where they will live in the sea for nine months before returning here to breed.

Puffins form part of that anointed group of land and sea creatures over which the British public likes to bill and coo. Along with hedgehogs, deer and badgers, they belong to a family which, if it had a Latin name, would be called Cutem cuddlius. God has blessed them with facial features that make them look like lovable juvenile scallywags, ducking and diving and getting up to mischief. As such they are destined always to be favoured by a good old-fashioned British outcry whenever it seems they have been victims of cruel and unusual treatment at the hands of human beings. …

Yet if life on the high seas were to be likened to life on the streets of some of Glasgow’s edgier arrondissements, then the puffins are wee hard-men who are well capable of looking after themselves. As well as spending most of the year living on some of the world’s iciest seas, they can dive below the waves to Jules Verne depths. And in places such as the Farne Islands the multiplicity of their numbers, at a time when other seabird species are in decline around the globe, have remained robust. Despite a global rise in sea temperatures which has depleted stocks of sand-eels, the puffins’ favourite food, the puffins and their seabird chums are still popping in and out of the water with their wee gobs stuffed full of their oily prey.

“Historically, the waters around here have always been rich in sand-eels,” said Wilkie. He was relaxed at recent reports suggesting the Farne puffins had been adversely affected by an extremely wet summer resulting in flooded burrows and a fall in the number of puffin chicks. This year, out of 100 burrows monitored by National Trust rangers, only around 50 were discovered to have produced pufflings; there were 92 last year.

“Certainly, the bad weather has not been good for the puffins,” said Wilkie. “But what needs to be factored in is that we have 34,000 breeding pairs here and we only monitor 100. And although the figure of 50 pufflings seems bad, last year’s figure of 92 was probably abnormally high.” Instead, he pointed out, the rangers are more concerned with trying to find non-invasive ways of discouraging hungry grey seals from encroaching on to the puffins’ breeding-grounds.

In the era of low-budget, stack-them-high air travel, the Farne Islands are inviting us to participate in our own David Attenborough films closer to home.

Gull, turtle, seal conservation works


This video from Spain shows Audouin’s gulls, with chicks.

From BirdLife:

Gulls, turtles and seals, three marine triumphs

By Bruna Campos, Mon, 06/07/2015 – 14:30

Marine wildlife in Europe has long been suffering because of human activities. Although we have a lot of work to do still, here are three marine stories that show the Nature Directives work when they are put to good use.

1) A special gull – and you thought they were all the same!

We all remember the gulls in ‘Finding Nemo’, portrayed as lazy, dumb, and incapable of saying anything besides one word: ‘mine’. Gulls are a group of seabirds that have a pretty bad reputation (a.k.a. ‘the flying rats’). Like rats, gulls are often perceived as dirty and diseased scavengers of food. They stir negative emotions like gangs of thieves would – stealing your sandwiches before you’ve even had a chance to take a bite!

As a side note, a gull’s klepto-parasitism isn’t just against humans, although we tend to think very highly of our species, we find a gull’s behaviour very offensive – that they would dare steal or eat our food without permission. However, I would like to introduce you to another side of the gull. Watch one long enough and you’ll notice an incredible display of acrobatics, patience, and simply straight out cheekiness (in a cute way). Like most other parents, gulls are protective and very aggressive against anything approaching their nest – hence the famous sky dive attacks you may have already experienced. Like many seabirds, they mate for life – although divorces do happen with some social problems for a couple of years.

There are 20 species of gull in Europe, and although they share a similar build, they are all quite different, some having more pronounced looks than others. One in particular, Audouin’s Gull, which can only be found in the Mediterranean, is unlike many of its cousins because it rarely scavenges. Rather, it’s a specialist coastal and pelagic fish eater (not to say that they wouldn’t pass off diving for an easy fish that has been thrown away by a fisher at sea). It was one of the world’s rarest gulls in 1975, with only 1,000 pairs. Protection under the Birds Directive led to the creation and implementation of a European action plan which has helped secure its survival, especially in Spain.

Several projects were implemented that contributed to successful re-colonisation of breeding islands and the control of invasive black rats which were predating colonies. Today, with the most recent assessment of the European birds (the European Red List of Birds), we can say that the Audouin’s Gull has the lowest level of extinction risk with around 21,000 pairs. But we must be cautious. Although there has been improvement, particularly in Spain, much more still needs to be done across the Mediterranean to ensure that this gull continues to survive, such as implementing safe fishing gears to stop fishers from accidentally catching gulls in their fishing lines and nets.

2) Sea turtle’s little helpers are saving the day

Sea turtle volunteers run the beaches of Zakynthos in Greece (for Brits, the island is also called ‘Zante’). Before tourists can sprawl all over the sand, sea turtle ‘human little helpers’ make sure they know exactly what is going on with the turtles. How are they doing this, you might wonder? Well, they get up very early and work all morning before daybreak to find out the number of nests laid and their location. They also spend countless nights tagging as many turtles as they can that stride up on the beach to nest. They then run around the beaches alerting tourists about these wonderful creatures, and to not sit in places on the beach where they might break some eggs.

How is all of this relevant to the ‘Nature Directives’? Well,  Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the creature these little helpers are working hard for, are protected by the Habitats Directive. These turtles are widespread and highly migratory, and are endangered globally. So it is only with strict nature legislation and management plans that we can stop their decline. Little helpers please continue doing what you are doing now – you’re making a difference, and we hope in the future to see loggerhead numbers increase.

3) The seal that tried to be common

Take a boat trip along the Frisian coast: can you spot that seal? Probably yes! Lucky you, because if it wasn’t for the Habitats Directive, that seal could be long gone by now. Despite being called ‘Common Seal’, during the last 100 years intense hunting and disease caused its decline in Europe. To help them recover, shooting was banned. However, seals were then hit hard in the 1980s by a disease called phocine distemper, which causes uncontrollable periodic population crashes. Although disease and pollution still threaten the species, hunting restrictions, habitat protection and improved management, especially working with fishers, have helped increase numbers to now over 81,000 in Europe. Thanks again for helping Nature Directives.

These marine comebacks remind us that it is in our power to prevent the loss of a species forever. Nevertheless, we are very far from ensuring the safety of our seabirds and other marine creatures and we must do more. The Birds and Habitats Directives are here to help us with this, but their implementation is fundamental to secure the continued survival of all our marine animals.

Australian fur seals, new research


This video is called The Life of Australian Fur Seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, Montague Island, 2011.

From Deakin University in Australia:

July 2, 2015

Humans once hunted them, but may now hold key to fur seal survival

Oil rigs and artificial reefs are often given a bad rap for their environmental impact but they may be playing a vital role in feeding one of Australia’s largest sea creatures, still recovering from centuries of hunting by humans, new research led by Deakin scientists has found.

Researchers from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences teamed up with National Geographic, the University of Tasmania and University of California Santa Cruz to investigate the feeding behaviour of the Australian fur seals in Bass Strait.

Associate Professor John Arnould said some seals carrying the National Geographic “crittercams” revealed they and other individuals congregated around human-made structures which act as artificial reefs attracting fish.

“These findings mean that man-made structures such as pipelines, cable routes, wells and shipwrecks could play a vital role in helping to improve the recovery rates of our fur seals,” he said.

“The Australian fur seal population is increasing at just two per cent a year and still sit at population levels below 60 per cent of what it was before the commercial sealing era in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

The researchers tracked the foraging patterns of 36 Australian fur seals from Kanowna Island in Bass Strait, using GPS loggers and dive recorders.

The research is published today in the latest edition of science journal PLOS One.

“While we know fish congregate around these structures, scientists don’t know a lot about their use by marine mammals and we were surprised at first to find the Australian fur seals were going to these area[s],” Associate Professor Arnould said.

“We found that 72% of the 36 seals we tracked spent time around the man-made structures, with pipelines and cable routes being the most frequented. More than a third of animals foraged near more than one type of structure.”

Associate Professor Arnould said man-made changes to natural habitats could often have negative effects on animals which lived in the regions surrounding them, including a reduction in foraging habitat, breeding sites and refuge from predators.

“Some species, however, can adapt to, and even benefit from, changes to their habitats,” he said.

“Indeed, man-made structures can provide a range of benefits for some species, from predator avoidance, thermoregulation, and breeding sites, to acting as important foraging areas.”

Associate Professor Arnould said seals and sea lions around the world had experienced variable rates of population recovery since the end of the sealing era.

“We have seen species that feed close to the surface have experienced rapid growth in numbers, populations of species that feed on the ocean floor, such as the Australian fur seal, have increased very slowly, are stable or in decline,” he said.

“It has been suggested that the low population recovery rates of these species could be due to them hunting in environments which for decades have been the focus of commercial fisheries using bottom trawlers that disrupt the habitat and remove the larger size-classes of species that the seals depend on for food.

“The Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) feeds exclusively on the sea floor of the continental shelf on a wide variety of fish, octopus and squid species.”

Associate Professor Arnould said all but one of the Australian fur seal’s breeding colonies occurred on islands within Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, which has an average depth of 60 metres and is considered to be a region of low food availability for marine predators.

“Therefore, structures like oil and gas rigs and pipelines that occur on the relatively featureless sea floor could provide a valuable prey habitat and promote foraging success for the species,” he said.

Explore further: Fur seal population bounces back while sea lions struggle

Seal pups live on webcam


This video from the USA says about itself:

A harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) mother giving birth to a pup and their first swim. Footage was taken at a harbor seal rookery in southern Puget Sound, Washington during observations in 2004 under NMFS MMPA research permit # 782-1702. Video by Dyanna Lambourn, edited by Caitlin McIntyre, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Dutch conservation organisation Het Groninger Landschap reports today about harbour seals living in the Dollard estuary.

At the moment, there are about fifty seal mothers with pups there. You can see them full screen on a webcam, here.

Seal swims from Dutch Texel to Cornwall


This video says about itself:

22 January 2015

Stranded Seal Pups are released into the wild in Cornwall.

The National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek has let six of the creatures go this morning.

They include Superman, Wonderwoman and Bruce Wayne.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

Victor seen in Cornwall – 06-02-15

Not only gray seals are travelers, harbour seals also explore the North Sea. This has been proven by harbor seal Victor. He surprised staff at Ecomare by making the crossing to England. Victor arrived last year on July 11 at Ecomare as an orphan in the shelter and was equipped with a chip and a flipper marker. On November 7 he was released in the Wadden Sea. For three weeks he has by now resided along the Cornish coast at Par Beach, and he has become a local celebrity.

Traveler

Possibly Victor has explored much more than just the beach of Cornwall. In the River Fowey in Cornwall, a bit further, spotted a harbour seal was spotted as well. Presumably this was Victor as well. So, a real traveler! Unfortunately Victor on Par Beach could not rest completely undisturbedly. Hikers with dogs sometimes came too close to the young seal, thereby disturbing him. Subsequently, members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue caught Victor on 2 February.

Released while healthy

With only a small wound on the flipper, presumably caused by a dog bite, Victor appeared otherwise healthy and he was released the same day. This time a bit further away, so hopefully he’ll find a little more peace. On this site there are not only 10 gray seals, but also an adult harbour seal.

Some water users around Cornwall’s north coast, particularly in the St Ives Bay area, have been repeatedly harassing Bottlenose Dolphins and other marine life, such as seals, in recent weeks: here.

Adelie penguins on webcam this week


This video says about itself:

Adelie Penguins of Paulet Island, Antarctica

30 dec. 2011

Paulet Island, located near the Antarctic Peninsula in the northwest Weddell Sea, is home to more than 100,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins. The island is a small circular volcanic cone, about one mile in diameter with rocky slopes rising more than 1,100 feet above the shoreline.

Cobble beaches are favorite napping locations for Weddell seals, which you’ll see in this video.

Adelie penguins pop in and out of the surf as they return to shore throughout the day. They spend some time drying off and preening on the upper beaches before making their way to the nesting locations. In some cases, this is a rather difficult journey over loose scree slopes to the uppermost ledges of the volcanic cone.

Snow fields are used by the penguins to travel back and forth from a freshwater lake at the center of the island. This lake was once used by members of Dr. Otto Nordenskjold‘s 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition to survive being stranded on the island. A stone hut and burial marker remain today, but the hut is now prime roosting territory for Adelie penguins.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA today:

This Week Only: Watch Penguins Live in Antarctica

Don’t miss this live visit to an Adelie Penguin colony in Antarctica! We’ll be hosting a Q&A with an oceanographer and a penguin scientist at Palmer Station, Antarctica. They’ll take you on a virtual tour of a nearby penguin island, and you’ll be able to ask questions via live chat for the scientists to answer.

We’re hosting two 1-hour live sessions: the first is on Thursday, Jan. 29, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. The second is on Saturday, Jan. 31, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. To watch, just bookmark this link and join us live for one or both sessions!