Spanish woman fined for photographing police breaking the law


Gag law in Spain

Photography is not a crime. Not in the USA. Not in Greece. Not in Spain. But hard line right authorities seem to be too stupid to understand that.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Spanish woman fined for posting picture of police parked in disabled bay

Unnamed woman from Alicante ordered to pay €800 under controversial gagging law for posting photo on her Facebook page

Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

Sunday 16 August 2015 12.09 BST

A Spanish woman has been fined €800 (£570) under the country’s controversial new gagging law for posting a photograph of a police car parked illegally in a disabled bay.

The unnamed woman, a resident of Petrer in Alicante, south-east Spain, posted the photo on her Facebook page with the comment “Park where you bloody well please and you won’t even be fined”.

The police tracked her down within 48 hours and fined her.

The Citizens Security Law, popularly known as the gagging law and which came into force on 1 July, prohibits “the unauthorised use of images of police officers that might jeopardise their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations”.

Amnesty International condemned the law, saying that photographing police was vital in cases when excessive force had been used. Fines under this section of the law range from €600 to €30,000.

Fernando Portillo, a spokesman for the local police, said the officers had parked in the disabled bay because they had been called to deal with an incident of vandalism in a nearby park. A rapid response is essential if they are to catch the offenders “in flagranti”, he told local media, adding that in an emergency the police park where they can.

Asked how the photo had put the police at risk, he said the officers felt the woman had impugned their honour by posting the picture and referred the incident to the town hall authorities. “We would have preferred a different solution but they have the legal right to impose the fine,” Portillo said.

Last month two couples in Córdoba were reportedly fined €300 each for consuming alcohol in a public place, although they claimed to have had only soft drinks and a pizza.

The gagging law also prohibits demonstrations in the vicinity of parliament or the senate, trying to prevent an eviction or actions of passive resistance such as sit-down protests in the street. Offenders face fines of up to €600,000.

Dinosaur discoveries in Spain


Artist's rendering of small dromaeosaur from the South Pyrenees. Credit: Sydney Mohr (artist), University of Alberta

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Big dinosaur discoveries in tiny toothy packages

August 7, 2015

Researchers have examined one of the smallest parts of the fossil record—theropod teeth—to shed light on the evolution of dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Findings published in the prestigious journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica have effectively quadrupled the dinosaur diversity in the area of study, eight localities from Treviño County, Huesca and Lerida—including the exceptional site of Laño. There were previously only two known species in the area.

The study of 142 isolated teeth from the Campanian-Maastrichtian of the South Pyrenean Basin suggests six additional species of toothed theropods (five small, one large) were present in the region. “Studying these small parts helps us reconstruct the ancient world where lived and to understand how their extinction happened,” says lead author Angelica Torices, post-doctoral fellow in biological sciences at the University of Alberta. “Teeth are especially important in the study of Upper Cretaceous creatures in Spain and the rest of Europe because we don’t have complete skeletons of theropods from that time in those locations. We have to rely on these small elements to reconstruct the evolution of these dinosaurs, particularly the theropods.”

Carnivorous dinosaurs replaced their teeth continuously, with just one dinosaur producing a huge number of these dental pieces and an endless number of clues for understanding these mysterious creatures. This study demonstrates the value of isolated teeth in reconstructing the composition of dinosaur paleofaunas when other, more complete material is not present, allowing interpretation of the evolution of diversity through time.

The findings provide huge strides in understanding not only the diversity of carnivorous dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous in Europe, but also how the diversity of large animals responds to climatic changes. “It completely changes the vision of the ecosystem,” says Torices. “Moreover, we now understand that these dinosaurs disappeared very quickly in geological time, probably in a catastrophic event. Climatic models show that we may reach Cretaceous temperatures within the next century, and the only way we can study biodiversity under such conditions is through the fossil record.”

More information: “Theropod dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous of the South Pyrenees Basin on Spain” appeared in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica in August, 2015.

Griffon vulture visits Vlieland island


This 3 August 2015 video, by warden Carl Zuhorn, shows a griffon vulture on a black pine tree on Vlieland island in the Netherlands. A carrion crow tries to drive the vulture away; but the big bird hardly pays any attention.

This video shows the same vulture, also on 3 August 2015, at the Vierboetsduin dune on Vlieland.

Griffon vultures are rare in the Netherlands. This individual has a yellow colour ring with number RO4. That proved that the vulture came all the way from Spain, where it had fledged last year. It had been on Texel island before going further north to Vlieland.

Vlieland warden Anke Bruin writes that the last news is that the bird was seen near Kroon’s polders on Vlieland. Maybe it will feed on dead gulls: in August, quite some young gulls die from natural causes.

Good Iberian lynx news from Spain


This video is called Spain’s Last Lynx – Nature Documentary.

From the BBC:

Iberian lynx returns to Spain from verge of extinction

25 July 2015

An intense conservation campaign has brought the Iberian lynx back to the south of Spain from the verge of extinction barely 10 years ago, Guy Hedgecoe reports from Spain.

At the La Olivilla lynx breeding centre in Santa Elena, in southern Spain, a group of conservationists are in an office, gathered around a TV monitor.

On it they watch an Iberian lynx cub learn to hunt by playing with a domestic rabbit in one of the centre’s compounds. The lynx, the size of a small cat, is only a few weeks old but already has the sharply pointed ears and mottled fur that make the species so recognisable.

It swipes playfully at the rabbit with its paws, but still has a long way to go before it graduates to killing its own prey.

When it does, it will probably be released into the wild, following in the tracks of many other animals born in captivity here.

Just over a decade ago, the Iberian lynx, also known as Lynx pardinus, was on the verge of extinction, with only 90 animals registered, in the Andujar and Donana areas of southern Spain.

‘Saving the species’

But an intense campaign over recent years has brought it back from the brink, with 327 lynxes believed to be roaming southern, central and western Spain, as well as parts of Portugal, last year.

“We’re on the way to saving the species,” says Miguel Simon, director of the Iberlince lynx conservation programme.

“Losing this unique natural treasure would have been as bad for us as losing the Great Mosque in Cordoba or the Alhambra in Granada.”

In June, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) improved the status of the Iberian lynx from “critically endangered” to “endangered”. In its appraisal, the organisation saw the mammal’s recovery as “excellent proof that conservation really works“.

Around 140 specimens have been released into the wild, with the Iberian wildcat programme borrowing reintroduction techniques used by German conservationists.

Not all good news

But this success has not been cheap. Between 2002 and 2018, the programme will have received €69m (£49m; $76m) in funding, mainly from the European Union.

Much of that money has gone into three breeding centres in Spain, including in Santa Elena and one in Portugal.

Teresa del Rey Wamba, a veterinarian who works on the conservation programme in southern Spain, says that prior to the animal’s recent comeback, a lack of appropriate prey was a major problem, as was illegal hunting.

Clamping down on poaching and encouraging the growth of rabbit populations – the lynx’s favoured food – were therefore key, with private landowners, local governments and hunting federations all supporting the programme.

But it is not all good news. Last year, 22 lynxes were killed by vehicles on Spanish roads.

Miguel Simon says that while this is a problem, it also reflects how the lynxes’ movement has increased as their numbers have risen.

His team has overseen the installation of underground tunnels, custom-built for the animals to cross busy roads, and more are planned.

Of greater concern however is a recent outbreak across southern Europe of rabbit haemorrhagic disease, a highly contagious virus that has been killing off the lynxes’ staple diet since 2011 and reducing their reproductive rate.

In light of this threat, the IUCN decision to take the lynx off the “critically endangered” list was incorrect, according to Emilio Virgos, a lynx expert at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

“If all the data we have so far about how lynxes live and survive and reproduce are correct, and we have no reason to think otherwise, the number of lynxes… will drop drastically,” he says of the outlook for the next few years.

He warns that extinction is still a possibility within decades.

While Mr Simon is worried about the rabbit virus, he describes such forecasts as “alarmist” and points to an emergency plan to boost rabbit numbers. Its success, he says, will depend in great part on continued funding.

“The battle for conservation of the lynx is never-ending,” he says.

What is a lynx?

A medium-sized cat which lives in the wild
There are four different species – Eurasian, Iberian, Canada and Bobcat
The Eurasian lynx is the biggest – about 60cm tall – roughly the same size as a Labrador
The Iberian lynx is one of the rarest smaller wildcats in the world – mainly found in parts of Spain and Portugal
The Bobcat is found in North America while the Canada lynx lives in Canada and Alaska
Most lynxes are listed as threatened or endangered and are prized by poachers for their fur
Lynxes are usually only active at night and hunt deer, rabbits and hares for food

Shearwaters smell their way, new research


This video from Spain is called Balearic Shearwater, Sa Cella, Nest 20.

From the Royal Society Proceedings B in Britain:

Pelagic seabird flight patterns are consistent with a reliance on olfactory maps for oceanic navigation

1 July 2015

Abstract

Homing studies have provided tantalizing evidence that the remarkable ability of shearwaters (Procellariiformes) to pinpoint their breeding colony after crossing vast expanses of featureless open ocean can be attributed to their assembling cognitive maps of wind-borne odours but crucially, it has not been tested whether olfactory cues are actually used as a system for navigation. Obtaining statistically important samples of wild birds for use in experimental approaches is, however, impossible because of invasive sensory manipulation.

Using an innovative non-invasive approach, we provide strong evidence that shearwaters rely on olfactory cues for oceanic navigation. We tested for compliance with olfactory-cued navigation in the flight patterns of 210 shearwaters of three species (Cory’s shearwaters, Calonectris borealis, North Atlantic Ocean, Scopoli’s shearwaters, C. diomedea Mediterranean Sea, and Cape Verde shearwaters, C. edwardsii, Central Atlantic Ocean) tagged with high-resolution GPS loggers during both incubation and chick rearing. We found that most (69%) birds displayed exponentially truncated scale-free (Lévy-flight like) displacements, which we show are consistent with olfactory-cued navigation in the presence of atmospheric turbulence.

Our analysis provides the strongest evidence yet for cognitive odour map navigation in wild birds. Thus, we may reconcile two highly disputed questions in movement ecology, by mechanistically connecting Lévy displacements and olfactory navigation. Our approach can be applied to any species which can be tracked at sufficient spatial resolution, using a GPS logger.

Great bustards wintering in Spain


Great bustard

Great bustards are wintering on traditional farmlands in Spain: here.

This is, again, a November 2011 blog post from my blog.co.uk blog.