American bittern in Ireland


This video from Washington state in the USA says about itself:

American Bittern Mating Call

Here’s an American Bittern performing his mating call. I really need to pick up a decent microphone to deal with the wind. Taken at Ridgefield NWR on Apr. 23, 2012 with my Canon 7D.

From Cork bird news in Ireland, on Twitter:

7/12, 16.10: American Bittern still present Castlefreke Lake this pm.

Dams and wildlife in the USA, films at Rotterdam festival


This trailer video from the USA says about itself:

This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream.

Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

This film is at the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Like this other film:

This trailer video says about itself:

‘Return of the River’ follows a group of people who attempt the impossible: to change the opinion of a town and eventually the nation to bring two dams down. The community comes to consensus, launching the largest dam removal in history, and showing the way to a more sustainable future. Infused with hope, the film explores an unlikely victory for environmental justice and restoration, unfolding on the Elwha River in Washington State.

Arson by anti-women fundamentalists in Washington, USA


This video from Washington state in the USA says about itself:

Arson shuts down Pullman Planned Parenthood office

4 September 2015

A Pullman fire investigator has determined the fire at a Planned Parenthood office early Friday morning was arson. KXLY4’s Brittany Paris reports.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Abortion clinic fire ‘was arson’

US: A pre-dawn blaze that badly damaged an abortion clinic in Pullman, Washington, was arson, fire investigators have determined.

The fire followed a recent wave of protests at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.

On August 22, around 500 protesters gathered outside the Pullman clinic, waving signs and calling for Congress to stop funding the organisation.

White-tailed ptarmigan video from the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Join Cornell Lab of Ornithology photographer Gerrit Vyn as he searches the high slopes of Washington’s Mount Rainier for White-tailed Ptarmigan.

Crow hitches ride on bald eagle


Crow on bald eagle back

This photo series is by photographer Phoo Chan. It shows a crow, probably an American crow, hitching a ride on the back of a bald eagle, in Washington state in the USA.

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.

Gray whale spring migration


This video from the USA is called Gray Whale Migration.

From the Everett Herald in Washington sate, USA:

Saturday, April 4, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Gray whales make their annual return, though a bit late

By Sharon Salyer

Gray whales have been spotted near Whidbey and Camano islands, part of their annual spring layover on their way from Mexico to Alaska. You don’t necessarily have to board a boat to see their heart-shaped spouts and their V-shaped flukes. They can be spotted from shoreline areas in Snohomish County and from spots such as Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island and Ebey’s Landing beach and bluffs on Whidbey Island, according to the Orca Network.

The whales’ return was just a tad off schedule this year, said John Calambokidis, a research biologist for Cascadia Research, an Olympia-based nonprofit which studies marine mammals. “We were just a little nervous that some didn’t show up,” he said. A group of about 10 whales can sometimes stop over in the Whidbey and Camano island areas in mid-February or early March. “The earliest we had one of these whales was the first weekend in March,” he said, with more arriving by mid-March.The core group sometimes is joined by other whales intermittently, he said.

“This is just some sort of in-between pit stop for them,” Calambokidis said. “They’ll often be here for several months. ”The stop is off their migration route, which continues north, he said. The ones that stop have learned that there’s something good to eat here — ghost shrimp. Susan Berta, co-founder of the Orca Network and the Langley Whale Center, said the whales usually remain in the area through May. About six whales have been seen so far, she said. Sightings often are reported in Possession Sound, Saratoga Passage and offshore areas of Island and Snohomish counties, she said.

A bell rings in one of Langley’s parks when whales are spotted. The town hosts an annual Whales Festival, scheduled this year for April 18 and 19. The same group of 10 to 12 whales makes an annual local stop on their migration route from Baja, Mexico, then continues their trek north to the Bering Sea, she said. There’s never been a confirmed sighting of a calf during the time the whales make their local stop, Calambokidis said. They’re predominately males, but three females have been identified in the group. The females “tend to have little more spotty history of showing up here,” he said. “We suspect that may be because in the years they have calves, they don’t make this stop.

”One gray whale seemed to accidentally discover the marine feast of the local ghost shrimp feeding grounds, he said. “He wandered around Puget Sound for a while in the early 1990s before discovering how rich the areas around Island County are for ghost shrimp. “Now he comes back directly to that spot,” Calambokidis said.Cascadia Research plans on doing some study later this month on what proportion of the whales’ total diet while they’re here is ghost shrimp, particularly in the intertidal areas where people harvest the shrimp for bait.The nonprofit is working with the state Department of Natural Resources to investigate how much competition there is between the needs of the gray whales for the shrimp and people’s harvest of the shrimp, he said. Gray whales are thought to live up to 50 years and weigh about 20,000 pounds.

Grizzly bears in Washington state, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Grizzly Bears in North Cascades: Recovering an Icon

20 March 2015

North Cascades National Park, considered the “wild nearby” for its incredible scenery and wildlife, is also at the center of an opportunity being led by the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Forest Service to restore a grizzly bear population.

Recovering these rare bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem, an area of nearly 10,000 square miles of protected public land, including the national park, would be a gift of the natural world to ours and future generations. It also provides a rare opportunity to recover all of the large native wildlife that were present prior to the turn of the 19th century.

Grizzly bears, of which less than twenty likely remain in the North Cascades Ecosystem, have long been an important cultural symbol for local Native American tribes, as well as playing an important ecological role for the health of the environment and other animal species.

Join the National Parks Conservation Association and special guests, including TV host and bear specialist Chris Morgan, to learn more about grizzly bears, their importance to creating and maintaining healthy ecosystems, the history leading up to the current public process, and how you can get involved.

Panelists:
• Bill Gaines, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist and Director of the Washington Conservation Science Institute. Gaines has been involved in the grizzly bear recovery efforts in the North Cascades for the past 25 years.

• Chris Morgan, Ecologist, bear specialist, author, filmmaker and TV host. Chris has spent more than 20 years working as a wildlife researcher, wilderness guide, and environmental educator on every continent where bears exist.

• Joe Scott, International Conservation Director, Conservation Northwest

• Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association

Older female killer whales become pod leaders


This 2014 video says about itself:

In this intriguing talk, Scott Gass discusses the social structure of killer whales and their superb communication skills when it comes to hunting and protecting their young. Their brand of teamwork is tremendously applicable beyond the ocean.

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Menopausal whales lead the group, study says

By Melissa Healy

Sharelines

Mystery solved (maybe): Some females live beyond their reproductive years because their wisdom benefits kin

Menopause: an evolutionary mystery unique to humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales

Female killer whales can live past 90. Males rarely survive after 50

What does an ocean-going titaness do after she has the lost the ability to bear young?

Well, for starters, she goes on living–sometimes past the ripe old age of 90, while male killer whales over 50 are dying off in droves. Throughout the animal kingdom, that is unusual enough.

But the menopausal female killer whale does more than survive, says a new study: She “leans in,” becoming an influential leader of younger killer whales, honing the survival skills of her progeny–and their progeny–unencumbered by direct childcare duties of her own.

Quite the opposite of being a burden to her kind, her post-menopausal leadership role seems to make the older female killer whale her species’ evolutionary ace in the hole.

Published in the journal Current Biology, the new research finds that among killer whales, females beyond their reproductive years become habitual leaders of collective movement–generally foraging movement–within their pods. Their position “on point” becomes particularly prominent in lean years, when salmon–the mainstay of the killer whales’ diet–is scarce.

The new findings offer the first evidence that in certain species and under specific circumstances, females who live well beyond their reproductive years “act as repositories of ecological knowledge.”

That helps solve an enduring mystery among biologists: Why–in humans and in two species of toothed whales only–would individuals who no longer propagate their genes continue to survive?

The authors of the study are marine mammal researchers from the universities of York and Exeter in Great Britain and the Center for Whale Research in Washington state. To glean their findings, they analyzed 751 hours of video taken of Southern resident killer whales during annual salmon migrations off the coast of British Columbia and Washington.

The videos were taken over a period of nine years. They captured the movements of pods of killer whales whose populations have been identified and tracked since 1976. That allowed the researchers to determine the age and relatedness of the 102 creatures whose movements they analyzed.

Such detail also allowed the authors to speculate on why post-menopausal survival is so very rare. If post-reproductive females can be such an evolutionary boon for their kin, why do they not survive to serve that function across many species?

Some have suggested that for humans, at least, the post-menopausal survival of women is merely an artifact of better medical care.

Not so, new research–including the killer whales study–suggests. The answer, the authors of this study wrote, may lie in different kinship patterns. Among killer whales, generations of males and females stay together throughout their lives, foraging as a group. As a female ages, her level of genetic relatedness to members of her pod increases.

“Menopause will only evolve,” they wrote, “when inclusive fitness benefits outweigh the costs of terminating reproduction.”

In short, an older female’s continued value to the group may be a function not only of her accumulated knowledge about the whereabouts of food, shelter and predators, but also of her genetic stake in the group’s survival.

That was the case, too, in hunter-gatherer human societies, the authors note. As human societies evolved, women reaching sexual maturity tended to leave the group. As her sons and their many mates and children populated her group, an aging woman’s “relatedness” to that group tended to grow.

In contrast, among other long-lived mammals, sons move off as they reach sexual maturity. So a female becomes less related to the “pod” she stays with as she become older. Under those circumstances, the authors write, she may have sufficient ecological wisdom but not a sufficient level of “relatedness” to her group to ensure her survival beyond the years of reproduction.

Crows give gifts to little girl in Seattle, USA


This video, recorded in Seattle in the USA, says about itself:

The girl who gets gifts from birds

26 February 2015

Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it’s rare for that affection to be reciprocated. One young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden – and they bring her gifts in return.

Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection.

“You may take a few close looks,” she says, “but don’t touch.” It’s a warning she’s most likely practised on her younger brother. She laughs after saying it though. She is happy for the audience.

Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: “Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014.” Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. “Beer coloured glass,” as Gabi describes it.

Each item is individually wrapped and categorised. Gabi pulls a black zip out of a labelled bag and holds it up. “We keep it in as good condition as we can,” she says, before explaining this object is one of her favourites.

There’s a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

Gabi's collection of crows' gifts

The BBC continues:

By Katy Sewall

She didn’t gather this collection. Each item was a gift – given to her by crows.

She holds up a pearl coloured heart. It is her most-prized present. “It’s showing me how much they love me.”

Gabi’s relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She’d get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.

As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi’s bus, hoping for another feeding session.

Gabi’s mother Lisa didn’t mind that crows consumed most of the school lunches she packed. “I like that they love the animals and are willing to share,” she says, while admitting she never noticed crows until her daughter took an interest in them. “It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds.”

In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.

Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn’t a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically – anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow’s mouth.

One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word “best” printed on it. “I don’t know if they still have the part that says ‘friend’,” Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.

When you see Gabi’s collection, it’s hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.

“If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them,” advises John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. He specialises in birds, particularly crows and ravens.

What food is best? “A few peanuts in the shell,” he says. “It’s a high-energy food… and it makes noise when you throw it on the ground, so they hear it and they quickly habituate to your routine.”

Marzluff, and his colleague Mark Miller, did a study of crows and the people who feed them. They found that crows and people form a very personal relationship. “There’s definitely a two-way communication going on there,” Marzluff says. “They understand each other’s signals.”

The birds communicate by how they fly, how close they walk, and where they sit. The human learns their language and the crows learn their feeder’s patterns and posture. They start to know and trust each other. Sometimes a crow leaves a gift.

But crow gifts are not guaranteed. “I can’t say they always will (give presents),” Marzluff admits, having never received any gifts personally, “but I have seen an awful lot of things crows have brought people.”

Not all crows deliver shiny objects either. Sometimes they give the kind of presents “they would give to their mate”, says Marzluff. “Courtship feeding, for example. So some people, their presents are dead baby birds that the crow brings in.”

Gabi has been given some icky objects. Her mother threw out a rotting crab claw, for example.

Gabi points out a heavily rusted screw she prefers not to touch. It’s labelled “Third Favorite.” Asking her why an untouchable object is in the favourites, she answers, “You don’t’ see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it’s trying to build its house.”

Lisa, Gabi’s mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.

She didn’t even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.

Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. “You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.”

“I’m sure that it was intentional,” she smiles. “They watch us all the time. I’m sure they knew I dropped it. I’m sure they decided they wanted to return it.”