This week we asked the Wild Bird Revolution followers to capture interactions between birds, and we were not disappointed! This outstanding collection gives us unique insights into the many social interactions that birds have every day. Courtship, raising chicks, competition and fighting are just a few of the moments captured in this collection. Thank you to all who submitted photographs this week, your efforts allow us the privilege of capturing glimpses into the lives of these birds. For more updates you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.
An American Coot passes some food to its chick. These coots eat mainly aquatic vegetation but during the breeding season they rely more on insects and molluscs, the protein is important for the chicks’ development (Jack Zhi)A pair of Mute Swans captured in a soft light in Helsinki, Finland (Oana Badiu)A whole host of interesting social interactions occur between scavengers at a carcass. Here in the serengeti, a Marabou Stork waits for the White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures to open the carcass, then he, being bigger than the vultures, swoops in to get his share (Edwin Godinho)A pair of King Penguins preen one another. King Penguins are monogamous for the breeding season, but on average only 29% of pairs will breed with the same mate the following year (Judi Fenson)Atlantic Puffins mate for life and return to the same site to breed. The pair will spend the winter apart at sea and then reunite for the breeding season. One of the ways the pair restores their bond is to rattle their bills together (Edwin Godinho)Smaller birds will often mob bigger birds of prey to chase them away. This action shot shows a Rufous Treepie mobbing an Oriental Honey Buzzard (Amit Kher)A male Great Hornbill brings food to his mate, who has enclosed herself in a tree cavity to breed. Male Great Hornbills are dutiful mates, he is solely responsible for feeding her and the chicks for the full 4 months that she is enclosed (Mainak Ray)You can just imagine what this White-cheeked Barbet is saying, “Get off my perch!” (Ganesh Rao)A male Oriental Pied Hornbills gives his mate a berry. gifts of food are often an integral part of courtship among birds (Suranjan Mukherjee)A Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill pair perched atop a thorn tree in Namibia. These hornbills have a strong pair bond, the male will bring the female food gifts for up to a month before they breed (Judi Fenson)A male Calliope Hummingbird displays his elaborate gorget feathers to a female he is courting (Tim Nicol)A trio of Barnacle Goslings hide in the protection of their mother’s wing. This moment was captured by Oana Badiu in Helsinki, FinlandA courtship ritual between two Black-legged Kittiwakes on a nesting ledge at the Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire (Edwin Godinho)A Blue-Tailed Bee-eater brings a gift to his mate in Lahore, Pakistan (Tauseef Zafar)A Double-crested Cormorant fiercely defends his perch at Busse Lake, USA (Peter Chromik)A breath-taking aerial display between a male and female Northern Harrier. These displays are called sky-dances. The male will ‘dance’ while he is courting the female and then once they are paired they display together (Jack Zhi)female Greater Painted Snipes (left) initiate courtship with the male (right). Females may mate with multiple males and lay a clutch with each. each male will then incubate and care for their young, without help from the female (Owen Deutsch)A male House Finch displays proudly for a female, but she seems indifferent. female House Finches are not strictly monogamous, they may change partners between seasons or even within seasons if they find a preferable mate (Barbara Wallace)A tender moment between two Indian Silverbills grooming one another. Indian Silverbills are a gregarious species, occurring in flocks of up to 60 birds (Paneendra BA)A Red-billed Firefinch pair, photographed in Ethiopia. When courting the female, the male will present her with a feather and bob his head up and down (Goutam Mitra)Two Red-vented Bulbuls have a tussle over a perch (Bhargavi Upadhya)Food is exchanged between two Speckled Piculets (Amandeep Singh)A comical moment captured between two Spotted Owlets (Anvita Paranjpe)There is often fierce competition between scavengers at a carcass. Here two White-backed Vultures fight over a carcass in the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya (Suranjan Mukherjee)This White-throated Laughingthrush parent looks like it has a busy job with these two hungry fledglings! (Shantharam Holla)
Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.
We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!
As someone whose been involved in conservation in many different corners of the world, its easy to see how people might feel removed from the important work that’s happening, particularly in the arctic and equatorial regions where the scenery feels unfamiliar. However, the most important piece of land that you can help protect is your own. This blog seeks to show what conservation looks like in a local setting
To some people it’s a small, fluid compound composed of two hydrogen molecules and an oxygen molecule. To most people it’s life. Fisherman rely on it for fish, farmers rely on it for crops, coastal communities rely on it for tourism, and we all rely on it to provide food, clothes, and –of course– water for our families.
Photo by Bob Arkow. Visit his gallery here: http://www.bobarkowphotography.com/ A curious Humpback comes in for a closer look at a surfer just off of Long Beach.
There are many different ecosystems on Long Island, each of them diverse and unique in their own ways. The most important one, in my humble opinion, are the southern bays that stretch all the way from Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn out to Montauk. Not only are these bays home to a unique collection of human communities, these bays are also home to a complex system of marshes which act as nurseries for all types of fish and also as a home to an incredibly diverse amount of sea birds. These marshes also act as a first line of defense in storms, slowing down the punishing tide from destroying our homes. In the winter, you’ll be able to spot our seasonal residents the seals, and during the summer if you look out just offshore you’ll be able to spot whales jumping and pods of dolphins cruising the shoreline. All these species rely on the marshes to spawn the bait fish they feed on.
Full disclosure- I grew up exploring the southern bays. I’ve been fishing for years, unintentionally monitoring the species that live here and have watched fish species disappear over time. When I was a kid going after snappers on mid-August afternoons I used to catch puffer fish, needlefish, and young weakfish, too. These days it seems even the snapper’s numbers are low. This isn’t to discount the work that many groups on Long Island are doing, and in fact there are many who are improving them every day. In the past few years we’ve had a major increase in the number of whales and dolphins in our offshore waters, and that’s a direct result of the improvements being made in the southern bays. But with all the work being done, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Photo by Bob Arkow. Visit his gallery here: http://www.bobarkowphotography.com/. A Humpback whale takes a go at a school of bunker, a local baitfish.
I recently spoke to Helen Roussel, the enthusiastic Conservation Chair for the Long Island chapter of the Sierra Club. She points to over development of coastlines and marsh lands as their main issue out in the eastern bays. “See, there’s no rule saying that when you develop land, you need to install hedgerows to give birds a place to nest,” Mrs. Roussel explained. “Now, since they’re also destroying the marshes, which in turn destroys the dragonfly’s habitat, water puddles up and that’s the perfect breeding place for mosquitos. Since there’s no hedgerows and there’s no marshes, birds and dragonflies aren’t there to keep the mosquitos in check.”
The knock-on effects of this are mind blowing. Since there’s a mosquito problem, the local government has taken to using pesticides, specifically the larvicide methoprene, in the waterways to control the mosquito problem. According to the National Pesticide Information Center out of Oregon State University, methoprene “…can prevent normal molting, egg-laying, egg-hatching, and development from the immature phase (i.e. caterpillar) to the adult phase (i.e. moth). This prevents the insects from reproducing.” In the environment, methoprene is moderately toxic to some fish and low in toxicity to others and can accumulate in fish tissues. Due to the biomagnification, where pollutants become more and more concentrated in animals as they go up the food chain, small trace amounts of methoprene in bait fish can become extremely high in predatory animals. Its slightly toxic to crustaceans such as shrimp and crayfish, and highly toxic to freshwater invertebrates. When these predatory animals die their remains sink to the ocean floor, where scavengers like crabs, shrimp and crayfish will eat them. The highly concentrated pesticide is then reintroduced to the food chain at a lower level, gradually accumulating more as it heads back up. Studies done on dogs show that when given 10g of methoprene per kilogram of animal, the dogs showed signs like vomiting, dilated pupils, changes in behavior, breathing, and body movements.
To help deal with the mosquito problem, and to help bring back our first line of defense, the marshes need to be brought back to their original state. This, however, is not so simple.
A red path lines the edge of the shoreline and serves as the sidewalk for Bay Drive, a beautiful road that’s flanked on one side by homes and the other by Reynolds Channel. While Long Beach is known to most for its amazing beaches on the south side, the north side is bordered by the bay, separating the barrier island from an intense maze of marshes unique to the southern bays of Long Island. This beautiful scene is broken up, if so slightly, by an inconspicuous cement block just off the other side of the channel. That cement block has been a point of frustration for many Long Beach residents.
After watching this video taken by local resident and highly visible environmental activist Scott Bochner, it becomes clear why the cement block is so controversial. That block contains a pipe, and that pipe is connected to Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.
Opened in the 1940’s with the population boom on Long Island, the plant has been subject to years of neglect and failed maintenance. This has lead to the plant spitting out 55 million gallons a day of water that should be treated, but due to the status of the plant, is not. This water is brown and is made up of biosolids, or “sludge.” What sludge really is, is whatever has been sent down a drain. This could be shower water and dirty dish water but is also urine and fecal matter.
Besides the fact that it’s just gross, this constant pumping of untreated sewage inundates the water with undissolved nutrients. This includes nitrogen, which in low levels is vital for the success of ecosystems, but in elevated levels is very toxic.
Scott Bochner owns a house on Bay Drive, where the video was taken. Since 2010 he’s been actively involved in cleaning up the local waterways, co-creating an environmental group called the Sludge Stoppers and working with groups like the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Operation SPLASH, and The Nature Conservancy. Bochner and the rest of the groups have made major progress in cleaning up Reynolds Channel and thanks to these groups and their advocacy they’ve been able to bring the Bay Park plant back to code and raise enough money to re-route the pipes out to the deep ocean.
One of the advances they’ve made has been getting scientists in to do studies on the water. One of them involved a study by Stony Brook University. “The nitrogen levels, it’s like right here,” explained Bochner, pointing at a graph. “This is like the dead zone of dead zones. So, what happened was they put nano robots in the water for 30 days, and then they would follow the stream. They would send out 100 of these things a day and maybe 13 would make it out of the inlet, and the rest would come back in and shoot up all into the back bays, so nothings flushing.”
Graphs comparing nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and ulva (seaweed) coverage. Notice how its all centered around the area where the pipe spills into the bay.Pathways of the nano robots, or water parcels, released by Stony Brook University researchers.
The effects of this on the channel and the greater bay ecosystems could not be more obvious during low tide. During
low tide you can see a unique phenomenon where the mud underneath the marsh grasses should be solid but is actually falling out like a cliff, and the roots from the grasses are poking out the side.
These roots should be growing straight down, anchoring the mud to the earth, and keeping the land in place. However, these roots are growing sideways into the water reaching for the nitrogen because it’s a fertilizer, and this change in direction means that it doesn’t hold onto the earth as well. When a massive storm comes, it easily rips the marshes from their place and makes it easier for the storm to tear into our communities.
Fisherman at the Magnolia Pier, only a few hundred yards from the cement block.
A study done in 2017 and published in the journal Scientific Reports, the open-access part of Nature, has come up with the final conclusion that “…these results show that coastal wetlands provide significant risk reduction services even where their distribution has been heavily impacted by human activity. Furthermore, these ecosystems provide additional benefits such as fish production, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration which will increase the economic value of these habitats. However, across the northeastern USA, development over wetlands together with rising sea-levels place critical facilities and infrastructure at great risk. Rising sea-levels will further influence, and in many cases threaten, the future of these natural defenses.”
If concentrated levels of pesticides and human waste in the water we swim in and the fish we eat makes you feel sick to your stomach, there are things to do.
Back out east, Helen Roussel from the Sierra Club says to get involved. There’s plenty of citizen science projects and clean ups to join on with the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club. If you live or own property on the water you can plant phragmites, a common reed that anchors really well to the ground and is great at sucking up nitrogen. “Although it’s not native and can dominate natural species,” says Roussel, “the benefits outweigh the consequences. If my house is in front of the ocean I want this plant there, because this will help stop the surge and help stop erosion.”
For Bochner the answer lies in everyday choices. “Start carrying your own bags, stop using straws, stop using plastic, start washing wash cloths again. Everyone has to take responsibility for themselves in order to help keep Long Beach clean. Everyone has to take care of themselves.”
So, there it is. When these ecosystems hurt, we hurt.
All graphs retrieved from https://www.citizenscampaign.org/PDFs/WesternBays%20Presentation%20FINAL%2012-7-11.pdf
On a late January afternoon the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge trails are quiet, aside from the curve-billed thrashers, Carolina wrens and black-crested titmice calling through a fresh north wind. I came here today for an hour of respite before boarding a plane back home to Washington DC. I have been here many times before, but today held a special significance. Today may be the last time I see this wild haven before it is destroyed.
Saturday, January 27, was the 75thanniversary of the creation of Santa Ana, and a thousand people came to celebrate the refuge and protest the border wall construction that would destroy it. The refuge was set aside in 1943 because agriculture and flood control measures were erasing the native habitat in South Texas. As the native landscape disappeared, so did the rich diversity of birds that had called the Lower Rio Grande Valley Home. This valley was historically a Mecca for birds, butterflies and all manner of insects, and tropical cats like the jaguar, ocelot and jaguarundi. Situated in the transition area between the tropical and temperate zones, this land is a melting pot of the north and south of the natural world.
But today, less than 5 percent of the native habitat remains. Jaguars are gone. Ocelots and jaguarundis are critically endangered. Many bird species disappeared, yet, more than 500 different species continue to cling to the remnant habitat that has been saved under the National Wildlife Refuge System and private preserves. Santa Ana is the largest and most important of those remnant islands of habitat in an ocean of human development. Its value defies measure, which is why it is often referred to asthe crown jewel of the wildlife refuge system.
But Santa Ana is also the first target for border wall construction if Congress approves funding. A border wall would bisect the refuge and scrape the vegetation from a large swath of land for anenforcement zone. The decision could be made in the next 10 days.
To try to help people see the immeasurable value of Santa Ana, I wrote a poem and worked with some talented filmmakers Jenny Nichols, Allison Otto, and Morgan Heim, to make a short film called Ay Santa Ana.
There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose.
There are some places in this world where life and beauty effervesce from the ground itself, places we simply cannot lose. There are landscapes where lines must be drawn in the proverbial sand and we must say, no, you will not take this from the world. Not on our watch. Many such places exist in the US-Mexico borderlands, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is one. Here is a place people will lay down their bodies to protect.
Some members of Congress and even editorials in the Washington Post have suggested that sacrificing the border landscape for the sake of political compromise is worth it. I think those politicians and political writers must never have seen Santa Ana or any of the wild places and beautiful people who call the borderlands home. People are often willing to sacrifice what they do not understand.
As I was leaving Santa Ana I chanced upon a common paraque perfectly camouflaged upon the forest floor. It had been sleeping, but when I arrived it roused and looked up at me. This beautiful bird, and thousands of other species who depend on Santa Ana, and on lands all across the borderlands, are looking to us to be a voice for them. To tell those in Washington DC who would sacrifice their very futures, that the borderlands is a home, not a bargaining chip.
Please help members of Congress understand by sharing this blog and film.
The number for the Congressional switchboard is: 202-224-3121
For more information about the peril currently posed to the US-Mexico Borderlands, visit my web story:Embattled Borderlands
The Antarctic Peninsula is a crucial spot for humpback and minke whales to feed on krill—the keystone species of the Antarctic food web. Despite its minuscule size, krill feeds far larger animals, such as penguins, seals, seabirds, and fish. An ocean current flowing clockwise around the content and north up the Western Peninsula brings swarms of these critters.
However, as oceans warm and sea ice declines, krill is on the move toward lower latitudes—farther south—requiring whales to travel longer distances to feed. Unfortunately, krill fishing is concentrated in this area and overlaps with crucial feeding areas for whales and other krill-dependent species.
As climate change is impacting the region, any increased competition with a growing fishery means we need to ensure that krill is harvested responsibly in this fragile habitat.
Unfortunately, the Mura river—a relatively connected stretch of water that serves as one of the last refuges for wildlife and rare fish like otters and the Danube salmon—is at significant risk of dam development. Eight currently proposed dams, the first of which is in Hrastje-Mota, would devastate wildlife habitat and more than 31 miles of river. Endangered migratory fish species would no longer be able to move up and downstream, and river bed deepening would dry out floodplain forests, oxbows, and agricultural areas. The loss of natural water retention areas would lead to increased flood risk for communities downstream.
Damming the Mura, and consequently transforming the river into eight lifeless reservoirs, also goes against the Slovenian government’s commitment to ensure international protection of the area.
Last year, Slovenia’s Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, with the support of the Slovenian government, nominated the area to join a future multi-national UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. At 1.9 million acres, it’s the largest and first protected area in Central Europe that crosses country borders. The area is also part of the European Union’s protected areas network called Natura 2000, designated for the protection of vulnerable habitats of specific species. Damming the river would breach both Slovenian legislation and EU environmental law.
Together with our partners, WWF is urging the Slovenian government to stop the eight hydropower dams planned on the Mura. This river needs to remain free-flowing for the people and wildlife that depend on it.
“In some places, the river paradise of my childhood still exists,” Mohl said. “We will fight to keep them.”
You can help. Sign our petition to Irena Majcen, Slovenia’s Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning, and urge the stopping of the eight hydropower dams planned on the Mura.
Developed by WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and SparkGeo, MERMAID organizes users into projects where data can be organized and accessed across partner institutions. Users can share summaries of data from their MERMAID projects around the world to inform others and inspire collaboration.
MERMAID must be easy to use in order to succeed. In December 2018, more than a dozen marine scientists from non-profits and governments participated in a user summit in Fiji to learn how to use the tool and improve their underwater monitoring skills. Participants also provided feedback on what they like about the tool, what needs improvement, and what new features could be added to make the MERMAID even better. The event also sparked exciting conversation about coastal conservation in Fiji and helped conservationists make new connections with others in their line of work.
With the fate of coral reefs on the line, WWF and its partners have exciting plans for putting MERMAID to use in making faster and better conservation decisions in 2019. The application will soon be able to conduct basic analyses on datasets and produce graphs, reports, and maps. These tools will be pivotal to the speed at which researchers communicate with conservation managers, policy makers, and local communities. There is still hope for the future of coral reefs, and technologies like MERMAID can help us keep pace with a changing world.