The Journeys of Birds

migration19th Century
Museum of Modern Art, New Delhi

At least 4,000 species of bird are known to be regular migrants, which is about 40 percent of the total number of birds in the world.
(Although this number will likely increase as we learn more about the habits of birds in tropical regions.)

Birds can reach great heights as they migrate.
Bar-headed Geese are the highest-flying migratory birds, regularly reaching altitudes of up to five and a half miles above sea level while flying over the Himalayas in India.
But the bird with the record for the highest altitude ever is the Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture.

The Arctic Tern has the longest migration of any bird in the world. They can fly more than 49,700 miles in a year, making a round trip between their breeding grounds in the Arctic and the Antarctic, where they spend their winters.
Over a lifespan of more than 30 years, the flights can add up to the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.

The Northern Wheatear travels up to 9,000 miles each way between the Arctic and Africa, giving it one of the largest ranges of any songbird.
What makes this an especially amazing feat is that the tiny bird weighs less than an ounce.

The Bar-tailed Godwit has the longest recorded non-stop flight, flying for nearly 7,000 miles, over eight days, without food or rest.

To prepare for the extremely taxing effort of migration, birds enter a state called hyperphagia, where they bulk up on food in the preceding weeks to store fat, which they’ll later use for energy on their long journeys.
Some, like the Blackpoll Warbler, almost double their body weight before flying 2,300 miles for 86 hours without stopping.

Even birds that don’t fly migrate.
Emus, the large Australian birds, often travel for miles on foot to find food, and many populations of Penguins migrate by swimming.

Migration can be terribly dangerous for birds, and they often don’t make it back to their starting point.
Sometimes natural occurrences like harsh weather play a role, but human activities are the cause of many deaths.
In the United States alone, up to one billion birds die each year from window collisions,
seven million from striking TV and radio towers.

http://www.audubon.org/birds
http://www.audubon.org/conservation

It Could Take a Century to Recover

elephant5Portrait of an Elephant, Indian, c.1620-30

Study finds extremely slow reproduction rate unable to keep pace with deaths

African forest elephants have experienced serious poaching, driving an estimated population decline of 65% between 2002 and 2013.
Their low birth rates mean that it will take forest elephants at least 90 years to recover from these losses, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Elephant Listening Project, Colorado State University, and Save the Elephants.

These findings are from the first-ever study of forest elephant demography just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

“Female forest elephants in the Dzanga population typically breed for the first time after 23 years of age, a markedly late age of maturity relative to other mammals. In contrast, savannah elephants typically begin breeding at age 12.
In addition, breeding female forest elephants only produced a calf once every five to six years, relative to the three to four-year interval found for savannah elephants.”
Andrea Turkalo, a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist, collected the detailed data on the elephants over several decades, in spite of tough logistical challenges and political instability.
“This work provides another critical piece of understanding regarding the dire conservation status of forest elephants.”

George Wittemyer, a professor in Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University said, “Legislation regarding ivory trade must consider the collateral effects on forest elephants and the difficulties of protecting them. Trade in ivory in one nation can influence the pressures on elephants in other nations.”
And the forest elephant is particularly susceptible to poaching.

Forest elephants also have critical ecological roles in Central African forests, and many tree species rely on the elephants to disperse their seeds.
Those forests are vitally important for absorbing climate change gases.


http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b35ddb671faf4a16c0ce32406&id=8dfd2ac2f4&e=d327cdd2ca

Guinea Pig

Guinea pig UdineGiovanni Nanni (1487–1564)
(Giovanni de’ Ricamatori, Giovanni da Udine)

 

The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo.
Based on excavations on West Indian islands, it seems that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 500 BC, and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico, long before the advent of the Spaniards.
The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

W

The Number of Fools is Infinite

Oronce Finé (20 December 1494 – 8 August 1555)The World In The Head Of A Fool
Oronce Finé (20 December 1494 – 8 August 1555)

“The Guardian” writers make new year wishes.
:   

Nature is uplifting and exhilarating, and yet writing about it is often a gloomy business of confronting the ways in which we are consuming and despoiling it. Each year brings small spits in the wind – a clean energy advance here, a new nature reserve there – but these gobbets of good news are blown away by the logic of global capitalism: nature is a finite public resource to be annexed by private individuals for short-term profit.

After a 2013 of  species loss and ever-rising exploitation, a realist might wish for 2014 to be a bit less bad. But I would love to see just one glorious occasion where people choose nature over profit – a piece of ground not fracked, a runway not built, a badger not culled. A few such exercises of gentle restraint and voices in mainstream politics and the media may belatedly begin questioning our society’s crazy fixation on economic growth as the source of all wellbeing and happiness. Reframing this miserable, myopic vision is too much to ask for 2014. It’s probably too much to ask for 2041. But it’s never too early to start trying.

Patrick Barkham is a natural history writer for the Guardian and former feature writer. He has also worked for The Times. He is the author of The Butterfly Isles – A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals and Badgerlands.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/31/whats-your-wish-for-2014

Lost Colony

FLYING FISH  John White (c. 1540 – c. 1593)

FLYING FISH John White (c. 1540 – c. 1593)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/aug/05/neonicotinoids-ddt-pesticides-nature
by George Monbiot

Neonicotinoids are already known as a major cause of the decline of bees and other pollinators.
These pesticides can be applied to the seeds of crops, and they remain in the plant as it grows, killing the insects which eat it.
The quantities required to destroy insect life are astonishingly small: by volume these poisons are 10,000 times as powerful as DDT.
When honeybees are exposed to just 5 nanogrammes of neonicotinoids, half of them will die.

It is only now, when neonicotinoids are already the world’s most widely deployed insecticides, that we are beginning to understand how extensive their impacts are.

Only a tiny proportion of the neonicotinoids that farmers use enter the pollen or nectar of the flower.
Some of the residue blows off as dust, which is likely to wreak havoc among the populations of many species of insects in hedgerows and surrounding habitats.
But the great majority – Prof Dave Goulson says “typically more than 90%” – of the pesticide applied to the seeds enters the soil.

Neonicotinoids are highly persistent chemicals, lasting (according to the few studies published so far) for up to 19 years in the soil. Because they are persistent, they are likely to accumulate: with every year of application the soil will become more toxic.

Of course, not all the neonicotinoids entering the soil stay there. Some are washed out, whereupon they end up in groundwater or in the rivers. What happens there? Who knows?
Neonicotinoids are not even listed among the substances that must be monitored under the EU’s water framework directive.

One study shows that at concentrations no greater than the limits set by the EU, the neonicotinoids entering river systems wipe out half the invertebrate species you would expect to find in the water. That’s another way of saying erasing much of the foodweb.

The people who should be defending the natural world have conspired with the manufacturers of wide-spectrum biocides to permit levels of destruction which we can only guess. In doing so they appear to be engineering another silent spring.

http://www.monbiot.com/
Prof Dave Goulson’s review of the impacts of these pesticides

WHAT HAVE WE DONE

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/06/starved-polar-bear-record-sea-ice-melt

The Heavenly Part of the World

Geocentricite-terre-centre-univers-carte-01

If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the  journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural  way of my forefathers and that of the . . . present way of civilization, I would,  for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child’s feet in the path of my  forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great  unifying life force that flowed in and through all things — the flowers of the  plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals — and was the same force  that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and  were brought together by the same Great Mystery.

Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a  real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a  brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of  the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood  they spoke a common tongue.

The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the  right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to  man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never  enslaved an animal and spared all life that was not needed for food and  clothing. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that  kept the Lakota safe among them.

This concept of life gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with the joy and mystery  of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in  the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.

The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one  blood, made by the same hand, and filled with the essence of the Great Mystery.  In spirit, the Lakota were humble and meek. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they  shall inherit the earth’ — this was true for the Lakota, and from the earth  they inherited secrets long since forgotten.

We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful  rolling hills, the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the  white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was it ‘infested’ with  ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people.
Not until the white man from the East came—and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved—was it “wild” for us. When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was for us that the “Wild West” began.

Luther Standing Bear, Chief of the  Oglala Lakota (1905-1939)

 

There was once a Lakota holy man, called Drinks Water, who dreamed what was to be . . . .
He dreamed that the four-leggeds were going back to the Earth, and that a strange race would weave a web all around the Lakotas.
He said, ‘You shall live in square gray houses, in a barren land . . . .’
Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.

-Black Elk (1863-1950), holy man of the Oglala Lakota, written in 1932

Nothing To Save

Pietro Visconte’s World Map 1321, from Marino Samuolo’s Liber secretorum fidelium crusisPietro Visconte’s World Map 1321,  from Marino Samuolo’s Liber secretorum fidelium crucis

There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.
D.H. Lawrence

Millet


Jacques Le Moyne De Morgues (1533?-1588) was a French painter, illustrator and explorer. He also worked in London and accompanied the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) on his expeditions to Florida in North America.

A New and Correct Mapp of the World

New & Correct
John Thornton (1641-1708)