As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Can barnacle geese predict the climate?

Unpredictable warming spells 'problems' for Arctic-breeding migratory birds

Date: April 18, 2017
Source: Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

The breeding grounds of Arctic migratory birds such as the barnacle goose are changing rapidly due to accelerated warming in the polar regions. They won't be able to keep up with this climate change unless they can somehow anticipate it. A research team from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) employed computer models to assess the future of the geese and their young. Results are being published online by the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

It's the time of year when barnacle geese and many other migratory birds prepare to depart for their breeding grounds above the Arctic Circle. From their wintering grounds in the Netherlands, the geese fly all the way up to the Barentsz Sea in northern Russia, where they should arrive just as the snow has melted. But in the polar regions, the climate is warming much more rapidly than in more temperate areas like the Netherlands -- a phenomenon known as 'Arctic amplification'.

It's hard enough for humans to get to grips with the accelerated warming, let alone for barnacle geese, as an earlier NIOO-led study showed. After all, how can they tell from their wintering grounds if the snow has begun to melt thousands of kilometres away? So is it possible for the barnacle geese to advance their spring migration nonetheless, to predict climate change?

Bird-lovers flock to Ramanagaram to see rare visitor

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Updated: May 8, 2017, 10.08 PM IST

Ramanagaram district has received a special visitor at the height of its tourist season. A European bird of prey has landed on its rocky hills and is attracting many with its curious character. The lone raptor, an Eurasian Griffon Vulture, has become the cynosure of all eyes in the district.

The Ramadevara Hill has been a shelter for birds such as the Egyptian Vulture and the Long-billed Vulture from many years. But this is the first time that an Eurasian Griffon Vulture has visited the place that attracts thousands of bird-lovers daily.

The bird, believed to be among the oldest kinds of eagles in the world, is scientifically termed the Gyps Fulvus. Shashi Kumar, a bird photographer, told Bangalore Mirror about the bird. “It grows up to 95-120 cm, each bird weighs about 6 to 11 kg. Its wing span of about 240-280 cm gives it the speed that airplanes attain. This bird is different from other eagles in India. It is light-brown in clour and has white hair on its long neck,” he said.
“This is among the biggest in its species in the world, and can hunt its target with great accuracy,” he said.

According to the bird census of 2008, there are 29,000 griffon vultures in the world. According to ornithologists, the bird travels to distant lands in order to maintain its body temperature between 26 and 28 degree Celsius. These birds are usually seen in Europe where its count is about 25,000. The count of these eagles in India is believed to be below 100.

Advanced imaging reveals unusual, unseen patterns in seabird feathers

May 18, 2017 

The identification of essential chemical elements in the feathers of long-distance migratory seabirds using advanced X-ray imaging techniques promises new insights into the underlying physiological processes behind feather growth. 

In research published in Nature Scientific Reports, a team of investigators led by ANSTO biologist Nicholas Howell and Prof Richard Banati provided evidence of previously unseen spatial patterns in the distribution of metals that do not appear to be linked to physical characteristics in the feathers.

Because the patterns are not linked to pigmentation, thickness or other structural characteristics in the feathers, the authors suggest another unidentified mechanism may be at work. 

"Our collaboration has produced some remarkable depictions of the feathers that let us see into complex and pattern-forming, biochemical processes in cells," said Prof Banati.

High resolution images collected using the X-ray fluorescence microprobe and Maia spectroscopic detector at the Australian Synchrotron, revealed independent distribution of zinc, calcium, bromine, copper and iron.

In this investigation, the technique was applied to the whole feather, and required no subsampling or extraction procedures in order to accurately identify elements.

"Using this powerful instrument and Maia detector, David Paterson and Daryl Howard were able to scan samples that were several centimetres in length at micron resolution," said Howell.