Monthly Archives: August 2014

Spy Hopping: Marine mammals from the air!

Dan Brown

New aerial survey techniques for monitoring marine birds are proving to be valuable tools in monitoring other marine wildlife

It’s amazing what you can find on GoogleMaps. With an impending visit to Norway I thought I’d have a look for potentially suitable Beluga areas in the north of the country. Belugas love shallow bays so using the satellite imagery to identify suitable sites is a great starting point before actually getting out in the field and finding the real thing. Ninety seconds of searching later and this is what appeared on the screen…

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@69.7898558,30.8214049,304m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

It looks very much like a pod of Beluga at the mouth of a shallow sandy estuary! Belugas typically form tight pods and spend much of their time close to the surface. I’ll tell you in a couple of weeks whether they were still there!

But there’s a more mileage in these aerial images than you may think. If you follow anything marine-based or environmental on twitter you may have seen some superb aerial images of marine wildlife from our UK waters recently. These images were shot by the HiDef (http://www.hidefsurveying.co.uk) team as part of a European Shag survey of waters around the Isles of Scilly for Natural England. You can follow them @HiDefSurvey

 

Risso's Dolphin: 16km WNW of Bryher, Isles of Scilly 12/06/2014. 3m long; grey and white mottled body; prominent ‘melon’ and indistinct beak; tall falcate dorsal fin

Risso’s Dolphin: 16km WNW of Bryher, Isles of Scilly 12/06/2014. 3m long; grey and white mottled body; prominent ‘melon’ and indistinct beak; tall falcate dorsal fin

Harbour Porpoise: Dogger Bank June 2012. Mother (1.8m) and calf – small size, indistinct beak, fairly uniform colouration, dark pectoral fins

Harbour Porpoise: Dogger Bank June 2012. Mother (1.8m) and calf – small size, indistinct beak, fairly uniform colouration, dark pectoral fins

Aerial surveying of marine wildlife has become increasingly common and provides a superb way of documenting and monitoring a range of marine species.  All surveys follow pre-determined transect routes using a small aircraft flying at close to 2000 feet carrying four super high definition cameras. These cameras take digital video footage at several frames per second providing a snap shot of seabirds and other marine wildlife on or close to the surface of the sea.

Northern Right Whale: mother and calf  east of Virginia, USA. Mother (identified from images as ‘Blackheart’) 14.0m, calf 6.5m, identified by barnacles on lips and narrow upper jaw

Northern Right Whale: mother and calf east of Virginia, USA. Mother (identified from images as ‘Blackheart’) 14.0m, calf 6.5m, identified by barnacles on lips and narrow upper jaw

Whilst you may expect that monitoring seabirds and marine mammals (as well as turtles & sharks) would be impossible using aircraft so high above the sea, it is surprising how frequently they are encountered when analysing the images, and how easy they are to identify.

Fin Whale: east of Virginia, USA 15/02/2013. 16.5m Long slim body, small dorsal fin far back on body, white lip on right side.

Fin Whale: east of Virginia, USA 15/02/2013. 16.5m Long slim body, small dorsal fin far back on body, white lip on right side.

Common Dolphin (10): Outer Bristol Channel on 25/05/2009. Average 2.2m long, typical ‘hourglass’ pattern on side, pale pectoral fins, large splash from recent breaching

Common Dolphin (10): Outer Bristol Channel on 25/05/2009. Average 2.2m long, typical ‘hourglass’ pattern on side, pale pectoral fins, large splash from recent breaching

These recent surveys have identified three species of cetaceans around the SW English coast as well as Blue Shark, Sunfish and Leatherback Turtles, even though they are not the target of the surveys, showing how valuable this new technique is and how important our coastal waters are for marine wildlife. We can no doubt look forward to more fascinating marine revelations and a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of many species.

Leatherback Turtle: 20km west of Isles of Scilly 02/07/2014. 2m long (= adult) with prominent ridges down back

Leatherback Turtle: 20km west of Isles of Scilly 02/07/2014. 2m long (= adult) with prominent ridges down back

Blue Shark: 16km south of Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly 02/07/2014. 1.8m (=immature) slim snout, blue-grey colour, long pectoral fins

Blue Shark: 16km south of Western Rocks, Isles of Scilly 02/07/2014. 1.8m (=immature) slim snout, blue-grey colour, long pectoral fins

 

The Western Palearctics rarest mammal confirmed to still be extant in the region!

Dan Brown

Probably the most graceful Felid in the world, the Serval, has been relocated in Morocco!

In my last post on Svalbard I briefly touched on rare mammals in the WP and mentioned that Cheetah and Serval are two of the rarest. Last year Cheetah was confirmed to still survive in Algeria, and this year we have exciting news that Serval is still hanging on in Morocco!

The news was released here:

http://ecologie.ma/premiere-nationale-un-serval-photographie-dans-le-moyen-atlas/

And thankfully for those whose French is as good as their Clingon (me), Moroccan birds have put a piece on it on their site here:

http://moroccanbirds.blogspot.com

The previous records up to the turn of this century were mainly from the lower Draa region (Tan Tan) and especially around Fort Bou-Jerif.  The good news is that this record is in a completely new area so hopefully represents a new population rather than a wandering individual. Given the number of visiting birders to the country, Serval must still be an extremely rare animal, along with Leopard, so if you have any sightings then please let us know!!

Colour Forms

Comparisons between colour forms of bird, moth and butterfly

By Tony Davison

As I’ve said before, it never ceases to amaze me how often I see  many comparisons       between bird, moth and butterfly. The following analysis is in no way intended to be      scientific, it is simply my observations relating to to three examples of colour forms in bird, moth and butterfly, one in particular being dimorphism.

The Skuas are renowned for having dark, light and intermediate colour phases. In these plumages, identification can prove to be difficult. Glyn Sellors© has kindly supplied me with two images of Long-tailed Skua – Stercorarius longicaudus, to show a dark phase  (juvenile) and a pale phase (adult).

1279E-07 NORWAY-JUNE-2011901Z

In moths, one of the best examples of colour form is in the Peppered Moth – Biston betularia. These days the usual variety, especially in rural areas, is white “peppered” with black spots and speckling across the wings and body. The dark melanic colour form – carbonaria, is sooty black, with tiny white spots at the base of the forewing and was once very common being associated with industrial areas where there were high levels of pollution. With cleaner air controls in place and smokeless zones etc, the melanic form is now only present in small numbers throughout populations and is on the decline.

Peppered-Moth-June29th2008-004Peppered Moth melanic form carbonaria

The Map Butterfly – Araschnia levana, is well noted for its seasonal dimorphism. The spring brood is predominantly orange-brown (form levana), whilst the second brood, that emerges in the summer months, is black (form prorsa). To the untrained eye, they can appear to be two completely different species.These colour forms are determined by the length of day in the larva stage and it is not clear what, if any, advantages this holds for the species. My thanks go to Barrie Staley© for providing the photo of the spring colour form taken in Poland during May 2007. The summer colour form is one of my photographs, taken during my recent trip to Bulgaria in July 2014.

DSCN1070-MapMap 9892281

QR codes and dedicated web space for The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Samples.

Martin Garner

and if you are going to Birdfair- hope to see you there 🙂

I will talk about this a little more, Qr-2but for now, a reminder that each chapter has a QR codes. This is read by downloading a free QR code reader to your smart phone or tablet (Google do one).

Here’s a taster of what you will find. There is more to add- this is just to get started as we launch the book. The videos are ‘tutorials’ with more photos and voice over discussing various key aspects found in the chapters of the book.

Challenge Series - Book1

Challenge Series - Book1Challenge Series - Book1Challenge Series - Book1Challenge Series -subalpine warblersBirding Frontiers - Challenge Series -[4]Birding Frontiers - Challenge Series - Lesser Whitethroats -Birding Frontiers - Challenge Series b - Lesser Whitethroats -[2]

 

Eighteen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

The first shall be last. This was the first and biggest chapter to be written. It’s the last in the book. 6 taxa, all kinds of new info, new species possibilities and surely some big finds to come this autumn for those prepared…

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

1cy male Siberian Stonechat- maurus. October. Martin Garner

1cy male Siberian Stonechat- maurus. October. Martin Garner

 

 

Buying the New Book at the Birdfair

Challenge Series: AUTUMN

 

Martin GarnerChalleneg series cover

Thanks for all the encouraging comments as the first books have gone out and arrived at their destinations. As I have been asked quite a lot- here’s rundown of how and where to buy the book at the Birdfair.

Sharon and I will be at the Rutland Birdfair from Thursday afternoon– so if you are an exhibitor etc…

1) Friday morning 10:00 am I will be doing a book signing at the Birdwatch stand

2) Friday afternoon 3:30pm I’ll be **officially launching** with a short talk on why’s and how’s of the book, and how it works. Then a chance to buy a signed copy of the book.  That’s  3:30 pm at the Author’s Wildlife Forum

3) Saturday morning 10:00am book signing at 10:00 am again at the Birdwatch stand

 

You will be able to buy the book at any of these gigs and throughout the weekend at the Birdwatch stand.

 

 

Seventeen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

The find of a lifetime in 2009. Yet why are Taiga Flycatchers still so rare. A fresh look at the subject with surprising new info and an old record comes to light. Taiga and Red-breasted Flycatcher ID- ready for the autumn.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

1cy Taiga Flycatcher, September. Mike Weedon.

1cy Taiga Flycatcher, September. Mike Weedon.