NEWSLETTER No. 92
Edited by Stein Boddington. info AT absa DOT asn DOT au
This Newsletter was posted with Corella in September 2008.
The best laid plans of mice and men….. Our planning day did not happen this time around, and has been re-scheduled for February next year. Many thanks to those who sent in material for thought.
We have pencilled in 14th March 2009 for next year’s AGM, so put it in your diary, and it will probably be in the old Newington Armoury in Sydney, allowing members a look at the newly-opened Birds Australia Discovery Centre. The theme will be “Climate Change”. More details in December Newsletter.
Bird No. 753 for Gabon - August 18, 2008
From The Great Beyond, the Nature blog that rounds up news from around the world.
Ornithologists have identified a new species of bird, the olive-backed forest robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus), which has been published in Zootaxa The robin was found by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution’s Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity Program during a study in the Gamba Complex in south western Gabon, part of a collaboration with Shell International to develop “a more environmentally friendly approach to resource development and extraction, while promoting the conservation of biodiversity”.
They first found the robin in 2001, but mistook it for a juvenile of a recognised species. But when they had a chance to compare it with other specimens in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History they realized it might be unique. They have now confirmed their discovery with genetic tests, and in doing so have identified another wrongly identified specimen from 1953 at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris. It was “doubtfully assigned” by to a different species by Berlioz in his 1954 paper in the Bulletin du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, despite it having different colouring.
“Berlioz’s bewilderment is understandable now that we know this specimen is actually a member of the new species,” write the researchers.
Brian Schmidt, the research ornithologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History who brought the specimen back from Gabon said: "Although finding an unknown species like the olive-backed forest robin was not the goal of the MAB project it is definitely a reminder that the world still holds surprises for us."
Schmid, B.K., Foster, J.T., Angehr, G.R., Durrant, K.L., & Fleischer, R.C. 2008. A new species of African Forest Robin from Gabon (Passeriformes: Muscicapidae: Stiphrornis). Zootaxa 1850:27-42
We describe a new species of forest robin from the Gamba Complex in southwest Gabon. This common bird, Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus sp. nov., inhabits primary lowland forest and forages on or near the ground like the other members of the genus Stiphrornis of central and western Africa. Unique phenotypic features of the new species include the male’s bright orange chin, throat, and breast, creamy yellow belly, olive green back and rump, and gray flanks. Mitochondrial sequence divergence corroborates our assessment based on its distinct physical characteristics that this is a new species, and suggest that Stiphrornis erythrothorax is likely the most closely related congener.
NSW & ACT TWITCHATHON 2008
Proceeds to go jointly to the Gosford LGA Friends of the Bush Stone-curlew Group and the Hunter Bird Observers Club Mangrove Removal Programme at Milhams Pond, Ash Island.
This year there will be two recipients of our fund raising conservation efforts. For the past two years Gosford City Council in conjunction with the Friends of Bush Stone-curlews, has been surveying and monitoring the 8-9 resident pairs of Bush Stone-curlews in the Brisbane Water Area and a small amount of funds are made available annually for this purpose. The Friends Group have sought additional funding to supplement Council’s funding for radio-tracking of fledgling and resident birds, provide equipment for on-site management of breeding habitat in the form of shadecloths, fencing, infra-red cameras, petrol and colour-leg bands, and funds to increase the number of community play-back surveys. Gosford City Council has agreed to manage the Funds. In-kind support will come from NPWS, Gosford & Pittwater Councils as well as consultant for the project, who will provide his services free of charge.
The Hunter BOC Mangrove Removal programme will be centred on Milhams Pond, Ash Island because mangrove encroachment is destroying foraging habitat for shorebirds. The Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project (KWRP) has a permit from NSW Fisheries to remove mangroves from this area. HBOC & KWRP have received grants to remove mangroves from the shorebird habitat on Ash Island and have successfully cleared mangroves from Swan & Wader ponds and half of Milhams Pond. They are seeking additional funds to complete the removal of mangroves from Milhams Pond and install a mangrove propagule exclusion device on the feeder creek during the period of seed dispersal. It is estimated that between $20-30,000 is required to complete the removal of mangroves from Milhams Pond and install the exclusion device. Our funds will contribute to this cost.
This Twitchathon Project aims to raise about $8,000 for each project, $16000 altogether.
How to join the Twitchathon 25-26 October 2008
Contact Alan Morris for your 2008 Twitchathon Kit
Form a team with one or even a dozen friends and family and go birdwatching over this October weekend. You can travel anywhere in NSW and/or the ACT. See how many species of birds your team can find from 4 pm Saturday 25 October to 4 pm Sunday 26 October 2008. Note the starting and finishing times have changed because Daylight Saving has been extend in NSW and will commence earlier than previously.
Get sponsors. In the weeks before this event, persuade family and friends to sponsor you so many cents or even dollars for each species your team sees. You just need either lots of little sponsorships or a few big ones!
There are prizes for the most species seen by two winning teams in each section, as well as prizes for the most money raised, the rarest bird seen by an individual, a prize for the team that sees the most birds in the shortest distanced travelled in the Main Race & Champagne Race Sections and prizes for children. The prizes include Trophies, a weekend in a motel at Leeton with a personal guided tour of the Ramsar Internationally famous Fivebough Swamp Wetlands (sponsored by the Fivebough & Tuckerbil Wetland Trust), accommodation prizes at beautiful locations in NSW, a pair of Helios 8x40 wide angle binoculars, books, book vouchers, champagne, wine, special “T” shirts and other prizes to go to the winners in the various categories of the Twitchathon. Contact Alan for a full list.
This year we have introduced a new innovation whereas instead of offering 3rd prizes in the two main classes, we have tried to make people more environmentally conscious by offering prizes to the team that sees the most birds in the shortest distance travelled, providing that they see over 180 species in the Main Race and 130 species in the Champagne Race. Participants in the two events are invited to record the distance travelled from the time they start at 4pm to their finish at 4pm on the Sunday.
So don’t think that you have to be an A class birdwatcher to take part. Whichever method you chose for your Twitchathon – the laid back (ie the Champagne Race), the deadly serious, or the donor only version, remember it is all about educating others into the importance of nature conservation, particularly the conservation of Australian birds.
Last year we raised $16000, and the two years before $17 000 & $14000 respectively! In the past five years we have raised over $70,000. This is a great achievement and we have been able to make a significant difference for the birds in the Capertee Valley, the Cowra District, the Education Unit at Gluepot Reserve, the Australian Bird Study Association’s Research Fund and provide educational equipment at the new Birds Australia Discovery centre at Sydney Olympic Park.. I know that you will join me in making a fantastic contribution one way or another. So, do ask Alan for your Twitchathon Kit TODAY or sponsor a Twitchathon team in your bird club or group! I can put you in touch with a team if you do not know of one in your area!
(For Birds Australia, Southern NSW & ACT)
Tel: 02 9647 1033
Fax: 02 9647 2030
Mobile 0418 269482
Email Birds Australia - Sydney
The Royal Society of Tasmania 2 0 0 9 CA L E N DA R
This calendar features a series of superb Australian bird prints by John and Elizabeth Gould. The artworks are from the Royal Society of Tasmania collection, which is housed within the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the University of Tasmania Library
Price: $18.00 directly from reception at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 19 Davey St (opposite Constitution Dock) Calendar size: 220 mm high x 320 mm wide
Calendars can be ordered by post for $20.00 per copy (including postage and handling) by completing the form below and sending to:
The Royal Society of Tasmania GPO Box 1166, Hobart TAS 7001
Please send cheque or money order (sorry, we cannot accept credit cards)
Please send me …….. copies of The Royal Society of Tasmania 2009 Calendar
Name…………………………….. Phone……………..………… Mobile…………..……….
State ……….. Postcode/Zip ………….. Country ……………………….
Enclosed is my cheque/money order for A$............................
July 6, 2008
Special to World Science
When it spots a lurking predator, the - pied flycatcher reacts in a way common among some birds and mammals. It calls up a mob of its peers to drive the interloper away. But more than a feisty defender, the northern European bird is also a shrewd account keeper, researchers say: it remembers which of its neighbors answered its call to arms, and which stayed home. And it repays each in kind.
Scientists say the behavior offers new insights into the evolution of cooperation and altruism, and a new appreciation of the complexity of bird social life. Apparently even some birds have learned that “playing nice pays,” University of Chicago evolutionary biologist David Wheatcroft wrote recently, alluding to the flycatcher research, in which he was not involved.
The findings imply “a level of sophistication in bird communities greater than had previously been realized,” he went on, writing in the June 26 advance online issue of the the research journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Similar behavior to the flycatchers’ has been found in red-winged blackbirds. A group at the University of Daugavpils, Latvia and the University of Tartu, Estonia placed 300 flycatcher couples in nest boxes in groups of three in a pine forest. The researchers then watched what happened when they placed a stuffed owl visibly next to the nests. In certain runs of the experiment, the investigators also secretly abducted one couple from each group at random, so that these couldn’t join in any “mobbing.”
The results: other birds would initiate mobbing, by sounding special calls. An hour later, once returned to their nest, every absented bird couple saw its attempts to initiate a charge spurned by the previous initiator, though other group members usually still helped. Those who had joined the first time—and all did when available—almost always saw their assistance repaid.
“Co-operating flycatcher families won the reward,” but “non co-operators were immediately punished,” wrote the researchers, Indrikis Krams of the University of Daugavpils and colleagues in the February issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
Robert Olendorf of Michigan State University and colleagues reached similar conclusions in a study with male red-winged blackbirds published in the Jan. 22, 2004 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. Olendorf’s group used recorded bird calls in place of real ones.
The findings may help shed light on how cooperation evolved, even among unrelated individuals, Krams and colleagues wrote. That has been a perennially thorny question. Evolution occurs when stronger or fitter individuals in a population reproduce more than others do, so their genes spread more widely at the expense of less “fit” genes. Many repetition of this can change species into entirely new ones. But kindness and helping seem to provide no fitness advantage, and may even hurt, so it seems any genes for these should have died out long ago. Yet these qualities exist, and even some possible genes for them reportedly identified.
A range of explanations has been proposed. One theory is that cooperation arises from reciprocity: animals develop the tendency to help because they will receive help in return. This poses its own difficulties—who repays the first helper’s trouble? Regardless, if reciprocity is part of the equation, it clearly has a better chance of evolving among groups of animals that are familiar with each other, so each member can track who has been naughty and who nice.
Previously, reciprocal altruism had been shown only in a a few species besides humans, such as vampire bats that exchange food and some apes. Flycatchers also show the ability to recognize each other as individuals, Krams and colleagues wrote—so some birds battles can be added to the list of animal behaviors explained by reciprocal altruism.
Penguins as Marine Sentinels
P. DEE BOERSMA
From the tropics to Antarctica, penguins depend on predictable regions of high ocean productivity where their prey aggregate. Increases in precipitation and reductions in sea ice associated with climate warming are affecting penguins. The largest breeding colony of Patagonian (Magellanic) penguins, at Punta Tombo, Argentina, had approximately 200,000 breeding pairs in October 2006—a decline of 22% since 1987. In the 1980s and 1990s, petroleum pollution was a major source of Patagonian penguin mortality. In 1994, tanker lanes were moved 40 kilometers (km) farther off the coast of Chubut, and the dumping of ballast water and the oiling of penguins are now rare. However, penguins are swimming 60 km farther north from their nests during incubation than they did a decade ago, very likely reflecting shifts in prey in response to climate change and reductions in prey abundance caused by commercial fishing. These temperate penguin species, marine sentinels for southern oceans, demonstrate that new challenges are confronting their populations.
www.biosciencemag.org July/August 2008 / Vol. 58 No. 7 • BioScience
July 20, 2008 Associated Press and World Science staff
Hundreds of baby pe nguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro’s tropical beaches, rescuers and penguin experts said Friday. The news came only weeks after a report (see above) claimed penguin populations worldwide are being devastated, likely due to pollution and other human activities. More than 400 penguins, most of them yo ung, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintend for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio
While it is common here to find some penguins—both dead and alive—swept by strong ocean currents from the Str ait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory. Rescuers and those who tre at penguins are divided over the possible causes. Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at the Niteroi Zoo, said he believed overfishing has forced the penguins to swim further from shore to find fish to eat “and that leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in the strong ocean currents.”
But biologist Erli Costa of Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University suggested we ather patterns could be involved. “I don’t think the levels of pollution are high enough to affect the birds so quickly. I think instead we’re seeing more young and sick penguins because of global warming, which affects ocean currents and creates more cyclones, making the seas rougher,” Costa said. The vast majority of penguins tu rning up are baby birds that have just left the nest and are unable to out-swim the strong ocean currents they encounter while searching for food. Every year, Brazil airlifts dozens of penguins back to Antarctica or Patagonia.
NEW EDITOR FOR “EMU”
Birds Australia and CSIRO Publishing are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Kate Buchanan as Editor of Emu.
Kate is a senior lecturer in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University, having recently moved to Australia from Cardiff University in the UK. Her research interests are in avian sexual selection and signalling, with a primary focus on the effects of physiological stress on acoustic signalling, but with ongoing interests in the cost of producing visual sexual signals and the endocrine control of begging behaviour. Her most recent research has shown that male starlings dosed with environmentally relevant levels of chemicals known to act as endocrine disrupters sing more and produce more complex songs.
For more information visit the Emu website <www.publish.csiro.au/journals/emu>.
NATIONAL THREATENED SPECIES DAY 2008
Members are reminded that September 7, 2008 is National Threatened Species Day, and may like to engage in some of the activities planned for that day. See <http://wwf.org.au/ntsd>
RARE ‘SMILING’ BIRD PHOTOGRAPHED IN COLOMBIA From the National Geographic website:
Call him the Mona Lisa of the bird kingdom. The rare recurve-billed bushbird, rediscovered by scientists in Colombia after a 40-year absence, sports a curving beak that gives the illusion of an enigmatic smile. See photograph at:
Taken by a conservationist with the Colombia-based nonprofit Fundacisn ProAves in 2005, this is the first public photo of a live bushbird. The elusive species had not been spotted between 1965 and 2004, due to its limited range and remote habitats. It was seen recently in Venezuela and in a region of northeastern Colombia, where it was photographed.
Researchers found the bird in a 250-acre (101-hectare) reserve next to the Torcoroma Holy Sanctuary near the Colombian town of Ocaqa, where in 1709 locals claimed they saw the image of the Virgin Mary in a tree root. The forests of the sanctuary have been protected by Catholic Church authorities in the centuries since.
The researchers also found and photographed the extremely rare Perija parakeet, of which only 30 to 50 individuals likely survive. Deforestation and wildfires for agriculture and grazing have denuded much of the birds' habitat, conservationists say.
"[A]s more and more remote areas are being settled, the bushbird reminds us how important it is to conserve as much natural habitat as we can," said Paul Salaman of the American Bird Conservancy. ”Who knows what wonderful biodiversity is being destroyed before it has had a chance to be discovered?" Christine Dell'Amore
THE FUTURE OF JOURNALS
Readers contemplating the future of Corella, and publishing science in general may be interested to read how this new journal is structured:
“We are very pleased to announce launching of ZooKeys - a peer-reviewed, open-access, rapidly produced and disseminated journal (online and print). You may wish to look at the journal's website and first issue at <www.pensoftonline.net/zookeys>. Editor-in-Chief is Terry Erwin (Smithsonian Institution).
The journal is based on modern technology for online submission, manuscript flow control and publishing. Following the philosophy of the new journal and opinions of several of our Board members, we intend to link ZooKeys to initiatives like ZooBank, EoL, GBIF and others. Even now, all new descriptions and related authorities published in ZooKeys are ZooBank registered. ZooKeys is already a CrossRef member, it will be listed in Zoological Record, and applications for ISI-listing (impact factor) and MEDLINE (PubMed) are in progress. All new species are submitted to Encyclopedia of Life on the day of publication! DOI numbers and ZooBank registrations are mandatory.
ZooKeys adheres strictly to the principles of open access which means that anyone can freely read and copy all content published in ZooKeys provided that the original source and author(s) are credited. At the same time, the journal is published as a high-quality, full-color, printed version, which can be ordered for more than modest prices.
Lyubomir Penev ZooKeys Managing Editor”
DIVERSE BIRD POPULATIONS REDUCE INCIDENCE OF WEST NILE VIRUS
From Newsletter of the NSW Biodiversity Research Network Issue No. 26
Researchers from the University of California have discovered that areas which have a more diverse bird population show much lower incidences of West Nile virus infection in the human population. West Nile develops in bird populations and can be passed to humans or other animals through vectors such as mosquitoes. This research constitutes the largest-scale application to date of the “dilution effect”, a pattern where increased biodiversity results in lower risks of humans becoming infected by animal diseases. The dilution effect was first reported in Lyme disease. John Swaddle, one of the primary researchers says; “We don’t yet know the precise mechanism that drives this pattern, but it’s likely to be due to diverse areas having relatively few of the bird species that are particularly competent hosts and reservoirs for the virus.” Read the report at: