Oldest albatross Wisdom lost her egg

n December, 2014, EarthSky reported that a Laysan albatross named Wisdom – said to be the world’s oldest known, banded, wild bird at an estimated age of 63 – had been photographed incubating her newest egg. Wisdom returns to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial each year to nest and raise her chicks. She lays only one egg a year. This month, though (February 2015), the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument reported on its Facebook page:

To Wisdom Lovers Far and Wide:

There comes a time when nature reminds us when there is life, there is death. In January, 2015 Deputy Refuge Manager Bret Wolfe observed Wisdom, the world’s oldest known albatross, sitting on her nest without an egg, (she and her mate were both sharing incubation duties for most of December 2014).

So what’s up with the missing egg? Of the over 694,000 albatross nests counted on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge during December 2014 a percentage of those nests with eggs have not hatched and some eggs have disappeared. The island’s natural egg predators such the ruddy turnstones or bristle-thighed curlews can actually take eggs that are not closely attended. Cockroaches and other scavengers such as mice can quickly move in to clean house and devour shell remnants of damaged eggs. When this happens the albatross pair abandons their nest and tries again next year. Additionally, Laysan albatross occasionally skip a year or even two as they use their precious energy resources to complete a full molt while at sea or simply take a breather to replenish their energy after accomplishing an exhaustive seven-month incubation and chick rearing effort. Wisdom and her mate have been sighted and they appear to be fine. Don’t forget that Wisdom has maintained a record-breaking track record for rearing chicks beyond an age that humans understood was possible. We are therefore hopeful Wisdom and her mate will return next year to start nature’s cycle of rearing chick number 30 something!

For more information and photos visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll/

Bottom line: People around the world cheered in late 2014, when an albatross named Wisdom – world’s oldest known, banded, wild bird at an estimated age of 63 – laid a new egg. Now nature reminds us that life and death go hand in hand.

Manmade noises impacts birds decline..

How noise can affect interactions between human and natural systems is the topic of a National Science Foundation grant awarded to researchers at Penn State and Boise State University.
The researchers are analyzing how traffic sounds influence interactions between humans and in proximity.

The four-year, $600,000 project is intended to determine whether manmade generated in wildlife areas with already declining bird diversity weakens people’s perceived value of wildlife. If it weakens people’s perceptions, does it also diminish the amount of support people offer for , further contributing to the decline of bird diversity?

The researchers also want to know if a greater awareness of the sounds of wildlife increases the value placed on environmental diversity and the overall human perception of nature.

“We are very excited about this study,” said co-investigator Peter Newman, professor and head of the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, Penn State. “We talk a lot about working across disciplines but actually doing it is another story. This study allows social scientists to work together with biologists to clearly define coupled human-natural relationships and how they work systemically. To me, these types of studies truly shed light on complex environmental challenges and help to train our grad students to tackle them in the future.”

“Our hypothesis is that as manmade noise fills the soundscape and drives birds and other animals away, groups and individuals come to value wildlife less,” said principal investigator and Boise State biologist Jesse Barber. “That decline then leads to a reduction in support for nature conservation, which spirals into a further decline in wildlife diversity.”

The researchers are focusing on traffic sounds, but believe their data will apply to other human-caused noise as well. Because birds are much easier to observe and count in the wild than other animals, they will be at the heart of the study.

Birds will be counted along wilderness roadways with cars traveling at maximum speed, and again at reduced speed or during road closures. The researchers will survey people to determine if they believe slowdowns and the resulting decrease in are worth the transportation trade-offs if both people and wildlife benefit.

Bad reputation of crows demystified

In literature, crows and ravens are a bad omen and are associated with witches. Most people believe they steal, eat other birds’ eggs and reduce the populations of other birds. But a new study, which has brought together over 326 interactions between corvids (the bird group that includes crows, ravens and magpies) and their prey, demonstrates that their notoriety is not entirely merited.

Corvids are the subject of several population control schemes, in both game and conservation environments. These controls are based on the belief that destroying them is good for other birds. They are also considered to be effective predators capable of reducing the populations of their prey.

However, a study published recently in the journal ‘Ibis‘ analysed the impact of six species of corvid on a total of 67 species of bird susceptible to being their prey, among which are game birds and passerine birds.

The project, which compiled the information of 42 scientific studies and analysed a total of 326 interactions between corvids and their prey, shows that they have a much smaller effect on other bird species than was previously thought.

As Beatriz Arroyo – author of the study and a researcher at the Institute of Research in Game Resources (IREC), a joint centre of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the Castilla-La Mancha Community Council and the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) in Spain – tells SINC: “In 81% of cases studied, corvids did not present a discernible impact on their potential prey. Furthermore, in 6% of cases, some apparently beneficial relationships were even observed.”

Greater impact on reproduction

To find out what impact corvids have on their prey, the researchers – in conjunction with the University of Cape Town (South Africa) – conducted several experiments in which they isolated crows, ravens and magpies, among other predators, to observe how they affected the reproduction and abundance of other birds.

According to the works analysed, when crows were taken away from their habitat, the survival rates of chickens and the number of eggs of other species were higher in most cases. Nevertheless, with respect to abundance, without corvids an increased size of the populations of other birds was observed only in a small number of cases.

According to the study, when crows were removed from the environment, in 46% of cases their prey had greater reproductive success, while their abundance fell in less than 10% of cases.

Additionally, these experimental studies carried out in nine different countries (Canada, France, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA) revealed that, if corvids are eliminated but other predators are not, the impact on the productivity of their prey would be positive in only 16% of cases; whilst without corvids and other predators, including carnivores, the productivity of other birds improves in 60% of cases.

This suggests that crows, ravens and magpies, amongst others, have a lower impact on prey than other threats. “Compensatory predation can also occur,” the researcher explains.

In the study they also compared the effects between different groups of corvids. In these results it is striking that “magpies had much less impact on prey than other species,” Arroyo claims.

Comparing crows and magpies, the scientists showed that in 62% of cases crows impacted negatively on the reproduction of their prey, whilst magpies had a negative effect in 12% of cases. “But no differences related to the abundance of prey were noted,” the scientist affirms.

For the authors of this piece of research, given the results it is necessary to “be cautious” when drawing conclusions on the impact of magpies or crows on the populations of their prey. “This method of managing populations is frequently ineffective and unnecessary,” Arroyo finishes.

Source: EurekaAlert

A decade since Tsunami

It was a sunny winter afternoon when I visited the shore temple at Mahabalipuram. As I walked towards the iconic temple, I noticed a small railing along the shore. Beyond the railing was the ‘tsunami temple’ as local people call it. This temple, which was under water for decades, resurfaced after tsunami, and hence the name. The tsunami temple’s main deity was found to be similar to the main deity at the shore temple. Natarajan, an official tour guide here for over two decades spoke to me about witnessing tsunami right in front of his eyes.

It was one of those days in 2004 when Natarajan was explaining about the temple to a few school children. Far in the distance, he could see a wave of water slowly rolling and curling up, coming towards them. The movement wasn’t fast, he said. He had seen water coming into the temple, but not something like this. When I realised danger was coming in, I took the students along and scampered to safety in the watch tower. We climbed up there and watched the event unfold. No one even knew the word tsunami then. For about two hours, we were there. The tsunami washed away houses, shops and the entire land was covered in black mud.”

As much I heard him curiously, and empathised with him, I cannot even imagine, what happened to the people who lost their livelihood, and how they would have mentally grappled with such an unexpected event.

Natarajan said that after a few days there was a heavy downpour and it cleaned away the black sand. About five people died (actually 3 died and 2 missing- they could not find their bodies).

Natarajan’s source of income was gone and he did other things to sustain. No foreign tourists even came here for almost a year. After about 6 months, local tourists started coming though.

After ten years, things look normal now in Mahabalipuram.

As I walked along talking to shop keepers, I heard more about the tsunami encounters. The shopkeepers did not get any compensation for the shop losses. After about 6-7 months, they started all over again, reconstructing their shops from the scratch. The business remains dull though. These are not the fancy shops that foreign tourists visit, but small shops which is often thronged by people who buy things in tens to hundreds. Survival after tsunami is difficult, they say. But they were not forlorn.

I cooled off the scorching December afternoon with few ice creams and watched a bunch of people enjoying in the water. When I asked the people about preparing for a disaster like tsunami, this is what they said- “We really don’t know if and when it would happen. If it does, we will deal with it when it happens, but preparing for it, what’s the certainty in life? Who knows what will happen? We just live by the day. Today, I have this life and I will deal with it, tomorrow is another day.”

Reuse, recreate: DIY Table and Lamp

I had many old tapes in the house. We don’t use them anymore. My mother thought of throwing them away. Then I told her we could create something out of this. I looked at various DIY projects from such tapes. However, I created my own project.

To secure the tapes, I tried using silicone tubes but that didn’t work. So, I tried using m-seal. And it really worked.

I sealed the tapes with m-seal, built a base and slowly started constructing the table. Initially my idea was just to fix the table, but I had an old discarded table lamp and thought why not make it into table cum lamp. So, I made the table top removable and then fixed the lamp on to it.

This is how my table looks. I will be happy to share my techniques with anyone!

Picture of Joining the tapes

Picture of Adding light to the table

Recycling, reusing, repairing starts from home and by thinking how one can do it, one can come up with zillions of solutions..Old tapes can be used to create anything..Pen stands, tables and whatever catches your fancy and imagination!

Lessons from Farakka as we plan more barrages on Ganga

Originally posted on SANDRP:

Introduction

“When Farakka barrage was built, the engineers did not plan for such massive silt. But it has become one of the biggest problems of the barrage now” said Dr. P.K. Parua[1]. And he should know as he has been associated with the barrage for nearly 38 years and retired as the General Manager of Farakka Barrage Project (FBP). I remembered the vast island of silt in the middle of the river barely a kilometer upstream of the Barrage and the people who told us their homes were devastated by the swinging river.

Silt Islands just upstream the Barrage. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP Silt Islands just upstream the Barrage. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

Though called a barrage, Farakka Barrage is a large dam as per ICOLD, WCD and CWC definitions, with associated large dimensions and impacts. To call it a Barrage is misleading.

Commissioned in 1975[i] across Ganga in Murshidabad District of West Bengal and just 16…

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Impact of 98 Mini Hydel Projects on Cauvery on Bangalore’s Water Supply

Originally posted on SANDRP:

In recent news reports, it was reported that “following the drastic fall in the water-level in the Shiva Balancing Reservoir (SBR), the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has asked Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) and Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. (KPCL) to stop power generation from four mini-hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery basin, at least till May.”[1] The projects which were asked to stop generation include: Madhavamantri, Satyagala, Shiva Anecut and Shimsha mini-hydroelectric projects.Image

However, the fact is that KREDL (Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited) has allotted and commissioned a whopping 98 mini hydel projects on the Cauvery, most of them downstream Krishnaraj Sagar Dam, many of them commissioned. These projects are in the Mysore, Mandya and Chamrajanagara Districts. Actual numbers maybe higher as we have not included projects from Ramanagara in the list as we are not certain how many of those would fall in Cauvery…

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