Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Masked Antpitta. Cranes Head North. New Fishing Technology. Suez Canal. Hubble.

For "Winged Wednesday":

Masked Antpitta

Masked Antpitta by Oswaldo Maillard

"A shy antpitta hops around in the dense understory of a riverside forest along the Beni River in the Amazon Basin of northern Bolivia. Perched on a vine on its long, pinkish legs, it sings out to advertise its presence. Although it behaves much like other antpittas, this bird, the Masked Antpitta, is found only in a tiny area, and is vulnerable to extinction.

Asociación Armonía, ABC’s partner in Bolivia, recently completed a study of this little-known species, conducting population surveys and documenting the first nests.

Although the full results of this work are not yet published, it suggests that current population estimates and threat status are a bit too optimistic. Instead of being classified as Vulnerable, with populations exceeding 2,500 individuals, Armonía estimates a smaller population between 500 and 1,000 individuals with a smaller range, and suggests that the Masked Antpitta be reclassified by IUCN as Endangered.

This study will help focus future efforts on creating a protected area for the Masked Antpitta, which currently lacks any habitat protection."

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

Cranes head north; Operation Migration granted permission to continue flights

CHASSAHOWITZKA — The nine wayward whooping cranes that made up Operation Migration's Class of 2011 have begun their migration north, and, despite earlier concerns, they won't be the organization's last.

creatures to head north

Some of the birds were supposed to fly to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Panhandle, and others to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, straddling Citrus and Hernando counties. It was the first time the migration was cut short in the 11 years that a coalition of organizations has worked to reintroduce migratory whooping cranes to the eastern United States.

The young birds spent the past two months at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Ala., learning how to exist in the wild alongside other whooping cranes and sandhill cranes.

The other wild birds started their migration weeks ago. On Thursday morning, ultralight pilot Brooke Pennypacker reported to an Operation Migration staff member: "(The whooping cranes) are gone. I watched them thermal and climb higher and higher for the past hour and they're now out of sight. Be safe."

At last report, the cranes were already within 10 miles of one of their Kentucky migration stops." From:


New Fishing Technology Will Dramatically Reduce Seabird Bycatch in Ecuador's Hake Fishing Industry

Waved Albatrosses by Dan Lebbin(Washington, D.C., April 19, 2012) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the leading U.S. bird conservation organization, and Ecuadorian Partner Equilibrio Azul have developed a new technology that will dramatically reduce seabird bycatch in the Ecuadorian hake fleet. The hake fishery and associated bycatch is one of the most significant threats to the Critically Endangered Waved Albatross.

The new technology, called the Medina System, represents a major breakthrough in seabird bycatch mitigation in small-vessel bottom-set longline fisheries. Bycatch occurs when the fishing lines are being set behind the fishing boats or being pulled in and albatrosses and other seabirds grab the bait and become impaled on the barbed hooks, either in their bills, bodies, or wings. Dragged under the surface, the birds are unable to free themselves and drown. Others are still alive as the line is hauled, but often injured or maimed when they are set free. With demand for ocean fish at an all-time high, hundreds of thousands of albatrosses and other seabirds are killed in this way each year.
Other seabirds that will likely experience reduced bycatch mortality from the new technology and outreach efforts could include Blue-footed Boobies, Shy Albatrosses, Buller’s Albatrosses, and the endangered Pink-footed Shearwaters and Parkinson’s Petrels.

Hake are bottom-dwelling fish that occur at the edge of the continental shelf waters. The fishery is dominated by small vessels in relatively concentrated fishing areas, where up to ten vessels may be in sight of each other, each setting weighted lines of roughly 400 hooks. The Ecuadorian fishermen usually fish through daylight hours, making 3-5 fishing sets per trip. Both the set and haul are attractive to albatrosses and other seabirds, which sometimes attack baited hooks as they enter the water, and sometimes attack the hake themselves as they are hauled in, or take used bait as it is discarded. The process of hauling hake gear is complicated by the fact that the swim bladders of bottom-dwelling fish swell as they are lifted through the water column, which in turn lifts the weighted gear and causes it to float on the surface at great distances from the boat. Incidences of bird bycatch are troubling to fishermen, because they are either losing bait—or their catch—to the birds.

Working with our partners, Australian seabird bycatch expert Nigel Brothers, and the fishermen, the team developed the “Medina” setting system, tailored specifically for the Ecuadorian hake fishery. Instead of tossing the hooks into the sea one-by-one, the Medina system allows hooks to slide off of small metal bars, using the speed of the boat to pull the hooks. This new system reduces the set time by 80% – from about

This new system reduces the set time by 80% – from about  20 minutes to less than four – and allows the captains to maintain the speed of the boat and therefore tension on the line, which further reduces the float time of the baited hooks. The system is embraced by local fishermen because it is inexpensive, saves bait, is easy to use, and is manufactured locally.   More and video at:

On This Day:
Ground broken for Suez Canal, Apr 25, 1859:

"At Port Said, Egypt, ground is broken for the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway intended to stretch 101 miles across the isthmus of Suez and connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who organized the colossal undertaking, delivered the pickax blow that inaugurated construction.

Artificial canals have been built on the Suez region, which connects the continents of Asia and Africa, since ancient times. Under the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, a channel connected the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, and a canal reached northward from Lake Timsah as far as the Nile River. These canals fell into disrepair or were intentionally destroyed for military reasons. As early as the 15th century, Europeans speculated about building a canal across the Suez, which would allow traders to sail from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea, rather than having to sail the great distance around Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

The first serious survey of the isthmus occurred during the French occupation of Egypt at the end of the 18th century, and General Napoleon Bonaparte personally inspected the remains of an ancient canal. France made further studies for a canal, and in 1854 Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal. An international team of engineers drew up a construction plan, and in 1856 the Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work.

Construction began in April 1859, and at first digging was done by hand with picks and shovels wielded by forced laborers. Later, European workers with dredgers and steam shovels arrived. Labor disputes and a cholera epidemic slowed construction, and the Suez Canal was not completed until 1869--four years behind schedule. On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal was officially inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony attended by French Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. Ferdinand de Lesseps would later attempt, unsuccessfully, to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. He died in 1894.

When it opened, the Suez Canal was only 25 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom, and 200 to 300 feet wide at the surface. Consequently, fewer than 500 ships navigated it in its first full year of operation. Major improvements began in 1876, however, and the canal soon grew into the one of the world's most heavily traveled shipping lanes. In 1875, Great Britain became the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company when it bought up the stock of the new Ottoman governor of Egypt. Seven years later, in 1882, Britain invaded Egypt, beginning a long occupation of the country. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 made Egypt virtually independent, but Britain reserved rights for the protection of the canal.

After World War II, Egypt pressed for evacuation of British troops from the Suez Canal Zone, and in July 1956 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal, hoping to charge tolls that would pay for construction of a massive dam on the Nile River. In response, Israel invaded in late October, and British and French troops landed in early November, occupying the canal zone. Under pressure from the United Nations, Britain and France withdrew in December, and Israeli forces departed in March 1957. That month, Egypt took control of the canal and reopened it to commercial shipping.

Ten years later, Egypt shut down the canal again following the Six Day War and Israel's occupation of the Sinai peninsula. For the next eight years, the Suez Canal, which separates the Sinai from the rest of Egypt, existed as the front line between the Egyptian and Israeli armies. In 1975, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat reopened the Suez Canal as a gesture of peace after talks with Israel. Today, an average of 50 ships navigate the canal daily, carrying more than 300 million tons of goods a year."

Space telescope Hubble in orbit, Apr 25, 1990:

"The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope, a long-term space-based observatory, into a low orbit around Earth.
The space telescope, conceived in the 1940s, designed in the 1970s, and built in the 1980s, was designed to give astronomers an unparalleled view of the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Initially, Hubble's operators suffered a setback when a lens aberration was discovered, but a repair mission by space-walking astronauts in December 1993 successfully fixed the problem, and Hubble began sending back its first breathtaking images of the universe.

Free of atmospheric distortions, Hubble has a resolution 10 times that of ground-based observatories. About the size of a bus, the telescope is solar-powered and orbits Earth once every 97 minutes. Among its many astronomical achievements, Hubble has been used to record a comet's collision with Jupiter, provide a direct look at the surface of Pluto, view distant galaxies, gas clouds, and black holes, and see billions of years into the universe's past."


Another late post.   Still fussing and fuming with Live Writer most of the afternoon. In the morning, Jay and I went shopping to replace some items in the workshop, and as I was so disgusted at my new printer for not working that I popped in the back door of Walmart, and bought another one.   I couldn't make it work on wireless, so it has a cord going to my computer.  I was able to copy the papers that I needed, and print the others off my computer, so I got the forms in the mail today.

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