Animals


Binoculars

Hoopoe causing a hoopla in Ireland as at least 50 exotic birds are seen

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© Jimmy Murphy
Hoopoe by Jimmy Murphy posted on the BirdWatch Ireland Facebook page.
Birdwatchers believe a funnel of air caused them to overshoot France and land in Ireland

If you think you spotted an unusual pink bird with zebra-patterned wings in recent weeks, you are not alone.

The hoopoe, so called because of the sound it makes, has come to these shores in unexpectedly large numbers this year, with at least 50 being spotted, according to Birdwatch Ireland's head of operations, Oran O'Sullivan. It is 50 years since so many hoopoes have been spotted here.

Usually, fewer than 10 are recorded in early spring or late autumn when migrating birds stray off course.

Mr O'Sullivan said the exotic birds, about the size of a starling or thrush, were a Mediterranean species, typically nesting in trees and olive groves.

"They have very big wings and when they take off you see a flash of black and white. When they land they throw up this crest, like an Indian chief's head dress. They are exotic all the way."

He said the birds wintered in Africa and could fly as far as northern France. "Even a few breed in the very far south of England. They come up in good weather and in spring they can overshoot France and hit Wexford."


Bug

Research finds that bees actually want to eat the pesticides that hurt them

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© Jonathan Carruthers
A foraging red-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lapidaries, visiting an oilseed rape flower in a field in the south of England. Bumblebees may be addicted to the very pesticides that are hurting them.
A pair of new studies published Wednesday in Nature are disturbing when taken separately, but so much more chilling when laid out next to each other: The first provides new evidence that neonicotinoid insecticides can have a negative effect on bees, adding weight to the theory that these chemicals could contribute to colony collapse disorder and endanger our food supply. In the second study, another group of researchers found that bees don't avoid these harmful pesticides. They may actually seek them out and get addicted to them.

Recent years have seen bee populations on the decline. That's bad news for us, as Whole Foods recently highlighted by removing every product that relies on healthy pollinators from one of their salad bars.

While the jury is far from out, some researchers point to neonicotinoids, which have been banned in Britain for two years but are still widely used in the United States, as a potential culprit. These nicotine-related insecticides are favored for their relative safety to humans, because they target specific nerve receptors in invertebrates. But while they're safe for humans in the short term, some studies have argued that they're killing off bees on a scale so large that our food security is threatened.


Hourglass

Population of greater sage-grouse breeding males have declined by 56 percent in North America

The number of breeding males in the greater sage-grouse population of the United States and part of Canada has declined by 56 percent in recent years, in a sign of trouble for the ground-dwelling bird, a study released on Friday showed.

The study from the Pew Charitable Trusts comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to make a decision before the end of September on whether the bird should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced on that a sub-species of the sage-grouse found in California and Nevada did not require protection under the Endangered Species Act. Environmentalists criticized the decision.

The move was a victory for mining, energy and farming companies which fear sage-grouse protections could restrict their livelihoods in the 11 Western states where the bird lives, including Washington state, Colorado and Montana.

Millions of sage-grouse are believed to have once inhabited a broad expanse of the Western United States and Canada. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2010 that between 200,000 and 500,000 birds remain.

Comment: The decline in the populations of numerous species of birds and animals has been accelerating in recent years. Perhaps these are signs that the future of life on planet earth is becoming more precarious?


Pistol

The only option? Herd of 15 buffalo shot dead after escaping from farm near Albany

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© Mike Groll — Associated Press
A herd of buffalo crosses a road Friday in Bethlehem, near Albany.
Fifteen buffalo that escaped from a farm were intentionally shot and killed Friday after they dashed past a group of police, crossed a major highway and ended up near some schools, authorities said.

"The last thing we wanted to do was put these animals down," Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said. "But it wasn't a safe scene."

Three men hired by the farm opened fire on the animals Friday afternoon in woods in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of the capital.

Bethlehem police Lt. Thomas Heffernan said the decision was made after experts agreed tranquilizers would not be effective and no portable corrals or trailers could hold the animals.


Health

Emu injures man in Oakhurst, Australia

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© Alex Leggett/ Gatton Star
Emus might look silly, but don’t underestimate them.
A man in his 50s copped a 25 centimetre cut to his left forearm when an emu got spooked and lashed out near Maryborough on Monday afternoon.

It's believed the incident occurred during feeding time at 2pm at the Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary at Oakhurst.

Advanced care paramedic Jeremy Woods said the man was conscious and in good spirits when paramedics arrived a short time later.

"The patient believes the emu might have been spooked by a nearby train track, and that's what's caused the animal to try to escape or get away from the sound," he said.

Binoculars

Rare bird from the Americas turns up in Somerset, UK

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© SWNS
A rare adult summer Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) in Somerset
The sighting of a rare wader has seen hundreds of excited birdwatchers descend in Somerset this weekend

The sighting of a rare wader has seen hundreds of excited birdwatchers descend in Somerset this weekend after it took a 4,000-mile detour to England.

Each spring the Hudsonian Godwit heads from South America to its breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska. But following its detour, twitchers are hoping to spot the bird only for the third time in the UK.

The kerfuffle started when a birdwatcher identified one on the Somerset Levels and word got around. By Saturday afternoon more than 1,000 twitcher had reportedly lined the water's edge. A similar number of birdwatchers is expected on Sunday.

It is believed the large shorebird - which is now inhabiting the same space as its English counterparts, the Black Tailed Godwit and the Shapwick Heath - was last seen in the UK in 1988.

With a long beak and spindly legs, the bird must have got lost and confused and followed the wrong flock of birds across the Atlantic.


Question

Atypical animal behaviour: White rhino battles with elephants in territorial row in South Africa

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© The Luxury Safari Company/Sanctuary Retreats

White rhino are unlikely to take on a group of elephants, making Sergeant's defensive behaviour unusual.
A stubborn white rhino faces off with a group of elephants in this extraordinary set of photographs

The peace of a morning game drive in South Africa was broken this week when a disgruntled male white rhino saw his territory invaded by a herd of breeding elephants.

Sergeant, a proud white rhino, confronted the large mammals as they made their way across the floodplain, watched by safari guests.

While black rhinos are known to show aggression, white rhinos are normally passive, making Sergeant's decision to take on the group highly unusual.

The elephants kicked up dust, blew their trumpets and charged at him in an attempt to stand their ground while protecting their young calf.

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Attention

Two brothers injured by bears in India

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Bear print
Two persons were allegedly attacked by bears in the foothills of Poigai Malai in Aralvoimozhi on Thursday morning. S. Seelan (34) and his brother S. Jegan (32) were on a visit to their agricultural land along with their father Selvaraj when they noticed the bears in close proximity. Even as they tried to run to safety, Seelan sustained injuries in the attack by the bears and Jegan escaped with minor injuries. Their father escaped unhurt.

The brothers were admitted to a private hospital and Seelan was later shifted to Kanyakumari Government Medical College Hospital, where his condition is said to be stable. When contacted, District Forest Officer Vismiju Viswanathan said he was yet to receive any information on the bear attack.

Bandaid

Film shows why you should NEVER give a monkey the middle finger

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Attack: Man learns the hard way why you should never stick a middle finger up at a monkey

The vengeful primate is clearly ruffled by the rude gesture as it pounces on the man and knocks him to the floor with a swift dropkick to the face

Ever wondered what would happen if you showed a monkey the middle finger?

Surely, they wouldn't understand the sentiment behind the gesture, right? Wrong.

And this clip shows how one man had to learn that lesson the hard way.

In the footage, the pedestrian is walking past the monkey when he appears to stick up his middle finger.

But the creature isn't about to take that sort of insult lying down and jumps down from the fence onto the man's face.


Attention

Thousands of starfish strand on beach in Cumbria, UK

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© Gary McKeating
Starfish on the beach
Thousands of starfish were left stranded on a west Cumbrian beach after a period of exceptionally high tides.

Photographer Gary McKeating made the discovery on Monday night when he headed to Harrington beach to take pictures of the sunset. He was horrified to come across what he estimates were around 2,000 starfish on the sands.

Experts say the high tides, which drop down low, coupled with strong currents resulted in the sea creatures being washed ashore.

Mr McKeating said: "There were a lot of kids down there and they told me to go and look at the starfish.

"They were on a sandbank right in front of the pier. I was very careful where I stood because I didn't know if they were dead or alive - I've never seen anything like it."

Dr Emily Baxter, marine conservation officer for Cumbria Wildlife Trust, believes the sea creatures would have been dead, as they cannot survive for long out of the water.