Posts Tagged ‘migration’

Photo: Jesse Granger, Duke University.
North American monarch butterflies migrate each winter to just a few mountaintops in central Mexico, with help from an internal compass,” say Duke University. “New computer modeling research offers clues to how migrating animals get to where they need to go, even when their magnetic compass leads them astray.” But as populations decline, so do the mutual-support possibilities.

Continuing the subject of friends (see the post from a few days ago), it seems that associating with others can be beneficial for many life forms. Robin Smith reports on the latest research from Duke University.

“Animals can find their way across vast distances with amazing accuracy,” Smith writes. “Take monarch butterflies, for example. Millions of them fly up to 2,500 miles across the eastern half of North America to the same overwintering grounds each year, using the Earth’s magnetic field to help them reach a small region in central Mexico that’s about the size of Disney World.

“Or sockeye salmon: starting out in the open ocean, they head home each year to spawn. Using geomagnetic cues they manage to identify their home stream from among thousands of possibilities, often returning to within feet of their birthplace.

“Now new research offers clues to how migrating animals get to where they need to go, even when they lose the signal or their inner compass leads them astray. The key, said Duke Ph.D. student Jesse Granger: ‘they can get there faster and more efficiently if they travel with a friend’ [Collective Movement as a Solution to Noisy Navigation and its Vulnerability to Population Loss, Jesse Granger and Sönke Johnsen].

“Many animals can sense the Earth’s magnetic field and use it as a compass. What has puzzled scientists, Granger said, is the magnetic sense is not fail-safe. These signals coming from the planet’s molten core are subtle at the surface. Phenomena such as solar storms and man-made electromagnetic noise can disrupt them or drown them out. … How do some animals manage to chart a course with such a noisy sensory system and still get it right?

“ ‘This is the question that keeps me up at night,’ said Granger, who did the work with her adviser, Duke Biology Professor Sönke Johnsen.

“Multiple hypotheses have been put forward to explain how they do it. Perhaps, some scientists say, migrating animals average multiple measurements taken over time to get more accurate information. Or maybe they switch from consulting their magnetic compass to using other ways of navigating as they near the end of their journey — such as smell, or landmarks — to narrow in on their goal.

“In a paper published Nov. 16 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the Duke team wanted to pit these ideas against a third possibility: That some animals still manage to find their way, even when their compass readings are unreliable, simply by sticking together.

“To test the idea, they created a computer model to simulate virtual groups of migrating animals, and analyzed how different navigation tactics affected their performance.

“The animals in the model begin their journey spread out over a wide area, encountering others along the route. The direction an animal takes at each step along the way is a balance between two competing impulses: to band together and stay with the group, or to head towards a specific destination, but with some degree of error in finding their bearings.

“The scientists found that, even when the simulated animals started to make more mistakes in reading their magnetic map, the ones that stuck with their neighbors still reached their destination, whereas those that didn’t care about staying together didn’t make it.

‘We showed that animals are better at navigating in a group than they are at navigating alone,’ Granger said.

“Even when their magnetic compass veered them off course, more than 70% of animals in the model still made it home, simply by joining with others and following their lead. Other ways of compensating didn’t measure up, or would need to guide them perfectly for most of the journey to accomplish the same feat.

“But the strategy breaks down when species decline in number, the researchers found. The team showed that animals who need friends to find their way are more likely to get lost when their population shrinks below a certain density.

“ ‘If the population density starts dropping, it takes them longer and longer along their migratory route before they find anyone else,’ Granger said.

“Previous studies have made similar predictions, but the Duke team’s model could help future researchers quantify the effect for different species. In some runs of the model, for example, they found that if a hypothetical population dropped by 50% — akin to what monarchs have experienced in the last decade, and some salmon in the last century — 37% fewer of the remaining individuals would make it to their destination.”

More at Duke, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Christopher Andrew Bray/Wikimedia.
A massive red-crab migration happens on Christmas Island, 932 miles northwest of Perth, Australia.

The annual red-crab migration on Christmas Island would be something to see. I hope the crabs survive human invasion better than the armadillo-like mole crabs (sand crabs) of my childhood on Fire Island. A Google search tells me that those have survived in North Carolina at least.

Photo: Outer Banks.
Mole crab, also called sand crab.

Here’s a report from the Ocean Conservancy on red crabs.

Katie Hogge writes that the name Christmas Island “traces back to 1643, when an English voyager sailed past it on Christmas Day. Today, nearly two-thirds of this incredibly biodiverse island is protected as a national park. While Christmas Island contains wetland, rainforest and marine ecosystems that host many remarkable creatures, there’s one species that steals the spotlight each year: Gecarcoidea natalis, appropriately nicknamed the Christmas Island red crab. …

“Every year as the first notable shower of the rainy season begins, a truly awe-inspiring event happens on Christmas Island: Millions of red crabs begin their annual migration across the island, moving with unwavering determination to reach the shoreline where mating and spawning occur. It’s estimated that 40 to 50 million of these crabs participate in the migration each year, braving tough terrain and prowling predators to play their part in establishing the species’ next generation.

“Once the migration begins, it will continue for around three weeks until the optimal spawning time when female crabs propel their eggs into the sea. The actual calendar dates for this event vary each year, but they usually occur sometime in October or November. ….

“The lunar cycle is why this migration, mating and spawning happens so consistently within the same time frame year after year. Without fail, the red crabs always spawn together before the sun rises during the final quarter of the moon as the high tide begins to turn. However, depending on how close the first rainfall occurs to this optimal lunar time frame, the crabs may have to dash to their destination faster in some years than others … and somehow, they always know exactly how fast they need to move to make their deadline.

“This mission to the sea isn’t an easy one, either. The journey across the island requires the crabs to avoid the threat of traffic as they move across roads (though some wildlife bridges have helped with this), and the heat of the sun can cause them to become dehydrated and easily exhausted. Although adult red crabs have no natural predators on land, their populations have been greatly affected by an invasive species known as ‘yellow crazy ants’ (Anoplolepis gracilipes). These invasive insects blind the crabs with acid, and scientists estimate they’ve killed tens of millions of crabs since they first arrived on the island.

“The challenges don’t end when the crabs reach their destination, though. First, male crabs who complete the journey must dig their own breeding burrows, and since millions of crabs are looking for space to burrow at the same time, this can become quite the competitive task. Once a male and female crab have successfully mated within a burrow, females will stay put, incubating their broods for a couple of weeks as the eggs develop. An amazing fact about mommy red crabs: They can produce up to 100,000 eggs per brood! …

“Once the moon reaches its last quarter phase, all the mother crabs know: It’s time to move! As the tide moves out before the sun breaks the horizon in the early morning, the females gather at the water’s edge and release their eggs into the waves. …

“As soon as the eggs are released into the water, larvae are triggered to hatch from the eggs, eventually developing to their final larval stage known as megalopae. For a couple of days, these tiny ‘almost baby crabs’ will group together near the shore until they finally grow into their full form as baby crustaceans. …

“These babies are tiny! Only about half a centimeter when they first arrive onshore, they’re so tiny that as millions of them emerge onto the shore, the unassuming eye may mistake them for a reddish algae covering the rocks and sandy shoreline. It will take these tiny trekkers a little more than a week to reach the protection of the edge of the forest, where they live and grow for the first few years of life. Once they reach ages four or five, the young crabs will participate in the migration that their species is famous for.

“Unfortunately, while so many eggs are released into the water, the majority of red crab larvae never get the chance to begin the trip home. These millions of larvae are an important food source for marine animals like manta rays and whale sharks that gather near Christmas Island each year for a festive seasonal feast. Most years, few baby crabs ever come out of the sea, and some years, no crabs make it out at all. But fear not: one to two times each decade, a massive number of baby crabs somehow make it to the beach, establishing a troop of enough survivors to keep the population at a healthy level. …

“Yet, as arduous as the red crabs’ annual journey to lay the foundation of the next generation is, there’s another danger to their survival that’s becoming increasingly threatening each and every year: climate change. Research notes that because these animals rely on the seasonal natural cycle of a wet season, anything causing potential changes in rainfall can throw off the entire process (or even eliminate the chance a migration will happen at all).  As such, both the red crabs and animals that depend on them for sustenance face new and greater risks to their survival.”

Are there critters where you grew up as a child that seem to have disappeared? I miss the mole crabs, fireflies, and those salamanders called red efts. I know they are still around, but I haven’t seen any in decades.

More at Ocean Conservancy, here.

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Photo: Jeff Abbott.
Martín Zapil stands among the lettuce plants growing in one of his plots of land on June 10, 2021, in the village of San Martín la Calera in Zunil, Guatemala. He chose to build a future in Guatemala instead of migrating to the U.S.

It was with considerable disappointment but not much surprise that I heard the message that our vice president was dispatched to relay to Central Americans: Stay home.

But, you know, people leave home only as a last resort. If you want them not to, you have to help make it possible to stay. Today’s article indicates how that might work.

Jeff Abbott and Whitney Eulich reported the story from Guatemala and Mexico for the Christian Science Monitor.

“Martín Zapil crouches down and examines the lush green leaves of a lettuce plant growing on one of his small plots of land here in Guatemala’s western highlands. Access to this land – parcels that he rents from neighbors and family – has given Mr. Zapil the opportunity to build an organic agricultural business, supplying restaurants and local markets with his fresh vegetables.

“And it’s done something else that few in rural Guatemala can claim: It’s given him hope, and alleviated his drive to migrate to the United States. 

“ ‘I’m tied down here; these lands have absorbed me and told me living here is possible,’ says Mr. Zapil, taking a seat on a nearby boulder where he surveys his onion, lettuce, and spinach crops.

“Guatemalans make up one of the largest groups of migrants apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. Many are fleeing rural areas, where climate change and lack of access to land and food have severely limited opportunities to thrive. Rates of chronic malnutrition are some of the highest in the world, racism is rampant toward the nearly 44% of the population that identifies as Indigenous, and corruption is rife, with high rates of violence and crime.

“U.S. conversation about halting migrants and asylum-seekers along its southern border tends to center on ‘push-pull’ factors. Crime, violence, hunger, lack of public services, and limited formal job opportunities push migrants away from home, while promises of employment, family reunification, safety, and education pull them north. But rarely does the conversation focus on learning from cases like Mr. Zapil’s: those who fit the profile of someone prone to migrate, yet decide there’s a way to build a future at home.

“It’s a perspective migration experts say could make or break the success of new U.S. initiatives. …

“Kamala Harris visited the region – her first international visits as vice president – and was criticized for telling Guatemalans, ‘Do not come.’

“ ‘The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders. … I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back,’ she said at a press conference.

‘It’s not about telling people not to come to the United States; it’s about explaining or showing them why they should stay’ in their home countries, says Nicole Kast, head of programs in Guatemala for Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

“The international aid organization, which receives the vast majority of its funding from the U.S., recently published a study exploring factors that tend to decrease someone’s likelihood of leaving Guatemala – like education and training opportunities that feed into formal employment, access to fertile land, and a sense of connection to one’s community.

“The U.S. has traditionally looked at migration from Central America ‘as what are the problems that exist in those countries that are pushing people out, and not from an opportunity or resilience perspective,’ Ms. Kast says. She’s hopeful there could be a broader shift in the future to focus on what’s keeping people at home and tailoring aid initiatives accordingly.

“ ‘People don’t migrate because they want to,’ says Juan José Hurtado, executive director of the migrant advocacy group Pop N’oj, based in Guatemala’s western highlands. ‘The lack of hope, the despair is something that pushes [migration].’ Like most people, Guatemalans want to remain in their communities, he says – if they can.

“Mr. Zapil, single and in his 20s, fits the profile of many Guatemalans who head to the U.S. in search of opportunity. He estimates four of his seven closest friends have left in recent years.

“He half expected to do it himself. Zunil is an agricultural town, where children can attend school locally through junior high. If they want to continue studying – as Mr. Zapil did – they have to travel to a nearby city, making a diploma a sometimes cost-prohibitive prospect.

“His father migrated, like many before him, when Mr. Zapil was just 2 years old. The elder Zapil couldn’t read or write, and spent 10 years in the U.S., driven by poverty and a desire to provide for his family. The children’s grandfather raised them, while their father sent paychecks home to put food on the table and keep them in school. When Mr. Zapil was 13, a cousin proposed they migrate north together, and he considered the offer. But his dad had just returned home, and his grandfather raised him with an emphasis on the value of working the land and connecting to his K’iche’ Maya history.

“ ‘I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone,’ he says. ‘My connection to the land helps maintain me. … This is what opened opportunities for me,’ he says. …

“His access to land is key to building what he refers to as the Guatemalan dream. It allowed him to develop his company, Sorel Granjas Ecológicas – a project he’s been working on and dreaming about for at least five years. The pandemic shuttered many markets and restaurants, but he’s continued making connections with potential partners.

“ ‘Those who have sufficient land to live on will not migrate,’ says Mr. Hurtado.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Christie’s
Alireza Hosseini, a refugee from Afghanistan, says of his 2019 painting “Embrace God”: “I was a man who did not know a god. I went to a sage and he told me to imagine two chairs: one for me, the other for God.” (Story at the

It can be discouraging being a refugee if your new countrymen see you more as a concept than an individual. That is why a program in France, though struggling itself, has been determined to do something that opens minds.

PBS NewsHour‘s “Arts Canvas” recently posted a report by Jeffrey Brown on letting refugees tell their stories through their art.

“JEFFREY BROWN: Portraits of migration, the troubles faced along the way, the trauma of making a new home.

“ABDUL SABOOR: I’m from Afghanistan, but, sometimes, I say from nowhere.

“BROWN: Photographer Abdul Saboor experienced it himself. In Afghanistan, he says, he worked in transportation for the U.S. Army, but fled when the Taliban began threatening him and his family. During a harrowing two-year journey, part of it spent in an abandoned train station in Serbia, he began taking pictures with a donated camera.

“SABOOR: When I show to the people, I say, that’s not normal, how we lived there.

“BROWN: His photographs became a bridge to overcome language and other barriers and raise awareness about the plight of refugees, which he continues to do in Paris. … Saboor is one of some 200 refugee artists from more than 40 countries now getting support from the Agency of Artists in Exile.

“On our visit to its makeshift building off the Seine River, an Ethiopian man belted out a traditional song with accompaniment from this phone. Across the hall, a Yemeni woman used her vast trail of official asylum-seeking papers, accumulated over two years of navigating France’s legal process, to create an art installation. … And a Kurdish actor who fled Turkey practiced a monologue about his first days in Paris. …

“Judith Depaule is director of the studio, which opened in 2017 with funding from the French Ministry of Culture.

“JUDITH DEPAULE: In the beginning, you are, like, in the state of shock. … because nobody wants you there. It’s difficult. You have to do a lot of papers. … It’s like a panic. …

“BROWN: President Emmanuel Macron has sought to criminalize illegal border crossings, while tightening restrictions on asylum, even as far-right parties in the country call for more.

“But France also has a long tradition of being a sanctuary for artists, including Pablo Picasso and James Baldwin. The idea here was to give artists a place to connect with one another, to work on and exhibit their crafts, and to help with all the practical challenges of living as a refugee.

“ARAM TASTEKIN (through translator): First of all, they helped us find a place to live. Secondly, they helped us get a work visa, find a lawyer. Some people needed psychologists, things like that.

“BROWN: Kurdish actor and drama teacher Aram Tastekin fled Turkey in late 2017. So, why did you leave Turkey?

“TASTEKIN (through translator): Because it’s complicated living there. I’m a conscientious objector. I am anti-military. I’m an artist who tries to make art and theater in the Kurdish language, to protect the Kurdish language. But when we make Kurdish art or theater, they always say it is terrorist propaganda. And that really hurts. How can a language be terrorist propaganda?

“BROWN: In 2018, graffiti artist and painter Ahlam Jarban fled her native Yemen amid its years-long civil war. She says she faced added persecution for her family’s Somali and Ethiopian roots and for her wanting to be an artist as a woman. She left everyone and everything behind, and says she still doesn’t know if it was the right decision.

“AHLAM JARBAN: Because, all of us, we are we are without our families. So we feel lonely. We feel — there is a lot of problem. But when we are together, when we speak, when we share this story, it makes us a little less stressed, make us little — keep fighting. So it is good to have this place. …

“BROWN: To further make its case and showcase its artists, the agency recently presented its third annual month-long festival titled Visions of Exile. …

“JARBAN: When they see our artwork, they don’t see it as a refugee. This see it as artist, and artist make this thing. We do all this journey to be something. We have hope, and we are human before we come.” More here.

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As you know from your earliest history classes, the first immigrants arrived in Virginia in 1607.

For good or evil, depending on how much you identify with an indigenous heritage, immigrants have made America what it is today. The migration started as early as 1607 in Virginia.

That’s what came to mind when I read this news story about the contribution of immigrants to the economy of present-day Virginia.

Katie O’Connor writes at the Virginia Mercury, “A new report from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis says immigrants are key contributors to the state’s overall economy, despite challenges that include health insurance access, discrimination, language barriers, ‘brain waste’ and housing costs. …

“As many parts of Virginia struggle to find enough workers, many immigrants are ‘relatively young, well educated, fluent in English and more likely to participate in the workforce.’

“The one million immigrants in Virginia make up 12.5 percent of the state population. … And while immigration from Mexico tends to dominate the national debate, Virginia’s immigrant population comes from a wide variety of countries.

“ ‘Mexican immigrants make up just 5% of all immigrants in Virginia, fourth after people born in El Salvador (11%), India (9%), and Korea (6%),’ the report says. ‘Looking at continent of birth, rather than country of birth, there is a similar diversity. Forty-three percent of Virginia’s immigrant population was born in Asia, the largest group from any continent.’ Most of them are also between the prime working ages of 25 and 54. …

“ ‘Immigrants participate in Virginia’s workforce at a much higher rate than U.S.-born residents — 72 percent compared to 65 percent — and at a rate six percentage points higher than the national participation for foreign-born residents.’

“But the report also points to public policies that would help address the challenges immigrants face. More than one in three noncitizen residents lack access to health insurance in Virginia, ‘even worse than in the country as a whole,’ the report states. …

“Immigrants face all the challenges that come with lack of health insurance, like large medical bills and a lack of preventative care. Virginia is also one of only six states to require legal, noncitizens to work for at least 10 years before they qualify for Medicaid.

“Housing and poverty remain problems for the state’s immigrants, as does what’s called ‘brain waste’: when people aren’t working jobs that match their educational attainment.

“ ‘In Virginia, 21 percent of college-educated immigrants 25 and older are working in low-skill jobs or are unemployed. This is well above the average for U.S.-born Virginians,’ the report states. ‘Lawmakers, employers, and workforce development officials all have a role to play in reducing this needless inefficiency and maximizing opportunity for the state.’ ” More.

When a much-needed resource is right under our noses, it’s penny wise and pound foolish not to help it flourish.

Hat tip: Economic Policy Institute on twitter.

P.S. I can’t resist adding this poem by Emily Dickinson from today’s Boston Globe:
“These Strangers, in a foreign World,
“Protection asked of me—
“Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
“Be found a Refugee—”

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Photo: Jason Margolis/PRI’s The World 
The Refuge Coffee Shop in Clarkston, Georgia, a town that has been welcoming to refugees, with a mayor who recognizes root causes of mass migration and aims to do his part.

More and more people are recognizing that the mass migrations we’re seeing today — and the wars that seem to be the main cause — are tied to climate change.

Here is a story about a small city in Georgia, home to many immigrants, that has put two and two together and is determined to be part of the solution.

Writes Jason Margolis at Public Radio International’s show The World, “Clarkston, Georgia, is often referred to as the Ellis Island of the South. Some 60 languages are spoken in this city of 13,000 just outside of Atlanta, and perhaps half the population is foreign born. Many are refugees.

“Felix Hategekimana is a refugee from Rwanda, a soft-spoken man who doesn’t talk much about his backstory, except to say that he fled violence back home: ‘We have political issues and security [issues].’

“But Hategekimana says there’s more to the troubles in Rwanda. Droughts and floods have plagued his country in recent years, and that’s led to more people migrating.

“ ‘Some people lose life in the disaster of the rain,’ Hategekimana said. ‘Some people lose life, others lose their homes and they lose their property, like their farms where they plant their vegetables.’

“You hear a lot of stories like this from refugees in Clarkston. Legally, there’s no such thing as a ‘climate change refugee.’ Refugee status is only awarded based on a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group — not because your home got wiped out by a flood, or your crops were destroyed by a drought.

“But Clarkston’s mayor, Ted Terry, says the impacts of more extreme weather are woven throughout the lives of many new residents here. …

“Climate scientists agree that storms are becoming more severe, and the trend is only going to continue. Case in point, the Category 4 cyclone that struck southern Africa recently has left at least 600,000 people displaced. The immediate needs there — food, clean drinking water and shelter — are stark. After that, a big question: rebuild or relocate?

“It’s a dilemma that many people across the globe are facing, which will inevitably lead to more people on the move. But the world still hasn’t agreed on what to do with so-called climate refugees. Take a place like Syria.

“ ‘It becomes more drier, I think,’ said Malk Alarmash, a Syrian refugee now living in Clarkston. … But Alarmash can’t say that a lack of rainfall led people to flee Syria.

“ ‘I don’t know. I don’t have any information about that, like climate change,’ Alarmash said.

“An inability to pin the seeds of conflict on climatic shifts isn’t unusual; the relationship between climate change and forced migration is immensely complicated. … A drought can destroy people’s food supplies and livelihoods. That can lead to internal migration, inflame tensions and maybe even contribute to conflict and a refugee crisis. But all of this can unfold over years. …

“ ‘The climate is the last thing in their mind. They know it’s all related, but they just say, “This is from God,” ‘ said Omar Shekhey, a Clarkston resident who is originally from Somalia. …  ‘It goes together — the civil war, the war and the climate, you cannot separate them.’ …

“Shekhey says most Somali refugees aren’t connecting the dots to climate change. But as global temperatures continue to rise, Mayor Terry, who also works with the Sierra Club, believes that those dots will become clearer, even in the US.

“ ‘We’re looking at a future, I think, if we don’t take steps to reverse global warming, we’re looking at potentially hundreds of millions of people around the world, including you know, in America, Louisiana. Their coastline is disappearing,’ Terry said. ‘And so, at some point, there has to be some sort of recognition and define what it means to be a climate refugee.’ …

“Clarkston’s mayor [wants] to address the root of the problem, starting in his own community. It’s one reason Clarkston is committing to 100 percent renewable energy — instead of fossil fuels — by midcentury.

“ ‘In some way, we’re trying to alleviate future calamities. We just have to do our part; we have to consider ourselves part of the global community.’ ”

More at PRI, here.


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If the five unexpected salmon are a sign of a comeback in the Connecticut River, this could be really exciting.

Nate Schweber writes at Al Jazeera America, “By the fall of 2015, the salmon of the Connecticut River were supposed to be doomed. The silvery fish … went extinct because of dams and industrial pollution in the 1700s that turned the river deadly. In the late 1800s a nascent salmon stocking program failed. Then in 2012, despite nearly a half-century of work and an investment of $25 million, the federal government and three New England states pulled the plug on another attempt to resurrect the prized fish.

“But five Atlantic salmon didn’t get the memo. In November, fisheries biologists found something in the waters of the Farmington River — which pours into the Connecticut River — that historians say had not appeared since the Revolutionary War: three salmon nests full of eggs.

“ ‘It’s a great story,’ said John Burrows, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, a conservation group, ‘whether it’s the beginning of something great or the beginning of the end.’ …

“The streamlined wild Atlantic salmon, genetically different from their fattened domesticated counterparts, which are mass-produced for human consumption, are so rare that anglers spend small fortunes chasing them across Canada, Iceland and Russia. …

“The stocked salmon continued to die off through the early 1970s. Gradually, scientists began to learn the importance of different strains of salmon and their close relatives, trout. In 1976 the program was able to acquire Atlantic salmon eggs from the Penobscot River in Maine, the closest surviving population both physically and genetically. This strain was still different from the lost native strain of the Connecticut River, but less so than their Canadian cousins, previously stocked there. In 1978, 90 fish from the Maine strain managed to make the two-year, 6,000-mile migration out to the food-rich Labrador Sea off of Greenland and then return to the Connecticut River. …

“As only 54 salmon returned to the Connecticut River in 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pulled out of the restoration program. New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts followed. Connecticut opted to continue stocking a small number of salmon …

“Then in the fall of 2015, biologists found five adult Atlantic salmon swimming past the Rainbow Dam on the lower Farmington River. On a hunch, they searched likely upstream spawning habitat and there found the three nests full of eggs.

In the spring of 2016 they will hatch the first wild salmon into that river in two centuries.”

More here.

Photo: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
In North America, Atlantic salmon migrate up rivers and streams to reach spawning grounds in New England and Canada.

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Sometimes I wish I lived closer to where the migrants are pouring into Europe. When I read, for example, about all that Germany is doing, how organized the country is about getting people acclimated, helping with housing and language, it makes me want to sign up. In Samos, Greece, Suzanne’s friend’s family spent weeks buying and distributing food, diapers, and other necessities.

Mark Turner writes at UNHCR Tracks about a chef who acted on his impulse to do his bit. He “packed his knives, drove to Croatia and started cooking.

“After serving up 6,000 piping-hot meals for refugees, the Swedish chef’s big wooden spoon is looking worse for wear.

“ ‘It wasn’t broken when I began,’ says Victor Ullman, a 27-year-old from Lund, displaying a large wedge-shaped hole as he pulls it from a simmering pot.

“But long days and nights serving stew to thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and many others have taken their toll. ‘As long as I am awake, I am cooking,’ he says. …

“We’re in Bapska, Croatia, a few hundred metres from the border with Serbia, where tens of thousands of refugees have [crossed], seeking safety in Europe.

“They arrive by foot, in baby strollers, in wheelchairs, hour after hour, day after day, wet, hungry, exhausted, on an epic trek towards the unknown.

“And all along the way they are met by an army of volunteers from across Europe, drawn by an overwhelming desire to help.

“There’s Florian, the small farmer from Austria; Ghais, a Syrian who made it to Europe last year; Livija, a trainee pizza maker from Berlin; Stefan, a long-distance walker (‘3,200 kilometres in 82 days!”’); Danjella, a former refugee from Bosnia.

“There are activists and BMW workers, students, sociologists and physiotherapists, sporting fluorescent yellow waistcoats marked with their name and spoken languages, reassuring the crowds, united by a sense of shared humanity.”

Victor “also feeds the aid workers and the Croatian police, who he says are good guys doing their best. ‘They call me the crazy Swede,’ he adds.

“Victor shows me a pair of boots given to him by one policeman, after he’d given his own shoes away to a refugee. ‘I love these shoes,’ he says. ‘They’re like a memory from here – one of them. Spread the love!’ ” More here.

(Jane D: thanks for the lead on twitter.)

Photo: Igor Pavicevic

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I’ve never managed to catch the herring run, but I’d like to see it with grandchildren sometime. The celebration for the Mystic River herring migration offers all sorts of extras, as I learned from the newsletter of the Mystic River Watershed Association, or MyRWA. (I’ve been receiving the newsletter since John’s stint on the board some years back.)

“The annual Herring Run and Paddle includes a 5K run/walk race, three paddling races (3, 9, and 12 miles), educational booths, children’s activities, and more. All events are held at the [Department of Conservation and Recreation] Blessing of the Bay Boathouse in Somerville.”

MyRWA reports, “The Mystic River Watershed supports two species of herring: Alewife (Alosa psuedoharenous) and Blueback Herring (Alosa aestivalis). Both species, collectively called river herring, are anadromous. This means they spend most of their lives at sea and return to rivers—like the Mystic—to spawn, or lay their eggs.

“In colonial times and earlier, herring in the Mystic River were extraordinarily abundant.  But from the 1900’s until today a much smaller population of river herring is present. …

“According to the Herring Alliance some river herring runs on the Atlantic Coast have declined by 95% or more over the past 20 years. In 2006 the National Marine Fisheries Service designated river herring as a species of concern. Population decline may be associated with numerous factors including by-catch [catching them by accident when fishing for something else], habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, poaching, access to spawning habitat, and natural predators.”

Read more here. And remind me next May that I want to visit a fish ladder.

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Photo: PA/Owen Humphries
Murmuration of starlings over Gretna, Scotland

Starlings swarm in flash mobs over Scotland every November and February, and they don’t even need social media to remind them it’s time.

According to an article at the BBC, “Tens of thousands of the birds are regularly seen around this time of year near the Dumfries and Galloway town. It is one of the most famous locations for the natural spectacle, the reason for which is not definitively known.

“A survey of the birds across the UK is currently under way with members of the public urged to record sightings. The poll, conducted by the University of Gloucestershire and the Society of Biology, is the first of its kind and has already received more than 600 reports from Cornwall to John O’Groats.

“Dr Anne Goodenough, reader in applied ecology at Gloucestershire University, said: ‘One of the theories behind the murmurations is that it means they are safer from predators such as hawks and falcons.

” ‘Another theory could be they are signalling a large roost and it could be a way of attracting other birds to that area to build up a big flock as it would be warmer. It’s much warmer to roost as a big group rather than a smaller one and the murmurations can be as big as 100,000 birds.’ ”

More here. Don’t miss the other amazing photos at the BBC site.

YouTube video: DylanWinter@virgin.net

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Photograph of northern lapwing off course in Massachusetts: Ian Davies

Birds deal with hurricanes better than you might think.

Some get blown off course, but they adapt. Today’s Boston Globe has a story by Peter Schworm and Melissa M. Werthmann on northern lapwings that Hurricane Sandy detoured from their Scandinavia-to-African migration route. The lapwings are now delighting birdwatchers on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and in Middleborough. Read more here.

And Natalie Angier writes at the NY Times, “Biologists studying the hurricane’s aftermath say there is remarkably little evidence that birds … have suffered the sort of mass casualties seen in environmental disasters like the BP oil spill of 2010, when thousands of oil-slicked seabirds washed ashore, unable to fly, feed or stay warm.

“ ‘With an oil spill, the mortality is way more direct and evident,’ said Andrew Farnsworth, a scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. …

“To the contrary, scientists said, powerful new satellite tracking studies of birds on the wing — including one that coincided with the height of Hurricane Sandy’s fury — reveal birds as the supreme masters of extreme weather management, able to skirt deftly around gale-force winds, correct course after being blown horribly astray, or even use a hurricane as a kind of slingshot to propel themselves forward at hyperspeed. …

“In preparation for a possible offshore wind development project, Caleb Spiegel, a wildlife biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and his colleagues at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have attached transmitters to the tail feathers of several types of migratory birds, including the northern gannet, a big waterfowl with a spectacular fishing style of falling straight down from the sky like a missile dropped from a plane.

“As it happened, one of the gannets was approaching the southern shore of New Jersey at just the moment Hurricane Sandy made landfall there, and Mr. Spiegel could catch the bird’s honker of a reaction. Making a sharp U-turn, it headed back north toward Long Island and then cut out to sea along the continental shelf, where it waited out the storm while refueling with a few divebombs for fish.

“ ‘The bird has since returned to New Jersey,’ Mr. Spiegel said. ‘It’s pretty much back where it started.’ ” More here.

Photograph: NY Times
A protected area for plovers in Lido Beach, N.Y., after a 2009 storm.

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