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Magnificent Riflebird: Directional Color | Cornell / National Geographic

July 20, 2018

Iridescence can be seen only when light hits feathers at just the right angle. By adjusting where they are relative to their audience, males can “turn on” their bright colors. Magnificent Riflebirds seem to use this feature with particular precision, even choosing display sites that put their audience in exactly the right place to see the show in the best light. Filmed and photographed by Tim Laman, Ed Scholes and Eric Liner.

There are currently seventy-two short films in the entire Birds-of-Paradise Project playlist, ranging from 26 seconds to 8:29. In the upcoming weeks, we will present some of our favorites.

A film from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.  [Chuck Almdale]


Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 22 July, 8:30 & 10am.

July 19, 2018

Great and Snowy Egrets galore, Malibu (Grace Murayama 7-14-17)

The migrating shorebirds are already starting to return in their bright colors. And the mullet are jumping!

Some of the great birds we’ve had in July are: Gadwall, Pied-billed and Eared Grebe, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Snowy Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, Heermann’s & Western Gulls, Least, Caspian, Royal & Elegant Terns, Black Skimmer, Anna’s & Allen’s Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Rough-winged, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Oak Titmouse, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Common Yellowthroat, California Towhee, Savannah & Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Hooded Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Munchies will be served (G. Murayama 7-23-17)

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m. – Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 40 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We meet at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo below) next to the parking lot and begin walking east towards the lagoon.  We always check the offshore rocks and the ocean.  When lagoon outlet is closed we continue east around the lagoon to Adamson House.  We put out special effort to make our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginning birdwatchers.  So please, if you are at all worried about coming on a trip and embarrassing yourself because of all the experts, we remember our first trips too.  Someone showed us the birds; now it’s our turn.

Children and Parents Walk 10:00 a.m.   One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area between parking lot and channel.  We start at 10:00 for a shorter walk and to allow time for families to get it together on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Our leaders are experienced with kids so please bring them to the beach!  We have an ample supply of binoculars that children can use without striking terror into their parents.  We want to see families enjoying nature. (If you have a Scout Troop or other group of more than seven people, you must call Jean (310-472-7209) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Map to Meeting Place
Directions: Malibu Lagoon is at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road, west of Malibu Pier and the bridge.  Look around for people wearing binoculars.
Parking: Parking machine recently installed in the lagoon lot: 1 hr $3; 2 hrs $6; 3 hrs $9, all day $12 ($11 seniors); credit cards accepted. Annual passes accepted. You may also park (read the signs carefully) either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road, or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center.  Lagoon parking in shopping center lots is not permitted.

Ruddy Turnstone may still look like this (Grace Murayama 7-14-17)

Prior checklists:
2017: Jan-June, July-Dec 2018: Jan-June,
2016: Jan-June, July-Dec 2015: Jan-May, July-Dec
2014: Jan-July, July-Dec 2013: Jan-June, July-Dec
2012: Jan-June, July -Dec 2011: Jan-June, July-Dec
2010: Jan-June, July-Dec 2009: Jan-June, July-Dec.
[Chuck Almdale]




Volunteers needed at Audubon Ballona Wetlands Education Program

July 16, 2018

One of the Ballona Salt Marsh channels (Leslie Davidson ’07)

The Los Angeles Audubon Society is seeking volunteers to help us connect local school children with nature. Our high quality environmental education programs help to raise awareness among elementary and middle school students about the wonderful natural habitats found within our own city limits, at the Ballona Wetlands and at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Over 3,000 budding naturalists participated in our field trips during the 2016-2017 school year.

Training for the Ballona Wetlands program commences on Thursday, September 13th  and continues on the five following Thursdays until October 18th. Each training session run from 9 am to noon.

Training for the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area on Friday, September 21stand continues on the five following Fridays until October 26th. Each training session run from 9 am to noon.

No experience is necessary; just a love of the outdoors and a willingness to work with children. For more information please contact Cindy Hardin at or at 310-301-0050.

Thanks so much.
Cindy Hardin

Does Evolution Have a Point? 12 Days of Evolution #12 | PBS Science Video

July 15, 2018

We complete the final episode of the PBS explanation of evolution.
In my opinion, if you think deeply upon the wide-ranging implications of the quotation from Theodosius Dobzhansky, presented at the very beginning of the first episode, it will give you greater insight into the workings of biology, including everything humans have ever done, do now, and ever will do, than anything else you might ever read or learn.

“Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”
— Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973

This is an installment of the PBS – It’s OK to be Smart series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.

Watch all 18 minutes of this 12-part series at once and avoid the Dropbox ads here.
[Chuck Almdale]

Genetic Testing Goes Mainstream

July 11, 2018

My apologies to you is this topic is distressingly off-bird-topic. We do run blogs of a general science nature – those videos we post every 4-5 days, for example – and this topic fits well within that category. But most of our readers have read about genetic testing; many have sent in their DNA for testing, or are thinking about it but want to know more before they plunk down $80-$1000. This is for you as a public service.

You are likely already well aware of the enormous effects of recent advances in DNA analysis on all biological fields. The familial relationships of bird orders, families, genera and species are reshuffled yearly; new field guides are out-of-date before they’re printed. All people with European ancestry have neanderthals in their family tree. Disorders are daily discovered to have genetic mutations as their cause. Stem cells, designer DNA, evolution, insurance discrimination, eugenics – the list goes on.

In 2017, more than seven million people, mostly in the United States, sent their DNA to testing companies. Are you one of them? Are you one of the many millions more thinking about it?

In any case, you should read this series of reports from Science News, to which we provide links. Science News, in publication for over 100 years, is a widely-read and respected bimonthly devoted entirely to science.  [Chuck Almdale]

Special Report: Genetic Testing Goes Mainstream
This links to the entire collection of reports.
For an individual report, links are provided farther below.
Consumers are jumping on the genetic testing bandwagon. Many don’t know what’s in store. What you can expect to learn from consumer genetic testing. Review of experiences with companies offering health-focused and ancestry-based readouts. A close look at genetic privacy policies. The usefulness of prenatal genome testing. The risks of direct-to-consumer telomere testing. A video explanation of DNA recombination shows how heredity works.

The following chart doesn’t appear in the on-line articles, but was included in the magazine version of  Comparative Review (final item below). If the chart is garbled in your email, read it on the blog. Additional testing services Veritas and Genos, not included below, are discussed in The Comparison of Results article (see link below).

  National Geographic Geno 2.0 Living DNA Family Tree DNA 23andMe Ancestry DNA
Cost $200 $159 $79** $99 $99
Ethnicity Estimates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Relative Matching Coming Soon Yes Yes Yes
Neanderthal Results Yes Yes
Analysis of Y Chromosome Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Yes Yes Yes Yes
Family Tree Building Yes Yes
Pros Specialized for looking into the deep past Offers detailed ethnicity estimates for people of British or Irish descent Incorpor-ates DNA results into family trees Explains results well Allows DNA results to be combined with traditional genealog-ical records
Cons Provides no ancestry information within the last 500 years Can’t link relatives to a family tree Doesn’t explain results well; website is hard to navigate Can’t link relatives to a family tree Provides no information about ancient ancestry
** Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA analysis costs extra


What is DNA recombination? – YouTube Video | Science News
DNA recombination can be a confusing concept, especially in how it can influence consumer genetic test results. If you’re wondering why you and your sibling seem to have very different ancestors, this explanation, using lego blocks, makes it all clear.


Consumer DNA testing promises more than it delivers.
Here’s what to expect from consumer DNA tests.
Writer: Tina Hesman Saey
Published by Science News 5/26/18

The Comparison of Results
What genetic tests from 23andMe, Veritas and Genos really told me about my health. What you need to know before signing up for at-home DNA testing.
Writer: Tina Hesman Saey
Published by Science News 5/26/18

Risks and Riddles
What consumer DNA data can and can’t tell you about your risk for certain diseases. Consumers face lots of choices and unanswered questions.
Writer: Tina Hesman Saey
Published by Science News 6/9/18

A Peek into the Womb
Guidelines call for limits to whole genome testing for fetuses.
Writer: Laura Sanders
Published by Science News 6/9/18

Finding Family
DNA testing can bring families together, but gives mixed answers on ethnicity. Ethnicity estimates vary widely depending on which company is doing the testing. DNA testing helped one man find his biological family in southern Maryland and his Irish roots.
Writer: Tina Hesman Saey
Published by Science News 6/23/18

At-home telomere (the “cap” at each end of each chromosome) testing is not a reliable marker of aging, researcher says. Companies pledge to tell you your cellular age from a drop of blood. Don’t be so sure.
Writer: Cory Vanchieri
Published by Science News 6/23/18

Comparative review of 5 DNA testing companies
What author Saey actually learned about her family after trying 5 DNA ancestry tests. Results can vary widely depending on which company you use.
Writer: Tina Hesman Saey
Published by Science News 6/23/18

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