Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seeing something new.....the hard way!!

Now I suppose to hear of a  "new" bird species being discovered in the depths of the Amazon jungle comes as no surprise to anyone. To learn of a bird being found in the middle of nowhere on the bleak, inhospitable Tibetan Plateau is rather different.  The story......

Way back in 1929 , and whilst participating on an expedition to the Karakorum, the Dutch explorer Jerome Alexander Sillem collected a variety of finches at 5125 m, which then found their way back to the Zoological Museum in Amsterdam.  In 1991 Professor C.S.Roselaar noticed a couple of the specimens amongst this collection of Brandt's Mountain Finches were "different " and , after extensive checking, they were declared to be a separate species, Sillem's Mountain Finch. A nice story in itself and apt recognition for the efforts of the discover, Jerome Sillem.  But , until 2012, neither sight nor sound of the species had ever emerged!!

In June, 2012 Yann Muzika, a wildlife photographer,  was trekking in the Yemgov valley on the Tibetan Plateau and took various photographs of mountain finches he encountered. Believe or not, on the day he took the photographs , he'd called a halt to the trek as he was ill with food poisoning, but managed to have a wander around the camp site!! Incidentally, the location is around 1500 km away from the initial location that the species was collected in.

Take a look at his web site ( and book mark it for future!! ) and the accompanying story, (Sillem's Mountain Finch. ) and read the full story, but also see the reportage by the BBC ( BBC Science ).

I feel a sense of joy for Krys Kazmierczak, who Yann first contacted with the photographs, and who first suspected the re-discovery and also Professor Roselaar, whose own "discovery" had been confirmed , but in the best possible sense, by the species being found thriving still. Unfortunately, the overall area the bird is likely to be present in is somewhat sensitive in that the territory is scrutinized by India, Pakistan and Chinese Authorities and wandering around at will is not to be encouraged, nor finds enthusiastic support!! That a species with, one suspects, such a limited distribution and restricted population is still surviving is quite an uplifting story in my book. With so many "negative" reports coming to the fore nowadays, a good news story such as this, and earned in such a testing fashion, is more than motivating, and at the very least!!  

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