A Conservationist in Monk’s Robes: Gen Tashi Sangpo, the Bird Lama

by cnkguy
A Conservationist in Monk’s Robes: Gen Tashi Sangpo, the Bird Lama
Tashi Sangpo, Photo courtesy of Guo Siyu/China FeaturesTashi Sangpo in the Himalaya. Photo courtesy of Guo Siyu/China Features.

<!–[if lte IE 8]>

Join the Cornell Lab

hbspt.cta.load(95627, ‘394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd’, {});

A stiff wind flutters a maroon robe as Gen Tashi Sangpo scans tawny grasslands flowing between mountains on a far corner of the Tibetan Plateau. He’s looking for a special bird—the endangered Tibetan Bunting. The bird nests in the tall grass and is only found in this one supremely remote part of the world. But Tashi Sangpo is much more than an avid bird watcher. He is a Buddhist monk, monastery abbot, naturalist, educator, artist, and filmmaker. To many, he is a hero. He is a highly respected leader of grassroots efforts to preserve nature. (The “Gen” title denotes that respect.) Many call him the “Bird Lama.”

Tashi Sangpo has spent the past two decades promoting conservation and biodiversity in the 5,000-square-mile Golok region of the Tibetan Plateau, where he grew up. Now part of Qinghai Province, China, the region encompasses the headwaters of the Yellow, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers. Birds stop there to rest during migrations north or south. Forests and grasslands are ringed by the Sermo mountain range, dotted with sparkling lakes and wetlands and crisscrossed by nomadic peoples herding yaks and sheep.

Tashi Sangpo gives a talk at the Cornell Lab. Photo by Chris FiotoTashi Sangpo speaks about conservation in a talk at the Cornell Lab. Photo by Chris Foito.

Tashi Sangpo came to the United States for the first time in November 2016 as a Global Innovation Fellow of Machik, a D.C.-based group focused on Tibet. He visited the Cornell Lab and spoke about conservation in his home region. His mission is based on a deceptively simple formula meant to create harmony between people and the environment:

Knowing. Loving. Protecting.

“If you don’t know the place, the environment, then you don’t have love for it, and if you don’t love, you won’t protect,” Tashi Sangpo said through translator Namgyal Tsepak, a Cornell Ph.D. student. “The approach I have taken is to educate people from different ages, young to old, so that they know, and from knowing they can grow to love the environment, and from there they can protect the environment.”

To work on the knowledge part of that equation, Tashi Sangpo reaches out to about 2,000 Tibetan children each year, educating and inspiring them about their environment and how to protect it. In 2004, he established the Nyangpo Yuzee Environment Protection Association. The association creates and distributes books, posters, and DVDs made by local people describing their land, the animals, the birds, and conservation actions being taken there. Ninety percent of its members are rural Tibetans.

Tibetan White Eared Pheasant. Courtesy Gen Tashi SangpoBy recording data, local people helped Tashi Sangpo determine that the White Eared-Pheasant was declining in the region. Courtesy of Tashi Sangpo.

Tashi Sangpo is training these local herders and farmers to be citizen scientists. These are people whose ancestors have lived in the region and worked on the land for thousands of years. Now their routine includes monitoring the environment. For example, they measure how far glaciers have receded (in the worst year, it was 660 feet [200 meters] from the previous measurement), how many bird species are there (130), whether there are fewer springs and lakes than the year before, and how many plants and animals are present. After collecting this vital baseline information in notebooks, the volunteers turn in their reports at Environment Protection Association headquarters. This group effort at data collection is how Tashi Sangpo learned the White Eared-Pheasant was disappearing from the region.

A Self-Taught Artist

Tashi Sangpo has another way to express his particular love for birds: his art. He is entirely self-taught and it took years of practice before he could achieve the lifelike colors and proportions of his current work which includes more than 400 original paintings.


A Buddhist Monk Saves One of the World’s Rarest Birds, Smithsonian, October 2011.

“Historically, there were supposed to be thousands of these birds in the area,” he said. “The number got really small, in the lower thirties. Since we started protecting them, the number has grown a little bit more in the past few years to more than 300 birds.” The species is restricted to China and has an estimated total population of at most 50,000. It’s listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Tashi Sangpo also combines cultural knowledge with religious traditions to ensure the conservation message resonates with people. “The practice of Tibetan Buddhism is a very important part of why our efforts have been effective,” he says. “Compassion and love are at the core of the religion.” The fact that Tashi Sangpo and his fellow monks of the Pelyul Tharthang Monastery practice what they preach is another reason people can relate.

According to Machik’s Dr. Losang Rabgey, Tashi Sangpo has reached out to the more than 50 monasteries in the Golok region, asking the monks to talk to their communities about the importance of conservation.

“We call ourselves the people of snow land,” Tashi Sangpo told the Cornell Lab audience. “The saying goes that, if there are thousands of snow mountains, then the world is at peace; if the number of snow mountains decreases, it’s still peaceful, but there is danger lurking; and if there is no snow in the mountains, then the world is coming to an end. The number of snow mountains is a reflection of the health of the Earth…this is a traditional saying.”

Extra: Saving Vultures

Tashi Sangpo has also worked to save the Himalayan Griffon, listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened. He produced this video that examines cultural reasons that contribute to their decline.

Source: Learn about Canaries and Budgies plus find more info about Budgie food and Canary Food. BIRDS and BIRDS NEWS All About Birds

Posted in All About Birds and tagged by with no comments yet.

Flying on Fumes: How Birds Meet Their Oxygen Demands at High Altitude

by cnkguy
Flying on Fumes: How Birds Meet Their Oxygen Demands at High Altitude

Mountain climbers know the feeling of trying to perform at elevation. Lungs ache for air and the heart races. Legs feel like lead and the brain gets cloudy. So just imagine how birds feel at high elevation as they go about their high-energy, high-exertion lifestyles.

<!–[if lte IE 8]>

Join the Cornell Lab

hbspt.cta.load(95627, ‘394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd’, {});

Most living creatures are adapted to breathe easily under the column of air pressing down on us at sea level. But at higher elevations there’s less air around, so a lungful just doesn’t provide the same amount of oxygen to fuel their muscles.

On top of Mt. Everest, at 29,000 feet, a lungful of air provides less than one-third as much oxygen as at sea level. To understand how birds cope with that lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, Cornell Ph.D. student Sahas Barve turned to the steep Himalayan valleys of his native India.

Over five years, he studied the evolutionary solutions these avian mountaineers had come up with. He and his colleagues published their findings in December 2016 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Though he was working in the world’s tallest mountain range, Barve’s study focused on moderate elevations (up to 10,500 feet), meaning his findings are applicable to mountain species around the world—especially as it warms.

Barve’s study site was located in the far north of India with his base camp in Chamoli in Uttarakhand province. He and his assistants studied birds in three valleys within a 10-mile radius. From Google MapsThe study took place in Uttarakhand province in the Himalayan mountains of northern India. See the full Google Map.



“One of the most common predictions of climate change is that species are going to shift upslope to get out of warmer temperatures,” Barve explains. But while moving upward may sound like a straightforward way to avoid warming, it ignores the problem of thin air. “If hypoxia is a major hurdle and birds cannot make their oxygen transport any better than they already have,” Barve says, “then it might severely limit their ability to adapt and shift their ranges higher.”

First, Barve and his hardy field assistants had to figure how the birds managed to compensate for thinner air. The researchers used mist nets to catch 15 species of birds at elevations ranging from 3,280–10,500 feet (1,000–3,200 meters). At these elevations, air has between 89 percent and 69 percent as much oxygen as at sea level.

They collected a drop of blood from each bird, allowing them to study the birds’ hemoglobin—the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. The blood sample gave them two key measurements: the volume of the blood made up of red blood cells (hematocrit) and the hemoglobin concentration in the blood, measured using a handheld monitor.

The researchers tested resident species—ones that live at the same elevations year-round, such as the Green-backed Tit and Gray-winged Blackbird—and migrants, which breed at high elevations and spend winters lower down, including the Variegated Laughingthrush and the Blue-fronted Redstart. As it turned out, the two types of species solved the hypoxia problem in different ways.

Slideshow: Meet the 15 Species

“We found the migrant species respond to hypoxia just as most humans do when moving from sea level to higher elevations,” Barve says. “They do it by increasing their oxygen transport with a greater number of red blood cells.”

It sounds like a good idea, since creating more red blood cells means more hemoglobin, which can carry more oxygen. But the strategy has a downside: thicker blood and a higher risk of clots and blocked blood vessels. And it only works for a limited time.

“The amount of oxygen being delivered to the organs actually decreases because the blood is moving more slowly,” Barve says, “It’s like pumping tomato ketchup instead of blood. It’s actually a maladaptive trait to have”—in humans it’s a classic cause of an ailment known as chronic mountain sickness. “But it’s a response that the body has a lot of control over so that’s why it’s seen in a lot of organisms.”

Like a flatlander going on a ski vacation, the migrant species have apparently found a short-term solution that allows them to survive at high elevation for long enough to complete the nesting season. This quick fix also has the benefit of being reversible, allowing their blood composition to revert to normal when they return to lower elevations.

Meanwhile, Barve found the six resident species had all independently evolved a different technique to increase their oxygen uptake, one that doesn’t come with a time limit.

“The resident birds do not increase the number of red blood cells,” Barve explains. “Instead, they increase the amount of hemoglobin inside each cell.” In essence they make more oxygen-carrying hemoglobin without having to also build all the other parts of a red blood cell. “So they avoid all the bad things that can happen because of thicker blood.”

Researcher Sahas Barve discusses his fieldwork in the Himalaya mountains and describes how his childhood in Bombay led him to a career in science.

In other parts of the world, a few other ways to cope with thin air have evolved. Hummingbirds in the Andes can increase the oxygen-carrying ability of individual hemoglobin molecules. Due to the remoteness of his study sites, Barve wasn’t able to test for this in Himalayan birds. People native to the Tibetan plateau use yet another approach, taking more breaths per minute and loading their blood with nitric oxide, a substance that keeps their blood vessels dilated and increases bloodflow. And in the Ethiopian highlands, native people somehow breathe easily above 11,000 feet, but researchers still aren’t sure how they do it.

As for the future, Barve says his research shows that for species that live on mountainsides, coping with climate change might not be as easy as just moving upslope.

“I don’t think we give hypoxia the attention it deserves,” says Barve. “A lot of species around the world live at high elevations and we don’t know how it affects species distribution in the present, let alone in the future.”


Barve, S., A.A. Dhondt, V.B. Mathur, F. Ishtiaq, and Z.A. Cheviron. 2016. Life history characteristics influence physiological strategies to cope with hypoxia in Himalayan birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. November 2016.

<!–How to Breathe Easy: How Birds Cope With Altitude in the Himalaya


Not just birds

Black throated Tit in the Himalaya. Photo by Ram via Birdshare.

Black-throated Bushtit in the Himalaya. Photo by Ram via Birdshare.

Three human populations live continuously at high elevations in Ethiopia, Tibet, and the Andes. Each copes with hypoxia differently. People in the Andes produce more red blood cells; Tibetans have larger lungs and nitrous oxide in their blood–a substance that keeps their blood vessels open as much as they can be; Ethiopians do not increase the number of red blood cells but their exact coping mechanism is not fully understood.


Source: Learn about Canaries and Budgies plus find more info about Budgie food and Canary Food. BIRDS and BIRDS NEWS All About Birds

Posted in All About Birds and tagged by with no comments yet.

heroinemidnight: ask-manda-of-the-6: superpoorlifechoices: hun…

by cnkguy
heroinemidnight: ask-manda-of-the-6: superpoorlifechoices: hun…















It’s actually impossible to measure how many fucks a corvid give because there is no device sensitive enough to register such a tiny amount.

science/animal side of tumblr… explain to me the birb thing

Tail Pulling is a behavior noted in many corvids. The practical application is to create a distraction that will allow the birb to make off with the target’s food. Imagine being in the lunch room and a large fellow has a Twinkie you covet. You can’t just take it from him because he’ll defend his Twinkie. But if you thwap him on the back of his neck and then dash around to snag the Twinkie while he investigates, you stand a decent chance of enjoying spongey goodness. This is basically that in birb form.

Except corvids don’t only do this as a distraction. Sometimes they seem to just being doing it to mess with other animals/birbs. But to use my lunch room analogy, there are times you might thwap someone sneakily on the back of the neck just for amusement. Primates exhibit behavior that appears to be just be annoying other animals for amusement. Given how intelligent crows are, its not unlikely that this is a manifestation of an innate desire to just fuck with someone else for the fun of it. Such as this from the link above:



This speaks to me on a molecular level.

birbs just wanna have fun

Sorry to hijack a little, but to put it bluntly, corvids are also pretty BALSY. They are more than prepared to harass other huge birds of prey which could deal them a lot of damage. There’s plenty of cases of corvids ‘riding’ other birds as well. It’s often to harass the larger bird out of the area, but as @red3blog said, they quite often (in layman’s terms) enjoy fucking shit up for fun.

‘Where the hell is the seatbelt on this thing?’

I mean they deserve a medal for having such huge bird balls imo

Literally no fucks are given by corvids. Ever.


@ceruleanturtle >w<


Source: Learn about Canaries and Budgies plus find more info about Budgie food and Canary Food. BIRDS and BIRD PICTURES Birds are the Best

Posted in Birds are the Best and tagged by with no comments yet.

birbfriends: fairy-wren: Magnificent Hummingbird (photo by Sam…

by cnkguy
birbfriends: fairy-wren: Magnificent Hummingbird (photo by Sam…



Magnificent Hummingbird

(photo by Sam Bobbing)


Source: Learn about Canaries and Budgies plus find more info about Budgie food and Canary Food. BIRDS and BIRD PICTURES Birds are the Best

Posted in Birds are the Best and tagged by with no comments yet.