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28 July 2017

Scientists Rediscover Venezuelan Bird Not Seen in 60 Years

An international team of researchers has solved one of South America’s great bird mysteries. Working deep in the mountainous forests of western Venezuela, they have rediscovered the Táchira Antpitta, a plump brown bird species not seen since it was first recorded in the 1950s. been spotted since 1955-56, when ornithologists first recorded and described it. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Critically Endangered, and many feared it was lost for good.

Last year, scientists of the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) — a conservation partnership between the Smithsonian and several scientific organizations in Venezuela — organized a team to go in search of the antpitta. The team was led by Jhonathan Miranda of RSI and Provita, and included colleagues Alejandro Nagy, Peter Bichier of the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Miguel Lentino and Miguel Matta of the Colección Ornitólogica Phelps (COP). American Bird Conservancy (ABC) provided financial support through a William Belton Conservation Fund grant as part of its ongoing Search for Lost Birds.

The team set out in June 2016, knowing that several factors were likely to make the antpitta especially challenging to find, if in fact it still existed. The species inhabits dense undergrowth at altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet in a rugged and hard-to-reach region of the Andes. Difficult to identify visually, the bird differs in coloration in subtle ways from related species.

Antpittas are also easier to hear than to see. But without sound recordings, nobody knew what to listen for.

The researchers had an advantage: They knew where to look. “We followed the route described in the earlier expedition’s field notebooks to locate the original site of the discovery,” Miranda said.

To reach the remote location, part of what is now El Tamá National Park, the team traveled by foot on steep and narrow Andean trails, with a mule train to carry their gear. From their campsite, the team hiked two hours in the dark to reach appropriate habitat at dawn, the best time to hear the birds sing.

The first day there, Miranda and Nagy detected the distinctive song of an antpitta they had not heard before. “We were thrilled to re-find the Táchira Antpitta during our first day in the field,” said Miranda, “and we think they persist in more places we have not yet searched.”

Over the next week, the team was able to confirm the mysterious song as that of the long-lost Táchira Antpitta, obtaining the first photographs and sound recordings ever made of the living bird.

“The rediscovery provides hope and inspiration that we still have a chance to conserve this species,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC’s Vice President of International Programs. “We hope this rediscovery will lead to improved management of and attention for protected areas like El Tamá National Park.”

“El Tamá National Park is an important part of Venezuela’s natural heritage and recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a critical site to protect for the Táchira Antpitta and other biodiversity,” said Jon Paul Rodriguez of Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC, the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research), Provita, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

“Jhonathan Miranda and his RSI colleagues have resolved one of South America’s great bird mysteries, and we hope their findings will contribute to a renewed effort to conserve this species,” said Lebbin.

In the coming months, the team plans to publish the full details of their findings in a scientific journal, including how the Táchira Antpitta’s voice and visual characteristics distinguish it from other similar species. Additional field work is necessary to learn more about this mysterious bird. Similar habitat can be found nearby in Colombia, and the species might also occur there. Better knowledge of the species’ vocalizations and the visual identification gathered in this study will help researchers determine the species' full range, ecology and habitat requirements, and how best to ensure its conservation.

“This species was originally described by William H. Phelps, Jr. of the COP and Alexander Wetmore, former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,” said Michael Braun of the RSI and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “It is fitting that the Red Siskin Initiative, in which COP and the Smithsonian are key collaborators, has been instrumental in the rediscovery. We invite those interested in helping us learn more about this species to join us.”

The Venezuela search team owes its success to a number of individuals and institutions. Logistical support came from ABC, RSI, IVIC, COP, Provita, INPARQUES, Ascanio Birding Tours, the Smithsonian Institution, and the following individuals: Carolina Afan, Miguel Angel Arvelo, David Ascanio, Michael Braun, Felix Briceño, Brian Coyle, Dan Lebbin, Cipriano Ochoa, Tomás Odenall, Jorge Perez Eman, Jon Paul Rodriguez, Kathryn Rodriguez-Clark, and Bibiana Sucre.

(Photo: Táchira Antpitta by Jhonathan Miranda)

18 July 2017

New Book Engages Children Around Birds and Nature

Look, See the Bird! is a hand-drawn, beautifully illustrated children's book which seeks to not only promote curiosity in children about the natural world around them, but also to establish the universal quality of having a connection with nature and the importance of being good stewards of the earth and all its creatures.

The book follows children in a variety of locations as they learn learning about local birds and their habits. Beginning with Ruben and his sister Maria, who have decided to spend their day bird-watching in the coffee plants of their Nicaraguan farm, the story wings towards locations as far removed as Alabama and Ontario, lighting down briefly along the way as children the world over join with Ruben and Maria in spirit, looking for birds in their own backyards.

Each time, the question is asked by one child to another: "Look! See the bird?" And each time, the children are treated to the sight of a majestic bird native to their home. This unifying question joins the children on the page with the children holding the book, inviting them to look outside, and see what they can see!

Katie Fallon is a nature writer, educator, and wild bird rehabilitator. She is the author of Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird and Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird, which was a finalist for the Reed Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment. She has taught writing at Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, and is a founder of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.

Bill Wilson is the co-founder of Birds & Beans® Coffee and a consumer-marketing expert with over 30 years of domestic and international experience. Birds & Beans® Coffee is the only coffee brand in the US that solely roasts Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center 'Bird Friendly®' certified beans, 100% shade grown, organic and Fair-Trade certified coffee. The enterprise is a for profit conservation business aimed at helping stop songbird population drops. Birds & Beans conservation partners include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy.

Leigh Anne Carter is a naturalist and freelance illustrator. After traveling to California to pursue an education for science illustration she moved back to her native city of Charlotte, North Carolina. She illustrated The Birds of Mecklenburg County and is involved in local conservation efforts and education.

17 July 2017

Roasted Vegetables with Pasta

Recipe by Cindy Gordon of Vegetarian Mama

  • 1 box of Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti
  • 1 c of yellow squash, diced into ½ inch pieces 
  • 1 c of zucchini squash, diced into ½ inch pieces 
  • 1 c of red onion, diced into ½ inch pieces 
  • 1 c of red bell pepper, deseeded, diced into ½ inch pieces 
  • 1 c of cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • 1 t garlic salt OR salt and pepper as needed 
  • 1 T olive oil 
  • 1 c of fresh parsley 
  • lemon 
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 
  • Toss your veggies (excluding parsley) with olive oil and your choice of either garlic salt or salt/pepper. 
  • Put your veggies into an oven safe roasting pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. 
  • While your veggies are cooking, prepare your pasta per the directions on the box. 
  • When pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. 
  • When veggies are cooked, toss with pasta. Top mixture with the juice from one lemon half. 
  • Top with parsley and serve!

16 July 2017

Experience the Historic Solar Eclipse in Wyoming

Individuals who want to witness the historic solar eclipse this summer in the world's most-scenic location are in luck. A new indoor camping site, Snow King Basecamp has opened up minutes away from the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming -- one of the best-viewing areas in the country. Campsites are available August 17-21 and are booking fast so travelers should book now at snowkingbasecamp.com or call 877-299-7506.

With this opportunity, eclipse-lovers get the best of both worlds: the ability to watch the solar eclipse in one of the most beautiful locations in North America and the experience of "roughing-it" (except visitors will be indoors at the base of Snow King mountain next to a five-star restaurant, one of Jackson Hole's best bars, wi-fi, power charging stations, indoor bathrooms, showers and 24-hour security).

The indoor camping area at Snow King is known as "The Basecamp" and is just steps from the Snow King chair lift, Alpine slide, Snow King Resort, and children's playground with a rock climbing wall. Each campsite allows up to four people.

Rob Jennings, the creator of the indoor camping site, said he came up with the idea when he realized the town of Jackson Hole was completely sold-out during the solar eclipse.

"Up until now, it's been impossible to find anywhere in Jackson Hole to stay for the historic solar eclipse," Jennings said. "Reservations for this event were made five years ago. I got tired of turning people down and telling them they were out-of-luck. I had a few conversations and I'm very pleased to offer this opportunity up to fellow eclipse-lovers."

The total solar eclipse happening on August 21 will be the first of it's kind in nearly 40 years according to NASA.gov. Total Solar Eclipses' are rare in and of themselves, but for the first time since 1979, the path of the moon's shadow will pass through the continental United States. Jackson Hole is one of the best places to view this phenomenon as it falls directly in the viewing path.

Eclipse viewers can attend other special events in the Snow King area sponsored by Wyoming Stargazing featuring retired NASA Astronaut Scott Altman, author and astrobiologist David Grinspoon, supernovae expert, Prof. Douglas Leonard and many great activities. Tickets for these events can be purchased here.

14 July 2017

Winners of 'Top 10 Vegan Sundaes in the U.S.A.' Announced

In time for National Ice Cream Day on July 16—and in the middle of National Ice Cream Month—PETA has announced the Top 10 Vegan Ice Cream Sundaes from eateries across the country. Scooping up the top spot is vegan gourmet eatery Sublime Restaurant & Bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, whose soy ice cream sundae comes with two towering scoops of house-made vanilla ice cream; a generous pour of creamy-rich dark chocolate sauce; and sprinkled crushed, roasted nuts.

The 2017 list also includes cooling and delicious sundaes from Austin's Sweet Ritual; Crossroads and KindKreme in Los Angeles; Banán in Honolulu; Boston's Veggie Galaxy; Christopher's Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Virtuous Pie in Portland, Oregon; Denver's SNOWLAB; and The Cookie Counter in Seattle.

"From bringing back childhood memories with traditionally rich vanilla and chocolate flavors to adding creative twists like avocado and papaya, vegan ice cream sundaes offer something for everyone," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "All the cool-down concoctions on PETA's list prove that you can indulge your sweet tooth while also being sweet to mother cows."

Not only is vegan ice cream free of saturated animal fat and cholesterol, it's also kinder to mother cows on dairy farms, who are artificially impregnated and then separated from their newborn calves immediately after birth so that their milk can be consumed by humans instead.

Each eatery will receive a framed certificate. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way"—also offers tips on its website for finding delicious dairy-free ice cream at grocery stores across the country.

For more information, please visit PETA.org or click here.

13 July 2017

Super Green Spaghetti

Recipe by begoodorganics

Ingredients for 4 people: 
  • 17oz Explore Cuisine Edamame Spaghetti
  • 4 cups spinach (finely sliced & packed) 
  • 2 spring onions (finely sliced) 
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved) 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 
  • Green Tahini Sauce 
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed) 
  • 1/4 cup tahini 
  • 1/4 cup cashews 
  • 1/2 cup water (I like to use the pasta cooking water) 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 lemons) 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tsp sea salt 
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste) 
  • 1/4 cup brazil nut parmesan (to top) 
  • Cook pasta for 4 minutes, then drain and rinse briefly under cold water. Be sure to reserve 1/2 c cooking water - it'll make a huge difference to your sauce! 
  • While the pasta cooks, make up the brazil nut parmesan by blitzing all ingredients (see the full list here) in a blender until crumbly. 
  • Once your pasta is cooked, make the sauce by blending all sauce ingredients (including your reserved pasta cooking water) until smooth. 
  • Place the pasta back in the pan and turn the element onto a low heat. Add the sauce and spinach, cooking for just a minute or two until the spinach it very lightly wilted but still vibrant. 
  • Finally, mix through the tomatoes and spring onions and then remove from heat. By doing this, you maintain all the nutritional benefits of the raw veg while lightly heating them - yum! 
  • Plate up your pasta into bowls, adding 1 tbsp of parmesan to each plus cracked black pepper and extra sea salt to taste.

12 July 2017

Trace Ingredients in Otherwise Vegan Foods

The main and most widely accepted definition of veganism (taken from vegansociety.org) is as follows:

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

By making the choice to become vegan, you’re making a commitment to reduce animal suffering as much as you practically can.

The ingredients in packaged foods may come from of a large and complex supply chain. Often times, even a single ingredient may have multiple origins and could be processed in a multitude of ways.

Given these complexities, the vegan status of certain ingredients may be dubious.

Here’s a perfect example:

Cheerios at first glance could be a completely vegan food, but upon further investigation you may stumble upon the possibility that the Vitamin D in this popular breakfast cereal is lanolin derived. This means that there’s a chance it could have come from sheep’s wool. However, that doesn’t mean that avoiding Cheerios is going to do any good for animals. This is why:
  1. The amount of animal suffering that went into each box is completely negligible, perhaps too small to measure.
  2. Not buying Cheerios doesn’t have much impact on the supply and demand of the animal agriculture industry or lanolin derived Vitamin D.
  3. Lanolin derived vitamin D is byproduct of animal agriculture, not a primary driver of it.
  4. Having such a high level of scrutiny over your ingredients could make veganism seem impossible or unrealistic for other people (or even yourself if you’re new to it).
Perhaps the most important point on this list is number 4.

Which following scenario do you think is better for the animals?

Two people not consuming meat, eggs, and dairy and not worrying about trace ingredients; or one person not consuming meat eggs and dairy and worrying about trace ingredients.

Although it’s not worth getting crazed about which vitamin D fortified foods are made with lanolin, we do recommend that as you get more accustomed to veganism, you should avoid product that are completely lanolin based, such as a non-vegan Vitamin D supplement. There’s plenty of good veg-friendly ones out there in local vitamin and grocery stores.

Another interesting scenario is sugar. Conventional / non-organic Cane sugar has the potential to be processed with bone char, which is used as a whitening filter.

However, if you’re buying a product with processed sugar in it, it’s going to be near impossible to trace. Often times, the manufacturers won’t even know since they likely get their sugar from multiple sources.

So, in a scenario like this – it is important to use common sense.

If you’re buying a product with sugar in it, then we don’t recommend that you worry about it. However, if you’re buying a bag of sugar, we recommend you stick with beet sugar or organic cane sugar just to be safe! Neither of these are processed with bone char.

If you’d like to learn more about sugar specifically, we’ve written about the topic of sugar and veganism on our website.

It is impossible to reduce suffering to zero because simply existing causes some level of harm. However, if we’re conscious about our choices, one day we could live in a world where unnecessary and direct cruelty to animals is a thing of the past.

Joey Bruno is co-owner of Thrive Cuisine

Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey's true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.

07 July 2017

How to Make Vegan Ravioli with Beetroot

Vegan ravioli with beetroot is delicious and nutritious. Find out how to prepare this Italian dumpling in this post.

I mentioned how beets are among the most nutritious vegetables known to man in a beets’ taste post. Beets may not be the tastiest, but it is sure packed with nutrients. There are plenty of recipes where this veggie can be used; like the vegan ravioli with beetroot recipe that I am to share in this article.

Ravioli is a traditional Italian dumpling consisting of a filling sealed between layers of thin pasta dough. Many people consider it a good last-minute meal just like canned soup and instant ramen. It’s one of those foods that you can eat during nights when you are just lazy or tired to prepare a more intricate meal.

History of ravioli
The name ravioli comes from the ancient Italian word riavvolgere which means to wrap.

Ravioli appears to have been made sometime in the 14th century. The earliest known mention of this comfort food goes all the way back to the letters of a merchant named Francesco di Marco Datini who came from Venice, Italy.

There’s also a manuscript dated in the same century mentioning ravioli of green herbs mixed with beaten eggs and cheese then seasoned with sweet and strong spices.

In Italy, it has been a tradition to serve vegan ravioli on Fridays.

Different ravioli fillings
What I love about ravioli is that you can stuff it with different fillings. One classic filling is cheese. Classic ricotta ravioli benefits from the delicious combination of cheese, lemon juice and a delicate hint of nutmeg.

Mushrooms can also be used to fill ravioli. A mix of mushroom gives ravioli a very complex flavor.

Other popular fillings for ravioli are spinach, nutmeg, and grated lemon rind.

We’ll use beets in the vegan ravioli with beetroot recipe that I am to share later on.

Health benefits of beets
Beets may have a reputation for having an earthy flavor, but no one can deny that it is packed with nutrients. In fact, many people today are realizing how nutritious beets are. It is packed with essential nutrients like copper, iron, manganese, B-vitamins, and potassium.

There are plenty of health benefits that you can get when you incorporate beets into your diet. You can have lower blood pressure because of the high levels of nitrates in beets. Our bodies convert nitrates to nitric oxide, which helps in relaxing and dilating blood vessels.

Nitric oxide has also been found to improve blood flow to the brain, lead to improved cognitive function.

Eating beets can also lower your risks of the heart attack due to its high levels of betaine and B-vitamin folate. Both nutrients lower blood levels of homocysteine, which lower risks of arterial damage and heart disease.

As you can see, eating beets can have a positive impact on your health.

Vegan Ravioli with Beetroot

● Two red beets
● One cup of all-purpose flour
● Half cup of semolina flour
● Ten eggs yolks
● Extra virgin olive oil
● Salt
● One tablespoon of butter
● Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
● Poppy seeds
● 4-5 Asparagus spears

Step by step guide:

1. Begin by preparing the beets. Slice the tops and bottoms then wrap them in foil. Add extra virgin olive oil and salt before baking the beets at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes.

2. Allow the beets to cool before adding them to a food processor. Blend until the vegetables have pureed.

3. Let’s start working on the ravioli. Combine the semolina flour with the all-purpose flour in a bowl. Add egg yolks and stir with a fork.

4. Then pour the dough out onto a surface. Knead it all together using your hands.

5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Let it rest for half an hour before flattening it into shape. If you find the dough too sticky, simply add some more flour.

6. Roll out the dough using a pasta machine or a pasta attachment on a stand mixer. Begin on the first setting then work your way up to setting 6.

7. Lay out the dough on a flat surface. Cut out circles using a cookie cutter.

8. Bring the pureed beets then add a small spoonful of them into the middle of each pasta round. Dip one of your fingers in water then line the outer edge of the circle, fold it in half and press down to seal.

9. Boil a pot of salted water then carefully add the pasta. Reduce the heat slightly before allowing the pasta to cook for 1-2 minutes.

10. In a nonstick skillet placed over medium heat, melt butter and transfer the pasta. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

11. Boil asparagus spears for about 3 minutes or until very tender.

12. Transfer the cooked pasta to a plate before topping it with asparagus, grated Parmigiano, tarragon and poppy seeds.


While you can always get canned ravioli from your neighborhood store, I recommend that you try this vegan ravioli beetroot recipe. As you may have observed, the recipe is pretty easy to follow.

Your health will also gain a lot from the use of beets in this recipe. Beets are highly underappreciated vegetables that can provide you with plenty of health benefits.

Please share this recipe with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I am sure they’ll appreciate learning how to make a simple but nutritious ravioli recipe.