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Featherweight flyer, long-distance champ
A tiny songbird weighing just two tablespoons of sugar migrates from the Arctic to Africa and back, a distance of up to 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles), scientists reported yesterday.
The size of an undernourished sparrow, the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) tips the scales at just 25 grammes (0.9 of an ounces).
But biologists who tagged the tawny-and-white insectivore were stunned at its flight endurance.
They attached minute geolocators, each weighing just 1.2 grammes (0.04 of an ounce) to the legs of 46 wheatears in Alaska and on Baffin Island in northeastern Canada.
The Alaskan birds spent the winter in Africa before returning back home, a journey of about 14,500 kms (9,000 miles) each way, in which they flew on average 290 kms (181 miles) a day.
“They are incredible migratory journeys, particularly for a bird this size,” said Ryan Norris of the University of Guelph in Ontario.
“Think of something smaller than a robin but a little larger than a finch raising young in the Arctic tundra and then a few months later foraging for food in Africa for the winter.”
Champagne producer strikes gold
A French champagne producer literally hit gold when workers doing up an old building on his property brought down a shower of US coins hidden in the rafters.
Francois Lange, the head of the Alexandre Bonnet champagne-producing firm, in this eastern French village on Tuesday described the treasure trove as one consisting of 497 gold coins – with a face value of 20 dollars each – minted between 1851 and 1928 and worth today about 750,000 euros (980,000 dollars).
“One of the workers were attacking the building’s ceiling with a crowbar when gold coins started to rain down on him, followed by sacks of gold,” he said.
Half the find will go the workers and half to the owner.
The origin of the treasure was not known, but the building, a former grape-drying facility, used to belong to a wine producer who traded with Britain and the United States in the 1930s.
Lange said his firm might produce a special vintage to celebrate the find.
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