Bird news 2003 United Kingdom

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Corncrake to call in England again?

Corncrake to call in England again?

29-08-2003

Ornithological history has been made today as a partnership of conservation organisations completes an attempt to reintroduce one of Europe's most threatened birds to England after an absence of many years.
The RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), English Nature and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have released the last four captive-bred Corncrake chicks at the RSPB's Nene Washes reserve, as part of an initiative to re-establish the Corncrake as a regular breeding bird in England.

The Corncrake Crex crex - the only globally threatened bird to breed regularly in the United Kingdom - started to disappear from the English countryside more than a century ago, because of the introduction of more mechanized and intensive farming methods. Today in Britain, the species only breeds in north and west Scotland, where conservationists have been working intensively with local crofters and landowners to ensure the bird's continued survival.

The secretive member of the Rail family prefers to nest in hay meadows and other grasslands, especially those with dense vegetation. Historical developments in farming practices, particularly the mechanized cutting of hay, destroyed many nests. Later, other changes in farming methods, such as the switch from hay to silage production, effectively forced the species' extinction in southern Britain as a regular breeding bird. Since the 1950s it has only bred irregularly in England.

"Although the Corncrake is continuing to slowly increase its numbers in Scotland, thanks to intense and sustained conservation effort, we realised the bird needed help to recolonise England. Hopefully, the call of the Corncrake will once more be a feature of at least one small part of the English countryside." -Peter Newbery, RSPB

The four chicks released today are the last of 55 to be released this year. It is hoped the young birds will soon migrate to Africa, where Corncrakes regularly winter, and return to the Nene Washes next spring to begin nesting. Based on the success of the first full year of the project it is hoped that the project will release up to 100 birds a year for the next five years.
The RSPB and English Nature will be ensuring that the Nene Washes will be managed for the benefit of Corncrakes in future. Potentially-damaging farming operations, such as early grass-cutting, will be completed after the birds have finished nesting.
The Corncrake Project is a collaboration between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, ZSL's Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and English Nature.

British birds of prey still persecuted

24-07-2003

Wild birds of prey are still being poisoned, shot and trapped across Britain, while their eggs and chicks are being routinely stolen from nests, according to the latest figures from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The Society insists that this catalogue of destruction shows that the laws protecting them must not be weakened.

The RSPB's 'Birdcrime 2002' report reveals that more than half of the 591 incidents involving wild birds reported across the UK were crimes against birds of prey or owls. Of these 141 involved shooting and destruction of birds of prey, 42 of which were confirmed by the recovery of a body or illegally set trap. In addition, there were 102 reported incidents involving the use of poison, which resulted in the deaths of 32 birds of prey. And this tide of destruction shows no sign of abating. Since its reintroduction in 1989 after an absence from England and Scotland of almost a century, the spectacular Red Kite continues to fall foul to illegal poisoned baits laid in the countryside. Following four Red Kites poisoned in 2002 (plus three shot) and twelve in 2001, the RSPB has recorded nine poisoned in 2003 already.

"Birds of prey, such as the Red Kite and Peregrine Falcon, are among the best-loved birds in Britain, but the persecution of these protected species ranks as some of the most serious of wildlife crimes. These crimes belong more to the Victorian era than today's supposedly more enlightened times." —Graham Elliott, Head of RSPB Investigations

Peregrine nests continue to be plundered for their eggs and young with 24 nests robbed, accounting for 75 per cent of the 32 bird of prey nest robberies in 2002. Already in 2003, the RSPB has recorded 13 peregrine nest robberies, accounting for 59 per cent of the 22 bird of prey nest robberies reported. The peregrine is targeted by gamekeepers and pigeon-fanciers who kill the birds, and by egg collectors and illegal falconers who raid the nests.

In 2002, 33 offenders were prosecuted for crimes against wild birds in the UK, six of whom received custodial sentences showing the seriousness with which the courts view wildlife offences. Devon and Cumbria were the counties recording the highest totals of crimes against birds of prey, while other hotspots include Northumberland, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and parts of Scotland.

RSPB

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2006  | Bird News England (Archive) |  Bird news 2003 United Kingdom

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