July 2007

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  July 2007

Boom in woodlark numbers prompts return to farmland

Boom in woodlark numbers prompts return to farmland

16 July 2007
Woodlarks are returning to breed on England's farmland in greater numbers than at any time in the last 40 years.
A new national survey has found woodlark numbers in the UK have risen by 89 per cent in the last 10 years. The rise has been driven by work to provide suitable habitat – improvements to the size and condition of lowland heaths and good management of forestry plantations.
Increasing numbers of the birds now appear to be moving on to farms to breed, with many nesting on set-aside land. There are fears, however, that the imminent loss of set-aside - because of changes in the way Europe pays its farmers - could limit the woodlark's spread unless suitable alternatives are provided.
The results of the survey, carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), RSPB, Natural England and the Forestry Commission (England), show an estimated 3,084 breeding pairs of woodlark, compared with 1,633 pairs in 1997 and the low point of just 241 pairs in 1986.
Traditionally a bird of heathland, farmland and more recently forest plantations, the woodlark was red-listed as a species of conservation concern in the 1980s because of a drastic decline in its range over the preceding 20 years.
Much of the decline coincided with the loss of traditional, mixed farmland in the South West and Wales, along with the loss of heathland habitat throughout the UK.
While today, the bird's strongholds remain England's lowland heaths and forestry plantations, where they thrive in clear felled areas, farmland is becoming increasingly important once again.
This latest survey shows how set-aside has tempted a proportion of the UK's burgeoning woodlark population to return to farmland.
Simon Wotton, research biologist at the RSPB, said: 'About 21 per cent of the birds we surveyed were on farmland and other grassland habitats, of which about 7 per cent was set-aside.
'It seems woodlarks are moving on to this land from nearby heaths and from forest plantations.'
Greg Conway, Research Ecologist at the BTO, who organised the survey, said: 'It is marvellous to see that the breeding population has almost doubled since 1997 and the range has increased considerably, with large leaps to the west and north. This survey would not have been possible without the support of hundreds of birdwatchers, to whom we are all extremely grateful'.
Set-aside was introduced in 1992 with the aim of taking land out of production to reduce the EU's infamous grain mountains.
The move proved an accidental boon to wildlife, including many birds, by providing a source of food in the winter and somewhere to nest free from disturbance.
Recent changes to the way subsidies are paid to Europe's farmers now seem to have made set aside redundant and it is likely to be abolished by the European Commission next year.
Sue Armstrong-Brown, the RSPB's head of countryside conservation, said: 'The return of the woodlark to our fields, heaths and forests is brilliant news – and shows how important set aside has become as a refuge for wildlife on our farmland.
'The crucial thing now is to keep the environmental benefits when the policy is updated. Birds like the woodlark are trying hard to adapt to the new ways of managing the countryside and we must not sabotage their recovery.
'We must increase our efforts to restore and manage lowland heaths to create suitable conditions for the woodlark and also ensure that the management of forestry plantations provides suitable breeding habitat.'
Natural England's senior ornithologist, Allan Drewitt, added: 'It is encouraging to see such a dramatic increase in the numbers and breeding range of woodlarks. This is largely the result of improvements to their lowland heathland habitats by conservation bodies including Natural England, the RSPB and local wildlife trusts, and the efforts of the Forestry Commission in providing and maintaining suitable nesting areas in their plantations.
'The £25m Heritage Lottery funding of Tomorrow's Heathland Heritage has done a lot to help heathland species like the woodlark. We must now increase our efforts to restore and manage lowland heaths for the woodlark and other wildlife, and also ensure that the management of forestry plantations continues to provide breeding habitats.'
Forestry Commission ecologist, Jonathan Spencer, said: 'It is good news that the forest habitats and heathland creation we have developed in key areas have supported the woodlark population, enabling them to increase and return to more traditional habitats.

'We are committed to working closely with partners such as the RSPB to support priority species, and for survey results like this to help guide us in our woodland and habitat management.'

More than half of our turtle doves are missing!

2nd July 2007
A report published today has revealed that the numbers of the turtle dove have plummeted by 61 per cent in just 12 years.
The Breeding Bird Survey – a partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), RSPB and JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) – has shown that the turtle dove has disappeared from many parts of England, including the north and the south west, but it has become increasingly hard to find in its arable stronghold of East Anglia.
The turtle dove is one of many long-distance migrants, whose numbers returning to the UK each spring are decreasing. It is believed that the decline could be linked to factors on migration – such as illegal hunting around the Mediterranean – or to conditions on African wintering grounds.
Equally, changes in agricultural practice, leading to a reduction in the quantity of weed seeds – a principal food source – have been cited for the decline.

However, the population of another farmland bird have improved in the last 12 years as the reed bunting has increased by 39 per cent since 1994: a marked turn around from the situation 30 years ago when this sparrow-sized farmland bird began a steep decline which saw its numbers more than halve in the decade up to the mid 1980s.

There are hopes that the relatively recent increase in the extent of funding available to farmers for wildlife-friendly agriculture may have benefited this bird. A principal cause for the decline of the reed bunting has been the lack of weed seeds in fields – a principal food source for the reed bunting and other farmland birds.
Encouraged by the modest rise in the UK reed bunting population, the RSPB is hoping that farmers attending today's Royal Show will be looking at wildlife-friendly farming schemes as a way of ensuring a more secure future for farmland birds and providing an additional source of farm income.

First class farmer wins wildlife award

First class farmer wins wildlife award

Lapwings are swooping and tumbling above fields in Norfolk following a farmer’s decision to put the birds before his profits, making Steve Mumford the RSPB/Jordan Cereals Lapwing Champion for 2007.
Steve manages Lower Farm, Narborough for farmer Chris Knights who once had more of the rare stone-curlew on his land than he did the lapwing. That startling fact sparked five years of work to revive the lapwing’s fortunes.
Mr Mumford and his team of 15 started managing the farm’s grasslands to provide nesting and feeding sites for lapwings and all decisions on cropping are now based on the birds rather than the economics.
Whole fields have been left fallow because they have attracted too many nesting lapwings for farm work not to harm them – one field this year had 27 pairs - and three fields have been taken out of production permanently and are now covered with grass and wetland areas - the conditions lapwings seek.
Longer vegetation around arable fields at 400-acre Lower Farm means there is plenty of food for both adults and young birds; chemicals are used sparingly and nest sites marked and avoided.
Steve said: 'Birds and other wildlife are top of the agenda for Chris and his enthusiasm for birds has carried everyone else along.'
As a result of all the work, lapwing numbers have jumped from 30 pairs in 2002 to 54 pairs this year.

The Stone Curlew.Click book cover for further details

The Stone Curlew.Click book cover for further details

'We’ve also had two stone-curlew pairs at Lower Farm for the first time and many of my farm workers are avid bird watchers now,' Steve added. 'We plough around nests of any ground-nesting bird we find. It’s an approach that runs through the business.

'Chris and his son Paul have always wanted to help wildlife. When it was fashionable to rip out hedges, make big fields or make big heaths they wouldn’t do it. We aren’t influenced by fashion or fads, or government incentives, so we are really delighted to have won the RSPB’s award.'

The RSPB's Director of Conservation, Dr Mark Avery said of Steve: 'The work of Steve Mumford and his colleagues at Lower Farm has brought about a remarkable increase in lapwing numbers but this has not been at the expense of farming. Lapwings are in decline and we need to do all we can to help them. There is general agreement that farmers are doing a good job for the environment and we should make sure they are rewarded for doing so. We work with 3,000 farmers every year, an amazing number that keeps increasing.'

Andy Cotton, Agriculture Adviser for the RSPB, said: 'Steve has engendered a culture amongst his 15 farm workers where the birds come first. Lapwings are now breeding very successfully on the farm and some of them are moving into new areas as their numbers grow.

'Lower Farm is a first class example of how an arable farm, with top-grade productive soils and high-value crops, can operate in a commercial environment but also benefit wildlife at the same time.'

This is the fifth year of the Lapwing Champion competition which is sponsored by Jordans Cereals.

Seabirds struggling again

Seabirds struggling again

18th July 2007 RSPB
Mid-season reports from coastal RSPB reserves in Scotland suggest that the UK's seabirds are having yet another poor breeding season.
Cliffs in some parts of the north and west are near-empty, where there should be thousands of birds nesting. Climate change seems to be disrupting food availability. The RSPB is keen to ensure that areas seabirds use for feeding should receive greater protection, and the Society is calling for a Marine Bill.
Last week Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a half-hearted commitment to introducing a draft marine bill in his legislative programme, put out for consultation last week.
Martin Harper is the head of the RSPB's sustainable development department. Reacting to Gordon Brown's statement, he said: 'Increasing protection for marine wildlife has been an outstanding commitment for this government over the last decade. We are disappointed, therefore, that the Prime Minister remains to be fully convinced of this need.
'The protection of sites and species on land has not been mirrored in the marine environment, leaving species and habitats vulnerable to many threats. Any omission from this year's legislative programme remains a great concern to the RSPB and jeopardises the government's manifesto commitment.'
'We owe it to everyone who believes in greater protection for the marine environment to continue our fight.'

fulmar

fulmar

Norman Ratcliffe, seabird ecologist with RSPB Scotland, said: 'Yet again, Scotland's seabirds seem to have had another worrying season. Our reserves on Orkney and the west coast definitely seem to have suffered from lack of food to feed chicks.
'Some cliffs - which should be packed with birds - are just about bare, as adult birds abandon the nest once their breeding attempt has failed.

'This is all linked to food availability, which can be disrupted for a number of reasons. We're fairly certain that on the east coast, rising sea temperatures are leading to plankton regime shifts, which in turn affects fish like sandeels - a major food source for seabirds.
'Sandeels might be abundant for a time, but when this critical food source enters the next phase of its life cycle, they swim down to the bottom of the sea and bury themselves in the sand, meaning they become unavailable as food.
'This often happens sometime in July, but if it occurs early, you can get mass mortality of near-fledged chicks as has been seen for terns nesting on Coquet Island, in Northumberland, this year.
'Parent birds may then switch to pipefish, but chicks find these hard to swallow, they are less nutritious, and the parents spend much longer away from the nest, leaving chicks vulnerable to predation and attack from neighbouring nests.'
The UK's coastline is home to 18 exclusively marine species of seabird, including puffin, gannet, kittiwake and guillemot. The great skua, Manx shearwater, gannet and shag have their most important populations in the world in the UK.
Although the full picture won't be known until later in the summer, it's already clear that some areas of the country have had a disastrous year, with Orkney, parts of Shetland and north-west Scotland suffering badly - definitely worse than last year, and probably the worst since the dreadful 2004 season.
The relationship between temperature and food requires more research. It is not as simple as saying 'warmer waters are bad for seabirds', because if warmer waters bring more food, then seabirds will do well. Puffins in Norway do well in warmer years because herring there are more productive in higher sea temperatures.
A full analysis of the season will only be possible at the end of the summer, but the RSPB believes it is indeed very worrying that this is another in a recurrent run of bad seabird breeding years in Scotland, and an indication of how wildlife is having difficulty adjusting to our changing climate.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2007 |  July 2007

add this

RSPB

RSPB GIFT MEMBERSHIP

RSPB GIFT MEMBERSHIP


celestron
Foto

Foto

Today' Best Deals
Lizard Bird Diary

Lizard Bird Diary

d





Compact Mini Rubber 8 x 21 Kids Binoculars

BTO

Valid CSS!