June 2009

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  June 2009

Early indicators suggest crash for threatened heathland bird

Early indicators suggest crash for threatened heathland bird

The heavy snow in February may have had a devastating affect on the Dartford warbler in some of its UK’s strongholds.
Initial reports suggest Dartford warbler numbers on important heathland sites in Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire are down by around 80 to 90 per cent from 2008 due to this year’s snow.
The areas, known as the Thames Basin Heaths and Wealden Heaths, are the third and fourth largest breeding grounds for Dartford warblers in the UK. Both areas are also becoming increasingly important internationally as numbers plummet in Europe.

A fine balance

The full extent of the drop will not be known until the results of breeding bird surveys are released in autumn, but early counts found very low numbers on major sites including Ash to Brookwood Heaths in Surrey, Broadmoor to Bagshott Woods and Heaths on the Surrey and Berkshire border, and Bourley and Long Valley on the Hampshire and Surrey border.Dartford warblers are classified globally as Near Threatened – one step below species facing world extinction. Changes and deteriation of the bird's habitat in Europe has seen populations decline by an estimated 40 per cent in just ten years.The restoration of southern English heaths, plus increasingly milder winters, has seen the UK’s Dartford warbler population fare better. Despite crashing to 11 pairs in the harsh winter of 1963, the UK population is now estimated at around 3,200 pairs.Initial findings suggest this year’s UK crash is localised to the Thames Basin and Wealden Heaths. But conservationists say the drop at these key sites, already under pressure from surrounding development, shows how important it is to protect them, giving the Dartford warbler populations in these areas the best chance of survival possible.

Sam Dawes, conservation manager in the RSPB's South East region, said: “The impact of this winter’s snow shows what a fine balance there is for these birds between success and failure.

“Dartford warblers have generally been doing well on the Thames Basin and Wealden Heaths in recent years due to milder winters and better protection of the sites.
"The Thames Basin and Wealden Heaths, and the special birds they support, have never been so important but it’s a rare habitat that desperately needs protecting.
“Climate change could also see Dartford warblers ousted from their traditional grounds in Europe and north-west Africa, and if the birds can’t find refuge here, on our heaths, the future for them could be very bleak indeed.”
The Dartford warbler surveys are carried out by a team of experienced volunteers based in Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey, co-ordinated by local ornithologists John Clark and John Eyre.
The RSPB has been campaigning for better protection of the Thames Basin Heaths from the effects of increasing housing development in the area.

Bumper year for birds of prey at Dungeness

Bumper year for birds of prey at Dungeness

Dungeness nature reserve is having a bumper year for birds of prey and owls.
Barn owls, kestrels and marsh harriers are all breeding on the reserve, and sightings of other species have increased. Up to 15 hobbies ( right) are now regularly using the reserve as a hunting ground, as are peregrines and little owls.

Incredible

Bob Gomes, RSPB Dungeness site manager, said: “Hobbies are known for their agility and speed and to see large numbers circling over the reserve is just breathtaking. They fly really low and will sometimes end up right in your path. The other day I was practically eyeball to eyeball with one, it was incredible.“All these remarkable species in one place is nature’s way of giving Dungeness the thumbs up. It means the area’s biodiversity is healthy enough to support the needs of these demanding species.“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If ever you needed a clearer message about the need to stop Lydd Airport’s expansion it’s this. We are remarkably lucky to have such a precious natural asset in our midst, allowing a major airport to develop so close to it could mean the end to scenes like this.

“That’s not what the people of Kent want. We have seen media reports that council officers have recommended the plans for Lydd Airport expansion be rejected, we can only hope the councillors follow the advice of their own officers and throw this out once and for all. We’ll be on tenterhooks until 9 July."

Eyes to the skies for red kites!

A new RSPB Scotland project to attach satellite tags to red kites for the first time in the UK will link schools and communities with the growing Northern Red Kite population, and establish a new visitor attraction later in the year. Eyes to the skies will positively engage people with the stunning birds of prey, which were first reintroduced to the area in 1989, and reached 48 breeding pairs in 2008.
The new programme will run for two years, attaching satellite tags to at least 15 chicks (in the nest) to make their movements accessible at a new website - www.eyestotheskies.org.uk. This will allow people to learn more about the birds as they take their first flights, exploring their Highland surroundings. An education programme will be rolled out to Highland schools, and ten primary schools have been chosen this year to 'adopt' a tagged kite.
In addition to being able to follow the birds online, plans are afoot to be able to show people red kites at a new feeding station and visitor attraction, due to open in Autumn.
Claire Buchanan, Red Kite Community Officer with RSPB Scotland said:
"Red kites are stunning, graceful birds of prey with forked tails and 6 foot wingspans. They're a magnificent sight soaring in the countryside, and we're keen to let people in the Highlands see just how amazing these birds are. I'll be visiting local schools to tell them about the birds, and we're keen to let schools adopt birds that they can then follow online to see where they end up. But adults are often mesmerised by these beautiful birds too, so we hope that they'll also use the website, and visit the new feeding station we plan to have up and running later in the year, which will help draw in tourists to the area as well."
Mairi Robertson, Head Teacher at Grantown Primary School, who are adopting one of the tagged kites said:
“We are very happy to be involved in such a unique and exciting project. The children are getting a lot out of it, not just the chance to learn all about the amazing red kites but also an opportunity to see how technology may be employed to bring us new and revealing insights into their day-to-day lives. Whilst red kites are not an everyday sight to us in Grantown, we look forward to the future when these beautiful birds will once again form an integral part of our landscape”.

RSPB Ynys-hir receives 40th anniversary gift from Heritage Lottery Fund

RSPB Ynys-hir receives 40th anniversary gift from Heritage Lottery Fund

The heritage of the lower Dyfi Valley is to be conserved and enhanced thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) it was announced today.
The award of £699,000 will allow RSPB Cymru to carry out nature conservation work at the RSPB Ynys-hir site and develop the site for wildlife and people.
The work, which will start this year, will restore a large area to floodplain grazing marsh. This habitat is important for a range of rare wildlife including the red listed lapwing, reed bunting (right -Pic Sergey Yuliseev) and curlew, as well as otter and brown hare.
The money will also enable more people of all ages to learn about and enjoy the special landscape of the Dyfi valley. Future plans include the provision of a free bus service to local schools to enable school children to experience wildlife first hand, and the employment of a Community based officer to liaise and raise awareness of the conservation work taking place on site within the local community.
Russell Jones, Warden at RSPB Ynys-hir said: “ We are delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund grant will help this work to take place. The reserve is an excellent resource for the local community and visitors from further afield, and with the funding we will be able to develop the site to its full potential.”
The HLF Committee for Wales, which makes decisions about the allocation of lottery funding for heritage projects, visited the Ynys Hir site to mark the announcement.
Dan Clayton Jones, Chair of HLF Committee for Wales, said: “The Dyfi Valley is a place of natural beauty and international importance. Today we’ve seen first hand the positive benefits our previous investment has made in helping RSPB conserve, retain and enhance important populations of wildfowl breeding waders in the valley.
“This latest grant will further strengthen efforts to conserve our natural heritage for future generations. The increased public access will give thousands more people the opportunity learn about and experience this unique landscape, which is home to rare wildlife. I look forward to returning once work is completed and taking part in a volunteer led walk.”

The reserve is situated within the Dyfi Valley, which has recently been officially recognised as Wales’ only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and only the second in the UK. This unique status means the area joins the likes of Uluru (Ayres Rock) in Australia and Mount Olympus in Greece.
New paths and a new and bespoke viewing facility across the Dyfi estuary is also planned, to enhance the visitor experience and bring them closer to the unique birds and wildlife found on the reserve.
Thanks to a decade of funding from HLF (and a range of other sources), RSPB Ynys-hir is one of the most successful breeding grounds for lapwing in Wales. This project hopes to increase the numbers at Ynys-hir from 70 to more than 100 pairs over the next three years.

Wader wonderland at Shorne Marshes

Lapwing and redshank numbers are up significantly on a major North Kent nature reserve, an RSPB survey has revealed.
The encouraging rise on our Shorne Marshes nature reserve has come about due to the targeted conservation work we've undertaken at the reserve.
The two year project has seen an automatic pumping station installed to maintain the grazing marsh – essential for the success of wading birds like the lapwing.
RSPB’s Paul Hyde said: “When we purchased the site in 2000 there were only three breeding pairs of lapwings and nine pairs of redshanks. This year we counted 28 breeding lapwing pairs and 60 redshank. Its terrific.”
Paul added: “Lapwing have recently been added to the red list of birds of conservation concern so this success story is good news. It highlights yet again how important North Kent is for struggling species.”
Visitors can access Shorne Marshes via the Saxon Shore Way, which offers a walk along the Thames from Gravesend or Cliffe Pools. Cyclists can also visit the reserve using the Sustrans track, which runs along the south of the reserve.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  June 2009

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