World Bird News February 2013

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Spring comes alive with migrating birds

Spring comes alive with migrating birds

The eighth edition of Spring Alive a BirdLife International educational campaign that focuses on the observation and tracking of migratory birds, will be launched in February and continue until 21 June.

Spring Alive attracts participation from Europe, Central Asia and Africa and tracks the arrival of five well known and common spring migrating bird species: White Stork, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Common Cuckoo and Eurasian Bee-eater.

The participants follow spring as it arrives across the continent and record their observations online at BirdLife Partners across Europe and Central Asia from February on, and Africa from September on, will organise a series of events to welcome the arrival of spring and the bird migrations it brings with it. Birdwatchers, experts, children and families, teachers, everyone is welcome to enjoy the events and games, all mixing fun and education with activities such as field trips, species information and photo contests.

Last year was launched the innovative spring “bird reality-show”. For the first time anyone could follow the fortunes and everyday habits of two Swift families via live webcams. Every Spring Alive participant is also invited to write his own “Spring diary” online.

Caroline Jacobsson, Head of Communications and Marketing at BirdLife Europe says: “For most of the children participating in Spring Alive it is the first contact with nature and an opportunity to have fun by observing birds while learning more about them.” She continued ”The observation of birds migrating between Europe and Africa provides a unique occasion to create an understanding that birds cross many borders during their journey “.

The Spring Alive 2012 edition was the most successful in the project’s eight year history with more than 173,140 registered bird observations. BirdLife Europe hopes that the 2013 edition will be even more successful, bringing in new countries and reaching a wider audience.

The project would not be possible without the support of The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA), Spring Alive’s main sponsor. MCFEA aims to encourage the appreciation and conservation of flora and fauna with an emphasis on endangered species. The campaign is also financially supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB; BirdLife in the UK).

Court Ruling Threatens Red-Breasted Goose

Court Ruling Threatens Red-Breasted Goose

In January, the Bulgarian Court overturned a decision by the Bulgarian Minister of the Environment to revoke permission for a wind energy project threatening a high nature value area as well as the globally endangered bird species inhabiting it.

The court ruling might lead to Bulgaria ending up in front of the EU Court of Justice.

The case in question refers to the plans to construct 95 wind turbines close to Durankulak Lake – one of the most important wintering sites on the Black Sea coast for the globally threatened red-breasted goose. As a consequence, red-breasts might lose a significant part of their feeding area not to mention the risk of collision with the wind turbines. It is also at odds with an EU LIFE+ funded project run by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB; BirdLife in Bulgaria) ‘Safe Grounds for Red-Breasts’, which aims, with local and international partners, to find solutions to the problems facing the geese.

Despite a totally inadequate environmental impact assessment, the proposal was waved through by the regional inspectors, only for it to be quashed by the Bulgarian Minister for Environment and Water after the BSPB campaigned vigorously against it. This victory seemed to be part of a turning tide in Bulgaria towards proper regulation of development and protection of key nature conservation sites, exemplified by the adoption of the Bulgarian National Renewable Energy Action Plan.

The judgement to overturn the Minister’s decision on a legal technicality is deeply misguided. Overruling the Minister’s decision when the project is obviously in direct breach of European law does no one any favours. If this project is implemented, there can be no doubt that the European Commission will take the strongest action through the European Court of Justice to require the Bulgarian Government to remove the damaging project and make good any damage to red-breasts. This will be an embarrassment to the Bulgarian Government (which is already in trouble with the Commission over previous poorly placed projects), and a damaging indictment of the Bulgarian judiciary.

BSPB and the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water have submitted a final appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court to get this judgement revoked. BirdLife Europe strongly encourages the court to find in favour of the appeal, so that the red-breasts will remain free to feed in their key wintering grounds as they have done for centuries.

Delivering an effective and collaborative new migratory bird conservation initiative in the Mediterranean Basin

Capacity Building for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean is an important new BirdLife project with support from the MAVA Foundation for Nature. The project aims to achieve long term outcomes for the conservation on the Africa-Eurasia flyway for migratory birds in the Mediterranean Basin, through establishing a strong, committed and dynamic network of NGOs in the region.

The Mediterranean Basin lies at the heart of the Africa-Eurasia Migration Flyway, with hundreds of millions of migratory birds passing twice-yearly. However, many key stop-over and non-breeding sites are seriously threatened, hunting and trapping are widely out of control, and there is an emerging collision and electrocution threat for soaring birds from the expansion of power infrastructure (wind and solar energy and transmission lines). Furthermore, lack of political and public support for conservation and a strong hunting and trapping culture in some countries further compound the situation in the region.

Capacity development

The project’s main focus is the strengthening of a group of eight national NGOs working effectively to protect key species, sites and habitats along the Africa-Eurasia Flyway. Participating countries and organisations include: Turkey (Doga Dernegi), Lebanon (Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon), Cyprus (BirdLife Cyprus), Malta (BirdLife Malta), Macedonia (Macedonian Ecological Society), Montenegro (Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro), Morocco (Groupe de Recherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc) and Tunisia (Les Amis des Oiseaux).

Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Director for Partnership, Capacity and Communities at BirdLife International said: “In particular, the initiative aims to establish self-sustaining organisations with enhanced capacity for flyway conservation in these countries. The initiative will also support participating NGOs to work with Local Conservation Groups, building local capacity to lead conservation initiatives at key sites.”
Reducing threats to migratory birds in the Mediterranean Basin

Another objective of the initiative is to support participating NGOs in the implementation of conservation activities for the reduction of threats to migratory birds in the region. Towards this objective, BirdLife is providing support to participating NGOs for the implementation of national level flyway conservation activities, focusing on reducing illegal killing and hunting, engagement with the energy sector on reducing the effects of infrastructure on migratory birds and conservation of specific key sites stop-over sites for these species.

Strengthened regional collaboration and coordinated action

Finally, the project will consolidate its achievements through enhancing knowledge exchange for flyway conservation across the Mediterranean region and encouraging coordination of conservation action at the regional level. Indeed, successful flyway conservation will require all participating organisations to work together to undertake conservation action, advocacy and campaigning initiatives. Coordination of conservation action is crucial for the protection of migratory birds and BirdLife, largely through its global Flyways Programme, is in a unique position as an extensive global network to address these flyway level conservation issues through empowering and building the capacity of national NGOs.

“The threats to our migratory birds present a truly shared challenge that calls for real collective and collaborative action. Cyprus is one of the smallest countries in this shared project, and we are looking forward to working with close-by and not-so-close-by neighbours to tackle these problems, for the sake of what is, after all, a shared heritage of migratory birds”, said Martin Hellicar, Campaigns Manager for BirdLife Cyprus.

The MAVA Foundation

BirdLife would like to thank the MAVA Foundation for its invaluable support towards the project. Created in 1994, the Foundation’s mission is to engage in strong partnerships to conserve biodiversity for future generations, working with build strong conservation communities.

With the support from the Foundation for this initiative, it is hoped that migratory birds and their key habitats in the Mediterranean will be better protected through a strong, effective, sustainable conservation programme led by a committed and coordinated network of national NGOs.

San Francisco Bay recognised as ‘Wetland of International Importance’

Confirming its vital role in the natural health of the hemisphere, San Francisco Bay/Estuary in California, USA has been designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention. San Francisco Bay is home to more than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates and more than 130 species of fish .

“We’ve long known that the Bay is of hemispheric importance to migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, and this recognition just solidifies that stature among the international community”, said Andrea Jones, coastal stewardship program director with Audubon California (BirdLife Partner in the USA). “We hope that this will bolster efforts to restore and protect these critically important habitats.”

While this designation will not result in new legally-binding protections for wildlife and habitat in the Bay, it does focus international pressure on agencies to step up conservation efforts and may lead to additional funding for wetland restoration.

“This designation should be a point of pride for anyone living in the larger San Francisco Bay Area”, said Beth Huning, Coordinator of the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture. “Despite intense urban pressures, San Francisco Bay nonetheless endures as one of our country’s great natural treasures.”

The designation is the result of nearly four years of work on the part of member organisations of the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, which coordinates a number of public and non-profit agencies, landowners, and the business community to protect and restore wetlands for migratory birds and other wildlife. Audubon California played an important role drafting the application in conjunction with other partners.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an intergovernmental treaty adopted in 1971 that provides a voluntary framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem, and promotes the “wise use of all wetlands.” The United States signed the treaty in 1987.

This special designation is awarded based on science. Decades of research from conservation organisations such as PRBO Conservation Science, Audubon California, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, and the US Geological Service, among others, summarised results on common and endangered wildlife to make a compelling case for this award.

The designated site includes wetlands and waters of the nearly 400,000 acres in and around the Bay, and encompasses a variety of landowners – both public and private – dedicated to protecting habitat for birds and other wildlife.

New Zealand Storm-petrel discovered breeding 50 km from Auckland City

Researchers are elated to find the sparrow-sized New Zealand Storm-petrel, thought extinct until 2003, is breeding on Little Barrier Island Hauturu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. The team of researchers is led by Chris Gaskin – Important Bird Area Programme Manager for Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) – and Dr Matt Rayner from the University of Auckland.

The seabird is listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List and finding the breeding site is vital for their conservation.

Three specimens of the diminutive 35g seabirds were collected off New Zealand in the 1800s and are held by museums overseas. Since its rediscovery, there has been speculation as to where this seabird breeds.

The team camped on the Poor Knights Islands, Mokohinau Islands and Little Barrier Island using radio receivers to zero in on the breeding site.

“It’s like looking for a needle in the haystack,” said Chris Gaskin. A critical breakthrough came last year when the project team found brood (incubation) patches on birds caught at sea. This determined the timing of incubation in New Zealand Storm-petrel, the best time to find breeding birds on land.

This year, 24 birds were caught at sea using specially designed net guns and small 1g radio transmitters were fitted to each bird. Automated receivers narrowed down the search. Team members, based at a remote camp on the north coast of the Little Barrier Island, using handheld receivers and spotlights, confirmed that birds were coming ashore under the cover of darkness and moving inland. This prompted moving the search area. Then, when a signal was picked up of a bird stationary in forest at night, team members were able to get a clear fix on where that site was.

Dr Rayner says: “The site being monitored is very fragile and with birds at a delicate stage in their breeding cycle. We are using automated equipment for the most part and maintaining a hands-off approach, although team members visiting the vicinity have also been keeping watch.”

“On Friday morning a bird was discovered on the ground, possibly having just left its burrow. At the same time team members detected another bird, this one most probably on a nest,” said Chris Gaskin. “It’s an amazing result for our enthusiastic and dedicated team.”

Members of the research team will remain on the island over the coming weeks. Aerial surveys are also being used to try and establish the distribution and size of the population.

The Hauraki Gulf Forum is about to publish a Hauraki Gulf seabird management strategy and research plan drawing on the work of Chris Gaskin and Dr Rayner and New Zealand and international collaborators.

Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, John Tregidga, said locating the breeding ground was internationally significant and further highlighted the importance of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as a globally significant biodiversity hotspot.

Dr Rayner, a Little Barrier Island trustee, said the discovery reiterated the importance of careful management of conservation jewels, such as Little Barrier Island and surrounding marine environments.

The project has been funded this year by grants from Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, BirdLife International Community Conservation Fund, The Little Barrier Island Hauturu Supporters Trust and ASB Trust, Auckland Council, Forest & Bird Central Auckland Branch and Peter Harrison/Zegrahm Expeditions, with further support from the Department of Conservation, Hauraki Gulf Forum and Landcare Research.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2013 |  World Bird News February 2013

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