World Bird News January 2013

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Shorebird trapping threatens new Spoon-billed Sandpiper wintering site in China

Shorebird trapping threatens new Spoon-billed Sandpiper wintering site in China

Four Spoon-billed Sandpipers were found at Fucheng, near Leizhou, south-west Guangdong Province in December 2012. Together with several other recent sightings this record indicates that Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a more widespread wintering species on the coast of southern China than was previously known. However, evidence was found of large-scale trapping of shorebirds and action is needed to address this threat.
The discovery was made by Jonathan Martinez and Richard Lewthwaite of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society during a project to investigate the winter distribution of Spoon-billed Sandpiper in southern China. They surveyed nine sites in south-west Guangdong and found the group of Spoon-billed Sandpipers in a large area of drained-down fishponds at Fucheng. This site is close to Zhanjiang, where the French ornithologist Pierre Jabouille described Spoon-billed Sandpiper as fairly numerous in winter in the 1930s, and where Professor Fasheng Zou of the South China Institute of Endangered Animals recorded three Spoon-billed Sandpipers in March 2003.

Since 2005, there have been sightings of Spoon-billed Sandpiper during the winter months at several other sites in southern China, indicating that this is a more important wintering area for the species than was previously known. The northernmost wintering location is the Minjiang Estuary in Fujian, where a flock of Spoon-billed Sandpipers has regularly been present in recent winters. There have also been sightings of up to three birds at Xitao in south-west Guangdong, Mai Po in Hong Kong, Fangcheng and QinzhouBay in Guangxi and the Changhua Estuary in Hainan. The on-going project will carry out further surveys in Fujian, Guangxi and Hainan and will hopefully locate some more wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers.
One of the three Spoon-billed Sandpipers recorded at Zhanjiang in 2003 was caught in a bird trapper’s net. Since then the problem of trapping appears to have become even worse and illegal bird-netting now poses a major threat to Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other shorebirds. The team counted a total of 460 mistnets during the survey – these were typically 25 m long and 3 m high, meaning that the nets counted equated to a length of 11.5 km. The nets were placed, often in parallel lines or V-shapes, beside shorebird roost-sites on fishponds, saltpans and sandbars on the coast, as well as in nearby paddyfields and marshes.

The shorebird trapping found during the survey has been reported to Guangdong Forestry Department, which is responsible for the protection of wildlife. Discussions are underway amongst Chinese birdwatchers and conservationists about how to support the local government agencies to address the trapping of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other migratory birds (and other forms of illegal hunting) at the key sites for these birds.

The project “Study of the non-breeding distribution of Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Southern China” is being managed by The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and supported by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong. It is being implemented in partnership with Fujian Bird Watching Society, Xiamen Bird Watching Society, Beilun Estuary National Nature Reserve and Kadoorie Conservation China of Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.

Don't fence them in

BirdLife Australia (BirdLife Partner) has joined an alliance of conservation groups calling on the West Australian government to halt its plans to extend the State Barrier Fence.

Construction of the fence extension in the Esperance region would create a largely continuous barrier that would run through five bioregions from North of Geraldton to Cape Arid.

BirdLife Australia has many serious concerns about this proposal, including concerns that the WA Government made a commitment to build the fence prior to the completion of appropriate socio-economic and environmental studies.

However our major concerns relate to the potential ecological impacts of the fence, particularly where the fence will cut through the Great Western Woodlands, separating 300,000 ha of contiguous bush from the main woodland block.

BirdLife Australia Conservation Manager Jenny Lau said that the fence may lead to the death of thousands of emus in migration years, prevent dingo re-establishment and destroy at least 1000 hectares of bushland.

At a time when most governments are working to improve wildlife corridors, the WA government’s plans to create a massive wildlife barrier, deliberating fragmenting the world’s largest remaining intact temperate woodland, is both puzzling and disturbing.

Please help us Stop and Rethink the Fence by taking action now.

Demonstrating ecosystem service values in Africa

Tue, Jan 8, 2013
Despite growing awareness of the importance of ecosystem services in supporting human well-being, conservationists are rarely able to provide policy-makers with robust information about the overall consequences of land use decisions. Existing locally-relevant data are too patchy and the methods, skills and resources needed to collect new information are typically unavailable.

Starting in January, an 18-month project will train African conservationists to conduct ecosystem services assessments and use the results to promote better policy decisions and build institutional capacity. Participants will be trained to use an ecosystem services ‘toolkit’ that measures multiple services delivered by a site. The toolkit, developed by a consortium of organisations under the umbrella of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, can demonstrate the ‘added value’ that high biodiversity sites often provide in terms of human well-being benefits. These benefits may occur at the local, national or global scale. It therefore promotes a better understanding of the social, political and economic factors related to site conservation and what could be done to achieve better outcomes for both biodiversity and human livelihoods.

Selected participants will attend a practical training workshop in April 2013 prior to implementing the ecosystem services toolkit at several threatened high biodiversity sites in the region. A follow up workshop in the second year will provide support in analysing and interpreting their results for a policy audience. Capacity building through this project will enable practitioners to work at the science-policy interface, to better inform real-world decision making.

The project will generate greater awareness of the ecosystem services approach across Africa and will engage local practitioners in using this approach for site-based conservation. It will also generate novel data for future global analysis of site-scale ecosystem service values and participants will provide useful feedback to help modify and improve the toolkit for wider use.

This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation and is a collaboration between the Tropical Biology Association, BirdLife International, RSPB, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

SPEA calls for permanent protection for Algarve wetland IBA

Portugal’s Secretary of State for the Environment has halted the proposed destruction of the Pera Marsh IBA to make way for a golf course and holiday complex. Pera Marsh is better known to birders as Salgados Lagoon (Lagoa dos Salgados). The development has been suspended while a full Environmental Impact Assessment is carried out, which conservationists hope will lead to a permanent reprieve for the site.

The Secretary of State acted within hours of receiving a petition signed by almost 21,000 people. The fact that more than half the signatories came from outside Portugal has helped transform a local dispute over the fate of a mismanaged and undervalued wetland on the Algarve coast into what is said to be Portugal’s largest environmental campaign in 30 years. The petition was delivered by the Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados, a coalition of NGOs including SPEA, the BirdLife Partner in Portugal.

“In ordering the EIA, the Secretary of State has met the first of our requests”, said Domingos Leitao, SPEA’s Rural Programme Coordinator. “The year has begun well, but if 2013 is to mark a real turning point for Salgados, the Ministry of the Environment must also introduce full protection for the site, and implement the management plan to maintain and enhance its biodiversity.”

Pera Marsh qualifies as an Important Bird Area because of regionally significant populations of waterbirds considered threatened within the European Union. These include wintering and migrating Spoonbills, breeding Little Bitterns, Purple Herons, Purple Swamphens and Black-winged Stilts, and Portugal’s only breeding Ferruginous Ducks. Almost 150 bird species have been recorded at Salgados, which has become one of the prime birding spots in the Algarve, generating hundreds of thousands of euros in ecotourism revenues every year. It is also a regular study site for school and university students from inside and outside Portugal.

But Pera Marsh was not assessed as an IBA until 2002, and missed inclusion on the list of Portugal’s Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs), sites which automatically become part of the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Governments which have attempted to develop SPAs, or failed to maintain them, have been prosecuted in the European Court.

SPEA is confident that as a result of the EIA, the development of Salgados will be thrown out permanently. The project, first approved in 2008, was in breach of newly introduced planning laws for the Algarve, and would not be approved if resubmitted today.

SPEA and other Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados now want the government to grant formal protection of the site as a nature reserve, and ideally an SPA. They are also calling for immediate implementation of an already-approved management plan for Salgados. Among other issues, the plan specifies a system of sluices, which would allow the water level to be managed for the mutual benefit of nesting birds and the people who use the land surrounding the marsh. In recent years, the sandbar separating Salgados from the sea has been repeatedly breached by bulldozers when nearby golf courses were threatened with flooding, draining the marsh and leaving nests exposed.

Urgent International support sought for Azores Bullfinch

Swiss recovery programme shows increase in bird species

Over the past ten years the population of Little Owl in Switzerland has increased after a sharp decline. Hoopoe has more than doubled and Corncrake has come back at the level of breeding species after almost reaching the level of extinction in the 1990’s. These are some of the results of the Swiss Species Recovery Program for Birds.

This programme, which was launched in 2003 by SVS/BirdLife Switzerland together with the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the Federal Office for the Environment, provides safe species-specific nesting sites and improves or creates habitats providing sufficient food. A common coordination unit is partly based in Zurich, at SVS/BirdLife Switzerland and in Sempach, at the Ornithological Institute.

At the beginning of the programme a sound analysis of the target species was made. Endangered species were only included if they were not naturally rare (e.g. at the edge of the breeding area). A next step was the realisation of an assessment aiming at measuring the sufficiency and relevancy of the existing conservation measures in habitats and sites for the conservation of these species, or if they needed additional measures. The result was that 50 priority species were in need of specific measures, which would be delivered by the programme.

During the last ten years actions in the field have been carried out for 30 species and six official action plans were produced; the first ones for species conservation in Switzerland. The action plans should give the programme even more strength and extend its outcomes to more than 50 species.

For more information, please contact Werner Müller and Raffael Ayé

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

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