World Bird News July 2012

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2012: Record-breaking season for Spring Alive!

With the arrival of summer, the 7th season of the Eurasian Spring Alive programme has been completed, characterised by the breaking of a new record and a technological innovation. The campaign now moves to Africa where from September onwards, participants will celebrate the arrival of spring with bird-watching and other bird-related activities. At least seven African countries will newly join the Birdlife’s Spring Alive campaign: Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Nigeria.

This spring, in the European and Central Asian region, a record-breaking number of 161,111 observations were recorded (34,889 more than last year). Russia scored the highest number of observations: 80,328! They share the podium with Italy (51,144) and Poland (6,476). The project’s website was visited by more than 93,000 people-the highest number ever.

Moreover, the Spring Alive family has never had so many participating countries: for the first time ever, the 2012 campaign had over40 !

The BirdLife Partners participating in the project organised many bird and bird-watching activities to share their passions, increase their popularity, educate and raise people’s awareness of bird conservation

So what was the breakdown of the Spring Alive bird observations? Similarly to last year, the Barn Swallow was the bird seen most frequently (35% of the observations); the Common Swift was reported in 30% of the observations; the Common Cuckoo arrived in third position (23%) whilst the White Stork placed fourth (8%). The Eurasian Bee-eater, the rarest species recorded during Spring Alive, was only seen by 5% of the participants.

This year Spring Alive innovates with “bird TV”.

For the first time, everyone interested could follow the fortunes and everyday habits of two Swift families via live webcams at in the “About Birds” section.

A live webcam feed from two nest boxes in the Hans-Hermann School, Germany, has been transmitting the day to day lives of two Swift families since 2006. Now the Martinet and Herrmann families will be followed outside of their nests by Sping Alive fans.

The Spring Alive campaign is gaining more and more popularity. The growing enthusiasm and interest in the project is reflected not only in the overall number of observations, but also in the enlargement of the list of participating countries and a greater audience reached. BirdLife Europe hopes that this interest will result in young people being more sensitive to the protection of birds and nature conservation.

For more information please contact Karolina Kalinowska, International Spring Alive Coordinator at OTOP (BirdLife in Poland).

If you visit Cyprus say no to Ambelopoulia

If you visit Cyprus say no to Ambelopoulia

BirdLife Europe encourages those visiting Cyprus during its 6-month EU presidency to enjoy the many traditional culinary delights the Mediterranean island has to offer, but with one important exception: ambelopoulia (trapped birds).

The issue at stake is not gastronomic but ecological, and relates to the source and content of this one dish. Ambelopoulia is the name given to a local “delicacy” consisting of blackcap warblers and other songbirds illegally trapped in their thousands in Cyprus every year. The tiny birds are eaten whole, legs, beak and all. Local demand for these traditional but illegal ‘delicacies’ is the financial driving force behind what has become a mass annual slaughter of migratory birds, most of which come from mainland Europe.

The Cyprus EU Presidency begins on July 1st and runs till the end of 2012. As with any EU Presidency, visitors will flock to the host country to take part in a series of formal and informal meetings and conferences. It is a chance for Cyprus to show off its many delights and attractions.

Cyprus has a plethora of customs due to its long history and tradition and numerous distinctive dishes for visitors to taste. The best place to do this is in one of the many traditional tavernas dotted around the island’s attractive villages, where one could order a selection of Cyprus dishes such as koupepia, souvla, kolokasi, pourgouri, seftalies and makaronia tou fournou to name a few. Or for the ultimate gastronomic experience in Cyprus and the best way to try all of these and more in one sitting, one should order ’mezedes’, a selection of more than 20 vegetable and meat dishes, but make sure you are hungry as food will be plentiful.

Ambelopoulia, however, spell an ecological disaster of considerable proportions, hence the BirdLife Europe warning to steer clear. Non-selective methods such as mist nets and limesticks are used for trapping birds during the migration periods, mainly during the autumn but also in the spring. Trappers mainly target blackcaps but also other birds such as bee-eaters and shrikes. The list of trapped bird species is over 150 species long and includes 78 species listed as threatened by BirdLife International and the EU Birds Directive.

Moreover, the widespread application of these non-selective methods contributes to large-scale killing of birds, with literally hundreds of thousands of birds being killed every year in Cyprus. The illegal trapping – outlawed by both the EU Birds Directive and the Cyprus bird protection law – is highly lucrative, with a plate of a dozen ambelopoulia selling for between €40 and €80 in law-breaking restaurants.

The banned dish is usually served secretly, so it is unlikely that foreign visitors will be presented with the trapped songbirds in a Cyprus tavern. But it is important for visitors to be aware of the darker side of Cypriot cuisine and steer well clear of it.

Cyprus is in the European spotlight and BirdLife Europe will be working hard together with its Cypriot colleagues in BirdLife Cyprus and the Cypriot authorities to consign bird trapping to past history, which is where it belongs.

Black-browed Albatross shows population increase

A new report indicates a healthy increase in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). The report, submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government, indicated that recent and historical survey results show an increase in this threatened species.

Black-browed Albatross is currently classified as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Over two-thirds of the global population breed in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species.

Within the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) different methods have been used independently to census the Black-browed Albatross population. Ian, and more recently, Georgina Strange have conducted aerial photographic surveys of colonies in the Falkland Islands since 1964, with archipelago-wide surveys in 1986, 2005 and 2010. Members of Falklands Conservation have carried out ground and boat-based surveys of the Falklands population in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Up until and including the 2005 census results, these initiatives reported contrasting population trends. The aerial based surveys indicated an increase in the population between the mid 1980s and 2005 and the ground based surveys a decline between 1995 and 2005.

However, the aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 both reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. The positive trends from both of these surveys is further supported by favourable survival and breeding data from an ongoing study carried out by scientists at New Island (one of the twelve breeding sites in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season. The breeding population estimate obtained from the 2010 ground-based survey was larger than the estimate for 2000. Furthermore, the 2010 ground-based estimates for the two largest colonies in the Falklands (at Steeple Jason and Beauchêne islands) were similar to those derived from surveys carried out in the 1980s.

Dr Cleo Small from RSPB/BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme said: “When 17 out of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go – with the UK Overseas Territories other major population on South Georgia continuing to decline. But this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses. Bycatch in fisheries is their main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.”

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) officer for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and author of the report said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird bycatch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.” On the basis of the reported results, and the fact that the Falklands population comprises approximately 70% of the global total, the report recommends that consideration should be given to downlisting the species from Endangered. The report has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process. The report also recommends that efforts to further improve seabird bycatch mitigation should continue, both to buffer the local population against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species.

State of Paraguay’s birds is published

Guyra Paraguay has launched the first major report on the status of bird populations in Paraguay. The report, entitled State of Paraguay’s birds, outlines in detail the current status of the country’s birds, the threats they face and the urgent actions needed to secure their future.

Despite its small size, Paraguay has a rich biodiversity that includes over 700 bird species. It is situated at the convergence of six major ecoregions: Pantanal, Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, Southern Cone Grasslands, Dry Chaco and Humid Chaco. To date, 57 Important Bird Area (IBAs) have been identified for endemic, threatened and congregatory bird species, these also hold considerable other biodiversity.

The report identifies that 17% of Paraguay’s bird species are now at risk of disappearing from the country altogether. The status of IBAs is similar, 58% of them has suffered land changed use, especially those with forest habitat, as well as southern IBAs at the Mesopotamian grasslands that has suffered the expansion of rice plantation in 10 years. The main threats that are influencing the status of birds and its habitats are the deforestation that affects principally Atlantic Forest (that has lost over 86% of its original coverage) and the Chaco that has a deforestation rate of 1000 hectares per day. Other pressures as economic growth and climate change has been identified for have enormous effect on the biodiversity status.

Over 15 years of Guyra Paraguay working, conservations actions has been identified and put in place in order to improve the status of biodiversity. Response has political will, protection and management of IBAs, economic incentives in the form of payments for environmental services, new policies to safeguard other habitats such wetlands and natural grasslands, and more important create consensus for the change: renew our relationship with nature, policies along cannot do it, it needed the attitude changes.

Story submitted by Leticia López, Guyra Paraguay.

This is the latest national report produced in collaboration with BirdLife’s State of the world’s birds programme. To download the report (available in Spanish or English) and access other State of the nation’s birds reports from around the world please Click here

300 million farmland birds lost since 1980 – How many more must we lose before changing course on the CAP?

The latest scientific data brought together by BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council show that common farmland birds continue to decline in the EU: 300 million farmland birds have been lost since 1980. The news was released last week, on the eve of a major civil society debate organised by the European Commission and the new Cypriot Presidency of the EU on Friday 13, in which decision makers and civil society organisations discussed support for the so-called “green reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”. Amidst growing fears that this latest reform might not deliver on its promises, today’s news should have a serious sobering effect and remind everyone what is at stake.

The current CAP results in a range of activities that damage the environment, and especially biodiversity. Intensification, which is accompanied by over-use of chemicals and the loss of landscape heterogeneity, has been one of the main causes of destruction of many farmland ecosystems around Europe. Another is the abandonment of High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems, threatened by our inability to change the economics of these precious systems in rural areas. Birds are one of the best indicators available for measuring ecosystem health, and the newly published figures show that many species are at their lowest since monitoring began.

The Farmland Bird Indicator (FBI) combines the aggregate population trends of 37 species classified as farmland birds. 22 of these species are decreasing and only 6 are increasing, with a further 6 being stable and 3 having uncertain trends. Overall, the indicator shows a decline of 52% since 1980. This equates to a loss of more than 300 million birds breeding in farmland over the last three decades- despite the efforts of many nature-friendly farmers and conservation organisations.

The lost of 300 million farmland birds matters because it suggests a wider disregard for nature and its value: There is growing recognition that biodiversity loss can affect lives and economies directly and indirectly through the loss of a range of ecosystem services upon which we all depend.

BirdLife Europe maintains that these trends can only be reversed if the whole of the CAP is greened. This involves setting a strong cross compliance baseline that includes all of the key pieces of environmental legislation; a first pillar of direct payments that are clearly linked to some basic good agronomic practices; and a strong Rural Development Pillar that contains measures to reward farmers that go beyond basic good practices and carry out specific management to improve the environment. Such reforms would ensure the CAP provides much better value for money, a must at times of financial crisis, when EU citizens expect even more that each euro is well spent.

BirdLife Europe hopes that this information helps decision makers and stakeholders to take a real step towards a better farming policy. Future consultative events like the one that took place on July 13 should be real exchanges between EU decision makers and EU citizens, to move towards this more sustainable Agriculture Policy that will ensure our long-term food security while respecting the environment.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2012 |  World Bird News July 2012

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