World Bird News July 2013

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

BirdLife launches invasive species video – Saving Suwarrow’s Seabirds

BirdLife and the European Bird Census Council join wildlife comeback study

BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) have joined a desk study to document the comeback of a number of bird species in Europe.

In 2011, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) started this wildlife comeback study, commissioned by Rewilding Europe, which mainly includes iconic mammal and bird species covering different geographical regions and habitats in our continent. The main goal of this study is to generate a science-based overview of changes in abundance and distribution during the period 1960-2010 of wildlife species that have shown a considerable comeback in Europe. The study will create a better understanding of the dynamics causing these changes, both at a species level and in a consolidated way. This can provide important lessons for future conservation and might help to extrapolate these success stories to other species as well.

According to the 2012 Living Planet Report, the period 1970 to 2008 saw an average increase in animal population size of 6% in the Palearctic realm (which mostly includes data from Europe), in contrast to an overall decrease in biodiversity indices in tropical regions. Better environmental protection is one explanation put forward to be a contributing factor, but recent changes in land use with abandonment of farmland, reduced hunting pressure, and higher productivity of many ecosystems due to more nutritional input from human activities (e.g. eutrophication of lakes and coastal areas, nitrogen deposition from air, etc.) have probably also played an important role. Rewilding Europe is particularly interested how the wildlife comeback can be sustained and further promoted, and used for rewilding initiatives all over Europe. Apart from an important ecological role a lot of the species covered play in European ecosystems, they also have an economic value, e.g. as draw cards for wildlife based tourism that can provide new opportunities in many parts of Europe. Also, the wildlife comeback poses new challenges in terms of wildlife management, allowing populations to reach natural densities and natural dynamics.

The wildlife comeback in Europe encompasses a long list of species, particularly mammals and birds. In today’s Europe there are probably larger populations of certain species than we have had for many decades or even centuries, such as Roe deer, Moose, Wild boar, Chamois, Ibex, White Stork, Barnacle Goose, Common Crane, and White-tailed Eagle. With active protection and re-introductions, other species have also benefitted including Ibex, Beaver, Otter, Eagle Owl, Peregrine, Lammergeier and Black Vulture. And even the Iberian lynx has started to recover marginally from the worst situation, though long-term prospects remain unclear.

A first draft document covering 18 mammal species has been prepared by ZSL and is now being peer-reviewed by species specialists from all over Europe. BirdLife and EBCC are now synthesising data to describe and analyse the comeback of some 20 bird species that have shown a significant comeback over the past 40 to 50 years.

The wildlife comeback study will be a landmark report to be launched on end of September 2013 during a seminar in London. The findings of the study will also be presented at the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10) in Salamanca, Spain, on 4th October 2013.

Cooperating partners in the Wildlife Comeback Study and Seminar are Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International, European Bird Census Council, Rewilding Europe and London Zoo.

Caribbean’s dry forest protection expanded

The National Trust of the Cayman Islands has acquired 8 more acres to add to the Mastic Reserve, bringing the total amount of land protected by the Trust in the Important Bird Area to 843 acres.

The reserve is home to all of Cayman Islands’ endemic orchids and forest birds including the Near Threatened Vitelline Warbler Dendroica vitellina, White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocepahala and Cuban Amazon Amazona leucocephala. It is additionally the main habitat for a critically endangered variety of Black Mastic tree Termenalia eriostachya var. margaretiae, which is unique to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands (a UK Overseas Territory). Aiming to protect and rejuvenate a very rare habitat of great importance to Grand Cayman and its biodiversity, the Trust hopes to acquire a total of 1,397 acres, which will cost several million dollars, through additional fundraising for its Land Reserve Fund.

Established in 1992, the Mastic Reserve protects the largest contiguous area of old growth forest remaining on Grand Cayman. Representing some of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean’s lowland semi-deciduous dry forest and home to a unique variety of animals and plants, including all of Cayman’s endemic orchids, trees and birds, the Reserve has high ecological, scenic and ecotourism value.

The area of the Mastic Forest has been above water for more than two million years — as opposed to most of the island, which only emerged 125,000 years ago — so that is where the native flora and fauna evolved, noted National Trust Field Officer, Stuart Mailer. “It’s an island within an island,” he said.

According to “Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands – The Red List” by Fred Burton, the variety of Black Mastic, Termenalia eriostachya var. margaretiae (named after Margaret Barwick), was once quite widespread on the island, but by 1800 it was thought to have been harvested to extinction for its ebony-like heartwood. However, it was rediscovered in the Mastic Forest in 1991.

The National Trust maintains the Mastic Trail, a traditional path that passes through the heart of the reserve. Guided nature tours of the Trail allow visitors to experience and appreciate this national treasure. The Mastic Trail was recently awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013, based on reviews by their members.

“The Mastic Reserve IBA is key to the conservation of Cayman Islands biodiversity. Preserving this land is vital in protecting our native plants and animals. The forest performs many other functions; it enhances rainfall and reduces run-off, helping to maintain our groundwater and protect our reefs and it keeps the island cooler; it removes carbon and pollutants from the atmosphere, and it provides locals and visitors alike with a unique opportunity to connect with nature,” said Mailer, who is a renowned Mastic tour guide.

Guided tours of the Mastic Trail are available Tuesday through Friday, and occasional weekends. For details on the National Trust’s Land Reserve Fund or guided Mastic tours contact info@nationaltrust.org.ky.

New Spring Alive record: more than 270,000 bird observations in Europe

From February to June, participants in Spring Alive, a long-term BirdLife educational programme, observed and registered the arrivals of five migratory bird species in Europe and made more than 270,000 observations of migratory birds, the highest number ever!

The people taking part in the programme, mainly children and their families represent countries across Europe, from Portugal and Ireland to Russia and from Finland to Cyprus. The Spring Alive programme increases in popularity every year and it offers a fun way to develop knowledge about migratory birds and raise schoolchildren’s awareness about nature protection. The Spring Alive website had more than 104,000 individual visitors, who recorded their observations.

The record breaking Spring Alive season in Europe ended on the 21st of June. Amongst all Spring Alive species (Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Swift, Cuckoo and European Bee-eater), the Barn Swallow and the Common Swift turned out to be the most frequently observed birds (37% and 32% of observations respectively). The big three participating countries were: Russia, Italy and Ireland.

The success of Spring Alive is very encouraging as it shows that more and more people want to connect with nature. In September the programme is moving to Africa, as birds will leave their breading areas in Europe, where the temperature will start to decrease and head for the warmer African continent. All bird lovers are invited to follow arrivals of “Spring Alive birds” in the African continent on the Spring Alive Website

SEO/BirdLife in Spain presents the first ĎAtlas of Birds in Winterí

SEO/BirdLife in Spain presents the first ‘Atlas of Birds in Winter’

Three years of fieldwork, including more than 70,000 kilometres of walked surveying and 30,000 hours of sampling highlight the effort behind the preparation of the Atlas of Birds in Winter in Spain (2007-2010).

The study, presented in May by SEO (BirdLife in Spain) is a reference work, which fills an important gap in the study of Spain’s bird fauna, and places the country at the highest level of ornithological study, as only a small number of countries have carried out similar studies. The compilation of the atlas has involved over 2,600 fieldworkers and ornithologists coming from different bird monitoring programmes.

The study is illustrated with sketches by the artist and biologist Juan Varela (finalist in BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2013), produced with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and published thanks to the National Parks Service. Included in its 820 pages there are up-to-date data on 407 species, of which 238 are listed as ‘common’ and a further 76 whose presence is ‘scarce’ or ‘occasional’. Finally, 34 are considered as rarities and 59 are non-native species.

This study sheds important new light on the distribution of birds in Spain. For example, it has been confirmed that geographical differences in land use are a more important factor in explaining winter bird distribution than differences in climate. Areas with a greater variety of habitats are those with the highest species richness in winter.

“What we present today is not just an atlas, because it’s important to remember that the EU recognises the healthy state of wild bird populations as a key indicator of our quality of life. For that reason, looking after birds is looking after ourselves, because the environment and the natural world is our real richness” stated Asunción Ruiz, Chief Executive of SEO/BirdLife.

The atlas will from now on be regarded as a key reference point for new ornithological studies and an essential tool for the management of protected areas and the conservation of biodiversity. Furthermore, the recorded changes in short- and long-term distribution of birds give key clues to the possible effects of global change and other factors, such as land-use change, farming activity and other human pressures.

The Atlas of Birds in Winter in Spain (2007-2010) can be ordered online from SEO/BirdLife website (in Spanish).

Pollutants Threaten Iconic Canadian Bird

The future looks uncertain for one of the most beloved symbols of the Canadian wilderness, according to a new report from Bird Studies Canada (BirdLife co-Partner in Canada). The Canadian Lakes Loon Survey 1981-2012 reveals troubling trends for the Common Loon. Pollution (in the form of mercury and acid precipitation) is the suspected cause.

Currently Common Loon pairs are successfully producing enough chicks to maintain a stable population. Unfortunately, Bird Studies Canada’s research shows that their reproductive success (defined as the annual number of young raised to six weeks of age) has significantly declined since 1992. And the trends indicate that even worse news may be around the corner. If the current rate of decline continues, Common Loon numbers are expected to begin decreasing within two decades.

“We are approaching the tipping point. Annual reproductive success may soon drop below the minimum level required for these birds to sustain their numbers,” says Bird Studies Canada scientist Dr. Doug Tozer, the lead author of the report. “Because 95% of the world’s Common Loons breed in our country, Canadians have a critical role to play in monitoring and conserving loon populations.”

Mercury and acid precipitation affect lake health and directly impair loon reproductive success. The burning of fossil fuels (e.g., in cars and at coal-fired power plants) causes mercury and acid emissions. From the air, these pollutants make their way into lakes. Common Loons’ high position in the food chain makes them powerful indicators of lake health and especially pollution levels.

Higher mercury levels make loons slower, and affect their behaviour. Adults with higher mercury spend less time collecting food for chicks and defending breeding territories. Chicks have compromised immune systems and are less able to avoid predators. Meanwhile on lakes with higher acidity, fish are less abundant and loons produce fewer young.

Individuals can make a difference by supporting loon and lake research and conservation, and participating in Bird Studies Canada’s Citizen Science programs. The results also support further action to reduce harmful emissions from combustion of fossil fuels.

Findings are based on three decades of research by Bird Studies Canada scientists and volunteer surveyors. Over 3000 Citizen Scientists and Bird Studies Canada members contributed their time, data, and support to make this research possible. More detailed analysis can be found in the paper Common Loon Reproductive Success in Canada, published this spring in Avian Conservation & Ecology.

Bird Studies Canada’s Canadian Lakes Loon Survey program has been tracking Common Loon reproductive success at the national level for 20 years (and for 32 years in Ontario). Bird Studies Canada advances the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of wild birds and their habitats. BSC is Canada’s national charity for bird research and conservation.

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

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