World Bird News March 2013

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Restoring a breeding colony for Chinese Crested Tern

??????? Chinese Crested Tern

In early March, an international workshop in Xiangshan, Zhejiang Province, China, marked the start of an ambitious plan to restore a network of breeding sites for the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini, probably the world’s most threatened seabird.

After more than half a century with no breeding records, four adults and four chicks were discovered in 2000 on the Mazu Islands (administered by Taipei) off the coast of China’s Fujian Province. In 2004 another colony was found in the Jiushan Islands, off Zhejiang Province, but breeding failed after two typhoons hit the islands. No breeding birds were seen in the Jiushans until 2007, when eight Chinese Crested Terns and about 2,000 Greater Crested Terns returned. But the colony was raided by egg poachers, and terns have not nested there since.

In 2008 a new colony, believed to be the birds that nested earlier on the Jiushans, was discovered in the Wuzhishan Islands, 80 km to the north. They have returned to nest on the Wuzhishans annually, but nesting space has become limited, and the terns have started using less favourable sites. News of the terns has spread, increasing the risk of disturbance from photographers.

Following the poaching incident on the Jiushans, BirdLife International and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Partner) have been working with the Zhejiang Wild Bird Society on conservation education in Xiangshan. Teams of student volunteers have promoted tern conservation and persuaded their friends and families not to collect, buy or consume seabird eggs. Education programmes at schools and public events have raised awareness of the tern’s plight, and seabird egg poaching has been greatly reduced.

In July 2010, an international forum on seabird conservation, the first of its kind in China, was convened in Xiangshan. Inspired by a presentation on the restoration of tern colonies in the USA, (initiated by Dr. Stephen Kress of the National Audubon Society, BirdLife in the USA), the Xiangshan government and the Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve provided more resources to prevent poaching.

The latest workshop included representatives of Zhejiang Province’s Ocean and Fishery, Forestry, and Environmental Protection departments. Leading Chinese research institutions contributed technical advice, and overseas experts presented their experience, including Caspian Tern restoration projects by Oregon State University (which will support the Jiushan Islands restoration programme), and translocation of Short-tailed Albatrosses by the Yamashina Institute of Ornithology, Japan.

The Wild Bird Society of Taipei reported on their preliminary success in using Greater Crested Tern decoys to attract Chinese Crested Terns on the Mazu Islands.

A small island in the Jiushans, close to the island used in 2004 and 2007, has been chosen as the restoration site. Nesting habitat will be improved and expanded, and tern decoys and audio playback systems will be deployed from early May. It is hoped that Greater Crested Terns will attempt to nest, and that Chinese Crested Tern will eventually join their colony. The island will be occupied by researchers 24 hours a day during the breeding season.

The project is sponsored by the Japan Fund for Global Environment and the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (Hong Kong), with logistical support from the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau and Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, and a small grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The World’s Rarest Birds photo competition winners announced and book launched

The World’s Rarest Birds photo competition winners announced and book launched

The winners of the second international photo competition run by The World’s Rarest Birds project have been announced. The competition aimed to secure images of some of the most threatened birds on Earth to complete a new book that highlights their plight. The World’s Rarest Birds, which is published today by Princeton WILDGuides, aims to support BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This is the second of two international photo competitions that have been run to obtain the images for the book, the first being in 2010. Thousands of images were entered into the competitions by photographers from across the world and over 800 photos are featured in The World’s Rarest Birds.

The World’s Rarest Birds Photo Competition had two categories: Critically Endangered birds and Endangered birds. The winning entries in each category were as follows:
CATEGORY 1: Critically Endangered Birds (there are 197 species that are so threatened that they are considered to be at imminent risk of becoming extinct)

Winner Dubi Shapiro: a stunning image of a displaying White-bellied Cinclodes from the high Andes of Peru.

Runner-up Murray Cooper: a beautiful photo of a male Black-breasted Puffleg hummingbird from north-west Ecuador.

Third place Dubi Shapiro: a fantastic image of a Madagascar Pochard, a medium-sized diving duck found only on Madagascar.

Fourth place Maxim Koshkin: a striking photo of a flock of Sociable Lapwing, a migratory wader that breeds in central Asia and winters mainly in Africa.

CATEGORY 2: Endangered Birds (there are 389 species that are considered to be at very high risk of becoming extinct in the foreseeable future)

Winner Tim Laman: a beautiful study of a Marquesan Imperial-pigeon from the island of Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia.

Runner-up David Stowe: a lovely image of a Swift Parrot from Australia.

Third place Myron Tay: a wonderful photo of a Masked Finfoot from South-East Asia.

Fourth place Greg & Yvonne Dean: a fantastic image of a flock of El Oro Parakeets from Ecuador.
Andy Swash, Managing Director of the publisher WILDGuides and joint Editor of the book said “We are delighted to have been able to work closely with BirdLife International in producing The World’s Rarest Birds. It is undoubtedly a stunning and beautifully illustrated book. But its key message is poignant – a large proportion of the world’s birds, including every one that is depicted, is threatened with extinction. This is a great concern to many and I just hope that the production of The World’s Rarest Birds will help to raise awareness and make some contribution to their conservation.”

Hundreds of fantastic photographs were submitted to the 2012 competition and selecting the winners proved very difficult. One of the judges, professional bird photographer David Tipling, said “Despite the rarity of the birds featured in The World’s Rarest Birds, the quality of the images entered into the competition was truly amazing. I love the idea of encouraging photographers to support an important conservation cause by allowing their images to be published in this way.”

Ade Long, BirdLife’s Head of Communications said, “The response to The World’s Rarest Birds photo competitions was astonishing. The number of entries was almost overwhelming, and the quality of the images just breathtaking. This is a fantastic book, but it provides a powerful reminder of the large number of species – many of them extremely beautiful – that are on the brink of extinction. The books contains maps and information developed using BirdLife’s data on all the world’s 10,000 bird species”

Your vote needed to save the albatross

A new Albatross Task Force (ATF) project needs your help to win the vote for one of this year’s European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) awards. Each year nominated projects go up for vote to win grants of up to €30 000.

The purpose of the project is to reduce the number of seabirds killed by fishing fleets operating off Namibia in southern Africa. ‘Bycatch’ by fishing boats is the main cause of the rapid declines that many seabirds are currently suffering, and Namibia is one of the world’s worst ‘blackspots’ for this problem.
VOTE! Albatross Task Force, Namibia

Voting from 22 March to 12 April 2013

Albatrosses are among the largest flying birds in the world, but also one of the most at-risk: 17 of the 22 species of albatross are globally threatened with extinction. The primary driver behind this is being caught accidentally in fisheries. Every year tens of thousands of albatrosses are killed, by longline fishing (in which a vessel may use a 100km line with as many as 20,000 hooks onto which the birds can get hooked), and trawl fishing (which vessels have thick cables that birds collide with). In Namibia, it is estimated that 46,000 birds are killed each year. The Albatross Task Force in Namibia will work with fishermen to use ‘bird streamer lines’ on the longline and trawl vessels, which keep the albatrosses away from the hooks and cables, and will also add steel weights to the longline hooks to sink them rapidly out of the albatrosses’ reach. The project will reduce the number of albatrosses and other seabirds caught by 50% in a single year.

EOCA is a charitable NGO with 80 members wants to prove the European outdoor industry is committed to putting something back into the environment that it depends on. Membership fees of companies in the outdoor industry go 100% towards project funding.

Hooded Plover rescue in Oz

Monitoring threatened species takes on many forms — not only keeping an eye on populations or nesting attempts, but also looking after the individual birds themselves.

Recently, at Point Roadknight, Anglesea, on Victoria’s Surf Coast, Geoff Gates, one of BirdLife Australia’s (BirdLife Partner) volunteers assisting the Beach-nesting Birds Project, noticed a Hooded Plover — marked with ‘KM’ on its leg-flag — in a bad way. It was hopping on one foot and having trouble keeping up with a small flock of six other Hoodies foraging on a nearby rock platform. Although Geoff watched the bird for 15 minutes, he could not see what was troubling it, but photographs subsequently revealed that something tight was caught around its ankle, cutting into the bird’s flesh and restricting its movement.

Geoff immediately contacted Grainne Maguire, the Beach-nesting Birds Project Manager, and together they hatched a plan to rescue KM.

While Grainne hastily travelled down to the coast from Melbourne (with family in tow and a special plover-catching trap in the boot), Geoff contacted Liz Brown, a local vet from nearby Aireys Inlet (the next town along the coast) who was keen to help.

Within minutes of arriving at the beach, Grainne had quickly and skilfully separated KM from the rest of the flock, which made it easier to trap the injured bird.
With KM in the hand, the nylon fibre tangled around its leg was easy to see, and Dr Liz quickly removed the offending strand, applied antiseptic ointment to the wound and administered an antibiotic injection.

The bird’s metal identification band was then removed from the injured and swollen leg, and a new band was fitted onto the bird’s healthy leg.
060060-IMG_2444 Hooded Plover (Thinornis cucullatus)
With the ordeal over, KM was released — accompanied by an indignant squawk — and flew straight back to the flock. Watching through binoculars, Grainne and Geoff were both glad to see that although KM was limping a little, it was, nevertheless, using its injured leg.

Thank you to all who assisted.

This tale serves to remind us that by keeping a close watch over our threatened birds, BirdLife Australia’s band of volunteers and staff are making a real difference — making a brighter future for Australia’s birds. There is no doubt that if KM had remained untreated, it would have lost its foot and probably died as a result. The loss of a single Hooded Plover may not seem too drastic, but when the population is so small, the effects of the loss of even one bird can be magnified greatly.

Anyone visiting Point Roadknight over the next few weeks should keep an eye out for KM and let us know how it is faring.

UK’s most exotic natural treasures under threat from ‘legal neglect’

A first-ever analysis of the environmental laws across all 14 of the UK’s Overseas Territories has been published and presented to the British Government. The report, commissioned by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), reveals serious flaws in the legislation that should protect some of the most important places for UK wildlife.

The assessment comes just nine months after the UK Government published its Overseas Territories White Paper last June. In it, the Prime Minister pledged to ‘cherish the environments’ and ‘help ensure their good government’.

The UK’s Overseas Territories hold some of the world’s most remarkable environments, from pristine tropical forests like on Grand Cayman, to windswept South Atlantic islands, home to penguins and elephant seals, as well as over 90% of the threatened wildlife for which the UK is responsible.
Montserrat Oriole
Montserrat Oriole is found only on the UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat

In the new assessment, entitled ‘Environmental Governance in the UK’s Overseas Territories, a number of major gaps in environmental protection are exposed:

Five of the Territories have no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements for major developments e.g. Cayman Islands, where a major highway is proposed to cut through key old-growth forests home to the endangered blue iguana; and on Scrub Island in Anguilla a $1 billion development proposal has been given the go ahead which will involve cutting this important wildlife island in half and creating an inland marina;
Nine Territories lack strong networks of protected areas or completed implementing legislation, meaning sites such as the Centre Hills forest in Montserrat, home to the critically endangered Mountain Chicken (a giant frog) remain unprotected;
Four Territories have no marine protected areas e.g. Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas), where the development of the offshore oil industry risks pre-empting the establishment of a coherent network of marine protected areas;
In the three uninhabited Territories, where the UK Government has made a commitment to ‘exemplary environmental management’, there is a significant lack of transparency and accountability.
However, there are at least five draft bills (e.g. the Cayman National Conservation Bill 2007, the Anguilla Physical Planning Bill 2001) currently in Overseas Territories’ legislatures that would fill many of the gaps in their environmental legislation, but all have been stalled due to a lack of political will.

Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations said, “Whilst some of the UK’s Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar have excellent environmental legislation, the gaps uncovered in this analysis are worrying and have the potential to allow damage to the environments and wildlife we are responsible for protecting.

“We hope this review will encourage the UK Government to fulfil its ambitions ‘to set world standards’ in the Overseas Territories and begin a programme of work to strengthen the most pressing gaps in their environmental laws. Major improvements are within reach and much can be achieved without significant additional resources.”

The report offers seven recommendations to help the Prime Minister realise his ambitions on Overseas Territories. Although the report has found a number of gaps in environmental governance, it has also discovered that some of the UK’s Territories are beacons of best practice in terms of environmental legislation. Gibraltar’s environmental legislation was rated as ‘strong’ across the board, whilst the site protection mechanisms of the British Virgin Islands, and development control procedures in St Helena, were also very good.

Bird boxes Iraqi-style

A year ago Nature Iraq, in partnership with BirdLife International and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, embarked upon a multi-faceted, three-year conservation programme – the first of its kind in the Middle East. An online course in conservation has started at Sulaimani University and over 40 students and others have enrolled. Plans are also taking shape for developing an app to help identify birds, together with other animals and plants that children, students and Iraqi visitors to the region might expect to see around Peremagroon – one of the most important areas for biodiversity in Kurdistan.The most exciting venture has been the nestbox project. Holes for hole-nesting birds seem to be at a premium in Kurdistan, possibly because of the destruction of woodland in the past, and the fact that many trees have not been allowed to mature. It came as a surprise to see Great Tits nesting in holes in the ground!

Hopefully this Nature Iraq project will provide nesting sites for birds such as the Great Tit and Sombre Tit – a species with a specialised habitat and globally restricted range.

This area of Iraqi Kurdistan has one of the highest densities of Eastern and Western Rock Nuthatches in the Middle East – it would be exciting if they could also be attracted to nesting in boxes.
A future step will be for NI to put video cameras in some of the boxes so that Iraqi children can enjoy watching the daily lives of these enchanting birds.

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

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