World Bird News March 2014

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Spring Alive 2014 has arrived!

Spring Alive 2014 has arrived!

By Rebecca Langer, Thu, 06/03/2014 - 15:14

BirdLife and its Partners in 50 countries are proud to announce the launch of Spring Alive 2014. Now nine years old, Spring Alive brings together children, their teachers and families in Europe, Central Asia and Africa to observe and record the arrivals of five species of migrant birds: Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Common Swift Apus apus, and European Bee-eater Merops apiaster.

Spring Alive 2013 broke all previous records. During Eurasian and African seasons, a total of over 286,000 observations of migratory birds were recorded on the Spring Alive website, and by the end of the year over 54,000 children, 900 teachers and supervisors and 500 volunteers from 49 countries had joined in a range of Spring Alive activities.

While the program began as a pan-European project to track the northward spread of spring migrants, now it involves many more indoor and outdoor events to engage children, schools and the wider community in the conservation of migratory birds. One example is the new pilot program Spring Twin, which matches schools in Europe and Asia with schools in Africa. Children will exchange letters, emails and diaries, and send one another videos they have shot before publishing them on the Spring Alive YouTube channel.

Spring Alive is coordinated by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland), with national coordinators in each participating country. This year, with the announcement that Azerbaijan will be joining in, at least 50 countries will be taking part.

“2014 is set to be an even bigger year for Spring Alive”, said Karolina Kalinowska, International Spring Alive Manager. “Now that we have accustomed children to recording their observations of the first spring migrants, we want to get them more involved in the conservation of migratory birds.”

Vulture killing drug now available on EU market

By Rebecca Langer, Wed, 05/03/2014 - 10:09

Diclofenac is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that has wiped out vulture populations in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Now, a repeat of this ecological disaster is threatening Europe. Despite the fact that safe alternative drugs are readily available, Diclofenac has been authorised for use on domestic animals in Italy, and in Spain where 80% of European vultures live, and is now becoming widely available on the EU market. According to experts in SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, this may cause a European mass die off of endangered and ecologically valuable wildlife.

Vultures have long suffered from unfavourable public opinion in Europe, but as species that are built to do the dirty work of ecological recycling, they are essential to the health and well-being of ecosystems. In Europe, four rare vulture species exist and are continuing to face threats to their survival. Egyptian Vulture is listed as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List of Species while Cinerous Vulture is listed as Near Threatened. Fortunately, thanks to decades of conservation efforts and millions of euros invested, vulture populations are recovering. The introduction of Diclofenac now puts these efforts and investments in jeopardy.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, Diclofenac was regularly used in the 1990’s to treat cattle. When the animals died, Diclofenac remained in the body and was eaten by vultures, causing their almost immediate death. In about 10 years, the vulture populations in these countries has declined by 99%, bringing some of the most common and iconic large birds of the Indian subcontinent to the verge of extinction. This also led to serious human health consequences as the availability of unconsumed carrions led to an increase in stray dogs and spread of diseases such as rabies. Thanks to joint campaign efforts from the RSPB and its partner SAVE, Diclofenac has been banned in India and we are beginning to see signs of recovery for the Indian vulture population.

The EU and its Member States have a legal obligation to conserve vultures under the EU Birds Directive and EU Veterinary Drugs legislation that require avoiding ecological damage. An immediate ban on veterinary Diclofenac is needed to protect our vultures from the fate of their Asian cousins, and would also send a crucial signal encouraging African countries to stop the spread of Diclofenac, which is already affecting the highly endangered populations of African vultures.

Flyways race is raising vital funds for migrant birds

By Jim Lawrence, Fri, 14/03/2014 - 12:33

Fourteen teams of adrenalin charged birders will step boldly into the Israeli night at midnight on 31 March, as they cross the start line of a unique, new, bird race.

Champions of the Flyway is the brainchild of SPNI (BirdLife in Israel) and will raise conservation funds to help BirdLife Partners tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe.

You can follow the Champions of the Flyways race live here, as teams arrive from March 28th and watch the event kick off at midnight, on March 31st.

Supporting BirdLife’s Flyways Programme, the race takes place during the Eilat Birds Festival and celebrates the extraordinary miracle of migration in this spectacular part of the Great Rift Valley as thousands of migratory storks, raptors and songbirds rush north towards their breeding grounds.
Jonathan Meyrav, Tourism Director of SPNI’s Israel Ornithological Center said, “Champions of the Flyway isn’t just a fun race for avid birders; it also carries a strong message for wildlife enthusiasts everywhere. While most of us enjoy wild birds in beautiful settings, millions of birds are slaughtered every year as they migrate to and from their breeding grounds. The numbers lost by illegal killing is staggering and truly worrying.”

The recipients of funding generated by the first Champions of the Flyway Bird Race will be Bird Conservation Georgia (BCG)—an NGO that was established through a merger between the Georgia Centre for the Conservation of WildLife (BirdLife Partner) and the Batumi Raptor Count (BRC).

The conservation action BCG is undertaking will help preserve the miracle of migration at the Batumi Gorge in Ajara Autonomous Republic, Georgia. The ‘Batumi bottleneck’ is an area of the utmost importance for migratory birds. Every autumn a huge concentration of southbound soaring migrants get funnelled through the narrow stretch between the Black Sea’s east-coast and the high mountains of the Lesser Caucasus.

With more than one million migrating raptors of up to 35 species passing through the area at this time, it is simply the greatest bottleneck for migrating birds of prey in all Eurasia.
Research has shown that around ten thousand birds of prey fall victim to illegal shooting here each autumn, as raptors pass low through the gorge, unwittingly presenting themselves as easy targets.

Bird Conservation Georgia takes a novel approach to tackling the illegal killing here and strives to work with, rather than against, local communities in order to reduce hunting pressure through mutually beneficial actions.

Each year, volunteers are invited to attend Batumi Raptor Camp and participate in BCG’s work recording the extraordinary passage of migrants that takes place there in the spring and autumn. Visitors stay with local families and bring valuable ecotourism revenue to the economy. The many volunteer raptor counters considerably swell the ranks of the professional scientists at Batumi and their ‘Citizen Science’ contribution helps expand the scale of monitoring that is now possible. With support raised through Champions of the Flyway, they will also engage receptive local hunters and falconers as ‘ambassadors for conservation’, to raise awareness among their peers of the consequence of their current actions and the significant ecotourism opportunities that a change of attitude and behaviour presents.

BirdLife International has entered a team in the race sponsored by leading optical manufacturer Swarovski Optik called the BirdLife Swarovski Optik Racers. Every team is in competition to raise the most funding for the appeal. Please support our ‘racers’ and make a donation to help stop the illegal killing of birds today.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2014 |  World Bird News March 2014

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