World Bird News March 2015

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2015 |  World Bird News March 2015

Rare glimpse of elusive rail

Rare glimpse of elusive rail

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 02/03/2015 - 15:34

An ornithological search-team have caught a glimpse of one of the world’s most threatened waterbirds, the Critically Endangered Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai. The sighting is the first documented in more than four decades and offers hope to conservationists working to ensure its survival.

First described in the early twentieth century, the only nest ever found was reported by ornithologist James Bond -a name appropriated by Ian Fleming (himself a birder) for 007- although even this report is considered doubtful. Little has since been discovered about its behaviour and breeding ecology. Hopes were fading that viable populations of the Cuban waterbird remained.

The fleeting encounter, now made public, occurred in November 2014. After a series of coordinated surveys of south-west Cuba’s Zapata Swamp, ornithologists (including Andy Mitchell and staff from the Cuban Museum of Natural History) struck gold only after deciding to cut thin strips (rides) into the sawgrass to momentarily expose the secretive birds as they moved through the wetland.

“In the first instance, the head protruded from the sawgrass at the side of the ride,” recounted Andy Mitchell. “After a few seconds the bird emerged slowly into the open, stopped for a few seconds before moving off into the sawgrass on the other side of the ride.”

Now rediscovered, conservation efforts for Zapata Rail will target the wetland in which it was spotted, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area covering 530,695 ha of wetland in southern Matanzas province. A new project management plan will be developed to assess the species’ current population size, distribution and status.

The sighting is the latest victory in BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme, which aims to halt extinctions through rigorous science and practical conservation delivered by a range of partners on the ground.

100,000 Dutch Call to Preserve Meadow Landscapes and their Birds

By BirdLife Europe, Mon, 02/03/2015 - 16:41

“We must act now in order to save meadow birds and their habitats, and we must work together: the corporate sector, farmers, NGO’s, banks and governments.”

This is what Fred Wouters, Director of VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands), stated when he presented a petition signed by 100,000 concerned Dutch citizens to the State Secretary Dijksma of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs this past February.

This petition is part of the 'Red de Rijke Weide' (‘Save the Rich Meadows’) campaign that VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands) began in 2013. Meadow birds like Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher are in serious decline. They have been for decades, and since 1960, more than 60% of all meadow wader species like these have vanished from the Netherlands.

Factory farming is the main culprit because intensive mowing, low water levels, and chemical fertilisers have made it virtually impossible for birds like the Black-tailed Godwit - an iconic species in the Netherlands - to reproduce successfully. Each year at least 10.000 chicks must make it to adulthood to keep a viable population going, but in 2014 only about 4.600 chicks survived.

To help save these species, the 'Red de Rijke Weide' campaign will aim to restore 200,000 hectares of meadow-land by 2020. The goal is to create habitat that meadow birds depend on for survival, with flowers and insects and places to hide. This area will account for one-fifth of the total grassland in the country.

VBN is calling for a sustainable way to finance the restoration and conservation of meadowland. When a fair price is paid, dairy farmers are able care for their surroundings and keep meadows healthy and alive. With this goal in mind, VBN established a national ‘meadow think tank’, which includes as members the largest dairy company in the Netherlands (Friesland Campina), Rabobank, World Wildlife Fund for Nature, and a research institute.

To showcase the possibilities, VBN partnered with a dairy supplier and nature friendly farmer in 2014 and began producing a special ‘Red de Rijke Weide’ cheese in a nature-friendly way. For each kilo sold, the farmer receives one euro to turn more of his land into habitat suitable for meadow birds. This example proves it is possible for farmers to take care of nature while having a profitable business.

The Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Dijksma, and delegates from the twelve provinces, have publicly stated that the “Save the Rich Meadows is a very promising initiative”. The State Secretary has also shown support by pledging to participate in the think tank venture.

Breathing New Life into a Quarry

Breathing New Life into a Quarry

By Lisa Benedetti, Tue, 03/03/2015 - 15:32 Langford lowfields (c) RSPB

Perhaps when you were a teenager you've snuck into an old quarry to take a quick dip to cool off on a hot summer day? Well, you may not have thought about it at the time, but on a continent where natural habitats are dwindling, old quarries can offer a new oasis for all types of plant and wildlife.

Across northwest Europe, quarries cover about 250,000 hectares; this is about the size of Luxembourg. They are good for the economy and business because the minerals that are extracted are essential to many industries. But what happens when a quarry reaches the end of its working life? Well, it's one of those great cases where with some tender love and care these abandoned places can be transformed into havens for people and nature. Places where people can escape the city and reconnect with nature, for a family picnic or for swimming. But even more amazing, they can become little oases for rare plant and animal species.

It's not too difficult to convince the quarry companies, as is shown by the successful RESTORE project, where partnerships with a variety of stakeholders and industry are seeing the restoration of old and active quarries. For example, at Ouse Fen, under the framework of the BirdLife-HeidelbergCement Partnership, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and mineral extraction company Hanson (a subsidiary of HeidelbergCement in the UK) are 10 years into a 30 year project. This initiative is seeing the progressive restoration of 700 hectares of a sand and gravel quarry into the largest reedbed in the UK, with the creation of new wildlife rich wetland and grassland habitats. At Ouse, you can already find marsh harriers, bearded tits, ducks, grebes and swans. Also, the elusive bittern has begun nesting in the area. Not bad considering this is one of the UK's rarest birds, a species that almost became extinct because of hunting and habitat loss.

RESTORE Project Co-ordinator, Bea Ayling, said “Bringing organisations together to share knowledge and expertise across national borders is really essential if we are to make the most of the opportunities for biodiversity restoration presented by the mineral extraction industry across North-west Europe.”

In a similar initiative, an ongoing partnership between RSPB and the French aggregate company LaFarge Tarmac has led to the restoration of 15 hectares of heathland at Sandy Heath, on Bedfordshire’s Greensand Ridge; where RSPB’s headquarters are located. Together, they are aiming to restore 30 hectares of heathland habitat over the next ten to twenty years.

RESTORE, which is funded through the EU’s INTERREG IVB programme, aims to promote an inspirational reference point and at the same time helping to establish best-practice models that can be followed by others across Europe and elsewhere.

Italy, Spain and Greece join forces to change culture that supports illegal killings

By Lisa Benedetti, Sun, 15/03/2015 - 17:09

In most countries the Illegal killing of protected wild birds would seem rather uncivilized and the methods used barbaric, so you might be surprised that it is still quite common in some regions of Italy, Greece and Spain. Leaving is Living is an ambitious three year campaign run by LIPU (BirdLife in Italy), SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), and HOS (BirdLife in Greece) to raise awareness and change local attitudes about this serious issue.

The extent of illegal killing of wild birds in some hotspots in Italy, Greece and Spain is simply unacceptable in this day and age. One might ask why is it not much of an issue in these places. Some consider it a minor crime, others say it’s an old tradition, there is even some political support because of votes at local and regional levels, and in some cases it’s even about manly pride. The issues are clearly different in each country, but the overall message is the same, that education and awareness are keys to stopping the crime from occurring. But how does one change old attitudes that run deep in culture and society? The first step in changing attitudes is awareness, the step that follows is acceptance, and then comes the willingness to change.

In Sardinia (Italy), the main challenge is the illegal trapping of migrating and wintering birds. This practice has a long history and is rampant in South West Sardinia (Sulcis), although it has been banned since 1939. Migrating and wintering birds, especially Blackbird and Song Thrush – but many protected species are killed as well, caught with various illegal devices: snares, traps and nets. The 300 or so active trappers known to do this are locals who trap to follow a long standing ‘tradition’. It is believed that about 300,000 birds are killed illegally here every year. The captured birds, or ‘grive’, as they are locally called, are then sold to local restaurants, or are offered as gifts for special occasions.

In Greece, Illegal killing takes place during spring migration and is a practice especially engrained in the local culture of peoples inhabiting the Ionian Islands, one of the most significant migratory corridors in Greece. Surveys indicate that during spring, gunshot numbers in these islands may reach up to 15,000 per day. The Turtle Dove, whose conservation status in the EU is classified as ‘Unfavourable’, is the main species targeted, but several species of migratory raptors and herons have been shot as well. Despite the fact that illegal killing during spring is controlled in the Ionian Islands, and there have been arrests (in 2010 seven arrests were made), no person caught red handed has yet to receive a fine or punishment.

In Spain, one of the most widespread illegal bird killing activities is ‘parany’. A ‘parany’ is a tree pruned to have tall branches and then set up with rods that are coated with a very sticky lime substance. Illegal electronic calling devices are then used to lure birds to the parany. The bird’s wings then become glued and stuck to the rods, or then fall to the ground where they are killed by poachers. This activity contravenes Spanish laws and the Birds Directive due to its massive, non-selective character. Each autumn, hundreds of thousands of protected birds are trapped and killed , by up to 6,000 poachers in more than 2,000 illegal paranys throughout the regions of Castellon, north of Valencia, and Tarragona. The highest numbers caught are Thrushes, but many other species, including Robins, Blackcaps, and Redstarts are also killed. Overall, a huge number of wild birds (on average 120,000 to 430,000, but in some years up to 2 million) are killed illegally each year in Spain, including rare and protected species.

The Leaving is Living campaign is wide in scope and is taking action to fight the practice of illegal bird killings in Italy, Greece and Spain at national and international levels. It is targeted at decision makers, local authorities, hunting groups, local communities, the general public, and in particular, the young. A key objective is to raise awareness amongst key stakeholders along the migration routes of the species and especially teach them about the effects of illegal killing of birds on local and European biodiversity. A second goal is to change socio-cultural attitudes in younger generations. A third priority is to support law enforcement, through increased awareness and better coordination among law enforcement authorities.

So far about 33 million people have been reached via social media, videos that have gone viral, radio, newspapers and television. Several hundred children in the hotspots have met with environmental educators explaining the importance of wild birds for biodiversity and hundreds of law enforcement agents have been informed about the seriousness of the crime.

Leaving is Living brochure:

This initiative has been made possible by the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union, through the project LIFE11 INF/IT/253.
Pdf available here

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2015 |  World Bird News March 2015

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