World Bird News May 2015

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Portugal's birding at your fingertips

Portugal's birding at your fingertips

By Nuno Barros, Tue, 26/05/2015 - 14:50

Now available at your fingertips, all you need to know about more than 100 species of bird and birdwatching in mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. Yes, you can find all the information you need to know about all the best birding sites that the country has to offer, itineraries, and many other interesting facts and figures on the Portuguese Society for the Study of Bird’s (SPEA/BirdLife partner) new website.

Found in the south-western part of Europe, Portugal is a small but beautiful country, home to friendly people. a huge myriad of habitats, and many southern European bird species. In the last few years, more and more birdwatchers have come and discovered the many wonders of birding in Portugal, mostly in the Alentejo and Algarve regions. The country’s year round great weather conditions and ease of spotting elusive birds like the Black-winged Kite, Little Bittern, Great Bustard or Azure-Winged Magpie draws birders from far and wide.

Even in the peak of winter you can expect to see more than 100 species in a week, and with a bit of luck, enjoy some sunny days. And Portugal is so small, so it’s easy to jump from one amazing birding hot spot to another, and along with the local cuisine, culture and landscapes, a visit is simply a must.

There are certainly many other places to go birdwatching in Portugal and it’s islands, but this platform provides birdwatchers with what SPEA thinks are all you need to know about the “best” birding sites around, places that not surprisingly overlap with Important Bird and BiodiversityAreas (IBAs), the conservation background that is SPEA’s stronghold.

So all bird lovers, we invite you to come and explore our website, and see what this magnificent corner of Europe has to offer. You can also come to our next Sagres Birdwatching and Nature activities Festival, from 1-4th October, to celebrate some of Portugal’s birdwatching wonders.

Romanian hunting law threatens wild birds and violates the Birds Directive

Romanian hunting law threatens wild birds and violates the Birds Directive

By Lisa Benedetti, Tue, 05/05/2015 - 12:58

Romania is about to approve a law that will allow spring hunting and trespassing on private property. The legislation would clearly violate the Birds and Habitats Directives, but it also poses some serious implications for Romanian citizens. BirdLife Romania and other NGOs are on a mission to stop this.

This new law, being pushed forward at very high speed, goes against the Birds Directives because it would allow the killing of birds during spring migration. This is a critical time for migrating birds on their way to breed and it just does not make any sense to kill birds before they have a chance to reproduce and replenish numbers. The legislation would extend the legal hunting periods for up to 3 months, including spring migration, for 18 species of birds, mostly goose and duck species (Northern Pintail and Gargany among them). It is particularly threatening for non-target species like the endangered Red-breasted Goose, which forms mixed flocks with target species and then gets accidentally killed.

One of the other 18 species for which this law would apply is the Eurasian Skylark. It’s one of Romania`s most beloved birds and has been an inspiration for many great musicians all over the world. It is so appreciated for its beautiful song that Romanians give all their best singers the nickname ‘Skylark’. It is currently legal to hunt Skylark in Romania and five other EU countries - Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and Malta. But the Skylark population in Europe has declined up to 50% since 1980, so extending the hunting period would only worsen the situation. Also, people are known to hunt under the guise of targeting skylark, but end up killing other species that are legally protected as well.

The proposed law is an attack on the rights of land and property owners. If it passes, it would allow anyone in pursuit of a wild bird to walk onto any private field or property without permission from the owner. The rather weak argument from the government is that wild game is owned by the state, so anyone in pursuit of wild game should be allowed to follow their target wherever they like without consent. A bit ironic in places where NGO`s and foundations have bought lands and forests with the precise purpose of protecting wildlife. This proposed law also has implications for places that are supposed to protect birds and nature in Romania, like Natura 2000 protected areas. That is, hunting liberalisation would undermine the management of these sites.

Another remarkable thing is that the law would not just change the game for Romanians. If it goes ahead, it would actually lift all restrictions from foreign hunters and allow them to legally set foot on anyone’s land all across Romania in chase of wild birds. Until now, foreigners needed an invitation from a land owner or administrator to access land to hunt wild game. Songbirds are already being hunted in massive numbers in Romania, especially by Italians who travel to Romania to hunt. If this piece of legislation goes through, there will be a songbird massacre.

“In 2009, police caught an Italian hunter with 2000 Crested Larks, a species that is not on the list of huntable species. In 2010, 15 Italian hunters were caught with 1000s of Skylarks, Crested Larks and Quails. In 2011, a shipment of over 11,000 Skylarks hunted in Romania and ready to go to Italy were intercepted by the Hungarian border police. In 2013, an Italian hunter was caught with over 5400 Skylarks. At this rate, we will only hear songbirds in the museum", said Ovidiu Bufnila, spokesman for Societatea Ornitologica Romana/BirdLife Romania.

Our BirdLife Partner, with support from its members and other NGOs, are not remaining silent as all this is happening. They are now leading a campaign to send a message to their Parliament that nature is important and Romanians will not stand by and see their songbirds massacred.

Hungary’s nature is in peril

Hungary’s nature is in peril

By Lisa Benedetti, Mon, 11/05/2015 - 09:36

Hungary is about to approve a law that will transfer land management rights from nature conservation organizations to a central Land Agency which has economic rather than conservation interests. If approved the new legislation is likely to damage centuries of nature conservation traditions and practices.

Hungary holds many of Europe’s natural treasures. Here you can visit Europe’s largest known stalactite cave which is an incredible 26 km long (partly shared with Slovakia), inside Aggtelek National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Or you can spend some time relaxing in steamy Héviz Lake, Europe’s largest thermal lake. But natural wonders such as these and others are in peril because the Hungarian Parliament just accepted a bill that may put the seal of doom on the country’s already severely dismantled system for nature protection.

Nature conservation has had a long history in Hungary. It goes all the way back to 1426 when Sigismund of Luxembourg, the then King of Hungary, created a special decree for the management of forests and protection of soils. But the first high-level, comprehensive law on nature conservation was the 1935 Act on Forests and Nature Conservation which gave not only plant and animal species better protection, but natural areas and habitats special status as well.

Across Europe, Hungary has been well known for its strong laws and firmly established framework to protect its nature and wildlife. One reason being its well-developed system made up of governmental institutions and large network of protected areas on government owned land. About 9% of Hungary’s territory is under federal protection and there are 63 forest reserves that have been designated as protected land. All of the country’s known 4077 caves have been protected by law since 1961. Hungary’s contribution to the Europe’s ‘Natura 2000 Network’ is quite significant as well. It’s about 21% of the country’s total land area, or nearly 2 million hectares.

But sadly, Hungary is no longer the model for getting nature conservation right in Europe. Over the last decade, the Hungarian government has done a pretty good job at tearing apart all these years of conservation work. It isn’t enough that they cut the already low budget of the National Park Directorate by forcing them to keep themselves going by generating their own income since 2004. It wasn’t enough that they abolished their Ministry of Environment, integrating it into the Ministry of Rural Development of all departments in 2010. Just recently, they passed a bill which takes away the land management rights of existing government nature conservation organizations and transfers it instead to a central agency.

The current government body that has a mandate for nature protection, the Hungarian National Park Directorates, manages some state-owned and protected land - almost exclusively Natura 2000 sites. The Directorates have direct control over this land even though some parts are leased to farmers. They’ve ensured that management is in line with nature conservation goals, i.e., timing of mowing, grazing pressure, etc. If the act comes into force, this control will be given entirely to the existing National Land Fund. This body manages the rest of Hungary’s state-owned land, but they are driven exclusively by economic considerations. If conservation agencies lose control, this will negatively impact wildlife and natural areas. For example, an area with Great Bustard, a vulnerable bird species, was formerly managed with great care but some of its key habitat was leased for intensive potato cultivation thereby negatively impacting the species.

The law seems to be going forward even though an independent group of legal experts say the piece of legislation is unconstitutional. But a very active and passionate group of nature conservation NGOs based in Hungary, including BirdLife, WWF, and Friends of the Earth, along with some concerned citizens aren’t just waiting around quietly. They are voicing their concerns, and are now calling on every potential partner to contribute to stop the further erosion of Hungarian nature conservation and protect Hungary’s unique natural heritage. Following the Parliament’s decision, the President of Hungary, János Áder, who declares himself adamantly as a ‘Green President’ is now investigating the case and will make his decision this week.

It’s a familiar story that is being heard in other countries, so the question that still remains, will this call only fall on deaf ears? In a country where the threatened species like the Imperial Eagle, Saker, and Red-footed Falcon fly, we at BirdLife certainly hope not.

US Federal Government Agency to look at tackling bird deaths at oil pits, gas flares, and power lines

US Federal Government Agency to look at tackling bird deaths at oil pits, gas flares, and power lines

By Audubon, Fri, 22/05/2015 - 16:09

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its intent to address millions of grisly and unnecessary bird deaths by strengthening implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act , one of the nation’s oldest and most important wildlife conservation laws. The process will address threats like uncovered oil waste pits that trap and kill birds, gas flares that lure and incinerate birds, and unprotected communication towers and power lines that kill and electrocute birds by the tens of millions each year.

“Every day, countless death traps across America needlessly kill birds in horrible ways, from electrocution to drowning in oil – we’re talking about tens of millions of birds every year,” said National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold. “It’s time to end this terrible and unnecessary slaughter. There is hope: in many cases, the tools and technology to save birds have already been developed. It’s time to make sure everyone plays by the same rules. Protecting wildlife is a deeply held American value, and we know that when we do the right things for birds, we’re doing the right things for people too.”

While obtaining reliable estimates of bird mortality from various hazards is challenging due to lack of standardized procedures and poor or absent reporting by some industries, it is clear that millions of birds could be saved by addressing the following sources of mortality, all of which are named in the USFWS document released today:

Power lines: Up to 175 million birds per year (Source)
Communication towers: Up to 50 million birds per year (Source)
Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year (Source)
Gas flares: No reliable mortality estimates, but an infamous 2013 incident in Canada incinerated an estimated 7,500 birds (Source)

“This is just common sense. We can save the lives of millions of birds every year by adopting practical, inexpensive solutions that put an end to these death traps,” said Audubon Vice President for Government Relations Mike Daulton. “These horrific deaths have gone on far too long.”

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

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