World Bird News October 2006

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Swallow heralds Beijing’s Olympic welcome

Swallow heralds Beijing’s Olympic welcome

31-10-2006
The Beijing Bird Watching Society’s (BBWS) World Bird Festival events included an Olympic theme. Among the mascots that will welcome visitors to the 2008 Games in Beijing is Nini the swallow.
"We organised the event, 'to protect swallows in Beijing, to welcome the Olympics', in Daxing Milu Garden," explained Fion Cheung, BirdLife's China Programme Officer. "Visitors could not only watch the Barn Swallow, the character of the festival, and see the end of their southern migration, but also enjoy a variety of activities including a display of artificial nests, and kite-making. The idea was partly to show Beijing citizens how they can take part in conservation activity."
The idea was partly to show Beijing citizens how they can take part in conservation activity Fion Cheung, BirdLife China Programme Officer
More than 40 volunteers helped, and more than 1,200 people took part in the event.

Beijing’s Olympic swallow mascot known as Nini- reflects the popularity of the swallow shape among Beijing’s traditional kite-flyers. Because of the swallow’s graceful aerobatic flight, Nini has also been chosen to represent gymnastics among the Olympic events.
Nini is one of five mascots, or "Fuwa", along with Beibei the Fish, Jingjing the Panda, Huanhuan the Olympic Flame and Yingying the Tibetan Antelope. Together, the first syllables of their names spell out Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni - Welcome to Beijing.
The event in Beijing was part of the first "China Bird Festival", which is being coordinated by the BirdLife / Hong Kong Bird Watching Society China Programme and supported by the Darwin Initiative.

Festival of wings not overshadowed by smoke haze

27-10-2006
Smoke from forest clearance in Indonesia cast an ominous haze over two otherwise successful events hosted by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) to celebrate the World Bird Festival.
The Perak branch of MNS organised the Fourth Taiping Raptor Watch at Scott's Hill, a migration watchpoint for birds of prey on their way south from their breeding grounds to winter in Indonesia and beyond. About 50 birders took part, recording 2,579 Chinese Sparrowhawk, 78 Crested Honey Buzzard, two Japanese Sparrowhawk and a Grey-faced Buzzard.
According to one participant, Kim Chye, the haze had the organisers worried if any raptor would show up. Fortunately, despite very hazy conditions, the raptors came by in good numbers.
The laws on this issue are clear -no clearance by burning- but it is enforcement which is difficult and is best achieved by local governments.Richard Grimmett, Head of BirdLife International's Asia Division
Malaysia's annual Festival of Wings was launched in the Kuala Selangor Nature Park (KSNP). In the speech which opened the event, Mohd Daud Terihap, Member of Parliament for Kuala Selangor, said that Kuala Selangor had been identified as a high priority area for tourism. With Visit Malaysia Year coming in 2007, we are happy to say that KSNP will be further promoted as a major tourist attraction, and our office is willing to contribute funds to this end.

Two Festival of Wings events were held at Kuala Selangor. More than 235 school children and many other members of the public took part in The Amazing Nature Race. One student said, it was very tiring as we had to run all over the park looking for the answers and clues. But we had a lot of fun, and we'll definitely come back next year”.

The Festival's 24-Hour Bird Survey covered four main areas in the Kuala Selangor district, including the Raja Musa Peat Swamp forest, Sekinchan rice fields, Jeram coastline and KSNP itself. Despite the haze, 7,845 birds of 140 species were recorded. The highlight for most was hearing the calls of two Dusky Eagle-owls, a Totally Protected Species in Peninsular Malaysia which was once thought to be extinct on this country.

It has been great day for conservation, said Andrew J. Sebastian, MNS's Head of Parks and Special Projects. “The kids discovered nature, the park and its importance, the birders found out new things about the area and its birds, the government officials learnt about the eco-tourism potential of protected areas. and the media learnt about the personalities and birds. Let's hope for a better 2007.

Richard Grimmett, head of BirdLife International's Asia Division, said the smoke which threatened to disrupt the Festival events was probably caused by combination of fires used for clearing logged ground and regenerating scrub, and burning rice stubble after harvest. Burung Indonesia, BirdLife's Indonesian Affiliate, is investigating to what extent surviving blocks of forest are affected. “This is the most critical issue from a biodiversity point of view.

Grimmett believes that both small farmers and large oil palm plantation interests are involved in the burning. The laws on this issue are clear -no clearance by burning- but it is enforcement which is difficult and is best achieved by local governments.

Sign-ificant ceremony marks astonishing spread of IBAs

Sign-ificant ceremony marks astonishing spread of IBAs

24-10-2006
During this year's World Bird Festival, BirdLife International focused on awareness of Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The first step in raising awareness is telling people where and what IBAs are, so the unveiling of the first IBA sign in Europe, at Circeo National Park IBA in Italy, was particularly significant.
Local awareness of IBAs is very important for their conservation, so let's hope this sign is the first of many, said BirdLife's Head of Communications, Ade Long, who was present at the unveiling. And indeed many will be required, with more than 10,000 IBAs worldwide.
Local awareness is certainly high at Circeo National Park. The national park is spread across three municipalities, and all three mayors attended the event, together with representatives from the regional authorities responsible for the management of Circeo National Park.
People are becoming more conscious of the importance of their local birds and biodiversity, as shown by the growth of membership among BirdLife Partners.Elena D'Andrea, Director General of LIPU
The Chief of the national park, Armando Bellassai, spoke of his astonishment at the worldwide spread of the IBA Programme.
But LIPU's Director General, Elena D'Andrea, was less surprised. People are becoming more conscious of the importance of their local birds and biodiversity, as shown by the growth of membership among BirdLife Partners. IBAs and the local groups that support them provide a focus for the growing public desire to get involved.

Bauxite mining threatens unique Jamaican wildlife

Jamaican wildlife
23-10-2006
Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, around 450 km² of uninhabited moist tropical limestone forest with its extraordinary landscape of peaks, potholes and caves, and home to 27 of Jamaica’s 28 endemic bird species is at risk from bauxite mining.
Under licences already granted, mining companies have begun drilling for bauxite samples, the raw material for aluminium, to meet the world’s rapidly escalating demand for this valuable metal.
Conservationists in Jamaica are concerned that despite its international importance, the fate of the Cockpit Country is likely to go unnoticed by the rest of the world
Unfortunately for the birds, landscape, and many communities, Jamaica is pushing hard to extract every bit of bauxite from her soils to export for aluminium production, and we recently learned that this threat is close to reality for Cockpit Country,said Susan Koenig of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group, a coalition of concerned environmentalists, tourism industry representatives and schools.
Jamaica is recognised internationally for its high levels of endemism and is part of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot. Jamaica’s endemics include 828 flowering plants, 505 land snails, 21 amphibians and 34 reptiles, five bats and 20 butterflies. Some of these—including two amphibians, two reptiles, and 65 plants—are found only in Cockpit Country. It is likely that the sole viable population of the endemic, globally Endangered giant swallowtail, is confined to Cockpit Country.

Up to 95 percent of the world’s Black-billed Amazon Amazona agilis—one of two threatened endemic Jamaican parrots live in Cockpit Country, which is also home to the Endangered Jamaican Blackbird Nesopsar nigerrimus. This species forages mostly on bromeliads epiphytic plants growing on the branches of trees. But bromeliads are especially vulnerable to forest fragmentation and caustic dust from mining.
The ecological damage wrought by the industry is astounding for a medium-sized island Susan Koenig, Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group
Bauxite/aluminium is Jamaica’s principal export, and deposits underlie around one quarter of the island’s surface. But the industry has a patchy record of meeting its requirements to restore lands devastated by mining—and the government has a similarly poor record of enforcing the penalties for failure to do so. One community is currently preparing legal action on behalf of hundreds of people whose homes, lands and livelihoods were damaged by one of Jamaica’s major bauxite extraction companies.
But even if the restoration work were carried out, it would not improve the prospects for Cockpit Country’s biodiversity. In a typical restored site, a thin layer of topsoil has been bulldozed back over densely-packed limestone gravel and non-native grass planted. Examples of native forest regenerating in such reclaimed pits are difficult to find, according to Koenig.
The ecological damage wrought by the industry is astounding for a medium-sized island (11,000 sq. km). If you were to overlay a map of our bauxite reserves on a map of other major producers, such as Australia, Brazil, and China, they cover a few pixel points: for Jamaica, it’s approximately 25% of the island, said Koenig.
Jamaica Environment Trust and the other Cockpit Country Stakeholders are calling upon the Jamaican government to withhold permission for the bauxite companies to begin work, at the very least until a more stringent and realistic environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been carried out. The EIA should look not only at Cockpit Country’s biological and cultural heritage but also at the area’s role as the major aquifer for central-western Jamaica, and the part its forests play in reducing flash flooding and erosion after tropical storms and hurricanes (which seem to be increasingly frequent as a result of Global Climate Change).

The Cockpit Country Stakeholders also point out that even discounting the value of ecosystem services, damaging one of the world’s most important and spectacular karst landscapes to get at the bauxite underneath makes no long-term economic sense. Tourism now generates 45 percent of Jamaica’s foreign earnings, and directly or indirectly, provides jobs for around a quarter of the working population. Mining employs far fewer people and is not sustainable.

Students celebrate birds in Rwanda

Students celebrate birds in Rwanda

23-10-2006
Teachers and 50 children from Nyabirehe Primary School joined staff from Karisoke Research Center to celebrate local bird life. The school is close to Volcanoes National Park, one of seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified in Rwanda. The children performed dances and sketches on the importance of bird conservation. The Volcanoes National Park Local Community Warden, Janvier Kwizera, praised the school for its initiative and asked the pupils to be ambassadors in the local population, raising awareness of environmental issues and protection of biodiversity. Claudien Nsabagasani, a researcher at the Center led a birdwatching excursion around the national park and commented: “children were given the opportunity to identify and watch birds in their natural habitat, which helped to create awareness about their importance.
As part of the World Bird Festival celebrations, members of the Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (ACNR, BirdLife in Rwanda) and the National University of Rwanda-Nature Club (NUR) went birdwatching in Akagera National Park, an Important Bird Area (IBA) in Rwanda. The group visited Ihema Lake and saw herons, jacanas, marabous and egrets as well as a Shoebill (Balaniceps rex), a rare and endemic species of the Nile Basin. Dr Charles Ntaganda, chairman of ACNR said: 'All the students were really interested in the avifauna of the lake and they took the opportunity to reactivate the NUR club to undertake activities related to conservation biology'. The event was funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and this was the first year Rwanda participated in the World Bird Festival.

Bald Ibis adults tracked to wintering ground

16-10-2006
BirdLife partners in the Middle East, Africa and the UK have come one step closer to discovering what is preventing sub-adult Northern Bald Ibises Geronticus eremita returning to their breeding grounds in Syria. Using satellite tags, a group of ibises was tracked to the highlands of Ethiopia, where they were last recorded almost 30 years ago.
Thirteen birds, two breeding pairs, six juveniles and three sub-adults left the breeding site in Palmyra, Syria, in July. Ethiopian conservationists found the trio of tagged adult birds plus a fourth adult in the first week of October, although the birds are known to have been in Ethiopia since August. Mystery still remains as to where the subadult birds spend their time before returning to the breeding colony.
Despite breeding well in Syria where the birds are protected by Bedouin nomads and Syrian government rangers, the colony’s numbers have not increased. Scientists fear that hunting, overgrazing or the heavy use of pesticides including DDT somewhere on the birds’ migration route has been keeping numbers low.
In Ethiopia, we will be doing all we can to implement conservation measures to help increase the numbers of this rare but special bird, -Mengistu Wondafrash, EWNHS

'We are very hopeful that the other bald ibises from Syria are nearby and we will be making a second visit to the area next month to try to find them, said Mengistu Wondafrash, Team Leader at the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS, BirdLife in Ethiopia). In Ethiopia, we will be doing all we can to implement conservation measures to help increase the numbers of this rare but special bird,'
The Yemeni Environment Minister, Abdul-Rahman F. al-Eryani, also saw the birds while they were in Yemen. He said: 'I was very excited to find that the birds could once more be seen in Yemen. We recognise the importance to our country of their migration and we will be waiting for them to return on their way back to Syria. We will do our very best to see them safely on their way.'

'We are optimistic that protection of the ibis in Ethiopia and Yemen will be good but the birds must still survive a perilous journey to get there each year, and it is our job to make that journey safer,' - Ibrahim Khader, Head of BirdLife Middle East

'They have chosen their site well because Ethiopia is famous for its protection of wildlife and their last port of call was Yemen where the government is also supportive,' said Chris Bowden of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), who has been involved with the project since the tiny Syrian colony ,only the second remaining in the wild was discovered four years ago. 'We thought the birds would go to Yemen, Eritrea or Somalia and were surprised at the length of their journey -3,100 km and the speed with which they covered the distance.'

Northern Bald Ibises were last seen in Ethiopia in 1977, but their current site is remote and the terrain difficult, which may explain why they have not been seen since. BirdLife researchers will find out what local people know of past visits by the ibises to Ethiopia. Their work is being part-funded by the National Geographic Society.

Ibrahim Khader, Head of BirdLife Middle East, said: 'We are optimistic that protection of the ibis in Ethiopia and Yemen will be good but the birds must still survive a perilous journey to get there each year, and it is our job to make that journey safer. If we can do that, this population will have a much better chance of survival.'
Protection measures on the ibises' migration route could include replacing harmful pesticides and making hunters aware of how rare and vulnerable the species is.
Track the birds' progress at:

SalvaNATURA Bird-a-thon supports Neotropical migrant monitoring

13-10-2006
Money raised by this year’s Bird-a-thon will help SalvaNATURA (BirdLife in El Salvador) with the running costs of its permanent bird monitoring stations in three national parks. The stations are a vital part of a network of ringing stations across Central America, which track migrants like Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera and Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula to and from the north.
Set up by SalvaNATURA’s Head of Science, Oliver Komar, the stations initially depended on the goodwill of volunteers, and the time Komar could spare from his many other responsibilities.
Support from Bird-a-thon sponsors over the last three years has enabled us to train three full-time professionals and more than 20 volunteers, who run mist-nets every week of the year at five stations in the El Impossible, Los Volcanes and Montecristo National Parks,' Komar explains. All three national parks are soon to be declared Important Bird Areas.
One monitoring station has been set up in a shade-grown coffee plantation in the buffer zone of Los Volcanes National Park. 'Here we are gathering valuable data on the ecology of birds in coffee plantations, to evaluate how this major land use can conserve avian diversity.' Komar says the presence of biologists in the national park helps local communities appreciate their immense value for birds.

Royal support for Save the Vulture campaign

11-10-2006
On Saturday 7 October, a gala dinner was held in Tokyo where Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan, Honorary President of BirdLife International, launched a campaign to support BirdLife’s initiative to rescue Asia’s ailing vulture populations. Her Imperial Highness spoke of the importance of BirdLife’s quick actions to save vultures in the region.

Vultures were once a common sight throughout South Asia, particularly in India, but three species have suffered declines of up to 97% in recent years because of poisoning by the veterinary drug Diclofenac.
Vultures feeding on cattle carcases treated with Diclofenac become lethargic and eventually die through kidney failure and dehydration.
'Asia’s vultures are in severe crisis and funds are urgently needed to support captive breeding schemes to prevent their extinction,'Richard Grimmett, Head of BirdLife’s Asia Division
BirdLife partners in India, Nepal, Pakistan and the UK have been involved with others in the identification of Meloxicam as a safe alternative to Diclofenac. The Indian authorities have been quick to react to the crisis, with a national ban on use of Diclofenac as a veterinary medicine and the establishment of captive vulture breeding centres.
The Save the Vulture campaign was launched as one of the global activities celebrating the 2006 World Bird Festival, and will run until April 2007. 2007 also marks the 50th Anniversary of the cultural exchange agreement between Japan and India.
Those attending the dinner included His Excellency Mr Hemant Krishan Singh, Indian Ambassador to Japan, and Mr K. Ramadoss, Chief Executive of the Bank of India in Japan. The event was sponsored by the Bank of India and with the support of Taj Enterprise.

IBA Directory of UK’s Overseas Territories launched

IBA Directory of UK’s Overseas Territories launched

11-10-2006
A new directory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the United Kingdom’s 14 Overseas Territories highlights their massive global biological importance.
The UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) hold 34 bird species globally threatened with extinction and a further 13 species are Near-Threatened. Of these, 22 are confined to the UKOTs and a further 15 have vital breeding grounds in them.
Threatened species include the Critically Endangered Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi, which is confined to the Caribbean island and lost more than half of its range following a devastating volcanic eruption in 1997. Seven albatross and five petrel species with important nesting populations in the Territories are affected by the impacts of longline fishing in the Southern Ocean, particularly in the south Atlantic. Invasive plants and animals have had a devastating impact on native wildlife in the Territories too.
Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB, commented: “These crown jewels for conservation hold more species of bird under the threat of extinction than the whole of Europe, and the threats to them are very real. Several birds found only in UK Overseas Territories have become extinct in recent centuries, putting the UK in the list of the world’s top five countries for bird extinctions.'
According to Barry Gardiner, UK Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs: 'The UK’s Overseas Territories are rich in wildlife and home to many endemic species. Their total land area is less than 10 percent of the British Isles, yet their importance in biological diversity is out of all proportion to their small size. This is underlined by the large number of globally-significant bird species in the UK overseas territories. However, these bird populations face increasing pressure from invasive alien species, habitat destruction, longline fishing and global climate change.'

'The launch of this report was timely, as Important Bird Areas are the theme of this year's World Bird Festival,' -Ade Long, Head of Communications, BirdLife International

The report, Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories; priority sites for conservation, is published by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and identifies 78 IBAs in the Territories, which stretch from Pitcairn to Bermuda, and from Gibraltar to British Antarctic Territory. Fewer than half the IBAs have official protection. The report was launched in Jersey at a conference organised by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, with the support of the Overseas Territories Environment Programme.

Crowds join the birds for EuroBirdwatch 2006

09-10-2006
EuroBirdwatch, Europe’s largest birdwatching event, proved a great success once again across the continent. Almost 45,000 people in 32 countries took part and nearly 2.25 million birds were observed.
'It’s great that so many people have experienced nature firsthand at one of our events this weekend,' said Maristella Filippucci, Promotions Officer at LIPU (BirdLife in Italy), who co-ordinated EuroBirdwatch.
EuroBirdwatch is part of BirdLife International’s World Bird Festival and this year’s events have focused on Important Bird Areas (IBAs). IBAs are found in almost every country and their conservation is crucial for maintaining healthy populations of birds.

Statistics for Eurobirdwatch 2006 were as follows:

The country with the largest number of separate events was Poland, which held 182 events over the weekend
The country with the highest number of recorded participants was Spain, with 25,000 people
The country with the largest number of birds sighted was Lithuania, with a tally of 813,945 birds
The country with the most diverse bird list was Romania, with 200 different species observed

EuroBirdwatch 2006 is supported by the Toyota Fund for Europe. Toyota and BirdLife International have an established partnership that involves support of EuroBirdwatch and practical co-operation between Toyota affiliates and their local IBAs.

Road to ruin for Polish wildlife

02-10-2006
Proposed road construction in Poland threatens to destroy valuable wildlife and habitats protected under European law. The developments form part of the Helsinki to Warsaw international transport corridor called -Via Baltica.
More than 150,000 people in Poland have already signed a petition against the road construction, but now campaigners are calling for more people to express their concern through an e-petition.
OTOP, the Polish partner of BirdLife International, WWF Poland and the CEE Bankwatch Network are asking the Polish government to stop work immediately on four projects and await the results of a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
'We understand the need for upgrading the road system, but we object to these decisions being taken without proper environmental evaluation. There are some very precious areas at risk, and a full appraisal should identify a less damaging route for Via Baltica,' said Malgorzata Znaniecka, OTOP’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Officer.
'The Polish government is getting a reputation for disregarding European law and its own natural heritage. We ask people everywhere to sign the e-petition and speak out in favour of Europe’s priceless green areas.'
The current road development proposals cut through Augustow and Knyszyn Primeval Forests, the Biebrza Marshes National Park and skirt Narew River National Park. All four are recognised as IBAs by BirdLife and are Special Protected Areas (SPA) under the Birds Directive and proposed as Sites of Community Interest (SCI) under the Habitats Directive -Europe’s strongest laws for the protection of natural environments.

The sites host a magnificent array of threatened wildlife, including wolf, lynx and Lesser-spotted and White-tailed Eagles Aquila pomarina and Haliaeetus albicilla. Biebrza Marshes is the most important breeding site in Europe for two globally-threatened bird species; Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga.

'Developing roadways through the centre of this pristine environment is nothing short of a crime,' said Anna Roggenbuck, Polish National Coordinator of CEE Bankwatch Network.

The Polish government has said it intends to begin work on the Augustow city bypass by the end of 2006, which will begin with the logging of primeval forest for access roads. Construction sites will cause habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as the obvious impacts of noise, water and air pollution, and the heightened risk of future road collisions with animals. If the Strategic Environmental Assessment results are soon going to show the best alternative route, why not wait?

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2006 |  World Bird News October 2006

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