World Bird News for July 2011

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Birdwatching Festival of Sagres: We await you!

Birdwatching Festival of Sagres: We await you!

Do not miss the opportunity to observe the largest concentration of raptors in migration!

This autumn Sagres (Algarve, Portugal) will be an irresistible destination for birdwatchers. During three days, from September 30th to October 2nd, we propose to come and live your passion for birds, approaching creatures as beautiful as Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Egyptian vulture, Hobby, Eleonora’s Falcon, Griffin and many more.

You’ll have the opportunity to participate in many different activities, as field trips led by experts in birdwatching, boat trips, night trips, workshops, lectures, birdrace, and much more. We will also present the first awareness campaign and donations for the conservation of Sagres steppe birds. There are special prices for accommodation and meals for the participants.

We will wait for you to live an unforgettable and fun moment.

Book your entry now, contact us:

Report reveals disturbing facts about illegal killing of birds throughout Europe

BirdLife Partners from 38 European countries have gathered information about the illegal killing and trapping of birds that occur in their countries. The revealing results were presented at the European Conference on Illegal Killing of Birds in Larnaka, Cyprus (1).

Illegal killing and trapping of birds is not restricted to the Mediterranean countries, contrary to what many people believed. Disgraceful as it is, one of the main conclusions of this report is that illegal killing of birds is a widespread practice that very few countries have managed to stop. In many cases birds are killed for economic reasons: because they are perceived by land users as a competitor for resources, or as a source of income through illegal trade. In other cases birds are persecuted as trophies, due to ignorance of the law or just for ‘fun’. Over 80 strictly protected bird species were reported as victims of deliberate wildlife crime.

“Birds are shot, trapped, caught with nets, glued to lime-sticks or even soaked with lethal poisons to lure and kill other birds… The creativity of those who break the law to kill a bird is appalling!” says Boris Barov, European Conservation Manager at BirdLife Europe, who presented the report, “Deliberate killing of birds which are protected, at the wrong places or during the closed season is unacceptable to conservationists and to responsible hunters alike. We expect the authorities and citizens to apply ‘zero tolerance’ to the offenders”.
The fact that Cyprus hosts this Conference is an extremely important opportunity for the authorities on the island to demonstrate their willingness to tackle the serious but yet unresolved problem of illegal trapping and shooting of migratory birds that spoils the reputation of the entire Mediterranean region.

More than 30 years since the adoption of European legislation aimed at eradicating persecution of wild birds the situation is far from resolved. The report takes stock of a shocking variety of illegal means and motivations behind these offences. Poisoning is among the most worrying as it is indiscriminate, thus equally dangerous for wildlife and for people.

“The use of poison is on the increase in many countries with the explicit purpose to kill predators and ‘protect’ economic interests. It is strictly against the law to use poisons for this purpose. It is not only dangerous to humans but also jeopardizes the most successful conservation efforts”, Boris Barov added.

During the Conference in Larnaka, BirdLife made specific recommendations for governments and civil society. Solutions often require cultural sensitivity and understanding of the human dimensions but the full implementation of the law is the indispensable first step of this process. In addition, governments need to set up effective institutions as well as to guarantee the adequate funds to enable the police, customs and courts to apply the law. Governments and NGOs should team up to improve information collection about wildlife crime to develop a common grasp of the issue. Finally, European Union countries and their neighbours should work together to prevent wildlife crime to be exported. Instead, joint efforts should focus on its eradication.

BirdLife expressed its willingness to work with all the relevant stakeholders to find the best solutions, and calls on the European hunting community (FACE) to seriously commit to resolve the problem of illegal killing.

For example for the last 10 years the Spanish government reported that at least 2,355 Red and Black Kites, 2,146 Griffon Vultures, 638 Black Vultures, 348 Egyptian Vultures (globally threatened!), 114 Spanish Imperial Eagles (globally threatened!), 40 Bearded Vultures, 7 brown bears and 858 specimens of other species have been poisoned.

Illegal trapping and trade of protected species
Trade affects many species but the principle purposes behind it are numerous: for consumption as local delicacies in Italy, Cyprus, Spain and France; for collections of live caged birds, eggs or skins of rare species, which is widespread. Trapping of birds in Cyprus has reached a 10 year peak in 2010, and according to BirdLife Cyprus data an estimated 2.4 million birds are killed each year.

Hotspots of illegal activities in the Western Balkans
The EU Birds Directive was partly successful in reducing bird crime in the EU, but a worrying consequence has been the export of the problem to nearby countries, such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, where priority of wildlife protection and the law enforcement capacity are much lower. A criminal industry worth 10 million Euros per year has been established there, according to BirdLife estimates.

Great Rift Valley sites are added to World Heritage list

As a result of BirdLife’s support to a nomination by the Kenyan Government, the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The BirdLife International Africa Secretariat, and other stakeholders including Nature Kenya (BirdLife in Kenya), the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service worked on a report of the importance of the Kenya Lake System which was used in the Government submission.

The new natural World Heritage Site comprises three relatively shallow, interlinked lakes in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita are all individually recognised by BirdLife as Important Bird Areas. The total area covered is 32,034 hectares
BirdLife is pressing for the entire African segment of the Great Rift Valley to be recognised as a World Heritage Site. It is based on the proposition that the migration of 5000 million birds from more than 350 bird species through the Great Rift Valley is a phenomenon of outstanding universal value, as defined by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

“The Kenya Rift Lakes is a major inscription for UNESCO and a powerful stepping stone for the conservation of whole of the Great Rift Valley” said Dr Julius Arinaitwe, Director of the BirdLife International African Partnership Secretariat.

All three lakes regularly support large foraging populations of Near Threatened Lesser Flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor), sometimes reaching two million at Lake Bogoria, which at times also supports the highest population of Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) in the entire Great Rift Valley chain of alkaline lakes. Lake Elementaita is a key breeding site for the Great White Pelican, with over 8,000 breeding pairs, the largest in Africa. In total, more than 400 species of birds have been recorded on and around the lakes, including over 50 Palaearctic migrant species.

While not amounting to formal protection, Natural World Heritage Site status will give the three lakes an international profile, greatly enhancing the prospects that their beauty and biodiversity value will be respected and conserved.
BirdLife has prepared an analysis, which makes the case for supporting a “serial transnational nomination process” for sites in the African Great Rift Valley to be inscribed on the World Heritage list. Twenty-four sites are identified on the basis that they play a major role as (a) stop over points in the Africa GRV as part of the Africa-Eurasian bird migration cycle (b) nesting sites and/or (c) migratory soaring bird bottleneck sites.

The 24 identified sites are in ten African countries: Egypt (3 sites); Djibouti (2); Ethiopia (5); Kenya (3); Uganda (3); Tanzania (3); Zambia (1), Mozambique (1), Malawi (1) and Botswana (1), with one transnational site – Lake Tanganyika- shared by four countries, Burundi, DRC, Tanzania and Zambia.

“The GRV thematic analysis seems to have been very thoroughly prepared, and all involved, particularly the BirdLife Africa Secretariat, should be congratulated”, commented Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Director of Network and Capacity.

BirdLife has proposed the inclusion of Lake Natron in Tanzania as a potential candidate site to be considered in the second cycle of nominations. Lake Natron is the breeding site of all the Lesser Flamingos in East Africa, and around three-quarters of the entire global population, but is threatened by a bid to exploit its alkaline waters for soda-ash. The nomination of Lake Natron is supported from many quarters, including the IUCN, Africa World Heritage Fund, BirdLife Partners in GRV countries, and AEWA (the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds).
Lota Melamari, a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas said: “The successful inscription of the Kenya Lakes System is a breakthrough and should be celebrated. However, for the effective protection of Lesser Flamingoes, safeguarding Lake Natron in Tanzania is critical”.

Forest & Bird wants unique West Coast environment saved

Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) announced today its proposal for a reserve on the Denniston and Stockton plateaux to protect the last remaining habitat of several endangered species, outstanding landscapes and unique ecosystems.
Forest & Bird proposed the new 5900 hectare reserve at a meeting of the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board in Hokitika today.
“Our aim is to ensure this area is included in Schedule 4, protecting it from being mined in the future,” said Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Field Officer, Debs Martin.
“The plateaux are among the rarest habitats in New Zealand, and we need to give them the protection they deserve.”

The Denniston Reserve proposal would incorporate publicly-owned land on the Denniston Plateau, the upper Waimangaroa Gorge, the southern Stockton Plateau, and the Mt William Range.

It would exclude active mine sites and the small town of Denniston. The Stockton Plateau totals 4,600 hectares in area, with the northern half owned by state-owned coalminer Solid Energy. Australian company Bathurst Resources is currently applying for resource consent to mine public conservation land on the Denniston Plateau.

The Denniston and Stockton plateaux lie 600-1100 m above sea level northeast of Westport. The combination of climatic conditions and geology has created a complex array of ecosystems found only on this corner of the South Island. They are home to nationally endangered species, such as the great spotted kiwi, the secretive fernbird, and the carnivorous giant land snail, Powelliphanta patrickensis.
Research in the past few decades has revealed the complexity of the ecosystems on the plateaux, and the failure of mining rehabilitation efforts to ensure the long term survival of threatened species, such as the giant land snail.
“Recent opencast coal mines have destroyed extensive areas of the Stockton Plateau, laying waste to habitat for rare creatures – some of which are still being revealed as new to science,” Debs Martin said.
“Current coal mine revegetation programmes do not replicate the habitats that were once there, and the long term survival of many unique and wonderful species is at risk.”

Universities invest in Seychelles Warbler research

Nature Seychelles (BirdLife Partner) has received a total of £40,000 to renovate the Cousin Island Field Station. The Seychelles Warbler Research Group comprising of the Universities of East Anglia and Sheffield in the UK, and the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) have invested in the station for the implementation of ongoing Seychelles warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis research as well as to enlarge research capacity for other species.

The funds will be used to repair the facility, upgrade equipment and materials for researchers, students and volunteers and generally make for a better working environment. The Field Station was set up by BirdLife International in 1971. It has served hundreds of students and researchers since.

“Cousin Island Special Reserve is a perfect model for doing scientific research. We have invested in it because it’s a natural laboratory where you can do controlled research in a contained, yet very natural, wild environment”, said Dr. David Richardson of the University of East Anglia who coordinates the Warbler Group.

Seychelles warblers have been the subjects of intensive ongoing research by the group since 1988 and Richardson has been coming out to the Seychelles since 1997.

“We have monitored the birds for many generations,” Richardson says.

Continuous monitoring and research has covered many aspects of the species biology. Research has shown for example how important the extended family is to Seychelles warblers just as it is to humans. Seychelles warblers often participate in what is called ‘cooperative breeding’ where young warblers, especially females, and grandparents help in raising offspring. Other research has looked at female infidelity in the warbler and its reasons, and there is ongoing work on genetic variability.

The Warbler Group has given scientific and public talks locally and throughout the world and has published papers in leading journals on many aspects of the warblers’ biology. Richardson delivered a talk on how science and conservation works hand in hand using the warbler as an example at Nature Seychelles on July 14.

The Seychelles warbler story begins in the 1960’s when the total world population of 26 individuals lived in a patch of mangroves on Cousin and the species was heading towards extinction. The cause of the decline was loss of habitat – Cousin was then a coconut plantation -and the introduction of rats. To save the bird, International Council for Bird Preservation (now Birdlife International) purchased Cousin for conservation. Management of the island was directed towards regenerating the indigenous vegetation and keeping Cousin rat free.

This led to a spectacular recovery of warbler numbers on the island and by 1982 Cousin had reached carrying capacity. After Cousin, new populations were established on Aride and Cousine to increase the bird’s population and range and improve its chances for survival.

The 2001 action plan for the warbler aimed at getting populations on five islands with over 5,000 birds. Nature Seychelles undertook the fourth translocation to Denis in 2004 and the population is flourishing there. A fifth island will be added to the list by the end of the year.

Syrian ibises fledge; Morocco’s ibis wardens need your support

For the first time in the last three years, the Middle East’s only breeding population of Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita has reared two healthy young, which have left the nest and begun their migration to their non-breeding grounds.

Northern Bald Ibis (NBI) is currently the most threatened bird in the Middle East, with just one breeding pair left of the tiny colony that was found near Palmyra, Syria, in 2002. Until this momentous rediscovery, the species had not been seen in the region for 70 years.

“We’re delighted to report that the fledging of two chicks has reignited our hopes for the recovery of this bird”, said Chris Bowden, the RSPB’s international species recovery officer, who coordinates the Northern Bald Ibis programme for BirdLife International. “The Syrian Desert Commission has successfully protected the birds and their breeding grounds.”

He added: “As we trace their migration route across the Middle East, we have colleagues across the region poised to monitor them on their journey. However, local difficulties are confounding our efforts. One of our Yemeni colleagues was forced to wait nine hours for fuel before starting to search for the birds!”

Since the 2002 rediscovery, conservationists have sought to give the birds protection by working with local people, and using state-of-the-art technology to track their movements outside the breeding season. This research has identified the adult’s wintering grounds in the highlands of Ethiopia, but where the juveniles go still remains a mystery.

The NBI was once widespread across North Africa and the Middle East. The only other fully wild nesting population occurs on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, near Agadir.

“The outlying birds in Syria will be an important addition, but only if the population can be sustained”, Chris Bowden said.

Meanwhile, Spanish Partner SEO/BirdLife has launched an appeal to secure the world’s largest remaining population. Morocco’s Souss-Massa National Park region is crucial for Northern Bald Ibis, as all the country’s breeding colonies occur here. Over the last 14 years SEO/BirdLife has supported a dedicated team of local wardens, who are deeply involved in the protection and scientific monitoring of the species. Now they are calling for additional support so this team can continue their vital work.

The nest sites are located on coastal cliffs within the National Park and Tamri area, with an estimated 110 breeding pairs in 2009. There are several roosting sites, and most of the coastal steppes and fallow fields are used as feeding areas. The main known threat is the growth of tourism, and related disturbance to breeding and feeding habitats. Additionally, some birds have been killed by poachers.

The Souss-Massa National Park works with SEO/BirdLife on NBI conservation and sustainable management activities. The main institutions which have supported this successful project are the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Territori i Paisatge Foundation, Swarovski, and the Spanish National Parks Authority. Recently, the NBI conservation plan has gained the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Dublin Zoo.

A National Species Action Plan has been drawn up, including priority actions to be implemented to secure and further improve the growth of the population. Tagging individuals with coloured rings and satellite transmitters is a priority action. Satellite tagging has proven to be extremely useful in determining the movements of the tiny NBI population in Syria.

Two adult birds carry tracking devices, and their daily progress can be followed at:

Good news for the Danube Delta’s biodiversity

After a very long, difficult gestation, a new law has been born! On 4 July 2011 the Romanian President confirmed a new law for the protection and management of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.

This announcement follows a long campaign, started in 2007, by the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR – BirdLife Romania), Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration (DDBRA), together with many other nature organisations.

The original law governing the Delta did not conform with European Union (EU) nature legislation, which all Romanian law should have complied with since Romania’s accession to the EU in 2007.

The new law imposes strict protection on 18 areas within the Biosphere Reserve, where the only permitted activities will be for research, education and eco-tourism, governed by a management plan. The management plan will aim to achieve favourable conservation status for all the species for which the site is designated, quantified through ‘Favourable Reference Values’. The management plan will have primacy over other development plans in the region, and eventually they will have to be harmonised.

Also under the law, the DDBRA will sustainably manage the fish resource within the reserve and facilitate the ecological restoration of around 60,000 ha of unused agricultural polders and fishponds.

Marina Cazacu, SOR’s Danube Delta Casework Officer said ‘We’re delighted that at last we have a fit-for-purpose law governing the EU’s largest wetland. We look forward to working with the Delta administration to implement the management plan that will protect, manage and restore this fantastic place.’

The Danube Delta is the second largest delta in Europe, and one of its most important wetlands. It hosts 320 bird species and 30 different ecosystems. It is designated as a Special Protection Area and Site of Community Importance under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stamps raise funds for threatened Henderson Petrel

Stamps raise funds for threatened Henderson Petrel

A new stamp issue focuses on the endemic birds of the Henderson Island and will help raise funds for the RSPB’s (BirdLife in the UK) project to save the Henderson Petrel. See and buy stamps.

Henderson Island is in trouble and needs help.

The RSPB’s Henderson Island Restoration Project plans to eradicate introduced rats that are driving the Henderson Petrel towards extinction. Over 95% of petrel chicks on Henderson are killed by rats within one week of hatching – over 25,000 chicks every year.

Sir David Attenborough says of the project:

We now have an opportunity to rid Henderson forever of the rats and ensure the island remains a natural jewel. I am sure that you share my concern for Henderson Island’s exceptional wildlife and you will want to ensure its survival. With your help, it will be secure for generations to come.”

Henderson Island is part of the Pitcairn Group in the Pacific Ocean.

In August the RSPB operational vessel will be at Henderson, carrying two helicopters that will use GPS technology to drop poison bait across the entire island.

This highly targeted, short-term intervention will bring really long-term benefits: the Henderson petrel saved from its slide towards extinction, a large island restored and at least ten further unique species safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.

The overall cost of the eradication project is in the region of GBP £1.5 – 1.7m.

Buying stamps will help towards these costs.

With four endemic bird species, eight snails and nine plants found nowhere else in the world, Henderson is also home to marine turtles and twelve different seabird species, including four types of petrel. It is a World Heritage site.

This stamp issue focuses on the rare endemic birds, namely the Henderson Crake Porzana atra ; the Henderson Fruit-dove Ptilinopus insularis ; the Henderson Reed-warbler Acrocephalus taiti ; the Henderson Lorikeet Vini stephani and gives special attention to the Henderson Petrel Pterodroma atreta.

Birds of Ghana book aims to inspire a new generation of conservationists

Birds of Ghana book aims to inspire a new generation of conservationists

The first field guide to the birds of Ghana to be intended for the people of Ghana rather than overseas visitors has been launched in a ceremony in the Swiss Hall, Accra.

The 352-page Birds of Ghana describes and illustrates all 758 birds species recorded in Ghana and, where possible, provides their names in three languages, Akan, Ewe and Gonja, to stimulate local interest in bird watching.

The book is the fruit of a joint project between the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS, BirdLife in Ghana), the Swiss Society for the Study and Conservation of Birds (Ala), BirdLife International and the publisher A&C Black.

GWS will make the guide available to schools, universities, conservation NGOs, protected area authorities and government environmental agencies.

The guide was launched in the presence of the ambassadors and representatives of India, Switzerland, France and The Netherlands by Mr Henry Ford Kamel Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources. Mr Kamel said that the book would raise awareness of birds and their conservation, and that birds and their habitats were an important source of revenue through eco-tourism

Professor Yaa Ntiamoah-Baidu, Chair of the GWS management board, and Acting Pro-vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, added in her welcome address that GWS would soon be launching a nationwide common bird survey, which would provide an opportunity for everyone to get involved in observing and counting birds in their homes and workplaces. The survey would provide an essential scientific basis on which decisions about the conservation of Ghana’s changing environments could be made.

“Birds of Ghana is a present from Ala to the Ghana Wildlife Society and to everyone interested in the biodiversity of Ghana”, said Ala’s Gilberto Pasinelli. “May it help to promote knowledge about birds and their conservation in Ghana and West Africa.”

Ade Long, from the BirdLife International Secretariat, added that the BirdLife Partnership was committed to providing local field guides for countries which lack them. Over the last ten years, BirdLife have published local language field guides for more than 20 countries.

“Field guides have inspired generations of conservation specialists, and resulted in the formation of conservation NGOs, which in many countries have become self-sustaining, mass-membership organisations capable of saving species, restoring habitats, and working closely with their governments in favour of biodiversity”, Ade Long said.

“Birds of Ghana will nourish and help grow the next generation of conservationists in Ghana. But there are still many gaps across the world, especially in many bird-rich African countries which lack field guides of any kind. The BirdLife International Partnership is seeking funding partners to help them change this.”

Ala provided funding for Birds of Ghana to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Ghana was chosen because most long distance migrants breeding in Switzerland spend the European winter in West Africa, and Ghana has been the source of many ringing recoveries.

BirdLife International is grateful Ala and A&C Black for working with BirdLife to make an edition of the field guide available in Ghana.

Special thanks to the authors Nik Borrow and Ron Demey, as well as Nigel Redman from A&C Black for their support in making this book happen.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2011 |  World Bird News for July 2011

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