World Bird News for March 2011

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Spoony wins hearts and votes from Disney’s Friends for Change

Spoony wins hearts and votes from Disney’s Friends for Change

Saving Spoony’s Chinese Wetlands’, BirdLife’s project to save two key resting and feeding sites used by Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers in China, has been selected to receive a $100,000 grant by The Walt Disney Company, through Disney’s Friends for Change.

‘Saving Spoony’s Chinese Wetlands’ was among five programmes chosen for their environmental efforts. Children worldwide had the opportunity to help Disney distribute the grants by voting for their favourite project on the Friends for Change website. The amounts awarded were determined by the number of votes each project received. Each was assured at least $25,000, but higher sums were available for those receiving more votes. The odd and appealing little wader –now down to its last 400 individuals- emerged as the children’s favourite, and was awarded the highest grant.

BirdLife’s China Programme, BirdLife Partner Designate the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society and other friends in China, including the Wild Bird Society of Shanghai and the Fujian Bird Watching Society, will use the $100,000 for their work at two wetlands near Shanghai, where Spoon-billed Sandpipers stop on their way round China’s coast. Gathering information about all the waterbirds that use these two wetlands will help us protect them better.

“We were thrilled to receive the news that our Spoon-billed Sandpiper project had received such a generous grant from Disney’s Friends for Change initiative”, said Richard Grimmett, BirdLife’s Director of Conservation. “We are also very excited that so many children are now aware of Spoony and his plight, and were moved to vote for him. Raising awareness in this way is another important contribution to making sure that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper will not be allowed to slip into extinction.”
(pic: Kens Room)

Artist aims to raise a million Rand for Kamfers Dam flamingos

On Wednesday 23rd March 2011, an exhibition of new works by Jeremy Houghton, inspired by the Near Threatened Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor will open at the Saatchi Gallery, London.

The exhibition will be raising funds in support of the Kamfers Dam wetlands, a conservation project centred on the largest Lesser Flamingo breeding population in South Africa. These wetlands contain a unique man-made breeding island, designed and created by Mark Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of BirdLife South Africa.
At times, up to 60 000 individuals -more than 50% of the southern African population- are present at Kamfers Dam, and in 2007-8, the breeding colony produced an estimated 9,000 chicks
But flooding and contamination by sewage now threaten the future of the flamingo colony. The breeding island is currently submerged, eggs and chicks have been lost, and many flamingos are reported to have departed for other wetlands.

Jeremy Houghton is one of the UK’s most exciting emerging artists. He has been selected as one of the British Telecom Olympic Artists for the London 2012 Olympics, and has worked as the official artist of London Fashion Week.

“I feel strangely indebted to the flamingo, which I first encountered at Kamfers Dam”, Jeremy Houghton explains. “These beautiful creatures have given me thousands of hours of inspiration in front of many a canvas. So when the opportunity arose to give something back to them, I jumped at it.”

He added: “Mark Anderson has not only been a great source of help and inspiration for my paintings, enabling me to get closer to these magnificent birds than ever before, but he also demonstrated how my art could potentially make a difference to their survival. The forthcoming exhibition of my flamingo paintings at the Saatchi gallery is intended to highlight the plight of the Lesser Flamingo, whilst also providing an opportunity to secure their survival. My aim is for the exhibition to raise one million rand for the Save The Flamingo charity, allowing life in and around the wetlands to thrive, rather than just attempt to survive.”

Race to save oiled penguins after tanker strikes Tristan da Cunha

A grounded cargo vessel has been wrecked on Nightingale Island – part of the Tristan da Cunha UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic – and an oil spill now threatens wildlife, including nearly half of the world population of Northern Rockhopper Penguin; classified as Endangered by BirdLife International on the IUCN Red List.

Hundreds of oiled penguins have already been seen coming ashore.

The concerns of the Tristan Islanders, the Tristan Association and the RSPB who work on the islands, are not only are for the oil spill but also the the risk of any rats on the MS Oliva cargo vessel colonising the island, potentially placing the island’s internationally-important seabird colonies in immense jeopardy.

The fuel oil and cargo of 1,500 tonnes of heavy crude oil is already leaking into the sea, Oil now surrounds Nightingale Island and extends in to a slick 8 miles offshore from the wreck. The slick poses a major hazard to the island’s tens of thousands of pairs of penguin as well as the economically-important rock lobster fishery.

The Tristan Conservation Department – which rapidly deployed nine people to the island – has already placed baited rodent traps on the shore in the vicinity of Spinner’s Point, the headland on the north-west of the island where the bulk carrier has grounded.

A salvage tug is currently en-route from Cape Town with an experienced crew and environmental experts but she is not due to arrive at the island until Monday. The ship has already broken in two, but all of the 22-strong crew are safe. As the situation is no longer a salvage operation, the Tristan authorities understand that the vessel’s operators and insurers are investigating chartering a second vessel to assist with cleaning up the pollution and oiled seabirds.

Richard Cuthbert is an RSPB research biologist who has visited Nightingale Island. He said: “How a modern and fully-laden cargo vessel can sail straight into an island beggars belief. The consequences of this wreck could be potentially disastrous for wildlife and the fishery-based economy of these remote islands. The Tristan da Cunha islands, especially Nightingale and adjacent Middle Island, hold million of nesting seabirds as well as four out of every ten of the world population of the globally endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguin. Over 200,000 penguins are currently on the islands and these birds will be heavily impacted by leaking oil.

“If the vessels happens to be harbouring rats and they get ashore, then a twin environmental catastrophe could arise. Nightingale is one of two large islands in the Tristan da Cunha group that are rodent free. If rats gain a foothold their impact would be devastating. Fortunately, the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department has already done a brilliant job in placing rodent traps in the vicinity of the wreck, with the hope these will intercept any rats getting ashore.”

Trevor Glass, the Tristan Conservation Officer, has been working around the clock since the incident occurred early on Wednesday morning. Returning from an emergency assessment visit, he said: “The scene at Nightingale is dreadful as there is an oil slick encircling the island. The Tristan Conservation Team are doing all they can to clean up the penguins that are currently coming ashore. It is a disaster!”

Audubon celebrates 10th year of Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act

10th March 2011

As spring approaches, millions of birds will wing their way back to North America. Red Knots near Tierra del Fuego will make a remarkable journey to the arctic tundra. Swainson’s Hawks leave their winter homes in Argentina, flying north for up to 22,500 kilometres. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have already begun to make landfall after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

From disappearing marshlands and unregulated hunting, to pesticides and pollution along major flyways, migrating birds face an arduous journey in search of healthy habitat. In 2007, Audubon (BirdLife Partner) issued a report revealing an alarming decline in America’s best known birds. More than one third of all Neotropical species are in decline. The good news is a visionary act that triples every dollar taxpayers invest. Since its passage in 2000, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act has helped protect more than 1.2 million hectares of vital bird habitat. For our country’s investment of $35 million dollars, it has leveraged $150 million more in private funding.
“The results can be seen across our hemisphere”, said Audubon President David Yarnold. “More than 300 conservation projects were brought to life by this act. I was fortunate to see this for myself last fall, meeting with our Partners Pronatura in Mexico, where a dozen ranchers set aside more than 1,200 hectares of forestlands in a narrow corridor essential for the annual migration of raptors.”

Yarnold joined Ambassadors from Brazil, Panama, the Bahamas and Dominican Republic among others, plus co-host Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, at a special celebration to mark the tenth anniversary of the initiative.
“This innovative public-private partnership energizes local, on-the-ground conservation and habitat restoration initiatives throughout the Western hemisphere”, said Glenn Olson, Audubon’s Donal O’Brien Chair in Bird Conservation. “It is pivotal to Audubon’s Important Bird Area programme, which aims to protect 150 million hectares of essential sites for breeding, migrating and wintering along the flyways in the US and frames our work with BirdLife International and other partners in Latin America.”
Other leaders slated to attend the March 10 evening event at the Hall of the Americas include Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Inzula; leaders from the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the Inter-American Development Bank, plus Audubon’s Director of Bird Conservation, Dr Greg Butcher, and Mike Daulton, Audubon’s Vice President of Government Relations.
“Congress has the opportunity to use this Act to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in private funds, which is a great deal for the American taxpayer,” Daulton said. “Birds also provide a return on our investment by helping the US economy in many ways. They contribute as pollinators, help control insects and rodents, and disperse seeds. They also attract birdwatchers, who spend on binoculars, cameras, books, mobile apps and ecotourism.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bird watching and other wildlife-related recreation generates $122 billion in spending every year. Their surveys also suggest that one in five Americans watches birds. Many species of migrants also have significant cultural value such as swallows as harbingers of spring.

Rare species benefit from fund for threatened birds

9th March 2011

The Birdfair/RSPB Research Fund for Endangered Birds has announced its latest round of grants with some of the world’s most threatened birds benefiting.
This fund allows researchers working in developing countries to undertake basic research on threatened species to generate the knowledge needed to design conservation action.
Since 2001, the fund has funded 104 projects, around a quarter of all those submitted to the scheme and by seeking co-funding with other organisations, it has been able to fund projects to a total value of over £100,000. In 2005, the British Birdwatching Fair joined the scheme, allowing even more projects each year to be funded.

The many successes of the scheme so far include:

The rediscovery of Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini in Fujian, China.
The discovery of important staging posts of Sociable Lapwings Vanellus gregarius in Syria.
The discovery of new sites for the Fringe-backed Fire-eye Pyriglena atra in Brazil.
The recovery of the tiny remaining population of the Pale-headed Brush-finch Atlapetes pallidiceps in Ecuador.
The rediscovery of the Banggai Crow Corvus unicolor in Indonesia
Identification of key wintering sites for the Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus in China.

The latest projects to be funded are:

$1,000 to Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey) for research in Turkey on the Endangered Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus?$2,000 to ARCONA Consulting and BANCA (BirdLife in Myanmar) for research in Myanmar on methods to reduce hunting pressure on the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
$2,000 to the BirdLife Indochina Programme for surveys of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper in the Mekong Delta
$1,000 to Nature Iraq (BirdLife Partner) for surveys of the Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing (with another $1,000 co-funded from elsewhere)
$1,986 to University of Adelaide for vital research on the Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis in Ecuador
$2,000 to Christian Devenish (Birdlife Americas secretariat and Manchester Metropolitan University) for research on the Endangered Peruvian Plantcutter Phytotoma raimondii and Rufous Flycatcher Myiarchus semirufus in Peru
$2,000 to Fundacion ProAves in Colombia for conservation research on the Critically Endangered Niceforo’s Wren Thryothorus nicefori
$1,000 to Juan Fernandez Islands Conservancy, Chile, for a population assessment of the Critically Endangered Juan Fernandez Firecrown Sephanoides fernandensis
$1,788 to Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (BirdLife Partner) to undertake population surveys of the Endangered Thyolo Alethe Alethe choloensis

A lifeline to prevent Africa’s first recorded bird extinction

4th March 2011

Liben Lark with a population of possibly fewer than 100 birds, is widely tipped to become mainland Africa’s first recorded bird extinction, unless urgent action is taken to prevent its demise from the only area it now inhabits: a single grassy plain in southern Ethiopia.

Classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat, this globally threatened bird has now been thrown a lifeline thanks to funds raised by the British Birdwatching Fair held at Rutland Water last August. Birdfair organisers Martin Davies (from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – RSPB) and Tim Appleton (from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust – LRWT) presented a £242,000 (US$395,000) cheque to Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International’s Chief Executive at an special reception hosted by His Excellency Berhanu Kebede, Ethiopia’s UK Ambassador, at the Ethiopian Embassy in London.

These funds will be used by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, the BirdLife Partner in the country, to work with local communities to reduce the impact of over-grazing livestock and prevent conversion of the land to arable farming. Helping the grasslands recover will benefit both the lark and the pastoralists living there.

Man-made and natural phenomena all conspired, historically; to ravage Ethiopia’s wildlife riches and this landlocked African country now has 22 species of bird facing extinction. Conservationists hope that the proceeds from the 2010 British Birdwatching Fair will help turn the tide and save the Liben Lark and a range of other highly threatened species. A huge mural (16ft x 4ft) portraying all the endemic and threatened birds of Ethiopia, which was painted by more than 40 wildlife artists at the 2010 Fair, was put on display at the Embassy Reception. It will soon be heading out to Ethiopia where it will go on permanent display in Addis Ababa to help raise awareness of these bird species and their plight.

Martin Davies, of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) – one of the fair’s co-founders and key organisers – said: “Ethiopia has a remarkable natural heritage and is hugely rich in species found nowhere else in the world. Over 840 species of bird have been recorded in Ethiopia, 17 of which are unique to this country and 29 others nearly so. Unfortunately, this wonderful wildlife is under increasing threat and we hope that the proceeds from this year’s event will help the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society and BirdLife International to take the urgent steps needed to secure the future of this country’s unique birds. We also hope that the event will help raise the international profile of this wonderful country, so rich in wildlife.”

“Once again Birdfair have delivered a huge boost for conservation. This money will be used to secure a future for Southern Ethiopia’s incredible birds”, said Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International’s Chief Executive.

Ethiopia’s UK Ambassador, His Excellency Berhanu Kebede, said: “Ethiopia’s biodiversity resources are under critical threat. Growing human and livestock populations pose the single most serious problem, resulting in deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, and desertification. To reverse the situation, the government of Ethiopia has promulgated laws and put in place the appropriate institutions. Significant achievements have been made in restoring the fauna and flora of the country; hence the percentage of land covered by forests has grown from three to nine per cent within five years.
“On behalf of my country, I’m delighted that Ethiopia’s unique birds have been chosen as a beneficiary of the British Birdwatching Fair. It is fantastic that British birdwatchers have a passion for conserving Ethiopia’s birds. With four out of ten of Africa’s birds having been seen in Ethiopia, my country has a great deal to offer visiting birdwatchers and we believe that eco-tourism will be vital in helping to protect our unique wildlife and landscapes.”

Another Ethiopian endemic species in trouble is the grandly-named Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. This macaw-sized bird with scarlet and navy-blue wings, long tail and green-and-white head was first found among the personal effects of the Prince after he was crushed to death by an elephant in 1893. As the unfortunate nobleman had not had time to label the specimen, its origins remained a mystery for half a century before the species was seen in the wild by a Cambridge naturalist in southern Ethiopia.

The other species set to benefit from the proceeds of the Birdfair include: the Ethiopian Bush-crow; and the White-tailed Swallow.

The LRWT’s Tim Appleton is the fair’s other co-founder and co-organiser. He said: “Since 1989, the British Birdwatching Fair has raised almost £2.5 million for global conservation. Beneficiaries have included threatened species, spanning the globe from albatrosses in the Southern Ocean to rainforest birds in the Philippines. This is a terrific achievement for an event which has its home in a few fields in Leicestershire over one weekend each year. Everyone involved in the Fair, from visitors, exhibitors and volunteer supporters alike, can be justifiably proud of what they have helped achieve.”

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

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