Monthly Archives: March 2017

Andean Gull ~ Cusco Region, Peru

(birdingthedayaway; 15 March 2017)

 
I had convinced myself that this species was going to be fairly straightforward, well it wasn’t easy …
 
So the plan was that on route to Machu Picchu I would get a taxi to the train station from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and stop at lakes or whenever needed for the species ..
 
Errrrrr NO that’s not what happened !!
I sat out in the sun the previous day and paid the price with sunstroke, up most of the night being sick.
The taxi ride was challenging, I did have an emergency bag in my pocket just in case but managed to sleep for most of it ..
I did see two gulls from the train which boosted my straightforward theory ..
 
Two days at Machu Picchu was fantastic  but didn’t see any gulls even though the River Urubamba flows past Aguas Calientes where I was staying ..
 
After Machu Picchu I had pre-booked another night in Cusco but I cancelled this for another night at the lake, doubling my chances with the gulls ..
The train ride back and a few more gulls spotted ..
Taxi to the lake $80 yep take me !!
 
3 hours later and I’m at Lake Huacarpay not a gull in sight !!
But it gets worse the Hotel is closed and has been for 7 months ..
Thanks alot Booking(.)com
 
I then tried the surrounding area for another hotel but in the end had to return back to Cusco for the two nights.
The whole day wasted and a taxi fare of $160 for nothing ..
At this point my straightforward theory has got a slight crack in it !
 
Once at the Cusco hotel a car and driver were arranged for the next morning.
06:30am and the first stop is Lake Huaypo a gigantic lake which did have a few gulls but they just never came close ..
Next was Lake Piuray this was a humongous great lake and the tiny white specks never came close ..

My straight forward theory is shattered !!

Time for something to eat so the taxi driver took me to Chinchero an ancient city with ruins, after some food, the taxi driver stopped at the ruins from an elevated vantage point and flying past were two gulls which landed in the valley below ..
I gestured to the driver take me to the Blanco Aves ?
In the midday sun I managed a few shots just before they were flushed.
 
With one more lake to try we headed off towards Pisaq, the road just kept on going up and reached 3,870m ..
By now all the Inca Kola that I’d been drinking needed to come out so I asked the driver who did a u-turn and stopped outside what looked like a house but was actually a Textiles Shop, as I got out the car I could see a small lake behind the shop so grabbed the bins and looked over the fence, I was immediately rumbled and invited in by the owner.
The bins were dumped in favour of the camera and then I had to get rid of the Inca Kola and into the garden I went ..

I could not believe what I was seeing a pair of Andean Gulls with another circling overhead, I’m glad I got that Kola out or else I would of just wet myself there and then ..!!

The location was Lake Huayllarccocha and it was time to cash in my Karma points …

I had 15 minutes with the birds and went away happy giving the man some money for letting me in ..

We then went further up the road towards Pisaq but this nagging feeling ate away at me so after 90 minutes it was a return to the small lake which is when all the grass shots took place ..

Another 15 minutes and I gave the man $20 more …

If you want to just tick n run then any suitable habitat is straight forward ..

But if you want to photograph them keep your fingers crossed and wear your lucky pants !! 
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Carnage in Victoria’s wetlands

Freckled-Duck-male.jpg

(Birdlife Australia; 26 March 2017)

BirdLife Australia is calling upon the Victorian Government to close wetlands supporting large numbers of threatened birds to duck shooters after the illegal slaughter of hundreds of protected and threatened waterbird species on the opening weekend of the season.

At least 118 Freckled Ducks and 38 Blue-billed Ducks, both threatened species, were killed at First Marsh near Kerang last weekend.

The Game Management Authority (GMA), a statutory authority that regulates hunting and advises the relevant minister on wetland closures, rejected BirdLife Australia’s pre-season call for this wetland to be closed due to the presence of at least 200 Blue-billed Ducks. The GMA argued that Blue-billed Ducks are “rarely shot”—as “reluctant,” weak flyers that inhabit deep water and tend to dive rather than fly, they were at low risk of being in the firing line.

With almost 20 per cent of these birds now dead, it is clear that the GMA couldn’t have been more wrong.

Worse still, the carnage happened in plain sight of GMA staff, police and other authorities—but it’s highly unlikely that anyone will be prosecuted.

GMA have released a statement condemning the actions of hunters who have “done the wrong thing.” With over 1,000 ducks and other waterbirds left for dead on the First Marsh, it is clear that this admonishment is too little too late and that too many shooters are either unwilling or incapable of following the rules.

Only a fraction of the wetlands open to shooting were monitored last weekend and the numbers killed and left by shooters at The Marshes area alone far surpasses the infamous ‘Box Flat Massacre’ of 2013 where over 700 birds were illegally shot, including more than 100 threatened Freckled Ducks.

There is an unequivocal case that First Marsh and other wetlands carrying significant numbers of protected and threatened species should be immediately closed to shooters. The illegal shooting of over 1,000 birds on the opening weekend of the season brutally demonstrated the weakness of the GMA’s case and Ministers Jaala Pulford and Lily D’Ambrosio will have yet more blood on their hands if they do not act immediately to prevent these disgraceful yet predictable events being repeated.

Vultures need you

agami-vale-gier-griffon-vulture.jpg(Shaun Hurrell; 24 March 2017)

Let’s face it: vultures are special. Part of human culture, they are seen as disgusting by some, yet loved by others (including us and you). Asia’s vultures have suffered some of the fastest population declines ever recorded in a bird, and Africa’s recent severe declines mean that now most old-world vultures are on the edge of extinction. With a unique scavenging niche, this group of birds clean our landscapes and help to prevent the spread of disease—among the many reasons why we are doing all we can to save them. BirdLife’s vulture campaign has already shown how many people love and value vultures, and now there is a chance for some of you to input technical comments on the draft plan that sets out how best to conserve them.

Today we promote a public consultation on a new draft Multi-Species Action Plan to conserve African-Eurasian Vultures, launched by the Coordinating Unit of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Raptors MOU, in collaboration with BirdLife International, Vulture Conservation Foundation and the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group. (The CMS Raptors MoU is the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia—an international, legally non-binding agreement to protect migratory birds of prey.)

In total, 127 countries are lucky to have recorded vultures in their skies.

This plan, if adopted by the Parties to CMS in October this year, would mean these countries being requested to take decisive action over twelve years to save vultures. The Plan would also guide states that are not Parties to CMS, as well as many other actors. This includes actions to protect vultures across Africa, Asia and Europe from all of threats sadly faced by these birds: poisoning, persecution, collision with energy infrastructure, habitat loss, and many more.

Whilst we are doing all we can to ensure a future for these special birds it is, above all, Governments that have the resources to solve this problem at the huge scale required.

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Livestock grazing effects on sage-grouse

sage_grouse.jpg
(USGS; 21 March 2017)

Effects of livestock grazing on greater sage-grouse populations can be positive or negative depending on the amount of grazing and when grazing occurs, according to research published today in Ecological Applications. The research was conducted by scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Colorado State University and Utah State University.

Higher levels of grazing occurring early in the growing season – that is, before peak plant productivity – was associated with declining sage-grouse population trends, whereas similar levels of grazing that occurred later in the growing season corresponded with sage-grouse population increases. The study authors noted that this finding might reflect the sensitivity of some grass species to being grazed upon during their spring growing period, as well as the potential for additional plant growth if grazing later in the season removes dead vegetation.

“Increasing our understanding of how the amount of grazing and season of livestock use affect vegetation could help inform short-term modifications to livestock management to benefit sage-grouse populations and help sustain western ranching operations,” said Cameron Aldridge, a CSU professor, USGS collaborator and study coauthor.

Studies demonstrating a link between grazing and sage-grouse population trends have been lacking for this landscape species, which use vegetation consumed by livestock for food and shelter. In this new study, scientists analyzed grazing records from Bureau of Land Management allotments from 2002 to 2012 in sagebrush-dominated rangelands across Wyoming to determine the amount of grazing and when livestock graze in the plant-growth season. They then used annual counts of male sage-grouse from 743 breeding sites, known as leks, during the same period to evaluate whether livestock grazing management actions corresponded with sage-grouse population trends.

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Non-breeding ravens live in highly dynamic social groups

(Physorg; 23 march 2017)
Ravens have impressive cognitive skills when interacting with conspecifics – comparable to many primates, whose social intelligence has been related to their life in groups. An international collaboration of researchers led by Thomas Bugnyar, Professor at the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, could uncover for the first time the group dynamics of non-breeding ravens. The results help to understand the evolution of intelligence in this species and were published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports

Several recent studies have revealed that ravens are among the most intelligent species of birds and even species in general. But which factors caused the evolution of intelligence? According to a common hypothesis life in social groups can drive brain evolution especially when individuals benefit from remembering the identity of conspecifics and the interactions with them. With such knowledge, animals can avoid conflicts with higher ranking group members or develop alliances to gain better access to resources.

Researchers around Thomas Bugnyar in Austria and colleagues in France outfitted around 30 ravens with little “backpacks,” which measured with GPS the position of the animal every hour. The devices were charged with solar power and the data were transmitted using the GSM network for mobile phones. During the last four years of data collection movements up to 160 kilometers per day were observed. In addition in Austria and Italy a total number of 332 ravens have been marked individually with colored rings and wing-tags and their presence patterns in two study sites were monitored over years.

Conclusion of the biologists…….

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Research work on peregrine falcons inspires future aircraft technologies

Research work on peregrine falcons inspires future aircraft technologies
(Physorg; 23 ;March 2017)

Scientists at BAE Systems and City, University of London have revealed how research work on how falcons fly is inspiring new technologies for aircraft that could contribute to their safety in the air, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The technologies could be applied within the next 20 years.

The scientists have developed several concepts following research into how the peregrine falcon – the world’s fastest bird – is able to stay in control and airborne at speeds of up to 200mph, even in high winds. The technologies being developed include ‘sensory feathers’ – 3-D-printed polymer ‘hair’ filaments which would act like sensors on the body of an aircraft, providing an early warning system if it began to stall. Similarly, more densely packed passive polymer filaments may also be capable of changing the airflow very close to the surface of the aircraft which could reduce ‘drag’ on the aircraft wing-skin. Aerodynamic drag ultimately slows aircraft in flight.

A further technology has been inspired by the falcon’s ability to stabilise itself after swooping or landing by ruffling its feathers. Small flexible or hinged flaps on an aircraft could allow the wing to manoeuvre quickly and land more safely at lower speeds. The added safety margin gained using this approach could allow future aircraft of a more compact design or to carry more fuel. In addition, the research so far has shown that the flaps could potentially lower aircraft noise pollution.

Professor Christoph Bruecker from City’s Aeronautical Engineering department, said: “The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird, able to dive for prey at incredibly steep angles and high velocities. The research work has been truly fascinating and I am sure it will deliver some real innovation and benefits for the aerospace sector.”

Professor Clyde Warsop, a specialist in Aerodynamic Flow Control from our military aircraft business based at Filton in Bristol and Warton in Lancashire added: “Working with Professor Christoph Bruecker and his team at City, we’ve investigated how we could apply the unique abilities of the peregrine falcon to aircraft. Bio-inspiration is not a new concept; many technologies that we use every day are increasingly inspired by animals and nature.”

A light of hope for seabirds

albatross.jpg(Francisco González Táboas & Leo Tamini; 21 march 2017)

A new light of hope opened last week for large seabirds when Argentina established the use of measures to prevent its death in fisheries.

The days are not easy in the South Atlantic. Life is hard on the ship. The bad weather, the waves of several meters of height and the constant movement make the tasks of the sailors more difficult. The days, weeks and months away from the families accumulate and make the mainland a very coveted good. However, most of these men – and women – on board love the sea. They love their fish, which give them work and livelihood to live. And they love birds too. The immense and impressive albatrosses and petrels are, along with dolphins and whales, faithful companions of the days on the high seas.

And there are a few times when they have to kill or sacrifice some of these birds, which are caught in the dragging cables of the nets. In fact they are many. It is estimated that every year between 9,000 and 18,000 black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrys die on only thirty Argentine freezer vessels fishing for hake.

With the help of the Albatross Task Force Argentina of Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in the country), boat workers have learned to recognize and identify each species: the black-browed mollymawk Thalassarche melanophris, the Daption capense petrel, the Southern giant petrel Macronectes giganteus, the white capped albatross Thalassarche cauta, the Southern royal albatros of the south Diomedea epomophora and, of course, the king of the seas, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, among others, are part of the varied avifauna of those icy Seas.

Each death of one of them hurts. However they have also learned that things can be done to prevent these birds from dying while fishing.…..

Read more in spanish