Category Archives: International

Is protecting threatened birds easy peesie? No, but a new project brings hope to important area

lapwings.jpg(Author: RSPB; Photo: Steve Round; 27 March 2017)

The Peesie Project is one of several that have received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership Project.

Led by RSPB Scotland, the Peesie Project aims to conserve and enhance a network of important wetland areas along with working in partnership on adjacent farmland to provide homes for breeding waders. The partnership is supported by volunteers who help to survey the birds and there are still opportunities for people to get involved this year.

Glenlivet and Tomintoul are a hotspot for breeding waders such as lapwings, known locally as Peesies, and curlews, both species that are suffering huge declines across the UK.

In fact, the farmland in this area is home to some of the highest densities of breeding waders in Scotland. In 2016, 3255 hectares of farmland across 17 farms were home to 734 pairs of breeding waders including 384 pairs of lapwings, 203 pairs of oystercatchers and 97 pairs of curlews.

It is hoped that the Peesie Project can safeguard this fantastic area as an important home for these birds for decades to come.

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Why do guillemot chicks leap from the nest before they can fly?

(Aarhus University, Physorg; 24 March 2017)
It looks like a spooky suicide when small, fluffy guillemot chicks leap from the cliffs and fall several hundred metres towards the sea – long before they are fully fledged. But researchers have now discovered that there is good reason behind this seeming madness.

And you ask yourself why when you on a calm Arctic night watch the spectacular sight of dozens of young guillemots who leave their safe nests and flutter past the towering cliffs into nothingness.

What is it that drives these young birds into something that to the eye seems an impossible survival strategy for the species?

Food deep in the ocean

Researchers from, among others, Aarhus University, Denmark and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Greenland, have now discovered that there is good reason behind this seeming madness. They mounted small electronic loggers on the legs of a number of birds and recorded the birds’ flight and diving behaviour in detail.

The guillemot (or thick-billed murre) is a seabird with a long life span. The female lays only one egg and thus has no more than one chick per year. Guillemots nest on cliffs in the Arctic, often in very large colonies with up to hundreds of thousands of birds—including Saunders Island, Thule, Greenland, where researchers have now studied their behaviour.

The arctic summer is short and females must quickly produce an egg. After the chick is hatched and is still in the nest, both the mother and the father bring it food, which consists of small fish.

The small electronic dataloggers revealed that guillemots can dive very deep to find food—down to about 200 m. This is deeper than for any other flying bird.

Males ensure the growth of their offspring

The distance from good fishing spots to the colony may be long, and in late summer the female is exhausted. This is when the male steps into character and guides his offspring to the sea and the indispensable pantry. And the male stays with his offspring for five to seven weeks at sea.

“Our measurements show that the male feeds the chick twice as much as both parents could if the chick remained in the colony.

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Spring hunting season now open; birds flying towards their breeding grounds should be protected not killed

Turtle-Dove.jpg

(Birdlife Malta; Photo: Aron Tanti; 24 March 2017)

The 2017 spring hunting season will be open for Quail only following a moratorium imposed last year on the Turtle Dove in reaction to statements by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella regarding the sustainability of a spring hunting season on the vulnerable species. The IUCN had revised the conservation status of the Turtle Dove to ‘vulnerable’ in June 2015 in response to further population declines across its breeding range. This will be the first time since 2009 that Turtle Dove will not be legally hunted in spring.

The hunting season will open via Legal Notices 82 and 83 of 2017 which authorise the dates between Saturday 25th March and Friday 14th April for hunting along with setting quotas for Quail. The national hunting bag limit has been set at 5,000 Quail and hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of five Quails and the seasonal bag limit of ten Quails per hunter. These have increased compared to previous years whilst timing remains the same with hunting being permitted between two hours before sunrise and noon for every day of the season. Hunters are required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the Special Licence.

The dates announced are meant to coincide with Quail migration and to avoid Turtle Dove migration which peaks around the second half of April. Just over 6,650 hunters have applied for this year’s season according to information supplied by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during the last Ornis Committee meeting. Over 60 officers will be deployed from the Police and the Armed Forces of Malta.

BirdLife Malta’s position in regard to this year’s spring hunting season remains that there is no scientific justification for spring hunting.

Summing up the reasons for this………….

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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 !! 

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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