Tag Archives: restoration

Conservation partnership launches “floating islands” in bid to save rare duck

commonscoters.jpg(RSPB 15 May; Photo Graham Catley)

An unprecedented partnership of organisations from industry and the conservation sector has come together in a bid to save the common scoter as a breeding bird in the Highlands of Scotland. The birds, which breed on the edges of a small number of lochs, will be helped by the creation of artificial floating islands made from redundant materials from fish farms. It is hoped that the scoters will choose to nest on the islands and this will make the nests safer from the unwelcome attention of predators and the risk of being flooded.

RSPB Scotland’s Dr Alison MacLennan said, “Within the last forty years the population of the now inappropriately named Common Scoter has fallen from several hundred pairs, with a wide distribution over the north and west of Scotland, to around fifty pairs found in a few isolated lochs. We are in real danger of losing this lovely bird as a breeding species in Scotland and I am delighted that this partnership has come together to help provide them with a future.”

Research conducted by a partnership of organisations including the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Blue Energy, the Ness & Beauly Fisheries Trust and RSPB , has pointed to a number of causes for this decline, many of which are linked to changing uses in the landscape.
In addition, mammalian predators have been identified as having a significant detrimental effect on the survival of common scoter nesting attempts and their success in hatching ducklings. In an attempt to address this problem in some of the Inverness-shire lochs, the partnership group joined forces with Fusion Marine and Marine Harvest to produce floating islands that will provide the ducks with safer nest locations with a reduced risk of predation.

Two of these islands have now been sited in common scoter breeding lochs in Inverness-shire as a trial to see if their use can boost the ducks’ success in rearing their young.

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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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Watch Thousands of Sandhill Cranes Lift Off From the Platte River at Sunrise

(Meaghan Lee Callaghan 21 March 2017)
To hear America’s “greatest migration,” you have to beat the sunrise. It starts with a single kar-r-r-roo in the dark, before swelling into a crescendo of 80,000 Sandhill Cranes that fills the Platte River by dawn. It’s an impressive spectacle, says Bill Taddicken, the director of Audubon Nebraska’s Rowe Sanctuary. “This is real. I wish more people would get out and experience it.”

In a new video by Vuz TV, Taddicken narrates this poetic scene of the Sandhills, which use the sanctuary and surrounding river valley as a rest stop during their annual migration. The footage shows large, sweeping views of flocks lifting off from the riverbank after feeding on insects and aquatic plants. But while Sandhill Crane populations are largely stable across North America, they’re vulnerable to habitat loss in vital migration spots such as the Platte River. And they’re climate threatened, according to Audubon’s climate report.

Audubon Nebraska is working to preserve the Platte ecosystem and the heritage of the cranes. It’s restoring the river to its historic state by clearing sandbars and soil buildup, and keeping invasive species like phragmites at bay. Moreover, Rowe Sanctuary is preserving the region’s prairie habitat—where Sandhills and other birds love to forage—by mimicking natural processes through prescribed burns and grazing techniques. All this work has clearly had a positive impact, as the Cranes return in the tens of thousands every year.

Laguna Mar Chiquita will become a National Park

Flamenco Austral.jpg(Francisco González Táboas; Photo: Pablo Rodríguez Merkel; 9 March 2017)

Mar Chiquita is the largest salt lake in South America, a wetland of interannual importance and now in the process of becoming the largest National Park in Argentina.

True “clouds” of up to half a million Phalaropus tricolor phallus cover the sky almost to cover the sun. The horizon turns pink thanks to the 100,000 southern flamingos that live and nest there. The gold of the grasslands, which protect the enigmatic aguará guazú, obliges to reduce the pupils of the eyes. The water covers everything as far as the eye can see, but the sounds and colors of the birds stand in a festival for the senses capable of moving any human being: a true “sea of nature”.

Such are the days in the Mar Chiquita lagoon and the Dulce River wetlands, the largest salt lake in South America, which is nothing less than a wetland of importance according to the Ramsar Convention and one of the five Areas important for the conservation of Birds that are in danger (IBAs in Danger, in English) in Argentina.

A few years ago Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina) set out to work to achieve the effective conservation of many of its IBAs, especially those that were in danger. This was done 3 years ago with the plateau of Lake Buenos Aires, fundamental for the future of the maca tobiano Podiceps gallardoi that today is largely the Patagonia National Park.

This time it was Mar Chiquita’s turn. Although it currently has a figure of Multiple Use Reserves, it has several problems of clearing, unplanned use of water resources and tourism and illegal hunting that affect it. Thus, Aves Argentinas, with the National Park on the horizon, began work in the area, identifying fiscal areas that could join the protected area and getting donors for eventual land purchases.

In addition to meetings with local actors, researchers, environmental educators, the Bird Watchers Club and villagers. Little by little, the idea took shape and strength.

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Good news for a Friday: the recovery of the stone-curlew and other animals…

I have been wearing a stone-curlew pin badge on my lapel this week to mark the recovery of this fabulous species.

Stone-curlews were once widespread in England and numbered two thousand pairs in the 1930s.  However, numbers declined dramatically over the next 50 years when changes in land use resulted in catastrophic habitat loss.  By 1991, only 168 pairs remained

Yet, this is a story with a happy ending.  Through 30 years of hard graft, the RSPB and Natural England have forged a powerful partnership with landowners, farmers and volunteers in Wessex and the Brecks to help bring the population to its current 400 pairs. Not only has the stone-curlew been downgraded from a species of Red Conservation Concern to Amber, but through a five year EU Life funded project we now think the stone-curlew population is large enough to support itself, given enough safe nesting habitat.

On Tuesday we held a conference to mark this achievement and, as part of the day, we heard about other species recovery successes from across Europe (such as the Azores bullfinch) and elsewhere in the UK (such as the cirl bunting).  It was quite a day. I joined the afternoon and evening session having spent the morning being updated on our work to protect 350,000 hectares of Gola rainforest on the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia and even sniffed the first chocolate made by cocoa farmers on land between the forested areas.  We want to support cocoa farming that is good for wildlife, prevents pressure on the rainforest and also creates sustainable livelihoods for the people living around the forest.  Our ambition, of course, is to be able one day to say to our members “eat this chocolate and help save Gola rainforest”.

Reflecting on the day, I was struck by the similarities of the various conservation successes which had been showcased.  The ingredients of success in each of these conservation projects were common:  more, bigger, connected protected areas with sustainable land use in intervening areas, coupled with targeted action and funding for threatened species, supported by committed partners from national/local government, business and local people.  And, of course, all these projects all contribute to the global plan for halting the loss of biodiversity expressed through the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi targets – targets 11 (for well managed land and sea) and 12 (for recovering threatened species).

Putting a spotlight on success is important as it reminds us that, as well as documenting declines, we can improve the natural environment.  Our collective experience gives hope and confidence that together we can make the world a better place for people and wildlife.  What  we need now is for decision-makers to stick to their ambitions to restore wildlife in a generation and come up with plans which build on the success of these projects, with resources commensurate to the scale of the challenge.

And, given the uncertainties around Brexit (especially about future status of internationally important protected areas and future funding for nature friendly farming), we within civil society must continue to make the case for action. This is why we are delighted to have 41 MPs, 83 MSPs, 25 AMs (in Wales) and even 4 MEPs who are Species Champions and who are prepared to use their political voices for the protection and recovery of threatened wildlife. Together, we can turn things around.

RSPB’s newest reserve is an island paradise for birds

Marsh harrier gliding over reedbed

(Author: RSPB, Photo:Graham Catley, 03 March 2017)

The RSPB has acquired a new nature reserve on the Humber after signing a 50 year lease for Whitton Sands, a secluded island, teeming with wildlife.

Situated off the north bank of the inner estuary, the island had rarely ever been visited by humans until four years ago, when owners Associated British Ports (ABP) granted the RSPB exclusive access to find out what wildlife lived there.

The RSPB discovered that the 120ha island (around 170 football pitches) is an important home for a wide range of birdlife. This includes breeding marsh harriers, avocets and bearded tits, as well as wintering hen harriers and lots of pink footed geese, lapwings and golden plovers.

This summer, the RSPB will be making the island an even better place for wildlife by creating a lagoon and a series of pools. This work will provide habitat for breeding avocets and a safe roost site for some of the thousands of ducks, geese and wading birds that stop off on the Humber during migration or make the Estuary their home during the winter months.

Whitton Island forms part of the Humber Wildfowl Refuge and for this reason will not be open to the public. The RSPB will be working closely with the Refuge Wardens to ensure that the byelaws that prevent disturbance of the roosting wildfowl are fully adhered to.

Pete Short, RSPB Humber Sites Manager, said: “The acquisition of Whitton Sands has given us a great opportunity to improve the protection for the internationally Humber Estuary’s important birds. It’s a great step towards ensuring the Estuary’s wildlife will thrive for generations to come.

“Combined with all our other reserves on the Humber we are proud to be able to provide a winter home and migration stopover for more than a 100,000 water birds.”

Tom Jeynes, Sustainable Development Manager for Associated British Ports on the Humber said: “We are excited about this fantastic project, which will bring significant benefits to the natural environment.

“With the experienced management of the RSPB, the island can be made even better for the waders and wildfowl that call the Humber home. As the statutory harbour authority for the Humber, it’s important for ABP to be able to promote biodiversity where we can. Working in partnership with the RSPB on enhancing and preserving some of our most precious and ecologically vibrant habitats is a fantastic way of doing that. We look forward to many more years of successful partnership working with the RSPB on similar projects.”

AviFauna skyddar svarttärnor och saxnäbbar

(AviFauna, Foto: Daniel Bengtsson, 2017-03-01)

Benin, Lake Nokoué, 2016 – 2017

I slutet av 2016 bidrog AviFaunas fågelskyddsfond med 2 000 £ till ett projekt för att skapa bättre förutsättningar för våtmarksfåglar i Lake Nokoué, en stor lagun strax innanför Benins Atlantkust. Det är en av de mest produktiva lagunerna i Västafrika med 10 000-tals häckande och övervintrande våtmarksfåglar, däribland många hägrar, storkar, vadare och tärnor. Två av de talrikaste arterna är afrikansk gapnäbbsstork (Anastomus lamelligerus) och svarttärna (Chlidonias niger).
Lake Nokoué utgör en av Benins fyra Ramsar-områden (våtmarker av stor internationell betydelse) och är tillika utsedd som IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) av BirdLife International. Sjöns stränder är emellertid hårt ansträngda av den växande befolkningen, som till stor del lever av sjöns tillgångar. Strandvegetationen, däribland de för fiskar och andra vattenlevande djur så viktiga mangroveskogarna, huggs ner för att bli bränsle. Fiskbestånden blir allt mer utfiskade. Exploateringstrycket leder till att biotoperna försämras och att biodiversiteten minskar. Även många fåglar hamnar i grytorna och fågeljakt antas vara en bidragande orsak till att den afrikanska saxnäbben (Rynchops flavirostris) minskat i regionen så pass att dess existens nu är hotad.