As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

North Yorkshire tops RSPB’s bird crime league table of shame

February 4, 2017 in News
North Yorkshire has the worst record for crimes against birds of prey in the country, according to a new report by the RSPB.

Of the 242 incidents reported across England in 2015, 40 were in North Yorkshire – more than any other county, the charity’s Birdcrime 2015 report found.

Birdcrime 2015 reveals that there were six confirmed incidents against raptors in North Yorkshire including a poisoned red kite, a poisoned buzzard, a shot tawny owl, a shot buzzard and a shot kestrel.

The report also highlighted an incident in November last year when news emerged that a satellite tagged hen harrier, named Rowan, was found dead with injuries consistent with being shot in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Only three pairs of hen harriers successfully bred in England in 2016, despite there being enough suitable habitat to support over 300 pairs.

Another incident featured in the report in the Richmondshire area was the discovery of a hidden cache of pesticides in Arkengarthdale which the charity claimed was being used for the poisoning of wildlife.

The cache was hidden underground in a small forestry plantation on Hurst Moor, a driven grouse moor which forms part of the East Arkengarthdale Estate.

A suspect was identified from camera footage obtained by the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police.

A gamekeeper was arrested in connction with the discovery but charges were never brought.
Despite raptor persecution being identified as one of the UK government’s top wildlife crime priorities in 2009, the persecution of birds of prey still remains an issue of serious concern with around 590 birds of prey nationally having been confirmed poisoned, shot, trapped or destroyed in the last six years, the RSPB said.

Blood ties fuel cooperation among species, not survival instinct

February 22, 2017

Over 4,000 different bird species, including White Fronted Bee Eaters, were observed in the study, which found that survival instinct did not influence species cooperative breeding decisions. Instead, it shows communal living and helping …more

Cooperative breeding, when adults in a group team up to care for offspring, is not a survival strategy for animals living in extreme environments. It is instead a natural result of monogamous relationships reinforcing stronger genetic bonds in family groups. Siblings with full biological ties are more likely than others to stay with their family and help day to day, a new Oxford University study has found.

Previous research showed that animals that breed in this way are more likely to live in harsher climates, such as deserts, than those who go it alone. Without any evidence for why this happens, scientists drew the intuitive conclusion that team thinking was at play, and larger family structures were formed as a survival strategy.

However, the new findings from Oxford's Department of Zoology have turned these previous conclusions on their head, proving that communal family dynamics are often built before animals enter difficult climates, and that the two are actually not related.

From observing 4,707 bird species, the team collated and analysed data to test competing explanations for how much environmental conditions influence and drive species' decision to live communally. These potential explanations included: entering harsh environments in a large family group offers stronger chances of survival than as an individual; there is in fact no relationship between the two at all; and that a third variable may be at play, such as female polyandry, when the mother has multiple partners.

The study found that parental relationships - specifically whether they were polyandrous or monogamous plays a key role in whether animal families stay together as a group or not.

Cooperative breeding is a social behavior that occurs in many animal and bird species, including Arabian Babblers. Credit: Yitzchak Ben Mocha

A cooperative living structure was more likely to be favoured when both parental genes were shared by siblings, a trait known as "kin selection." Bolstered by this dynamic the groups are then able to enter difficult climates, and set up home in new territories, that they may not have been able to survive in alone.

The research was conducted in partnership with the University of Lund, Sweden, Columbia University, USA and Washington University, St Louis, USA. The full study features in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Professor Ashleigh Griffin, Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology and co-author of the study said: "For decades, biologists have noted that animals living in harsh desert environments often live in cooperative groups. This seems to make intuitive sense - when times are hard, it may take teamwork to survive. We tested this hypothesis in an analysis of over 2,000 species of birds, looking at whether species were cooperative and where they lived. Surprisingly, we found no evidence to support the widely held assumption that species in the desert were more likely to become cooperative. Instead, cooperation evolves as a result of close genetic bonds in family groups. These cooperative family groups are then better able to invade new territory, where the climate is too harsh for uncooperative, solitary species to survive."

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Home nursing charity receives funding boost after rare bird spotted in the Cotswolds

A LOCAL nursing home has received an unexpected cash boost from birdwatchers who have flocked to the Cotswolds. 
Monticola solitarius, Spain 1.jpg 
Thousands of people are still visiting the blue rock thrush which is living in a garden on Fisher Close, Stow-on-the-Wold in late December. 

Keen bird watchers have invaded the area nearby to catch a glimpse of a bird species whose last confirmed sighting on British soil was in 2007. 

To make up for the disruption, the birdwatchers have raised £2,300 for local cause Kate's Home Nursing, which provides free end of life care to those with terminal illnesses. 

Karen Pengilley, chief executive of Kate's Home Nursing, which is based in Bourton-on-the-Water said: "First of all I would like to thank the local residents for putting up with the disruption and a massive thank you to Bridgette Jennings for putting our name forward. 

"I would like to say a big thank you to all the bird watchers who have given so generously and provided such an unexpected boost to us by raising money and awareness of our cause. 

"Apparently it is common when people flock somewhere to see a bird they provide a donation. 

"We were told that if we got some charity buckets down to Fisher Close then they would be more than happy to provide a donation. 

"We have had volunteer fundraisers at Fisher Close to raise money for two weeks or so."
It is common practice for birdwatchers to raise money for charity when they assemble in large numbers to see rare birds. 

A collection bucket was offered around whilst teas, coffees and bacon sandwiches were also sold raising money for the charity. 

The blue rock thrush usually resides in southern Europe, northern Africa and across Asia. 


RSPB targets tougher penalties for bird crime on farms

Farmers, landowners and gamekeepers could face tougher penalties for killing wild birds after an RSPB report found nearly 200 birds were illegally killed in just one year.
The charity published its Birdcrime 2015 report on Friday (3 February) which showed 196 birds of prey were illegally shot, poisoned or trapped in the countryside in 2015 – up from 187 in 2014 and 178 in 2013.

The shootings included 16 buzzards, 11 peregrines, three red kites, one red-footed falcon and one hen harrier.

Fifty reports were of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences, including the poisoning of 15 buzzards, four red kites and three peregrine falcons.

In November 2015, the Stody Estate in Norfolk lost 75% of its single farm payment after its former gamekeeper was found guilty of killing 11 birds of prey (see ‘Estate sees subsidy slashed’, below).

In January 2015, an Aberdeenshire gamekeeper, George Mutch, received a four-month prison sentence for the killing of a goshawk, the illegal use of two cage traps, and the taking of a buzzard and a second goshawk.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “Our uplands are deprived of some amazing wildlife because of ongoing illegal persecution and it has to stop.

“Public anger is growing stronger over the ongoing persecution of our birds of prey and the state of the uplands, and more voices are beginning to call for change.

“The status quo is not an option and we continue to call, throughout the UK, for the introduction of a robust licensing system for driven grouse shooting and an offence of vicarious liability for employers whose staff commit wildlife crime.”

In England and Wales, anyone found guilty of shooting a bird of prey without a licence licence could face up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000 if found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.