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.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Rare black-tailed godwit eggs rescued from farmland after flooding

10th May

Eggs belonging to rare black-tailed godwits have been rescued after flooding forced tens of thousands of birds to nest away from the safety of wetlands.

April downpours forced huge numbers of birds away from the Fens in East Anglia, as the Ouse and Nene Washes became submerged, leaving them having to nest on unsuitable farmland, conservationists said.

Wildlife experts trying to protect the black-tailed godwit, which nests in very small numbers in the UK, discovered clutches of their eggs on nearby farmland, trapped in the mud, they said.
But “Project Godwit” experts who are working to boost numbers of the rare bird, teamed up with farmers to rescue 32 eggs, which are now being incubated at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s Welney Wetland Centre.

Project Godwit, a partnership between WWT and the RSPB, is using a technique known as “head-starting”, in which eggs are collected in the wild and the chicks raised to fledging in captivity to boost their survival chances.

As well as keeping the young birds away from dangers such as predators and flooding until they are ready to take to the wing, the process can stimulate the adults lay a new clutch of eggs, which also helps boost numbers.

Bittern booms on Isle of Wight for first time

Hearing the distinctive mating call on a restored wetland shows the site is being successfully managed, the RSPB says.

Last updated: 11 May 2018 - 3.00pm

A bittern has been heard “booming” on the Isle of Wight for the first time, in what conservationists say is a mark of success for a wetland restoration scheme.

The distinctive mating call was heard at RSPB Brading Marshes, a recently restored wetland which stretches from the village of Brading to the sea at Bembridge Harbour on the island.

It is the latest sign of success for the elusive bird, whose numbers fell to just 11 “booming” males in 1997, but is now recovering with the help of intensive conservation efforts.

Bitterns are secretive and spend most of their time living within dense reeds, making them hard to count, but the loud and distinctive booming call of breeding males is used as a measure of the population.

The work we have done to manage the reserve for insects, fish, reptiles and mammals, as well as birds, now means we have one of the most UK’s most sensitive species choosing the Isle of Wight as its home.

Despite their revival, there are still less than 200 bitterns at fewer than 75 sites in the UK, making the first record on the Isle of Wight something “remarkable”, the RSPB said.

It is also a mark of success for the restored marshes, the wildlife charity said, as attracting breeding bitterns is one of the best indicators of successful wetland management.

It is hoped the booming call of the male will manage to attract a mate, and the pair will breed on the reserve – which would be another first for the island.

Keith Ballard, warden of RSPB Brading Marshes, said: “Hearing a booming bittern on a wetland reserve is like receiving a Michelin star as a restaurant; it’s one of the highest marks of success we could hope for.

Birds wearing backpacks trace a path to conservation

May 9, 2018 by Samantha Knight And Ryan Norris, The Conversation

With the arrival of spring, we look forward to the return of hundreds of species of migratory songbirds from their wintering grounds.

Sparrows, swallows, warblers and thrushes, among other songbirds, will be returning from their wintering sites anywhere between the southern United States and distant South America.

Some of these birds will return with a small "backpack" that has recorded their entire migration from their North American breeding grounds to their wintering grounds and back.

Birds provide important ecosystem services, such as preying on insects, dispersing seeds, scavenging carcasses and pollinating plants. Unfortunately, there have been dramatic declines in many migratory songbirds over the past few decades, with some of these populations dropping by more than 80 per cent.

If we are to find ways to slow or reverse these declines, we must first figure out what's causing them. Climate change, habitat loss and predation by cats are among the leading causes of bird declines.

But with the vast distances these birds move over the course of the year, it can be difficult to pinpoint the main cause for a given species —and where it's occurring.

Migratory connections
To answer this question, we need to know where individual birds spend their time throughout the year.

We have a good idea of the range —or the total area —the birds occupy during the breeding and wintering periods. But ranges are composed of many populations, and we still have a very poor understanding of how individuals within each of these populations are connected between seasons.

Individuals from different breeding populations may remain segregated during the winter. For example, some ovenbirds winter in the Caribbean whereas others spend their winters in Mexico and Central America.

Angry birds: Size of jackdaw mobs depends on who calls warning

Date: May 10, 2018
Source:University of Exeter

Summary:Jackdaws recognize each other's voices and respond in greater numbers to warnings from familiar birds than strangers, new research shows.

The birds produce a harsh "scolding call" when they spot a predator, calling fellow jackdaws to mob the intruder and drive it away.

University of Exeter researchers have discovered that each bird has a unique call, and the size of the mob depends on which bird calls the warning.

The scientists played recordings of individual calls and found that the largest mobs assembled when birds heard the cry of a member of their own colony.

"Joining a mobbing event can be dangerous, as it involves approaching a predator, so it makes sense for individuals to be selective in whom they join. Our results show that jackdaws use the ability to discriminate between each other's voices when deciding whether to join in potentially risky collective activities," said Dr Alex Thornton, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

What is a species? Bird expert develops a math formula to solve the problem

Date:May 10, 2018
Source:Pensoft Publishers

Summary:Whether co-habiting populations belong to the same species is only as tough as figuring out if they interbreed or produce fertile offspring. On the other hand, when populations are geographically separated, biologists often struggle to determine whether they represent different species or merely subspecies. To address the age-long issue, a British bird expert has developed a new universal mathematical formula for determining what is a species.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Why seabirds remain the most mysterious creatures of all

7 MAY 2018

The avian magicians spend months at sea, never touching land and taking only a moment’s rest now and then.

Around now, on the low cliffs between St Andrews Castle and the town harbour, a colony of fulmars settles in for the breeding season, just two minutes’ walk from my office. It is always a lift to the spirits when these birds arrive and begin sweeping clean the precarious, narrow rock ledges where the eggs will be laid.

As the days lengthen and the wind off the firth goes from chilly to cool, I like to stand on the path above the rock face and watch as they glide back and forth, my pleasure intensified by the knowledge that, once the chicks are grown enough to leave, I will not see them again till next spring. I know this from experience, having lived through 20 years of their coming and going: gradually, the colony builds to its peak numbers, then, a little less gradually, the birds glide away, to spend the rest of the year at sea, far from this narrow peninsula.

Puffin off the menu? Conservationists to push for ban on sale of seabird meat

BY STAFF |MAY 4 2018

Your next puffin steak in Iceland might be the last you will ever consume. The Icelandic bird conservation society Fuglavernd will request that the Ministry of Environment to institute a complete ban on the sale of the meat of seabirds like puffins and other auks, including common and thick billed murre. Many seabird populations, including the puffin, are facing significant stress due to changing climate conditions.

Erpur Snær Hansen, an ornithologist and a campaigner for the conservation of seabirds, told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that at the same time as puffins were facing severe stress there was far too much puffin was being sold at Reykjavík restaurants.

"What kind of moral compass do you need to have to flood the market with this meat, acting as if everything is fine and dandy, just to make a quick buck?"

Erpur added that the restaurant and tourism industries needed to pause and think about what kind of messages were being sent to foreign visitors. He also complained that it appeared like the government was not particularly interested in the issue. He pointed out that while the major seabird populations, including the puffin population, were still very large in Iceland, they were declining globally. This made it even more important for Icelanders to protect these birds.

Puffin hunting is currently banned in all parts of Iceland, except in the north. The hunting ban in the South, West and East Iceland has had positive effects on the population, he argues. "Puffin meat has gone up dramatically in price after the hunting bans were instituted, which means that the traditional consumers, locals, have cut down their consumption. But it's still sold to consumers who are willing to pay top-dollar, and that's the restaurant industry."