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.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

DNA project could save capercaillie from extinction

23rd March

A throwback from the Ice Age, in recent years capercaillies have been a dwindling feature of Scotland’s pine forests. 

Now the country’s rarest game bird - the largest of the grouse family which boasts a wingspan of more than a metre – could be rescued by the most modern of methods.

DNA extracted from capercaillie feathers and other material found at brood sites in Cairngorm forests is playing a key role in helping to pinpoint how many of the rare birds remain in the wild and helping to form strategies for their future protection. 

However, it is already feared that numbers have dropped so low, that the birds’ are already facing a “genetic bottleneck” raising concerns over their ability to adapt and survive in the face of climate change.

That has raised the possibility of birds being introduced from other European locations to strengthen and support the native population. A similar suggestion has been made by conservationists working to save the Scottish wildcat.

Capercaillie DNA work is being done by scientists at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), at its WildGenes Laboratory, which has also carried out genetic work research on Scotland’s red squirrel, white-tailed eagle and golden eagle populations. 

Action plan to save Bolivia’s red-fronted macaw awaits its reboot

by Yvette Sierra Praeli on 24 March 2020 | Translated by Alexandra Skinner

Nature reserves involving the participation of indigenous communities have developed tourism projects for bird-watching and succeeded in curbing the capture of the red-fronted macaw, a critically endangered species that is often caught up in the illegal wildlife trade.

The Bolivian government has been promoting an action plan to conserve the species, which was expected to be approved last year.

Following President Evo Morales’s removal from office and the subsequent change in government late last year, the plan is still awaiting approval.

For 13 years, Marlene Rivas has been part of a team working to protect the red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenysa), a bird endemic to Bolivia that is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

“Before, we didn’t take care of the birds. We didn’t know they were in danger of extinction. Red-fronted macaws were captured as pets and killed because they damaged crops,” Rivas says about some of the factors pushing the species to the verge of extinction.

Now, she says, residents of the towns of San Carlos, Amaya and Perereta, in Omereque municipality, Cochabamba department, are proud to have the bird in their area. The towns are part of the Red-Fronted Macaw Nature Reserve, one of the areas dedicated to the conservation of this species.

Read on

Friday, 27 March 2020

Little blue penguin 'slaughter' prompts call for TDC dog control bylaw change

Cherie Sivignon13:24, Mar 13 2020

Dog attacks are a threat to the little blue penguin population in Golden Bay.

Little blue penguins are being slaughtered by dogs on the beaches of Golden Bay, Tasman District councillors have been told.

Mohua Blue Penguin Trust chairwoman Cynthia McConville on Thursday told councillors at a regulatory committee meeting in Murchison that the council's Dog Control Bylaw "doesn't actually control dogs".

"It fails to protect our penguins," McConville said during the public forum section of the meeting, urging an early review of the bylaw. "Dog attacks on kororā must stop."

The council's Dog Control Bylaw was last reviewed in 2014 and is next due for review in 2024. However, there have been several calls to bring that review forward. In August 2019, the Golden Bay Community Board recommended amendments to the bylaw be introduced early in the 2019-22 term of council.

Standing Guard: Saviours of the hooded grebe

Standing Guard: Saviours of the hooded grebe

This story originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and sustainability powered by the California Academy of Sciences.

Every December on the remote basaltic plateaus of southern Patagonia in Argentina, hooded grebes (Podiceps gallardoi) settle in to lay their eggs. Nearby, their personal guardians, field technicians charged with protecting the birds and their nests, stand watch. Armed with binoculars, flashlights, and shotguns, the guardians do whatever they can to eliminate threats to the grebes, although some perils are harder to see than others.

It is an extreme endeavour that requires both patience and warm clothing, says Ignacio "Kini" Roesler, a conservation biologist and ornithologist with Aves Argentinas, an environmental nonprofit in Buenos Aires, one of two main groups dedicated to protecting the hooded grebe. At up to 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) in elevation, the Patagonia steppe is a flat, open desert, dotted with more than a thousand glacial lakes, surrounded by rocky bluffs and framed by the Andes in the distance. The weather here is always harsh – windy and cold, even in the South American summer, when the hooded grebes build their nests on vegetation floating on the lakes.

The work of a colony guardian can be lonely. Other than a teammate or two for company, there is nobody around for hundreds of kilometres, and field stints in this harsh environment can last for weeks at a time. Despite the hardships, though, guardians are regularly reminded that their work is critical. "You are taking all this responsibility for the conservation of species," Roesler says. "So, it's pretty good actually – the feeling."

RSPB launches Breakfast Birdwatch


The RSPB has begun a daily 'lockdown' Breakfast Birdwatch, with everyone welcome to take part over the coming weeks.

The Breakfast Birdwatch takes place daily between 8 am and 9 am – at a time when, normally, many people would have been commuting to work, on the school run or otherwise engaged. Using #BreakfastBirdwatch on social media, they hope to create a friendly, supportive and engaged community who are able to share what they can see in their gardens, on their balconies, rooftops and spaces from their own homes, all the while keeping within government guidelines in relation to COVID-19.

It is vital that nature can still be enjoyed by as many people as possible, whether keen birders, parents, children, those self-isolating or anyone else able to join in. Over the coming days and weeks, the Breakfast Birdwatch will be helping people to share their wildlife encounters and provide ideas for things you can do for wildlife close to home. Furthermore, it will help people enjoy the power of spring during this difficult time.

Throughout the coming weeks, the Breakfast Birdwatch will focus on different themes and different species, helping to identify what people have seen and heard, and answering questions along the way. Those taking part are asked to include #BreakfastBirdwatch when sharing updates, photos, videos, questions and comments on social media.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Falcon drama at Salisbury Cathedral with a new egg and a lost bird

A female peregrine has been spotted on a balcony nest, but Sally, star of Springwatch, hasn’t been seen

Tue 24 Mar 2020 13.12 GMTLast modified on Tue 24 Mar 2020 19.25 GMT

The rollercoaster saga of the Salisbury Cathedral peregrine falcons is continuing this spring, with one bird protecting an egg on a balcony of the great building but another missing in action.

A female that has been visiting the balcony regularly in recent weeks has laid one egg and can be viewed hunkering down on the nest via a cathedral webcam.

Less cheerfully, a GPS tracking device that was attached to a bird, known as Sally, that used to nest at the cathedral has stopped giving out its signal. It could be that the device has stopped working or that, sadly, Sally is no more.

Phil Sheldrake, species recovery officer with the RSPB, said: “It’s great that we have an egg – and quite a bit earlier than last year.”

The female on the nest does not have an identity ring, meaning that it is not known if she is the same one that produced four eggs last year, but Sheldrake said it was highly likely that it was the same bird.

“Peregrines do not like to be overlooked,” he said. “Salisbury Cathedral sticks out like a sore thumb above the rolling countryside. It’s like a five-star hotel for them.”

Federal plan might let states kill unwanted cormorants

By KATRIANNA RAY | March 13, 2020

Capital News Service

LANSING — More than 1,000 people have submitted public comments about a proposed U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service rule that would permit state wildlife agencies to authorize previously prohibited techniques to manage cormorant populations. 

They would include killing some birds.

Under the proposed rule, each state would have the power to determine how to control cormorants, a migratory aquatic bird sometimes blamed for damaging fish populations in parts of the Great Lakes. The state agencies would need to work within limits set by the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Michigan is home to around 55% of North America’s double-crested cormorant’s breeding pairs, according to the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC).

The double-crested cormorant is the most numerous and most widely distributed cormorant in North America, according to the National Audubon Society. They are the only cormorants to occur in large numbers outside of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The birds are federally protected, making it illegal to take, possess, sell, transport or purchase any part of them.