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, 30 September 2012

Birdwatchers in a flap in South Tyneside

Pallas' grasshopper warbler
BIRDWATCHERS got in a flap when a rare bird landed in South Tyneside.

The Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was caught in nets at the ringing station at Whitburn Coast Park on Wednesday – and immediately caused a fuss among twitchers.

As word quickly went round, more than 40 enthusiasts made their way to the park to see the rare bird for themselves.

The bird is a long-distance traveller which breeds in Siberia and the Far East, and this is only the second time one has been caught and ringed in mainland Britain since records were set up by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) more than 100 years ago.

Borough birdwatcher Dougie Holden, of Garth Crescent, South Shields, said the bird was most probably migrating to South East Asia when it was blown off course by the recent storms.
About 85 birds were caught in the nets, set up by ringing station chairman Adrian George, including unusual birds such as redwings and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

But none ruffled more feathers than the warbler. Engineer Mr Holden, 50, said: “It’s what we call a ‘lifer’ – the dream of every birdwatcher to see a bird like this in their lifetime.

“You always hope to see one, but you never think you will and those of us that did, know we are very, very fortunate.”

The bird – a juvenile male – was ringed and its details logged with the BTO recorder for County Durham – which covers South Shields – who confirmed it was only the second sighting of such a bird in the area.

The bird was released back into the wild but dad-of-two Mr Holden – who said he won “the equivalent of the winning the World Cup” when he became the first person in Britain to spot the Eastern Crowned Warbler back in 2007 – doubts it will ever reach its intended original destination.

He said: “It was blown thousands of miles off course, and that’s how it ended up in South Tyneside.

“I doubt it will ever reach South East Asia and will probably end up in Africa – anywhere where it’s warmer than Siberia.”

More information on Pallas' grasshopper warbler (Locustella certhiola):

Symbiotic survival of rare birds and rain forests

On the coast of Ecuador, along the Pacific Ocean, on the western side of the Andes Mountains, lies the Choco rain forest. Here, Jordan Karubian, his students and local residents, whom he’s enlisted as “environmental ambassadors,” study an endangered species of bird — the long-wattled umbrellabird.
Karubian, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University, is looking at how the long-wattled umbrellabird eats the fruits of rain forest trees and disperses their seeds. “The trees depend upon that dispersal in order to propagate and replace themselves,” says Karubian.

He is researching the mating habits, seed-dispersal activities and migratory patterns of birds in Ecuador, Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Gulf South of the United States.

The birds that Karubian studies dwell in fragile ecosystems that are in peril. And he has discovered that to have a lasting impact on protecting the birds and their habitats from disappearance, he must do more than function as a traditional researcher.

Rare bird spotted at nature reserve

A RARE bird has been spotted at Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Notts Wildlife Trust staff, who manage the reserve, spotted the bittern – a rare species of heron – amongst the reeds on Wednesday.

Speaking about the appearance, Tim Sexton from the reserve, said: "These birds are very few in number – with only 87 males recorded in the UK last year. Here at Attenborough we are usually very fortunate: our specially-created reedbed habitat often attracts bitterns during the cold winter weather.

"Over the last couple of years, bird enthusiasts from around the country have travelled to Attenborough to catch a glimpse of this elusive bird, with five recorded last winter.

"I can only assume that this year, the recent harsh wet and windy conditions on the east coast have moved them inland to their over-winter grounds early."

More information on the bittern (Botaurus stellaris):

ENTANGLED: Rescuers respond to birds ensnared in fishing line

Fishing line and birds can be a deadly combination.

On Thursday morning, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge received a call from Destin Yacht Club, alerting them that a great blue heron was tangled in fishing line in a tree behind the yacht club, Stephanie Kadletz, wildlife health supervisor at Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, told The Log.

Debbie Edwards, who’s on the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge’s board of directors, responded to the call. After arriving on scene, she could not immediately assist the bird because it was about 40 feet up in a tree.

While Coastline Tree Service in Destin scrambled to the scene with their bucket truck, Kadletz said the bird, which was standing in the tree, when it lost its footing and then went limp.

Edwards choked back tears as she described the incident to The Log.

“Basically, he ended up slipping and hanging himself,” Edwards said.

She said that he was in really bad shape and that even if they had gotten him down before he “expired,” his chances of survival were slim.
“When we got this guy down basically he had a fish hook in his mouth that was wrapped around the tree and he couldn’t free himself,” Edwards said. “If I thought I could climb the tree and get to him I would have, but I would’ve just put myself in danger.”

Edwards said that about 75 percent of the herons and pelicans the ECWR sees come in with fishing line injuries.

Read on:

Scientists examine fall migratory pathways and habits of whimbrels

As they traveled from the east coast of Canada to the northern shore of South America, Akpik, Mackenzie, Pingo and Taglu stunned researchers and the global conservation community by flying some 2,500 miles out to sea, through the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, a migration route that has never before been documented.
The nonstop flight was quite a feat, especially for a medium-sized shorebird that cannot land on water. For one bird, the journey took 145 hours, or approximately six days, and a distance of 4,355 miles. The four birds, known as whimbrels, are part of a conservation initiative being led by scientists at the College of William and Mary/Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Conservation Biology at the VCU Rice Center, aimed at learning more about the migratory pathways and habits of whimbrels. The tracking work is being conducted with conservation partners from the United States and Canada.

Read more at:

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The allure of hidden birds

Scientists and bird lovers who study the black swift, a small and mysterious migratory bird that nests behind waterfalls, are known to be obsessive. 

Rifle-based biologist Kim Potter, a wildlife technician in the Rifle office of the White River National Forest, is no exception. Potter was the first to document the presence of swifts at Rifle Falls, and has tagged scores of them at Fulton Resurgence Cave in the Flat Top Mountains, north of Rifle. In 2009, she was part of a three-person team that unraveled the longtime mystery of swifts' winter migration patterns.

The team's discovery — that swifts winter 4,000 miles away in the canyons of northwestern Brazil — is highlighted in the current issues of both Audubon and Smithsonian magazines.

Potter said the mystery and uniqueness of black swifts have kept her engaged since she first began to study them in 1996, in her first year as a seasonal technician for the White River National Forest.

“What could be more adventurous and romantic than birds that nest at waterfalls?” she said, laughing. “I can say that I've banded more Black Swifts than anyone in the whole world, and in this day and age, with so many things that are well understood, it's nice to be working on something we know so little about.”

Planes to soon have onboard system to scare birds

With bird strikes costing the aviation industry millions of dollars, plane manufacturers are now working on a system that will be installed in the aircraft to scare off the avians.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is developing a system under its Bird Impact Repellent and Deterrent sYstem (BIRDY) programme that will scare away almost every species of birds.

"Challenge is to develop a system that is effective for large number of species of birds found across the globe," Nathalie Papin, an expert with Airbus Industrie, said here.

According to estimates, airlines in the US suffer loss of USD 68.3 million per year while worldwide the carriers have lost USD 1.3 billion in direct damage and associated costs in terms of aircraft down-time.

In India, airlines have lost about Rs 18 crore in 2011 due to bird-hits and incidents of runway incursions by stray animals.

According to an Airbus study, in the incident of a bird- hit, 41 per cent chances are that an aircraft's engine or its nose, radome and windshield is damaged. While chances of fuselage or wings being damaged is just seven per cent, the same stands at three per cent for landing gears and one per cent for tail.


Airport authorities, bird advocates in collision course over sanctuary

The skies seem big enough for both planes and birds, but apparently not around airports. 

Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado said they have recorded some 50 bird strikes in the skies around the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) this year.

None have caused any crashes or major damage to planes, but enough of a scare to cause Honrado to join a chorus against birds, particularly migratory birds stopping over in a green pocket of wilderness near the airport, a government-protected bird sanctuary in Manila Bay.

"It is almost impossible to recover the carcass of the birds, but based on observations, talagang yung mga ibon na nakatira diyan sa sanctuary sa may Las Piñas-Parañaque area are the main causes and the main source of the bird strikes within the MIAA area of responsibility," he said.

Philippine Airlines president Ramon Ang has called for the removal of the sanctuary, while Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez supports a study to determine the fate of the sanctuary, also known as the Las Piñas-Parañaque coastal lagoon or Freedom Island. The natural stopover for migratory birds was proclaimed the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009.

The removal of the sanctuary would require the repeal of the Arroyo proclamation by President Aquino, who has not indicated a position on the matter.

Honrado warns that the issue is not bird protection but public safety. "I'm not an expert on species of birds, but the mere fact na nandoon nga ‘yung sanctuary sa tabi namin talagang it causes a big problem. Are we going to wait until may maaksidente diyan?" he said.


Protected song birds seized

JOHOR BARU - A boat carrying protected song birds worth about RM100,000 (S$39,964.17), was detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in the waters off Teluk Ramunia in Pengerang, Johor on Wednesday.

The vessel was stopped by MMEA enforcement personnel at 11.25am and they found more than 150 protected white-rumped sharma (or commonly called burung murai batu) packed in plastic baskets.

MMEA southern region operation director, Maritime Captain Ibrahim Mohamed said a agency boat on routine patrol had spotted the boat which then sped off.

"We managed to stop the boat after a 10-minute chase at about 1.5 nautical miles south-east from Teluk Ramunia," he said yesterday.

On inspection, the agency's personnel found 16 plastic baskets filled with more than 150 protected song birds.

The white-rumped sharma is a protected bird species and it is an offence to be in possession without proper documentation.

The birds, which are prized as song birds in Malaysia, can fetch up to RM600 per bird depending on their size.

Ibrahim said investigations revealed that the boat from Pasir Gudang and en-route to Penggerang when it was intercepted by the MMEA patrol.

A local man, in his 40s, was detained. The suspect did not have any documents or permits for the birds.

Plane heading for Mount Everest region hits a bird and crashes in Nepal, killing 19 people

KATMANDU, Nepal — A plane carrying trekkers to the Mount Everest region hit a bird and crashed just after takeoff Friday in Nepal’s capital, killing the 19 Nepali, British and Chinese people on board, authorities said.

The pilot of the domestic Sita Air flight reported trouble two minutes after takeoff and appeared to have been trying to turn back, said Katmandu airport official Ratish Chandra Suman. The crash site is only 500 meters (547 yards) from the airport, and the wrecked plane was pointing toward the airport area. Suman said the plane hit a vulture just after it took off, causing the crash.

Suman said he could not confirm whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed. Cellphone video shot by locals showed that the front section of the plane was on fire when it first hit the ground and that the pilot apparently had attempted to land the plane on open ground beside a river.


Hummingbirds' backward flight is efficient

The mechanisms behind the effortless way that hummingbirds fly backwards have been revealed in a recent study.

Although hummingbirds routinely fly backwards, it has never before been scientifically described in detail.

University of California scientists Dr Nir Sapir and Robert Dudley, recorded the birds' flight biomechanics using high-speed cameras and oxygen uptake.

They found that hummingbirds' backward flight uses similar amounts of energy to flying forwards.

The results are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Backward flight is frequently used by members of the hummingbird family as they reverse from a nectar-bearing flower after feeding.

Dr Sapir noticed this while observing hummingbirds on a feeder.

Read on:

Friday, 28 September 2012

Women claim dead animal found in rice package


Two women say they found a dead animal carcass in their Uncle Ben's Ready Rice packet. They purchased the rice in Goochland.

These pictures in the slide show show what Chris Browning and Brooke Pleasants say came out of the rice. The women think it is a bird, but say state inspectors are testing to see what it is.

"I was ill," said Browning, describing the scene as whatever it was plopped onto her plate. "Just the smell alone was enough to…cause it looked like a cooked creature."

"It has a beak and you could see it's eyeball," added Pleasants. "It was clearly visible that it was a bird."

They say they just opened the rice package and what looked like a bird fell out onto their plate.

"It smelt like rotten flesh just like, just death and pure death," said Pleasants. "Death for days."

"I couldn't even think about eating," added Browning.

The women say they immediately called the store where they got it, Uncle Ben's and the state. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped by to sample the rice.

Continue reading and watch video here:

Habitat management can work to conserve birds

EMC Lifestyle - From last week's note on the status of Canada's birds, the successful management of our wetlands and hunting demonstrate that habitat management can work to conserve birds. However, wetlands still face many threats. including draining for agriculture and development, pollution, invasive non-native species and increasing droughts due to climate change. Thus, conservation efforts must continue.

Another factor, a positive one, is our direct intervention to enable raptor populations to increase in numbers, which has allowed dramatic recoveries to take place. For example, the banning of DDT helped Peregrine Falcons and Eagle populations maintain their species numbers.

The biggest threats for many species during their long migrations are loss of habitat at stopover sites and on their wintering grounds. International co-operation is required to address these threats. There is much to be done, but solutions can, and must, be implemented at all levels of Canadian society, along with international organizations to achieve conservation success.

In our local world, in Mississippi Mills, Terry Kotjila had a female Evening Grosbeak and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak eating black cherries on her property. On Sept. 15 Cliff Bennett spotted a Northern Goshawk as it flew over the gas station at the corner of Highway 15/County Road 29 and Christian Street in Almonte. On the river in town, during clean up, Cliff and Bryn Mathews spotted several juvenile Belted Kingfishers chasing their parents for food. Two Great Blue Herons and one juvenile Green Heron were standing by themselves on the shoreline, down river from Metcalf Park.


Caribbean Seabird Tracking Pilot Study Gives Encouraging Results

Dog Island IBA is an uninhabited offshore islet lying northwest of the Caribbean UK Overseas Territory (UKOT) of Anguilla, and is considered to be the second most important individual island for seabirds in the eastern Caribbean, despite being only about 200 ha in size. It forms part of Anguilla’s Important Bird Area (IBA) network, and has globally important populations of Brown Booby Sula leucogaster and regionally important colonies of Laughing Gull Larus atricilla, Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens, Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata and Masked Booby Sula dactylatra.

In April 2012, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife in the United Kingdom), in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Anguilla National Trust, conducted a Brown Booby tracking project, with the aims of determining the preferred feeding locations and foraging behaviour of this important population. Nineteen birds were successfully tracked over a period of 5-7 days using GPS data loggers. Maps of foraging flights could then be downloaded and revealed average foraging trip durations of just over 5 hours with an average distance travelled of 110km but some individuals travelling up to 300km on a round trip!


Recordings of birds at airport loud, annoying but effective

TULSA, Okla. —
Visitors to Tulsa International Airport can't help but notice the loud, incessant and unceasing bird sounds playing outside the terminal.

Some wonder just what they are, and Alexis Higgins with the Tulsa Airport Authority says they regularly get questions about them.

"We'll see on Facebook or Twitter where people have commented regarding the bird noises. Some people think it sounds like a monkey."

Higgins says they're recordings of bird distress calls, and if played at high enough volume they prevent other birds from nesting in the area.

"We've tried turning it down a little bit, because it is annoying. But it's not as effective once the volume is decreased," she says.

The airport obtained the recordings and began using them several years ago, shortly after canopies were built outside the terminal and over some parking areas.

"We don't want birds leaving their droppings all over vehicles and people," Higgins told KRMG.

She added, "the maintenance of having to clean up after birds is quite costly, and its honestly pretty disgusting."

The Airport Authority remains open to any other suggestions that might get the job done without subjecting customers to the noisy squawking.

Log on to our Facebook page or through Twitter and tag us," Higgins said. "We'll definitely explore all options."

The SCALE project partners say birds are key indicators of biodiversity changes

Conservation practice, backed with strong data and recommendations, is high on the EU agenda. One of the most important ways to identify changes in the environment and in natural populations is to focus on biodiversity and environmental monitoring. The data generated from monitoring helps decision makers and researchers design and assess biodiversity policies, conservation management, land use decisions and environmental protection.

The SCALES ('Securing the conservation of biodiversity across administrative levels and spatial, temporal, and ecological scales') project has performed an evaluation that focused on providing scientific and policy research required to guide scale-dependent management actions. SCALES has received almost EUR 7 million under the Environment Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The SCALE project partners said birds are key indicators of biodiversity because of their distribution and popularity on a global scale. Data indicate that there are more than 600 all monitoring programmes in Europe. Presented in the journal Nature Conservation, the evaluation shows that almost 28,000 people have participated in the 144 monitoring programmes that cover birds, spending nearly 80,000 person days each year.

Rare Sabine’s gulls sighted at Lake Norman in September

Many serious birders occasionally will take an offshore birding trip in hopes of seeing some open-sea birds that are rarely seen from land. I’ve been on about a dozen such trips over the years out of Hatteras, Virginia Beach and Morehead City. The trips are not cheap, the drive is long and weather is always a concern. Recently, I have preferred boat trips on Lake Norman, the “inland sea.” During the right times of year some interesting birds can be found, some of them real rarities.

Last Sunday, I was able to grab a seat with 10 other area birders on a boat headed out onto the lake. A rare Sabine’s gull had been found earlier in the day and the large group was eager to try to relocate it.

The trip had a promising start when some white diving birds were spied off in the distance. We motored over to the area along Davidson Creek and soon were surrounded with a mixed flock of about 40 common, Forster’s and black terns – species you often see along the coast, but ones that also show up on large lakes in the fall. A particularly cooperative group sat tight on the water while we approached.


Read more here:


Bird population declines in Alberta’s boreal forest

EDMONTON - More than 20 per cent of Alberta’s boreal forest has been directly altered by human activities, leading to a corresponding decrease in terrestrial bird populations, a report released Wednesday reveals.

The study, conducted by the University of Alberta’s Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, explores the relationship between development and the abundance of common bird species in the boreal forest, an ecological zone that represents 58 per cent of the province’s land area and covers a vast expanse of the north, including Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and the oilsands region.

The report shows that as of 2010, 21 per cent of the boreal forest had been affected by a variety of activities, including agriculture, forestry and energy production, resulting in bird populations 80 per cent of what would be expected if there was no development.


Backpack-toting birds help researchers reveal migratory divide, conservation hotspots

"Birds of a feather do not necessarily flock together," says Kira Delmore, a PhD student with UBC's Department of Zoology and lead author of the paper. 
Pictue: Wikipedia

"Our teams of thrushes took dramatically different routes to get to their wintering grounds, either south along the west coast to Central America, or southeast to Alabama and across the Gulf of Mexico to Columbia." 

The study, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, is the first to collect a complete year's worth of data from individual birds to document such a migratory divide. 

"This detailed level of migration and stopover data helps us pinpoint vital feeding and rest habitats that the birds rely on at key points during their long journey – just before crossing the Gulf of Mexico, for example," Delmore adds. 

The researchers say the study also raises the possibility that migratory behavior may play a role in speciation, the process by which one species evolves into two. 

"Given that migratory behavior is under genetic influence in many species of birds, these results raise the question of what hybrids between these two subspecies would do," says Darren Irwin, associate professor of Zoology at UBC and co-author of the paper. 

"One possibility is that hybrids would take an intermediate route, leading to more difficulties during migration. If so, the migratory differences might be preventing the two forms from blending into one."

Read more at:

More information on Swainson's thrush (Catharus ustulatus):

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Audubon Society wants building lights dimmed during migration Read more here:

Each morning for more than a month, well before dawn, a pair of Mecklenburg Audubon Society volunteers has patrolled the sidewalks of uptown Charlotte. It is somber duty for bird lovers, because they’re collecting corpses.

Fall is when migratory birds wing their way south down one of the four broad flyways that span North America. Many fly at night, the moon and stars guiding them to ancient wintering grounds.

But eons of evolution never prepared birds for cities. The bright lights of tall buildings attract the migrants, which often crash into them or circle, confused, until they drop exhausted to the ground.

Millions of birds a year die that way, researchers calculate. That’s why Jill Palmer and fellow Audubon volunteer Sarah Linn walked Tryon Street, peering into niches and under shrubs, in the early morning dark Tuesday.


Beaufort County pushing for birds to soar to new heights

Birds of a feather are starting to flock together in Beaufort County.

The birds I'm talking about are people -- bird people.

Bird people have set the standard here. In the old days, they came from all over to shoot quail. Today they come to observe a wide variety of birds. And in between, many of the new residents who turned rural Beaufort County into a busy place set the standard by appreciating and protecting the wildlife through land conservation, education and field trips.

Now more than ever, the bird people are flapping in the same direction.

Pete Richards of the Fripp Island Audubon Club tells me there is growing cooperation among his club and the Hilton Head Audubon Club and the Sun City Bird Club.

Read more:

Urgent action needed to save wild bird habitats

It seemed that this spring the skies were unusually quiet of birdsong.

April, May and June is usually a noisy – and lovely – nesting time. But where were all the colourful migratory birds that herald the arrival of spring, the nest building activity, and the thrill of their ancient songs? Where were the barn swallows, grosbeaks, flickers, wild pigeons, and hummingbirds? Song birds usually fill the trees in spring and there are usually hummingbird line-ups at the feeders from the end of March onwards as dozens of them hover, pushing for their turn. But this spring, we only saw two. Raptors – eagles, hawks, owls, and turkey vultures – seemed to be relatively plentiful but something was amiss.

I thought of Rachel Carson’s prophetic classic book ‘Silent Spring’ which, this year, celebrates its 50th anniversary since its release. Has the wisdom of her words that warned of birds’ demise because of pesticides and habitat loss come back to roost?


sland bird habitat being expanded in South Texas

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Dredging of a South Texas channel will pile up more habitat for birds.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times ( reported Tuesday that the project is meant to benefit creatures that nest on Causeway Island in Nueces Bay.

About 40,000 cubic yards of dredge spoils from Rincon Channel will be spread over the 3-acre island. The center is being elevated to increase habitat for ground nesting birds.

Expansion of the island involves the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, Cheniere Energy, the Port of Corpus Christi and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hundreds of colonial water birds already roost on the island between February and August. The estuary program has erected nesting platforms.

Bird viruses under study pose no threat to humans

PORT CLINTON -- When ducks and geese stop in at the Lake Erie marshes for a rest or to catch dinner, they could pick up a case of the flu.

Or, they might be leaving the virus behind for other birds to catch.

Two Ohio State University professors are studying waterfowl influenza in Lake Erie marshes in the Port Clinton area, including Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Benton Township and Magee Marsh state wildlife area in Carroll Township. They are examining what types of flu viruses lurk in the marshes, how long they survive, how they affect waterfowl and whether the spread of these viruses can be stopped.

"If a dangerous virus were introduced into North America by wild birds, we would have a model to use to assess the risks before the virus spread into or beyond the marshes in Ohio," Professor Richard Slemmons of OSU's Department of Veterinary Preventative Medicine said in an Ohio Sea Grant College Program article last year.

Scientists hope to use the information they learn from the study to manipulate the conditions in a marsh to weaken a virus more quickly, according to the Ohio Sea Grant article.


Government to allow bird trapping

The government has announced a special autumn live-capturing licence to registered trappers. Trapping of song thrush will be allowed between October 20 to December 31, and Golden Plover between October 20 and January 10.

Not more than 5,000 song thrush and 1,150 Golden Plover may be caught throughout the season. Not more than three birds may be caught every day by each trapper, with a season's bag limit of six birds per licence.

The government said in a statement that the licence is available for those already in possession of a valid Carnet de Chasse, and whose authorised trapping sites have registered with the police.

The derogation to allow trapping is being issued in terms of the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations.

Trappers shall only be allowed to use traditional manually operated selective clap-nets with the mesh-size of the net not less than 30mm square, operated solely by human intervention, the government said, adding that its recommendation was being made after it considered the recommendations of the Ornis Committee.

No trapping shall be allowed on Xaghri within Natura 2000 sites indicated on maps that will be published by the Environment Director.


Birding In The National Parks: Rare Bird Shows Up At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Picture: RSPB
So, you’re a birder looking to add a nifty pelagic species like the Great Shearwater to your list. Where do you go? Most of us would head to the Atlantic coast, charter a boat, and float around a few miles offshore.

I can’t think of anyone who would go to Lake Michigan and stand on the beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore expecting to see shearwaters. It’s a bird of the open ocean that plunge-dives for squid. There aren’t any squid in Lake Michigan.

Michigan birder Alice VanZoeren knew all of that and wasn’t expecting to see a Great Shearwater from near the mouth of the Platte River in Sleeping Bear Dunes, but that’s exactly what she saw and photographed on September 8th from that precise spot.


More on the great shearwater (Puffinus gravis):

Clever jays switch food-finding tactics

Jays demonstrate "flexible tactics" by switching between storing food and stealing from others' stashes, scientists have found.

The woodland birds are known as the shy members of the notoriously intelligent corvid family.

But birds were observed boldly stealing food from subordinates' hiding places in the University of Cambridge study.

Researchers found that the jays' strategy was dependent on the relative social rank of their opponent.

The results are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Eurasian jays live in woodlands and feed primarily on acorns. Past studies by the University of Cambridge team have highlighted the birds' remarkable ability to plan for the future by storing thousands of the nuts and returning to them later.


More information on the jay ( Garrulus glandarius ):

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Native plants, birds return to Orland Grassland after 10 years of restoration

Volunteers have spent at least three days a month for the past decade wading through overgrown brush in a southwest suburban grassland, yanking out invasive plants and nurturing new ones.

This marks the 10th year of the efforts to restore the prairie, wetlands, savanna and shrub lands at Orland Grassland, which is part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

"Every year since we've been out here, it's a little better and a little better and a little better," said Pat Hayes, an Orland Park resident and site steward for the grassland.

Volunteers, with the support of the forest preserve and agencies such as the Audubon Chicago Region, have been working the land meticulously to restore hills of native plants while welcoming back birds, butterflies and other animals returning to their revived habitats.

TAMUK Researchers Track Bird Migration in South Texas


Researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville said they have always known the Texas Coast was a critical area for bird migration, but in recent years they have discovered just how important it really is.

Based on the observations of a high-tech bird radar system, researchers said there is probably at least tens of millions of birds that migrate through South Texas every fall and every spring.

It's called site 55, and it's an area along Baffin Bay that TAMUK owns. Research Scientist Bart Ballard gave an exclusive look at the state of the art bird radar system.

"A lot of these birds migrate at night, which obviously we can't see," Ballard said. "Some of the birds migrate at altitudes that we're not able to detect visually, so it's a tool that increases our ability to more accurately count birds passing through the area."


In birds' development, researchers find diversity by the peck

Cambridge, Mass. - September 24, 2012 - It has long been known that diversity of form and function in birds' specialized beaks is abundant. Charles Darwin famously studied the finches on the Galapagos Islands, tying the morphology (shape) of various species' beaks to the types of seeds they ate. In 2010, a team of Harvard biologists and applied mathematicians showed that Darwin's finches all actually shared the same developmental pathways, using the same gene products, controlling just size and curvature, to create 14 very different beaks.

Now, expanding that work to a less closely related group of birds, the Caribbean bullfinches, that same team at Harvard has uncovered something exciting—namely, that the molecular signals that produce those beak shapes show even more variation than is apparent on the surface. Not only can two very different beaks share the same developmental pathway, as in Darwin's finches, but two very different developmental pathways can produce exactly the same shaped beak.

Magnolia Warbler a Mega North American Stunning Rare Bird! on Fair Isle!

Late in the day I got a call from Jason from his cellphone standing on the edge of a cliff in the North West of Fair Isle. "Tommy I have an American Warbler! I don't know what it is? I've got photos and will be able to ID it later but can you look in your American bird books?" Jason describes the bird over the phone. 

See pictures and read more:

More information on the magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia ):

Exotic Bird Scam Separates Woman From Cash, BBB Warns

St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 24, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning bird fanciers to be wary of buying feathered friends from unknown sellers – even sellers using the address of a St. Louis City government building.
“I’m so mad at myself,” said a woman from Plainwell, Mich., who lost more than $1,100 to a thief who had promised to sell her two rose-breasted cockatoos. The con-man used addresses in Michigan, Maryland and 1520 Market Street in St. Louis. The Market Street building, sometimes known as St. Louis City Hall-West, houses several city offices.
The woman said she found the parrots on the website, a site where sellers can advertise birds for sale. She said she communicated via email with the supposed seller for several days before sending payments to what she thought were addresses in St. Louis and the Republic of Cameroon in Africa. She said she realized she had been scammed when the birds never arrived and the seller demanded more money.
Worried that its site can be exploited by thieves, has provided its users with an extensive warning on potential scams. It suggests to consumers that “dealing locally, where you can see the other party face-to-face, is always best.” The site also warns buyers to avoid Western Union or MoneyGram payments for online purchases. The Michigan woman used MoneyGram to send payments to the scammer.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said exotic bird scams are a twist on what have become known as “puppy scams,” where potential buyers send money for purebred puppies they never receive.

Read more:

RSPB offers £1,000 reward after eagle body found close to Highland layby - update

A charity is offering a £1,000 reward after the discovery of the body of a golden eagle, which it said suffered a lingering death.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland said the body was found lying face down, with its wings folded, under a tree branch, close to a layby on a quiet country road near Aboyne, and was seized as evidence by officers from Grampian Police.
The eagle, which had a satellite transmitter attached to it, was found on 5 May this year. Both its legs were broken.
The carcass was taken for a post-mortem examination at the Scottish Agricultural College laboratory in Aberdeen. This concluded that the bird had suffered two broken legs due to trauma ‘that could be consistent with an injury caused by a spring-type trap’ and that the severity of these injuries ‘would prevent the bird from being able to take off’.

Folklife Center exhibits ‘Birds of America’

ELKO — Artist John James Audubon (1785 to 1851) had a dream to illustrate every bird in the United States. The Western Folklife Center is now exhibiting 20 of the 435 bird prints that he created during his lifetime.

“Explorer, Naturalist, Artist: James Audubon and The Birds of America” is an art exhibit that has been displayed in Nevada for a number of years and is stopping in Elko as part of a traveling feature.

Audubon was a French-American ornithological illustrator, an artist who diagrams birds as part of scientific research, once widely regarded by some as America’s predominant wildlife artist. He traveled the eastern and central United States from 1820 to 1838 in the hopes of capturing the natural beauty of all the country’s species of birds. The “Birds of America” series was Audubon’s most acclaimed life’s work.

The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno obtained 50 of Audubon’s first-edition “Birds of America” watercolor prints back in 2010 from the New York Historical Society. Goldcorp Inc., one of the exhibit’s sponsors, enjoyed Audubon’s paintings so much that the company wanted to share them with its employees.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Which bird personality are you?

Most people have an email address these days and electronic mail has superseded letters and facsimiles as the primary way of written communication between individuals, particularly in businesses. However, the increased use of email has also resulted in the development of particular idiosyncratic patterns of emailing behaviour that can either delight or enrage. 
Researchers at the University of Glasgow and the University of the West of Scotland have examined these different behaviours and matched them to typical bird-like behaviours. 
Dr Karen Renaud, senior lecturer in the School of Computing Science, explains, “Email has rapidly become a vital business communication tool and a lot of people we spoke to say they would not be able to do their jobs without it. However, many people have gripes about email. Some people find themselves checking email all the time, even during evenings, weekends and holidays, others complain about how other people behave when using email. When we analysed all the findings we realised we could categorise email behaviours and match them to the characteristics of some well-known birds.” 
The researchers identified a total of 12 bird-like characteristics of email users. 
Compulsive Woodpecker: Cannot resist reading email at all hours of the day and night. 
Hibernating Poorwill: Reads email only occasionally so that senders can never rely on them.
Caterwauling Peacock: Broadcasts emails to all and sundry, claiming that people “need to know” when actually is just a grandstanding.
Back-Covering Emu: Sends emails in order to be able to prove, at a later date, that the information was passed on. 
Echoing Mynah: Acknowledges all emails. For example engages in exchange something like: “thanks”, then “my pleasure”, then “thanks again”.
Boorish Parrot: Sends abusive or inappropriate emails and fails to understand why others get upset by them.
Night Owl: The midnight emailer who fails to understand that others do wish to have “time out”.
There was one type of bird associated with perfect email manners: The Robin.These people are admired for not allowing email to dictate their lives and making time to speak to people in person whenever they can.
Pesky Crow: “Leans” on others by means of email, sending multiple versions of the same document, or sending multiple emails about the same topic. This bird inspires fear and loathing in the hearts of other birds.
Buck-passing Cuckoo: Sends emails to others asking them to carry out some task she should do herself, and then leaves quickly and mimics the Incommunicado Ostrich so that the unfortunate recipient is left carrying the baby.
Camouflaging Woodcock: Uses blind copy to send copies of emails to other recipients without the main recipient’s knowledge. Unlike the Back-covering Emu, this bird is seldom seen in all its glory.
Hoarding Magpie: Keeps hundreds of emails in the inbox but can never find exactly the one they are looking for.
Lightning-Response Hummingbird: Responds immediately to email, and expects an immediate response in return.
“It is likely most people will be able to identify some of their email correspondents with these behaviours and perhaps even recognise their own email style. What the research really highlights is that email is a great source of stress for many people. Too often, email is used instead of a more suitable means of communication like actually talking to someone, Dr Renaud says. 
“People send email without thinking of the cost to the recipient, but if everyone does this we all become much less efficient and no-one wins. People need to think before they send an email -- is this the best way of communicating? Even if it is, still think before you click!” he added. 
The research, carried out with Judith Ramsay at the University of the West of Scotland, is published in Interfaces, the quarterly magazine of the British Computer Society.

Don’t pigeonhole these birds

These pigeons are not the ones dragged in by the cat or picking at the garden. These pigeons are trained athletes on high-protein diets that fly up to 500 miles in a day to find their way home.
“People don’t realize how important they still are,” local pigeon racer and farmer Jerry Donaldson recently told the Grand Junction City Council while explaining the history of carrier pigeons used in the military and noting that some have even received medals of honor. “They are hero pigeons.”
Donaldson is part of a passionate local club that participates in the longtime, worldwide sport of pigeon racing — a group city officials only discovered after an update of the city’s land-use code in 2010.

CABS claims 'total anarchy' of bird shooting around Safi

The Germany-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today that it had filed hunting of protected birds in Safi during the first week of its Operation ‘Honey Buzzard’.
The 'operation' is monitoring bird unting during the open season.
"CABS volunteers have registered to date the shooting down of more than 25 protected birds and have managed to record most of these incidents on film," it said. In addition a freshly-shot Marsh Harrier, a live Hoopoe with gunshot wounds, a badly wounded Grey Heron and 13 dead Bee-eaters were discovered in various locations on Malta and Gozo.

The committee said the hotspot of poaching activity this past week was the area around the international airport. Ten birds of prey and a Grey Heron were shot down or shot at around Safi over the past nine days.
Committee spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld said that 'total anarchy' ruled in Safi. 
"The police are doing their utmost but the use of their normal reactive tactics in the difficult terrain, with a maze of high walls and trees offering ideal concealment for the poachers, is inadequate in terms of law enforcement and prosecution. New proactive tactics, to include a substantial temporary concentration of manpower, are needed if the situation in Safi is to be brought under control”.

Processed bird's nest selling well

NANNING (China): STRINGENT measures imposed on the export of bird's nest to China have turned into a blessing for some Malaysian companies.
Several players in the industry are finding success as they venture downstream after the export of raw bird's nest was hindered because of claims of high nitrate content last year.
The response to the booths exhibiting bird's nest products at the Malaysia Pavilion in the Ninth China-Asean Expo was a clear indication of this.
Businessman Zuhari Abdullah said processed bird's nests were easier to export to China.
"We used to sell raw bird's nest but with the restrictions imposed by the authorities, we began looking into other options."
The entrepreneur, whose brand Thoyyibah is popular for its blended beverages of horse milk, kacip fatimah, tongkat ali and ginger products, has come up with a unique mix of bird's nest and coffee.
Intervention by the Malaysian government had helped ease restrictions with the signing of a protocol for inspection, quarantine and hygiene for export of bird's nest from Malaysia to China recently.
Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar signed the protocol with his counterpart in China, Zhi Shuping, Minister of Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
In July last year, China tightened restrictions after it allegedly found samples of a product that contained 200 parts per million (ppm) of nitrate.
The standard level allowed by the World Health Organisation is 34ppm.
For raw bird's nest supplier Kien Wong, however, the scenario was a cause for worry.
"I do not know who to turn to, whether in Malaysia or China.
"There are restrictions which are hard for me to understand.
"Previously, it was more reasonable and this was why I ventured into this business six years ago," said Wong, who up until two years ago had 12 offices in China and one export office in Malaysia

Read more: Processed bird's nest selling well - General - New Straits Times

Birds beware the little ladybird

"I'M bright red and I taste foul" is the message behind the colour and ladybird's spots.
To humans they might be pretty and small, the inspiration for nursery rhymes and children's clothing, but the redder the ladybird, the worse it tastes to the bird which tries to eat it, an international research team, including Dr John Endler from Deakin University has found.
"While ladybirds are a friend to the gardener, in that they prey on pests that attack plants such as aphids, they are also attractive to birds who use them as food source," Dr Endler said.
"As such they are known as a prey species and they use their spots and colour to warn off birds and other predators to find an easier meal.

Hearts, birds soar as volunteers release rehabilitated Utah raptors

 Orem • With a chorus of one-two-threes to help it on its way, a turkey vulture beat its massive wings, sank to the ground in front of a crowd of well-wishers and took off into the smoky atmosphere in the hills above Orem on Saturday.

The bird, gender undetermined, was one of three vultures, a Cooper’s hawk and a Swainson’s hawk released by members of Great Basin Wildlife Rescue, a tiny group of volunteer and licensed animal rescuers who rehabilitate and release hundreds of injured birds back into the wild every year.
"It’s just amazing," said Andalya Hall, 15, a Great Basin volunteer and student at Springville High School, who released another vulture. "After helping with these birds, to feed them, clean their pens, weigh them and then get to release them is such an amazing feeling."
In one way or another, each of these raptors — yes, vultures are raptors, just like hawks, falcons and eagles — would have met an untimely end if it hadn’t been for Great Basin’s volunteers. Two vultures had been shot; the third was found with a broken wing. The Swainson’s hawk tumbled from its mother’s nest when it was a chick. The Cooper’s hawk had been struck by a golf ball and, after being released once before, crashed into a Great Basin building last week.

The Computerized Birder: Can Software Stop Bird Strikes on Wind Farms?

There's a common association in many people's minds between wind turbines and dead birds. Opposition to new wind farms often centers on their hazards to raptors and other winged creatures, and yet for as advanced as wind energy technology itself has become, methods for tracking birds are astonishingly analog. 

"Currently the way you do these bird surveys is by putting a guy in a lawn chair," says Russell Conard, a young computer scientist who is pursuing a better way to complete this task. He is talking to us while seated at a picnic bench next to the water at the Lake Erie MetroPark, about 35 minutes south of Detroit. About ten feet away sits a man in a lawn chair doing just what Conard describes--counting the birds that fly through this high-traffic migratory pathway. He is the official counter for this site, which means it is his job to spend eight to ten hours per day, seven days a week, staring up at the sky and recording what he sees. 

Read on:

Outrage after a Golden eagle is dumped by lay-by and left to die lingering death

Conservationists appalled by eagle death
September 2012. RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal and a reward for information (RSPB is offering a reward of £1000 for information that will assist a successful prosecution), following the discovery of the body of a golden eagle on Deeside. The bird, fitted with a satellite transmitter, was found on 5th May 2012, after signals sent by the transmitter indicated that the bird had not moved for several days.
Found near a lay-by
The body was found, lying face down, with its wings folded, under a tree branch, close to a lay-by on a quiet country road near Aboyne, and was seized as evidence by officers from Grampian police.
Two broken legs from ‘spring trap'
The carcass was then taken for a post mortem at the Scottish Agricultural College laboratory in Aberdeen. This concluded that the bird had suffered two broken legs due to trauma "that could be consistent with an injury caused by a spring type trap" and that the severity of these injuries "would prevent the bird from being able to take off."
Satellite transmitter
The bird had been fitted with a transmitter by RSPB Scotland staff, in full partnership with a local landowner, a few days before it had fledged from a nest in the Monadhliath Mountains, south-east of Inverness, in July 2011. By re-examining the satellite data, RSPB staff discovered the young bird spent its first few months in its natal area before venturing further afield. By April 2012 it was frequenting an area of upper Deeside, before moving south-west into Glenshee.

Giant Penguins: A request from Richard Muirhead

Richard Muirhead sent me an email yesterday asking the following question and requesting that I post on the 'Watcher of the Skies' blog in case any of you readers out there have any further information:

"Have you heard stories of giant penguins, 6 ft high in the 18th Century on S.Georgia, near the Falkland Islands? Apparently someone called Andreas Sparrman, who was connected with Captain Cook, wrote about them."

Monday, 24 September 2012

Sea remains key to survival for migrating birds

NILAND — It began as an accident — a huge inland lake created more than 100 years ago when an irrigation-canal breach flooded a lonely corner of California desert with rushing Colorado River water.

But despite its unplanned start, the Salton Sea now serves a crucial ecological purpose.

It’s one of the last rest stops and breeding grounds left for millions of migrating birds, representing more than 400 species, that travel the Pacific Flyway — a bird superhighway that runs the western length of North America.

The birds, some of which are already endangered, rely on the Salton Sea’s tilapia-filled waters to survive as wetlands, rivers and lakes elsewhere have been lost to development in the past century. Experts have warned for years that more species would see their numbers plummet — with more becoming endangered and even extinct — if nothing is done to curb the rising salinity at the sea.

“Tilapia are the last game fish in the sea. If we hit their salt limit — and I think it will be soon — suddenly they are all going to go belly up in a short period of time,” University of Redlands Professor Timothy Krantz, an expert on the troubled sea, said last week. “And talk about a stink — that’s not going to be a pretty picture at all.”

Birds flying across the hemisphere feed on those fish at the sea, essentially a large oasis planted favorably in the middle of the desert. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 70 percent of all bird species in California are seen at the Salton Sea’s waters and one third of all bird species that breed in the state breed there.


Summit Outside: West Nile and birds

West Nile virus is closely linked to birds. When it first appeared in 1999 some rare species of birds died suddenly in a New York zoo. At the same time, several people came down with encephalitis (a disease which affects the brain). It was later found to be West Nile virus, a virus never before seen in the United States. It is called “West Nile” because it was first identified in the West Nile sub-region in the East African nation of Uganda in 1937. Over the next five years, the virus spread across the continental U.S., north into Canada, and southward into the Caribbean Islands and Latin America. WNV is now in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe and in the U.S.

Currently in the U.S., we are experiencing one of the worst epidemics. The disease has been reported in people, birds or mosquitoes in 48 U.S. states.


The commercialisation of conservation

Photo: Wikipedia

As the kakapo's conservation funding faces a $200,000 cut, Nikki Macdonald explores the debate about commercialisation of conservation.

Boom! Kakapo recovery programme faces $200,000 cut as sponsor seeks to withdraw after 22 years.

That news was conspicuously absent from the pithy updates regularly boomed and skraaarked by Conservation Department spokesbird Sirocco the kakapo, when cash-strapped New Zealand Aluminium Smelters announced it could no longer afford to support his species.

Surprising, given the randy green night parrot - propelled to international YouTube superstardom by trying to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine's head - is New Zealand's second-most endangered bird.

With a total population of just 125 and a genetic curse requiring intensive breeding management, kakapo need every cent of their $935,556 rescue funds.


More information on the kakapo (Strigops habroptila):