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.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

40 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham has responded to this morning’s news (read her statement here) by calling for an analysis of the satellite tag data from around 90 surviving and missing eagles “to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity“. It just beggars belief. We’ll shortly be blogging in more detail about her response and that of the Scottish Moorland Group, which is equally as fatuous.

In the meantime, please sign this petition (here) calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting.

And then please sign this petition (here) calling on the Westminster Government to ban driven grouse shooting.

Scientists take first picture of night parrot nest. But who ate the eggs?

Bridie Smith

Scientists confronted the crime scene before them with disbelief. There was no mistaking it. Precious lives had been lost here in Queensland's vast, isolated desert. But what or who was behind this outback murder-mystery?

Days earlier ecologist Steve Murphy had knelt down and peered through a scrubby spinifex tunnel to a nursery stocked with two eggs.

Ecologists from Bush Heritage Australia are working to create a safe place for the one-of-a-kind parrot found in Queensland.

This was the first time since the 1880s that anyone had seen an active nest belonging to a night parrot, one of the world's most elusive birds.

It was a big deal. The eggs promised new life. And new life promised a boost to the prospects of the endangered night parrot, which until 2013 hadn't been recorded for 75 years and was believed extinct.

But the promise would never be fulfilled. Six days later Dr Murphy discovered the nest had been raided; the contents of both porcelain-white eggs plundered.

First colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds found on the Canary Islands

Announcing the news on the Facebook page Lanzarote Pelagics posted the following information;

In 2014 and 2015 two Red-billed Tropicbirds were present on Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, but there was no proof of breeding. In 2016 Tony Mulet located two birds, in the same place that they had been observed in both 2014 and 2015, and recorded that they were regularly attending the cliffs there.

Later, local ornithologist Marcelo Cabrera noted the same birds. In May, on a visit to this site to try to confirm breeding of the species, it was confirmed that breeding was occurring and that at least 20 individuals including eight pairs were present. Elsewhere in the Canary Islands Red-billed Tropicbirds breed in single pairs.

Later in the year Daniel López Velasco corroborated this information, and suspects the presence of another population in another location on Fuerteventura, but he has not yet been able to confirm this.

Without a doubt, the species is set to grow by the Canary Islands, but the location of the colony will be withheld due to sensitivities.

As the name suggests, the Red-billed Tropicbird is a species of tropical waters, ranging from the eastern Pacific through to the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf and the north-west Indian Ocean. Historically within the Western Palearctic, breeding has been known only from Cape Verde, with this and the Galapagos populations being the species' key global populations.

The first confirmed breeding record for Europe came from the Azores in 1993, whilst, with ever increasing numbers being seen in the Canary Islands (most likely involving post-breeding birds from the Cape Verde population), it was only a matter of time before breeding was confirmed on the archipelago.


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

City centre gulls could help plan drone flight paths

 The issue of gulls in cities is an interesting one, as populations of Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Bulls are declining in many rural areas, while increasing in many urban locations.

The reasons are likely multiple, among them easy access to nesting sites and food, and a learned tolerance of humans. However, in our recently published study, we raised the possibility that ease of flight might also make city centres an attractive option for these birds.

Turbulant skies
As terrestrial animals, it can be difficult for humans to imagine what it is like to travel in a medium that is also moving. If you swim in a pool alone, it feels easier to slip through the water because it hasn't been churned up by another swimmer. This is just small-scale turbulence: add on top of this how it feels to swim in the sea, where the tide can pull you back as you try to return to the shore, and you will begin to understand what it is like to be a bird.

Now imagine that you have to swim through the sea to get to work every day. Sometimes the currents would be with you, sometimes they would be against you, this and the choppiness of the water will have a huge effect on how hard you have to work. If you had to do this every day, you would get pretty good at predicting the sea state and current direction. Flying animals face this all the time: the air is hardly ever still and this has a profound effect on flight behaviour.

In our study, we looked at how gulls use the rising air generated by buildings to fly without flapping. Using the seaside city of Swansea as our research location, we found that gulls actually alter their flight paths in certain wind conditions, to take advantage of updraughts occurring around a line of hotels bordering the bay.

Such energy-saving strategies are already well-recognised in birds that are undertaking their vast annual migrations, but are less well-studied for birds moving around on a daily basis.

King penguin made a Brigadier in Edinburgh

22 August 2016

A King penguin at Edinburgh Zoo has been made a Brigadier by the King of Norway's Guard.
Nils Olav was given the honour by members of the Norwegian guard who are performing at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

There have been three penguins called Nils Olav at the zoo, which have been mascots of the Norwegian King's Guard since 1972.

The second Nils Olav was knighted in 2008.

Brig David Allfrey, producer and chief executive of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said: "This is just a simply fantastic example of the great relations between our two countries, and it couldn't be a more charming tradition.

"At the Tattoo we of course have many inspecting officers but this is by far my favourite. Congratulations, Brigadier Olav."

Golden eagles may be more abundant in undeveloped, elevated landscapes

Model predicts golden eagle density across Western United States
Date: August 24, 2016
Source: PLOS

Golden eagles may be more abundant in elevated, undeveloped landscapes with high wind speeds, according to a study published August 24, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ryan Nielson from Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc., USA, and colleagues.

Better understanding of golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) abundance and distribution across the developing western United States is needed to help identify and conserve their habitats in the face of anthropogenic threats. The authors of the present study monitored golden eagle abundance across four major Bird Conservation Regions, comprising ~2 million-km2, in the western United States. They used existing data from aerial surveys and distance sampling during late summer in 2006-2013. The authors then modelled counts of golden eagle observations based on land cover and other environmental factors.

The authors' model revealed the golden eagles were less abundant in developed and forested areas and more abundant in open, elevated areas with high wind speeds. They used this model to construct a map of predicted land use by golden eagles during late summer across the study area.

The authors speculate that golden eagles preferred elevated, open landscapes with high wind speeds since these factors may help them hunt for prey and fly more efficiently, whereas more developed and forested landscapes provided fewer foraging opportunities. While the golden eagles' habitat preferences may differ in other regions and seasons, the authors suggest that their map could help prioritize landscapes for conservation efforts and identify regions for additional research and monitoring.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by PLOS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Ryan M. Nielson, Robert K. Murphy, Brian A. Millsap, William H. Howe, Grant Gardner. Modeling Late-Summer Distribution of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in the Western United States. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (8): e0159271 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159271

Monday, 29 August 2016

Ay up me duck!

Rare Aussie bird spotted in Horncastle

1:12 / 1:12   John Fieldhouse

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Australian wood duck - male.jpgBird-lovers could be going quackers and flocking to Horncastle to grab a sight of a rare duck An Australian wood duck has settled on the River Bain, just a few hundred yards from a busy Tesco supermarket.

It is happily living alongside hundreds of mallards - and the town’s ‘infamous’ swan who locals have called Cyril. A resident contacted the Horncastle News today (Wednesday) to tell us about the duck.

She said the duck appeared camera shy and swam off...whenever she attempted to take a photograph. However, the News contacted Horncastle-based photographer John Aron who quickly spotted the Aussie invader.

And, amazingly, the duck happily posed for photographs in the Bondhi-beach-like weather. The duck immediately attracted a large crowd, who admitted they were surprised to see it in Horncastle.

Alan Judge (37) said: “We’ don’t get many Australian visitors here. In fact, it should have come tomorrow (Thursday) - it’s market day then and there’s a lot more to see!”

Alison Newton (28) said she would not have spotted the Australian duck among all the resident mallards.

She added: “Now it’s been pointed out to me, it is a lot different looking. Perhaps it quacks with an Australian accent!” An RSPB spokesman confirmed the duck was likely to have escaped from a private collection. 

Genetic influence in juvenile songbird babblings

Familial differences in earliest vocal babblings of juvenile songbirds suggests possible genetic basis for variations

Date: August 18, 2016
Source: Hokkaido University

As human language and birdsong are both acquired through vocal practice, different patterns emerge among individuals. These distinctions play an important role in communication and identification. Until now, however, it was unclear how individual birds learned slightly different vocal patterns.

The research team uncovered variances in the earliest practice singing--known as "subsong"--of zebra finch juveniles, including different temporal patterns between individuals. Furthermore, these differences were found to be more pronounced among different families. Experiments also showed that differences persisted among the juvenile birds even when deafened.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Rare dodo skeleton to be auctioned in West Sussex

25 August 2016

The first almost complete skeleton of a dodo to come up for sale in nearly a century is to be sold at auction.

The composite of the extinct flightless bird was put together from bones collected over a number of decades.

The private collector offering it for sale only lacked part of the skull and one set of claws when he assembled the specimen in the early 2000s.

It is being sold by Summers Place Auctions in West Sussex in November, and is set to fetch a six-figure sum.

'Icon of extinction'
Director Rupert van der Werff said: "The rarity and completeness of this specimen cannot be overemphasised.

"It provides a unique opportunity for an individual or an institution to own a specimen of this great icon of extinction."

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was native to Mauritius but became extinct in the late 17th Century, within less than 100 years of Europeans settling the Indian Ocean island.
The bird, which could not swim or fly, was bigger than a turkey and weighed about 50lbs (23kg).

It evolved in isolation from predators and had no fear of humans. Dodo meat was said to be very tasty, although very little is known about the animal.

Big bird turns heads

By Jon Wilcox 
Aug. 25, 2016 at 11:21 p.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2016 at 6 a.m.

A big bird stopped traffic Thursday.

Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria) 2.JPG"This is an ultra rarity," said David Bradford, a high school biology teacher from Houston and experienced birder.

Dozens of parked vehicles lined Farm-to-Market Road 1090 after the sighting of a young jabiru.

Birders descended on a flooded drainage ditch along FM 1090 at U.S. 87 to catch a glimpse of the bird.

Averaging a height of 55 inches and a wingspan of 96 inches, the rare South and Central American stork is a sight to behold.

"It's huge, and it's a cool-looking bird," he said. "It's got a lot going for it."

According to the Texas Bird Records Committee, Thursday's appearance will mark the 12th time the jabiru has been sighted in Texas.

"It is one of my most wanted birds in the state of Texas," Bradford said. "Everybody has their own nemesis bird, and I've chased after this bird a number of times."

Although the jabiru is a rare treat for Texas birders, the species is quite common in South and Central America, said Petra Hockey, an experienced Calhoun County birder who has been in the game since 1988.

New reflective markers help birds avoid power lines

Andrea MacLean, CTV Calgary
Published Wednesday, August 24, 2016 8:43PM MDT 

Many migratory birds will soon begin the long trip south for the winter. The trip comes with many hazards, one of them being transmission lines that cross their flight path.

Hitting a line can be deadly for birds but Alberta's largest regulated electricity transmission company is trying to keep birds from colliding with their wires.

“We take bird collisions very seriously,” said AltaLink Environmental Advisor, Nikki Heck. “We’ve had a standard in place since 2008 where we’ve been installing various different types of bird markers.”

Transmission lines near wetlands have proven hazardous to birds. AltaLink is installing a new system to keep them safe.

There were several reports in the spring of birds colliding with the power lines over Frank Lake near High River. On Wednesday crews were out installing the bird diversion system.

The system requires linemen to scoot across the 500 kilovolt line and stopping every 10 metres to install a bright orange and yellow reflective marker.

The markers, which can be seen kilometres away by birds and humans alike, have reflective coating on three sides. They are designed to be seen in all types of weather conditions and they even glow in the dark.

“Birds fly in at night, birds fly in early in the morning or in fog. In those sorts of conditions it’s very difficult to see the line so we want to see a product like this on the line so they can still see it,” said Heck.

“Waterfowl and other large water-birds like swans, geese, ducks, they’re not overly maneuverable. So, anywhere we have a transmission line near a wetland area that supports large numbers of birds like this, this is a good mitigation that we can use to help those birds to see the line in advance so that they can maneuver around the obstacle.”

Zebra finch 'heat song' changes hatchling development

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News
19 August 2016

When the weather is hot, zebra finches in Australia sing to their eggs - and these "incubation calls" change the chicks' development, a study has found.

The surprising discovery suggests that the birds are preparing their offspring for warm conditions after they hatch.

Scientists collected eggs and incubated them in controlled conditions, playing recordings of the incubation song.

Compared to a control group, hatchlings that received these calls grew more slowly and coped better in the heat.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say this is the sort of adaptation that could help animals acclimatise to rising global temperatures.

"It doesn't mean that they will still be able to breed at extreme temperatures - this was within the range they currently experience," said the paper's lead author Mylene Mariette, from Deakin University in Geelong.

"But what's encouraging is that it's a strategy that the birds use to adjust the growth of their offspring to temperature, that we didn't know about."

It is also the first time that singing to unborn chicks has been shown to yield such long-term results.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Warbler genomes look to be 99.97 percent alike

Date: August 23, 2016
Source: Cornell University

For decades, conservationists have considered blue-winged warblers to be a threat to golden-winged warblers, a species being considered for federal Endangered Species protection. Blue-winged warbler populations have declined 66 percent since 1968, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The two species are known to frequently interbreed where they co-occur, and scientists have been concerned that the more numerous blue-winged warblers would genetically swamp the rarer golden-wing gene pool.

New research from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program shows that, genetically speaking, blue-winged and golden-winged warblers are almost identical. Scientists behind the research say the main differences between the two species are in feather color and pattern, in some cases just a simple matter of dominant or recessive pairings of gene variants, or alleles.

"We think we have finally pinpointed the proverbial genomic 'needle in the haystack' between these taxa," said study co-author David Toews, adding the findings suggest conservationists should be less concerned with hybridization and primarily focused on preserving habitat for both species. "This is something that conservation practitioners have wanted for a very long time."

The research is published in the September issue of the journal Current Biology. Toews' collaborators include fellow Cornell Lab postdoctoral researcher Scott Taylor, along with partners from Cornell University's Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, the University of California at Riverside and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The team investigated the genetic architecture behind the differences between the two warblers by analyzing the genomes of 10 golden-winged and 10 blue-winged warblers from New York, with birds sampled from the Sterling Forest along the New Jersey border to the St. Lawrence River Valley. Across their analysis of the entire genomes of both species, they found only six regions (or less than .03 percent) that showed strong differences. In other words, blue-winged and golden-winged warblers are 99.97 percent alike genetically.

Biodiversity begins at home: Saving old villages helps save farmland birds

Date: August 17, 2016
Source: British Ecological Society (BES)

Preserving old villages and farm buildings -- and being more creative in designing new rural homes -- could help halt the decline in European farmland bird populations, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The study, led by Dr Zuzanna Rosin of Adam Mickiewicz University, found that traditional villages in Poland are biodiversity hotspots for farmland birds, whose populations have declined at an alarming rate across Europe over recent decades.

As agriculture becomes ever more intensive, traditional villages will play an increasingly important role in farmland bird conservation, says Rosin, so preserving the variety of farms, homes and building materials is key to conserving farmland birds, whose numbers have fallen dramatically.

According the official State of Europe's Common Birds, between 1980 and 2005 the population of crested larks declined by 95%, corn buntings by 61% and linnets by 54%.

Previous studies have pointed to agricultural intensification, with the resulting loss of habitat, as a major cause of farmland bird declines. But the importance of old farms and villages to bird biodiversity has been little studied until now.

Working in two regions of western and southern Poland, Wielkopolska and Małopolska, the team of ecologists from Poland and Sweden counted the number and species of birds at three spatial scales: single rural property, village and landscape.

They visited 78 homes and farms in 30 villages, and recorded 12,000 individual birds from 135 species, including many species which are declining in Europe. They found that old rural properties had more birds, from more species, than buildings constructed after 1989 and that farmsteads hosted more bird species than homesteads.

They also found that old, traditional villages are biodiversity hotspots for farmland birds, and that the proportion of new homes in a village has a dramatic impact on bird life. They found 20-25 bird species in villages with less than 10% new dwellings, but when new homes made up 40-50% of a village, fewer than 10 bird species remained.

Scientists map migration paths of Arctic breeding birds

Results help identify rapidly disappearing staging and wintering grounds
Date: August 22, 2016
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

Conservation of intertidal habitat -- 65 percent of which has been lost over the last 50 years -- is critical to the survival of countless birds during migration on the East Asian Australasian Flyway.

In an effort to understand the threats and inform conservation of these areas, scientists from The Institute of Biological Problems of the North (Russian Academy of Sciences) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) have collaborated to identify vital stopover areas for the dunlin, a shorebird known to migrate up to 7500 km (4700 miles) to reach its destination.

Arctic shorebirds breeding in Chukotka and Alaska depend upon key coastal intertidal sites along their migratory route to find food to supply energy on their flights. Such intertidal habitats are rapidly being lost to human development, resulting in marked declines of all species that have been studied on this flyway. Some, like the spoon-billed sandpiper, are now at critical risk of extinction, while 23 other species are now threatened, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction. Many others are in rapid decline, losing up to 10 percent of their numbers each year. A key driver of these losses is thought to be associated with development projects along the Yellow Sea coastline that convert intertidal mudflats to dry ground.

To better understand the nuanced threats to shorebird species that breed in Chukotka and nearby Alaska, Russian and American scientists have collaborated on a number of studies, including an assessment of nesting densities and factors influencing nest survival on breeding grounds in Russia. Most recently they have charted the migratory movements, timing, and wintering ground locations of a sub-species of dunlin, a relatively common shorebird that breeds in Chukotka.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Cassowary 'Ruthie' relocated after trying to break into elderly man's home

Bird in Queensland’s Innisfail had come to associate people with being fed, says environment department, and decision to relocate it was taken ‘reluctantly’

Australian Associated Press
Monday 22 August 201603.21 BST

Wildlife officers have relocated a young cassowary, known by locals as Ruthie, after it threatened an elderly man and tried to enter his Innisfail home.

It is the second time this month a cassowary has been relocated in north Queensland due to aggressive behaviour.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said it was first alerted to potential problems with the bird in early August.

Rangers were called to the Coquette Point home last week after reports the bird was behaving aggressively and trying to break into an elderly man’s home.

 “The decision was reluctantly taken to relocate the bird after it was clear it had become accustomed to associate people with being fed,” according to the department.

The cassowary was tranquilised and relocated to a remote area of rainforest, away from human interaction.

EHP has again urged people not to feed or interact with the endangered species.

Scientists plan to bring back extinct bird species

August 21, 2016 | UPDATED 14:20 IST

London, Aug 21 (PTI) Scientists are planning to bring the extinct great auk back from the dead, almost 200 years after the penguin-sized, flightless birds disappeared.

A team of researchers met at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle to discuss reintroducing the flightless marine birds onto the Farne islands off the north-east coast of England.

Until the species final extinction in the middle of the 19th century, great auks ranged across the Atlantic from Northern Europe to Iceland, Canada and the US.

The size of a medium penguin, it lived in the open ocean except for when it waddled ashore for breeding.

African birds show signs of biasness between biological and step off-springs

3 hours ago
Washington D.C., Aug. 24 : A recent biological research has found an African desert-dwelling male bird that favours his biological sons and alienates his step-sons.

Southern Pied Babbler.jpgMartha Nelson, the researcher, said: "Nepotism has likely played a vital role in the evolution of family life in this species."

The species is the southern pied babbler, a black and white bird found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

These birds live in groups and chicks are raised by both parents as well as other adult birds. The groups can range in size from three to up to 14 birds.

The group's dominant male bird appears to decide which of the subordinate males to tolerate in the group.

Nelson's research shows subordinate male birds spend less time in a group if they are unrelated to the dominant male bird.

These subordinate male birds are essentially pushed out of the group by their stepdads or in some cases their brothers-in-law. They are then forced to join other groups as subordinates or to live alone.

Over the course of five years in the summer, Nelson observed 45 different groups of southern pied babblers in the Kalahari Desert, walking around with the birds at dawn and dusk.

She also relied on data collected by her co-author Amanda Ridley. Together, the researchers analyzed data from 11 years of observation.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Rare bird spotted in Pagham Harbour

Trevor Guy's 'mega' find, a rare aquatic warbler in Pagham Harbour
13:4313:48Friday 19 August 2016
Saxicola rubetra -Belgium -male-8.jpg
Birdwatcher Trevor Guy has spotted a rare bird in Pagham Harbour.

Out hunting for a whinchat to photograph, Trevor was delighted to capture a rare aquatic warbler on camera.

He explained: “I was birdwatching around Pagham Harbour this week and trying to photograph a whinchat, when a bird suddenly appeared on the top of a bush just in front of me.

“Initially, I thought it was the whinchat I had been searching for. It remained for about 30 seconds - just long enough to get a few photographs.

“It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the images on computer that I realised this was no ordinary bird, this was a mega!

“This was a rare aquatic warbler, not only rare in Sussex but also a national rarity.”

Mr Guy says there were only three records of the aquatic warbler in Britain last year and his sighting is the first on record in Sussex since 2011.

“It is a rare breeding bird south of the Baltic and it winters in West Africa,” he added.

Common Crane breeding success at Lakenheath Fen RSPB

Posted on: 23 Aug 2016

For the second year running, two pairs of Common Cranes have successfully raised three chicks between them on a Suffolk RSPB reserve.

Common Crane is one of Britain's rarest breeding birds and with only around 25 pairs nesting in the country each year. Common Crane had been extirpated in Britain since the 1600s due to hunting and loss of habitat. They recolonised the Norfolk Broads in the 1970s and have gradually started breeding elsewhere in the country.

Two pairs of cranes arrived at Lakenheath Fen in 2007 and have nested on the reserve every year since then. In 2009, one of these pairs fledged the first chick to reach that stage in the Fens for over 400 years. Since then, the two pairs of cranes at Lakenheath Fen had reared a total of eight chicks until this year. Common Cranes live an average of 20-25 years, and find a mate and start to breed at between three and five years of age.

Staff and volunteers at Lakenheath Fen RSPB on the border of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, are over the moon that this scarce species, which is very shy and secretive during the breeding season, has had this success in front of an audience of commuters on the Abellio Greater Anglia train route between Norwich and Ely.


White-fronted geese shooting law criticised by RSPB Cymru

19 August 2016 

A decision not to entirely ban the shooting of white-fronted geese across Wales has been described as a "bitter disappointment".

RSPB Cymru had urged the Welsh Government to protect the rare birds.

But the Welsh Government said it would not implement a total ban, stating there was no evidence any are currently being shot in Wales.

The world population of the birds has been declining since 1999, falling from 36,000 to 20,000.

Following a public consultation, the Welsh Government has opted to maintain the current voluntary ban on land where wildfowling clubs have specific rights to shoot.

'Threat of extinction'
The decision has been criticised by RSPB Cymru, who said wintering populations were at "critically low levels".

The charity said more than 160 birds would return to their regular wintering site on the Dyfi estuary in the 1990s, but numbers had dropped to 24 last year.

Director Katie-Jo Luxton said: "When a species is declining so quickly that it is under threat of extinction, you'd think the least that those in power could do is to offer it legal protection to prevent it from being shot."

In response, a Welsh Government spokesman said it was "committed to the conservation of white-fronted geese".

"We recently undertook a full public consultation which did not generate any evidence to indicate white-fronted geese are currently being shot in Wales," the spokesman said.

"The cabinet secretary therefore concluded the existing year-round voluntary moratorium is currently working effectively and is being adhered to by wildfowling clubs in Wales."

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Two Barbados bird species enter the select club of string-pullers

August 17, 2016

Lesser antillean bird3.jpg
Barbados bullfinch
The Barbados bullfinch and Carib grackle can pass the popular animal cognition test of string-pulling, but this ability may be unrelated to performance on six other cognitive tests, according a study published August 17, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jean-Nicolas Audet from McGill University, Canada, and colleagues.

String-pulling is considered one of the most complex problem-solving tasks for animals. While many birds, including several corvids and parrots, are capable of string pulling, the association between string-pulling and cognitive traits has not been fully explored, and most previous studies were carried out using captive birds.

Carib grackle
Audet and colleagues tested the string-pulling ability of wild-caught Carib grackles and Barbados bullfinches by suspending food in a cylindrical container that was attached to a perch using string, which could be reached by a series of coordinated actions. To determine if individual variation in performance could be predicted by results on other tasks, the authors compared the birds' performance on string-pulling to six other behavioral measures, including problem solving, temperament, and learning.

World's biggest offshore wind farm approved despite RSPB warning over 'unnecessary' bird deaths

Emily Gosden, energy editor 
16 AUGUST 2016 • 2:24PM

A£6bn project to build the world's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire has been granted planning consent, despite warnings from the RSPB that it would kill hundreds of seabirds.

The Hornsea Two wind farm would see up to 300 turbines built 55 miles offshore and could generate up to 1.8 gigawatts of power, enough to power about 1.6m homes. 

The project could be up and running by the mid-2020s but will first need to secure a subsidy contract from the Government to guarantee Danish developer Dong Energy billions of pounds in financial support from UK energy bill-payers.

It would be built adjacent to Dong Energy's 174-turbine Hornsea One wind farm, which is itself due to be the world's biggest to date when completed in 2020 and has already secured a contract for an estimated £4.2bn in subsidies.

The RSPB said the planning approval for Hornsea Two was "devastating" as the turbines would be directly in the flight path of gannets and kittiwakes that nest in protected wildlife areas between Flamborough Head and Filey Cliffs, resulting in the "unnecessary death" of hundreds of birds. 

Rare bird spotted in Herefordshire

2 days ago / Sally Boyce

A RARE bird sighted in Herefordshire could well cause some twitter among spotters.

The robin-sized black redstart, photographed by a reader in the Golden Valley, is a “very rare” sight in the county, according to Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.

With fewer than 100 breeding pairs in the UK, the black redstart is on the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ endangered red list.

A continental bird, in this country the black redstart has adapted to living in industrial and urban areas. Its name comes from the plumage of the male, a grey-black colour with a red tail. Their decline has put them on the official red list of birds of conservation concern.

“Seeing a black redstart here in Herefordshire is exciting,” said HWT expert, John Clark. “They are very rare, the only places they tend to breed are on building sites in London.

“They tend to prefer upland areas and dry, rocky habitats.”

The location of the county sighting was an area of uncultivated pastureland.

John advised the reader to record spotting the black redstart as an official sighting for the county with the British Trust for Ornithology.

“It is important to record such sightings of birds not commonly found in Herefordshire,” he said.