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

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Acoustic monitoring provides holistic picture of biodiversity

Soundscapes are allowing researchers to understand the spread and diversity of birds on Japanese island

Date:  November 6, 2017
Source:  Springer

Ecologists are using a network of "outdoor recording studios" to better monitor the subtropical Japanese island of Okinawa. Now a pilot study, in which more than 1,100 hours of birdsong were analyzed, is available in the journal Ecological Research which is the official journal of the Ecological Society of Japan and is published by Springer.

The research was led by both Nick Friedman of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, and Samuel Ross of the University of Leeds in the UK. The soundscapes they analyzed reflect how human activity influences the occurrence of species such as the Okinawa Rail and Ruddy Kingfisher on the island.

In this acoustic monitoring study, five pilot recording sites were set up in three city parks, a forest and a forested suburb on Okinawa, which is the largest and most inhabited island in the Ryūkyū archipelago. Together with nineteen other sites, these are part of the Okinawa Environmental Observation Network Churamori Project which monitors the island's plants and animals -- many of which are either endemic or threatened.

Indices from the recordings were calculated to reflect aspects such as the composition and complexity of the soundscape. The range of frequencies of the bird song were monitored as well as different sound intensities within a recording, as an indication of the diversity of birds present in an area.

The presence of five different bird species were also automatically detected using machine learning methods. The Okinawa Rail and Ruddy Kingfisher were, for example, most often heard in forested areas. This reflects the impact that urban development is having on the location of endemic species.

The research team recorded the influence that rainy weather and seasonal changes have on birdsong and the soundscape in general. They also learned when to start listening for different bird species. The Ruddy Kingfisher's song is, for instance, almost exclusively heard during the morning, while the Jungle Crow is audible throughout the day. The Okinawa Rail is the most silent.

RSPB Scotland conservationists fear for seabird populations as £2 billion Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm approved for the Firth of Forth

16th November

CONSERVATIONISTS have called for changes to the planning system after a £2 billion offshore wind farm project was given a green light despite expert advice warning against the scheme.

RSPB Scotland said that its defeat in a long-running legal battle against the giant Neart na Gaoithe wind farm in the outer Firth of Forth could set a “dangerous precedent” where Scottish Government Ministers ignore the advice of environmental groups.

The charity learned last Tuesday that the UK Supreme Court had refused permission to grant an appeal against the decision of Scotland’s top civil court that the development could go ahead.

The wildlife campaigners say that the project, which will be built 30 kilometres north of Torness and will be visible from the county coast, threatens thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.

Their concerns over the planning system have been echoed by the National Trust for Scotland.

Has a rare albino pheasant been spotted in Lancashire?

Published: 15:12 Wednesday 22 November 2017

While walking her dog on Tuesday morning (November 21, 2017), Tania Harasimiuk captured footage of what she believed to be a rare albino pheasant. Tania was walking her pooch just off Hoghton Lane in Hoghton when she spotted the white shape in the grass nearby.

Tania said: "I felt so lucky to see it, we’ve lived in Hoghton for the past 5 years and recently sold our house and move from the area. "One of our neighbours said he used to see a white crow here too for a while so maybe Hoghton is a special place." Albinism results in white feathers and pink eyes but true albinos are thought to be rare in the wild. True albinism in birds is caused by a genetic mutation resulting in an absence of an enzyme which controls the production of melanin.

Sadly, many albino birds die soon after fledgling due to their poor eyesight. After seeing the footage Alan Wright, Communications Manager for the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, said: "While there are a number of kinds of pheasant there are no white ones. It is likely to be albino or leucistic, the latter is when the colour has been washed out with dark rather than pink eyes, which are found in albinos."

"Obviously we haven't got a close enough look at this specimen to tell the difference. You will have seen albino - or part albino - blackbirds in your garden. "Some experts say white pheasants are not common but could occur as a result of intensive breeding for shoots and food. The ones that we are seeing round about are obviously escapees, like most pheasants which are not historically native to this country. "Seeing a white pheasant is obviously something different and exciting and again shows the diversity of wildlife that we have in the county."

Video footage and Read more at: 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Galapagos study finds that new species can develop in as little as two generations

November 23, 2017
The arrival 36 years ago of a strange bird to a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago has provided direct genetic evidence of a novel way in which new species arise.

In this week's issue of the journal Science, researchers from Princeton University and Uppsala University in Sweden report that the newcomer belonging to one species mated with a member of another species resident on the island, giving rise to a new species that today consists of roughly 30 individuals.

The study comes from work conducted on Darwin's finches, which live on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The remote location has enabled researchers to study the evolution of biodiversity due to natural selection.

The direct observation of the origin of this new species occurred during field work carried out over the last four decades by B. Rosemary and Peter Grant, two scientists from Princeton, on the small island of Daphne Major.

"The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild," said B. Rosemary Grant, a senior research biologist, emeritus, and a senior biologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Through our work on Daphne Major, we were able to observe the pairing up of two birds from different species and then follow what happened to see how speciation occurred."

In 1981, a graduate student working with the Grants on Daphne Major noticed the newcomer, a male that sang an unusual song and was much larger in body and beak size than the three resident species of birds on the island.

Cranes have childhood sweethearts who they flirt with for YEARS before becoming life-long partners as adults

Experts monitored 58 breeding pairs of the endangered species in Wisconsin 
Almost two thirds got together before at least one of them was sexually mature
Scientists believe there are benefits to the birds of long-term monogamy
This includes coordinating food foraging and protection from predators
PUBLISHED: 17:06, 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:10, 23 November 2017

Rare whooping cranes often have childhood sweethearts.  

Almost two thirds of breeding pairs get together before at least one of them is sexually mature, a new study shows.

Experts believe the finding demonstrates that there must be benefits to the birds of favouring long-term monogamous relationships.

The Whooping Crane is one of the rarest North American birds. 

It is a long-legged, wading bird that is related to Rails, a group of small, secretive, marsh birds.
Adult birds are mostly white, with black extending the length of their outer wing feathers. Their crown is dark red, and a black 'moustache' extends from the bird's bill to the lower face. Their overall shape is reminiscent of a heron or egret, but more robust.

Never an abundant species, the total population had dwindled, due to hunting pressures and habitat loss, to a low of 16 birds in 1941. 

Today, there are only thought to be 612 captive and wild birds in existence, although their numbers are increasing.

A team of researchers, led by the University of Georgia in Athens, tracked a group of endangered whooping cranes that was reintroduced to the eastern United States in 2001.

Each bird in this Wisconsin based population is fitted with a transmitter, allowing experts to track their movements.

As part of their courtship rituals, the cranes perform loud calls as well as jumping and flapping their wings.

Of the 58 breeding pairs monitored, 62 per cent began mixing with each other at least one year before they mated, according to reports in New Scientist.

Iraq steps up efforts to stop smuggling of rare species

Wassim Bassem November 24, 2017
Smuggling rare animal species out of Iraq has become common due to lax enforcement of laws and the country's security situation, but the federal government is making renewed efforts to halt the smuggling.
A falcon perches on a Bedouin hunter's arm during a hunt in a desert south of Samawah, Iraq, Nov. 30, 2007.
Iraq's Ministry of Health and Environment released 20 falcons back into the wild Nov. 17. The falcons had been smuggled earlier in the month to Kuwait, which returned them to Iraq. This incident is but one example of the systematic smuggling of rare birds and animals out of the country, and the authorities are working to better enforce existing laws and adding security measures.
“The lack of surveillance on the vast, open borders as well as the rampant corruption at the ports make such operations both possible and profitable for smugglers and merchants,” an officer in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Smugglers are encouraged by traders in the Gulf states who pay huge sums of money to purchase rare, ornamental or hunting birds. There's an anecdote circulating that a rare breed of pigeon recently sent bird fanciers in Kuwait into a bidding war, driving the final price for the birds to $33,000.
“Many trade transactions are conducted illegally, away from any environmental or security controls,” Manal al-Muslimawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament's Environment Committee, told Al-Monitor. “The Iraqi laws [are supposed to] protect the environment and its biological diversity, but they are not being enforced."
The falcon incident, Muslimawi said, "is one out of hundreds of smuggling cases of Iraqi birds and rare animals, and the parliamentary committee is aware of that.” She added, “The environmental police in Iraq are not up to the challenge, given the lack of the needed personnel."
Some markets in Baghdad even sell protected species in plain sight.
"Some well-known smugglers are buying rare animal and bird species from the market to selling them through cross-border networks," bird trader Sheikh Ali told Al-Monitor. 
"There is a trader who managed last year to get seven rare and desirable hawks from the desert of Ramadi and [offered to sell them to us] for a good price," which he declined. "I subsequently learned that this trader [sold them] to the Gulf traders,” he added.

Weird Looking Birds Freak Out Indian City

By Interrobang Staff on November 21, 2017

This video of a couple of birds found in a gas station bathroom went viral around a port city in India – people didn’t know what they actually were. They also could be aliens sent to spy on the bathroom habits of Indian people on Earth. That’s always a possibility.

Close encounters of the BIRD kind! Feathered creatures with spooky dark eyes are mistaken for ALIENS by Indian builders... but turn out to be barn owls
The feathery predators were filmed on a construction site in Visakhapatnam 
The adolescents birds are turning from chicks into adults in Andhra Pradesh
Eastern barn owls are closely related to the western barn owls found in Britain
PUBLISHED: 13:48, 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02, 20 November 2017

A video shared by Indian builders of so-called aliens turned out to be startled barn owls. 
The feathery predators were filmed on a construction site in Visakhapatnam, capital of the south-eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. 
The builders who filmed them can be heard talking excitedly as two of the three owls stare at them with large dark eyes. 
The birds are adolescents, just moving from being chicks into adulthood. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Duck bill’s sensitive touch develops in the egg

By Roni Dengler Nov. 6, 2017 , 3:00 PM

The bills of even newly hatched ducks might be as sensitive as our hands, as touch sensors in their beaks are as abundant as those in our fingertips and palms. That’s the takeaway of new research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that describes the origins of touchiness in the common duck’s quacker. Researchers knew that duck bills can sense light touch but have muted responsiveness to temperature. This comes in handy (or bill-y) since the birds forage for food in cold, murky bottom waters. Now, researchers find the sensors duck bills use to perceive touch work even before hatching

What are the top 10 delightful ducks you can see in East Anglia?

PUBLISHED: 09:02 19 November 2017

This time of the year is best to see ducks’ dazzling plumage, says Emily Kench of the RSPB. Here’s her East Anglian top 10.

Everything is a little empty at the moment. The warmth of bonfires has passed; reds, golds and greens of December feel just that bit too far away; and the branches of our once well-dressed trees stretch naked. Nothing lifts the slate-washed skies.

Even blacked-out silhouettes of passing wintering wildfowl can’t offer contrast in a greyscale landscape. They add angles, loose shapes, train-horn honks, and impact still air with the beat of their wings, but no colour. From a distance that is…

A rare sighting: Red-necked falcon spotted in Vizag

The Falco chicquera, commonly known as the red-necked falcon, has only two populations – one in Africa and the other in India.

Sunday, November 19, 2017 - 13:56

The bird was caught on camera by two members of the Vizag Bird Watchers Society (ViBS), Dwaipayan Chaudhuri and Sourav Majumdar.

According to reports, this was the first time that the rare raptor was sighted in Visakhapatnam.
Narrating how the bird sighting came about, Sourav took to Facebook, and wrote, "After getting lost in numerous bye-ways, we finally reached the spot (behind the reservoir) quite late. A harsh sunshine had already set the tone to the early winter morning. The birding activity was already on the way down. We shuffled out of the vehicle, with our heavy gear and started to walk down the dirt track to a green patch where Dwaipayan had, in an earlier visit, spied a hoopoe."

"Hoopoes are beautifully crested, sober coloured birds and after Cyclone Hudhud, Vizag has had a special attachment to it. Hudhud is the Arabic name for Hoopoe. Although a common bird, there will hardly be a birder who would not want to have a second look," he explained.

A rare bird has been spotted at an East Lancashire nature reserve

19th November

A RARE bird has been spotted at an East Lancashire nature reserve.

The bittern is increasing in numbers in the North West because it is finding more places are like home, wildlife experts said.

Conservation work is creating corridors for bittern, a member of the heron family that spends most of its time in reed beds.

And the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is reporting success stories with this wonderful bird now becoming a regular visitor to its reserves.

Two bittern returned to Brockholes in Samlesbury this week, it is believed to be the fifth time they have settled at the six-year-old reserve.

Bittern are regular visitors to Wigan Flashes and when young birds appeared it was thought to be proof that they have bred. Recent records show that they have only bred at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss in recent years.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Over 800 rare birds seized in Turkey’s southeast

İstanbul DHA14.11.2017 17:55

Some 838 rare goldfinches being smuggled by traffickers were seized in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on Monday.

The rare birds were found during a search of the trailer of a truck supposedly carrying cement to Syria.

Customs officials on duty at the Karkamış customs gate found the birds in cages under cement bags.

The birds were then delivered to the Branch Office of Nature Conservation and National Parks and were later released back into the wild.

Read on  

More stress and lower survival rates for birds in young, managed forests

November 14, 2017

Birds experience less stress during the winter months when they shelter in old forests rather than in younger, managed plantations suggests new research. The study in Springer's journal The Science of Nature was led by Indrikis Krams of the University of Latvia and the University of Tartu in Estonia.

Forestry activities are increasingly causing the fragmentation and deterioration of old growth forests, and these affect the diversity of plant and animal species. In Northern Europe, for example, a decrease in old, natural forests has been linked to the population decline of many insect-eating forest bird species because their typical wintering and breeding habitats are disrupted. Having enough food to eat and being in good physical condition is crucial if birds are to survive cold spells and snow storms.

Krams' team focused on willow tits (Poecile montanus), a small type of insect-eating bird found widely throughout temperate and subarctic Europe and Northern Asia. During the non-breeding winter periods, willow tits flock together in coniferous trees to feed on arthropods such as insects and spiders. Previous research has shown that the canopies of mature coniferous trees contain more food than younger ones because arthropods prefer older branches that have more needles attached to them.

This study was conducted in south eastern Latvia in young, managed Scots pine plantations between 35 and 55 years old and unmanaged forests up to 155 years old of mostly Norwegian spruce. The 98 birds from different flocks included in the study were caught twice: once during mild conditions, and again when temperatures were very low. They were weighed and banded, and the researchers evaluated the amount of underskin fat and the condition of their breast muscles. Blood samples were taken immediately after the birds were caught, and then again twenty minutes later to ascertain the effect of being handled. This was done to measure the levels of the stress hormone plasma corticosterone (CORT) in the blood.

How the songbird changes its tune

Two brain regions interact to help finches know when and how to tailor their songs for specific situations

Date:  November 16, 2017
Source:  University of California - San Francisco

Researchers at UC San Francisco have shown how the Bengalese finch, a domesticated songbird, can learn to tweak its song in specific ways depending on context, which could shed light on how the human brain learns to apply different rules depending on the situation, and have implications for understanding human language and movement disorders.

The study, published November 16, 2017, in Neuron, showed that finches switch from generic to specific versions of their songs depending on the situation they are in. What's more, the researchers identified two distinct areas in the birds' brains dedicated to this learning process: one region that encodes generalizable rules to produce default songs, and another area that can override the default pathway to produce different sounds for different contexts.


By Deepthi Sanjiv, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Updated: Nov 20, 2017, 04.00 AM IST

At least three rare birds have been sighted in the last two months by the birders of undivided Dakshina Kannada district – one from Dakshina Kannada and two from Udupi district.

Shivashankar M from the Coastal Bird Watchers Network said, “On Nov 12, we spotted the lesser coucal – a species of cuckoo – at Kenjar near the Mangaluru International Airport. Two juveniles were sighted hiding in a bush by Roshan Kamath. The lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) is a species of cuckoo in the family Cuculidae. It is common to spot the greater coucal in the region. This bird is generally found in the north-east region and this is the first sighting for coastal Karnataka.

“Lesser coucal is distinguished by its smaller size, less prominent bill, pale shaft streaks on the feathers of the head and back. It has a much longer claw on its hind toe and a distinct call. It is also among the few coucals that show season plumage differences. But, like in other coucals, the sexes cannot be distinguished in the field,” explained Shivashankar.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Saving endangered African penguins

Findings provide key strategies for rehabilitation

Date:  November 15, 2017
Source:  Florida Atlantic University

A first-of-its-kind study on prognostic health indicators in the endangered African Penguin provides invaluable information to preserve and rehabilitate this seabird. Competition with fisheries, oil spills, climate change, diseases and predators are all contributing factors in their dramatic population decline, which has been as high as 80 percent in some South African colonies. Until now, limited data existed on the factors contributing to their successful rehabilitation.

With less than 25,000 breeding pairs in existence today, it is an uphill battle for the African Penguin, which calls South Africa home. The 60 percent drop in their population since 2001 has put them on the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In some South African colonies, the drop in population has been as high as 80 percent. Competition with fisheries, oil spills, climate change, diseases and predators are all contributing factors in their dramatic decline.

To preserve this species and optimize rehabilitation efforts, an epidemiologist from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute joined forces with scientists from the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). The facility, located near Cape Town, South Africa, receives more than 900 African Penguins for rehabilitation each year. While the success rate for the overall release of these penguins back into the wild is about 75 percent, limited data exists on the factors that contribute to their successful rehabilitation.

Bird diversity is breathtaking in Peru

Good Birding
Tony Greenfield / Contributing Writer
NOVEMBER 16, 2017 11:28 AM

The fall monsoon is underway on the Sunshine Coast with torrents of rain, falling leaves and declining temperatures. I have just returned to the above from a trip to the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed.

I was in Peru, both in the Amazon and the Andes, where seasons are more defined as wet and dry periods rather than by temperature. November in Peru is a good month to visit as it precedes the rainy season which begins in December.

From a climate perspective, it is questionable whether there is any good time to visit the Peruvian Amazon as it is hot and humid beyond belief. It is the first time I have ever stood or sat perfectly still and yet sweated profusely. After visiting the Amazon, a day later we were in the Andes at 4,400m (about 14,000 feet) in cloud and drizzle and wind, and I was really cold. The switch from heat to cold was difficult to comprehend. 

What DNA Says About the Extinction of America’s Most Common Bird ... and its possible resurrection

 NOV 16, 2017

On September 1, 1914, an old, trembling passenger pigeon named Martha died at Cincinnati Zoo. With her demise, her entire species slid into extinction. But in many ways, the species was already gone, for a solitary passenger pigeon is almost not a passenger pigeon at all. This is an animal that existed in gestalt. Its essence was in the flock.

Passenger pigeons were once the most abundant bird in North America, and quite possibly the world. At their peak, there were a few billion of them, traversing the continent in gargantuan, nomadic flocks that would blacken the sky for hours as they passed overhead. Simon Pokagon, a Potawatomi author and leader, described them as “the grandest waterfall of America” and their sound as that of “distant thunder” or “an army of horses laden with sleigh bells.”

And then, people started shooting them. They poisoned them, netted them, gassed them, hit them with sticks. In a matter of decades, the continent’s most common bird has been completely wiped out, down to the last individual. “It’s always astounded me how something could have that large a population and entirely disappear,” says Beth Shapiro from the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Why didn’t tiny populations survive somewhere in refugia? I mean, we are pretty good at murdering things, but how did we kill every one of them?”

Rare bird seen in Coimbatore

CCIPAGESTOI | Updated: Nov 20, 2017, 13:42 IST

The Oriental dwarf kingfisher, commonly found in the broad-leaved canopy forest of the Western Ghats, has been spotted near a lake in Coimbatore. Vijay kumar Krishnamurthy had chanced upon the rare bird near the Krishnampathi lake. "I was surprised to see the bird at wetlands inside the city. It is a forest bird. I tried confirming it with scientists, who wanted photographic evidence to identify it," he told TOI. The small bird, which is 13-14cm long, primarily feeds on fish and insects.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Giant finches invade Scotland

16th November 2017 by Graham Martin

An unusually high number of giant finches look likely to arrive in Scotland this winter.

There have been record sightings of hawfinches in England and Wales and now they are reportedly travelling north with several already having been spotted here in the last week.

The influx is a real treat as these birds are shy and elusive, and there are thought to be fewer than 1000 pairs in the UK.

Hawfinches are the nutcrackers of the bird world, with their massive parrot like bills that can crack even the hardest nutshells.

They are also very attractive birds, patterned with autumnal shades, including a rich chestnut head, rose-pink breast and black and white wing markings.

The number of hawfinches that nest in the UK has declined dramatically in recent years, but each winter birds from the continent travel to Britain searching for food.

This year, however, the numbers seen have been much larger than normal, with hundreds of sightings recorded. In birdwatching terms, this is called an “irruption”.

Exotic Indonesian birds smuggled in drain pipes

17 November 2017

A wildlife raid in Indonesia yielded startling results after 125 exotic birds were found squashed into pipes.

Police say 84 eclectus parrots and 41 endangered white cockatoos were stuffed into drain pipes sealed by wire.

Cockatoos stuffed inside drainage pipes following a raid

Indonesia's vast jungles are home to many threatened bird species. The country is trying to rein in a rampant wildlife trade.

Separate raids were conducted in parts of eastern Indonesia, leading to the arrests of four men.
If found guilty, they face jail sentences of up to five years and fines of 100m Rupiah ($7,400; £5,600).

Indonesia is home to a large-scale illegal trade of birds, many of which find themselves sold in giant avian markets.

Many poached birds are also smuggled abroad.

Dwi Adhiasto of the Wildlife Conservation Society believes the birds uncovered from Monday's raid were on their way to the Philippines, given links to "a parrot smuggling network there".

Darwin Was Right About Bird Vomit

By Erica Tennenhouse | November 17, 2017 12:00 pm

Charles Darwin was a busy man.
When he wasn’t advancing his groundbreaking theory of evolution by natural selection, he could be found carefully analyzing the contents of bird vomit and droppings. No, this wasn’t an obscure hobby. He was getting his hands dirty to stack up more evidence to support one of his many hypotheses.

He suspected that some birds had an unusual way of transporting plants to new locations. “Freshwater fish, I find, eat seeds of many land and water plants; fish are frequently devoured by birds, and thus the seeds might be transported from place to place,” he wrote in Origin of Species.

In the same passage, Darwin described a set of experiments in which he stuffed seeds into the stomachs of dead fish, and then fed those fish to birds. After several hours, the birds would either excrete or regurgitate the seeds and “several of these seeds retained the power of germination,” he wrote. But until now, those experiments had not been shored up with research in the wild. Last month, a paper published in Biology Letters finally validated Darwin’s notion that fish-eating bird puke could help spread organisms like plants over great distances.

Moonlight Regurgitation
After a long day of fishing, cormorants gather together to roost under the moonlight and vomit up pale brown, marble-sized pellets that look like mini, mucous-covered meatballs. If you slice one open, you will find the hard-to-digest portion of the cormorant’s recent feast. The pellets are mainly composed of bits of fish, but as Darwin noted, they also sometimes contain the plant seeds and invertebrates that those fish were chowing down on before they were taken prey.

A great cormorant will travel far from its daytime fishing site to its nighttime roost—up to 30 miles on a regular day, and even further during migration, says the study’s lead author Casper van Leeuwen from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “That means the plant seeds or aquatic invertebrates could be transported over quite some distance inside of a bird that has indirectly ingested them.”

China’s key role in international fight to save one of rarest birds in the world from extinction

A wetland in Jiangsu province – a vital stopover for the spoon-billed sandpiper on its migration south from Siberia – needs protecting against development, one of a number of threats to a species with under 250 breeding pairs left

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 7:11pm
18 Nov 2017

Pavel Tomkovich spent the summer 300 kilometres below the Arctic Circle in Chukotka, an isolated coastal region of northeastern Siberia. Each day he packed hand-held flares and a pepper spray as protection against bears, and set off into the wilderness in search of a critically endangered bird – the spoon-billed sandpiper.

Tomkovich, head of the ornithological department of Moscow State University’s Zoological Museum, is part of the international Spoon-Billed Sandpiper Taskforce, involving Russia, China and a number of other countries fighting to save the species from extinction. With numbers falling from an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs at the turn of the millennium to fewer than 250 pairs in 2014, the taskforce is hoping efforts will lead to a 50 per cent increase in the population by 2025.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

New project launched to protect Red Kites in Northern Ireland

18 November, 2017 01:00

THE highest number of fledging Red Kite chicks on record has been reached this year.

Twenty territorial pairs have been recorded in Northern Ireland, with 13 of them successfully fledging 28 chicks - a new record.

Next year will mark 10 years since the ground-breaking reintroduction of red kites, after they were persecuted to near-extinction around 200 years ago.

But, the RSBP says, despite the growing numbers, the north are still a long way from reaching a sustainable red kite population, with a young red kite was found dead after being shot near Moneyslane, Co Down in August.

It has launched `RKites', a partnership project reaching out to 40 Co Down and Armagh in communities where the red kites are present, and also working alongside the Mourne Heritage Trust's Youth Rangers programme.

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, RSPB, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, with support from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and the Mourne Heritage Trust.

Joanne Sherwood, RSPB director at, said: "The name ‘RKites' relates to red kites and to the fact that they are indeed our kites.

"It's up to all of us to support these iconic birds and to ensure that we can cherish and protect them and give them a home in Northern Ireland for years to come."

Paul Mullan, head of Heritage Lottery Fund, said it is "delighted" to support the project.

Guardian Australia wants you to vote for Australia’s most-loved native bird

In partnership with BirdLife Australia, Guardian Australia has launched its annual Australian bird of the year poll to ask readers to nominate their favourite bird and encourage others to do the same

Monday 20 November 2017 02.54 GMTLast modified on Monday 20 November 2017 03.13 GMT

This week Guardian Australia and BirdLife Australia are asking readers to cast their vote on their favourite native bird. From the gregarious sulphur-crested cockatoo to the ubiquitous bright lorikeet, it’s time to recognise our country’s wealth of amazing native birds.

The poll aims to celebrate the uniqueness of Australian birdlife and raise awareness of the threats facing many of the birds on the list, including climate change, habitat loss, land-clearing and feral animal predators.

Today BirdLife Australia’s magazine editor and author of the Big Twitch, Sean Dooley, provides us with an essay on the relationship Australians have with our unique birdlife from the brightest of our parrots right down to the much maligned ibis, or “bin chicken” as it has become known.

Guardian Australia’s environment reporter, Michael Slezak, provides us with a breakdown of the pecking order: can the willie wagtail – bird of the year 1908 – claw its way back to the top in 2017? Or will the superb fairy-wren take flight and wing it again as it did in a 2013 BirdLife Australia poll?

The winner of the Australian bird the year competition will be announced on 9 December 2017.