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 October 2012

Birdwatch News Archive New marine conservation e-Atlas goes live

The first global inventory of important sites for the conservation of migratory marine species has been launched, BirdLife International has announced. 

The e-Atlas of Marine Important Bird Areas represents a major contribution to marine conservation and a vital resource for meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target of protecting 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020. It will also be crucial to the process of describing ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and will have significant input into the siting of offshore energy infrastructure.

The e-Atlas covers 3,000 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) worldwide. It will provide essential information for: conservation practitioners and policy makers; energy sector planners (windfarms, gas and oil exploration and drilling); fisheries managers; marine pollution management planners; and the insurance industry.

Seabirds are the most threatened group of birds. For example, of the 21 albatross species recognised by IUCN, 19 are considered threatened with extinction, and the other two are near threatened. Seabirds present unique conservation problems, since many species travel thousands of miles across international waters and multiple Exclusive Economic Zones, only returning to land to breed.

“Given the vast distances seabirds cover, the long periods they spend at sea and the multiple threats they face there, identifying a network of priority sites for their conservation is vital to ensure their future survival,” said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA Co-ordinator.

The e-Atlas represents a breakthrough in the format of BirdLife’s Important Bird Area (IBA) inventories. It will be available exclusively online. Like a Google Map, it will be dynamically updated as new sites are identified and new data about them become available. It will be linked to other BirdLife resources, including species accounts, IBA fact sheets and State of the World’s Birds case studies.

“We hope that the e-Atlas of Marine IBAs will be a key resource for management of the oceans for years to come, and show the wider marine community the benefits that can be achieved when data are shared for conservation purposes,” said Ben Lascelles.

Paradise Park cockatoos have first chick

A pair of cockatoos smuggled into the UK from Australia as eggs have had their first chick at an animal park in Cornwall.

The red-tailed black cockatoo chick is being hand-reared by staff at Paradise Park, near Hayle, after being hatched in an incubator.

Its egg was taken away to be hatched because its parents had broken other eggs, the park said.

Staff said their latest addition was "very endearing".

The adult birds had so far not managed to raise any chicks because of previous egg-breaking, the park said.

Smuggling vest
Curator David Woolcock decided to prevent this by taking an egg before it was broken and hatching it in an incubator.

Snow bunting and Greenland wheatear in Northern Ireland - Photos

October 2012. Christine Cassidy, an avid birder from Northern Ireland, has sent us these great images of a couple of unusual birds that she has recently spotted. 

The snow bunting was at Magilligan about a week ago (23rd October). Snow buntings breed in the Arctic and migrate south for winter, though a few pairs do breed in the UK, so they are occasionally seen in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern and Eastern England in the winter months.

Greenland wheatears breed in Canada, Greenland and Iceland, and undertake one of the toughest journeys of any small bird as they migrate to West Africa for the winter. Christine spotted two birds at Ballykelly. 

Citizens asked to report sightings of whooping cranes

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said in the past two weeks a very rare bird was spotted at Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City - an unusual location for the endangered whooping crane. 

Standing at nearly 5-feet tall, the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America and can be seen passing through the state until mid-November.

The ODWC is asking state residents to report sightings of this rare bird.

“Just over 300 whooping cranes are en route from their nesting grounds in Canada to their wintering location along the central Texas coast," said Mark Howery, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department.

Howery urges Oklahomans to keep watch for the cranes around shallow wetlands, marshes, river bottoms and partially-flooded pastures and grain fields in the western half of the state. 


Seed Money Available to Protect Mediterranean Basin Birds

Sick of reading about Cyprus songbirds killed and pickled for snacks?  Weary of wild killing sprees like Egypt’s sanctioned bird hunt ? Or maybe the downed flamingos in Kuwait ruffled your feathers?

BirdLife International has created a fund to underwrite environmental preservation projects in one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots: the Mediterranean Basin. Check out their new website to learn more about the group and their work.  Especially nice is a link where you can enter your country and see which species are at risk and find resources to get involved locally.  A search on Jordan, as example, leads to The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, BirdLife’s partner in Jordan, which in turn will advise on in-kingdom conservation.
This five-year conservation investment aims to preserve regional biodiversity by engaging with and developing existing civil society organizations, said Ibrahim Khader, Regional Director of BirdLife International’s Middle East Division.

“The Mediterranean Basin is the world’s second largest global biodiversity hotspot, covering more than two million square kilometers spanning 34 countries and territories. It stretches from Portugal to Jordan and from northern Italy to Cape Verde,” Khader told The Jordan Times. A biodiversity hotspot is any place that boasts a large number of diverse species under threat of human interference.

“The Mediterranean Basin is one of the biological wonders of the world and is the third richest biological hotspot in the world, with more than 13,000 endemic species found nowhere else on Earth,” he added. “The primary threat is habitat loss due to increasing pressure on water resources, agricultural intensification, land abandonment, and infrastructure and residential development.”

Twice a year, BirdLife International will invite proposals for small grants worth up to $20,000 and large grants of up to $1 million, according to the Regional Director.  The money will support conservation at a local level, especially vital given economies struggling in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Cirl bunting makes comeback at Jersey golf course

A rare bird not seen in Jersey for 10 years has been spotted at a golf course.

Efforts have been made to manage parts of the Royal Jersey Golf Club to allow the cirl bunting to survive and to provide food for the birds.

Glyn Young, of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, said the bird's arrival was good news.
The cirl bunting is a sparrow-sized bird with a distinctive striped black and yellow face.

Mr Young said a study on the bird's survival prospects in Jersey would take place and include a look at the problem of a lack of food for the cirl bunting during the winter.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Kauai County still noncompliant with federal deal to protect birds

Two years after admitting to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act by killing Newell's shearwaters through its lighting policies at county facilities, Kauai County is still working to meet requirements of a plea agreement with the Justice Department.

The retrofitting of light fixtures at Kauai County's park facilities and buildings is ongoing, county officials said.

Young Newell's shearwaters follow the lights from the moon and stars while they fly out to sea during the fledgling season from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15. Bright lights from stadiums and other facilities were disorienting the birds and causing them to circle around artificial lights,said Scott Fretz, former state wildlife program manager who currently serves as wildlife and forestry district manager of the Maui/Molokai Branch.

The shearwaters would fly around until they were exhausted and fell to the ground, where they were preyed upon by cats and dogs or struck by vehicles.

In 1975, Newell's shearwaters were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. About 90 percent of the seabirds breed on Kauai.

In the mid-1990s, the population was estimated at 80,000. But in recent years, the number of shearwaters has plummeted by 75 percent.

Kauai County paid a $15,000 fine and agreed to a series of corrective measures that were to be taken during a 30-month probation period after the agreement with the Justice Department. An audit of all county facilities was to be conducted along with creating plans to minimize harm to seabirds during the fledgling season.

The county is required to maintain a record of dead, injured or sick birds.

No downed birds have been reported at county facilities since the start of the probation period, according to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka.

How hunters support the birds we watch

Minnesota waterfowl hunters have to date purchased 85,181 state duck stamps for the current season, according to a recent report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That's 300 more than sold by the same date a year ago, which is good news. Those hunters also had to purchase the federal stamp as well, so sale of those must be up by even more, given whatever non-hunter purchases. That amounts to almost $1.3 million in federal stamp revenue. Duck stamp money is used to buy or lease land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl management areas.

Some of those hunters belong to Ducks Unlimited, the national conservation group. 

Minnesota has 36,872 members of the organization according to a note I recently received from DU when I renewed my membership. Those hunters, through DU memberships and activities, raised $2,305,258 in 2011. Fewer than half as many DU members as waterfowl hunters in general. Almost twice as much money as federal duck stamp sales here.

The DU money goes to habitat purchase and conservation, supporting far more non-game bird species than ducks. That's why I belong to DU. For the same reason I also am a member of Delta Waterfowl and Pheasants Forever.

The 2012 federal duck stamp.

Researchers need help studying bird populations

Here's your chance to be a citizen-scientist. 

The 26th season of Project Feeder Watch begins Nov. 10; more birdwatchers are needed to make it a success.

By watching birds at their feeders from November through April and submitting their observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, volunteers make it possible for scientists to keep track of changing bird populations across the continent.

This is particularly important with potential climate changes, warmer weather in particular. And it's fun.

"Warmer temperatures and lack of snow cover means birds can find more natural food so they may visit feeders less," said FeederWatch leader David Bonter, in a press release about the program.

"But even if participants are not seeing many birds, that's still valuable information we need to detect population changes on a broad scale.

"The one number we definitely want to see increase is the number of people taking part in FeederWatch. It's easy to do, and the information is incredibly valuable in helping us better understand what's going on in the environment and in the lives of the birds we enjoy so much."

Read on:

Bird Club Caring For Hundreds Of Birds Rescued From Aurora Hoarder’s House

VILLA PARK, Ill. (CBS) – Hundreds of birds that had been flying free in a trash-strewn town home in Aurora were in a new home on Saturday.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports a total of 358 birds were rescued from David Skeberdis’ home on Shadybrook Lane in Aurora this week, after his home was declared a nuisance property by the city of Aurora.

Barbara Morris and a team of volunteers from the Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club have been caring for the birds at a Villa Park storefrtont, after they were rescued by professional contractors on Friday.

Skeberdis had tried to capture the birds on his own beginning Wednesday night, but managed to capture only about a dozen by a 10 a.m. deadline on Friday. That’s when Aurora officials sent in private contractors to remove the rest of the birds.

“They took in nets. It was a team of seven men who went into the home in hazmat gear, because of the … extraordinarily high mold levels within the home,” Morris said.

Bird flu contained, epicentre being sanitised, authorities say

No cases in BBMP limits, but strict vigil on: Chief Health Officer

Sanitation work at the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) at Hesaraghatta — where at least 3,600 turkeys reportedly have died of avian influenza in the last fortnight — is on even as more blood samples have been sent to the Animal Disease Laboratory in Bhopal and the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals here.

Focus on bird litter
Apart from blood, authorities are now checking water, birdfeed, bird litter and feather samples with a special focus on bird litter, which spreads the virus fast, sources said. While no fresh cases of bird death due to avian influenza have been reported, a strict vigil has been kept on other birds at the CPDO, which has about 19,000 poultry, 350 emus and 13,500 ducks. Of the turkeys, the remaining 700 or so have been culled.

“Sanitation work has been taken up at the turkey unit and the cleaning is expected to be completed within the next two days,” a senior CPDO official told The Hindu, without elaborating much.

With the sanitation work under way, including sprinkling of DDT, the CPDO has barred visitors while employees continued their work wearing masks and caps. On Saturday too, veterinarians were taking random blood samples from the birds.

Arvind Jannu, Principal Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, said so far the virus had been contained within the farm and authorities were reviewing the situation daily. Surveillance teams were going around a 10-km radius of the CPDO, declared as alert zone. Poultry farms in this zone had been directed not to get any new birds.

Monday 29 October 2012

House Sparrows

Bamboo nests have been placed at Coimbatore Zoo by the members of Vaagai Foundation to encourage nesting. Photo: S Siva Saravanan.
Bamboo nests have been placed at Coimbatore Zoo by the members of Vaagai Foundation to encourage nesting. Photo: S Siva Saravanan.

The house sparrows that once chirruped around in large numbers are now spotted rarely. “Blame it on high-rise buildings, lack of greenery, and radiation from the increasing number of cell phone towers. Development has shooed the little birds away from our neighbourhood,” says M. Sanjai Gandhi, chairman of Vaagai Foundation. It spreads awareness on rainwater harvesting, and environment conservation.

The Foundation is trying to bring many birds back. It has placed bamboo nests at various locations in the city, especially where there is greenery, to attract the birds. One of its first stops has been at the Coimbatore Zoo. More than 10 bamboo nests have been placed for the love birds to nest and breed. “As there are no trees, birds have no space to build nests. We want to encourage people to place the bamboo nests at their homes too,” says Sanjai. The small bamboo nests, they say, provides a comfortable nesting ground for a number of birds such as the finches, munias, babblers, and bee eaters. The nests can be kept on terraces, windows and compound walls.

Members of the foundation also plan to distribute open nests to attract crows and mynas. “We want to make nests for the thookanam kuruvi too from coir and coconut husks, and place them on trees in our neighbourhood,” he adds. Besides Ramanathapuram, Ramnagar and Gandhipuram in Coimbatore, the bamboo nests have made their way to places as far as Chennai, Kodaikanal and Dindigul.

“There was a time when there were sparrows in their hundreds. They would chirrup at the break of dawn, and it was our wake-up alarm,” remembers. S.R. Azhagappan, secretary of Vaagai Foundation.

Continued:  Read on:

RSPB to oppose windfarm plan in Thames estuary

A proposed extension to a giant wind farm between Essex and Kent could be blocked over fears it would drive away a species of sea bird.

The area is the winter home of about 6,500 red throated divers - more than a third of the UK's population.

The consortium behind the London Array windfarm wants to build phase two of the project, which will eventually boast 341 turbines.

But the RSPB fear more turbines will disturb the birds.

The wind farm was given the green light in 2006 on condition that phase two would only go ahead if the red throated divers were protected.

The RSPB said the population of the birds in the outer Thames estuary could be displaced by the extension.

Richard Rigg, project director at London Array, said: "Since receiving its original consent in 2006, London Array has been working alongside Natural England and the RSPB to collect, analyse and review information on the red throated divers that winter in the Thames Estuary.

3,600 turkeys die of bird flu in 13 days at Hesarghatta

Alert sounded in 68 villages in 10-km radius of CPDO

Following the death of 3,600 turkeys in 13 days at the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) at Hesarghatta, near here, the State government has sounded an avian influenza alert. Declaring an area within a 10-km radius of the CPDO an alert zone, the government has prohibited preparation and sale of chicken dishes in eateries.

Minister for Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Revu Naik Belamagi told presspersons here on Friday that the CPDO had culled 700 turkeys. However, other species of birds on the 150-acre campus, including poultry and emu, did not show signs of avian influenza.

People need not panic as the influenza has not spread as of now, he added. Besides turkeys, the CPDO has about 13,500 ducks, 19,000 poultry and 350 emus.

According to Principal Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services, Aravind Jannu, following continuous deaths of turkeys, the CPDO sent samples of blood to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory, Bhopal, which confirmed avian influenza.

Following this, department officers visited the CPDO and conducted preliminary survey. The Chief Secretary convened a high-level meeting on October 24 which was attended by personnel from the Health and Police departments and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike. The meeting decided to sound alert in 68 villages in the 10-km radius of the CPDO and create awareness among the people about avian influenza commonly called bird flu, Mr. Jannu said.

Bird watchers flock to coastal Louisiana

THORNWELL, La. (AP) - An elusive chicken-like marsh bird is drawing nearly 130 bird watchers from 27 states and Poland, Kuwait, England and Canada this weekend to the rice fields of Jefferson Davis Parish.

The American Press reports the bird watchers, naturalists and photographers are trying to catch a glimpse of the yellow rail and other native bird species during the annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival.

The festival runs through the weekend with birding trips, boat tours, bird banding and photography workshops, a rice mill tour and a Cameron Parish coast tour.

"The festival is designed with fun in mind," said Donna Dittmann of the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. "Jefferson Davis Parish is a fantastic place for birds and birding," she said.

Sharon Guarnete and her husband, Al, who live near Philadelphia, were among first-timers attending this year's festival.

"We are bird watchers and have never seen a yellow rail," Al Guarnete said. "So we read about this last year on a website and put in on the calendar for this year."

Al Guarnete has been birding for 49 years. Sharon Guarnete, who has not been bird watching as long, says it's a hobby they can enjoy together.

Bird Infected with West Nile Virus Found in San Rafael

West Nile Virus activity wanes as temperatures drop, but the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District announced this week that five more infected birds—one in San Rafael—tested positive.

That brings a total of five WNV-positive birds in Marin County this year - in San Rafael, Novato, Ross, Corte Madera and Greenbrae - but the number isn’t expected to rise by much this year.

“During the summer is when WNV transmission is most likely to occur due to the abundance of vector mosquitoes as well as the warmer weather,” said Nizza Sequeira, the district’s public relations director. “We actually do have mosquitoes year round in both Marin and Sonoma counties but they are most abundant during the spring and summer months and begin to taper off into fall.”

That’s not to say all mosquito activity comes to a halt.

“As we enter the cooler months mosquitoes are not as active but will continue to reproduce,” said Sequeira. “For example, we will see more of what we call the cool-weather mosquito (Culiseta incidens) and the large winter mosquito (Culiseta inornata).”

Record Sociable Lapwing flock found in Uzbekistan

More than 400 Sociable lapwings were seen in 1 flock in Uzbekistan - Courtesy of Birdlife
October 2012. One of the most recent conservation organisations to become a range state partner supporting international Sociable Lapwing conservation is BirdLife's Partner UzSPB - the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds.

During their first surveys for the species, this autumn, they made a remarkable discovery - more than 400 Sociable Lapwings present at the Talimarzhan Reservoir, in Kashkadarya Province, during their migration south.

International importance
The significance of this discovery is considerable - not only is it an important national record but also internationally - as the number of individuals in this migrating flock greatly exceeds the total number of birds we have recorded wintering in India and Pakistan in recent years.

UzSPB are one of several new national range state partners that have recently joined our international effort to help recovery of Sociable Lapwing and their involvement and surveys this year have been made possible by support provided to advance the scope of the international project by BirdLife Species Champion - Swarovski Optik.

The surveys, conducted by a team of five from UzSPB, were led by Dr. Mukhtor Turaev and took place in the Karshinskaja steppe around Lake Talimarzhan, at Lake Ayakagitma in the Kyzyl Kum desert and at the Ecocenter Jeyran and the Tudakul reservoir in the Karnabchul steppe.

A total of 29 birds were encountered in three groups during visits to Lake Talimarzhan on September 4th to 8th and then the big flock there was discovered present from September 16th to 20th.

During the team's third survey from September 26th to 30th the big flock had left to continue its migration but a further seven Sociable Lapwings were still present in the area - two birds on a water basin near the town of Talimarzhan and five more at the Tudakul reservoir in the Karnabchul steppe.

Sunday 28 October 2012

This Bird Migrated Into a Skyscraper

One overwhelming early morning, Flint Creek Wildlife treated 129 birds that had been gingerly collected off the sidewalks of downtown Chicago. It was fall migration season, and songbirds of all species were at it again, flying south for the winter and – many of them – along the way bumping into the city’s famously picturesque skyline.

Nature is full of jaw-dropping examples of wildlife learning to adapt to the city (you’ve heard ofbirds that sing over car horns and coyotes that comprehend traffic). But this is not one of them. Chicago, like Toronto, happens to have grown up beneath one of the four major North American migratory flyways that birds follow up and down the continent each spring and fall. And a migratory flyway is too big a thing in nature to mold itself around our metropolises.
"The first year was this emotional rollercoaster."

That means that most nights about this time of year, birds collect on the ground in Chicago, about half of them still living, half of them not. The only reason you rarely see one is because groups like Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation make a point of getting there first.

"It’s a busy, bustling city, right?" says Dawn Keller, who founded Flint Creek eight years ago. "When people are walking from the train station to work they’re not necessarily paying attention to a little 8-gram bird that’s sitting on the sidewalk." This is why volunteers go out before dawn, before the city wakes up. Plus there are other problems that come with daylight. "I remember one time coming around a corner and having something catch my peripheral vision," Keller continues. "It was this little bird flapping as this gull was trying to swallow it whole."

 This Bird Migrated Into a Skyscraper

Nelson House windows smashed to free trapped hawk

A bird the Department of Conservation believes is either a Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk peers out the a top floor window at the former Nelson House on Market St. in Poughkeepsie this afternoon.
A bird the Department of Conservation believes is either a Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk peers out the a top floor window at the former Nelson House on Market St. in Poughkeepsie this afternoon

Workers from the Dutchess County Department of Public Works came to the aid of a hawk trapped inside the condemned Nelson House Annex on Market Street in Poughkeepsie this afternoon.

The bird was spotted and photographed by office workers from across the street for days, looking forlornly through windows inside the building. The workers dubbed the bird "Nelson."

The DPW workers used a bucket truck to reach and smash the fourth-story windows where "Nelson" had been spotted.

A bird the Department of Conservation believes is either a Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk peers out the a top floor window at the former Nelson House on Market St. in Poughkeepsie this afternoon. / Spencer Ainsley/Poughkeepsie Journal

‘Bird mimic’ dinosaur hints that wings evolved for show not flight

In 1890, the fossil-hunter Othniel Charles Marsh described a new species of dinosaur from Colorado. He only had a foot and part of a hand to go on, but they were so bird-like that Marsh called the beast Ornithomimus – the bird mimic. As the rest of Ornithomimus’ skeleton was later discovered, Marsh’s description seemed more and more apt. It ran on two legs, and had a beaked, toothless mouth. Despite the long tail and grasping arms, it vaguely resembled an ostrich, and it lent its name to an entire family – the ornithomimids—which are colloquially known as “ostrich dinosaurs”.

Now, the bird mimic has become even more bird-like. By analysing two new specimens, and poring over an old famous one, Darla Zelenitsky from the University of Calgary has found evidence that Ornithomimus had feathers. And not just simple filaments, but wings – fans of long feathers splaying from the arms of adults. (More technically, it had “pennibrachia” – a word for wing-like arms that couldn’t be used to glide or fly.)

The two new specimens were found in 2008 and 2009 by Frank Hadfield, a local businessman from Drumheller, Alberta. He sent them to the local Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, where Zelenitsky examined them. One is a juvenile, around one year old, with a dense coat of short hollow filaments on its trunk and limbs. The second is an adult that’s missing its arms; it too had the same filaments on its neck, back and upper body.
Each filament measures up to 5 centimetres long and half a centimetre wide. These represent the earliest stage of feather evolution—they’re known as proto-feathers or, more evocatively, dino-fuzz.

PC is spared jail over rare bird's eggs haul: Officer's illegal collection was 'crime against nature'

Michael Upson, 52, had 649 eggs hidden in margarine cartons inside a battered suitcase in the loft of his home in Sotherton, Suffolk.

Evidence indicated he may have taken more than 900 eggs in total but around a third have never been found.

A policeman  who committed a ‘crime against nature’ by stealing hundreds of eggs from rare birds’ nests narrowly avoided jail yesterday.

Michael Upson, 52, had 649 eggs hidden in margarine cartons inside a battered suitcase in his loft.

Police officers who raided his home also found an index system that suggested the eggs had been collected before 1954, when it was not illegal to take them from nests.

However, these were revealed to be fake when Upson’s own catalogue cards and diaries were discovered concealed in plastic boxes inside his attic water tank.

These proved he had mounted illegal raids around the country between 1991 and 2001 when he was a constable and acting sergeant for Suffolk Police.

Read more:

Bad weather fatal for migrating birds

Birdwatch news team
Posted on: 26 Oct 2012
Appalling weather around the coast of England has created terrible conditions for migrating birds, the RSPB has said today, with fishermen reporting to the society that numbers of exhausted and disoriented birds have been seen falling into the sea around their vessels.

A combination of heavy fog and winds has brought huge numbers of birds to England’s east coast from Northumberland to Kent, with birders using Twitter to report their sightings. Spurn Bird Observatory tweeted on 22 October: “Conservative totals of 10,000 Fieldfare, 57 Ring Ouzel, 900 Song Thrush, 700 Robin, 21,000 Redwing. Also 2,700 Brambling, 1200 Blackbird, 800 Goldcrest, 20 Black Redstart etc etc.”

Another site to experience a fall of stranded migrant birds is Bempton Cliffs RSPB in North Yorkshire. Reserves Manager Ian Kendall said: “There are birds in their thousands, on the cliffs, in the surrounding fields, hedgerows and along the length of the Yorkshire coast.

“The birds left Scandinavia in glorious sunshine but as they crossed the North Sea, they flew into fog and rain, so they stopped off at the first bit of land they have come across. The place has been dripping with birds.”

The RSPB believes these birds may be the lucky survivors which have managed to cross the North Sea, but concedes that many others may have perished before making landfall.

One professional boat skipper told the society: “While fishing about 10 miles south of Portsmouth, we witnessed thousands of garden birds disorientated, land on the sea and most drowning. Species included Goldcrest, Robin, thrushes and Blackbird. The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere. On the way home we just saw dead songbirds in the water; it was a harrowing sight.”

Those exhausted birds which have made it to Britain will be looking for food and may be visiting gardens, especially as the weather is expected to turn, with the first icy blasts of winter expected.

Ian Hayward is an adviser with the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team. He said: “The first cold snap will encourage many birds to visit gardens in a quest for food. Now is the time to start topping up bird tables and feeders. These birds need all the help they can get, so gardeners and farmers can also help birds by not cutting hedgerows laden with much-needed berries.”

Bird watchers descend on Rhode Island for rare sighting

October 26, 2012

Scores of bird watchers have descended on Rhode Island to glimpse a bird rarely seen on the U.S. mainland and that may have flown from as far away as Siberia.

The wood sandpiper, a migratory bird commonly found in Europe, Asia and North Africa, was first spotted 10 days ago in a 
marshy area in Jamestown, George Armistead, events coordinator for the American Birding Association, said on Tuesday.

The brown-and-white medium-size shore bird has been seen and recorded only a few times in the lower 48 states, he said, adding that it is seen almost annually on a small island in Alaska.

Most shore birds that turn up in the mid-Atlantic or East Coast region are believed to have bred in Siberia, Armistead said. The one in Jamestown very likely is a juvenile born this year and "just doesn't know its way around yet," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Philadelphia.

"You do get these birds that stray," he said. "This one probably strayed from someplace in Eastern Russia, would have cut across Canada and ended up here on the Northeast coast."
The animal has attracted scores of bird enthusiasts from New England and beyond in recent days.

Ed Hughes, a harbour master in nearby North Kingstown, said he has gone to see the bird and take photos three or four times. Traffic in the area was backed up for at least half a mile, he said, with cars with license plates from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and throughout New England.

One day he watched along with about 70 others, he said.

Armistead said he wouldn't be surprised if one or two birders had flown in from the West Coast to see the wood sandpiper.

"It's a pretty big deal," he said. "For a lot of people that haven't had the opportunity to travel, this might be their only chance to see this thing."

West Lothian mansion the third home raided for illegal rare birds’ egg

Published on Friday 26 October 2012 00:00
A MANSION in West Lothian became the third home raided by police searching for illegal rare birds’ egg collections, following an initial swoop on a house in County Durham three years ago, Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

News of the search came during the trial of Inverness prison officer Keith Liddell who denies 16 charges involving illegal trading of eggs. In total, over 14,000 eggs were seized in the three raids.

Former policeman with Lothian and Borders William Bryant, 50, told the trial he was in charge of a search for rare eggs of Wallhouse Mansion in Torphichen near Linlithgow, West Lothian,

He said owner Alan Hutton took him to a room where police found over 12,000 eggs. Several police vans were required to remove items from the property, including three computers.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Rare bird leads twitchers a merry dance

ONE of the rarest birds to be spotted in Shetland had ornithologists “up to high doe” this week after it was first spotted on Tuesday afternoon by local birder Iain Robertson at Pool of Virkie. 

Initial reports identified it as the scarce, but regular vagrant Little Bunting.

However when pictures were published on the internet that night the birding fraternity was sent all atwitter, with some local and mainland observers claiming it could be the even rarer Chestnut-Eared Bunting.

On Wednesday morning a small group of determined enthusiasts set about resolving the puzzle and after several hours chasing the sub-sparrow sized creature through the undergrowth they resolved the mystery.

This is only the second UK sighting of the Chestnut-Eared Bunting, the first seen on Fair Isle in October eight years ago, and the third ever European appearance. 

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon Announces End of Bird Flu Outbreak

President Felipe Calderón announced Wednesday that an outbreak of the H7N3 bird flu virus in western Mexico has been “totally controlled” after 68 days with no reports on new cases.

According to Calderón, more than 22 million hens were slaughtered throughout the country since July, when the Mexican government declared a national animal health emergency.
The epidemic, first detected in June, infected about 1 million poultry and resulted in price increases in chicken and egg products in Mexico. 

In 2009 H1N1, also known as swine flu, broke out in Mexico, becoming a global pandemic that claimed the lives of 17,000 people.

The United States Department of Agriculture initially stated that the outbreak of H7N3 bird flu virus began in Jalisco, México. Out of 58 farms sampled, the virus was identified in 24 farms. Mexico’s poultry flock number around 477.5 million birds, according to data from the industry released in 2011. 

Jalisco is responsible for more than 50 percent of egg production in the country. In all there were 14.4 million birds at risk or exposed, and over 900,000 birds died. Despite the outbreak and a price increase, egg supply in Mexico was guaranteed thanks in part to massive imports from the U.S. 

Rock Creek cockatiel, owner reunited after bird bite leads to emergency room visit

The door opened for a split second, and before Kimberly Anchell knew it, her bird was gone. 

Anchell, 47, who lives in Rock Creek, thought for a month that her gray cockatiel, George, was dead.

Then last week, during her night shift as a physician's assistant in the emergency room of Vancouver's PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, one of her last patients was a man with a severe finger wound.

A temperamental cockatoo had completely ripped a fingernail off Christopher Driggins, 52, founder and president of Northwest Bird Rescue and Adoption Orphanage. 

During their chitchat, Anchell shared her missing bird story.

Driggins knew exactly where George was.

"It was too amazing to be possible," Anchell said.

That very morning, a Northwest Bird Rescue volunteer had picked up a parakeet found in Rock Creek. The volunteer overheard that two houses down, a neighbor had found a cockatiel but never bothered to report the discovery.

The volunteer sent the message to Driggins, who filed it away in his memory. 


Brainy birds stash stores

We know that squirrels make the most of fall's plenty by hoarding nuts for the winter, but the fact that birds also store, or cache, food goes largely unappreciated. Through clever observation and experiments, biologists have found that food caching (from the French cacher, "to hide") has developed to a high art in some birds.

Take the chickadee, for instance. Chickadees put tens of thousands of food items a year into short-term storage. They usually retrieve and eat the food in the space of several days. Each food item is cached in a different place to make it difficult for thieves to steal all the food at once. When hiding a new item, they remember their previous storage sites and avoid placing caches too close together. Chickadees remember each hiding place for around a month, even though they may be scattered widely across a bird's territory. Research shows they use visual cues to navigate back to each of their cache sites by a combination of larger landscape features, particularly verticals, and use of the sun as compass. Smaller local details are not as critical, probably because these often change in a forest. When retrieving food, they remember which sites have been emptied, either by them or by robbers, to avoid fruitless searching.

How does a tiny bird have such brain power?

Migratory Birds’ Ticks Can Spread Viral Haemorrhagic Fever

ScienceDaily (Oct. 22, 2012) — A type of haemorrhagic fever (Crimean-Congo) that is prevalent in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans has begun to spread to new areas in southern Europe. Now Swedish researchers have shown that migratory birds carrying ticks are the possible source of contagion.

The discovery is being published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever is a serious disease that begins with influenza-like symptoms but can develop into a very serious condition with high mortality (30%). The disease occurs in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans but it has recently started to spread to new areas in southern Europe. It is caused by a virus that is spread by tick bites and common host animals are various small mammals and ungulates. Humans are infected by tick bites or close contact with contagious mammals.

Sparrowhawk film - Narrated by Chris Packham

October 2012. Natural history and natural history film making were both created and sustained for many years by enthusiastic amateurs, but nowadays it often seems that you are not allowed to study the natural world unless you have a dozen college certificates in how to wear a hard hat or the correct way to step over a style (as long as it has been checked by the H & S department first). However, occasionally, a throwback to an earlier age comes out of the blue, and this is what has happened with David Culley.

David loved sparrowhawks, but couldn't find anyone to make a film for him, so he made it himself. It just took 10 years! He followed a pair of sparrowhawks from November, when the male arrives back to his nesting grounds, to when the birds disperse in August. The film also covers why as many as 19 species of songbirds choose to nest right next to the sparrowhawk! 

Friday 26 October 2012

Exmoor Zoo uses riot shields against aggressive cranes

Riot shields and police officers have been drafted in by staff at a Devon zoo to help them develop defensive tactics against aggressive birds.

Donated by Devon and Cornwall Police, the two decommissioned shields have been sent to Exmoor Zoo near Barnstaple, so staff can fend off violent cranes.

Curator Danny Reynolds said police were training staff to use the shields.

Staff have been kicked, pecked and hit by wings, especially during the mating season, Mr Reynolds said.

'Very territorial'
"Anti-social behaviour" from the birds, which can grow up to 1.5m (4ft 10ins) tall, has "been on the increase year-on-year", he explained.

The shields were donated after discussions with local wildlife crime officer PC Martin Beck.

DNR: Kirtland's warbler a 'conservation success story' in Michigan

LANSING, MI - The population of the Kirtland’s warbler – a bird that breeds in northern Michigan – continues to bounce back.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said last week a recently released annual survey shows the bird’s population is at a record high.

Researchers and volunteers in Michigan counted 2,063 singing males during the official 2012 survey period – up from 1,805 males a year ago. That’s the largest single-year increase since 2007.

The lowest numbers were documented in both 1974 and 1987, when 167 singing males were found.

Only males sing. The DNR figures that each male has a mate with him, so the breeding population is generally considered to be twice the count of the singing males.

Michigan has made special preservation efforts to help the warbler, which is considered endangered.


Rare kiwi birds released into wild

For a flightless bird, the rare Coromandel brown kiwi made a grand entrance from the sky this morning as it was chauffeured by a helicopter on to Motutapu Island where conservationists hope its population will thrive.

Five of the rare kiwi were released on the predator-free island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park in a major diversification programme aimed at strengthening the species' ability to survive.

An 11-day-old chick, named Motutapu after its new island home, was the youngest released today and it will be followed by up to another 50 relatives over the next four to six years.
Christine Fletcher, chairwoman of the Motutapu Restoration Trust, shed tears of joy as she watched from the wharf as a helicopter carrying the kiwi landed.

The restoration of the island and conservation of the kiwi is "about creating a second Auckland for our rare animals ... and to recreate our ancient world" just minutes from the heart of the country's largest city, she said.

"This is a cause for celebration ... that there are still safe places to release kiwi," Rob Fenwick, chairman of the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust, said after a powhiri welcoming the birds.

Rare bird rediscovered after 83 years

It may not look like much but this is one of the world's rarest birds.

Sillem's mountain finch was first spotted in Aksai Chin, Xinjiang, by Dutch ornithologist Jerome Sillem in 1929. It was not seen again until this June, when another was snapped by a French nature photographer, Yann Muzika, in the Yenigou valley, Qinghai, 1,500 kilometres away. 

Writing on his blog, Yann revealed that he 'did not venture into the upper reaches of Yenigou Valley... with any scientific goal, and it was not a birdwatching nor a photography expedition either'. He added: "It was just a trek with 2 friends, that was about to fail since Bertrand and myself were struggling hard with a food poisoning.