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 30 April 2014

Turtle Dove Trap Found & Hunter threatens to kill CABS member

Published on Tuesday, 29, April, 2014 at 15:25 in Gozo News 

Yesterday was a busy day for CABS and the police on Gozo. In the afternoon the Bird Guards of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) found a massive illegal cage trap installation in the Wied-Ghasri between Zebbug and Gordan lighthouse with 11 Turtle Doves who had been recently caught. A joint AFM/ALE patrol, alerted by the birdwatchers, deactivated the trap, which was nearly 8 cubic metres in size, and confiscated the birds inside. The Turtle doves have been taken to Malta where they will be rehabilitated and released after the end of the hunting season. “The Turtle dove is one of Europe’s most threatened farmland birds. It is extremely satisfying to know that these eleven birds will soon be flying in the wild again”, CABS team leader Craig Redmond said.

Early on Monday morning a CABS team filmed two young hunters hunting too close to a residential area in Xewkija (Gozo). Both men have been identified by the police and will be taken to court.

In a separate incident on the same day, a CABS patrol car was blocked in by a hunter near Qala. The hunter approached the birdwatchers, violently shouting and swearing and pushing a female CABS member from Scotland. The man then threatened to kill the team leader of the CABS patrol but luckily the group managed to escape from the situation. Shortly afterwards, the same hunter stopped the CABS members as they were driving in Nadur and again threatened to kill them, swearing at the team leader to ‘go back to his own country´, not only a violent death threat but also a racial slur. Both incidents were reported to the Victoria police station whose officers identified and summoned the aggressor. He admitted to the charges and described himself as being ´frustrated´ because he did not manage to shoot a Turtle Dove that morning. After the man had apologised to the CABS team the birdwatchers abstained from pressing charges against him for the time being. “We told him that if any of our team members on Gozo are attacked or harassed again he will have to stand trial. It is now in his own interest to convince his hunting friends to let us work in peace in ensuring that birds can continue safely on their migration”, Craig Redmond said.

Eagle crashes into boat shrink wrap on Interstate

Posted: Apr 26, 2014 6:43 PM GDTUpdated: Apr 26, 2014 8:07 PM GDT

MENOMONIE, Wis. (AP) - A couple towing a boat to Minnesota got quite a surprise: a bald eagle crashed through the shrink wrap while on Interstate 94 in Wisconsin.

The Chippewa Herald reports ( the eagle dove across the top of the pickup truck of Scott and Marilyn Kregness as they crossed the Red Cedar River near Menomonie, and crashed through the shrink wrap on Friday.

The couple kept going after only seeing a hole. But another driver told them the eagle was still inside. So Scott Kregness crawled around the back and found the bird between the motors, alive and upright.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Approves $3.6 Million to Conserve Migratory Birds and Their Habitats in Western Hemisphere

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 03:56April 28, 2014 - 

Migratory birds throughout the Western Hemisphere will benefit from $3.6 million in grants for 29 collaborative conservation projects across the Americas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants will leverage the Service’s investment with nearly $12.1 million in additional private funds—a more than 3-to-1 match. The projects will conserve migratory bird habitat, stimulate critical research into declining bird populations, and strengthen international relations, raising awareness of the importance of bird conservation.

“Migratory birds are an integral part of the landscape the Service seeks to conserve for the benefit of the American people,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Collaboration with our partners on conservation projects throughout these birds’ breeding and winter ranges is essential to protect their habitats and to reduce threats.”

Rise in discovery of dead raptors in the Highlands

28 April 2014 Last updated at 15:46

Police investigating the deaths of birds and prey in Ross-shire and the Black Isle have said another two dead red kites have been found.

This brings the total of dead raptors discovered since March to 22 - 16 red kites and six buzzards.

Tests have so far confirmed that 12 of the birds were poisoned.

A reward for information leading to a prosecution has been added to by donations from RSPB Scotland, landowners, farmers and the public.

How to Stop Solar-Power Plants From Incinerating Birds

By Todd WoodyApril 28, 2014 1:34 PM

The Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in the Southern California desert supplies enough carbon-free electricity to power 140,000 homes. For birds, bats and butterflies, though, the futuristic project is the Death Star, incinerating anything that flies through a “solar flux” field that generates temperatures of 800 degree Fahrenheit when 300,000 mirrors focus the sun on a water-filled boilers that sit on top three 459-foot towers.

“It appears Ivanpah may act as a ‘mega-trap,’ attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar-flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death,” concluded scientists with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in a report that investigated 233 bird deaths representing 71 species at three Southern California solar power plants.

It’s important to put that death toll in context. Every year as many as 988 million birds—that’s not a typo—or nearly 10 percent of the United States’s avian population, die from colliding with windows, according to a study published in March. In other words, you and I have bird blood on our hands just from sitting inside our offices and homes.

Yurok tribe works to protect a raptor it reveres: California condor

SAN FRANCISCO — The Yurok name for the bird that soared closest to the creator and could deliver the people’s prayers is “prey-go-neesh.”

The English name for the Pleistocene-era throwback with the 91/2-foot wingspan is California condor, and by 1982 there were just 22 left.

Now, California’s largest tribe has come closer to reuniting with the raptor whose feathers grace its sacred regalia, while working to revive the species.

An agreement signed by the tribe last month with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Ventana Wildlife Society begins a process that could make Yurok ancestral land California’s northernmost condor release site.

The deal resulted from the tribe’s extensive evaluation of habitat and likely food supply — carcasses of marine mammals, downed livestock and bullet-scarred game left behind by hunters.

“This is the culmination of five years of work … but our journey is continuing,” said wildlife biologist Chris West, who directs the condor program for the Yurok tribe.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Long-extinct elephant bird comes alive in book

Arefa Tehsin’s book ‘The Elephant Bird’ is about a young and brave girl Munia in a village called Adhania in India who befriends such a bird, whose species were believed to have wiped out due to increase of human settlements on the island and cutting down of forests.

Elephant Bird
The pictorial book, having traditional Gond art and illustrations, is published by Pratham under its 'Read India' movement in six languages including Hindu, Kannada, Marathi and English. The illustrations are by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja.

The book begins with the disappearance of Vayu, one of the two horses in the village who pull carts. And everyone believes it is the elephant bird, only of its species living in Adhania, who has eaten the horse.

Conservation agents narrow search for goose killer

Police said the driver of a silver Dodge Journey intentionally killed the goose earlier this month.

Missouri state investigators said Friday they are closing in on the person responsible for killing a federally-protected bird in Springfield. The Canada goose was trying to protect its nesting mate in a parking lot near Battlefield and Kansas when police said the driver of a Silver Dodge Journey intentionally drove over it twice.

"It's a federal law for a reason. We have these for a reason. They all serve a purpose," said Shannon Ohrenberg, a state conservation agent.

This nesting mother goose, now protected by barricades, is also protected by federal law, as was her lifelong mate.

"The males they stand by and guard the female they try to intimidate anybody that comes up," Ohrenberg said.

But the 4-to-10 pound water fowl was no match for a 4,000 pound Silver Dodge Journey, captured in surveillance video at Grizzly Industrial, intentionally targeting the bird and driving over it twice.

Fancy Feathers, Fashion and the Dawn of Bird Conservation

April 28, 2014

One particular group of birds suffered near extermination at the hands of feather hunters, and their plight helped awaken a conservation ethic that still resonates in the modern environmental movement. With striking white plumes and crowded, conspicuous nesting colonies, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets faced an unfortunate double jeopardy: their feathers fetched a high price, and their breeding habits made them an easy mark.

To make matters worse, both sexes bore the fancy plumage, so hunters didn’t just target the males; they decimated entire rookeries. At the peak of the trade, an ounce of egret plume fetched the modern equivalent of two thousand dollars, and successful hunters could net a cool hundred grand in a single season. But every ounce of breeding plumes represented six dead adults, and each slain pair left behind three to five starving nestlings. Millions of birds died, and by the turn of the century this once common species survived only in the deep Everglades and other remote wetlands.

Chris Packham: Malta is a bird hell

The BBC presenter talks of confrontations with hunters and police while making films to highlight the cruelty of the annual bird shoot, Monday 28 April 2014 11.14 BST

When Chris Packham announced he was heading to Malta to report on the island's annual spring bird shoot as if he was a war correspondent covering a conflict, even his admirers probably thought he was guilty of hyperbole.

But after a week in which the naturalist has detained by police for five hours, shoved to the ground by gunmen and witnessed the illegal killing of dozens of endangered birds, his mission to raise awareness of the annual slaughter of migratory birds has been more like a battle than he imagined.

British Trust for Ornithology’s cuckoo Chris returns for third year

Chris the cuckoo has been providing valuable information to the British Trust for Ornithology on the migration of the species

For the third year running, a satellite tagged cuckoo named Chris has returned to the UK having made an epic 5,000 mile journey from his wintering ground in Africa.

Chris is the only one of the cuckoos tracked by the BTO that has provided satellite data for three consecutive years. In that time he and his fellow cuckoos have taught scientists much new information about their migration routes and wintering spots.

Studying Chris year after year has provided valuable data to inform conservation of this declining species. Among other things, the researchers are learning which are the important sites where the cuckoos spend time fattening up on the journey through France, Italy, Spain and north Africa, the different routes they take on both outward and inward migration, and which habitat they choose for their winter homes in Africa. Chris’ behaviour has helped to both confirm other cuckoos’ habits and prove that there is no one rule that covers all of them. For instance, in 2011, Chris spent over a month in the watershed of the River Po in Italy, an area in which several British-ringed birds had previously been reported, confirming this as a very important fattening site. However, once he got to his final destination in Africa, unlike most cuckoos which stayed in forest-savannah mosaics in the Congo, Chris went deep into the forest.

America's top birding team seeks new 24-hour record

April 24, 2014

Cornell University

After setting a new North American record for the number of species identified in a 24-hour birding marathon in Texas last year (294), the team is taking on another big challenge. In early May, the team will head to the American Southwest following a new birding route they call “El Gigante.” Their goals are to focus attention on environmental pressures in this key region and to raise a record $400,000 for conservation work at the team's lab.

Monday 28 April 2014

Chris Packham in UK after questioning by Malta police

Chris Packham has returned to the UK after he was questioned for four hours by police in Malta as he tried to film the illegal hunting of migrating birds.

The naturalist and TV presenter said rare species were being targeted, and hunters were even shooting Montagu's harrier birds on the ground at night.

Mr Packham, from Hampshire, described Malta as an "avian apocalypse".

He was questioned after the hunters demanded the police investigate his alleged defamation against them.

Lawyers for FKNK, the hunters' federation on Malta, also asked the police to look at a transgression of data protection laws.

In Malta, if a lawyer lodges such a demand, the police are legally obliged to investigate.

Mr Packham, who is based in Marchwood, in the New Forest, was in Malta making a series of short video blogs for YouTube.

He voluntarily attended the police station where he was questioned.

Mr Packham, who has presented BBC Springwatch and more recently, Inside the Animal Mind, said: "Ultimately I want something positive to come out of this.

Kitchener couple devastated by death of pet emu

KITCHENER — A stolen tool could be replaced or a broken window repaired, but the emu Monika Sztrama and Joel Vautour of Kitchener raised since it was 14 days old is irreplaceable.

The two were in disbelief Monday after one of two cherished pet emus died amid the chaos caused after someone broke the lock off the birds' pen at the couple's urban farm on Bridge Street East.

The two-year-old emus made their way through the neighbourhood, with police in pursuit.

"You go home and you think, 'OK I tucked them in all good because they're locked up' and then you come back to this and that's the heartbreaking thing for us," Sztrama said.

No one is certain what caused the bird's death. Police said it collapsed in front of officers who were pursuing it.

The couple bought the property about three years ago and care for a number of animals including pigs, ducks, chickens, goats, sheep and a horse. It's zoned agricultural.

They long for a country home and view the approximately one-acre lot as a starter.

Police search after tagged sea eagle disappears

By David MillerBBC Scotland environment correspondent

North Police have searched an estate after the disappearance of the first white-tailed sea eagle to be raised in the east of Scotland in almost 200 years.

The male bird, which was raised in a nest in Fife last year, was fitted with a satellite tag before it could fly.

Police have made searches of Aberdeenshire's North Glenbuchat Estate where the eagle was last tracked to.

The owners of the North Glenbuchat estate are yet to respond to inquiries from BBC Scotland.

Police officers have spent the day searching property on the estate.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "We are concerned for the welfare of a white tailed eagle and enquiries are ongoing to locate the bird.

"Around April 10, 2014, we became aware that the bird was missing from the Glenbuchat area of Strathdon as there were no further recordings from its transmitter.

"There is concern for the welfare of this very rare bird.

"As a result searches have been carried out in the area on both land and within premises."

In recent years, several satellite tagged golden eagles have also disappeared in the Strathdon area.

In 2011, the body of one of the birds was recovered at Glenbuchat. Tests showed it had been poisoned.

Birds migrating through Toronto face tough flight



TORONTO - The Fatal Light Awareness Program geared up for this spring’s bird migration through Toronto with the hopes that fewer of their feathered friends will die flying into skyscrapers.

The charity, with a league of volunteers, has been working for more than two decades to highlight and reduce the plight of the 1 million rare birds that die in the city’s downtown every spring and fall.

The Canada warbler is on the endangered species list. 
(QMI Agency file photo)
“We are happy that things are improving. It is an exercise in patience for change to happen and there is still a lot of work to do,” said Michael Mesure, executive director of FLAP.

Last year, Ontario implemented the Environmental Protection Act which puts restrictions on how buildings can reflect light.

Mesure says developers are starting to construct bird friendly buildings.

Birds in the city can easily get disoriented as they migrate south between March and May and come back between August and October.

Walking for doves

Published on the25April 

A WILDLIFE reserve welcomed two intrepid heroes when they crossed the finishing line of a gruelling 300-mile walk.
Jonny Rankin and Robert Yaxley spent 13 exhausting days walking from Suffolk to RSPB Saltholme near Billingham.

They, along with their friend Andrew Goodrick, who joined them for the first 100 miles of the journey, raised more than £2,000 towards efforts to save the European turtle dove from extinction.

They magnificent sum of money will go to Operation Turtle Dove, a project launched by conservation charities including Saltholme managers the RSPB.

Jonny said: “We’ve been involved in Operation Turtle Dove since its inception in 2012 and each year we look for bigger and better ways of raising the profile and raising funds for this iconic species.

“This walk has given us a chance to start planning next year’s expedition.

“However, right now I’m terrified of taking my boots off because I feel like they’re holding my feet together.”

Jonny, Robert and Andrew began their walk from Lakenheath Fen, on the boarder of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Washington state euthanizes 300 cockfighting birds

Published time: April 23, 2014 15:22

After discovering a suspected cockfighting farm and arresting the man believed to be running the operation, Washington state officials euthanized hundreds of chickens found to be raised on steroids.

The raid occurred on Monday after law enforcement authorities obtained a warrant to search the compound in Rochester, Washington. One person was arrested – 35-year-old Victor Hugo Gallegos Chavez – and is believed to have been raising the chickens for cockfights held in Oregon, Texas, and Mexico.

While still legal in Mexico and other countries, cockfighting has been outlawed across the United States.

Speaking with Reuters, Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Wheeler said officials seized 240 roosters and 60 hens in the raid – but all 300 had to be euthanized after steroids were discovered in their system. The presence of the drug made them unsafe for humans to eat and “unsuitable for rehabilitation.”

In addition to the animals, the News Tribune is reporting that police also found small knives and slashers, which they suspect were attached to the chickens prior to fights. Coping saws were also found, and are typically used to cut a chicken’s natural spur off its leg in order to attach a knife.

A million bird observations confirm that northern species are rapidly retreating northward: Finnish study

April 23, 2014

Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Bird populations in Finland have shifted northward by an average of 45 km between the 1970s and the 2010s due, in particular, to climate change. Before this, the effects of climate change have been studied through changes in the distribution of species. A new study method also takes into account regional shifts in population density.

Sunday 27 April 2014

In Chile’s high Andes, a search for a rare bird among the spectacular wildlife

By Charles Lane, Published: April 25 

For three days, we had roamed Chile’s Lauca National Park searching for wildlife, and our efforts had been abundantly rewarded with sightings of soaring condors, graceful vicuñas and cute chinchillas. 

Even so, I felt disappointed as I stood at the foot of Guallatiri Volcano, just outside the park boundaries, and watched puffs of cottony smoke rise from its snow-covered peak.

Our South American safari was almost over, and I hadn’t glimpsed the creature at the top of my must-see list: a rare flightless bird known in the indigenous Aymara tongue as the suri, and in modern ornithological parlance as Darwin’s rhea.

The latter appellation memorializes the great naturalist who identified — and ate — one of the ostrichlike beasts during his second voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. Only a few hundred remain in the wilds of northern Chile, although that’s not Charles Darwin’s fault. Subsequent generations of hunters reduced the suri’s numbers; farmers and miners encroached on its habitat.

Missing owl could "swoop for food"

4:21pm Friday 25th April 2014 in News
A Bengal Eagle Owl

POLICE say an escaped Bengal Eagle Owl could swoop on people carrying food.

The bird is thought to be hungry after escaping from its owner’s home in Jutland Avenue, Hebburn, South Tyneside.

It was reported missing to police on Thursday (April 24).

The owl is 18 inches tall, cream, grey and dark brown in colour and has a wingspan of three- and-a- half feet.

The bird flew off towards Pelaw and Bill Quay but could be anywhere in the area.

The RSPB has been informed and people are asked to keep an eye out for the bird and report any sightings.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “It is thought the bird will be hungry after being missing for so long and there is a possibility that it could swoop at people carrying food.”

Anyone who sees the bird is asked to call 101, quoting reference number 329 240414.

Sudan: Efforts to protect migrating birds' haven

24 April 2014 Last updated at 16:34 BST

The Al-Magran nature reserve in Khartoum has been a haven for migrating birds since 1945 - but many of the species found there are endangered because of hunting, environmental damage and farming.
Now environmental campaigners in Sudan are hoping that promoting the country as a tourist destination for bird watchers could boost revenue, which could then be used to protect nesting sites and rare birds from extinction.
Hadya Alalawi reports.
Video produced by BBC Arabic's Mohamed Osman

Bird whisperer demonstrates technique at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Posted: April 20, 2014 - 12:16am


Peter Range banded his first bird, an evening grosbeak, when he was just a kid in eastern Tennessee. The feisty finch put its mark on him, too.

“Some birds peck,” he said. “An evening grosbeak grabs the skin and takes a divot out of it.”

Still, Range was hooked on banding when he discovered one of the grosbeaks he recaptured in 1968 had been banded six years before in Lincoln, Maine.

On Tuesday morning, more than 45,000 banded birds later, Range demonstrated his technique to interested birders at the Visitors’ Center of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

Just prior to the demo, Range and several volunteers caught a half dozen birds in mist nets in the nearby woods and held them in mesh produce bags to await their tags.

First up was a hooded warbler, a local nester that comes back to the area in the spring. This one was a female, in its second year and on the skinny side, Range said, holding it gently but firmly in his right fist. With pliers and a practiced touch, Range fitted onto the bird’s leg a metal band stamped with a unique identifying number.

Explainer: How Do Homing Pigeons Navigate?

By Tim Guilford, University of Oxford | April 26, 2014 02:10am ET

This article was originally published at The Conversation.The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Pigeons have extraordinary navigational abilities. Take a pigeon from its loft and let it go somewhere it has never been before and it will, after circling in the sky for while, head home. This remarkable capacity extends to places tens even hundreds of kilometres from its home and is all the more remarkable to humans because we are apparently incapable of it ourselves.

But we have long made use of the pigeon’s homing ability, principally for carrying messages in the past. And for several decades now the pigeon has played centre stage in scientists’ attempts to understand the map and compass mechanisms fundamental to bird navigation.

Chernobyl's birds adapting to ionizing radiation

April 24, 2014

British Ecological Society (BES)

Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are adapting to -- and may even be benefiting from -- long-term exposure to radiation, ecologists have found. The study is the first evidence that wild animals adapt to ionizing radiation, and the first to show that birds which produce most pheomelanin, a pigment in feathers, have greatest problems coping with radiation exposure.

Saturday 26 April 2014

'Hidden Dragon' Beast Gave Rise to Fearsome Flying Reptiles

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | April 24, 2014 12:16pm ET

A Chinese fossil is the earliest and most primitive pterodactyloid, part of a group of flying reptiles that ruled the skies some 163 million years ago, scientists report.

Winged creatures called pterosaurs evolved from a primitive form that lived about 228 million years ago into the largest flying creatures that ever existed. The new specimen helps fill in an important gap in that evolution, researchers say.

"This guy is the very first pterodactyloid — he has the last features that changed before the group radiated and took over the world," said paleontologist Brian Andres of the University of South Florida, a co-author of the study detailed today (April 24) in the journal Current Biology.

Wildlife forensics team examines bird of prey deaths

By David Miller

BBC Scotland environment correspondent

The scientists examine the birds to identify the poisons used and how they were delivered

I am standing in a laboratory on the outskirts of Edinburgh, as two scientists remove a golden eagle from a plastic bag.

The smell of the decomposing bird hits me as they begin their examination.

As someone who is more accustomed to watching these birds flying high over Scotland's hills and glens, I am finding the experience unsettling.

But for the team here at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), a division of the Scottish government, this is all in a day's work.

Those days have been busier in recent weeks, due to the mass poisoning of red kites and buzzards in Ross-shire.

It is now more than a month since a police investigation began. Twenty birds have been found dead, including 14 red kites.

Birds of prey which police suspect may have been poisoned are routinely sent to SASA's labs for testing.

The information which the Edinburgh scientists can provide in return is crucial.

Pet Duck Attack Lands Owner $275,000 Lawsuit

By Jonathan Kaminsky

OLYMPIA, Wash., April 22 (Reuters) - A woman visiting her mother in Oregon is suing her neighbor, seeking $275,000 for pain, suffering and other damages she says were inflicted when a pet duck ambushed her for no apparent reason.
Cynthia Ruddell, 62, of Washougal, Washington, was on her mother's property in Estacada, Oregon, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Portland, when a neighbor's duck attacked her without provocation, according to the suit filed in Oregon state court last Friday.

In her attempt to run away from the agitated waterfowl, Ruddell fell to the ground, breaking her right wrist and spraining an elbow and shoulder, the suit claims. The incident occurred in May of 2012.

The complaint accuses the bird's owner, Lolita Rose, of failing to maintain control of her pet or "to warn or otherwise inform neighbors of her duck's dangerous propensity in attacking individuals."

Barn owls suffer worst year on record

Monitoring results show species struggled in the bitterly cold spring of 2013

Press Association, Thursday 24 April 2014 17.04 BST

Barn owls suffered their worst year on record in 2013 as they struggled in the bitterly cold spring, conservationists have said.

Results from barn owl monitoring schemes around the UK revealed the number of sites where nesting took place last year was significantly down in every area compared to previous years, and some surveys found no nests with eggs in at all.

Overall the number of occupied nests was down 71% on the average across all previous years, according to the Barn Owl Trust, which collated the information from 21 independent groups stretching from Jersey in the Channel Islands to south-west Scotland.

A survey in Berkshire which normally finds 14 nests in use and a surveyor in Yorkshire who normally finds 25-30 occupied nests both found none at all, while surveys in Buckinghamshire and Sussex were both down more than 90% on normal levels.

Conservationists described the situation as the "worst year ever recorded" for the flagship farmland species.

Habitat solution to ring ouzels' dramatic decline

The population of Scotland’s ring ouzels – popularly known as mountain blackbirds – has dropped by 36 per cent since 1999 and these striking but rare upland birds are vanishing from many of their former haunts in the rocky hillsides and gullies of the highest parts of the country.

Scotland is home to two-thirds of the UK population of ring ouzels, which are distinguished by their black plumage and striking white breast band. The population has probably been dropping for more than a century, and the most recent nationwide survey shows this decline has continued at an alarming rate.

The survey found an estimated 3,520 breeding pairs in Scotland in 2012, compared to 5,503 in 1999, when the first national survey of ring ouzels was carried out.

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

April 24, 2014

Purdue University

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

Scilly Isles become a rat-free zone to benefit seabirds

Manx shearwater 
The nests of rare seabirds on Scilly will be better protected this year since the successful removal of two of the islands’ rat populations. The Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project (IOSSRP) has not recorded a single rat on either St Agnes or Gugh in the past 20 weeks and everyone is cautiously hopeful that rare nesting seabirds will now be able to flourish free of predation from rats.

Following the world’s largest community-based rat eradication project, the aim is to keep St Agnes and Gugh ‘rat-free’ – a status that can only be officially declared two years after the last sign of rats. The UK is internationally important for seabirds, but many species are declining in numbers. Among the many challenges they face, the greatest land threat is predation of eggs and chicks by brown rats. Of the rich array of seabirds nesting in Scilly, the two that are likely to benefit from the project the most are the Manx shearwater and the storm petrel that nest in holes and burrows. 

Friday 25 April 2014

Gamekeepers are spared mandatory licences as petition to Defra fails

By Western Morning News | Posted: April 23, 2014

A call for gamekeepers to be licensed as a means of protecting birds of prey has been rejected, with the “economic and environmental benefits” of sport shooting reason enough not to restrict it.

An adult male hen harrier. The RSPB believes
the intensify management of upland areas for
 grouse shooting has contributed to their decline
The petition to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which gathered 10,426 signatures, proposed licenses for gamekeeper and shoots, with each forfeiting them for breaches of conditions to include the illegal persecution of raptors.

Though the focus was primarily on upland grouse moors, managers of the Westcountry’s prime pheasant shoots will be relieved at the Governments refusal – and recognition of their contribution to the rural economy.

The RSPB says the persecution of birds of prey – nearly all of which have been protected since 1954, remains “unacceptably high”, though much progress has been made in lowland areas. Upland areas, however, remain a problem, the charity says.

John Squire Armitage, who started the petition, wrote: “Following any proven offence of persecution on the shoot concerned, i.e. illegal trapping, use of poisons, shooting or the interference with or destruction of nests, the licence would be revoked for a period of not less than two years and commercial shooting activity cease.”

Peregrine falcon found dead

By PRESS ASSOCIATION, 23 April 2014 3.00pm. Updated: 10.30pm.

Police have launched an investigation into the death of a peregrine falcon which was found in a quarry after being killed illegally.

Raptor workers found the four-year-old bird in Cambusbarron Quarry near Stirling while they were carrying out monitoring work.

Police Scotland are working with the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the RSPB to try and establish the circumstances of the bird's death.

Pc Malcolm O'May, Forth Valley division's wildlife crime officer, said: "Police Scotland takes the persecution of these magnificent birds of prey very seriously and we will be doing all we can to identify the person responsible for this crime.

"We will be working with the local community and our partners in RSPB, but I would ask anyone who has been in the Cambusbarron Quarry over the last few months to get in touch with us, you may hold crucial information that will assist in catching those responsible."

The bird was found on April 15.

Ramsey Island puffins get sound system to help breeding programme

A sound system playing puffin calls is the latest ploy in a bid to lure the birds back to Ramsey Island to breed after an absence of 100 years.

The RSPB was inspired to use the recording after hearing how experts on an island off Northern Ireland had been successful doing something similar.

The charity has been placing fibreglass puffins on Ramsey without success for about four years.

The birds deserted the island in the late 1800s when rats inhabited it.

The solar-powered sound system plays a recording of the bird's low growl on a three-hour loop at 07:00, 12:00 and 17:00 BST.

It is hoped the calls will attract the birds to the cliff-tops, leading them to see the decoys and eventually breed.

'Low growl'
The recording was trialled for around a month last year but this is the first time it will be used during the entire breeding season from April until early August.