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 28 February 2019

Poor diet contributing to Sooty Tern decline

The observed population crash in a Sooty Tern colony located on Ascension Island, one of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), is partly due to poor diet, research led by the University of Birmingham has found.
The findings provide fresh evidence of the fragility of marine ecosystems and lend weight to the scientific case for creating the Ascension Island Ocean Sanctuary (AIOS), set to be one of the largest fully protected reserves in the Atlantic Ocean.
The most numerous seabird of tropical waters, Sooty Tern is an abudant species. The colony on Ascension Island is the largest in the entire Atlantic Ocean. However its population has declined from several million in the middle of the last century to just a few hundred thousand today. A team based in the University's School of Biosciences believes the birds' plight is closely linked to changes in populations of predatory fish, such as tuna. The terns follow these large fish across vast expanses of ocean to feed on the small fish driven to the surface as they hunt.
The terns had been expected to benefit from conservation work carried out on the island between 2002 and 2004 by the RSPB. This involved a feral cat eradication scheme in a bid to restore nesting populations of seabird species, including the rare Ascension Frigatebird.
However, while many seabird species subsequently began to thrive, the tern population did not recover as expected and the Birmingham team, together with researchers from the University of Exeter, the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department (AIGCD) and the Army Ornithological Society (AOS), set out to find out why.
Dr Jim Reynolds, lead author on the paper, commented: "We believe that a number of factors might influence the size of the breeding population of sooty terns on the island but we wanted to understand such factors in greater detail, resulting in causal explanations of the tern population decline over the past 60 years."

Britain needs more nestboxes

As part of National Nest Box Week 2019, which kicks off on Thursday 14 February, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is calling for homeowners to put up more nestboxes for declining garden birds.
The simple act of putting up a nestbox can make a real difference for our birds, providing them with the space they need to raise a family. A growing proportion of the global human population now lives in towns and cities, with the United Nations predicting that two-thirds of humans will live within such urbanised landscapes by 2050. Urbanisation is considered to be one of the greatest threats facing bird populations, resulting in the loss of natural habitats and the feeding and nesting opportunities associated with them. 
Newly urbanised landscapes often lack the mature trees that provide nesting cavities for small birds, such as Blue Titand Great Tit, while other cavity-nesting species – such as Common StarlingCommon Swift and House Sparrow – have seen changes in building regulations reducing nesting opportunities that once existed under the roof tiles of our houses. The loss of such sites may have played an important role in the significant declines seen in the breeding populations of these species since the early 1990s (Starling by 74 per cent, House Sparrow by 35 per cent and Common Swift by 51 per cent).

Immediate action needed to save newly discovered hummingbird

World Land Trust (WLT) has launched an urgent appeal to save habitat in southern Ecuador frequented by the recently described Blue-throated Hillstar, which is under imminent threat from mining.
The metal-rich landscapes of Ecuador have seen an increase in industrial mining over the past 30 years and mining corporations have recently gained the rights to mine the hillstar's habitat in order to extract metals. Swathes of Ecuador's tropical forests have also been cleared so that metals such as copper, gold and lead can extracted from large open pits, which have proven a disaster for local wildlife.
WLT has launched the Save the Blue-throated Hillstar appeal, which aims to raise £30,000 to enable its partner Naturaleza y Cultura Ecuador (NCE) to extend a Water Protection Area to include the hillstar's 70,000-acre range. By incorporating the hillstar's habitat in this area, it will have government-level protection and will eliminate the threat of mining, saving the rare hummingbird's habitat.
"This is a unique opportunity to save a Critically Endangered species from extinction," said Richard Cuthbert, Director of Conservation at WLT. "If we do not act now, mining corporations can move in on the habitat and create a mine which would most likely wipe out the hillstar population.
"This situation is the perfect example of why habitat conservation is so important. Habitat loss is one of the greatest causes of species extinction worldwide, and for every habitat we lose, we eliminate a stronghold for numerous plant and animal species. For species such as Blue-throated Hillstar, with such a small range, this can mean extinction. The fact that we are continuing to discover new species in habitats facing threats like mining shows that we may not even be aware of the ecological damage these activities are causing."

Mystery surrounds Tangmere exotic bird sighting

This bird, which appears to be a violet turaco, was spotted in Tangmere.
SAM WILSON Email Published: 10:40 Monday 11 February 2019
If you took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch recently you may have seen starlings, blackbirds and pigeons in your garden but one Tangmere resident has had a more exotic visitor.
Ivor Harrison opened his curtains on Sunday (February 10) morning and found himself face to beak with what appears to be a violet turaco. The violet turaco is native to West Africa and lives on a fruit-based diet. There have been examples of turacos being spotted living in the wild in Britain, most commonly the white-cheeked turaco, after escaping from captivity.

Hands-on management helps Scarlet Macaw in Guatemala

Deep in the verdant forests of northern Guatemala, an exemplary crossover between field management and aviculture of techniques is taking place in order to nurture Scarlet Macaw chicks to independence.
This initiative is part of a long-term project of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)-Guatemala, supported by the Loro Parque Fundación (LPF), for the conservation of the northern cyanoptera subspecies of Scarlet Macaw which, as implied by its scientific name, is differentiated by the greater extent of blue in the wings.
There is also another important distinction. Taking into account the huge geographical distribution of the nominate subspecies macao through South America north to Costa Rica, Scarlet Macaw is not recognised as a threatened species. By contrast, the northern subspecies, because of habitat loss and internal trade within its native countries, has disappeared from most of its former haunts and is threatened with extinction. For this reason, in 2002 WCS-Guatemala began the project in the Department of Petén, Guatemala, the area containing the most important remaining northern Scarlet Macaw nesting sites in the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), especially El Peru, El Burral and La Corona. The project not only works to sustain the high concentration of active nests in this area, it also has importance to maintain the connectivity of northern Scarlet Macaw populations throughout the Selva Maya of Mexico and Guatemala, and potentially with the Belizean population.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

London's Parakeets: Everything You Need To Know – via Mark Raines

 Are there really wild parakeets in London?
Yes, thousands of them. Long-term Londoners will be well aware, but newcomers are often taken by surprise by the flash of green and exotic squawk. You never forget your first parakeet moment.
What are they?
Parakeets come in lots of flavours, but London's are called ring-necked parakeets (sometimes rose-ringed parakeets). More specifically, it is the Indian subspecies of this bird (Psittacula krameri manillensis).
How do I identify them?
It's easy. They are the only large green birds in the kingdom. And they shriek like throttled muppets.
Where can I see them?
Almost anywhere in Greater London. The screeching invaders were once to be found only to the south of the city — places like Kew and Richmond Park. They've since spread all over the capital and out into the Home Counties. A bit like Franco Manca Pizza.

Plastics reach remote pristine environments, scientists say

Birds’ eggs in High Arctic contain chemical additives used in plastics
Ian Sample Science editor
Sun 17 Feb 2019 22.00 GMT
Scientists have warned about the impact of plastic pollution in the most pristine corners of the world after discovering chemical additives in birds’ eggs in the High Arctic.
Eggs laid by northern fulmars on Prince Leopold Island in the Canadian Arctic tested positive for hormone-disrupting phthalates, a family of chemicals that are added to plastics to keep them flexible. It is the first time the additives have been found in Arctic birds’ eggs.
The contaminants are thought to have leached from plastic debris that the birds ingested while hunting for fish, squid and shrimp in the Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage. The birds spend most of their lives feeding at sea, returning to their nests only to breed.
Northern fulmars have an oily fluid in their stomachs, which they projectile-vomit at invaders that threaten their nests. Scientists believe the phthalates found their way into the fluid, and from there passed into the bloodstream and the eggs that females were producing.

NW Forest Plan 25 years later: Wildfire losses up, bird populations down

Date:  February 4, 2019
Source:  Oregon State University
Twenty-five years into a 100-year federal strategy to protect older forests in the Pacific Northwest, forest losses to wildfire are up and declines in bird populations have not been reversed, new research shows.
The findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, underscore the importance of continuing to prioritize the safeguarding of older forests, the scientists say -- forests characterized by a complex structure that includes multiple canopy layers, large trees, downed wood and snags.
The researchers stress it's vital to remember that upon its adoption in 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan was conceived as a century-long plan, and was not expected to show significant positive impacts on biodiversity for 50 years.
"Trees in the northwestern United States are some of the longest-lived and largest in the world," said Matt Betts of Oregon State University. "Douglas-fir can live to be more than 800 years old and grow to be more than 100 meters tall, so it shouldn't be surprising that it is hard to 'restore' this forest type, and that any plan to do so will take a long time.
"The plan has been one of the most impressive forest conservation strategies in the world, and there is no doubt that it has had a strong positive impact on the conservation of old-growth forests, but our results show that even with these strong conservation measures, bird species living in this system still aren't doing too well."

Parents don't pick favorites, at least if you're a Magellanic penguin

Date:  February 14, 2019
Source:  University of Washington
Parenthood can be a struggle, particularly for families with multiple children in need of care, nurturing, protection and attention. But a weary mom or dad may find solace in the reassurance that all parents with several offspring face a similar challenge -- even the non-human variety.
Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to know how Magellanic penguin parents in South America balance the dietary demands of multiple chicks. As they report in a paper published Jan. 23 in the journal Animal Behaviour, when a Magellanic penguin parent returns to its nest with fish, the parent tries to feed each of its two chicks equal portions of food, regardless of the youngsters' differences in age or size.
This finding surprised the team, since parents across the animal kingdom, including other penguin species, often allocate resources unequally to their chicks based on factors like offspring age, body condition, health and behavior, said senior author P. Dee Boersma. Boersma, a UW professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, has for more than three decades studied penguins at Punta Tombo, a coastal region in Argentina that hosts one of this species' largest breeding colonies.

Lucky Escape For Rare Native Birds

Tuesday, 29 January 2019, 3:52 pm
Press Release: Wellington Fish and Game
Rare birds found ensnared in a fishing net at Lake Wairarapa last week were lucky to be released unscathed thanks to some prompt action by Wellington Fish & Game staff.
The three rare Little Black Shags were spotted by a member of the public walking his dog at Lake Domain on the northern shore of Lake Wairarapa.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) didn’t have appropriately qualified staff available so local Fish & Game staff raced to the rescue. The birds were cut free and they swam away.
While Wellington Fish & Game’s jurisdiction centres around game birds, manager Phil Teal says his organisation is happy to help out DOC and iwi when it can.
“Lake Wairarapa is a hub for our waterfowl species, and the game bird hunting tradition there is well over a century old and runs through four or five generations.
“As such, we do a lot of work down there and regularly have staff around monitoring waterfowl populations, enhancing the wetlands and working on water reticulation to improve water quality before it enters the lake.
“It’s good that staff can help out in this way – we’ve always pointed out the work we do benefits not just game birds and hunters but native species too; I guess this a very tangible example of that.”
Mr Teal says the rescue highlights the need for vigilance around set nets.

Monday 25 February 2019

Rare bird is a heathland triumph

Monday, 28 January 2019 - Environment
SURREY Wildlife Trust’s management of Whitmoor Common, the largest area of open heathland in the Guildford area, has been awarded the highest standard for heathland management by Natural England.
The Dartford warbler, an indicator species for biodiversity, and the window-winged caddis fly are just two species to benefit from the rare lowland heathland, which is now in favourable condition.
The success of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s management at Whitmoor Common has improved the ecology of three-quarters of the 183-hectare reserve. Landscape scale scrub clearance by contractors in winter, cattle grazing, the Trust’s volunteer work, specialist conservation work and support from Whitmoor Common Association have all contributed to the ecological improvements.
Katy Fielding, Surrey Wildlife Trust liaison officer at Whitmoor Common, said: “Lowland heathland is rarer than rainforest and Britain holds 20 per cent of this resource in Europe, so we have a real responsibility to look after it.
“Our hard work building up the mosaic of habitats and micro habitats, together with the diversity in age and structure of gorse, heather and woodland is creating the optimum conditions for wildlife.’

Returning lost eagle species to Wales

February 18, 2019, Cardiff University
Research taking place in Wales could see the return of lost eagle species to our countryside, bringing both conservation and economic benefits.
As part of pan-European efforts to restore eagles across their historic breeding range, researchers at Cardiff University are investigating whether the modern Welsh landscape has the potential to support their reintroduction.
Once a common sight in our skies, both the Golden and White-tailed eagle were driven to extinction in Wales in the mid-1800s. Today, the total European population of both eagle species is relatively small, and numbers are in further decline in many countries, primarily due to human persecution and habitat loss.
Bringing eagles back to Wales will help to strengthen ongoing efforts to conserve this endangered species. But, while the reintroduction of eagles to Wales is not a new concept, until now there has not been a rigorous assessment of whether it may be possible.
Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project researcher, Sophie-lee Williams from Cardiff University, explained: "Wales is home to large expanses of potentially suitable eagle habitat, but, before we begin reintroducing the species, there are many questions we need to answer about the quality of habitat, and whether it can sustain eagles.
"Working closely with partners such as the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Trust Wales, we are currently carrying out a full feasibility study which will enable us to answer some of these questions and determine whether the Welsh countryside is a suitable location for eagle reintroduction."
Reintroducing eagles to the Welsh countryside would be an achievement of international conservation importance and, as seen with similar projects elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, it could also bring significant benefits to local communities and regional economies through wildlife tourism.
The reintroduction programme of White-tailed Eagles on the west coast of Scotland attracts an extra 1.4 million visitors to the region every year, generating up to £5 million of tourist spend on the Isle of Mull, and supporting 110 jobs.

Gene-edited chickens resistant to bird flu being created to stop next pandemic

'If we could prevent influenza virus crossing from wild birds into chickens, we would stop the next pandemic at source'
Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent @josh_gabbatiss
Wednesday 23 January 2019 12:55 
An attempt to create gene-edited chickens that are totally resistant to flu has been launched by scientists in a bid to avert the next global pandemic. 
Knocking out genes that are vital for the virus as it infects a host could produce birds that act as an effective barrier between dangerous new strains developing in the wild and humans.
A massive outbreak of flu, which can be transmitted from other animals including birds is considered by experts one of the biggest dangers facing humanity.
The most recent major event was the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic that struck in 2009. It killed around half a million people worldwide.
But an outbreak of Spanish flu that struck in 1918 and killed around 50 million people.
The first transgenic chicks that could stop a new form of bird flu before it reaches humans will be hatched later this year at the University of Edinburgh.
“If we could prevent influenza virus crossing from wild birds into chickens, we would stop the next pandemic at source,” said the project's leader Professor Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London. 
The project is based on previous work that found a gene present in chickens codes for a protein that flu viruses require to infect a host.
Tests conducted in the laboratory found cells without this gene could not be penetrated by the viruses.

New clue in curious case of cassowary casque

200-year-old mystery surrounding iconic Australian bird
Date:  February 13, 2019
Source:  La Trobe University
A team of Australian scientists has completed research that could help solve a 200-year-old mystery surrounding an iconic Australian bird.
The La Trobe University researchers have published new evidence in Scientific Reports on the southern cassowary and its distinctive helmet -- known as a casque.
Danielle Eastick, from La Trobe's Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution and her team have shown the cranial structure acts like a radiator or "thermal window" to help the large, flightless birds keep cool in hot weather.
"Our results are quite compelling and it's highly probable this is what the casque is actually used for," Ms Eastick said.
"It's really exciting to think we may have solved a mystery that has baffled scientists for so long."
Using a handheld thermal imaging device, Ms Eastick obtained readings from 20 captive cassowaries, from Victoria through to northern Queensland and in different weather conditions.
The images showed that the birds released minimal heat from their casque when the weather was just five degrees and the greatest levels when the mercury reached 36 degrees.
Ms Eastick explained that as a large bodied, dark feathered creature, which is native to northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea, cassowaries face a thermal challenge in high temperatures.

Have you spotted an unusual duck at the Memorial Park in Fleetwood?

CLAIRE LARK Email Published: 13:32 Wednesday 23 January 2019
The duck pond at Fleetwood's Memorial Park has a new resident and although he's not too unusual, he has caused quite a stir. Nestled among the family of Mallards is the Muscovy duck who took up residence a few weeks ago, and he seems to have settled in well to his new environment.
Readers had been trying to identify what type of duck it was so we contacted Fylde Bird Club to find out more. A spokesman from the club said: "Yes the duck is certainly a Muscovy Duck. It is not too unusual a sighting however.
Muscovy Ducks are not native to Britain but over the years lots of individuals have either escaped from private collections or been released onto park lakes where they tend to thrive, hence they can regularly be seen across the country. For example there are often at least two in Stanley Park.
"Fleetwood does have a good track record of producing rare or interesting birds however, as well as boasting a great selection of habitats and birds that can be found all year round." Native to Mexico, Central, and South America, Muscovy are large, heavy birds with short legs, broad wings and a horizontal carriage.
They’re excellent fliers too. They are also the only breed of domestic duck that is not descended from the wild Mallard but belongs to a group known as the greater wood duck.

Sunday 24 February 2019

Pile of dead animals discovered in Monmouthshire

The RSPCA has launched a public appeal after an apparent wildlife killing spree was discovered in Chepstow, Monmouthshire.
The 'horror film' collection of dead animals included a decapitated deer, as well as Canada GeeseEurasian TealMallard and two unidentified birds of prey. The grim discovery was made on New Year's Day, with RSPCA Cymru urgently appealing for information and details on the apparent killings.
Shockingly, a decapitated deer and its severed head, as well as a separate deer skin and rib cage, were also found at the site. The location – St Pierre – is very close to the A48 and the RSPCA believes it's likely that the animals were dumped from a vehicle having been poached, killed for sport or gruesome entertainment.
Sian Burton, RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer, said: "This site at Hayesgate was like a horror film with a pile of dead wild animal bodies, and body parts, strewn across the floor. A deer carcass, removed deer head, separate deer skin and rib cage have all been found, as have two Canada Geese, two Mallards and what I believe to be a bird of prey. 
"It was so sad to witness this pile of dead bodies. It seems very likely that someone has gone on a killing spree and taken the lives of these animals for so-called sport or entertainment, and dumped them here.
"We're urgently appealing to the local community for information. This is a rural location - and we're hoping somebody witnessed something, or can shed any further information on what happened to these poor animals."
Anyone with information is urged to contact the RSPCA inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018.

Natural selection and spatial memory link shown in mountain chickadee research

Date:  February 12, 2019
Source:  University of Nevada, Reno
Chickadees with better learning and memory skills, needed to find numerous food caches, are more likely to survive their first winter, a long-term study of mountain chickadees has found.
Enhanced spatial cognition and brain power evolves via natural selection, an elaborate study of hundreds of mountain chickadees in the Sierra Nevada has found. Using passive integrative transponder (PIT) tags in combination with radio frequency identification-equipped feeders, scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno have tracked feeding behaviors and measured learning and memory of these non-migratory birds that live year-round in the high-elevation forest northwest of Truckee, California.
"This is a unique program, set in the wilderness, so we get unique results," Vladimir Pravosudov, lead researcher and biology professor at the University's College of Science, said. "Over the years, we've banded and tagged thousands of chickadees and observed their spatial cognition using custom-designed and built feeders that allow us to track how individuals learn and remember. And now we have tested whether individuals with better learning and memory performance are more likely to survive the winter."

Lotterywest funds for bird conservation in Western Australia

Lotterywest funding granted for Birdlife Australia Ltd
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has announced a $576,529 Lotterywest grant to BirdLife Australia Ltd to conserve and enhance bird life in the Perth metropolitan region.
Over a three-year period, the grant will support BirdLife WA’s Connecting Urban Communities with Nature project.
The proposal will work with and engage the community, government agencies and the not-for-profit sector to inform the planning of urban landscapes, provide practical guidance and education for the public, and form an evidence base for ongoing monitoring and impact measurement.
The grant will go towards time limited salaries, professional fees and administration costs, travel, resources and information technology to conserve declining and threatened bird species in Perth.
Since 1992, the State Government through Lotterywest has approved 34 grants to BirdLife Australia Ltd totalling $1,452,011.

Critically Endangered plover enjoys record breeding season

Four young Shore Dotterel have been released on Motupatu Island at New Zealand's Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre.
The species is Critically Endangered, with some 250 birds estimated to be left in the world. The centre is hoping to release more juveniles in the coming weeks, with 21 set to enter the wild on 25 March – combined with the four birds already released, this accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the global population.
Shore Dotterel – also known as Shore Plover – is endemic to New Zealand, and the recent releases provide a boost for one of the world's rarest shorebirds. The success comes following six juveniles from five pairs being released on Waikawa Island last year. All of the breeding projects fall under the work of The Shore Plover Recovery Programme, which began at Pūkaha in the early 1980s.
Mireille Hicks, Lead Shore Plover Ranger at Pūkaha, said: "This season has been very full-on. Together with the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust this would be our most successful year yet; between us we have so far raised 46 Shore Plover chicks – and there are more on the way! We have seven breeding pairs in total, two of which are breeding in their first season, which was incredible.
"We also have a breeding pair that was very unexpected, as the male had an injured wing and the female had an issue with her feathers. Due to these injuries they could not be released into the wild but by breeding in captivity they are actually contributing to the survival of their species.
"Shore Plover is a very special bird because it's naturally very curious, but it nests on the ground and is very small – it almost 'shakes hands' with predators! They are also very nervous birds and can be easily frightened away from their nests. Many people do not know about how critical the situation is, which is something we'd like to change. Each bird is precious."

How Do Emperor Penguin Dads Stop Their Eggs From Freezing?

By Emma Bryce, Live Science Contributor | February 14, 2019 06:31am ET
They've become the stars of many a nature documentary and cartoon, beloved for their fluffiness and impeccable waddle. Yet, when it comes to breeding, you might say that emperor penguins have drawn the evolutionary short straw. As if life weren't already tough enough in the mostly frigid Antarctic landscape they inhabit, these birds also have to breed in the dead of winter, when they must shield their eggs from snow and roaring winds, lest the eggs turn into ice cubes.
This week's episode of BBC America's "Dynasties" follows a colony of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) as they contend with this inhospitable climate to keep their fragile eggs alive.
The emperor is actually the only penguin species that follows the risky strategy of breeding solely in the winter, which they do in huge colonies of several thousand birds. While the female birds head out to sea for months to replenish themselves with fish after each one lays an enormous egg, the males stay behind and each incubate an egg as temperatures grow increasingly frigid on the flat sheet ice where they live. [In Photos: The Emperor Penguin's Beautiful and Extreme Breeding Season]

Thursday 21 February 2019

The city's 'first' shade of purple

12:00 AM, January 25, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:14 AM, January 25, 2019
For the first time in a generation, a rare Purple Heron was spotted near a lake in the capital. These birds of Bangladesh are seen only occasionally in the reed beds of large fresh-water lakes called haors.
It was heartening to see the beautiful bird trying to find a place in this rather unlivable city of ours.
The Purple Heron was a pleasant surprise to birdwatchers because even Pond Herons, commonly found elsewhere in Bangladesh, were a rare sight in the capital. The city is encircled by rivers like the Turag, Balu and Buriganga, and sprinkled with lakes of Dhanmandi, Gulshan and Mirpur etc. But much of these water bodies are not welcome places for waterfowl or wading birds. Although people continue to live by the noxious water of Dhaka, our prudent avian friends seem to want nothing of it.
With this level of pollution, it is fascinating to find a bird such as the Purple Heron try to make our city its home. The bird has chosen to inhabit the large lake between Mirpur Cantonment and the Birulia embankment. With nearly 640 acres of water and easily the largest lake in the city, it is called Goranchatbari ponding area.
The lonely Purple Heron was seen sitting on a pile of sticks between two islands at the north of lake. The only other large wader keeping its company there was a Grey Heron.
Although a second Purple Heron was nowhere near, it could well be there somewhere in the lake. A pair of Purple Herons usually split at dawn to forage at different sites and get together only at nightfall to sleep. The two islands, completely covered with trees and undergrowth, were likely to be the herons' place of rest.
Although opaque and rancid, the lake-water seemed to have enough fish, frogs, insects, snakes and mollusks to feed hundreds of cormorants, herons and egrets. Birdwatchers were elated to see half a dozen Little Grebes racing over the water and a thousand Lesser Whistling Ducks resting in the floating forest of water-hyacinths. 

Species 'hotspots' created by immigrant influx or evolutionary speed depending on climate

Date:  February 6, 2019
Source:  University of Cambridge
Some corners of the world teem with an extraordinary variety of life. Charles Darwin noted that: "The same spot will support more life if occupied by very diverse forms."
The question of how these 'hotspots' of biodiversity -- from California to the Galapagos -- acquired such a wealth of species has long puzzled naturalists.
Now, scientists at the University of Cambridge have conducted a 'big data' study of almost all the world's mammal and bird species to reveal the answer -- and it's very different depending on climate.
According to the study, tropical hotspots close to the equator have generated new species at a much faster rate than their surrounding areas during the last 25 million years of evolution.
However, biodiversity hotspots in more temperate northerly regions, such as the Mediterranean basin and Caucasus Mountains, are mainly populated with immigrant species that originated elsewhere.

2,000 baby flamingos rescued after being abandoned in South African drought

The birds are being hand-reared by volunteers as months of dry weather threatens breeding ground
Guardian staff and agencies
Thu 7 Feb 2019 02.49 GMTLast modified on Thu 7 Feb 2019 10.27 GMT
Under warming red light at a rescue centre in Cape Town baby flamingos are fed, weighed and cared for. The chicks are among 2,000 that were rescued after they were abandoned by their parents as dam waters dried up in South Africa.
A special airlift for thousands of baby flamingos is under way in South Africaas drought has put their breeding ground in peril, with a reservoir that hosts one of southern Africa’s largest flamingo populations drying up.
Nicky Stander, rehabilitation manager at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town (SANCCOB), said her team swung into action when news of the abandoned birds broke last month.
 “We rehabilitate, that’s our business, and with the aim of releasing back into the wild. We have very large facilities here that were built last year. And we thought we were the best people to contribute to this project,” said Stander.
“As time goes on and they grow, we are going have to adapt the way that we house them and make sure that they have long running space so they can exercise their legs.”
South Africa has faced an extended period of severe drought, with the government announcing “day zero” – a moment when dam levels would be so low that they would turn off the taps in Cape Town and send people to communal water collection points.
This apocalyptic notion prompted water stockpiling and panic, but also led to a dramatic reduction in per capita water usage and day zero was eventually averted. But the impacts of the drought are still being felt.

Rare sighting of Britain's largest bird of prey in New Forest

30th January
Rare sighting of White-Tailed Eagle in the New Forest
By Bradley Halcrow Junior Reporter
BRITAIN' largest bird of prey has been spotted in the Hampshire countryside.
Birdwatchers have seen  a young white-tailed eagle, a species which has made an appearance only twice in the area in the past decade, in the New Forest.
According to the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the UK’s largest bird of prey was last seen in the county in 2011 and 2008 - and before that there was a 60-year gap.
Also known as a sea eagle it was sighted at the trust’s reserve at Blashford Lakes last month, and again by the Shell Station on the A31 at Picket Post, which overlooks Roe Inclosure.
A Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust spokesperson said: “White-tailed eagles are a rare sighting in Hampshire, with only two previous sightings in the past 11 years.
“They’re an impressive sight to see, being the UK’s largest bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.2m (over 7 feet) – but are usually only found in Scotland where 40 pairs breed.

Surprise arrival of rare ‘cartoon birds’ on random Suffolk street causes a stir

PUBLISHED: 20:01 29 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:50 30 January 2019
But these rare waxwings are causing something of a stir after flying all the way from Scandinavia and randomly picking an Ipswich street to nest for winter.
The 20 or so of the brightly coloured birds are currently camped out on telegraph poles, television aerials and in trees in Defoe Road - picking Suffolk, perhaps surprisingly, for its warmer winter climate.
They have brought with them a flock of their own - in the form of nature lovers with binoculars and cameras, who have travelled from far and wide to capture a glimpse of the rare birds famous for their plump shape and prominent crest.
In scenes watchers have described as something out of a cartoon, the creatures fly down from their perches to eat berries from trees, comically tossing the fruit up in the air before taking a bite.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Rare bird spotted in South Shields - thousands of miles from home

LISA NIGHTINGALE Email Published: 09:35 Thursday 31 January 2019
A rare bird is getting twitchers in a flap at a South Tyneside coastal beauty spot. The Richard’s Pipit was first discovered by experienced ornithologist Ross Ahmed back in December - near to the replica gun platform on The Leas, South Shields.
The sighting led to a number of bird enthusiasts heading to the area to witness the bird for themselves.
The bird usually spends its winters in India and south-east Asia - but this one has remained in South Tyneside for a month. See family films as part of a whole year of Meerkat Movies Tuesdays or Wednesdays only. T&Cs Apply. Promoted by Compare The Market It is thought the small brown bird has travelled around 4,300 from its breeding ground of Siberia to South Shields.
Mr Ahmed, who has been interested in birds from an early age said: “The big wow factor is how far this little bird has flown. No one really knows how it has ended up here. There had been some suggestion it had been blown off course by the wind during migration. Ross Ahmed “I’ve measured the distance from the approximate centre of Richard’s Pipits’s breeding range to South Shields in GIS. It’s about 43,00 miles (6,900 km) - a staggering distance for a bird that could fit in the palm of your hand.
“No one really knows how it has ended up here. There had been some suggestion it had been blown off course by the wind during migration. “However, some people have disputed that theory and say they are exploring new parts of the world in which to breed in.
“When I spotted it, I put it on Twitter and it attracted a lot of attention from birdwatchers. “That’s the motivation, to see a rare bird, that’s what we aim to do.” Mr Ahmed, who turned his hobby of birdwatching into a career after becoming an ornithologist, added: “When I first spotted it in December, everybody wanted to see it as quite often the birds don’t linger that long. “So it is quite unusual for this one to still be around.
Hundreds will say goodbye to Carter Cookson as funeral takes place today in South Shields “We are in quite a good position living on the East coast as a lot of birds travelling from the West do end up here, it would be extremely rare you would see these kind of birds inland.”
The Richard’s Pipit breeds in open grasslands and is a a solitary bird which feeds on insects, larvae and seed. It is noticeable for its long hind claws and upright stance. Other rare birds spotted at the Leas over the years include a Pallas Grasshopper Warbler, an Eastern Crowned Warbler and an Isabelline Shrike also known as a Butcher Bird.

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The US Air Force is gearing up for a bird massacre in the English countryside


By Justin Rohrlich & Heather Timmons January 31, 2019
The county of Cambridgeshire in eastern England is known for its medieval college town, miles of marshy lowlands, and plethora of bird life. The latter poses some ongoing hazards for US Air Force pilots stationed there. According to a recently released federal-contracting document, the US military is looking to hire a wildlife-control expert for a four-year job that will “focus on eliminating or minimizing wildlife hazards for safe air and ground support operations” at two bases in Lakenheath and Mildenhall.
The US Air Force, which has thousands of personnel at British Royal Air Force bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall, seeks to “reduce the attraction of wildlife to the airbase” and “deny the use of airspace to birds there.”
Qualified vendors “shall perform bird and wildlife control necessary to repel, capture, or kill as authorized,” the Air Force bid request states. “The contractor shall provide any air rifles or other hunting weapons as well as the necessary ammunition. The contractor shall furnish munitions storage.” It adds, “The contractor shall retrieve and properly dispose of the remains of all disabled, maimed or dead animals from the airfield/aerodrome area in accordance with UK laws and regulations.”
The contractor may also use dogs, “non-lethal harassment” (aka firecrackers), as well as “trapping, relocation, depredation, removal, disposal, airfield patrol, [and] perimeter fence monitoring,” among other options.

Conservation efforts intensify for WA’s rarest bird

Western ground parrots are critically endangered with under 150 existing in the wild
Captive program aims to determine feasibility of breeding an insurance population
Efforts are continuing to protect the western ground parrot, following a bushfire that burnt through some of the critically endangered birds’ habitat this month.
Lightning strikes on January 13 caused a bushfire in Cape Arid National Park on the south coast, which burnt 6,300 hectares. Western ground parrots only exist in the wild in Cape Arid National Park and the adjacent Nuytsland Nature Reserve.
In spring 2018, five parrots were caught in Cape Arid National Park – fitted with GPS collars – and returned to the wild so their movements could be studied as part of a recovery program led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).
A ground search by DBCA last week located one of these five birds alive, and signals from two other birds were detected from the air. A ground search this week will establish if they also survived the fire. One location where birds were found in the spring season was burnt in the fire.

Why large forest fires may not be a big threat to some endangered animals

Date:  January 29, 2019
Source:  Oxford University Press USA
 A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that certain endangered owls may continue to persist and even flourish after large forest fires.
Throughout western North America, longer, hotter fire seasons and dense fuels are yielding more frequent, larger, and higher-severity wildfires. Spurred by climate change, megafires in the region are often characterized by unusually large, continuous patches of high-severity fire in mature forests.
The Great Gray Owl is an endangered species in California. The Great Gray Owl population was recently estimated at fewer than 100 pairs in the state. The 2013 Rim Fire burned 104,000 acres in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest, making it the largest recorded fire in California's Sierra Nevada region. The fire perimeter contained 23 meadows known to be occupied by Great Gray Owls during the decade prior to the fire, representing nearly a quarter of all known or suspected territories in California at the time.
Researchers analyzed 13 years of Great Gray Owl detection data (from 2004 to 2016) from 144 meadows in the central Sierra Nevada, including meadows inside and outside the Rim Fire perimeter in Yosemite National Park and on Stanislaus National Forest.