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.

Sunday 30 June 2019

Endangered bird returns to South Korea 40 years after extinction

Rare wader is designated a national monument that features in popular children’s song
Wednesday 22 May 2019 18:48 

The endangered crested ibis has reportedly been reintroduced to South Korea 40 years after it went extinct in the Asian country. 
Forty of the rare wading birds were bred in captivity before being released into the wild at Upo Wetland in South Gyeongsang province, southeast of Seoul, the Yonhap news agency reported.  
The last time a crested ibis was spotted on the Korean peninsula is believed to have been in 1979 when it was spotted in the demilitarised zone separating the south from North Korea.
The bird used to be a common sight until pesticide use reportedly damaged its food sources. 
A designated national monument in South Korea, it is also seen in China and Japan.
The captive population in South Korea has now reached 363, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The breeding programme began with a birds donated by Beijing.
In South Korea the crested ibis is linked to an eponymous popular children’s song, composed when Japan ruled the country.

Little Tern eggs stolen from Norfolk beach


The RSPB is assisting Norfolk Constabulary in an appeal for information into the theft of seven clutches of Little Tern eggs from a colony near Winterton, Norfolk.
EU Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project volunteers and staff work shifts to monitor the terns throughout daylight hours, when the birds are most vulnerable to disturbance. However, in the early hours of the morning of Thursday 20 June, RSPB Little Tern wardens discovered that up to 20 eggs had been illegally stolen from seven nests. Human footprints were identified leading up to each nest.
Little Tern is one of the UK's rarest breeding seabirds, having suffered serious declines over the past 25 years. In the 1980s there were 2,500 breeding pairs but this fell to fewer than 2,000 pairs in 2000, and it is now estimated that there are currently a maximum of 1,500 pairs.

Fears for safety of birds as trees are cut down during nesting season

24th June

By Hedi MehrezReporter
THERE are growing fears for the safety of Swindon’s birds after reports of trees being chopped down during nesting season.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recommends that any tree or hedge cutting or site clearance takes place outside the period, which runs from February to August.
But people living in the town say this advice is being ignored. 

Freshbrook resident Adonis Sola, 55, said: “I’ve seen a lot of contractors cutting down trees in the area but why now? 
“That’s cruelty to birds if they do it without even checking. Nature is wonderful, the birds are trying to build shelters and it is a lot of effort to build that nest. 
“And then if you are the human being, and just cut down the trees, it’s just unacceptable. It’s like destroying a house.” 
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, nests and eggs are protected by law.
A number of streets have seen vegetation disappear in recent months, including Freshbrook Way, the playpark near Shaw Ridge School, the path and park near Oliver Tomkins Primary School and an area close to Sudeley Way. 
West Swindon resident who did not want to be named said on Facebook that she had seen contractors cutting trees down, despite birds nesting in them. 

Forest fire pushes imperilled parrot closer to the brink

A devastating forest fire in Nicaragua has destroyed a vitally important nesting and roosting site of the Yellow-naped Amazon, one of the most endangered parrots in Central America.
Peña Inculta, a haven of biodiversity on the twin-peaked volcanic island of Ometepe in the middle of Nicaragua's largest freshwater lake, was officially designated as a wildlife refuge in 2010 in view of its ecological and cultural importance.
It is home to almost 50 species of resident and migratory birds, including the Yellow-naped Amazon. This charismatic but seriously threatened bird is one of the more conspicuous and exotic inhabitants of Peña Inculta. And this forest is - or was - one of the most important roosting, feeding and nesting sites for Ometepe's iconic parrot, harbouring a population of more than 400 individuals.
The ecological impact of the fire is wide-reaching, and the destruction of parrot habitat will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on a broad spectrum of other wildlife, including capuchins and howler monkeys, agoutis, sloths, armadillos and bats, as well as a variety of reptiles. But it's the Yellow-naped Amazon that is likely to be hardest hit in view of the species' rarity and limited range.
As if it wasn't enough to run the gauntlet of nest-robbers who poach their eggs and young to supply the local, regional and international pet trade, these beleaguered parrots have now been deprived of a sizeable chunk of their forest home. Although it doesn't sound massive, the 120 hectares lost to the fire represents 40% of the most densely forested area within the wildlife refuge. The widespread loss of mature trees - on which the parrots depend for nest holes - is a particularly serious blow to their breeding prospects in the coming seasons.

Friday 28 June 2019

‘Gorilla Crow’ Video From Japan Is Going Viral, but Here Is Something You Should Know

VIRAL Team Latestly Jun 25, 2019 11:31 AM IST
‘Gorilla Crow’ Video From Japan Is Going Viral, but Here Is Something You Should Know
'Gorilla Crow' (Photo Credits: @corvidresearch/ Twitter)
A video of a crow, posing like a gorilla has been going viral on the internet and people online are baffled. The moment the video first appeared on Reddit and Twitter, netizens began speculating whether it is an unusual crow. Some event doubted the authenticity of the clip. The video shows the crow, dubbed as "gorilla crow", perched on its big wings, giving it an ape-like posture of standing on its forearms. The crow soon started to appear on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, terrifying internet users. But before you jump to any conclusions, here is something you should know about the mighty gorilla crow. 
According to people and various reports, the clip was shot at Parco shopping centre in Nagoya, Japan. The viral video garnered a lot of comments, with speculations behind the crow’s unusual pose. 

Regent honeyeaters' mysterious journey to be tracked with cutting-edge tech

Posted Sun at 8:06am
When Leslie Kelly heard an unusual bird call in her western Sydney garden, it was a delightful surprise to find it coming from a critically endangered bird released hundreds of kilometres away.
Key points:
Three hundred birds have been part of the regent honeyeater captive release program, but researchers are still unsure of the path the birds are taking
Bird 'backpacks' with satellite tracking tech weighing just two grams are about to be deployed
Researchers needed to wait for transmitter technology to develop to fit a bird which weighs between 35 to 50 grams
The sighting of a male regent honeyeater earlier this month, nestled among backyard grevillea and callistemon at Oxley Park, is another promising sign of recovery for the species being closely watched following a captive release program in north-east Victoria.
A photo of the Oxley Park bird capturing banding on its legs shows it had travelled at least 463 kilometres since its 2017 release in the Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park.
This bird now boasts the fourth longest movement recorded for the captive release program, of which over 300 birds have been part of.
But researchers are still unsure of the path these small birds are taking to achieve such long journeys.

After the Storm: Can This Rediscovered Bird Recover?

 21 Jun 2019
Amongst the destruction and tragedy on Grand Bahama caused by Hurricane Matthew, there is an untold story of a rediscovered, but very threatened bird with a potential population of just two.
How low can a bird species’ population drop and still be saved from extinction? It’s an interesting theoretical question, and it became more than an academic one for scientists and conservationists last summer, when the Bahama Nuthatch Sitta insularis, a bird feared extinct, was rediscovered.
Prior to the rediscovery, the nuthatch had not  been seen since Hurricane Matthew ripped through Grand Bahama – the island on which the bird is endemic – in June of 2016. Two years on from the carnage, two students from the University of East Anglia, working in conjunction with BirdLife International and the Bahamas National Trust (BirdLife Partner) went on an expedition to catch sight of the bird.
“We had been scouring the forest for about six weeks, and had almost lost hope,” says Matthew Gardner of the rediscovery. “At that point we’d walked about 400 kilometres. Then, I suddenly heard its distinctive call and saw the unmistakable shape of a nuthatch descending towards me. I shouted with joy, I was ecstatic!”
The world was ecstatic along with him. The news made international headlines, and the ornithological world celebrated the rediscovery of the Bahama Nuthatch. But are the celebrations warranted? Gardner and his partner, David Pereira, saw the Bahama Nuthatch six times throughout their three-month survey, but they never saw two birds together, leading them to believe there may only be one individual left. A team of Bahamian students, led by Zeko McKenzie of Loma Linda University, independently recorded five sighting of the nuthatch in the same forest, and believe they may have seen two birds together. With only one or two Bahama Nuthatches left though, is it possible for the bird to make a comeback?

Rare bird's life saved after eagle-eyed staff spot it being mobbed by crows

Peregrine falcon fledgling rescued in Huddersfield town centre
16:40, 18 JUN 2019
A fledgling Peregrine Falcon is lucky to be alive after it was found being attacked by crows in Huddersfield town centre.
The bird was found in a Northumberland Street car park today (Mon) by a member of staff being mobbed by crows.
Roger Underwood, director of insurance brokers, Eastwood & Partners Ltd, said: "These are very rare birds which have only recently started to nest in town centres.
"We have had it rescued and arranged for it to be rehabilitated."
The falcon may be the same one which Grahame Andrews, of Bosuns Brewery, Huddersfield, discovered recently.
A wildlife enthusiast, he said: "I spotted it being fed at an old mill by its parents. It was making a right racket, you've never heard a noise quite like it.
"I hope they breed successfully and come back next year."
Peregrines are renowned for their incredible speed making the species the fastest bird in the world and capable of reaching 200mph when they dive onto their hapless prey.
However, there are only 1,500 pairs in the UK and their numbers reached a low point in the 1960s due to human persecution and the impact of pesticides in the food chain.
However, since those dark days improved legislation and protection has helped the birds to recover and they are now seen occasionally in many urban areas.
Sadly, they are still persecuted with birds being illegally killed to prevent predation on game birds and racing pigeons.
In addition their eggs and chicks are taken for collections and falconry.
They feed on medium-sized birds, such as pigeons and small ducks.

Over 500 Rare Vultures Die After Eating Poisoned Elephants In Botswana

A total of 537 vultures, along with two tawny eagles, were found dead at the site in the north of the African country.
World | Agence France-Presse | Updated: June 21, 2019 08:25 IST
More than 500 endangered vultures died of poisoning after eating the carcasses of three elephants killed by poachers in Botswana, the government said in a statement.
A total of 537 vultures, along with two tawny eagles, were found dead at the site in the north of the African country.
The Botswanan wildlife and national parks department did not say when the dead vultures had been found or why the three elephants were laced with poison after being killed.
But poachers are known to poison carcasses to target vultures as the birds circle in the sky and help rangers to track poaching activity.
Most of the birds, 468 of them, were white-backed vultures, which are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species.
Also among the dead were 17 white-headed vultures and 28 hooded vultures -- also critically endangered.
"The poisoning was believed to have been caused by lacing of three poached elephant carcasses with a poisonous chemical," the wildlife department said.
Teams decontaminated the area and samples were taken for laboratory analysis.
Conservationists last week warned of surging elephant poaching in parts of Botswana and estimated nearly 400 were killed for their ivory tusks in 2017 and 2018.
The country recently sparked controversy by lifting its ban on hunting, saying it would help control a booming elephant population that was damaging farmers' livelihoods.

In 2016, two lions and over 100 vultures in South Africa's Kruger National Park died after eating a poisoned elephant carcass.

Man Spots Exotic-Looking Pink Pigeon In Berkshire Town

Pigeons aren't exactly known for being the most exciting or elegant of birds. They're usually found pecking at a stale meal deal sandwich that some poor office worker dropped on the floor.
However, one man in Bracknell stumbled across a pigeon that was decidedly more flamboyant than the grey-scale city dwellers we know and hate, and that's because it just so happened to be bright pink.
Ben Hanks, 26, spotted the exotic-looking creature scavenging in a business park in the Berkshire town.
While the bird hasn't been officially identified yet, it looks similar to the Nesoenas Mayeri pink pigeon, which is native to Mauritius.
There are fewer than 500 of the brightly-coloured birds left, but it seems one may have made its way to Arlington Square Business Park on 17 June.
Accountant Ben was enjoying a lunch outside with a friend, when he clocked the unusual bird searching for food near his office.
Ben, from Arborfield, Berkshire, said: "I have never seen anything like this before and we were both very confused when we first spotted it.
"I reached for my phone to take a photo immediately as I didn't think anyone would believe me if I didn't have evidence.
"We did find it very funny, but then tried to come to some form of explanation behind its colouring.
"There were no other pigeons or birds around, just this one pecking at the ground. It didn't seem bothered by us at all."
The pink pigeons are listed as vulnerable by conservationists, and are almost exclusively found living in Mauritius and Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.
The birds were on the verge of extinction in 1991, when numbers slumped to as low as 10.
Thankfully, over the years, numbers of the tropical bird have steadily increased, and now it's through that there are around 500 living in the wild.
There have been previous reports of pigeons changing colour after eating pink food - much like with flamingos - or of their wings being deliberately dyed.
In 2015, there was a spate of pink pigeon sightings across the UK, which were eventually traced back to a pigeon fancier, who said dyeing the birds' feathers helped to ward away falcons.
However, the RSPCA has warned against the practice, saying it is unnecessary and could cause harm to the birds if ingested.
21st June
Pink pigeon spotted in Bracknell was DYED that colour, say RSPCA
"Pink" pigeon spotted in Bracknell
SIGHTINGS of a very rare pigeon spotted around Bracknell recently have been quashed after the RSPCA confirmed it is in fact an ordinary pigeon.
A man was baffled after he spotted a bright PINK pigeon scavenging in a business park in Bracknell - which was thought to have been a rare bird native to Mauritius and Madagascar.
However, it has been confirmed that the bird spotted in the area had been dyed that colour by a person.
An RSPB spokesperson stated that the bird's bright hue was not natural, meaning it is not from the Nesoenas Mayeri family.
Accountant Ben, from Arborfield, was enjoying a lunch outside with a friend when he spotted the bird searching for food near his office.
Speaking soon after the bizarre discovery, he said: "I have never seen anything like this before and we were both very confused when we first spotted it.
"I reached for my phone to take a photo immediately as I didn't think anyone would believe me if I didn't have evidence.
"We did find it very funny, but then tried to come to some form of explanation behind its colouring.
"There were no other pigeons or birds around, just this one pecking at the ground. It didn't seem bothered by us at all."
An RSPCA spokesperson said: "Birds are living creatures and dyeing them in this way sends out an extremely worrying message that they could be viewed as novelties rather than as intelligent, sentient beings with feelings.
"Dyeing a pigeon could cause health problems, impair his ability to fly and make him more vulnerable to predators.
"The dye could also be toxic and he would be likely to try to clean the substance from his feathers which could result in him swallowing it."

Thursday 27 June 2019

Eggs rescued from RAF airbases as ‘pilot project’ to save endangered curlew takes flight

Published by surfbirds on June 24, 2019 courtesy of surfbirds archiveWildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Under normal circumstances, the eggs from nests near military runways have to be destroyed under an individual licence to protect flight safety.
Instead, these eggs were transported to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to be hand-reared and released into the Severn Vale. It’s hoped the new curlews will help to recover the fragile population in the area.
Curlew numbers in the UK have declined by 60% over the past 30 years. While numbers are slightly healthier in the uplands of northern England and Scotland, in southern England, Wales and Ireland, only hundreds of pairs remain.
Nigel Jarrett, Head of Conservation Breeding at WWT, says It’s an exciting opportunity for everyone involved. On one hand, curlews at East Anglian air bases pose a potential risk to aviation but on the other hand they have the potential to help their struggling cousins in the South West.Unfortunately time is not on our side but by babysitting these chicks until they can fly, we can help encourage a new generation of British curlews in the lowlands.

Research on Nesting Fantails Informs Conservation of Rare Birds

In New Zealand, conservationists are studying the nesting behavior of Fantails in hopes it will glean insights into the behavior of rare, Endangered birds.
Many bird species are on the brink of extinction due to the presence of invasive rats. So, it should come as no surprise that within conservation, rare birds are a high priority. Unfortunately, their rarity also makes them much more difficult to study and protect. These at-risk species have low population numbers and are often found in remote, hard to access locations such as islands and understanding how invasive rats impact their breeding success is crucial to protecting them. That is why researchers in New Zealand decided to explore the impacts of invasive rats using a common bird species that isn’t endangered.  

IBCN begins weaver bird census in state

BHUBANESWAR: As the population of weaver birds dwindles in the state, the Odisha Chapter of the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) has begun conducting their annual census.
Sources at the IBCN said that the census that began June 1 will continue till June 30 and will be carried out in the districts of Khurda, Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsingpur, Kendrapada, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Ganjam, Gajapati, Sundargarh and Sambalpur.
“We have been conducting the weaver bird count since 2016. Each year observations are carried out by volunteers and other organisations who note down the details regarding the particular site, the number of birds and their nests and the tree/plant species on which nests are built,” IBCN Odisha coordinator Monalisa Bhujabal said.
Weaver birds that are found in grasslands are known for their hanging nests woven from leaves of tall trees. These nest colonies are usually found on thorny, coconut trees or palm fronds. The impact of Fani was disastrous for the green cover of the state. This resulted in a decrease in the number of weaver birds, stated environmentalists.

Detained Vulture: Experts To Arrive Yola On Confirmatory Mission

May 25, 2019
YOLA – Following the arrest and detention of a vulture in Maiha Local Government Area of Adamawa State, a team of experts from the Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) is expected to arrive Yola, the Adamawa state capital to monitor the vulture arrested and detained by the Adamawa State police command from Maiha and moved to the State Criminal Investigation Department CID.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Othman Abubakar, who disclosed this said the team, including veterinary doctors, are to ensure the safety and proper upkeep of the endangered bird, in police custody in the last five days.
SP Othman Abubakar, said the team led by Simon Onoja, would liaise with the CID department to determine if the strange bird was a human being who turned to vulture.
He however confirmed that, the strange bird is in good condition, awaiting the arrival of the conservation experts to the State to take over the custody of the endangered bird which has been said to be behaving abnormally.
He further said, the police has acquired search warrant to deploy detectives to search the residence of the owner of the vulture in Maiha, alleged to have been involved in fictitious rituals in the area before the lady and the strange bird were arrested following an alarm raised by curious neighbours in Buha-Vango in Maiha Local Government Area.
The Police image-maker said Mrs. Rukaiyatu Salihu, the owner of the vulture, would be charged to court, as soon as investigation into the matter is concluded as she was arrested along with the strange bird.
Salihu, 40, her husband and three sons, whose faith could not be readily established, were alleged to have been deeply involved in rituals activities for over 30 years at the same house in Maiha LGA.

Social media data reveal benefits or threats to biodiversity by visitors to nature locations

MAY 23, 2019

by Riitta-Leena Inki, University of Helsinki
Understanding how people use and experience important places for living nature is essential for effectively managing and monitoring human activities and conserving biodiversity.
In a new article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, a team of researchers assessed global patterns of visitation rates, attractiveness and pressure to more than 12,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), which are sites of international significance for nature conservation, by using geolocated data mined from social media (Twitter and Flickr).
The study found that Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas located in Europe and Asia, and in temperate biomes, had the highest density of social media users. Results also showed that sites of importance for congregatory species, which were also more accessible, more densely populated and provided more tourism facilities, received higher visitation than did sites richer in bird species.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Delight at chick success for endangered Pied Flycatchers at Lydford Gorge

They are further thrilled to have discovered that one pair of the birds, who were born in different parts of Devon, have paired up and are now busy raising their
13:17, 20 JUN 2019
Two pairs of rare Pied Flycatchers, which are on the ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ red list, are successfully breeding at Lydford Gorge in Devon, thanks to work done by rangers at National Trust.
They are further thrilled to have discovered that one pair of the birds, who were born in different parts of Devon, have paired up and are now busy raising their young at Lydford Gorge on Dartmoor.
The Devon pair of birds were ringed in 2014, and the National Trust has been able to discover that the male was born near Widecombe-on-the-Moor and the female hails from South Molton.  As Pied Flycatchers migrate thousands of miles during the winter before returning to the UK to mate in the spring, it’s not known how or when they paired up, however, the Trust is delighted to see these endangered birds doing well after careful work to attract them to the area has worked.
The baby birds will start to be seen taking their first forays outside the nest in June; however keen bird spotters can come and look out for the birds at Lydford Gorge, who are expected to stay there until late August when they fly south again to the African continent.

Global data resource shows genetic diversity of chickens

JUNE 20, 2019

A total of 174 chicken breeds are described in a publicly accessible database which scientists from the University of Göttingen and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute in Neustadt-Mariensee have built up in recent years with numerous international partners. This database, the Synbreed Chicken Diversity Panel (SCDP), includes information about a large proportion of the available chicken species and their diversity. In the accompanying scientific study, the researchers genotyped 3,235 animals for nearly 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). SNPs are variations in separate genetic building blocks at specific regions of the genome that vary between individual animals. The researchers created a family tree of exceptional completeness and detail. The results have been published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Additions, deletions and changes to the official list of North American birds

JUNE 24, 2019

The latest supplement to the American Ornithological Society's checklist of North and Middle American birds is being published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, and it includes several major updates to the organization of the continent's bird species. The official authority on the names and classification of the region's birds, the checklist is consulted by birdwatchers and professional scientists alike and has been published since 1886.
Birdwatchers eager to build their "life lists" will be especially interested in the five species added to the checklist due to "splits," where scientists have determined that bird populations once believed to be part of the same species are actually distinct; these newly-recognized species include the Choco Screech-Owl, Socorro Parakeet, and Stejneger's Scoter. Eight species from Eurasia and South America have also been added to the list as a result of recent sightings in North America, and one species familiar to parrot fanciers, the Budgerigar, was removed from the list. Native to Australia, escaped pet "budgies" established a wild breeding population in central Florida in the 1950s. However, the population had been declining for decades, and as of 2014, Florida's budgies have died out, possibly due to competition for nest sites from other non-native birds.
More than just a list that species are added to and deleted from, however, the checklist is also the authority on how North America's bird species are sorted into genera and families based on their evolutionary relationships. This year, new genetic data led to the rearrangement of several of these groups. A genus of Neotropical tanagers called Tangara was split up, and a group of seabirds known as storm-petrels that were previously classified into two genera have now been lumped into a single genus called Hydrobates. AOS's North American Classification Committee, the group of scientists responsible for the checklist, also made several tweaks to the names and classifications of hummingbird species, including taking the step of changing the official English name of one species that occurs in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico from "Blue-throated Hummingbird" to "Blue-throated Mountain-gem."

Man caught smuggling dozens of live finches into New York inside hair rollers

Francis Gurahoo planned to sell the birds for $3,000 each for use in singing competitions, officials say
Associated Press
Wed 19 Jun 2019 02.50 BST
A 39-year-old man has been caught allegedly trying to smuggle nearly three dozen live finches through John F Kennedy Airport in New York in order to sell them for singing competitions.
Francis Gurahoo was arrested on Sunday after arriving on a flight from Georgetown, Guyana. Prosecutors said customs officials found 34 live birds in his carry-on luggage hidden inside individual plastic hair curlers.
Gurahoo was arraigned on Monday on a charge of unlawful wildlife smuggling.
The finches are native to Guyana, officials said, and are highly prized. They are alledgedly used in singing contests in New York where bets are placed on the birds with the best voice.
Prosecutors alleged Gurahoo said he planned to sell them for about $3,000 each, which would have netted him more than $100,000.
Last December, customs officials at JFK airport found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers in a duffel bag from a passenger arriving from Guyana.
US customs officials said bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu

Asbaby the swan: terrorising Cambridge punters, just like his granddad

Students and tourists are being attacked by a swan on the River Cam where the legendary Mr Asbo – reportedly his forebear – once wreaked havoc
Wed 19 Jun 2019 17.46 BSTLast modified on Thu 20 Jun 2019 10.39 BST
Name: Asbaby.
Age: Unknown, though he has been cropping up in reports of violence since 2015.
Location: The River Cam in Cambridge, which, like the city itself, is full of entitled students and tourists paying a fortune for punts, who find themselves united in the battle between humans and swans.
And so who is Asbaby? A hero or villain – it depends whose side you are on. He is the latest swan to wage war on humans, and was recently photographed attacking students who had jumped into the river after college celebrations.
What do you mean by “the latest”? Asbaby’s “grandfather” – it is far from clear that a familial link has ever been established – was Mr Asbo, a wonderfully combative swan who terrorised rowers and everyone else on the river from 2010 until he was controversially moved to a secret location 60 miles from Cambridge in 2012.
Asbo? Oh come on, you remember, it’s the acronym for anti-social behaviour order – Tony Blair’s big idea that was introduced in 1998 to stop public drunkenness and other loutish behaviour, and which has now gone the way of all his other big ideas, such as economic growth, being on friendly terms with Europe and waging wars in the Middle East.
But back to this battleground ... Well, no sooner had Mr Asbo been carted off to some rural backwater where he could no longer wreak havoc than his supposed son Asboy appeared on the scene, pecking punters, roughing up rowers and scaring students.
So what happened to Asboy? Well, swans do all look pretty similar: could Asboy and Asbaby be the same swan? Or have generations of an entire flock been driven mad by posh students in rowing blazers?

Monday 24 June 2019

Swifts hit new low as poor weather takes its toll

Mass migration back to UK waylaid by stormy conditions and lack of nesting places
Thu 20 Jun 2019 12.32 BSTLast modified on Sun 23 Jun 2019 17.09 BST
The number of swifts that returned to Britain from their wintering grounds in Africa this spring was the lowest since records began, with poor weather in the Mediterranean delaying their arrival by two weeks. Experts fear the recent wet weather will further hit their numbers. Swift numbers in Britain have fallen by more than 50% since 1995.
More than 100 walks, talks and visits to urban areas to witness the swift’s aerial “screaming parties” will be held this week to raise awareness of the plight of this unique migratory bird.
Nick Brown, a coordinator of Swift Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday, said: “The very cool and wet weather we have had for most of May and June does not suit swifts. They are either incubating their eggs or trying to feed small young and they need warm, dry conditions to find the insects and spiders floating in the air on which they feed.
“Swift Awareness Week aims to raise the profile of this troubled bird and show how easy it is to help by putting up nest boxes for them.”
Swifts can go months or even years entirely airborne, eating insects in flight and sleeping on the wing, only landing when they are mature and ready to nest in the roofs of buildings.
This year poor weather has led to some adult swifts being found grounded and unable to fly, soaking and emaciated from a lack of opportunities to feed on insects. Pictures showed desperate groups of swifts clinging to the vertical walls of buildings to avoid stormy conditions before they reached Britain.

Scientists Catch Tibetan Snowcocks on Camera in their High-Elevation Habitats

Nabilah Islam
23 May 2019
There are few well-studied high-elevation animals. Harsh climate conditions can make it extremely difficult to conduct field research and observe species in their natural, alpine habitats. It’s now more important than ever to examine the changes in habitat and activity in these animals, especially since these high-altitude regions are being severely impacted by climate change. Without such knowledge, it is difficult to design conservation strategies to protect them.
In a recent study published in the journal Avian Research, Gai Luo and several colleagues from Sichuan University and the Administration of the Gongga Mountain National Nature Reserve investigated the distribution of the population of soft-colored, yet brightly-billed, Tibetan snowcocks. Their objective is to provide both a baseline to measure the influence of warming on this species and also provide valuable information on ecology and conservation.
The Tibetan snowcock is a bird the size of a small chicken and part of the pheasant family. They can be found all across the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau in high elevations. These birds have red-colored bills and feet and brown and white stripes along their bodies, which provides camouflage. The bird’s coloring can make it difficult to spot among the high-altitude rocky mountain slopes.
According to the researchers, based on limited descriptions available of this species, Tibetan snowcocks can be found inhabiting zones exceeding 4,000 meters in the summer and descending to 3,000 meters during the harsh winters. Breeding season for these migratory birds begins in mid-May and ends in July. During this season, snowcocks build shallow nests on the ground lined with dead leaves and grass, and the monogamous mates remain together throughout the season. Quantification of snowcock populations is difficult due to the extreme environments, but some previous research suggests that the Tibetan snowcock population declined in the 1990s.
Environmental changes in the previous decades prompted researchers to think about how glaciers changes and rising temperatures might affect the snowcocks. The proximity of snowcocks to glaciers raises questions of the role of glaciers and meltwater on this species. There is currently very little information on the life history and general ecology of the Tibetan Snowcock, and this information is essential for potential conservation efforts.

Sunday 23 June 2019

Successful 'alien' bird invasions are location dependent

Date:  June 19, 2019
Source:  University College London
Published today in Nature, researchers show that alien bird introductions are most successful in locations and climates similar to their native habitats and in places where other alien species are already established.
The discovery is important for understanding the processes that help or hinder species moving between locations, and the next steps for predicting and limiting the threat of future biological invasions.
As human activity continues to reshape the world, alien species are becoming more of a problem through their negative impacts, including agricultural damage, the spread of disease and expensive damage to infrastructure.
They are also impacting on native species with an estimated third of animal extinctions worldwide and a quarter of plant extinctions since 1500 thought to be driven in part by alien species.
"We know alien species are the main driver of recent extinctions in both animals and plants so there is a clear and urgent need for better biosecurity measures to prevent or mitigate the impact of future invasions and protect endangered native species," explained first author Dr David Redding (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment).
"With increased global trade, more species are being transported around the world either purposefully or as stowaways, which creates more opportunities for alien species to establish themselves in new habitats."
The team from UCL, ZSL, University of Utah, Koç University and the University of Queensland, used birds as a model system for other wildlife. They analysed 4,346 global invasion events spanning 708 species to see which factors enabled the birds to thrive in their new habitat.

Key locations for declining songbird

Date: June 19, 2019
Source:  American Ornithological Society Publications Office
Many of North America's migratory songbirds, which undertake awe-inspiring journeys twice a year, are declining at alarming rates. For conservation efforts to succeed, wildlife managers need to know where they go and what challenges they face during their annual migration to Latin America and back. For a new study published by The Condor: Ornithological Applications, researchers in six states assembled an unprecedented effort to track where Prothonotary Warblers that breed across the eastern U.S. go in winter -- their "migratory connectivity" -- and found that nearly the entire species depends on a relatively small area in Colombia threatened by deforestation and sociopolitical changes.
The Ohio State University's Christopher Tonra and his colleagues coordinated the deployment of 149 geolocators, tiny devices that use the timing of dawn and dusk to estimate birds' locations, on Prothonotary Warblers captured at sites across their breeding range. When the birds returned to their nesting sites the following year, the researchers were able to recover 34 devices that contained enough data for them to use. The geolocator data showed that regardless of where they bred, most of the warblers used the same two major Central American stopover sites during their migration and spent the winter in a relatively small area of northern Colombia. Additionally, many Prothonotary Warblers appeared to winter in inland areas, rather than in coastal mangrove habitat, which previous studies suggested they relied on most heavily.