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.

Monday 14 October 2019

Montrose welcomes more than 55,000 geese as ‘Scotland’s biggest nature spectacle’ returns

October 7 2019, 2.36pm

More than 55,000 pink-footed geese have descended on an Angus reserve as part of “Scotland’s biggest nature spectacle”.

Droves of the birds have taken up their winter residences at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve.

They have flown about 750 miles (1,200km) from their summer breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland.

The latest count revealed there are now at least 55,326 of the birds – up by more than 5,000 since September – with numbers still increasing.

Anna Cowie, the Trust’s Montrose Basin ranger, said: “Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve is an internationally-important habitat for pink-footed geese.

“These birds are one of the heralds of autumn, and we’ve been pleased to see so many people flocking to the basin at dawn and dusk to take in the spectacle.

“This has been a very unusual season with birds arriving from Iceland much earlier than in recent years. It’s impossible to say when numbers will peak.”

The “pinkfeet” are thought to have arrived in numbers earlier this year due to snow in Iceland pushing them south quicker than usual.

The best time to see and hear large numbers is at dawn and dusk.

During the day, most of the geese head out to find food.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo found dead in East Sussex


A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was discovered in residential Seaford, East Sussex, on the morning of 2 October.

The bird, which was very freshly dead and had presumably only just perished, was discovered lying between two large brick pillars on the path which runs out to Splash Point at the end of Gerald Road at around 09:30 by Mary-Anne Carter, who lives on Gerald Road and was out walking her dog.

She passed the unusual corpse to her neighbour, Robert Lawson, who commented: "I thought the bird looked like a cuckoo, or possibly a shrike.

"I took it home and looked in the Collins Bird Guide, and was able to identify it as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo."

This represents the second record for East Sussex and unfortunately bears a striking resemblance to the previous occurrence, which flew into a wall in Eastbourne and was picked up dead on 4 November 1952. There is also a single record from West Sussex, which again involved a freshly dead bird at Middleton-on-sea on 14 December 1960.

Incidentally, another Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found on St Mary's, Scilly, on the morning of 2 October, but happily was still alive. However, it quickly disappeared into gardens after its discovery and hasn't yet been seen again.

Sunday 13 October 2019

The impact of human-caused noise pollution on birds

OCTOBER 11, 2019

Anthropogenic noise pollution (ANP) is a globally invasive phenomenon impacting natural systems, but most research has occurred at local scales with few species. Researchers in this study investigated continental-scale breeding season associations with ANP for 322 bird species to test whether local-scale predictions related to breeding habitat, migratory behavior, body mass, and vocal traits are consistent at broad spatial extents for an extensive group of North American bird species in the continental United States.

Better protection sought for Thailand's helmeted hornbill

OCTOBER 11, 2019

by Busaba Sivasomboon

Time is running out for Thailand's dwindling population of helmeted hornbills thanks to poaching of the exotic birds for the ivory-like casques atop their big red and yellow beaks.

The species, known by the scientific name Rhinoplax vigil, is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Currently, there are fewer than 100 of the birds in Thailand's forests," says Dr. Kaset Sutacha, chairman of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and head of the Exotic Pet and Wildlife Clinic at Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bangkok.

"Critically endangered" is just a step away from "extinct in the wild" and two steps from becoming considered "extinct."

Demand from China is helping drive demand for their distinctive casques, "helmets" in French, which males deploy in battle. The material is used to make rings, pendants and other decorative items.

Worries over the species' survival intensified after the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC recently posted photos online of dozens of skulls of the endangered avian for sale.

A campaign on the online petition site is pressuring the government to add the bird to Thailand's Wildlife Preservation List as soon as possible. It now lists 19 other species.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change

OCTOBER 11, 2019

Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

The study looked at the breeding season of superb fairy-wrens living in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

The research was led by Dr. Lei Lv, who is visiting ANU from Sun Yat-sen University in China.

Dr. Lv says warmer temperatures in early spring mean the birds will start breeding earlier than they normally would. If temperatures rise too high in mid-summer, they will also finish breeding earlier.

"Fairy-wrens have a very long breeding season which usually runs from around September through to February," Dr. Lv said.

"The timing varies a lot among individuals and from year-to-year. We wanted to see if this variation was connected to changes in climate.

"It turns out if the minimum night-time temperatures are milder, the birds will start breeding earlier.

Friday 11 October 2019

Bugged backpack for Brazilian birds

1st October 2019

Purple martins will soon begin their yearly winter migration but this time they’ve got a new accessory. The birds will be wearing little backpacks that will track their roosting sites.

As the bird travels north from Brazil, the purple martin roosts in small forested patches on their rout to North America.

“This is highly unusual behavior for songbirds, which typically roost in heavily forested areas,” said Auriel Fournier, a co-author of the study with University of Manitoba biological sciences professor Kevin Fraser, who led the research. Fournier is the director of the Forbes Biological Station at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

“It’s surprising to see them roosting in these forest islands, which are small, isolated clusters of trees typically surrounded by agriculture, water or recently cut forest,” Fournier said.

The research is intended to determine whether the birds are responding to a change in the environment or whether their roosting behaviour has always been this way.

“We believe they must be intentionally seeking out the forest islands,” Fournier said. “Because these habitats don’t occur very frequently on the landscape, the birds’ use of them is unlikely to be by chance.”

Removing invasive mice from the Farallon Islands would benefit threatened birds

Date:October 10, 2019
Source:Point Blue Conservation Science

New research from Point Blue Conservation Science shows the significant negative impact that invasive, non-native house mice on the Farallon Islands are having to the threatened ashy storm-petrel. Original modeling by ecologists published today in the journal Ecosphere shows the potential impacts to the petrel's population if mice are allowed to remain. The super-abundant mice encourage migrating burrowing owls to stay on the island, who later in the winter switch from eating mice to preying on the petrels.

No Casino shootout: police deny plan to kill swooping magpies in NSW town

Police say media reports that trained marksmen would be brought in to control the town’s magpies were incorrect

Fri 4 Oct 2019 07.44 BSTLast modified on Fri 4 Oct 2019 07.58 BST

Police in the northern New South Wales town of Casino have denied they planned to deploy specially trained officers to shoot and kill magpies, contrary to media reports.

On Friday the Northern Star reported that elite police officers would descend on the town to shoot local magpies which have been deemed too dangerous to live.

According to quotes attributed to acting sergeant David Henderson, police “specially trained to euthanise animals as painlessly and quickly as possible” were to be brought in.

But NSW Police issued a statement in the afternoon saying “there is no proposed magpie cull in Casino or anywhere in the Richmond police district”.

Local councillor Jill Lyons confirmed there were no plans, and said she was glad it had not come to such measures.

“No one is aware of extra police coming into the area,” she said. “No police have been called in to shoot anything in the Richmond valley this season.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Study recommends special protection of emperor penguins

OCTOBER 9, 2019

In a new study published this week (Wednesday 9 October) in the journal Biological Conservation, an international team of researchers recommends the need for additional measures to protect and conserve one of the most iconic Antarctic species—the emperor penguin (Aptenodyptes forsteri).

The researchers reviewed over 150 studies on the species and its environment as well as its behaviour and character in relation to its breeding biology. Current climate change projections indicate that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will impact negatively the sea ice on which emperor penguins breed; and some studies indicate that emperor populations will decrease by more than 50% over the current century. The researchers therefore recommend that the IUCN status for the species be escalated to 'vulnerable'; the species is currently listed as 'near threatened' on the IUCN Red List. They conclude that improvements in climate change forecasting in relation to impacts on Antarctic wildlife would be beneficial, and recommend that the emperor penguin should be listed by the Antarctic Treaty as a Specially Protected Species.

Lead author Dr. Philip Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at British Antarctic Survey, says:

"The current rate of warming in parts of the Antarctic is greater than anything in the recent glaciological record. Though emperor penguins have experienced periods of warming and cooling over their evolutionary history, the current rates of warming are unprecedented."

"Currently, we have no idea how the emperors will adjust to the loss of their primary breeding habitat—sea ice. They are not agile and climbing ashore across steep coastal land forms will be difficult. For breeding, they depend upon sea ice, and in a warming world there is a high probability that this will decrease. Without it, they will have little or no breeding habitat."

Greater protection measures will enable scientists to coordinate research into the penguins' resilience to a range of different threats and stressors.

Insecticide blamed for the deaths of 200 native birds, including wedge-tailed eagles

Environment officials are unsure whether the poisoning of the birds in northeast Victoria was an accident

Australian Associated Press

Mon 7 Oct 2019 02.16 BSTFirst published on Mon 7 Oct 2019 02.03 BST

An insecticide is likely to be behind the deaths of almost 200 native birds in northeast Victoria, environment officials believe.

After dead wedge-tailed eagles were found near Violet Town in August the state’s environment department found more – along with hawks and falcons – on a nearby property.

They have since found up to 200 dead native birds in the area, including 25 wedge-tailed eagles.

Tests on six eagles have detected an insecticide used to control mites.

The same agricultural chemical has been found in the carcasses of animals suspected of being used as bait. The department believes it may have caused all the bird deaths. But it is not sure whether the poisoning was accidental.

“It remains unclear if these birds were deliberately poisoned, however given the large number of birds found nearby, it’s a possibility,” the environment department compliance manager, Andrew Dean, said.

Raids have also taken place in recent weeks at properties in Shepparton East and Goomalibee.

“All evidence collected will be forensically analysed, including the carcasses and chemicals seized, which may take some time,” Dean said.

Native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act and deliberately killing them can result in a fine of up to $39,652 or up to two years in prison.

Madrid to begin 'humane slaughter' of parakeets

Spanish capital to reduce number of brightly coloured birds over public health risk fears

Sam Jones in Madrid

Tue 8 Oct 2019 09.25 BSTLast modified on Tue 8 Oct 2019 19.50 BST

Madrid’s city council has grown sick of its parrots.

Or, more precisely, of the thousands of shrill, bright green monk parakeets that screech through the capital’s skies and build vast nests in its trees.

The council has announced plans to reduce the number of parakeets after a recent survey showed the population had grown from 9,000 birds three years ago to 12,000 today. In 2005, there were only 1,700 of them in Madrid.

Although the birds are native to Argentina, many were imported as pets before ownership was outlawed eight years ago.

The city council says the swelling population needs to be brought down as the parakeets are competing with other species for food and damaging the environment by stripping vegetation to build their huge stick nests.

It also says they pose a public health risk as they can pass illnesses such as psittacosis (parrot fever), avian flu and salmonella on to humans.

And then there is the size of their nests.

“As time goes on and they get bigger, these nests can become dangerous and weigh up to 200kg,” the council said in a statement.

Sunday 6 October 2019

Climate change 'has affected a third of UK bird species'

2 September 2019
Cuckoo numbers are in steep decline across almost half of England because of climate change but buzzards are up, according to a new study.
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has looked at which species are most hit and helped by climate change.
Researchers found weather changes had a long-term effect on about a third of the 68 species studied.
BTO science director James Pearce-Higgins said there were "winners and losers".
Thirteen species have seen a greater than 10% rise in population numbers while three have suffered big drops.
Which birds are suffering and why?
Migratory birds are the biggest losers.
In five of the 11 regions studied, cuckoos, which have seen a population drop of more than 80% in the past 30 years, were the bird with the biggest fall in numbers.
The swift and turtle dove, which are also migratory, had the biggest drops in two areas each.
Cuckoos, which are on the RSPB's red list for conservation, are in the UK between April and June for breeding season.
The birds' journey back to Africa takes them via Italy or Spain, the latter having been hit by droughts brought on by warmer weather, the BTO said.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Booming year for Britain's loudest bird

16th September 2019
Bitterns back from the brink of extinction as 102 male bitterns recorded on RSPB reserves for the first time.
Britain’s loudest bird has enjoyed its best year since records began, according to a new survey by the RSPB.
Conservationists are heralding the success of a project to bring bitterns (a type of heron) back from the brink of extinction.
Bitterns are highly secretive despite their claim to fame as Britain’s loudest bird. With their well camouflaged, pale, buffy-brown plumage, bitterns spend most of their time hiding in dense stands of reed and are so elusive scientists count them by listening for the males’ distinctive booming call.
Astonishing recovery
Since 2006, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of bitterns making their home in Britain. This year numbers reached record levels once more with 198 males recorded at 89 sites. This compares to 188 at 82 sites in 2018.
They had completely disappeared in Britain by the 1870s, before recolonising early in the 20th century. However, they found themselves back on the brink in 1997 when numbers dropped to 11 males.
Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “Bitterns are one our most charismatic birds. Their astonishing recovery from the brink of extinction is a real conservation success story and example of what is possible through targeted efforts to restore wildlife habitat.
“It’s a delight to hear their distinctive booming call echoing across the reedbeds every year as more and more bitterns are making new or restored wetlands their home.”
Two EU LIFE funded projects helped reinvigorate the bittern population, alongside the legal safeguards in place within Special Protection Areas (SPAs).But the number of SPAs has not increased for 20 years, despite plans to designate more SPAs as bitterns arrived in their newly created habitats. 

Birds make home on volcanic isle transformed by blast in 2013

September 13, 2019 at 15:05 JST
A wedge-tailed shearwater chick has been spotted for the first time on a Pacific island that was ravaged by a volcanic eruption about six years ago.
An Environment Ministry team studying wildlife and other features on Nishinoshima island about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo said Sept. 12 that it found nests made by the birds, along with eggs and a chick.
The island is about 130 kilometers west of Chichijima island in the Ogasawara chain.
Ministry officials, biologists, geologists and other scientists visited the island from Sept. 3 to 5.
What’s unusual about the findings is that plants are typically the first to appear in new ecosystems on land.
“It shows how wildlife takes root on an isolated island,” said Kazuto Kawakami, a senior researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute who took part in the survey, noting that the study is of global significance.

Peregrine falcon that lived in Manayunk steeple found dead with severed leg. Did a drone do it?

by Frank Kummer, Updated: September 18, 2019
Judy Stepenaskie, an amateur but avid bird-watcher, was thrilled in 2011 when a pair of peregrine falcons began nesting in the steeple of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Manayunk.
The birds of prey had been all but eradicated in the Philadelphia area for decades but were making a comeback at the time. Having a pair locally gave Stepenaskie a rare chance to observe them up close for years.
So Stepenaskie was crushed last week to learn that the 10-year-old male, whom she had been calling Manny after his adopted hometown, turned up dead. Mysteriously, his leg was cleanly severed. Peregrine falcons live high up and face few real predators in an urban environment.
“I was really upset. It’s really sad. He was such a good dad,” Stepenaskie said in reference to Manny’s vigilance each time his mate gave birth over the years.
Mike Weilbacher, executive director for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, said the bird was brought to the center’s wildlife clinic on Sept. 11 after a woman had found it in her yard in Roxborough.
“It was unusual because the leg was severed so cleanly,” said Weilbacher. The clinic is still awaiting a necropsy expected to be performed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, so an immediate cause of death was not yet available. The bird is being preserved in a freezer at the clinic.

Monroe's swifts stayed away this year due to predator threat

Published September 25, 2019

MONROE — Predatory merlins have frightened away the Vaux’s swifts from their popular roosting spot in Frank Wagner Elementary’s chimney.

Now the question is whether the birds will ever come back.

Their practical no-show this year is evident in observers’ nightly logs: Zero. Zero. Zero.

No swifts entered the chimney starting from Aug. 26 through most of September. The numbers plummeted after the first night’s count on Aug. 21.

Usually, a few thousand swifts would dive in each night. Last fall’s cumulative count at Wagner surpassed 140,000.

The Vaux’s swifts are winging down the West Coast, moving from Canada to Mexico. They’ll do the reverse in the spring. The little birds cover 150 or more miles in a day before collectively swooping into select chimneys and trees for nighttime rest.

“The swifts have abandoned the chimney. This is serious,” said Larry Schwitters, the nation’s pre-eminent Vaux’s swifts expert, with clear disappointment.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Diving birds follow each other when fishing

Date:  September 23, 2019
Source:  University of Exeter
Diving seabirds watch each other to work out when to dive, new research shows.
Scientists studied European shags and found they were twice as likely to dive after seeing a fellow bird go underwater.
The study is the first to investigate why large groups (known as "rafts") of shags dive together at sea.
University of Exeter scientists filmed the birds off the Isles of Scilly to examine their behaviour.
"Our results suggest these birds aren't just reacting to underwater cues when deciding where and when to dive," said Dr Julian Evans, who led the study as part of his PhD at the University of Exeter.
"They respond to social cues by watching their fellow birds and copying their behaviour.
"They're essentially using other flock members as sources of information, helping them choose the best place to find fish."

Defra to review release of game birds after legal threat

Government agrees to examine impact of shooting industry’s release of 50m non-native birds
Thu 12 Sep 2019 10.20 BST Last modified on Thu 12 Sep 2019 11.56 BST
The annual release of more than 50 million non-native game birds into the countryside with no environmental assessment is to be reviewed by the government after campaigners announced a legal challenge.
Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, of the campaign group Wild Justice, argued that the massive and unregulated increase in the number of pheasants and red-legged partridges put into the British countryside for shooting each year – up from 4 million in the early 1970s – contravened the EU habitats directive.
Under these laws, the impact of game birds on the biodiversity of protected areas must first be assessed. Pheasants and partridges can prey on native reptiles and amphibians, while recent scientific evidence has shown an association between game birds and higher numbers of foxes and avian predators such as crows, which in turn prey on rare species such as curlew.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed there will be a review of the way game birds are released on or near protected areas such as special areas of conservation in England.

Sculptor crafts $125k extinct bird creation out of scrap metal

Jo McKenzie-McLean 05:15, Sep 16 2019
Wanaka artist Luke Wilson created the sculpture of two extinct birds in combat to show the flight of our native animals.
A Kiwi artist has resurrected two extinct native birds using cutlery, hot water cylinders and horse shoes.
Luke Wilson's Haast Eagle Vs Moa took more than two years to make using scrap metal – a skill he discovered while working at Wanaka recycling and reuse shop Wastebusters.
"I'd been working at Wastebusters processing their metal recycling for about a year and realised I had a knack for putting things together with odds and ends. It got me wanting to work with material that has a story behind each piece that comes in."
Wanaka-based artist Luke Wilson, 31, will exhibit his giant scrap metal sculpture of a Haast eagle and moa at a St Andrew's College fundraiser in Christchurch on September 20 alongside several other artists.
The 31-year-old's engineering background has helped produce the sculptures, as has late nights, copious amounts of coffee, a No.8 wire mentality and a passion to portray the world's natural beauty in his art while raising awareness about the plight of native birds.
"I work up a mountain and there is kea up there. Their population is declining and they are really special birds."

Experts concerned over non-sighting of Lesser Floricans in MP

PTI Indore
 Updated: 15-09-2019 18:45 IST Created: 15-09-2019 18:45 IST
The delay in the arrival of the world's most endangered migratory bird, Lesser Florican or Kharmore, in the Sailana sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh for the annual breeding season so far has left ornithologists worried. Experts, who are seeking to find out the causes behind the winged creatures missing their annual date, have raised concerns over the presence of windmills and nilgais (blue bulls) in the vicinity of the sanctuary, spread over 1300 hectares in Ratlam district.
"This is probably the first in the 36 year history of the sanctuary that no Kharmore has visited the area during the breeding season. Last year, four Kharmores were seen in this sanctuary," ornithologist Ajay Gadikar, who is working for the conservation of the rare birds with the state Forest department, told PTI on Sunday. Gadikar said the absence of the birds is a cause of concern because the sanctuary has lush green grass and is the ideal habitat for them.
"We suspect that the windmills that have come up near Sailana area in the last decade are disturbing the Kharmores who generally fly at the height of the windmills," he said, adding that the presence of Nilgais or large Indian antelopes might be the another cause. According to Gadikar, Kharmore is a very shy bird who prefers either flying away or hiding after sensing any unusual movement.
Chief Conservator of Forests (Ujjain Range), Ajay Kumar Yadav, has confirmed that no winged visitor has been spotted in the sanctuary so far. "Forest department will study the reasons with the help of experts to find out whether windmills and nilgais are acting as deterrents," he said.

A pelican in Nova Scotia? Unusual birds blown into Cape Breton by Dorian

Some rare birds have found their way to the Maritimes after Dorian blew them off course.
Alexandra Mae Jones, writer
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2019 11:08PM EDT
After a storm as big as Dorian, residents in Cape Breton probably expected to find a few strange things that had been blown in by the winds. But a pelican?
A large brown bird has been spotted strutting around Glace Bay wharf this past week, far from its usual tropical waters. Experts say the bird was probably as surprised to find itself in Atlantic Canada as the residents of Cape Breton were to see it -- it's thought that the bird was blown off course.
The eye-catching bird has become a sensation in the area.
 “There’s been people coming here from as far as East Bay to take photos,” resident Dylan Yates told CTV News Atlantic. “It’s just not something you see every day.”
Jeannie Fraser snapped more than one photo of the bird, saying it was “pretty exciting to see, in spite of the fact that it shouldn’t have been here.”
If the pelican wasn’t actually aiming to set up camp in a Nova Scotia harbor, where was it aiming to go?
David McCorquodale, a biology professor at Cape Breton University and an avid bird watcher, said that the pelican was blown from the coast of the southern U.S., confirming that the storm was at fault for the bird’s massive displacement.
And the pelican wasn’t the only bird whose flight plan went through a drastic change due to storm winds.