American Bird Conservancy conservation birding initiative

Here’s a video about the American Bird Conservancy’s initiative to promote conservation through tourism in Latin America. I guess it’s like the BLSA birding route concept, but on a different scale.

Fiji Petrel sighted at sea

fiji petrel the- tubenoses project copyright h shirihai. 1n7j9177

The elusive Fiji Petrel (Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi) has finally been photographed at sea. This from Birdlife International:

Known from just one specimen collected in 1855 on Gau Island, Fiji, the Fiji Petrel was lost for the next 130 years. Since 1984 there have been a handful of reports of “grounded” birds that had crashed onto village roofs on Gau. Until now there had been no confirmed sightings of the seabird at sea. The search for the elusive petrel is described in a paper in the latest Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. Up to eight individuals were seen over eleven days in an area around 25 nautical miles south of Gau. The species’ flight, behaviour and detailed comparison to other species are also described for the first time. The paper’s lead author, Hadoram Shirihai, said: “Finding this bird and capturing such images was a fantastic and exhilarating experience”. Fellow expedition member Tony Pym commented, “To see such a little-known bird at such close range was magical.”

Critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis disturbed

Northern Bald Ibis from Gesner's Historiæ animalium, book III, 1555With less than 500 individuals left in the wild, Northern Bald Ibis is in bad shape.  It’s quite disturbing when one reads messages like the one below where birders are disregarding the needs of these birds. These are excerpts of a message from the RSPB‘s Chris Bowden:

“I want to thank the 95+% of birders and bird tour leaders who visit southern Morocco each year and respect the importance of the last colony of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis, by searching for the birds away from the main breeding colony at Tamri. I am very much aware how much all visiting birders want to see Northern Bald Ibis when visiting the area, and realise it can be frustrating if the birds are not in the feeding areas exactly when arriving at the site, especially as visitors itineraries are often tightly packed.

So it is very disturbing when a minority of irresponsible visitors such as a recent group in early May (who we know from wardens records that the leader has previously ignored the well known request among all birders to avoid the colony), continue to approach the colony itself. This is particularly disappointing and embarrassing to the responsible birding community. The wardens are locally appointed and trained (one key tangible benefit of the ibis to the village communities closest to the colonies and roosts, and one which indirectly links and informs the locals of the importance of the ibis), and their priority role is to keep all visitors away from the site as well as systematically monitoring the breeding birds. This recent birding party of birders from England refused to accept the wardens request to leave and became abusive before photographing the birds anyway. Through their attitude they appear to condone others in approaching and jeopardising the largest remaining colony of this species in the world.”

In contrast to these negative events, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has committed to supporting further research and conservation of the Northern Bald Ibis.  This is an excerpt from the Birdlife International website:

One of the rarest birds in North Africa and the Middle East has received a conservation boost from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Once revered by the Egyptian Pharaohs, Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita has become extinct in the majority of its former range in North Africa, the European Alps and the Middle East, and is now listed as Critically Endangered the highest threat level of extinction. However, ongoing conservation efforts will now benefit from a three year grant from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. [more here]

Video: The State of the Birds Report 2009

Take a look at this video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it’s superb!

[Note: if you’re watching this video in a bandwidth-deprived country, play the video, pause it immediately then allow it a few minutes to load. This will ensure the viewing is “stutter-free.”]

Mount Mabu in Northern Mozambique to be protected

Mount Mabu from Google EarthIt’s fantastic that there are still areas that have not been explored by scientists. Mount Mabu in Northern Mozambique was one such area until a scientist from Kew Gardens located it using Google Earth. Expeditions to the massif have revealed several new species to science. It appears that Mozambique has agreed to protect the mountain because of these unique species and its relatively “untouched” status. Here’s some more information from The Guardian:

The unique lost rainforest of Mount Mabu is to be given protection from exploitation, following a new expedition to the remote area revealed a host of new species. The existence of the pristine forest in northern Mozambique was revealed by the Observer last year, and was originally discovered with the help of Google Earth. It is now thought to be the largest such forest in southern Africa. At a meeting this week in the capital Maputo, government ministers agreed to put conservation measures in place before any commercial logging occurs there after meeting representatives from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT), and numerous other groups involved in the project. [more here]

Namuli Apalis © Callan CohenMount Mabu is not the only isolated massif in Northern Mozambique that harbours interesting species. Mount Namuli, the regions highest mountain, is home to Namuli Apalis (Apalis lynesi) which is Mozambique’s only endemic bird species. Read an interesting account here about how this species was only recorded for the second time in 1998.

Global bird news: 29 June 2009

Sage Grouse

Obama administration stalling on Sage Grouse decision

The Seattle Times

Federal officials are again delaying a decision on whether to list Sage Grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered, leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected.The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to Arizona and California to Colorado, living alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines. Its population has been in decline for decades, but how many remain is unknown. For the Obama administration, the decision on Sage Grouse could force an uncomfortable choice. On one side are environmental groups that supported him as a candidate and want the grouse protected. On the other is a renewable energy industry much touted by the president but lately emerging as a potential threat to the bird’s habitat. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is well aware of the significance of this decision, because of its potential impact on a broad area and many activities within that broad area,” said Michael Bean, a senior adviser to Assistant Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland. [more here]

Niceforo's Wren from ProAves

Critically endangered Niceforo’s Wren given another chance


ProAves together with World Land Trust-US, American Bird Conservancy and the Corporación Autónoma de Santander (CAS) have taken a significant step forward in their efforts to protect the Critically Endangered Niceforo’s Wren – restricted to the last remnants of dry forest in the Chicamocha Valley of the eastern Andes of Colombia. The purchase by ProAves of over 3,200 acres of vital remaining dry forest habitat – some of the highest quality remaining forest of this type in the entire region – will result in the creation of a new reserve to protect the Niceforo’s Wren. It constitutes the first protected area within the Chicamocha Valley for these and many endemic flora and fauna species. [more here]

Black-tailed Godwits are already back in Africa!

Black-tailed Godwit by Hans Hillewaert

Dutch scientists have placed satellite tracking devices into the abdomens of 15 Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) to find out where and when these birds move. Some interesting data has already been collected. One of the birds left Friesland (in Holland) on Saturday and was in Senegal (West Africa) just two days later! That’s over 4000 kilometres (Spain, Mediterranean and Sahara desert) in just 48 hours. Amazing! Here’s more from Science Daily:

Since last week, 15 black-tailed godwits in Fryslân (in the north of the Netherlands) have been flying around with tiny transmitters in their abdominal cavities. The transmitters were inserted during a minor operation by the American vet Daniel Mulcahy and his Dutch colleague David Tijssen. With the help of the transmitters, researchers will be able to track the birds for about a year in their breeding grounds in Fryslân as well as during their migration from and to Southern Europe and Africa. [more here]

British conservationists concerned about Common Swift

Common Swift by Paweł KuźniarBuilding design changes are reducing available nest sites for Common Swifts (Apus apus) in Britain.  Is this really a cause for concern? Where did Common Swifts breed before there were buildings in Britain? This is an old debate, but it does beg the question of whether resources could be better utilized protecting more critically endangered species. As an aside, it’s not often that entire websites are dedicated to one species, but if you want to know more about Common Swift check out this site.  Here’s more from the RSPB:

You know summer has arrived when you see swifts speeding through the air, screaming their heads off and swooping into crevices in buildings. But fewer and fewer of us are enjoying this spectacle as we have discovered that the swift is in serious trouble. Swift numbers have declined by 47% in the last ten years. And for the first time, the summer migrant has been added to the amber list meaning it is of serious conservation concern. A major cause of this decline is believed to be the loss of nest sites through building improvement or demolition. They nest almost exclusively on buildings, so they really need our help. [more here]

Peruvian Amazon rainforests under threat

Andean Cock of the Rock by Snowmanradio

It seems the Peruvian government is trying to change laws to allow the development of large tracts of Amazon rain forest. The government does not appear to be consulting all stakeholders (indigenous people) effectively. Not cool. If you want to sign a petition against this click here.

This just through from

“The Peruvian government has pushed through legislation that could allow extractive and large-scale farming companies to rapidly destroy their Amazon rainforest.

Indigenous peoples have peacefully protested for two months demanding their lawful say in decrees that will contribute to the devastation of the Amazon’s ecology and peoples, and be disastrous for the global climate. But last weekend President Garcia responded: sending in special forces to suppress protests in violent clashes, and labelling the protesters as terrorists.

These indigenous groups are on the frontline of the struggle to protect our earth — Let’s stand with them and call on President Alan Garcia (who is widely known to be sensitive to his international reputation) to immediately stop the violence and open up dialogue. Click below to sign the urgent global petition and a prominent and well-respected Latin-American politician will deliver it to the government on our behalf.

More than 70 per cent of the Peruvian Amazon is now up for grabs. Giant oil and gas companies, like the Anglo-French Perenco and the North Americans ConocoPhillips and Talisman Energy, have already pledged multi-billionaire investments in the region. These extractive industries have a very poor record of bringing benefits to local people and preserving the environment in developing countries – which is why indigenous groups are asking for internationally-recognized rights to consultation on the new laws.

For decades the world and indigenous peoples have watched as extractive industries devastated the rainforest that is home to some and a vital treasure to us all (some climate scientists call the Amazon the “lungs of the planet” – breathing in the carbon emissions that cause global warming and producing oxygen).

The protests in Peru are the biggest yet and the most desperate, we can’t afford to let them fail. Sign the petition, and encourage your friends and family to join us, so we can help bring justice to the indigenous peoples of Peru and prevent further acts of violence from all parties.”

Sign the petition here.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) numbers could be on the rise

Red Knot by Jan van de Kam

The North American subspecies of Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) is in trouble. Although Red Knot is globally a widespread species, this particular subspecies has declined dramatically because of past hunting activities and more recently competition for food in Delaware Bay.

Each year Red Knots stop over at Delaware Bay to feed on Horseshoe Crab eggs, but these birds competed directly for this food source with crab harvesters. This stop-off area is a critical point in their migration from South America to the Arctic where they breed. Birds arrive at Delaware Bay with almost no food reserves and after a few weeks of almost continuous feeding their fat levels are replenished and they’re ready to complete the final leg of the migration. Without sufficient reserves a lot of these departing birds perish en route to their breeding grounds.

Wiki provides a good overview of the various Red Knot subspecies, of which there are six.

Red Knot migration by ShyamalReports from researchers this year indicate that this subspecies may have turned the corner; their numbers appear to be on the rise. Here’s more from

Once numbering nearly 100,000 on the bay, the birds have declined to about 15,000. Biologists blame a reduction in the number of crabs, which were heavily harvested through the 1990s. Gradually, in what officials said was the first time a species not in trouble was regulated to help another that was, crab harvest restrictions have been enacted. Still, neither the crabs nor the birds have shown a comeback. Biologists fear the red knots could plummet into extinction with an event as simple as a summer snowstorm in the Arctic or an oil spill in South America. Advocates have repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, tried to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate the bird – a subspecies called Calidris canutus rufa – as federally threatened or endangered. Yesterday, the researchers packed up and headed home after spending a month on the bay capturing red knots with sophisticated netting devices. They logged biologic data and banded the birds before setting them free. Australian shorebird expert Clive Minton, who has joined Niles on the bay since 1997, called it “an exciting year. We think we’re really seeing the beginning of a possible turn-round in the fortunes of the crabs and the shorebirds.” [more here]