Dutch bittern video


This video is about a bittern in the Oelemars nature reserve in Overijssel province the Netherlands, filmed by Carl Derks.

Vlieland bitterns: here.

Temporarily turning off my “like” notifications


Computer like, cartoon

My blog gets many “likes” from visitors; typically, hundreds a day. Thank you, everyone!

However, notifications of these “likes” take lots of time and space in my inbox.

As the next days will be very busy for me, I am temporarily turning off notifications of “likes” at my blog.

Expect blog posts on a beautiful interesting new subject soon; though probably less blog posts a day than usually. Until things will go back to “normal”.

Neonicotinoids kill grassland birds


This video from the USA is called Grassland Bird Talk.

From Wildlife Extra:

Pesticides, including neonicotinoids, leading cause of decline of grassland birds

New study finds pesticides leading cause of grassland bird declines

February 2013. A new study led by a preeminent Canadian toxicologist identifies acutely toxic pesticides as the most likely leading cause of the widespread decline in grassland bird numbers in the United States, a finding that challenges the widely-held assumption that loss of habitat is the primary cause of those population declines.

The scientific assessment, which looked at data over a 23-year period – from 1980 to 2003, was conducted by Dr. Pierre Mineau, recently retired from Environment Canada, and Mélanie Whiteside of Health Canada.

The study looked at five potential causes of grassland bird declines besides lethal pesticide risk: change in cropped pasture such as hay or alfalfa production, farming intensity or the proportion of agricultural land that is actively cropped, herbicide use, overall insecticide use, and change in permanent pasture and rangeland.

Spotlight on acutely toxic insecticides used on cropland

“What this study suggests is that we need to start paying a lot more attention to the use of pesticides if we want to reverse, halt or simply slow the very significant downward trend in grassland bird populations. Our study put the spotlight on acutely toxic insecticides used on cropland starting after the Second World War and persisting to this day – albeit at a lower level. The data suggest that loss of birds in agricultural fields is more than an unfortunate consequence of pest control; it may drive bird populations to local extinction,” Mineau said.

Many grassland bird species have undergone range contractions or population declines in recent decades. In fact, analyses of North American birds indicate that these birds are declining faster than birds from other biomes. Habitat protection has long been considered a central pillar in efforts to stem the decline of grassland bird species, such as the Vesper Sparrow, the Ring-necked Pheasant, and the Horned Lark.

Loss of habitat

“We are still concerned about loss of habitat in agriculture, range management, and urban development,” said Cynthia Palmer, manager of the Pesticides Program at American Bird Conservancy, a leading U.S. bird conservation organization. “This study by no means diminishes the importance of habitat fragmentation and degradation. But it suggests that we also need to rein in the use of lethal pesticides in agriculture, and that we need to be especially careful about any new pesticides we introduce into these ecosystems such as the neonicotinoid insecticides. It reminds us that the poisonings of birds and other wildlife chronicled a half century ago by famed biologist and author Rachel Carson are by no means a thing of the past.”

Lethal pesticides nearly four times more likely to be associated with population declines

The researchers focused on the extent to which lethal pesticides, such as organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, are responsible for the decline in grassland bird populations. The study found that lethal pesticides were nearly four times more likely to be associated with population declines than the next most likely contributor, changes in cropped pasture – an important component of habitat loss associated with agricultural lands.

The publication says that “…..large quantities of products of very high toxicity to birds have been used for decades despite evidence that poisonings were frequent even when products were applied according to label directions.”

The authors argue that only a small proportion of total cropland needs to be treated with a dangerous pesticide to affect overall bird population trends. The production of alfalfa stands out for its strikingly high chemical load, constituting the third highest lethal risk of any crop based on toxic insecticide use. Pesticide drift from croplands is also affecting birds that favor the adjoining grasslands.

Biggest declines

Using data from the U.S. Geological Service Breeding Bird Survey for the years 1980 to 2003, the study found that declines of grassland birds were much more likely in states with high use of toxic insecticides lethal to birds. The species with the greatest number of declines included the Eastern Meadowlark (declining in 33 States), the Grasshopper Sparrow (25 States), the Horned Lark (25 States), the Ring-necked Pheasant (19 States) and the Vesper Sparrow (18 States). The states with the greatest number of declining grassland species were Minnesota (12 species), Wisconsin (11 species), and Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and New York, all with nine species.

Neonicotinoids

The current study relies on pesticide data from the 1980s and early 1990s, a time when organophosphates such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos, and carbamates such as carbofuran and methomyl, were still largely in vogue. Since that time, a new class of insecticides, the neonicotinoids, have soared to the top of global pesticide markets. Unfortunately, a major toxicological assessment soon to be released by American Bird Conservancy puts to rest any notion that birds and other organisms will fare much better under the new pesticide regime.

The study was published in PLOS One, the online peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Birdfair beefs up conservation for grassland migrants in the Americas: here.

Ground-breaking ecological research involving Trinity College Dublin’s newly appointed Professor of Zoology, Yvonne Buckley, has shown that fertilisation of natural grasslands has a destabilising effect on the way these critically important ecosystems function: here.

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World’s biggest bird count results


This video from the USA is called Get set for the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 15-18.

From Wildlife Extra:

World’s biggest bird count – 101 countries, 3,138 species, 25 million birds

Great Backyard Bird Count goes global and shatters records

February 2013. From Antarctica to Afghanistan, bird watchers from 101 countries made history in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 15 to 18, 2013. In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers set new records, counting more than 25 million birds on 116,000 checklists in four days – and recording 3,138 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. The data will continue to flow in until March 1.

Building on the success of the GBBC in the United States and Canada for the past 15 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada opened the count to the world for the first time this year, powered by eBird, a system that enables people to report birds globally in real-time and explore the results online. Bird watchers are invited to keep counting every day of the year at http://www.eBird.org.

‘Milestone for citizen science’

Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick said: “This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects – number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by.”

Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham: “People who care about birds can change the world. That’s why this year’s record-setting global participation is so exciting. Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

Other Key Preliminary Findings:

Top 5 Most Reported Species (reported on highest number of checklists): Northern Cardinal; Dark-eyed Junco; Mourning Dove; Downy Woodpecker; House Finch
Top 5 Most Common Birds (most individuals reported): Snow Goose; Canada Goose; Red-winged Blackbird; European Starling; American Coot.
Finch Invasion: A massive number of northern finch species moved into the U.S. including the Common Redpoll, reported in a record 36 states. Scientists believe these periodic movements are related to natural fluctuations in crops of conifer cones and other seeds in Canada.
Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy‘s landfall also blew some European birds to North America, and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colourful, crested Northern Lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts during the GBBC.
GBBC First: A Red-flanked Bluetail has wintered at Queens Park, Vancouver, and was also reported for the GBBC’s first record ever. This British Columbia bird has been drawing birdwatchers from all over the U.S. and Canada hoping to see this rarity. This little thrush is one of the only birds in the world with a striking blue tail and is native to Asia: the other GBBC report this year was from Japan.

For more information, visit www.birdcount.org.

The bird count could have been even more complete, if my small contribution (see here), and maybe other people’s contributions, would not have been prevented from reaching the central count by some mysterious website connection problem.