Good Chinese rare bird news

This video from Britain says about itself:

Snow Bunting at GodrevyWildlife in Cornwall.

Snow buntings have a rare relative in East Asia, about which there is news.

From BirdLife:

New breeding sites found for Asia’s rarest bunting

By Martin Fowlie, Thu, 05/12/2013 – 11:11

Three previously unknown breeding sites of Asia’s rarest bunting have been discovered by a team from the Beijing Bird Watching Society working with BirdLife’s China Programme.

Rufous-backed Bunting Emberiza jankowskii, also known as Jankowski’s Bunting has declined drastically because of conversion of its habitat to farmland, and it is now known only from a restricted area in north-east China.

In April and May this year, breeding buntings were found at six sites, including three new, in the Xing’an League of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. At least 70 birds were identified, mostly singing males. At one previously known site near the Ke’erqin (Horqin) National Nature Reserve, the population had doubled to 41 birds since 2011 after the area was fenced to prevent livestock trampling in the breeding season.

In June 2012, BirdLife’s China Programme and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society organised the first local workshop on the conservation of this species. Most of the recommendations have been implemented: production of education material; formation of a communication network of local government agencies, nature reserves and researchers; and surveys in suitable areas of sandy grassland with Siberian apricot bushes.

To further raise the profile of the bunting, a second workshop was held in November 2013, in Ulanhot, capital of Xing’an League. Key outcomes included agreements by the local government to work for the conservation of Rufous-backed Bunting and to provide information on Siberian apricot habitats to inform future surveys. The conservation of the species will be promoted during “Love Birds Week”, a nationwide event held every spring. Nature reserve staff and local volunteers will be trained to assist with surveys and conservation projects.

In addition, it has been recommended that Rufous-backed Bunting be listed as the official symbol of the Xing’an League. An award-winning documentary film by local wildlife photographers Mr Dong Guijun and Ms Du Shuxian will be used to promote this species within and outside China. Studies of the winter distribution of the Rufous-backed Bunting have been discussed with the National Bird Banding Center of China, including colour-ringing to monitor local movements.

“These discoveries are very encouraging. When new sites are found we must work with the local government and landowners to protect them” said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager of the China Programme.

Terry Townshend, a BirdLife Species Champion, who has been campaigning for action for the species, attended the workshop and commented, “The outcomes of the workshop demonstrate a genuine commitment from the local officials in Xing’an to help protect and conserve this beautiful bird.  I am optimistic that, provided we can secure further support, Rufous-backed Bunting will be saved from extinction.”

This work has been aided by the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and Oriental Bird Club and is being undertaken with the support of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

If you’d like to help this important conservation action too please make a donation here.

Red-billed tropicbird in Cornwall

This video says about itself:

12 June 2012

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Sighting that left twitchers afraid of being gulled

When a rare tropical bird never before seen in Britain appeared off the coast of Cornwall, it seemed it had chosen the perfect spot.

By Nick Collins, Science correspondent

7:45AM BST 01 Sep 2013

On the clifftop were 40 of the country’s most avid birdwatchers, their binoculars ready for a sighting of it.

But the fleeting appearance of the red-billed tropicbird, which usually lives off the African coast or in the Caribbean, was spotted by just one of the group, 49-year-old Tom Whiley.

And while the sighting was undoubtedly the highlight of his 38-year birdwatching career, it was only the start of a long struggle to get his version of events accepted. The episode has quickly become highly controversial among birdwatchers.

Although Mr Whiley took photographs as the bird flew past, he faced scepticism from others. Details of the incident have been scrutinised on birdwatching forums, amid frenzied — but unfounded — speculation that he faked the entire episode.

The group, some of whom had come from across Britain, had gathered near Pendeen, at the tip of Cornwall.

Mr Whiley, an electronics engineer, had set up his tripod down a slope, a short distance away from the main group, who were on the cliff above him. He spotted the bird as it was flying more than 1,000ft off the shore.

“I got it in the binoculars first and thought I needed to get shots of it because it was something I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

“I leapt down to my tripod and banged off two bursts of about 20 shots apiece.”

When he checked the image on the digital camera’s screen, he approached the group, fearing some distrust.

“I had predetermined what I would do because it can get really bad. They were all still sea-watching, so they hadn’t seen it.

“There were top sea-watchers from the UK there, so it is all very embarrassing for them. I am sure if they had put their scopes on it would have been obvious, but it didn’t happen.”

Mr Whiley, from Torquay, believes he eventually convinced the group about the veracity of his sighting.

However, since the coup, on Aug 18, birders have been dissecting the incident, expressing doubts on online forums, with hundreds of comments posted.

Some doubt that such a highly visible and unusual bird — with its bright bill and long tail feathers — could have been missed by so many seasoned watchers.

They have also tried to undermine his story, claiming that from his vantage point, he would have been unlikely to spot the bird.

Some also noted that as there was no coastline in the shot, it could have been taken elsewhere. One has even suggested that the shadow of the wing is in the wrong place for the time of day, implying the photo had been digitally manipulated.

A blog entitled “So what really happened at Pendeen?” described the sighting as “the greatest prize in UK sea- watching”. It was written by a birder who was present but describes as “unforgivable”, the length of time Mr Whiley waited to alert others.

Red-billed tropicbirds have been seen in British waters on a handful of occasions.

It is thought to have been blown off course by stormy weather, or to have followed the gulf stream.

Dominic Mitchell, editor of Birdwatch magazine, which records all sightings, said: “I am completely happy that it is a genuine record, and we will be publishing it as such.”

Cornwall wildlife news

This video is called Cornwall Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves.

From Wildlife Extra:

Cornwall Wildlife Trust appeal for funds to buy important habitats

July 2013. Cornwall Wildlife Trust (CWT) has a rare opportunity to buy 84 acres of threatened land. The Heritage Lottery Fund has offered to donate the majority of the total project cost. However, Cornwall Wildlife Trust need to raise a further £20,000 to buy these spectacular sites for nature and restore them to prime wildlife habitat, can you help us?

Bostraze Bog & Bartinney Downs

Bostraze Bog, between Newbridge and St Just, is one of the most important wetland wildlife sites in west Penwith. CWT want to buy 58 acres of this site and restore it to a wildlife-rich habitat teeming with rare species. Bartinney Downs is next to the Trust’s Caer Bran Nature Reserve, near Sancreed. CWT want to buy 26 acres of the land and ensure it continues to become a haven for wildlife.

Parts of these sites were improved for agricultural use in the past, but have slowly been reverting to more wildlife-friendly habitats through the support of agri-environmental funding schemes. However, changes in policy bring the very real threat of destruction to wildlife on both sites. The current reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, along with shrinking EU and domestic budgets, mean that marginal sites like these could once again be intensively managed in an attempt to make a financial return from them.

Find out how you can donate here.

Skylark, yellowhammer, reed bunting, small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, small red damselfly, adder, sundew, cuckoo and otter

The land at Bostraze Bog and Bartinney Downs has no statutory designation to protect the habitats and species it supports. These include internationally important heathlands and wetlands essential for many species including; skylark, yellowhammer, reed bunting, small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, small red damselfly, adder, sundew, cuckoo and otter.

John Gowenlock, Chairman of the Trust’s Nature Reserves Committee says “These two sites capture the quintessential essence of west Penwith, from the exposed slopes of Bartinney Downs where your thoughts may be checked by the breathtaking views of the sea, to the sheltered calm of Bostraze Bog, where a darting dragonfly will capture your imagination,”

If we buy these sites we will not only secure the future of the existing habitats, we will continue to improve the sites for wildlife, allowing field drains to block up and ending the use of fertilisers. With your help, we will see an increase at Bostraze Bog of important fen and mire habitats, and at Bartinney Downs, acid grassland and heathland will be fully restored. In addition we will create new access and link them to existing Trust nature reserves in the area, so that local people and visitors alike can enjoy more of this historic and wildlife-rich landscape. You can help us secure the future of these sites and their wildlife forever.

Pilot whale beaches in Cornwall

This video is called Long-finned Pilot Whale Species Identification.

From Wildlife Extra:

Pilot whale strands in Falmouth

Whale too ill to survive

April 2013. At 11am on 15th April, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) received a call from the Cornwall Coastguard telling alerting them that a dolphin had stranded on the beach at Falmouth. They scrambled their marine mammal medics they arrived on the scene within half an hour to discover that the dolphin was actually a Long-finned Pilot whale.

The medics immediately started to administer first aid to the whale, and to protect the whale from the sun (which dries out and cracks its skin) the medics placed towels drenched in water over the whale.

BDMLR maintain a whale rescue trailer which arrived shortly after towed by BDMLR director Dave Jarvis. The whale was 4.1 metres long and probably a juvenile. The whale was also solitary which was unusual as they live in large pods – This was a worry to the rescue team as Long-finned pilot whales are known to strand en masse – As happened in Scotland last September – But as yet there is no sign of any more whales in the area.

Poor condition

On assessment the body condition was found to be poor and a decision was taken to euthanize the whale. BDMLR main aim is to prevent suffering and to return a whale to the sea that is not in a condition to survive would simply increase the suffering of the whale.

Dave Jarvis said “It’s always a hard decision to end a life but in this case I feel it was justified.”

A full post mortem will be carried out on the whale to determine the reason it came ashore.

Long-finned pilot whales

Long-finned pilot whales occur in the North Atlantic and across the southern hemisphere at lower latitudes. Adults can grow up to 7 metres long and can weigh up to 3 tonnes.

Siberian Dutch yellow-browed warbler in Cornwall

This video is called Yellow-browed Warbler – Phylloscopus inornatus.

According to the RSPB in Britain, about the yellow-browed warbler:

A small, green warbler similar in size to a goldcrest. The yellow ‘eyebrow’ is distinctive, as is the coal tit-like call. Yellow-browed warblers breed in Siberia and occur in the UK every year as they migrate south-westwards.

From the BTO Bird Ringing ‘Demog Blog’ in Britain:

10 April 2013

Dutch-ringed Yellow-browed Warbler

Way back in April 2008 we received details of a ‘Willow Warbler‘ found dead outside Richard Lander School in Truro, Cornwall. This is perhaps a slightly early date for a returning migrant, but the interesting bit was that it was wearing a ring from the Dutch Ringing Scheme.

Following issues tracing the ring in The Netherlands, we have only just received the ringing details and these were rather surprising. Ring Y11467 was actually just the second foreign-ringed Yellow-browed Warbler to be found in the UK! It had been originally ringed on 3rd October 2007 on Schiermonnikoog (in red on the map here), an island off the north coast of the country, and had possibly spent the winter at one of Cornwall’s many sewage works.

These works regularly attract wintering Yellow-broweds, especially so in recent years, with no fewer than five seen on one day at Carnon Downs Sewage Works in February 2012. Below is one of two birds present at Gwennap Sewage Works, Cornwall, in January 2013.

Yellow-browed warbler, Gwennap

The only previous record of a foreign-ringed Yellow-browed was a Norwegian bird ringed in September 1990 and recaught on Fair Isle five days later (blue on the map). The only British-ringed bird to be found abroad was one ringed at Portland Bird Observatory in October 1988 and recaught the next day on Guernsey (green on the map).

British Mammal Society photo competition

Surfing seal

The maker of this photo wrote:

Surfing seal – This surfing seal was taken at Godrevy on the north coast of Cornwall. It shows interesting behaviour that I have never seen before. I preempted this was going to happen as it was showing signs of being playful, so I stayed even longer to see if it would do what I was hoping it would do.

From Wildlife Extra:

Mammal Society photographic competition challenges public misconceptions

February 2013. Capturing ‘extraordinary’ behaviour of Britain’s mammals was just one of the criteria the judges were looking for when examining entries to The Mammal Society Mammal Photographer of the Year competition.

Marina Pacheco is The Mammal Society’s chief executive. Commenting on the high standard of the competition entries, she said: “Compared with birds or even insects, mammals can be difficult to see, let alone photograph.

So, we knew that inviting photographers to capture mammals’ unusual behaviour was going to be a tall order. However, we were thrilled by the 370 submissions. Our entrants have not only captured the essence of British mammals, but from deer to dolphins and red deer to rats, they’ve also captured the sheer diversity too.”

Rat winner

Often feared and shunned, brown rats are perhaps an unlikely photographic model. However, Roy Rimmer, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, defied public misconceptions and used technical excellence to freeze the motion of a jumping rat. Wildlife photographer Kate MacRae was one of the judges. She said: “This image quite literally ‘leapt’ out at me when I first saw it. Often misunderstood and unfairly depicted, I loved the unique energy in this capture.”

From the Mammal Society site:

In 2012-2013 we ran the first Mammal Photographer of the Year competition for amateur photographers. Judges, including Kate MacRae, AKA “Wildlife Kate”, and photographer Steve Magennis are looking for images that tell a story, show rare behaviour, highlight mammals in a fragile environment, or make the ordinary extraordinary. The aim was to bring mammals into public focus, raising awareness of the issues they face, and hopefully encouraging us to appreciate the species that are often overlooked but essential to the health of our habitats.

Judge Kate MacRae has created an online gallery of all 2013 winners and finalists here:

The Mammal Society’s full shortlist of 199 images can be viewed here, as well as the 16 winners and finalists.

In pictures: Mammal photo winners: here.

Saving English woodland birds

This video from Cornwall is about bullfinches; one of the British woodland birds species.

From Wildlife Extra:

Work to save woodland birds to take place in Worcestershire

Rare birds to benefit from woodland work

February 2013. Work to improve habitat and protect declining woodland birds is about to take place at two Worcestershire nature reserves.

Funded largely by a Woodland Improvement Grant, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is about to undertake thinning and ride widening works in two woodlands. Trench Wood (near Sale Green) and Monkwood (near Grimley) have both been the focus of previous forestry work and wildlife gains have been recorded.

James Hitchcock, conservation officer for the Trust, explained “The work we’re undertaking is part of the long-term restoration of both these woodlands. Visitors to the woodlands have become used to work of this sort over the last few years. The areas we’re working in and the type of work we’re doing this year, however, are very much focused on trying to halt the decline of woodland birds like spotted flycatcher, marsh tit and lesser spotted woodpecker.”

Marsh tit and spotted flycatcher

As we have lost woodlands and our traditional woodland management methods have faded, numbers of woodland birds have declined. Once common, birds like the marsh tit and spotted flycatcher now have red status – severe decline in numbers and whose population is globally threatened.

While there are a number of factors contributing to this decline, re-instating coppicing in woodlands can help. Coppicing involves cutting down trees almost to their base – the trees spring back to life with strong new growth, which can be cut again on a constant cycle. By managing on rotation, woodland managers can ensure there is always a range of habitat for wildlife.

Thinning trees also ensures there is a broken tree canopy, which means more light reaches the ground and allows a variety of woodland plants and wildflowers, such as bluebells and wood anemones, to thrive.

Woodland rides

The Trust will also be widening some of the rides that run through the two woodlands. As with coppicing, this promotes the growth of wildflowers – from primroses to common vetch. An astonishing 90% of a woodlands’ biodiversity can be found along woodland rides and edges.

James continued “As with the decline in farmland birds, the drastic plummeting of woodland bird numbers is worrying. But it’s not all bad news. We’ve been working on improving both these woodlands for several years and last year we recorded the return of spotted flycatcher in Trench Wood. This shows that what we’re doing is working – we just need to do more of it.


“While we’re hoping the work will help these three birds in particular, there are many more that will benefit from the work – garden warbler, blackcap, willow warbler and woodcock, for example. And it’s not just birds – butterflies and other invertebrates will benefit too. Some of the work may look a bit drastic to the eye but it really is necessary for the long-term benefit of wildlife in these two beautiful woodlands.

“Along with encouraging visitors to keep dogs on leads and not straying from the paths, this work really gives us a great opportunity to give these birds and all our wildlife a real helping hand.”

Both Trench Wood and Monkwood were once owned by the LG Harris Brush Company. They were both purchased by the Trust, with help from Butterfly Conservation, in the 1980s primarily because of their importance for insects.

LG Harris actively managed both woodlands to produce timber for brush handles. In so doing they planted many non-native trees but their management techniques created favourable wildlife habitats and, although the methods of management were markedly different, the woodlands retained much of their ancient character.

James added “Much of the maintenance of the woods is done by our volunteer groups. Volunteers across the county are vital to our work and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested to get in touch – it’s a way of finding out more about managing for wildlife as well as a great opportunity to get outdoors and get healthy.

“Not only will the work directly benefit the woodland and the wildlife but any profits made from the sale of the timber will be ploughed directly back into more conservation work on our nature reserves.”

Work is expected to begin on 25th February and will last for approximately two weeks. The Trust is advising all visitors to Trench Wood and Monkwood to heed any notices on site and follow diversions where necessary.

May 2013. With the imminent release of the draft Environmental Statement for the London to Birmingham phase of HS2, the Woodland Trust sets out its expectations for the document: here.

Cornwall birds conservation

This video is called Birds in Cornwall 2011.

From Wildlife Extra:

Cornwall Wildlife Trust buys 19 acres wetland

Walmsley Marshes expansion

December 2012. With the help of public donations, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society (CBWPS) have joined forces to buy more than 19 acres of wet grassland at Chapel Amble, near Wadebridge.

Amble Marshes & Walmsley Sanctuary

The land is part of the Amble Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and adjoins the Walmsley Sanctuary, which is already owned and managed by CBWPS. Walmsley Sanctuary, with its large areas of open water, is an important site in Cornwall for wetland birds.

Mark Grantham, CBWPS Chairman is delighted with the joint venture, “Almost 75 years after the purchase of Walmsley Sanctuary, we’re really looking to the future with this land acquisition. These marshes are incredibly important for wintering wildfowl and waders and buying this important extension will have immediate benefits to species such as snipe, teal and wigeon. We’re also lucky to be able to own and manage the land in partnership with the Trust, building on our already thriving partnership.”

£70,000 cost

The new land was bought at auction for £70,000, using generous appeal donations from supporters of both CBWPS and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, with match-funding from the Environment Agency. The organisations aim to create more wetland habitat on the new land, which will enhance and extend that already at Walmsley Sanctuary, as well as creating new access.


Daniel Eva, Trustee for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says, “We had to move very quickly to buy this land at auction and would not have been able to do this without appeal income donated by Trust supporters over the years. This incredible support, with donations from both members and beyond, has enabled us to buy a fantastic new nature reserve, a fitting achievement as we near the end of our 50th Anniversary year. We would like to thank everyone who supports our appeals. All donations are so important and help to protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places for the future.”

The Trust is currently calling for donations to their special 50th Anniversary ‘Cornish Wildlife Appeal’. The Trust aims to protect woodland, heathland and meadow wildlife across the county, focusing around Launceston in the East of Cornwall, through their biggest ever appeal. To donate, please visit, call (01872) 273939 or post a cheque to Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Wildlife Appeal 2012, Five Acres, Allet, Truro, TR4 9DJ.

Good Scilly islands dolphin, shark news

Common dolphins seen of the Scillonian III - Photo credit Paul Semmens

From Wildlife Extra:

Record year for cetacean sightings off Scilly Isles ferry

Best year yet for marine wildlife sightings off the Scillonian!

November 2012. During the 2012 summer season, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust have had a marine wildlife guide, Paul Semmens, onboard the Scillonian III. Paul is onboard at least once a week between April and the end of October 2012. He surveys the route from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly, looking for the wonderful sharks, dolphins and whales that visit our Cornish waters, as well as showing the passengers these brilliant creatures.

As part of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s marine conservation programme, Living Seas, Paul has been recording wildlife spotted as part of an on-going survey of what occurs in Cornish and Scillonian waters.

During the 2012 season there was so much to see! 1554 animals were recorded, a record year so far. These records consisted of;

379 harbour porpoise
1064 common dolphin
19 bottlenose dolphin
23 Risso’s dolphin
19 Minke whale
2 unidentified cetacean species
3 leatherback turtle
24 basking shark
21 ocean sunfish

Paul says “During the 4 years that I have worked onboard, 2012 has been my best year yet. This was particularly special in a summer with very unsettled weather. There was a huge increase in harbour porpoises, a species that is not easy to spot in all but the calmest conditions. There has been a definite inshore movement of this species, as well common dolphins, probably in response to shoals of small bait fish. It was great to see leatherback turtles this year – they are huge beasts that can grow to seven foot long. It has been a record year in Cornish waters for this species with many sightings all around the coast. As we approached autumn we had regular sightings of Minke whales and Risso’s dolphins especially as we drew near the Isles of Scilly. I would like to thank the crew and Isles of Scilly Travel staff for their continuing support of this project as we continue to build up a substantial database on the distribution of marine megafauna. The Scillonian is a great platform from which to look for these exciting animals and it is unusual not to see dolphins or porpoises on a crossing.’

Jackie Hayman, of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company says, “The wildlife watching tips with Paul are always extremely popular so we are thrilled to be launching a series of sailings throughout 2013. It’s a great way to make the most of your time at sea during your journey to the Isles of Scilly and Paul always makes the trips informative. He is extremely knowledgeable and has a keen eye so you’re sure to spot some great wildlife on the trip. Make sure you book early so you don’t miss out.”