Back from Morocco

25 December 2010.

After yesterday, today, we get up early to go to Ouarzazate airport.

There we see our last Moroccan birds: yellow-legged gulls.

This is a yellow-legged gull video from Italy, showing both adult and juvenile gulls.

After changing planes at Casablanca, at 15:09 Central European Time we are near Bordeaux in southern France.

At 15:14 near La Rochelle.

At 15:50 north of the river Seine. Most of northern France is covered with much snow.

At 15:56 we are near Amiens.

Then, to Belgium and the Netherlands, both snowy as well.

At 16:10, we pass the Westerschelde river.

At 16:15, Tiengemeten island.

Transition plan for the BirdLife Morocco programme launched: here.

Assortative mating for carotenoid colouration but not size in the Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis: here.

Feeding birds in winter

Beleef de winter: gevederde bezoekers van onze voedersilo from Natuurhulpcentrum Opglabbeek on Vimeo.

This is a video about a bird feeder and its visitors in Belgium.

In a garden in the Netherlands, owned by BirdLife in the Netherlands, there are four webcams. They register the birds which come to the feeders during the day (and the mice which come at night).

From the Press-Republican in New York state, USA:

January 2, 2011

Feeding birds in winter

RICHARD GAST, Cornell Ag Connection Press-Republican Plattsburgh Press Republican

According to the most recent census reports, bird watching may very well be America’s fastest-growing national pastime, with more than 65 million Americans of all ages putting bird feeders in their yards where they can easily appreciate them.

In fact, by some survey estimates, bird watching is America’s second most popular leisure-time activity, with birding buffs spending more than $2.5 billion annually on feeders and seed. Only gardening is more popular.

In summer and fall, most non-migratory songbirds feed primarily on insects and spiders. They supplement their diet with berries, seeds and other vegetation. But in winter, there are no insects, and the edible berries and vegetation that haven’t been eaten become buried under the snow and packed in ice. Across the North Country, devoted bird enthusiasts take pleasure and pride in helping their feathered friends survive the harsh winter months, dutifully providing them with food, water and shelter.

No matter where you live, you can put food out, helping to ensure the survival of our feathered friends. Many bird watchers simply scatter seed on the ground, or more accurately, atop the snow and ice on the ground. And many birds actually prefer ground feeding.

But, birds feeding on the ground can be easy prey for cats and other predators, such as hawks. Besides, ground feeding is a wasteful practice. Large quantities of seed unavoidably become covered with snow. And prolonged exposure to moisture can result in contamination by mold and bacteria, as well.

This is another Belgian video about birds at a feeder in winter.

Birds of the Ecomare restaurant, Texel: here.

(University of California – San Francisco) In a finding that once again displays the power of the female, UCSF neuroscientists have discovered that teenage male songbirds, still working to perfect their song, improve their performance in the presence of a female bird: here.

Divining secrets of bird flight with wind tunnels, cameras, lasers, surgical equipment & olive oil clouds: here.

MicroRNAs in the songbird brain respond to new songs: here.

Swiss fish in danger

If wildlife becomes Species of the Year, then that does not mean that automatically its problems get solved.

Telestes souffia


Dec 31, 2010 – 10:26

Swiss fish of the year in deep waters

The souffia struggles for its survival

Just 12 months after being named Fish of the Year 2010, the souffia is even more threatened than originally thought.

As the Swiss Fishing Association announced on Thursday, the souffia – also known as the Western Vairone – has already disappeared from some places.

The association chose the small, thin fish during the Year of Biodiversity to highlight its struggle for survival and the depletion of fish stocks.

The souffia (Telestes souffia) is a ray-finned species mainly found in central and mediterranean European countries. To a lesser extent it also occurs in eastern Europe. Measuring 12-18 centimetres, it has distinctive yellowish lines down its sides and yellow-orange fins.

This year the Swiss Fishing Association engaged fishers and cantonal authorities to take a closer look at the souffia, a species that many were quite unfamiliar with.

They found hardly any souffia in the central plateau, and in the western midlands there were only small stocks. Stocks in the Jura region were reported to be stable.

Canton Ticino was the only part of Switzerland boasting a solid population of the slender fish.

According to the association, a loss of habitat is to blame for the decline of the souffia. It depends on rivers and streams with clean water – preferably with gravel in which it lays its eggs between March and May.

The fishing association has called for a restoration of Swiss waters to help the souffia escape extinction. and agencies

Moroccan desert and river birds

24 December 2010

Today is our last full day in Morocco.

From Merzouga, where we went to the sandy desert yesterday, we go to the region around Erfoud.

8:15: brown-necked raven flying.

10:45: white-crowned wheatear sitting on a heap of sand.

A great grey shrike on a shrub.

A cattle egret drinking in a ditch in an oasis.

12:15: two adult and one juvenile long-legged buzzard sitting on the roof of an abandoned building. A feral pigeon sitting next to them.

This is a house bunting video recorded in Morocco.

12:30: near a restaurant entrance in Boulmane de Dades, house buntings and common bulbul.

At 15:40, we are back at the river near Ouerzazate. Many shoveler ducks.

Grey herons.

At least two squacco herons.

Little grebes.

Many ruddy shelducks.

Chiffchaffs in the reedbeds.

Barn swallows.


A snipe flying.

Finally: wood sandpipers.

Blackbirds die in the USA

From KTHV in Arkansas in the USA:

Just before folks in Beebe rang in the New Year, many witnessed an uncanny resemblance to the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” About 2,000 black birds fell from the sky off Windwood Drive, leaving quite the mess to clean up.

See also here. And here.

According to the TV report, the birds which died are mostly red-winged blackbirds; see also here. So, not close relatives of Eurasian blackbirds (contrary to wrong assumptions in some European media reports on the Arkansas deaths).

First 2,000 blackbirds fall — but what also killed 100,000 fish in the Arkansas River? Here.

Blackbird Mystery Deepens: More Birds Fall From Sky in Louisiana: here.

See also here. And here. And here.

Audubon experts monitor bird deaths in Arkansas: here.

More mass bird/fish deaths reported: birds in East Texas here; fish in Spruce Creek, Florida: here.

2 Million Fish Die in Chesapeake Bay, Cold Weather Stress Could be to Blame: here.

Worse Than Fireworks Deaths? Government Blackbird Poisoning: here.

While most wildlife experts see little cause for significant concern with these events, there are some mass wildlife deaths that we really should be worrying about: here.

January 2011: Recent reports of thousands of dead birds falling from the sky in Arkansas represent only a tiny fraction of birds killed each year due to human causes, according to American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organisation: here.

200 Starlings Found Dead: U.S. Government Admits Poisoning Birds In South Dakota: here.

01/20/2011 Study outlines steps to protect declining North American landbird populations. A recent study carried out by scientists from Canada, Mexico and the United States, including several BirdLife Partners found that of the 882 native landbirds shared across borders, 17% (148 species) need immediate conservation action: here.

2011, year of the bat and the barn swallow

The Battle for Bats: White Nose Syndrome from Ravenswood Media on Vimeo.

The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) have joined together to celebrate 2011 as the Year of the Bat. See their site here. See also here.

In the Netherlands, 2011 is the year of other flying, insect-eating animals as well. It is the Year of the Barn Swallow.

This is a video of a singing barn swallow.

IUCN is welcoming the International Year of Forests – Forests are home to 80% of world’s biodiversity: here.