Five recovered birds freed in Malta

This 4 June 2020 video says about itself:

Three birds of prey and two turtle-doves rehabilitated and released back into the wild

On the 15th May 2020, BirdLife Malta was able to release five rehabilitated birds back into the wild. They had all suffered gunshot injuries during their spring migration back to their breeding grounds further north in Europe.

The birds released were a Common Kestrel which was illegally shot in Girgenti and picked up on 29th March, an illegally shot Lesser Kestrel found on 5th April at Mtarfa, an illegally shot Marsh Harrier retrieved on 16th April from Salina, and two illegally shot Turtle doves picked up on 20th and 21st April from Binġemma and Armier, Mellieħa.

All of these protected birds were retrieved by BirdLife Malta after initially being found by members of the public. The birds were then examined by the government veterinarian, who confirmed the cause of their injuries and recommended rehabilitation as the next best step for their recovery. The birds spent between three and seven weeks in rehabilitation, but the work is worth it as it results in birds such as these ones having a second opportunity of reaching their breeding grounds.

All of the birds were fitted with a BirdLife Malta ring beforehand, in order to track their movements if they’re seen or found again. Ringing can help guide conservation work as we can learn important details, such as where they may migrate through, settle to breed, where they may overwinter, longevity of the species, and so on.

15th May was also Endangered Species Day, and to mark this occasion, the two Turtle doves were released at Għadira Nature Reserve whilst streamed live on Facebook! Turtle doves are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ according to the IUCN, so every bird counts when it comes to ensuring that this species does not reach ‘Endangered’ status.

All of the birds of prey were released on Comino, which is a designated bird sanctuary and provides them with an ideal place to get accustomed back in the wild, before restarting their migration.

BirdLife Malta would like to thank the people who contacted us after finding these birds. The work that we do would not be possible if it was not for the support from members of the public.

Footage by BirdLife Malta, editing by Nathaniel Attard.

How Humboldt penguins nest, new research

This 2014 video says about itself:

The Humboldt penguin is found only along the rugged Pacific coast of Peru and Chile. Although most people think of penguins as cold-weather birds, most live in temperate or even tropical habitats. The Humboldt penguin lives where one of the earth’s driest deserts meets one of the coldest ocean currents.

The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in Punta San Juan, Peru, and its partners are working to protect penguins and other marine life in this area.

Read more about Humboldt penguin conservation here.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau in the USA:

Blood markers predict Humboldt penguin nest type, reproductive success

June 2, 2020

Summary: Researchers looked at metabolic markers in the blood of 30 Humboldt penguins nesting in the Punta San Juan Marine Protected Area in Peru. The scientists discovered metabolic differences between penguins nesting in sheltered burrows and those in more exposed areas. Nesting success is critical to the Humboldt penguins’ survival as a species.

From March to December every year, Humboldt penguins nest in vast colonies on the Peruvian and Chilean coasts. The lucky ones find prime habitat for their nests in deep deposits of chalky guano where they can dig out sheltered burrows. The rest must look for rocky outcrops or other protected spaces that are more exposed to predators and environmental extremes.

In a new study, researchers looked at metabolic markers in the blood of 30 Humboldt penguins nesting in the Punta San Juan Marine Protected Area in Peru. The scientists wanted to know if there were metabolic differences between penguins nesting in the guano-rich burrows and in the exposed areas.

Nesting success is critical to the Humboldt penguins’ long-term survival as a species. Decades of aggressive guano harvesting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — a practice eventually replaced with more sustainable methods — depleted the Peruvian coastline and near-shore islands of their historical bird guano deposits that provided habitat for nesting penguins. Guano mining, climate change and other threats have led to a dramatic decline in Humboldt penguin populations across their range. Today, there are only about 32,000 of the birds — down from hundreds of thousands less than a century ago — and their numbers continue to fall.

“Punta San Juan and other protected marine areas and reserves along the coast of Peru still provide some protected sites with good guano deposits that the penguins are able to dig into to make their nests,” said Dr. Michael Adkesson, the vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo.

Adkesson led the research with David Schaeffer, a professor emeritus of veterinary clinical medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Jeff Levengood, a researcher with the Illinois Natural History Survey.

“We know from studies by Peruvian biologists that penguins produce more chicks with higher survival rates when they are able to dig burrow nests into guano deposits,” Adkesson said. “So we wanted to see if we could detect — based on the blood of these birds — metabolic differences that would indicate the penguins nesting in less ideal nest sites were using more energy to deal with the fact that they’re more exposed to the weather and predators.”

The task was a challenge because few studies have analyzed blood metabolites in birds and the researchers did not have a hypothesis about what they would find, said Schaeffer, who, with Levengood, conducted the statistical analyses of 19 saccharide metabolites.

Their work revealed that penguins in sheltered and unsheltered locations had consistent — and distinct — patterns of several sugars in their blood. The blood sugars that best predicted the birds’ nesting habitat included arabinose, maltose, glucose-6-phosphate and levoglucosenone.

That last sugar is a metabolic byproduct of exposure to a pollutant, levoglucosan, which is generated by the burning of cellulose. Setting fire to agricultural waste is common in regions near the nesting colony. Forest fires also generate levoglucosan. This metabolite was higher in the birds in exposed nests.

“This unexpected finding is one of the few indicators that we have that the unsheltered penguins are being exposed to more air pollution than their counterparts in burrows,” Schaeffer said.

The differences in the other saccharides likely reflect the extra metabolic stresses the penguins in exposed nest sites experience, the researchers said. More research is needed to tease out the relationships between these metabolites and their health.

“This is another tool in the toolbox of understanding what’s going on with the penguins in this region,” Adkesson said. “We know the penguins can adapt to the lack of good nesting habitat to some extent, but it’s not ideal for the long-term survival of the species. We hope that by looking at what’s going on in their blood we can better predict how changes in the environment will affect their health and reproductive success, with the ultimate goal of shaping conservation strategies that protect the penguins and their habitat.”

Saving a coral reef in the Philippines

This 29 May 2020 video says about itself:

Grandpa’s Reef – 360 | National Geographic

Travel with us to the Philippines, where a young girl takes up her grandfather’s lifelong pursuit of protecting an endangered coral reef. Inspired by true stories, this virtual reality experience will take you diving on some of the world’s most beautiful reefs. For a better viewing experience, watch in a VR headset using the YouTube app.

Badger family in Ireland, video

This 29 April 2020 video from Northern Ireland says about itself:

Wildlife is thriving at the places cared for by the National Trust and during lockdown, with fewer people around, some creatures are taking a chance to enjoy themselves. Take a look at this badger family at Mount Stewart, having an evening outing. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to look after these special places.

Great crested grebes courtship dance

This 26 May 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

It’s hard not to be enchanted by the great crested grebes’ courtship dance. In spring, the birds face one another (sporting striking orange and black plumage) then flick their heads from side to side, bob in unison, and swim low and slowly towards each other in the water.

Find out more about the intriguing, impressive and quirky displays you might see in wetlands: here.