British grey heron survey on the Internet, after 87 years


This is a grey heron video from Italy.

From Wildlife Extra:

Britain’s longest-running bird survey hits the web

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been counting Grey Heron nests since 1928 and now it has made it easier for its army of volunteer surveyors by allowing them to record their observations on the internet.

The Heronries Census has covered 400,000 nests since it began. The survey collects annual counts of ‘apparently occupied nests’ in UK heronries and uses the data to monitor the population sizes of both Grey Herons and Little Egrets.

Counts are made at heronries by the BTO’s volunteers. It is one of the simplest surveys and requires no special skills.

So for 88 years, it has provided an annual estimate of the total UK breeding population of Grey Herons: this is the longest series of such data for any bird species in the world!

Until now, most counts have been mailed to BTO on special cards but, from 25 June, the option of direct online input of data became available to the observers for the first time.

John Marchant, the National Organiser of the Heronries Census for the BTO, says, “Going online is the most important development in the long history of the Heronries Census.

“It will make it easier for existing volunteers to contribute and will open the scheme up for members of the public to report new nesting sites for herons and enter casual counts of nests apparently occupied.”

Online data input is now available for all of the BTO’s major surveys, alongside the submission of paper forms.

Marchant, who has been involved in the Heronries Census for 22 years says: “We hope in due course to expand the concept to cover more species that habitually nest in colonies, such as Rooks and inland nesting Cormorants.”

The results of the Census has revealed the pressures on heronries over the years. The long-term information shows a general increase in numbers, though there has been a strong downturn since 2001, perhaps due to recent cold winter weather and the increasing frequency of spring gales.

The most striking feature in the trend over the last 88 years is the effects of harsh winters which leads to high mortality rates and a clear dip in the population levels.

For more information go to www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/heronries.

Songbird migration in Texas, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Migratory Connectivity Project: Songbirds Return

19 June 2015

Did you know the coast of Texas is the most important spot for migratory birds in the U.S. and Canada? Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center staff journey to this small island annually to study songbirds returning from their tropical wintering grounds and share this experience with local schoolchildren. Understanding these species and teaching the next generation about them is critical to their survival.

Polynesian rare birds news


This 2012 video says about itself:

Polynesian Ground Dove (Gallicolumba erythroptera) filmed on a motu of Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia. Part of a Noble Caledonia Expedition Cruise in French Polynesia on board M/V Clipper Odyssey.

Dr Brent Stephenson (ornithologist on board) organised this trip across the atoll to a rat-free motu (islet) where the Société d’Ornithologie Polynésie (MANU) are making great efforts to monitor, protect and extend the present habitat of this bird. Great efforts are made to make sure no rats are introduced. The Polynesian Ground Dove is critically endangered with only an estimated 100-200 individuals in the world. Nine birds were counted on this motu in 2011.

From BirdLife:

Operation Restoration – island update #4 – Endangered birds found, and sharks

By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 26/06/2015 – 10:30

The Critically Endangered Polynesian Ground-dove is one of the world’s rarest birds. Named Tutururu by locals, there are only about 100 of these birds left in the world – all found in French Polynesia.

So finding them in good numbers on an invasive predator-free atoll was pretty exciting for our Operation Restoration team – who are working hard to save these birds (and many more native species) from extinction, and restore the natural ecological balance of the islands. It gives a very positive indicator of how these birds will bounce back after we have finished restoring their islands. But these birds still need your help.

With a huge amount of work still to do to restore 6 remote islands in the Acteon and Gambier archipelagos, this would have undoubtedly been a big morale boost for Steve Cranwell and the team, especially when faced with sharks snapping at their heels!

Find out more in the latest update below from Steve Cranwell, Project Leader and invasive species expert:

Steve’s reports via satelite phone 19th June

Sorry for the delay in communications – the magnitude of the practical reality of this operation set in, and we have been extremely busy fulfilling the myriad of tasks for this ambitious restoration effort! Amazingly (given all that could go wrong) we’re on track.

The ground team and helicopter crew, assisted by locals at each site, soon developed a slick and efficient operation for loading, whilst managing to keep loose bags and other paraphernalia potentially catastrophic to the helicopter in check…

This ground effort and precision flying meant that by the time we got to Vahanga and Tenania we were able to complete the operations there in half the time anticipated!

Some of the team spent the first week or so searching for Tutururu [local name for Polynesian Ground-dove] and Titi [local name for Tuamotu Sandpiper] on Vahanga. Despite being elusive, the efforts were rewarded with one male (named Charlie) and female Tutururu, and four Titi.

Some other team members have stayed on Tenararo to complete a census of Tutururu and Titi. This is the first time such a thorough assessment will have been made for this predator-free atoll. Initial reports indicate good numbers of both species.

When a lagoon channel crosses a monitoring transect, as it invariably does, there is a little adventure as overly attentive Blacktip reef sharks make a beeline for any submerged body part! Alertness and a stout stick has proved a sufficient deterrent (so far)…

On Temoe, a seabird census and vegetation survey was completed and a significant increase in Murphy’s petrel (several hundred to over one thousand!) was noted, from a similar survey made several years earlier.

Baseline surveys are being made for all sites which are being augmented with acoustic recorders as a means of tracking changes in the number of calls for species of interest.

More to follow shortly!

On behalf of us all,

Steve

Save European seabirds


This video from Britain is called BBC Natural World – Saving Our Seabirds – Full Documentary.

From BirdLife:

Troubled waters for our seabirds

By Marguerite Tarzia, Fri, 26/06/2015 – 16:03

Did you know that we have 82 species of seabird in Europe? You probably recognise the most charismatic ones, like the clown faced Atlantic Puffin and sharp blue-eyed Northern Gannet. But there are many other species you may not know because they actually spend nearly their entire lives out at sea and so are rarely seen, only coming to our shores to breed before flying off again into the deep blue. Many of these species are in trouble, facing declines and possible extinction based on the latest scientific information. The current situation is clear: urgent action is needed so they don’t disappear from Europe forever.

Why is the fate of our seabirds so grim today? They have been facing multiple threats: climate change, which amongst other impacts can make it more difficult for seabirds to find food; they often risk being caught and killed accidentally in fishing gear; they are losing breeding and feeding habitat because of infrastructure on land and at sea; they are being preyed on by invasive rats, cats and foxes; and poisoned or choked by marine litter and oil pollution.

Across the European region, which extends from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, 15 seabird species are facing threats so severe that their populations are declining and could be on a slippery slope towards extinction. Another 9 seabirds are waiting in the wings, and although their risk of extinction from the region is a bit lower, they are edging dangerously close to the higher risk categories. In the EU this number is even more alarming, as 21 seabird species are considered to be facing a higher risk of extinction. How do we know this? Well, BirdLife Europe just completed a European-wide assessment for all bird species and produced the European Red List of Birds, the benchmark for identifying species most at risk of extinction from the continent.

Across Northern Europe many seabird breeding colonies which once held hundreds of thousands of birds are merely a sad shadow of their former selves. In some places, such as the island of Runde in Norway, vast cliffs which were once full of breeding Northern Fulmar have seen the species vanish entirely. Across Europe the Northern Fulmar, Atlantic Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake are all in decline, and are now considered ‘Endangered’ either within the EU and/or across Europe. Seaducks, such as the Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Common Eider and Common and Yellow-billed Loon are also faring poorly, ranked as ‘Vulnerable’ across Europe – with huge declines in the Baltic Sea. These seabirds dive below the waters surface to feed on prey along the sea floor and so are particularly susceptible of getting helplessly entangled in fishing nets.  The Balearic Shearwater is one of Europe’s most threatened birds and their accidental capture in fishing gear has been contributing to driving numbers down to the extent that scientists predict that the species could be extinct within 60 years.

Before it’s too late for our seabirds, we must use the tools that we have to save them, including the EU Nature Directives and EU marine policies. Probably the most important, yet underutilized tool is the Natura 2000 network. This network of protected sites extends across the EU, yet up till now, very few sites have been designated at sea, and even fewer specifically for seabirds. EU countries are not doing enough for seabirds. Only 1% of our seas are currently protecting them.  Also, whilst protecting a seabird during breeding is crucial, it’s only half the story, as most seabirds migrate and travel large distances during the year away from where they have their young. You can read about BirdLife’s assessment of each EU country’s progress here, and see for yourself how your country is doing.

Lines on maps will not bring seabirds back on their own, but with careful and effective management we can give European seabirds a fighting chance to claw, peck and soar their way back up that slippery slope away from extinction. Until then, BirdLife’s mantra on identifying, designating and managing Natura 2000 sites will continue.

Bee-eater giving butterfly, video


This video is about a bee-eater giving a butterfly to another bee-eater in Hungary.

N. Hoogesteger made the video.

Australian bittern in Victoria


This video is called Australasian Bittern.

From Birdline Victoria in Australia:

Tuesday 30 June

Australian Bittern

Western Treatment Plant (Werribee)–Western Lagoons

Thanks to Paul Newman who spotted the bird, the bird spent most of the time in the drain on the left hand side as you enter Western Lagoons via Gate 2. It did, however, move around the centre ponds as well. Time was about 4pm.

Bernie OKeefe

New bird reserve in Scotland


This video from Britain says about itself:

22 December 2011

As difficult species go, the Long and Short-eared Owl pairing are amongst the most challenging to identify, especially in flight. The latest identification video from the BTO offers tips on how to separate both, in flight, perched and by calls.

From Wildlife Extra:

New RSPB reserve for Scotland

A tranquil area of wetland and grassland on the south-eastern edge of Alloa has become RSPB Scotland’s newest nature reserve, and the charity’s first in Clackmannanshire.

Black Devon Wetlands is a special place for birds and wildlife, such as snipe, short-eared owls, teals and black-headed gulls.

Work to improve the various habitats at the site has already started, with much more planned for the next few months. Visitors are also set to benefit from new paths, viewing areas and signage, and a series of events will be advertised in the near future.

RSPB Scotland’s Anne McCall, who’s the Regional Director for South and West Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to be taking on the management of the Black Devon Wetlands and we hope to transform it into a reserve that will not only help wildlife, but also provide local people with a great nature experience right on their doorstep.

“The Inner Forth is internationally recognised as an important place for birds, and the establishment of this reserve adds to a wider mosaic of habitats that are beneficial for a whole range of different species, as part of the RSPB’s landscape-scale project, the Inner Forth Futurescape.”

Black Devon Wetlands were originally created when soil was excavated from the site to cap an adjacent area of landfill. Its managed lagoons were first formed by Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust, and these were then extended in the mid 2000s by the council’s landfill project.

Councillor Donald Balsillie, Convener of Enterprise and Environment, said: “Clackmannanshire Council is pleased that the award-winning Black Devon Wetlands are being leased to RSPB Scotland to carry forward its development.

“The council and RSPB Scotland are working in partnership through the Forth Coastal Project, funded by the Coastal Communities Fund and the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, a Heritage Lottery funded project, to enhance the wetlands habitat and accessibility.

“This joint working will ensure the long term management by a respected conservation body for this unique natural heritage site located right on the doorstep of Clackmannanshire residents.”

This project has also been made possible with the contribution of the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Community – EcoCo and Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust.