British children asked to imitate bitterns


Chris Packham asks children to imitate bitterns

After the red deer sound imitation contests … and the Tyrannosaurus rex sound imitation contest for children … now BBC wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham asks children up to yen years old on Twitter to imitate bittern sound for BBC TV program Springwatch.

This is a video about a bittern, February – March 2014, Belarus.

Good Dutch kingfisher news


This is a video from Belarus about a kingfisher eating a frog.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists:

Friday, April 10th, 2015

In 2014 the little kingfisher made a giant leap forward. Estimated at around 370 pairs in 2013, the numbers shot up. The first estimate for 2014 on the basis of breeding bird censuses for Sovon amounts to roughly 700 pairs. Thanks to the two recent mild winters, you are more and more likely to see a blue flash speeding along. 2015 may very probably become a record year again.

Good grey heron and moorhen news


This is a grey heron video from Belarus.

On 17 January 2014, all over the Netherlands, water birds were counted. By now, about 80% of the results are in the computer database. That means about 4.5 million birds. Some important areas, like the Scheldt delta in Zeeland province, IJsselmeer lake and Lauwersmeer, are still missing; so, figures are provisional.

About 30% more great egrets were counted compared to 1914. Grey herons rose 50%, as there are plenty of rodents.

There are 57% more moorhens than last year, after years when things did not go well for this species.

So far, great crested grebe numbers are 21% up compared to 2014.

English migratory birds news


This video is about snow buntings in Belarus, on 22 February 2013. Most birds are in winter plumage, but some are already in summer plumage.

Today, Tom Cadwallender reports on Twitter from Boulmer, Northumberland in England that thirty snow buntings are present there.

Also, small groups of migrating little auks are passing there.

Good British bittern news


This is a bittern video from Belarus.

From the RSPB in Britain:

Booming bird bounces back

Last modified: 15 December 2014

Bitterns, elusive heron-like birds once extinct in the UK, have had a record year in England with the highest number of individuals recorded since the 1800s, thanks to support from an EU conservation programme. Government figures recently showed many threatened species are still declining, but this story demonstrates that it is possible to bring back species from the brink.

Funding from the European Union’s LIFE-Nature programme, which supports environmental and nature conservation projects, has allowed a partnership of organisations including the RSPB to successfully create and restore wetland habitats for bitterns and other wildlife.

… The main ‘special conservation measure’ available is designation and appropriate management of the key breeding and wintering sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). For example, the North Norfolk coast is part of a network of bittern SPAs in the UK, five for breeding birds and ten for wintering birds. SPA status means that a site has robust protection from potentially damaging land-use change.

Male bitterns have a unique way of declaring their territories, pumping air through their throats to produce a loud “booming” sound. This reverberates across the marshland for several miles, earning the bittern old country nicknames like “miredrum”. The shy, well-camouflaged birds are extremely difficult to find so bittern numbers are calculated by the numbers of booming males heard among the reeds. Each year an army of volunteers, landowners and nature reserve staff spends many hours tracking down the birds while they are booming. In 1997, at the start of the EU LIFE bittern project, they found 11 booming males at seven sites. In 2014, there were 140 “boomers” across 61 sites. 14 of these sites are current or former gravel pits, brick pits or open coal mines, demonstrating the important role restored quarries and similar sites can play in securing the long term future of bitterns and other wildlife.

RSPB Minsmere was the stronghold for this bird for many years. But with the effects of climate change such as loss of freshwater coastal wetlands in mind, conservationists realised that it would be better if a number of suitable habitats were available in areas that were safe from sea level rise, and spread across the country, to ensure the bittern’s future. A second set of funding from EU LIFE-Nature from 2002 to 2006 allowed the RSPB and others to create more than 300 hectares of new reedbed, around the same size area as the City of London. In addition, 350 hectares of reedbed were restored, and nearly 40 km of ditches were restored or created across 19 sites. Now if a particular bittern population is struggling, there will always be birds from other locations to boost their numbers. This year, the highest number of bitterns were at RSPB Ham Wall, inland marsh habitat in Somerset, where 20 birds were booming from the reeds. Somerset now has England’s largest bittern population.

Further good news is that action for bitterns has also benefited other reedbed species such as water voles, great white egrets and rare small dotted footman moths. Functioning reedbeds also provide free services for people, including water filtration and flood mitigation.

RSPB scientist Simon Wotton said: “I’ve been working with bitterns for 10 years and it is wonderful to see how they have responded to the habitats we have restored for them. They’re amazing birds to watch so it is incredibly rewarding to see their numbers growing.”

Across the country many conservation groups and private landowners have worked together to bring bitterns back. For example, the National Trust at Wicken Fen, Natural England at Shapwick Heath, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Potteric Carr. Other partners include Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Simon Clarke, Somerset National Nature Reserves Manager at Natural England said: ‘The Avalon Marshes in Somerset, including Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, now supports a thriving population with around 45 booming male bitterns and at least 20 recorded nests, whereas only seven years ago there were none. This impressive network of reedbeds and marshes has also supported breeding little bitterns and great white egrets in recent years, showing just what can be achieved through large scale habitat restoration in a short space of time.”

Building materials company Hanson and RSPB work together to create a large wetland reserve a few kilometers from bustling Cambridge. A heaven for bitterns and other rare wildlife is shaping up amidst intensive farmland, thanks to creative restoration work following extraction of gravel: here.

Nest-site selection, breeding success and brood parasitism in the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) in Algeria


Originally posted on North African Birds:

Meniaia, Z., Samraoui, F., Alfarhan, A. H., & Samraoui, B. (2014). Nest-site selection, breeding success and brood parasitism in the common moorhen Gallinula chloropus in Algeria. Zoology and Ecology 24: 305–313. doi:10.1080/21658005.2014.959281
PDF in ResearchGate.net

Abstract :

Between 2010 and 2012, we studied the breeding ecology of the common moorhenGallinula chloropus at Lake Tonga, north-east Algeria. Nests were low lying (mean ± SD = 13.64 ± 5.07 cm) and located in tall, dense stands of Scirpus lacustris (72%). The egg-laying period was relatively short, between mid-April and the end of June, peaking in the first half of May. The mean overall clutch size ± SD was 7.03 ± 2.52 (N = 58 clutches) with a slight seasonal downward trend. Rates of successful clutches increased with egg-laying date and water depth mainly due to the seasonal decrease in nest predation and nest flooding. Nest predation, in contrast to…

View original 90 more words

Chris the Cuckoo flies 60,000 miles


This video from Belarus is about cuckoos.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chris the Cuckoo clocks up 60,000 miles

Since being fitted with a satellite tag by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) four years ago, Chris, a Cuckoo named after naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, has travelled over 60,000 miles – the equivalent of flying twice round the world. And in his journeys he’s taken in 22 different countries!

The UK’s Cuckoo population has dropped by 72 per cent in the last 25 years. In order to find out what’s driving this decline, the BTO fitted an original five Cuckoos with state of the art tags to enable them to follow the birds as they made their way out of Britain to Africa for the winter. The tags were believed to have a lifespan of two or three years.

Of the first five, Chris is the only Cuckoo still transmitting live data, far exceeding the expectations of the scientists. He is currently in the Congo rainforest, having arrived at his favoured winter spot on 25 October.

Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, says, “Chris the Cuckoo is a real hero of ornithology. The tag he is carrying has helped us to understand the pressures that he and our Cuckoos face on what is a pretty hazardous migration to Africa.

“He has survived sand storms, hail storms, an exceptionally cold, wet summer, predators over the Mediterranean and in the Congo rainforest, and has crossed the Sahara Desert a whopping seven times since we started following him. We have everything crossed in the hope that he makes it back next spring.”

Chris Packham says, “Chris deserves a medal for what he has given to the understanding of bird migration; he is a truly remarkable bird.

“But even more remarkable is the way in which BTO scientists use the very latest technology to produce contemporary science and then communicate it to a wide audience. It would be so easy to lose this in scientific journals but thanks to the BTO we can all watch enthralled as Chris and all of the other satellite tagged Cuckoos make their way across the globe.

“I’m rooting for all of them and can’t wait until they begin their return journeys back to the UK next spring.”

You can follow Chris, and 15 other satellite tagged Cuckoos on the BTO’s website. If you are looking for a Christmas gift with a difference, you can sponsor one of the BTO Cuckoos for as little as £10.00 and help to inform Cuckoo conservation.

Visit www.bto.org/cuckoos.