Wetland conservation for water birds and people

This video says about itself:

Conserving wetlands for water birds & people

13 November 2015

Why are wetlands so important for water birds and people? In order to ensure the survival of millions of water birds migrating between Europe and Africa every year, and sustain the health of local communities, we are identifying and protecting a critical network of wetlands that are increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate and unsustainable activities.

European Union bigwigs’ cruel plan to deport refugees to Africa

This video from the USA says about itself:

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Europe’s Secret Plan for Military Force on Refugee Boats from Libya

27 May 2015

WikiLeaks has just revealed secret details of a European Union plan to use military force to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. “The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure,” WikiLeaks says. “It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the EU’s plan from his place of refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Plan to send refugees back to Africa considered by EU

Thursday 12th November 2015

EUROPEAN Union leaders cooked up a “desperate” plot yesterday to slash the number of refugees in the bloc by giving them EU travel papers and shipping them off to Africa.

An appalled African Union official said the idea was “unheard of” and migration experts were dismayed at its callousness.

The EU-Africa migration summit in Valletta, Malta, began yesterday and ends today.

The shocking scheme would see EU officials decide whether refugees who lack travel papers and whose asylum claims have been rejected have come from Africa.

Where the decision is that they have, the migrants will then be given EU papers just so that they can be quickly booted out of Europe.

Amnesty International acting EU director Iverna McGowan said it was yet more corner-cutting by the EU.

“People returned to countries of transit risk being faced with arbitrary detention and having their rights to asylum and to work violated,” she warned.

EU states are pressing African leaders to take in thousands of refugees whose asylum applications they have rejected.

Particularly under pressure are countries near Libya, which was torn apart with the help of a bombing campaign by Nato — made up mostly of EU states.

Many refugees, fleeing conflicts stirred up by or directly involving the West, set off on their perilous Mediterranean journey to Europe from the wrecked country’s coast.

Meanwhile, Slovenia has copied nearby states by building its own 400-mile razor-wire border fence, which it claims is only intended to funnel refugees, not close off the country entirely.

• Turkish coastguards said yesterday that 14 refugees, including seven children, had drowned when their boat sank off the country’s coast. Sailors rescued 27.

It looks like European Union bigwigs kowtow to racists like Katie Hopkins in the British Murdoch media. Or to Portuguese racists. Or to British 1980s nazi band Skrewdriver with their song When The Boat Comes In, advocating forced deportation of people of African ancestry. Or to 1960s United States nazi fuehrer George Lincoln Rockwell, whose Hatenanny record label included a song called Ship those n…ers back, by Odis Cochran and the three bigots.

EU Summit in Malta strikes dirty deal to keep refugees out of Europe: here.

The Australian government is reportedly considering the poor Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan as a dumping ground for the some of the 1,500 refugees imprisoned in its “off-shore” detention facilities: here.

Spotted flycatchers, new research

This video is about spotted flycatchers and their chicks at their nest in the Czech republic.

From the Journal of Avian Biology:

The role of western Mediterranean islands in the evolutionary diversification of the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), a long-distance migratory passerine species


We investigated the evolutionary history of the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), a long distance migratory passerine having a widespread range, using mitochondrial markers and nuclear introns. Our mitochondrial results reveal the existence of one insular lineage restricted to the western Mediterranean islands (Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia) and possibly to the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy that diverged from the mainland lineages around 1 Mya. Mitochondrial genetic distance between insular and mainland lineages is around 3.5%.

Limited levels of shared nuclear alleles among insular and mainland populations further support the genetic distinctiveness of insular spotted flycatchers with respect to their mainland counterparts. Moreover, lack of mitochondrial haplotypes sharing between Balearic birds (M. s. balearica) and Corso-Sardinian birds (M. s. tyrrhenica) suggest the absence of recent matrilineal gene flow between these two insular subspecies. Accordingly, we suggest that insular Spotted Flycatchers could be treated as one polytypic species (Muscicapa tyrrhenica Schiebel, 1910) that differs from M. striata in morphology, migration, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA and comprises two subspecies (the nominate and M. t. balearica, von Jordans, 1913) that diverged recently phenotypically and in mitochondrial DNA and but still share the same nuclear alleles.

This study provides an interesting case-study illustrating the crucial role of western Mediterranean islands in the evolution of a passerine showing high dispersal capabilities. Our genetic results highlight the role of glacial refugia of these islands that allowed initial allopatric divergence of insular populations. We hypothesize that differences in migratory and breeding phenology may prevent any current gene flow between insular and mainland populations of the Spotted Flycatcher that temporarily share the same insular habitats during the spring migration.

European farmland birds in trouble

This video from England is called WWT Welney – Wading Birds.

From BirdLife:

Red List reveals Europe’s farmland wading birds in crisis

By Daniel Brown (RSPB), Jutta Leyrer (NABU) and Finlay Duncan, Wed, 28/10/2015 – 15:42

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is out – and it’s sounding alarm bells for some of Europe’s most charismatic and cherished shorebirds (also known as wading birds).

The list highlights sharp declines in most farmland wader species across much of Europe in recent decades. In some cases, these falls are so steep that they’re pushing some species closer towards extinction. Increased conservation efforts are now urgently required.

In this latest assessment, which has been carried out by BirdLife International for IUCN, the Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Oystercatcher have now been classified as globally Near Threatened with extinction. They join the Eurasian Curlew and the Black-tailed Godwit, that have already previously been categorised as Near Threatened. These additions mean farmland waders are now one of the most threatened group of birds in Europe.

Their group name refers to the fact they breed in habitats strongly influenced by farming activities, such as grazing, mowing and drainage. For a long time many species have been provided with a safe home in farmland across Northern Europe for breeding, before the birds migrate to estuaries and mudflats in winter months.

Research is now showing the loss and fragmentation of breeding habitats as being key factors in the decline of these species. Among the causes of loss and break-up of habitats are issues with drainage and associated intensification of grasslands. Additionally, farming practices could also be having a direct impact, for example by machinery unintentionally destroying nests and chicks. Threatened populations are now also suffering more from the presence of native and non-native predators, making a difficult situation even worse.

But the picture is not entirely gloomy. Some conservation efforts are already being undertaken in many European countries to try and save these important populations. Examples includes farmers receiving payments to delay mowing their grasslands and the reinstating of wetland features in order to safeguard habitats.

The declines and worsening global statuses seen in this Red List update do show, however, that conservation efforts need to be increased. Measures must be targeted more accurately and cover a greater area of the species’ ranges. Co-ordinating activities better would also do a great deal, so that successes in one part of Europe can be shared across the continent and indeed even further afield. Many of these species are long-distance migrants that fly all the way to Africa and the Middle East in order to escape harsh European winters.

Two conservation plans for Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit have been created under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) in response to this urgent need. On top of this, the European Union, through the LIFE financial instrument, is funding the EuroSAP project (European Species Action Plan), which will see governments, experts and industry from across Europe work together to produce a protection multi-species action plan for the eight most threatened European species; Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, ‘Baltic’ Dunlin and Ruff. The project recognises that many of the species share similar habitats and face many of the same threats – meaning similar, if not the same, conservation solutions can be developed for all of them.

It’s hoped the species now under threat can avoid suffering the same fate as two of their nearest relatives. The Canarian Oystercatcher disappeared from Europe in the 1940s and the Slender-billed Curlew, which hasn’t been seen since 1995, is also increasingly looking like it may also become extinct. By working on projects such as EuroSAP, BirdLife and Partners aim to stop these important and much-treasured birds from disappearing altogether.

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the conservation status of plant and animal species, and BirdLife International is the official authority for birds. More information on this latest update can be found here>.

The MSAP (Multi-Species Action Plan) for farmland wading birds will be coordinated by BirdLife’s German partner, NABU, with support from RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), SOF (BirdLife in Sweden) and VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands). It forms part of the LIFE EuroSAP project, which is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and funded with the contribution of the European Union’s LIFE financial instrument and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Birds and climate change, new study

This video shows a lesser redpoll, drinking in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

From BirdLife:

Birdwatchers unravel effects of climate change on vulnerable species

By Finlay Duncan, Thu, 22/10/2015 – 09:15

New details on how birds respond to climate change have been revealed by thousands of volunteer bird watchers all over Europe, according to a study BirdLife International has contributed to.

The information gathered, in a report led by the University of Copenhagen, shows birds respond to changing conditions in different seasons of the year. While some species benefit from these changes, birds that are adapted to colder regions stand to lose out. The information gathered can help predict future bird communities in Europe and focus the effort to tackle the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable species.

For example, the evidence seen first-hand by birdwatchers indicates warmer winters benefit resident birds, such as the Short-toed treecreeper and the Collared Dove, with more productive spring times benefiting short-distance migrants such as the Goldfinch and the Wood lark. Warmer or more productive periods complemented the early or peak breeding season for these birds.

The results are based on an incredibly large dataset from 18 different countries collected by volunteers and published in Global Change Biology led by the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, together with BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council.

“We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change for both resident birds, short-distance migrants and long distance-migrants, but at very different times of the year that complement their breeding season. So if we are to predict what the future bird community may look like in Europe, we need to understand how the conditions during breeding will change” says lead-author and Postdoctoral Researcher Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, who conducted the research from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

Climate change pushes cold region birds out

However, the positive effects mentioned above do not extend to species adapted to the colder regions in Europe, such as the resident birds House Sparrow and Carrion Crow and the short-distance migrants Meadow Pipit and Redpoll. They have become relatively less abundant under the respective conditions.

Birds arriving to Europe from furthest away (and therefore later in the year), such as long-distance migrants the Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart, generally benefit from warmer summers in Europe. As a group, however, they showed one of the most complex responses as they are also impacted by climate change in Africa.

Volunteers made the study possible

The results were generated with yearly data on 51 different bird species gathered by around 50,000 volunteers in 18 different European countries between 1990 to 2008.

“This study shows the power of citizen science where highly skilled volunteers collect invaluable data and help to unlock new discoveries”, says Head of Species Monitoring and Research, Richard Gregory from the RSPB.

Global Science Coordinator for Programmes at BirdLife International, Ian Burfield, says: “Of course climate change will favour some species, but studies suggest we will have more losers than winners. That is why the BirdLife Partnership is actively delivering mitigation and adaptation solutions.”

Agricultural intensification causes continuous bird decline

Unfortunately, the study also shows the widespread long-term effects of agricultural intensification in Europe, where farmland birds continue to be in decline. It found long-distance migrants may be particularly vulnerable to the combination of agricultural intensification and climate change.

“Long-distance migrants are already believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, as they experience impacts in multiple locations along their busy travel routes that stretch two continents. We found that long-distance migrants in particular were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields. Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.

More information on the study is available from the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate here.

Meteorological data and recent events provide glaring evidence that climate change is happening and that it will particularly affect poorer and natural resources-dependant countries like Rwanda. The observed shift in the occurrence of the rainy seasons and the dry seasons in certain regions of Rwanda distorts agricultural growing seasons and causes confusion among farmers as it affects the timing of field preparation and planting, crop growth, and increasing incidences of crop diseases and pests resulting in lower agricultural yields: here.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the New York attorney general’s office has sent subpoenas to executives at the energy giant ExxonMobil. The attorney general’s office is seeking access to financial records, emails and other information relating to a period of several decades in which the company may have misled corporate investors about the effects of climate change on the oil giant’s bottom line: here.

Euro Birdwatch 2015 results

This video says about itself:

18 December 2014

Migratory birds visit the lagoon of Villafáfila (Spain) every year on their way to Extremadura and Andalusia.

After the results of Euro Birdwatch 2015 in the Netherlands, now results for all of Europe and Central Asia, on 3-4 October.

The organisers write:

The most frequently observed species were:

1. Common Starling
2. Chaffinch
3. Common Coot

The number of people involved: 25.115
The number of birds counted: 4.279.501
The number of activities: 1.046

During the observations rare bird species were encountered in many countries. Among these rarities were the first record of Sardinian Warbler for Luxembourg, Red-throated Pipits in Austria and the Netherlands, Dusky Warbler and Siberian Stonechat in Finland, Broad-billed Sandpiper in Italy, Richard’s Pipits and Yellow-browed Warblers in the Netherlands, 5 Great Bustards and 6 Sociable Lapwings in Turkey, Gyrfalcon and Hume’s Warbler in Sweden, Bonelli’s Eagle in Switzerland and 2.200 Sociable Lapwings in Uzbekistan.

In Montenegro the first ever ringing activities with Montenegrin rings took place!

See also here.

Fish atlas for northwestern Europe published

Fish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea and Baltic Sea

From Wageningen university in the Netherlands:

Fish Atlas of the Northwest European seas reveals life and distribution of fish

September 15, 2015

The Fish Atlas is an in-depth reference work on marine fish. This is the first complete overview of all marine fish species found in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Celtic Sea. Whereas European research mainly focuses on species of commercial interest, this atlas documents current data of all Western European fish species caught in the period 1977 to 2013.

The Fish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea and Baltic Sea presents a unique set of abundance data to describe the spatial, depth, size, and temporal distribution of demersal and pelagic fish species over an extensive marine area, together with accounts of their biology. A large number of pictures, graphs and distribution maps illustrate the text. By largely avoiding – or at least explaining – scientific terms and providing extensive references, the book should be useful for both laymen and scientists.

The quantitative information on some 200 fish taxa is derived from 72,000 stations fished by research vessels during the period 1977-2013. The area covers the northwest European shelf from the west of Ireland to the central Baltic Sea and from Brittany to the Shetlands.

Although the surveys extend beyond the shelf edge, only taxa reported at least once in waters less than 200 m are included. Typical deep-water species and typical fresh-water species are excluded. We hope this publication will contribute to gaining a better understanding of the ocean ecosystems.

The Fish Atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea, and Baltic Sea contains:

  • description of general goals of research-vessel surveys;
  • brief account of the oceanographic features of the three ecoregions;
  • overview of the surveys included in the analysis;
  • details on the process and interpretation of the extensive data;
  • variation of species composition by area and in time;
  • information on 201 taxa, grouped in 78 families;
  • contributions of 31 authors, affiliated with ICES surveys;
  • full-colour pictures, clear distribution maps and graphs;
  • 48 text boxes to describe additional details of general interest.