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.

European Montagu’s harriers migrating to Africa

This video shows a young Montagu’s harrier in Lauwersmeer national park im the Netherlands, on 2 August 2015.

Translated from the Dutch ornithologists of Werkgroep Grauwe Kiekendief:

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

The graceful silhouettes of Montagu’s harriers have become almost impossible to see in our country. Most have in fact begun their trek to the Sahel. Using satellite transmitters twelve Montagu’s harriers can be tracked on their journey.

On average, Montagu’s harriers travel some 5,000 kilometers to their wintering grounds. They do this in the fall at an average of 32 days. In spring, the migration takes about five days longer.

The birds which can be followed this season are Mark, Rowan, Roger and Rose from England, Astrid and Henry from Saxony-Anhalt [Germany], Geranda, Kees and Jürgen from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [Germany] and Leen, Ludmila and Yura from Belarus. Ludmila was the first bird starting her migration, already on 1 August. Geranda was on September 9 still at her breeding grounds. Of the remaining harriers, some have already crossed over to Africa, but most are still in Europe.

Britain: Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers: petition here.

Euro Birdwatch, 3-4 October 2015

This video says about itself:

Eurobirdwatch 2012: 17000 Barnacle Geese in Joutseno, Finland

8 October 2012

17000 Barnacle Geese fly in Konnunsuo when attacked by a peregrine.

From Birdlife:

Everything you need to know about Euro Birdwatch 2015

By Gert Ottens, Fri, 28/08/2015 – 09:07

On 3 and 4 October, 2015, tens of thousands of eyes all over Europe (and even beyond) will turn to the sky to witness the spectacle of bird migration at BirdLife Europe’s annual Euro Birdwatch.

As the summer and breeding season ends, birds begin to fly to the south of Europe and Africa. This makes it the perfect time for birders and scientists throughout Europe to observe, count and map the birds’ migration routes and migratory behavior. More than 30 BirdLife partner organisations from Europe and Central Asia are expected to participate this year.

But the event, which was first organised in 1993, is not just for professional birdwatchers. National organisations will hold events – which in the past have ranged from birdwatching excursions in national parks and important bird areas, to contests for children to identify birds by their song, and bird fairs – for anyone who is interested.

Euro Birdwatch aims to encourage people of all ages to go observe and enjoy birds, and to show the wonders of bird migration and the necessity of bird and flyway conservation.  It also draws attention to the efforts being made to save endangered bird species and their habitats.

In 2014, 38 countries from Europe and Central Asia took part in Euro Birdwatch, organising 1,184 events, with more than 33,000 people turning out to watch and help count the birds. The numbers, when it comes to the birds, are even more staggering: almost 7.5 million birds were counted last year, the highest in the history of the event.

As further proof of how important Euro Birdwatch is to spread awareness on protecting migrating birds: in the 21 years of its existence, more than 1.1 million people have participated in over 36,000 events to count almost 60 million birds as they fly south for the winter.

Migration counts in each country are organised either through a network of counting stations manned by experienced birdwatchers or through field trips to important bird areas. The numbers are collated by the country’s national BirdLife partner and then passed on to the European centre, which this year is the Netherlands’, Vogelbescherming Nederland. This organisation will publish preliminary results on the evening of 4 October and a full report later on.

If you want to participate, look for your national partner organisation here, then contact them or check on their website for their list of events.

More information, downloads, results and photos of previous Euro Birdwatch events can be found here.

Refugees from wars, welcomed by people, abused by governments

This video from Germany says about itself:

Germany: Heidenau holds “Welcome Festival” for newly arrived refugees

28 August 2015

Hundreds of volunteers gathered in Heidenau on Friday to host a celebration aimed at welcoming newly arrived refugees to Germany, after last weekend’s attacks on the refugees by far-right radicals.

From Deutsche Welle in Germany:

Cake and politicians at ‘Refugees Welcome’ party in Heidenau

28 August 2015

The party took place in Heidenau after all, despite a police ban that was lifted following a political outcry. As Ben Knight reports, the event was largely peaceful, as refugees gathered [around] a truck full of donated clothes.

Few disused hardware stores in neglected eastern German towns have received this much attention from major politicians in recent years. The Praktiker store in Heidenau, closed two years ago and hastily converted into a makeshift refugee shelter last week, has now hosted three major political leaders in the space of a week.

But the last of these visits, on Friday by Green party leader Cem Özdemir, was initially undertaken in a more troublemaking spirit than the first two. Both Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel‘s visit on Monday and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s on Wednesday were standard displays of political defiance against the far-right violence that made Heidenau the most infamous town in Germany last weekend.

But Özdemir was here to a defy a ban, imposed by regional Saxony authorities on the grounds that “the available police resources are not capable of getting the measure of predicted developments in the situation.”

In the event, Saxony police were spared the embarrassment of handcuffing a party leader, as an expedited court order ruled the ban unlawful, allowing a planned “welcome party” to show support for the refugees to go ahead.

Özdemir milder, with cake

Özdemir arrived, bearing cherry cake, and told reporters, “When I got on the train they said the party couldn’t take place, and by the time I got off, they said it could.” He also struck a much more conciliatory note than during his outraged appearance on the TV news show “Morgenmagazin,” when he accused the Saxony state government of “suspending democracy.”

“I’m pleased that the administrative court shares my opinion, and I think the opinion of everyone here, that there can’t be a state of emergency, if only because one can call for help from neighboring states,” he told reporters in Heidenau. “When there’s a G7 summit, when there’s a football game, [the police] can call for help from other states, why can’t they do it when neo-Nazis and fascists threaten people?”

Özdemir got a much friendlier reception from volunteers than Markus Ulbig, Saxony’s Christian Democrat interior minister, who had to be carefully shielded by security guards. Ulbig, who has been blamed for the failure to prepare for last weekend’s violence and for condoning the police ban, was jeered as he tried to deliver statements to the press. “Get out! You weren’t invited!” demonstrators chanted. “You could’ve come last Sunday.”

“All I can say is that it is good that this party is taking place here today,” Ulbig managed to tell reporters, before virtually being driven from the grounds by angry leftists.

With no sign of neo-Nazis throughout the afternoon, except for an isolated cluster of men who shouted abuse at passing anti-fascists from behind a bush across the road, this was as close as the party came to spilling over into violence. The police also kept their distance, though many were dressed in riot gear, while other units had been positioned around the town and at the train station.

Donations and local pride

In the event, the politicians’ visits were largely overshadowed by the “Refugees Welcome” party itself – which came complete with barbecue, salad, fruit, Özdemir’s cake, “anti-fascists” who juggled, span plates, and sang left-wing anthems, and a bouncy castle. There was also a truck full of donated clothes, toys, shampoo, and toothpaste, much of which was desperately needed in the shelter, which, the refugees said, had only the most basic hygiene facilities.

A few Heidenauers appeared at the party too, as much to defend the honor of their home town as to bring donations. “I was ashamed on Wednesday, when the chancellor came and they [nazis] shouted ‘traitor’ at her,” one old man told DW. “I was a refugee myself – at the end of the war, I was twelve when I came here.”

“People left East Germany after the Wall came down, for much smaller reasons than these people are coming here,” said a Heidenau woman, adding some of grandchildren’s discarded toys to the pile. “I wouldn’t like to have to flee a war.”

The truck of donations, and the party, had been organized by a network of “anti-fascist” groups from Dresden and elsewhere, as well as a refugee group from the Oranienplatz protest camp in Berlin. Among these was Adam Bahar, himself a refugee from Sudan who has been in Germany for three years.

“It was important for us to show solidarity with other refugees,” he said. “But we are also doing something good for Germany – we are showing that people are welcoming, you know, and that they have an open mind.”

Bahar also expressed shock, as many in Germany have, that the authorities have appeared so unprepared to cope with the new influx of refugees. “There’s been a war in Syria for more than four years,” he said.

“I’m really surprised that the people who have the power in this country don’t see this. Instead they make propaganda and say, ‘Ah! Too many people are coming.’ It’s not true – for example in Turkey there are more than two million refugees from Syria – but I don’t see Turkish people attacking refugees.”

True for the big majority of Turkish people; though some Turkish soldiers did kill refugees.

By Marianne Arens and Patrick Martin:

Casualties of “Fortress Europe”: Refugees dead on land and sea

29 August 2015

The death toll among desperate refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Africa continues to mount, with horrifying scenes that go beyond anything seen in Europe since World War II.

The vast majority of these refugees are seeking to escape violence unleashed on their homes and families by the imperialist powers, above all the United States, with its accomplices including France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Once they escape their home countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and various countries in east and west Africa, the refugees encounter still more violence at every step: from police and border guards, from smugglers like those who asphyxiated refugees in the hold of a ship and the van of a truck, and from neo-Nazi mobs in Saxony, who were permitted to attack them by German police.

More than 300,000 have already crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year, more than in all of 2014, according to UN and EU figures. This includes an estimated 180,000 making the short crossing from the Turkish mainland to Greek offshore islands, then trekking through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, and from there throughout the EU.

The UN forecast this week that 3,000 migrants a day were passing through the Balkans by this land route—an annual rate of more than one million people, the bulk of them fleeing the civil war in Syria, fomented by Washington and fueled by weapons supplied by US allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

Another 100,000 or more have made the even more dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, in the course of which at least 2,500 have already lost their lives this year. This toll increased by another 250 Thursday night and Friday morning, as two more ships capsized off the Libyan coast.

At least 150 bodies have been recovered from the twin disasters, involving a small dinghy with perhaps 100 people aboard, and a larger fishing boat loaded with more than 400 people. The Libyan Red Crescent told UN officials Friday that they did not have enough body bags for all the victims of the second, larger sinking.

Most of the victims on the fishing boat had been locked in the ship’s hold when it sank shortly after leaving the port city of Zuwarah, leaving them no escape. About 100 people were rescued alive, and the search was going on for additional bodies among those missing in the sea. The migrants were mainly Africans, officials said.

The International Organization for Migration said that 4,400 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean near Sicily August 22-23, making it one of the busiest weekends for rescue operations this year.

The gruesome tragedy on the A4 motorway between Budapest and Vienna showed the deadly dangers of the supposedly safer land route for refugees. In an abandoned refrigerated truck lay 71 dead people, 59 men, eight women and four children; a girl who was not yet two years old, and three boys, ages between eight and ten years.

An Austrian employee of the motorway company Asfinag discovered the parked truck on Thursday when attending a breakdown near Lake Neusiedl; decomposition fluids were already dripping from the vehicle. The police had the truck towed to a veterinary border service at Nickelsdorf on the Hungarian border, where police investigators retrieved the dead and examined the vehicle before the corpses were taken to the coroner’s office in Vienna.

The cause of death is thought to have been asphyxiation. The truck’s refrigerator compartment, meant for poultry meat, had no fresh air openings. Dents on the side of the vehicle point to what horrific scenes must had occurred in the interior, as the refugees desperately tried to escape the agonizing suffocation.

On Friday, the Hungarian police arrested four people, three Bulgarians and a Hungarian as the owners and drivers of the truck, after surveillance footage at several tollbooths was analyzed. Since then, the media and politicians have indulged in tirades against the criminal traffickers. According to estimates, each of the 71 refugees had to pay up to a thousand euros for the ride.

People trafficking is only such a lucrative business because the EU member states have sealed up their borders so tightly. They are trying to prevent people who are fleeing war and terror from crossing the borders with fences and razor sharp barbed wire, with rigid police controls and attack dogs.

“Whoever really wanted to put a stop to traffickers would deprive them of the basis of their business, i.e. open up Europe’s borders to refugees,” Florian Hassel wrote quite rightly in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “European politicians,” he added, “are not ready to do this.”

The corpse-filled van was discovered while the Western Balkans Summit was taking place a few miles away at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met with the leaders of six Balkan countries. The aim of the gathering was to agree on better control over the routes taken by refugees and to further fortify the EU’s external borders.

Merkel responded to the news of the tragedy by saying that one should approach the subject of migration “quickly and in the European spirit, that is, in the spirit of solidarity.” How this works in practice can be seen by the fact that her government now wants to declare Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania safe countries of origin in order to more rapidly deport people coming to Germany from these countries.

This had been demanded by German Interior Minister de Maiziere only two days previously. He also wants to speed up the deportation of refugees, cut benefits and replace cash in kind support to deter refugees from coming to Germany.

In Austria, the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives is also moving harshly against refugees. Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner responded to the recent refugee crisis by demanding even more restrictive border controls and that traffickers be punished even more stringently.

The night before on the newscast “Zeit im Bild,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz had called for a tightening of asylum policy, “much more intensive border controls” and “rapid proceedings” for asylum seekers. He cited Hungary, which is building a four-metre-high fence along its entire 109-mile southern border, as a model, and threatened that other EU members, “not only the Hungarians, but also perhaps we [will] take measures which are not so pleasing.”

A five-point plan presented by the Austrian government in Vienna also includes the use of force to combat criminal gangs and IS forces in the Middle East. The EU had already presented plans in May that provide for a military intervention in Libya. This would amount to a further expansion of the wars that are the main reason millions of people have been forced to flee.

The attitude of the imperialist powers toward the Syrian people is particularly cynical. For four years, they have cited the killing of Syrians by the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the reason for a stepped-up campaign of subversion and violence to overthrow the Assad regime. Yet, when millions of Syrians flee the resulting killing field, they are demonized as invaders threatening the jobs and welfare of the European population, who must be deported or walled off.

The 71 refugees who were found dead in Austria were likely from Syria, as a Syrian travel document was reportedly found among the bodies. This means that they had completed an arduous journey of 3,500 kilometres. An increasing number of Syrians are fleeing to Turkey and from there travel via the Balkan route and over the Aegean to Western Europe, since the North Africa-Italy route has proven to be extremely dangerous and the Mediterranean has increasingly become a mass grave.

The authors also recommend:

The refugee crisis and the inhuman face of European imperialism
[28 August 2015]

Bird conservation works, new research

This video is about Dalmatian pelicans in Greece.

From BirdLife:

Scientists prove EU bird laws save threatened species

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Mon, 27/07/2015 – 16:52

The European Union’s Birds Directive – often believed to be one of the world’s most progressive and successful set of nature conservation laws – has had a huge impact in protecting Europe’s most threatened bird species, according to new research by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB; BirdLife in the UK), BirdLife International and Durham University in England.

“We analysed information on all bird species breeding across the European Union”, said Dr Fiona Sanderson, RSPB scientist and lead author of the paper. “Our findings confirm that species with the highest level of protection under the Birds Directive [listed in Annex I]… are more likely to have increasing populations, and that these results are most apparent in countries that have been members of the European Union for longer.”

While this may sound natural, the study, published in the journal Conservation Letters, noted that as a result of stronger conservation measures, a majority of Annex I species (like Dalmatian Pelican, Common Crane, White-tailed Eagle and White-Headed Duck) are now improving their populations more than other threatened species that are not on that list.

This could point to a need to better implement protection projects for species across the other annexes as well. The report also stated that long-distant migrants didn’t do as well as those flying short distances, meaning even strong conservation measures are not yet able to sufficiently protect birds from dangers along their migration route and climate change.

The globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus Crispus was driven nearly to extinction in Europe in the 20th century due to loss of habitat, degradation, persecution and collision with power lines. However, thanks to the directives, more than 2,500 breeding pairs are now in existence, five times the number of a few decades ago.

White-headed Duck (Oxyura Leucocephala) was just as threatened. There were only 22 left in 1977 because of wetland destruction and persecution, but thanks to strong protection of their habitat and other conservation measures, there are now more than 2,000 in the wild.

Bird species listed in the other annexes are not as lucky. For example, Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa Limosa), despite being part of Annex II, continues to see a rapid decline in population and is listed as ‘threatened’ in Europe and ‘Endangered’ in the EU27. In Europe, the population size has decreased by an estimated 30-49% over three generations, while the EU27 has seen a 50-79% decline.

“Our research proves that, in an era of unprecedented climate change and habitat loss, those threatened birds protected by the Birds Directive are more likely to prosper”, Dr Paul Donald, the RSPB’s principal conservation scientist, said.

The research is being published just days after the closure on 26 July of a public consultation on the future of the European Union’s nature laws. The European Commission is currently reviewing the Birds and Habitats Directives, looking into their effectiveness. Signatures from 520,325 people and 120 NGOs supported the online campaign against this review in the largest public response to any consultation published by the European Commission.

“At a time when the benefits of EU membership are increasingly questioned, this research shows that, at least for nature, the EU is making a huge positive difference,” said BirdLife Europe’s Head of EU Policy, Ariel Brunner. “It would make no sense for the European Commission to demolish legislation proven to work and which enjoys a massive level of support among citizens.”

Read the report here.