New bird atlas for Portugal

This is a video about sanderlings in Portugal.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife in Portugal publishes atlas of national seabirds

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Tue, 17/11/2015 – 17:27

Compiling data from eight years of boat-based surveys, five years of coastal censuses, the national coastal bird count and a citizen science project, the Atlas of Marine Birds of Portugal is finally here to guide us through Portuguese waters, roughly one quarter of the European seas.

The atlas, prepared by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and its partners, covers the entire national territory and the status of 65 marine species. For 50 ‘main’ species, the atlas gathers detailed factsheets on their distribution, movements and phenology, abundance and population trends, ecology and habitat and threats, and conservation through more than 500 modelling species distribution maps or by time of year and geographic region. Both the Madeira and Azores archipelagos are included in the maps.

This book also compiles information about the historical aspects of marine ornithology in Portugal and bird conservation, and presents a broad outline of the composition and dynamics of seabird communities and their breeding colonies in Portuguese territory.

This atlas is thus the most comprehensive compilation to date of data on the distribution and abundance of seabirds and shorebirds that use Portuguese waters. It is a considerable leap forward in our knowledge of European seabirds and helps plug our information gaps on life in our seas.

The whole interactive atlas is available online here. It’s also available for free download in two versions: high resolution and low resolution, although currently, it is only available in Portuguese.

Saving Atlantic islands birds

This video from the Canary islands says about itself:

Three wild canaries eating birdseed in my garden in Tenerife.

From BirdLife:

Saving Macaronesia’s biodiversity, one species at a time

By Tânia Pipa, Mon, 12/10/2015 – 06:10

Macaronesia (no relation to the Micronesia archipelago in the Pacific Ocean), is a collection of four archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa. They are the Azores and Madeira islands (Portugal), the Canary islands (Spain) and Cape Verde. BirdLife is one of the few international NGOs working at all these archipelagos, thanks to the work of SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), SEO (Birdlife in Spain) and Biosfera (Cape Verde).

All four island groups are incredibly rich in biodiversity; despite representing only 0.2% of EU territory, Macaronesia hosts over a quarter of the plant species listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive. But teeming plant and animal life comes with its own set of problems, from the threat of extinction to invasive alien species and habitat destruction. This is a summary of the work carried out there by SPEA, both on land and in the open seas.

Working in the Laurel Forest

The Laurissilva, also known as the laurel forest, is a subtropical and humid type of forest that only survives in the Maraconesian archipelagos. It is home to an incredible number of endemic species and subspecies, and hosts some of the least-known and more threatened birds in Europe.

SPEA’s work began there in 2002 with a small passerine: the Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), commonly known as Priolo. This bird, an endemic species which only lives in the Serra da Tronqueira (a Natura 2000 site on the eastern side of São Miguel Island) was Critically Endangered – only 200 breeding pairs existed. After years of conservation efforts and three LIFE Projects, the Bullfinch has been downlisted to Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The population is now estimated to be 1,300 individuals.

Today, SPEA’s work with laurel forest birds continues, and the latest example is the EU funded project LIFE Fura-bardos, which aims to study and protect the rarely seen Macaronesian Sparrowhawk subspecies (present only in Madeira and the Canaries). Using this species as an indicator for the forest’s wider biodiversity, SPEA will identify management measures that can be applied in similar forests.

Saving the seabirds

The Macaronesian islands are vital breeding areas for several species of seabirds, which are one of the most endangered groups of birds in the world. Seabirds are threatened by habitat destruction, invasive mammals, artificial lights, fisheries bycatch, overfishing and marine litter, among other things. In 2008, SPEA (together with SEO) was amongst the first in the EU to publish a detailed inventory of the marine IBA network, leading the way forward in marine conservation.

Both of Madeira’s threatened petrels, the Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma madeira) and the Desertas Petrel (Pterodoma deserta), have been a top priority for SPEA (in collaboration with the Madeiran Natural Park). SPEA has been working to control or eradicate invasive species such as cats, rabbits and mice, which has contributed decisively to the successful recovery of both species of petrel.

On the Azores’ smallest Island, Corvo, the LIFE project Safe Islands for Seabirds evaluated the impact of invasive rodents, feral cats, goats and sheep on one of the most emblematic seabird species in the Azores, Cory’s Shearwater (85% of the world population of Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris borealis breeds on the Azores and Madeira archipelagos).

This project found that cats caused the most harm, destroying 84% of all nests and eggs damaged by predators. Habitat restoration and the construction of Europe’s first predator-proof fence were among the measures used to mitigate the impact on seabirds.

Light pollution – a major threat to juvenile seabirds – is another area where SPEA is taking action in Macaronesia. Over the last 20 years in the Azores and 5 years in Madeira, a huge and successful campaign involving volunteers, local organisations, city halls and SPEA has helped regional governments rescue and release thousands of Cory’s Shearwater juveniles impacted by artificial lights.

This is proof that no conservation measure cannot be successful without local support: allowing local people to explore, be aware and participate in the preservation of natural heritage, which at the same time leads to sustainable development of their communities.

Good news for seabirds in Portugal

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

From BirdLife:

New protected areas announced for seabirds in Portugal

By SPEA/BirdLife Europe, Thu, 08/10/2015 – 13:43

Good news for seabird conservation in Portugal, as the country’s government approves the designation of two new Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

As well as the approval of the Cabo Raso and Aveiro/Nazaré sites, two existing SPAs are also being expanded at Cabo Espichel and Costa Sudoeste. The decision was based on seabird monitoring data, collected along the Portuguese coast over the past ten years. BirdLife’s Portuguese Partner SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, says the Portuguese Government’s decision is the first step towards comprehensive marine conservation and seabird protection in Portugal.

The new marine protected areas are designated under European legislation (the Birds Directive) and will enhance the conservation of migrating seabirds along the Portuguese coast. This is also a boost to the Natura 2000 network, the EU-wide network which safeguards wildlife protection and habitats. It comes at a crucial time for the network, with the Birds and Habitats Directives (the laws that led to the network’s creation) both under the microscope as the European Commission carries out a ‘Fitness Check’ on them. Nature conservation groups have already urged the Commission not to re-open the directives and also to make sure they are better implemented.

These new and expanded sites will add to the existing Portuguese marine SPA network, offering protection to important feeding and resting areas used by the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and other seabirds.

Joana Andrade, SPEA’s Marine Conservation Department Co-ordinator, said: “The identification of the proposed sites for SPA designation is based on the work developed by SPEA and different partners who, over the past decade, have focused on seabird monitoring and on the study of their behaviour at sea, under different projects co-financed by the European Union.”

“Seabirds are the most endangered group of birds in the world and the legal protection of these marine areas is essential for seabirds conservation. However, this work can only be achieved through the establishment of appropriate management plans and through a model of public participation, engaging with stakeholders such as fishermen and economic agents among others, since they will be the key agents for the practical implementation of management plans.”

There are around 30 seabird species regular occurring along the Portuguese mainland coast. In addition to the breeding species (such as Cory’s Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull), many other birds use Portuguese waters during their migratory routes and as feeding grounds, resting and wintering areas. Some of these species occur in significant numbers when compared with their European or global populations, including the Northern Gannet and the Balearic shearwater (the most endangered seabird in Europe).

Sagres birdwatching festival in Portugal

This video is about a crested lark singing in Algarve in Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Why you should be excited about the 2015 Sagres birdwatching festival

By Sanya Khetani-Shah, Mon, 14/09/2015 – 13:48

To the uninitiated, birdwatching may sound like an esoteric hobby reserved for scientists and people obsessed with birds. However, numerous international bird festivals – such as the Birdwatching Festival and Nature Activities in Sagres, Portugal – have sought to change that over the years.

The sixth edition of the fest, which will be held from 1-4 October, 2015, includes not just birdwatching, but also bird ringing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, hiking and workshops on environmental education, among other things (full list here), to make it more accessible to a larger audience of families, students and casual nature lovers. Register here for the event of your choice.

The event, part of the Europe-wide Euro Birdwatch 2015, is organised by the municipality of Vila do Bispo, with Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA, or BirdLife in Portugal) and the Almargem Association as partners.

Sagres in southwest Portugal is a great place for birdwatching: It has a large diversity of habitats, from sea cliffs and coastal maquis to farmlands, woodland, sand dunes and the sea itself. Due to its geographical location in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, migrants that follow the coastline or the coastal valleys gather in Sagres from August to November before continuing their journey south.

The region is Portugal’s major migratory corridor for storks, eagles, vultures, buzzards and falcons. It is also a great place to watch many seabirds (thousands of Northern Gannet, petrels, Cory’s Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater pass along the coast), steppe species and passerines. This is why the festival’s dates, in early October, are strategically scheduled: the diversity of birds of prey is starting to peak, many long-distance seabird migrants are still around, passerines are still passing through and wintering birds are starting to arrive.

Over the years, the area has also been witness to a number of rare species, such as the Eurasian Dotterel, the Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sabine’s Gull and the Red-breasted Flycatcher, among numerous others.

There is a more serious science aspect to all of this as well: the migratory birds passing through will be counted at counting stations manned by experienced birdwatchers and scientists. The numbers will be collected by SPEA and then passed on to this year’s European counting centre in the Netherlands, which will publish a report on the migration of birds through Europe.

And it’s not just the birds and birdwatchers that benefit. “The event has been contributing to consolidate Vila do Bispo as an important destination for nature tourism, attracting more and more domestic and foreign visitors,” says Adelino Soares, president of the Vila do Bispo municipality. “The investment in this initiative, which takes place in low season, has a positive effect in the remaining months of the year, with tourists to return and take advantage of the services of local businesses partners of the festival.”