Swinhoe’s storm-petrels in the Atlantic

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – 2nd Fair Isle record! 2 in two weeks!

7 August 2013

Ringing and Documenting Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel – Oceanodroma monorhis – August 7th 2013 2:30am. 8th record for Britain – 2nd for Fair Isle and Shetland! Both Fair Isle Records in the past 2 weeks! Caught at night with mist nets and sound recordings. Congrats to Dr Will Miles & Fair Isle Bird Observatory Warden David Parnaby. Also present Shetland Legend Denis Coutts & the young Logan Johnson the only birders to come to Fair Isle in the hope that the 1st Swinhoe’s would be recaptured but they were rewarded with a new unringed bird! Read more here.

From the Journal of Ornithology:

24 June 2015

Searching for a breeding population of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel at Selvagem Grande, NE Atlantic, with a molecular characterization of occurring birds and relationships within the Hydrobatinae

Mónica C. Silva, Rafael Matias, Vânia Ferreira, Paulo Catry, José P. Granadeiro


Long-distance dispersal plays a critical role in population dynamics, particularly in species that occupy fragmented habitats, but it is seldom detected and investigated. The pelagic seabird Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, breeds exclusively in the NW Pacific. Individuals have been regularly observed in the Atlantic Ocean since the 1980s, but breeding has never been confirmed.

In this study, we searched for evidence of breeding of Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels on Selvagem Grande Island, NE Atlantic, between 2007 and 2013. During this period, six individuals were captured, sexed and characterized molecularly for two mitochondrial loci, cytochrome oxydase I and the control region, to confirm species identity, survey genetic diversity and estimate evolutionary relationships within the Hydrobatinae.

These individuals were confirmed to be Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels, and all except one are females. Phylogenetic analyses suggest sister relationship with Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel and dismiss misidentifications with other dark rump species. Patterns of genetic variation suggest that dispersal occurred likely by more than a single female. Despite the record of a pair duetting in a burrow, breeding could not be confirmed.

Swinhoe’s Storm-petrels are regularly occurring at Selvagem Grande, but capture/recapture patterns suggest that a possible breeding population is small and likely not self-sustaining. In seabirds, long-distance dispersal events may facilitate colonization of new habitats created in the context of predicted climate change impacts on the marine ecosystems.

Saving seabirds in Portugal

This 2014 video is about a young Cory’s shearwater on the Berlengas islands in Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Exotic plants, invasive rats, and fishnets

By Nuno Barros, Fri, 03/07/2015 – 15:21

Crystal clear waters, rough steep cliffs and vibrant seas teeming with marine life are a typical scene off Portugal’s mainland and offshore islands. It sounds like a vacationer’s or scuba diver’s paradise, but for some seabird species it’s also the perfect place to nest and feed. Although they are amongst Europe’s most threatened group of birds, seabirds can still be found breeding in Portugal’s Azores, Madeira and Berlengas Archipelagos.

SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) has been doing a great job to make sure it stays this way. They have been demonstrating how site specific protection works, and that Natura 2000, Europe’s largest network of protected areas established under the Birds and Habitats Directives, can serve as a foundation for marine conservation.

The Berlengas, only 6 nautical miles from the Portuguese mainland were initially set aside to protect the Common Guillemot. But because of a history full of neglect, the very species the reserve was created for is now sadly only part of the islands past as it has not been seen nesting here in over a decade. To stop other seabirds from sharing a similar fate, the islands are now at the heart of an EU LIFE Project run by SPEA. They are doing whatever they can to restore the Berlengas islands to their natural condition for seabirds and endemic/native plants, or at least, as close as possible to what they once were.

This has meant removing exotic plants and replacing them with native species and battling against invasive species like rats which often eat seabird eggs and chicks. Artificial nests are also being added and are quite effective because they offer protection against bad weather, from predators and other seabirds competing for space. They’ve also been working with fishers to find ways to prevent birds from getting accidentally entangled in fishing gear. Cory´s Shearwater, European Shags, and the only “continental” population of Band-rumped Storm Petrel are some of the seabirds that will benefit from all these activities. Sounds like an ambitious venture, but SPEA has shown it’s achievable because of a similar project recently finished, Safe Islands for Seabirds, in the remote Corvo Island in the Azores. It was so successful it even won one of 2013’s ‘Best LIFE’ Nature Projects award.

SPEA has also been working in the Graciosa Islets of the spectacular Azores Archipelago. The Azores is the only place in the world where Monteiro´s Storm Petrel is found, so it is a very special place indeed. There are just 250-300 pairs in existence and they only breed on two of the islets here. So far these petrels have been safe from ground predators, but there is always a risk that an invasive mammal species such as rats will swim ashore and cause disaster. It wouldn’t take much to wipe out these colonies completely. SPEA is now working on developing an action plan for the petrel so that the government will have the knowledge and tools in place to safeguard the species into the future.

Perhaps one of SPEA’s oldest fights has been convincing their government that the first step in conservation of sensitive marine areas should be the extension of Natura 2000 to the marine environment through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). So far only the Madeiran SPAs and little more have been established, but SPEA hasn’t given up this fight and there is some optimism that the Portuguese government will listen soon…

Portuguese birds, new Internet site

This is a lesser spotted woodpecker video from Portugal.

From BirdLife:

Portugal’s birding at your fingertips

By Nuno Barros, Tue, 26/05/2015 – 14:50

Now available at your fingertips, all you need to know about more than 100 species of bird and birdwatching in mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. Yes, you can find all the information you need to know about all the best birding sites that the country has to offer, itineraries, and many other interesting facts and figures on the Portuguese Society for the Study of Bird’s (SPEA/BirdLife partner) new website.

Found in the south-western part of Europe, Portugal is a small but beautiful country, home to friendly people, a huge myriad of habitats, and many southern European bird species. In the last few years, more and more birdwatchers have come and discovered the many wonders of birding in Portugal, mostly in the Alentejo and Algarve regions. The country’s year round great weather conditions and ease of spotting elusive birds like the Black-winged Kite, Little Bittern, Great Bustard or Azure-Winged Magpie draws birders from far and wide.

Even in the peak of winter you can expect to see more than 100 species in a week, and with a bit of luck, enjoy some sunny days. And Portugal is so small, so it’s easy to jump from one amazing birding hot spot to another, and along with the local cuisine, culture and landscapes, a visit is simply a must.

There are certainly many other places to go birdwatching in Portugal and it’s islands, but this platform provides birdwatchers with what SPEA thinks are all you need to know about the “best” birding sites around, places that not surprisingly overlap with Important Bird and BiodiversityAreas (IBAs), the conservation background that is SPEA’s stronghold.

So all bird lovers, we invite you to come and explore our website, and see what this magnificent corner of Europe has to offer. You can also come to our next Sagres Birdwatching and Nature activities Festival, from 1-4th October, to celebrate some of Portugal’s birdwatching wonders.

Big Triassic amphibian fossil discovery in Portugal

This video says about itself:

24 March 2015

Excavation in Portugal of giant Triassic fossil amphibian Metoposaurus algarvensis – Paleontology dig.

From Associated Press:

Researchers Find Fossil of ‘Super Salamander’ Species

LONDON — Mar 24, 2015, 11:01 AM ET

Fossil remains of a previously unknown species of a crocodile-like “super salamander” that grew as long as a small car and was a top predator more than 200 million years ago have been found in southern Portugal, researchers announced Tuesday.

The species grew up to two meters (six feet) in length and lived in lakes and rivers, University of Edinburgh researchers said.

The team said the species, given the name Metoposaurus algarvensis, was part of a wider group of primitive amphibians that were widespread at the time but became extinct. They are the ancestors of modern amphibians such as frogs, and are believed by paleontologists to have lived at the same time the dinosaurs began their dominance.

Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said the new species, which had hundreds of sharp teeth, is “weird compared to anything today.”

It was at the top of the food chain, feeding mainly on fish, but it was also a danger for newly appeared dinosaurs and mammals that strayed too near the water, Brusatte said.

The team says the find establishes that this group of amphibians lived in a more diverse geographic area than had been thought.

Andrew Milner, an expert on early amphibians at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the study, said the find “is another piece of the picture.” The Portuguese site has “very good potential to give us more and different types of animal” from the Upper Triassic period, he added.

The dig in Portugal began in 2009 and took several years. The “super salamander” bones were uncovered in a half-meter thick layer of rock in a hillside that is “chock-full” of bones, Brusatte said. The team hopes to raise funds to continue excavating the site.

See also here.

The scientific description of this newly discovered species is here.

Saving the birds of Portugal’s Berlengas archipelago

This video is about the Berlengas islands in Portugal.

By BirdLife Europe, Fri, 09/01/2015 – 17:08:

New project to repair and protect the Berlengas archipelago’s rich ecosystem

Only 30 people live in the Berlengas archipelago off the Portuguese coast, yet there is a lot of activity to report from these small islands. Included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), Berlengas is known to be home for several species of marine birds and for hosting a diverse ecosystem. Unfortunately, the beautiful archipelago and its surrounding waters have suffered during the recent economic conditions; despite the efforts of national authorities to conserve the fragile ecosystem, the area is rapidly deteriorating.

In June 2014, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA, BirdLife Partner), joined  a partnership with the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry, the Municipality of Peniche and the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Together, they planned an integrated combination of sustainable development, responsible tourism and conservation of natural resources at the Reserva Natural das Berlengas, aiming to become a model of good management of a Protected Area. The resulting Life + Berlenga Project was launched that same month with an initial investment of €1,380.000, 50% of which came from European Commission funds. The project aims to restore the natural resources of the archipelago and, at the same time, to benefit the local communities whose livelihoods depend on tourists visiting the island.

The project will include plans for sustainable exploitation of natural resources, action to avoid incidental seabird bycatch in fishing gears, control of mammalian species introduced by humans and control of invasive plants which threaten the most iconic bird species, such as the Common Guillemot.

There will also be a strong advertising campaign using the latest technologies to promote Berlengas as a top European tourist destination.

The Berlengas archipelago receives more than 200,000 visitors a year, notably because of the rich biodiversity it hosts, which makes the islands a natural paradise to be treasured.

Go Birding in Portugal: Living Bird editor Tim Gallagher gives a recap of his recent birding trip to southwest Europe.