Good Dutch red kite news

This is a red kite video from Spain.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists, 22 January 2016:

The red kite is a rare breeding bird in our country, despite the proximity of a large German breeding population. So, the minimally eight breeding pairs of last year were downright sensational.

This can be seen in the list of rare breeding birds in the last Sovon-News. Annual breeding in our country of this species was considered a utopia among Dutch in birders. Is the red kite to stay or are we rejoicing too early?

Raptor conservation in India

This video is about an Amur falcon. One of the raptor species migrating through India.

From BirdLife:

Indian Government signs raptor conservation agreement

By Ed Parnell, Thu, 21/01/2016 – 11:28

India has become the 54th country to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU), an important international agreement to protect migratory birds of prey.

Approval to sign the Raptors MOU was given by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Cabinet meeting held on 30 December 2015. Although legally non-binding, the Raptors MOU –which was concluded under the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – is an important instrument for the conservation of birds of prey.

“It gives us immense pleasure to congratulate the Prime Minister and Government for making India the 54th signatory to the Raptors MOU. This agreement is a big step forward for the monitoring, research and conservation of migratory species of raptors. We will be honoured if we can assist the Government in meeting India’s obligations under the treaty,” said Deepak Apte, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS, BirdLife in India).

Established in 1883, BNHS is among the oldest conservation organisations in the world, and over the course of its long history has carried out pioneering research and conservation on many birds of prey including South Asia’s critically endangered vultures, and other migratory raptors such as Amur Falcon Falco amurensis.

Although the migratory status of Asia’s vultures is in most cases ambiguous, they are in the process of being included in the Raptors MOU, which will be an important instrument in the fight to save them.

In November 2012, with significant input from BirdLife, the CMS adopted a resolution (Resolution 10.10) which, for the first time, essentially set out a global agenda for conservation along flyways – well-travelled routes used by birds during their migration, which often span continents and oceans. BirdLife also ensured effective resolutions were agreed on a number of key issues affecting raptors including agrochemicals, power lines and renewable energy. BirdLife provided much of the scientific information underpinning the Raptors MOU, which develops guidelines for national strategies for bird of prey conservation, and is working especially closely with the BirdLife’s Migratory Soaring Birds Project.

Sparrowhawk recovers after collision, video

John van Doorn from Woerden in the Netherlands, the maker of this video, writes about it (translated):

This male sparrowhawk flew against my window. He was unconscious. I gently wrapped him in a small towel and took him inside. The bird came back to his senses and became conscious and alert to his surroundings. After a few minutes he had recovered completely. Furthermore, the sparrowhawk looked all right and I let him go.

Buzzards quarreling, video

This video shows two buzzards quarreling about food.

O.W. Zijlstra from the Netherlands made the video.

Hen harrier flying, video

This video shows a male hen harrier flying.

Bastiaan Willemsen from the Netherlands made this video.

Birds of Paris city

This video from France shows a male kestrel, ‘handing’ over his prey to his female partner.

In Paris, there is not only the COP21 climate change conference. There are not only people wanting to demonstrate against climate change there. There is not only the French government banning demonstrations.

Fortunately, there are birds as well. On the Notre Dame cathedral, a kestrel couple has been nesting for years.

There is the birdwatching organisation Centre ornithologique Île-de-France in Paris and surroundings.

Dutch Montagu’s harriers, new study

This video is about a young Montagu’s harrier, foraging in Lauwersmeer national park in the Netherlands.

From Ibis ornithological journal:


2nd November 2015

Enhancing food abundance and availability for harriers

Birdfields – a novel Agri-Environmental Scheme to improve foraging conditions for a vole-eating raptor

Almut Schlaich
Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation & Conservation Ecology Group,
GELIFES (Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences),
Groningen University, The Netherlands

Testing a novel agri-environment scheme based on the ecology of the target species, Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
Schlaich, A.E., Klaassen, R.H.G., Bouten, W, Both, C & Koks, B.J. 2015. IBIS 157: 713-721. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12299

The Montagu’s Harrier is a rare farmland breeding bird, not only in the UK, but also in the Netherlands where we have a small population of around 40 pairs. In the highly intensified agricultural landscape farmland birds struggle to find sufficient food to breed successfully. We tested a novel agri-environment scheme (AES) – coined Birdfields – to provide accessible food sources for breeding Montagu’s Harriers.

A small population of Montagu’s Harriers established in our study area in Eastern Groningen, the Netherlands, in the early 1990s when farmland was set aside on a large scale to counteract wheat overspill (Koks et al. 2007). The set-aside habitat was used for foraging, and the harriers nested in large wheat fields that characterize this intensively farmed area. After the set-aside regulation ended, the number of breeding pairs directly decreased again. To preserve Montagu’s Harriers for the Netherlands, agri-environment schemes (AES) like field margins and set-aside fields were introduced. This led to an increase in numbers and we nowadays have a population fluctuating around 40 breeding pairs (Figure 1).

In the Netherlands, Common Voles are the most important prey, which is exemplified by the fact that vole abundance determines breeding success and population growth (Koks et al. 2007). In order to understand where Montagu’s Harriers exactly find these prey in the intensively farmed landscape, and the exact role of AES in this, we tracked individual harriers using radio-transmitters and UvA-BiTS GPS-loggers. Surprisingly, the birds were not spending much time hunting on set-aside, but strongly preferred freshly mown grass fields (Trierweiler 2010, Klaassen et al. 2014). This seems paradoxical as vole abundance is much higher in set-aside habitats compared to other crops (Koks et al. 2007, Schlaich et al. 2015). The answer probably lies in the fact that prey are difficult to capture in dense set-aside vegetation. Thus, prey availability rather than prey abundance per se dictates habitat selection in foraging harriers.

Integrating knowledge on the Montagu’s Harrier ecology, we designed a novel AES – coined Birdfields – that aims at increasing both prey abundance and availability. Birdfields consist of alternating strips of set-aside and alfalfa (Figure 2). Set-aside strips are sown with a mixture of cereals, grasses and herbs, and their most important function is to enhance local densities of voles. Alfalfa strips are harvested three times per year, and their main function is to enhance prey availability. An additional advantage of growing alfalfa is that the harvest of alfalfa reduces the overall costs of the AES, making Birdfields a more economical alternative to current AES.

In 2011, two Birdfields were created close to a core breeding area of Montagu’s Harriers. These Birdfields were monitored in 2012-2013. During the same period, high-resolution tracking data of individual male Montagu’s Harriers was collected using UvA-BiTS GPS-loggers. With the help of volunteers vole abundance was monitored in set-aside and alfalfa strips, and small mammals killed during the mowing events were identified (Figure 3). This involved counting vole burrows in 6184 1m²-plots and walking 93.9 km behind the mowing machine! As expected, vole abundance was much higher in set-aside than in alfalfa, and nearly 90% of all observed small mammals were Common Voles. Detailed tracking data from four male Montagu’s Harriers in each season showed that birds used the Birdfields intensively during and after mowing events, in which the birds strongly preferred mown over unmown habitat (Figure 4).

Our results show that Birdfields form an efficient AES for Montagu’s Harriers as this novel measure not only enhances prey abundance but also prey accessibility. In addition, it is a more economic AES. Furthermore, many other species seem to profit from Birdfields in particular breeding Skylarks, breeding and wintering vole-eaters and wintering farmland birds. Consequently, the measure ‘Birdfields’ has now been officially implemented as a greening measure in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 in The Netherlands. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has started a country-wide pilot, executed by BirdLife Netherlands, Louis Bolk Instituut and the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation, to evaluate scientifically the general value of Birdfields for soil, insects, and farmland birds and already 230 ha of Birdfields have been implemented throughout the Netherlands. More than 300 ha will follow in 2016.

References and further reading

Klaassen, R. H. G., A. E. Schlaich, M. Franken, W. Bouten & B. J. Koks. 2014. GPS-loggers onthullen gedrag Grauwe kiekendieven in Oost-Groningse akkerland. De Levende Natuur 115:61-66.

Koks, B. J., C. Trierweiler, E. G. Visser, C. Dijkstra & J. Komdeur. 2007. Do voles make agricultural habitat attractive to Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus? Ibis 149:575-586.

Trierweiler, C. 2010. Travels to feed and food to breed. The annual cycle of a migratory raptor, Montagu´s harrier, in a modern world. PhD, University of Groningen, Groningen.