Save Balearic shearwaters


This video is called Balearic Shearwater allopreening 2013.

From BirdLife:

Keeping an eye on Balearic Shearwater

By Pep Arcos, David García, Daniel Oro, Meritxell Genovart & Maite Louzao, Sat, 04/07/2015 – 06:46

It’s been over a decade that Balearic Shearwater has held the dangerous title ‘Critically Endangered’, which puts it at the very top of the European Red List of Birds. To make sure it doesn’t disappear before our very eyes requires some very careful monitoring at sea, where it spends most of its life, and also on land where it breeds. But so far we haven’t been doing enough to ensure the conservation of this species and if we wait any longer, we might notice too late that it’s gone forever.

Balearic Shearwater may not be the most colourful bird, it’s rather brownish and could be mistaken for a gull by an untrained eye, but it’s special. Only found as a breeder in the western Mediterranean’s Balearic Islands where it nests in caves, crevices and under rock boulders in inaccessible sea cliffs and small islets. We think there are just a little over 3,000 breeding pairs, and maybe a global population of about 25,000 individuals. It’s long lived, most likely some birds live over 30 years though we have no sound data on this, it begins mating at 3 years of age, and lays a single egg per year. Losing adult birds is therefore of serious concern, as they are not quickly or easily replaced. Unfortunately, the population has been steadily declining as a consequence of several threats, particularly fisheries bycatch at sea and predation by invasive species on land. This trend is alarming and scientists say it could become extinct in slightly over half a century.

Over the last decade, we’ve learned quite a lot about the Balearic Shearwater’s ecology at sea. Nearly all of its breeding colonies, plus the main Spanish marine hotspots, which were identified by SEO/BirdLife’s marine team have now been designated Special Protection Areas(SPAs) under the Birds and Habitats Directives. Rat eradication has been addressed in some colonies. This is all good but we need to do more to safeguard the species. For one, management plans for these SPAs haven’t been implemented, and wider conservation action at sea is also missing. Furthermore, despite being one of the priorities highlighted in the Species Action Plan, we still don’t have a proper breeding monitoring programme in place. Without monitoring, we cannot understand the dynamics of the population, and so updating its conservation status and assessing the suitability of conservation actions (e.g., reducing bycatch rates) are impossible or at least unreliable.

Two recent initiatives are trying to address the gap created by the lack of monitoring programmes, one in W Mallorca (where colony monitoring had already been conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s) and another in the southernmost of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza and Formentera. Here we describe the latter, where SEO/BirdLife is directly involved, working closely with researchers from AZTI-TecnaliaIRBI and other institutions, with support from the Natural Reserves of West Ibiza Islets. Most of the work is in Sa Conillera islet, off west Ibiza, and it began in 2011, within the framework of Interreg Project FAME, in close collaboration with LPO and CEBC-CNRS. Geolocators have been placed on a number of birds so we can better understand their movements in the Atlantic outside the breeding period. They’ve also been GPS-tracked during the breeding period, which has allowed us to monitor their habits during breeding as well.

On top of monitoring movement, about 120 nests are checked at least twice each year in Sa Conillera and the islets of Es Bosc and Espartar, which are close by. First, during the incubation period, nest occupancy and identification (and ringing if required) of adults is done at each nest. Late in the season, nests are visited again to ring and find out which chicks have fledged. Surveys of other colonies are being conducted in parallel in other islets of Ibiza and Formentera, with particular attention to the Natural Park of Ses Salines. These efforts were also supported by another major project, LIFE+ INDEMARES, as well as the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and the Ibiza Preservation Fund (IPF).

Monitoring is just one step forward to saving this Mediterranean jewel, the most threatened bird in Europe. But to be sure the species doesn’t vanish forever we must set up monitoring programmes in other Balearic Islands. Also, we can’t forget what happens at sea, because this is where this species spends most of its life. With this in mind, SEO/BirdLife and BirdLife Europe’s new European Seabird Task Force is now working with fishers to find ways to ensure they keep catching fish rather than seabirds.

Gull, turtle, seal conservation works


This video from Spain shows Audouin’s gulls, with chicks.

From BirdLife:

Gulls, turtles and seals, three marine triumphs

By Bruna Campos, Mon, 06/07/2015 – 14:30

Marine wildlife in Europe has long been suffering because of human activities. Although we have a lot of work to do still, here are three marine stories that show the Nature Directives work when they are put to good use.

1) A special gull – and you thought they were all the same!

We all remember the gulls in ‘Finding Nemo’, portrayed as lazy, dumb, and incapable of saying anything besides one word: ‘mine’. Gulls are a group of seabirds that have a pretty bad reputation (a.k.a. ‘the flying rats’). Like rats, gulls are often perceived as dirty and diseased scavengers of food. They stir negative emotions like gangs of thieves would – stealing your sandwiches before you’ve even had a chance to take a bite!

As a side note, a gull’s klepto-parasitism isn’t just against humans, although we tend to think very highly of our species, we find a gull’s behaviour very offensive – that they would dare steal or eat our food without permission. However, I would like to introduce you to another side of the gull. Watch one long enough and you’ll notice an incredible display of acrobatics, patience, and simply straight out cheekiness (in a cute way). Like most other parents, gulls are protective and very aggressive against anything approaching their nest – hence the famous sky dive attacks you may have already experienced. Like many seabirds, they mate for life – although divorces do happen with some social problems for a couple of years.

There are 20 species of gull in Europe, and although they share a similar build, they are all quite different, some having more pronounced looks than others. One in particular, Audouin’s Gull, which can only be found in the Mediterranean, is unlike many of its cousins because it rarely scavenges. Rather, it’s a specialist coastal and pelagic fish eater (not to say that they wouldn’t pass off diving for an easy fish that has been thrown away by a fisher at sea). It was one of the world’s rarest gulls in 1975, with only 1,000 pairs. Protection under the Birds Directive led to the creation and implementation of a European action plan which has helped secure its survival, especially in Spain.

Several projects were implemented that contributed to successful re-colonisation of breeding islands and the control of invasive black rats which were predating colonies. Today, with the most recent assessment of the European birds (the European Red List of Birds), we can say that the Audouin’s Gull has the lowest level of extinction risk with around 21,000 pairs. But we must be cautious. Although there has been improvement, particularly in Spain, much more still needs to be done across the Mediterranean to ensure that this gull continues to survive, such as implementing safe fishing gears to stop fishers from accidentally catching gulls in their fishing lines and nets.

2) Sea turtle’s little helpers are saving the day

Sea turtle volunteers run the beaches of Zakynthos in Greece (for Brits, the island is also called ‘Zante’). Before tourists can sprawl all over the sand, sea turtle ‘human little helpers’ make sure they know exactly what is going on with the turtles. How are they doing this, you might wonder? Well, they get up very early and work all morning before daybreak to find out the number of nests laid and their location. They also spend countless nights tagging as many turtles as they can that stride up on the beach to nest. They then run around the beaches alerting tourists about these wonderful creatures, and to not sit in places on the beach where they might break some eggs.

How is all of this relevant to the ‘Nature Directives’? Well,  Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the creature these little helpers are working hard for, are protected by the Habitats Directive. These turtles are widespread and highly migratory, and are endangered globally. So it is only with strict nature legislation and management plans that we can stop their decline. Little helpers please continue doing what you are doing now – you’re making a difference, and we hope in the future to see loggerhead numbers increase.

3) The seal that tried to be common

Take a boat trip along the Frisian coast: can you spot that seal? Probably yes! Lucky you, because if it wasn’t for the Habitats Directive, that seal could be long gone by now. Despite being called ‘Common Seal’, during the last 100 years intense hunting and disease caused its decline in Europe. To help them recover, shooting was banned. However, seals were then hit hard in the 1980s by a disease called phocine distemper, which causes uncontrollable periodic population crashes. Although disease and pollution still threaten the species, hunting restrictions, habitat protection and improved management, especially working with fishers, have helped increase numbers to now over 81,000 in Europe. Thanks again for helping Nature Directives.

These marine comebacks remind us that it is in our power to prevent the loss of a species forever. Nevertheless, we are very far from ensuring the safety of our seabirds and other marine creatures and we must do more. The Birds and Habitats Directives are here to help us with this, but their implementation is fundamental to secure the continued survival of all our marine animals.

Spanish Armada cannons discovery off Ireland


This video says about itself:

17 June 2015

Rare cannons from Spanish Armada discovered in seabed after wreckage from ship washed ashore by storms

From the Irish Times:

Relics from Spanish Armada discovered in Sligo

Artefacts more than 425 years old from merchant vessel found off Streedagh

Wed, Jun 17, 2015, 16:41

Severe winter storms over the last two years are believed to have led to the recent discovery of relics from the Spanish Armada off the Irish coast.

A number of cannons from the merchant vessel La Juliana have been found in sands off Streedagh in Co Sligo since timbers from the exposed wreck began washing ashore in April.

The guns date back to 1588 but are said to be in excellent condition.

Two have been taken off the seabed with archaeologists discovering that one bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, a saint particularly venerated by the people of Catalonia.

It is also dated 1570, the year La Juliana was built, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, the Government said.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, visited the wreck site and saw the archaeological work first hand.

“We have uncovered a wealth of fascinating and highly significant material, which is more than 425 years old,” she said.

“This material is obviously very historically and archaeologically significant.”

Two other vessels from the Armada sank in violent storms in the area in September 1588, La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision, with more than 1,000 soldiers and mariners drowning when they went down.

They are believed to remain concealed and protected by layers of sand which did not shift in storms over the last two years.

La Juliana traded between Spain and Italy until King Philip II commandeered it for the Armada fleet of 130 ships to invade England and take Queen Elizabeth I’s throne.

The vessel was large, weighed 860 tonnes, carried 32 guns, 325 soldiers and had a crew of 70.

Recovery of the rest of the guns, relics and materials from the sandy seabed off Sligo is expected to last a number of weeks.

Ducks wintering in Spain, from where?


This video is about migrating northern pintail ducks in Fukushima, Japan. In 2008, before the nuclear disaster there

From Ibis journal:

Geographical origin of dabbling ducks wintering in Iberia: sex differences and implications for pair formation

Natural and anthropogenic Iberian wetlands in southern Europe are well known for supporting large numbers of migratory Palaearctic waterbirds each winter. However, information on the geographical origin of dabbling ducks overwintering in these wetlands is scarce and mostly limited to data from ringing recoveries.

Here, we used intrinsic isotopic markers to determine the geographical origin of male and female Northern Pintails Anas acuta and Eurasian Teal Anas crecca in Extremadura, inland Iberia, a key site for overwintering dabbling ducks. Additionally, we fitted six Northern Pintails with GPS-GSM tags to complement the data derived from stable isotope analysis.

Most (> 70%) first calendar-year Northern Pintails were assigned to regions above 55°N, flying 2600–5600 km from their main natal regions to Extremadura. Mean values of δ2Hf varied significantly between male and female Northern Pintails, suggesting that the sexes had different geographical origins. Data from tagged adult Northern Pintails supported the isotopic data, one male flying more than 5000 km to the coast of the Pechora Sea (Russia). Most (> 70%) first calendar-year Eurasian Teal were assigned to the region between 48° and 60°N, travelling 1500–4500 km to arrive in Extremadura.

Male and female Eurasian Teal showed marginal differences in mean values of δ2Hf. In migratory dabbling ducks, pairing typically occurs on the wintering grounds, and ducks in their first winter can breed the following spring. For Northern Pintails, pair formation in Extremadura could occur between individuals with different geographical origins, which could contribute to the genetic variability of their offspring.

This video from Sweden is about Eurasian teal.