Birds make the news
BirdLife News Round-up: August 2009
Where would BirdLife be without birds? Birds are the thermometer in Mother Nature’s mouth - telling us so much about the health of our shared planet. Our news in August was littered with stories of spectacular bird species from around the globe. Here’s a quick run down of what we heard…
BirdLife recently received a letter from H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone confirming his intention to declare the Gola forest a National Park – home to the White-necked Picathartes (News in Brief #17).
BirdLife Malta (BirdLife in Malta) highlighted that 2009 saw the first breeding records of Common Kestrel in 15 years, and Grey Wagtail in almost 100 years (Malta: the return of “common” birds). Staying in Europe we reported how children in the region logged nearly 94 thousand sightings of migratory White Stork, Barn Swallow, Common Swift and Common Cuckoo as part of BirdLife’s Spring Alive campaign. We also announced - just as many migratory birds will be doing soon - Spring Alive will be heading to Africa in 2010 (Spring Alive: every year a greater success!).
A single Bar-tailed Godwit also made the news in August by flying more than 8,000 miles (12,900 km) from Australia to be spotted in western Arctic Alaska. The bird highlighted that fact that many migratory shorebirds are in decline. “The conservation of this highly migratory group of birds is truly a challenging worldwide issue”, said Dr Steve Zack - Wildlife Conservation Society scientist who observed the godwit (News in Brief #16).
The Critically Endangered Slender-billed Vulture has been successfully bred in captivity for the first time, raising hopes that captive breeding has the potential to save this and other Critically Endangered Asian vultures (New nestlings bring cautious hope for Asia's Threatened vultures).
In Slovenia, DOPPS (BirdLife in Slovenia) has been evaluated by the European Commission as one of the 26 Best LIFE Nature projects for a project to conserve the Corncrake (DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia praised for Corncrake project). In Turkey, Doğa Derneği (BirdLife in Turkey) is working with local schools and religious leaders to protect Lake Burder – the single most important wintering site for Endangered White-headed Duck (Preachers and teachers help conserve Turkish wetland).
Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) recently released the results of the most extensive breeding bird of survey of the country. The 2009 Key Biodiversity Area summer survey extended the known breeding range of over 80 species. Highlights included: extended known breeding ranges of Iraq Babbler, Grey Hypocolius and the Endangered Basra Reed Warbler; over 1,000 Marbled Teal observed with breeding recorded at 13 sites; and, over 70 Endangered Egyptian Vulture were seen across 20 sites (News in Brief #15).
However, it wasn’t all good news in August. BirdLife has learnt that a Tanzanian Government Agency may be seeking to buy mining equipment for large-scale soda ash extraction from Lake Natron – the most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingo in the world (Lake Natron faces renewed threat from soda-ash mining). We also reported how a recent hunting expedition in Iraq reportedly killed over 100 Houbara Bustard alone (News in Brief #15), and that an IBA in France – home to the Purple Heron – has been threatened by an oil spill (Oil spill in the south of France: biodiversity under threat).
Perhaps our biggest news last month was the launch of a global bid to try to confirm the continued existence of 47 species of bird that have not been seen for up to 184 years. The announcement was made at the opening ceremony of the 21st British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. Funds raised from this year's Birdfair will go to the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme to help fund searches for species such as Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Jamaican Petrel, Hooded Seedeater, Himalayan Quail, and Pink-headed Duck.
Let’s hope we have some great species news to report thanks to the Birdfair over the next 12 months (Quest launched to find 'lost' species).
Credits: Nick Askew