British Birds Tap Into New Food Source

February 26, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Many bird species have amazing ways of adapting to changes in their environment, and a recent study in Britain has revealed that great tits, blue tits and other native species are tapping into a new food source as a counteractive measure against the effects of climate change. Some bird species have started laying their eggs too early in the year, most likely as a result of climate change, and this has resulted in their chicks hatching out before their food source is available, the food source being caterpillars that feed on newly sprouting oak leaves in spring. The new food source is the protein-rich larvae of invasive oak marble gall wasps which the birds access by pecking away the tips of the galls found on the oak trees. Researchers working on the project, Professor Graham Stone of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Karsten Schönrogge of the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, noted that the evidence shows that the gall wasp larvae are not just an ‘occasional snack’, but rather a ‘really significant food source’.

The oak marble gall wasp (Andricus kollari) lays its eggs within the oak tree leaf buds via its ovipositor. This then develops into a round mass of green plant tissue which later turns brown and becomes hardened. Within this hardened gall there is a single wasp larva, and this is what the bird is after. These galls are found in their thousands on the Turkey oak trees (Quercus cerris) which were introduced into Britain in 1735. The first wasps that emerge are all female and go on to lay their eggs in the same manner, but without mating. The galls grow over winter and in early spring both males and females hatch, go on to mate, and the cycle starts again.

Credit goes to Dr Tracey Begg who had the task of cutting open more than 30,000 Turkey oak buds collected from eight sites in Scotland and England. Of the 3,000 galls she examined, Dr Begg found that on some trees up to half had been pecked open, leaving ragged marks, as opposed to the smooth hole wasps create when they emerge naturally, confirming that the birds are using the wasp larvae as a major food source.

2013 Olympic Peninsula BirdFest

February 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Organized by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, the Olympic Peninsula BirdFest offers something for everyone, whether you are a beginner birder, or a seasoned expert. Take a stroll, take a hike, or take a boat tour and see what this spectacular part of the world has to offer. For more information visit the Olympic Peninsula Bird Fest Website.

Dates: 30 March – 1 April 2013
Location: Sequim, WA

2013 Vallarta Bird Festival

February 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

The Vallarta Bird Festival offers four days jam-packed with birding activities. Join expert guides to explore unique habitats and see how many of the Banderas Bay and Cabo Corrientes Region’s more than 400 species of birds you can spot. Sit in on lectures by international authorities on a range of bird related topics. For more information visit vallartabirdfestival.org

Dates: 7-10 March 2013
Location: Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Discover the Ancient Sport of Falconry in England’s Cotswolds

February 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

The sport of using trained birds of prey to hunt game for their trainers, known as falconry, is thought to have begun as long ago as 1000 BC. With only noble classes having the time and resources to raise and train birds of prey, during the Middle Ages the sport became a status symbol. The Japanese took the issue of status to an extreme by detailing what was permissible to hunt and who was permitted to hunt it, according to rank within the military nobility – the Samurai. Today, there are numerous falconry centers around the world where visitors can watch exhibitions of these remarkable birds in action, as well as learn and practice the sport of falconry.

In Moreton-in-Marsh, in northeastern Gloucestershire, England, the Cotswold Falconry Centre houses approximately 150 birds of prey, many of which can be seen in action during the center’s free-flying demonstrations. Established in 1988, the aim of the center is to use education and fun to promote a greater understanding of birds of prey. With more than 20,000 visitors each year, the center is doing much to achieve their goal. More than thirty bird species have been bred successfully in the center’s non-commercial aviaries, with owls being encouraged to breed naturally in the aptly named Owl Woods, an area that visitors can stroll through at leisure. CCTV and infra-red cameras allow a peek into the secretive world of these fascinating nocturnal birds of prey.

Bearing in mind that the center does not put on bird shows as such, but allows the birds to decide if they will participate or not, displays are held four times daily in season – at 11:30, 13:30, 15:00 and 16:30 – and the Cotswold Falconry Centre opens on 9 February 2013 after being closed for the coldest part of winter. Birds that participate in the displays include vultures, falcons, caracara, owls and eagles and visitors are assured of some dazzling aerobatics and high-speed flight from these awe-inspiring birds.

The Cotswold Falconry Centre offers a number of activities for visitors who are looking for a hands-on experience. Starting at 9:30 and finishing at around 16:30, the Introductory Course covers the basics of falconry, including an in-depth explanation of birds types and training on handling and flying the birds. The Eagle Day offers participants the opportunity to spend some quality time with a mature Golden Eagle, including a walk into the Cotswold Hills where they will be able to fly an eagle. Certainly, the Cotswold Falconry Centre is the perfect day’s outing for anyone who is interested in the ancient sport of falconry.