ScrubJay Festival 2010

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Scrub Jay Festival 2010, will take place on 20 February, and is an initiative that is hosted by the Lyonia Environmental Center to raise awareness for the plight of the Scrub Jay. It is a bird that is only found in Florida, and nests in habitats where scrub is in abundance. They are currently a threatened species, with encroachment on their habitat being a major threat, and the festival hopes to educate the public on this unique bird. Guided walks, talks to promote conservation, live music performances and activities for children will keep festival goers entertained and amazed throughout the day.

To find out more about the festival and its activities, contact the Lyonia Environmental Center direct, of visit their website at http://lyoniapreserve.com/LEC1-6-10.htm.

Date: 20 February 2010
Venue: Lyonia Environmental Center
City: Deltona, Florida
Country: United States of America

Farmers Could Save Endangered Ibis

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

The elegant white-shouldered Ibis is a critically endangered wading bird that is found in the southern regions of Laos, Vietnam, the eastern region of Kalimantan and in the northern areas of Cambodia. Its natural habitat includes wet grasslands, sand and gravel bars at the water’s edge, marshes and forests that do not consist of dense vegetation. The coloring is quite distinctive with dark plumage covering the bird’s body, red legs and a bald black head. Its name is derived from a unique feature which can be found on the inner forewing of the white-shouldered Ibis, a light, almost white, colored patch of plumage.

This beautiful bird has found its way onto the critically endangered list, the IUCN Red List, of bird species and it is estimated that there are fewer than 250 birds remaining in the world. Recent studies have revealed that there could be ways to save this wonderful bird, as they began to investigate the reasons behind the speedy decline in the species. The University of East Anglia has recently published their results.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds funded the project and studies were concentrated in Cambodia, as the biggest collection of the white-shouldered Ibis is found here. Watching and studying the approximately 160 to 200 birds, has revealed that they prefer open areas, with open sand areas and ground level vegetation, as it makes access to prey easier, makes it easier for the birds to see oncoming danger and assists them in landing and take off as there are less obstacles. What has made the study even more fascinating is the fact that human interaction almost always plays a negative role in the survival of animal and bird species, but in the case of the white-shouldered Ibis, human activity is playing a vital role in the protection of the remaining birds. Open fields where livestock graze and areas that are burnt down by farmers to create more open fields, in turn accommodate these birds and opens more habitats to them. As the white-shouldered Ibis seems to be dependant on the farmers for their existence, it is hoped that this relationship between farmer and Ibis can assist in the survival of the species and hopefully increase white-shouldered Ibis numbers.

Niceforo’s Wren to Enjoy Increased Protection

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under News

Many people have not even heard of the Niceforo’s Wren – and without help, it is unlikely that that will change any time soon. The species is listed as being Critically Endangered with just fifty of these birds still remaining in the wild. Now, it seems, there may just be a sliver of light on the horizon – a new project designed to increase the bird’s natural habitat and provide it with further protection.

American Bird Conservancy has been working with partner Fundacion ProAves (Colombia) and World Land Trust (US) to secure 3 200 acres of dry forest in the Chicamocha Valley found in Colombia’s eastern Andes. The land, which includes some of the highest quality dry forest still remaining in the region, is to be turned into a reserve that will serve, not only to protect the wren, but also to secure the futures of several more endemic species. Other birds that should benefit from the new arrangement include the endangered Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and the Apical Flycatcher.

At present there are fewer than 25 pairs of Niceforo’s Wren – 14 of which are living in the area, their lives threatened daily by the destruction caused by man-made fires, while intensive goat grazing continues to destroy their habitat. Knowing this, it was decided that the only way to preserve the species was to acquire the farms where these birds are found and create a safer, more stable environment that should ultimately help them to repopulate. The task means not only acquiring the land, but removing more than 500 goats and 50 heads of cattle. However most will agree that the effort is worth it. George Wallace, the Vice President for the American Bird Conservancy’s International Programs, said: “To be able to give a species that is so close to extinction another chance at survival is a thrilling opportunity, and we are tremendously indebted to the supporters who have made this a reality.” He added: “Now begins the work of protecting the habitat on the ground as well as on paper,” – a task which will most likely prove to be no small feat.

The new reserve will be located near Zapatoca, a small town about one hour from Bucaramanga. Any visitors and students interested in learning more about the project and the animals it aims to protect are invited to visit the reserve if they are able to do so.

The Albatross Task Force Project

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

South Africans are fast gaining recognition for taking initiative and trying new things. Most recently they have enjoyed a lot of success in efforts aimed at minimizing the number of endangered albatrosses killed in fishing nets annually. Conservationists are now looking at how the project can be expanded.

Albatrosses do not generally receive a lot of public attention, but they are certainly no less important than other birds. This large sea bird is currently facing a huge dilemma – as many as three quarters of albatross species are at the brink of extinction. The main cause for their demise is the fact that they are easily entangled in long fishing lines which are dropped into the water to catch fish such as tuna. The bird then swoops down on the baited lines to which it is attracted, quickly becomes entangled in the lines and it is then eventually pulled underwater where it drowns. It would seem to be such a simple problem to solve, but up until now conservationists have not have much success in helping to stem the number of fishing industry-related deaths.

Fortunately a South African initiative called the Albatross Task Force (ATF) project has now found a way to make the lines safer and so reduce the probability of the birds being drawn to them and becoming entangled. The project’s main preservation technique involves attaching brightly colored streamers to the back of the vessels. These streamers, known as tori lines, flap in the wind and scare the birds away, so helping them to avoid becoming entangled. The initiative also looks at educating fishermen so as to help them avoid catching albatrosses. They share specialist knowledge with the fishermen and also encourage them to fish at night when activity is low. Finding more effective ways to keep the lines down under the water is also encouraged. While changing entrenched attitudes takes time, new laws stipulating that no more than 25 birds may be caught during fishing trips is a very powerful motivator.

So far the Albatross Task Force project has been incredibly successful in helping these endangered birds to avoid premature deaths. The project was launched in 2006 and in 2008 the number of birds killed by fisheries in South Africa dropped by an incredible 85%. Expanding the project to encompass other countries is simply the next logical step, and the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is very supportive of the move. Hopefully this creative and forward-thinking initiative will save yet another bird species from extinction.

Hen Harrier to be Released into English Wilds

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

The hen harrier is one of the most endangered birds of prey in Britain. Their numbers have fallen incredibly in England in the past, with just ten breeding pairs having been counted last year. While this bird species was once very widespread across Britain, it now seems its domain is limited mainly to Scotland where there are about 630 breeding pairs.

The main reason behind the dramatic decline of hen harriers in England is systematic persecution – namely, the shooting of these birds in their natural habitats in the Pennines and the Peak District. This is an area where these birds come to prey on grouse chicks and it is here that they are most ruthlessly persecuted. However, it seems that government officials are not content to sit back and watch extinction in action. Natural England, a government conversation agency, has been hard at work at drafting up plans to save the hen harrier in England. They would like to reintroduce the bird into the ranges that it formerly inhabited, such as lowland farms, heathland and upland areas including the Exmoor, Dartmoor and New Forest areas. All this will hopefully take place during the course of the next two years. Until now their plans have been put forth somewhat clandestinely, with the proposals gaining approval from bird conservation organizations, environment ministers and moorland and country sports organizations. The detailed proposals will be officially released to the public in early April.

Why all the secrecy? It seems it is feared that there will be some opposition from certain conservationists and landowners. Caution certainly is the order of the day, since these birds can pose a threat to resident land owners in the proposed areas for release. Farmers in the area are already struggling with a surge in the number of sparrowhawks, red kits and buzzards and the addition of another feathered predator will no doubt only add to their worries. Some landowners use their estates primarily for pheasant and partridge shooting and are concerned that the birds could get in the way. Basically there are fears that the widespread and non-specific reintroduction of these birds of prey could cause havoc to a number of already established farm and gaming practices. What’s more, Scottish sheep farmers are already complaining about decreases in stock numbers due to the much higher numbers of hen harriers in those parts of the United Kingdom. While the reintroduction of the hen harriers to the English wilds is widely supported due to the fact that they are endangered, it seems it is hoped that conservation officials will choose wisely as to how many of these birds will be released and where they will be allowed to make their new home.

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