9th Annual Galveston FeatherFest

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Galveston FeatherFest is one of the biggest bird watching events in Texas, where some 200 bird species can be spotted. Excursions by boat, bus and kayak will take visitors to bays, beaches, wetlands, coastal praires, upland wood mottes and bay marshes. Besides field trips, a number of seminars will be held, including photography, birding basics, butterflies and moths, digiscoping and optics tips, identification and more.

Date: 7 to 10 April 2011
Venue: Burns High School
Location: Galveston Island
State: Texas
Country: United States of America

Rwanda Celebrates its Birdlife at Britain’s National Birdfair

August 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

Visitors to this year’s British Birdfair in Rutland will discover the wonders of Rwanda’s birds, from the Great Blue Turaco to the most sought after Shoebill stork. The Rwanda Development Board/Tourism and Conservation will be showcasing the country named “Land of a Thousand Hills”, from the 21-23 August 2009.

A landlocked central African country, smaller than Belgium, Rwanda is a verdant country of fertile and hilly terrain, home to over 670 species of birds. Though famed for its big game and primates, Rwanda boasts fascinating wildlife that will appeal to all nature-loving tourists. In particular, its unique avian wildlife makes this an ideal destination for bird lovers. It is projected that by 2012, Rwanda will generate 11,000,000 USD from birding.

Described as the birdwatcher’s Glastonbury, Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the birdwatching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation. With hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts, as well as lectures, quizzes and book-launches, this is the event of the year for bird lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The various hot spots for birdwatching in Rwanda include Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes National Parks, Cyamudongo Forest, Buhanga Eco-park, Rugezi Swamp, Nyabarongo Wetlands, Akanyaru Wetlands and Lake Kivu Islands. Some of the highlights of Rwanda’s birdlife to be found in the country’s rolling hills, rugged mountains, swamps and lakes include:

  • The elusive Shoebill stork, which has made a home for itself in the wetlands of Akagera National Park in the eastern part of the country – one of the densest concentrations of waterbirds on the continent.
  • The outlandish Great Blue Turaco, a popular highlight of western part of the country.
  • The rare Ring-necked Francolin, that have also made their home in Akagera
  • The not-to-be-missed fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways
  • African Bird Club describes Nyungwe National Park as the only place in Africa where the Red-collared Mountain Babbler can be seen in safety.
  • If the amazing avian wildlife were not enough, there are also 13 primate species including man’s closest living relative; the chimpanzee.

To raise awareness of the importance of birds, a Birding Association has been set-up, bringing together all bird lovers from both the Government and private sector, working closely with the Tourism Board.

Emmanuel Werabe from the Rwanda Development Board/ Tourism and Conservation commented, “We’re excited to be travelling to the UK to showcase our country’s unique birdlife. Whether you’re a seasoned bird-watcher, an intrepid mountaineer or a curious culture-seeker, there really is something for everyone in Rwanda. This weekend we’re looking forward to meeting birdwatchers that are keen to expand their horizons.”

The Rwanda Development Board/ Tourism and Conservation will be at Stand 20 in Marquee 3 from Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd August.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a well-known bird of prey throughout the world and amongst the largest in North America. Osprey populations decreased due to pesticide poisoning during the 1950s to the 1970s. Although their numbers improved after the ban of DDT, they remain on threatened species and endangered species lists in some localities.

Ospreys are short-distant migrants who reside along waterways. As a large raptor, the Osprey is identified from beneath by their white breast and belly as well as their angled wings and the dark patch on the wrist bend. The back and upperwings are black. The wings are long and taper into a rounded tip. It has a short hooked beak ideal for capturing prey. A dark eyestripe marks the face. The tail is brown with white banding. They measure in at approximately 54 to 58 cm with a wingspan of 150 to 180 cm. The distinctive chirping whistle calls of the Osprey will also assist in identification.

Ospreys feed purely on fish, hovering over a body of water before plunging down to grab a tasty morsel. They have special barbed pads on their foot soles for gripping the fish, which they carry to the nest. Nests are frequently built on artificial structures such as nesting platforms, telephone poles, duck blinds and so forth. The nests are constructed with sticks and debris. Preferred breeding habitat for Ospreys is open water and wetlands. The pair will mate for life. A single clutch of 3 to 4 eggs is laid each year. Incubation is for 32 to 43 days. The chicks hatch individually over a period of 5 days. The oldest will gobble the majority of the food supplied by parents. This is not a major problem in times of abundance, but when little food is available the younger chicks will likely starve to death. In 48 to 59 days the young Osprey with fledge.

A very popular bird of prey, the Osprey features as Nova Scotia’s (Canada) official bird as well as the official bird of Sudermannia of Sweden. The name Osprey has been used for several sporting teams and the bird has been the official mascot of various universities and colleges. Ospreys are truly beautiful birds, exceptional fish hunters and fine parents, certainly worthy of conservation action and protection.

American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is a secretive bird. Although it is rarely seen, you are sure to know that one is about when you hear its eerie, booming call echoing through the reeds. Populations of American Bitterns can be found in areas extending from Central British Columbia, toward Newfoundland, down to the Gulf Coast and Across to southern California. This stocky wetland bird species migrates only a short distance from home. Sadly, American Bittern populations are suffering due to the damage being done to their wetland habitats. Mankind’s lack of concern is once again leading to the decline of a vital bird species.

American Bitterns are noted as being large, stocky birds measuring a length of about 23 inches and a wingspan of 45 inches. This wading bird species can be identified by its bright yellow eyes and yellow bill with a dark culmen. The upperparts are a rich dark brown whilst the throat is white with black/brown streaks. When in flight, its outer flight feathers are distinctly dark compared to the light brown inner area of the wing. Adults have a black stripe running down the side of the throat. The two genders look alike whilst juveniles lack the noticeable streaking. If you do not spot the American Bittern itself, you will be able to identify the bird by its call, a deep “oong-ka-choonk”.

American Bitterns dine on a number of wetland creatures including insects, frogs, salamanders, little fish, small snakes, crayfish and sometimes voles. These quiet birds rely on stealth when foraging for a meal. They will remain motionless, undetected by potential prey. As the snack nears, the bittern will speedily dart forward, nabbing the creature in its bill. Prey is killed by shaking and biting, after which it is swallowed whole.

Breeding takes place in the north between mid-April and early May. Males are typically polygamous, but they differ from other herons in that they are not colonial nesters. The courtship display of the American Bittern is truly fascinating. Arching his back and dipping forward he serenades the female. Together they participate in a complex aerial display. The nest is built by the female who constructs it out of sedges, reeds and other wetland plants. Incubation lasts 24-29 days. Although the young offspring leave the nest at around 2 weeks, the female still cares for them.

A very elusive bird, the American Bittern goes to great lengths to remain hidden. When approached, the bittern will stretch it neck, staring up at the sky, standing absolutely still or swaying slowly to imitate the reeds. If danger continues to threaten it will fly away with a low barking call.

The American Bittern has been declared state endangered in Connecticut and falls under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The chief reason for the lessening numbers of American bitterns is habitat loss. Marshes and swamps forming the habitat of the species have been built over and used for commercial gain. You and I can help by supporting wetland conservation legislation as well as efforts to control water polution. Why not make an effort to save the American Bittern.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Anas strepera or as it is commonly known, the Gadwall, is a common and widespread duck of the Anatidae family. It is basically a grey-coloured dabbling duck with a black rear end. When you look more closely at the grey colouring you will notice that it is made up of delicate speckling and barring. When it flies is shows a distinct white wing patch and is just a little smaller then a mallard.

In non-breeding times the beautifully patterned drake begins to look more like its female counterpart who is light brown in colouring. The Gadwall has a total wingspan of 78 to 90 cm and is 46 to 56 cm long. It can be found in the United Kingdom where it nests in small numbers. Interesting it is one of the species listed in the ‘Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds’ (AEWA).

These ducks live preferably in open wetlands, such as wet grasslands, gravel pits and in slow-flowing rivers where there are islands of vegetation. Their breeding habitats are similar and can be found in large reservoirs and estuaries. If you want to find any breeding gadwalls look in the shallow edges of gravel pits and lakes near any vegetation. You will find them mainly in the Midlands and southeast part of England, eastern Northern Ireland and southeast of Ireland, eastern central Scotland and southeast Wales.

They mainly eat leaves, seeds and the stems of the water plants found near their habitat. They feed by dabbling for plant food under the water by ducking under with their head submerged. The Gadwall on a whole is a quiet species; the female makes a rasping croak and has a ‘quack’ similar to a mallard, whereas the male has a hoarse whistling call.

The Gadwall will nest on the ground, quite away from the waters edge. Most dabbling ducks are very social and form large groups but the Gadwall is not as gregarious outside the breeding season and will only form small flocks. The juvenile birds are first fed insects and then later mollusks will also be added to their normal eating habits during the nesting season.

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