Birds Protect Costa Rico’s Coffee Crops

October 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Millions of people around the world could not imagine starting the day without a cup of coffee. Coffee production plays a major role in the economy of a number of Central and South American countries, including Costa Rica, where ongoing research has highlighted the role local birds play in protecting one of the most lucrative crops in the world – coffee. Stanford University graduate student Daniel Karp and a group of researchers recently published a paper in Ecology Letters where they detail how birds control populations of coffee borer beetles (Hypothenemus hampei) in Costa Rican coffee plantations, increasing the yield per hectare significantly.

Originating in Africa, the coffee borer beetle has spread around the world and is found wherever coffee is grown. This small brown beetle is very destructive and difficult to control, causing an estimated $500 million in damage every year. The female beetle burrows its way into the coffee berry and lays up to 50 eggs. Little white maggots hatch from the eggs and consume the coffee berry from the inside. In coffee plantations where patches of rainforest habitat were left undisturbed, damage by coffee borer beetles was noted to be much less resulting in higher yields.

In determining what contribution birds are making to the coffee economy of Costa Rica, researchers carried out calculations on how much yield could be expected if there were no borer beetles to contend with. They then made a comparison between infested plants left in their natural condition, and infested plants grown inside bird-proof enclosures. It was concluded that, taking the season into account, birds improve yield per hectare by between $75 and $310.

In order to determine which birds were eating the beetles, researchers took bird faeces back to the laboratory at Stanford to test the DNA. One of the bird species identified as a coffee borer beetle eater is the yellow warbler. The research results will be used to show Costa Rican coffee farmers that it is advantageous to protect rainforest habitat on their land – both for the birds and for the coffee crop.

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

September 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Birders of all levels of experience are encouraged to join in the fifth annual edition of this event, the primary goal of which is to provide participants with a unique bird-watching venue, where birders and farmers can meet and the value of birds in this habitat is highlighted. Be prepared for a whole lot of fun. For more information visit the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival Website.

Date: 23-27 October 2013
Venue: Jennings, Los Angeles

Explore the Costa Rican Bird Route

March 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Protecting close to 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat, the Costa Rican Bird Route includes eighteen spectacular bird watching spots. Eight of these are private reserves established by local landowners and incorporated into the Costa Rican Private Reserve Network, while the other ten sites include Costa Rica’s established biological reserves – all of which offer rich and varied bird watching opportunities. The region incorporates the last remaining habitat of the second largest parrot in the world – the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) – and every year since 2002, Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua have joined forces to host the Bi-National Macaw Festival aimed at raising awareness of the plight of these beautiful birds.

Although the main goal of the Bi-National Macaw Festival is to promote the conservation of the habitat of the Great Green Macaw, and therefore ensure its continued existence, the gathering also gives the neighboring countries the opportunity to learn about each other as they pursue their common goal. The festival includes a host of cultural, recreational and educational activities, with art and photo contests, dancing, music, storytelling and handicrafts all focusing on the Great Green Macaw. Landowners who protect macaw nests on their property are rewarded with monetary prizes and certificates in recognition of their efforts, which have resulted in a marked reduction in pillaging of nests for macaw chick for illegal trade.

Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and local communities, birders stand a good chance of spotting a Great Green Macaw when exploring the Costa Rican Bird Route. But if the endangered South American parrot is elusive, the fact that up to 520 bird species have been counted in the route means that birding enthusiasts will have plenty to see.

Birders are asked to take note of their sightings and report them to the Rainforest Biodiversity Group via eBird.org for inclusion on the electronic database. This helps landowners along the route to keep track of wildlife on their properties, while at the same time helping the foundation to track bird distribution in the Western Hemisphere. eBird.org also offers birders the facility to explore their database, which can prove really handy when planning a trip to expand your list of birds sighted. Advanced technology now offers birders the opportunity to be a citizen scientist, no matter where in the world you are pursuing your favorite pastime.

Pledge2Fledge 2012

August 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Pledge2Fledge (P2F) is an international grassroots campaign organized by non-profit organization the Global Birding Initiative for birders to introduce friends and acquaintances to the pursuit of bird watching. P2F presents the perfect opportunity for birders to share their love for birding with others, thereby helping more people to discover the allure of birds while connecting with the natural world around them. On 24 to 26 August 2012 birders across six continents will be actively involved in sharing their passion for birding by introducing non-birders to this fascinating activity and sharing the results with the world through videos, photos, and stories on the P2F website and social media channels. For more information visit the Pledge 2 Fledge Website

Birding Along the Great Rift Valley Flyway in Israel

July 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Located at the point where three continents meet, Israel has reported sightings of more than 500 species of birds, many of which stop-over during their migration between Europe/Western Asia to Africa along the Great Rift Valley flyway. So, a recent announcement by the Israeli government that it will be investing NIS 37 million (US$10 million) in developing a network of centers along the migration route is welcome news for birding enthusiasts. Three existing bird watching centers are to be upgraded – Kfar Rupin, Eilat and Ma’agan – with four new centers planned for Ein Gedi, Hatzeva, Lotan and Sde Boker, as per the proposal put together by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and Tel Aviv University. The project, which will include a web-accessible computerized bird monitoring database, aims to attract up to 100,000 bird watchers to the region annually, while raising environmental awareness and promoting education and research.

An estimated 500 million birds stop-over in Israel during their autumn and spring migrations, between mid-March and mid-May and November to December. The area of Galilee, with its kibbutz farms and fishponds located on the banks of the Jordan River, hosts migratory birds that take a rest period of several days before completing the last stretch of their trip which spans three continents and covers thousands of kilometers. During this time bird watchers can expect to see vast flocks of pelicans, storks (up to 85 percent of the world’s stork population) and other birds setting up temporary rest-stops.

The Hula Valley Nature Reserve is one of the country’s most famous birding sites and well worth visiting if you plan to go birding in Israel. The reserve, which is listed by BBC Wildlife magazine as one of the world’s most important wildlife observation sites, has an interesting history. In the 1950s most of the lake was drained to make way for farming, with devastating results on the ecosystem and endemic plant and animal life. In 1994, in an effort to restore the balance, part of the lake was re-flooded and soon attracted birds again. Today the reserve is home to tens of thousands of aquatic birds representing more than 200 species and welcomes birders with an informative visitors’ center and a floating bridge with blinds from which birds can be viewed. Hula Nature Reserve stands as testimony to nature’s ability to recover when given the opportunity to do so.

Christmas Bird Count – Gathering Valuable Data

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

In the late 1800s wildlife conservation was unheard of and the hunting of birds and other animals was generally unrestricted in the United States. In some states it was a common Christmas tradition to go hunting, with the hunter bagging the most birds and animals being declared the winner of the so-called “Side Hunt”. By the turn of the century, however, nature lovers and scientists began to express concern regarding the effects of hunting on bird populations, and it was at this time, when the Audubon Society was still in its infancy, that the society’s representative Frank M. Chapman proposed starting a new Christmas tradition in which birds would be counted, rather than hunted, and so the concept of the “Christmas Bird Count” was born – and enthusiastically supported.

The very first Christmas Bird Count was carried out by Frank Chapman and a team of 27 birders, who recorded a combined count of 90 species of birds in 25 locations. From small beginnings, the Christmas Bird Count has grown into a nationwide effort involving thousands of keen birders, each doing their bit to compile a record of the country’s feathered creatures. Starting on 14 December this year, the 112th Christmas Bird Count will continue to 5 January 2012, during which time thousands of volunteers, referred to as “citizen scientists”, will collect data to be used by the Audubon society and other conservation organizations in determining the health of bird populations – and have loads of fun in the process.

With some nature-loving families, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has become somewhat of a tradition, and whether citizen scientists are monitoring backyard bird feeders, or going out into the wild, every bit of information collected in this carefully coordinated effort is important. The fact that the CBC has been taking place over such a long period of time gives conservationists a clearer picture of trends in bird populations. This allows them to formulate strategies to protect birds by protecting their natural habitat. Although the focus is on the feathered inhabitants of the monitored areas, conservationists are able to detect issues such as improper use of pesticides and groundwater contamination which could be detrimental to the humans in the area as well.

Whether you are a seasoned birder, or a budding citizen scientist, the Audubon Society welcomes participation in the Christmas Bird Count. So bundle up warm, grab those binoculars, and do your bit for the future of our feathered friends.

Bird Watching in Oman – A Rewarding Experience

November 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Bird watching enthusiasts who make it a goal to visit a veriety of destinations where they can enjoy their hobby, may want to consider a visit to Oman during the northern hemisphere winter season. Located on the edge of the western Palearctic, between Africa, Europe and Asia, Oman is the wintering destination of avifauna from three distinctive zoo-geographical areas. The country has a wealth of varied habitats to cater for the specific needs of hundreds of bird species, and birding enthusiasts can be assured that each bird watching excursion will be a rewarding experience.

Officially called the Sultanate of Oman, the country is an Arab state located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman form the coastline of the country, providing plenty of opportunities for seabirds and waders to enjoy the sea’s bounty. Husband and wife Janne and Jens Eriksen are experienced birdwatchers based in Oman, and they are making a concerted effort to bring the country’s rich birdlife to the attention of birders around the world. While the winter months, between October and March, are particularly interesting because of the foreign feathered visitors that join the locals, Oman has a thriving all-year-round population of around 500 species of birds spread throughout the more than 300,000 square kilometers of land.

The Oman Ministry of Environment, together with the Ministry of Tourism, is actively involved in both protecting the natural heritage of the country, and promoting eco-tourism. Authorities have allocated fifteen protected conservation areas and have sponsored the publication of books on birding in Oman to encourage both locals and international tourists to enjoy the birdlife of the country. The Eriksens note that while people flock to shopping malls for recreation, they are missing out on spending their leisure time in nature. This is a situation they would like to change and believe that nature clubs in schools are the answer, as these could encourage the younger generation to get involved in bird watching and hiking.

November is one of the most popular times for bird watching in Oman, as this is when large flocks of migrating birds arrive, providing plenty of action on the coastline as they establish territory for the winter by strutting about, swooping and diving in an endless flurry of activity. By December the birds are more settled and bird watchers can observe them going about their daily routines. In January, the water level of the lagoons and wetlands rises, attracting wintering waterfowl in large numbers. Certainly, birders who have spent time observing the birds of Oman agree that the diversity and number of birds is astounding, and well worth experiencing.

Portland Christmas Bird Count

October 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Join in the cheer of the season with a Christmas Bird Count. Not only is it good fun, but it also provides valuable scientific data on bird populations. Last year 267 bird watchers joined in, spotting 124 species. Why not help break the record? Along with fantastic bird watching, birders will meet like-minded people with whom to share experiences and knowledge. The data collected is sent to the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. So wrap up warmly and grab your binoculars for this fantastic event. For more info, check out the Audubon of Portland website.

Dates: 31 December 2011
Times: 06h00 to 18h00
City: Portland
State: Oregon
Country: United States of America

Sigurgeirs Bird Museum in Iceland

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Surrounded by volcanic landforms and wetlands, Lake Mývatn, located near the Krafla volcano in the north of Iceland, is home to a wide range of birdlife, particularly waterfowl. Its rich biodiversity and intriguing geology continues to attract biologists, naturalists, geologists and bird watchers from around the world. It was in these beautiful surroundings that Sigurgeir Stefánsson was raised, and his love for birds became evident. The results of his life-long interest in birds can be viewed in the fascinating Sigurgeirs Bird Museum where his collection of more than 300 birds, representing around 180 species, is displayed.

Sigurgeir Stefánsson was born and raised on the Ytri-Neslönd farm, and spent his youth exploring his surroundings and collecting birds’ eggs. Soon he had specimens of all the indigenous Icelandic birds’ eggs, which he used to create a small natural history museum. At the age of 14 years, Stefánsson was given a bird that had been preserved by the process of taxidermy. This was the beginning of his bird collection, and any dead birds he, or his friends and neighbors found, were taken to the taxidermist for preservation.

Stefánsson’s collection grew until it had taken over his family’s house. It was later moved to a nearby shack and continued to grow, with other bird-lovers showing an interest in his work. While focusing on creating a complete collection of the birds of Iceland, Stefánsson also communicated and traded with ornithologists in other parts of the world, and his collection includes some exotic birds. He was often consulted by visiting researchers, as he had an intimate knowledge of the area and its feathered residents. He had expressed the desire to build a museum to properly display his collection for others to enjoy, but had no funds to make his dream a reality.

Tragically, in 1999 during a storm Stefánsson and his two companions drowned in Lake Mývatn as they attempted to repair an underwater cable – he was only 37 years old. To honor his memory and his accomplishments in the field of ornithology, the Aurora Charity Fund, together with members of his family, established the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum, which opened on 17 August 2008. In addition to viewing the extensive collection of birds on display in the museum, visitors can make use of the binoculars provided to spot local birds in the surroundings and on the lake, which is known for having the most species of duck to be found in one location.

Boreal Birding & Northern Landscapes Festival

May 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

This event offers birding enthusiasts the opportunity to explore this beautiful wilderness area and its feathered and furry inhabitants. Through a series of field-focused courses, lectures, and hikes, experts will be sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with participants. One of the highlights of the program is the presentation on Bird Conservation in the Superior National Forest at the USFS Gunflint Ranger District.

Dates: 2-5 June 2011
Venue: North House Folk School, Grand Marais
State: Minnesota
Country: United States of America

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