New Rail Species Identified

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The recent discovery of a new bird species in Madagascar has confirmed that no matter how much the world thinks it knows about nature, there are still a number of surprises in store. Many have known about the bird for ages, but only heard its call at night. No-one has been able to view a live specimen, as it also seems to be master at being illusive. Now that it has finally been seen, identified and illustrated, the find is not only good news for researchers and scientists, but for the entire dry forests of Madagascar, as conservation efforts will be enhanced to protect this rare bird species.

Classified amongst the rails, the Mentocrex beankaensis is the latest species that has finally come to light. It has been a collaborated effort to find this bird, as it is small and brown, camouflaging itself perfectly and only comes out at night. The Chicago Field Museum, as well as researchers from Madagascar, are extremely excited about adding the new species to the list. Several new species have been discovered since the project began in the Beanka Forest, which is an extremely remote area that is rich in rare plant and animal life. This forest has always proved to be a wonderful location of exploration and research, proving the importance of conserving this forest numerous times over. The Director of Biodiversity Conservation in Madagascar, Aldus Andriamomonjy, commented that the discovery of these species will help the small communities living near to the forest and will enhance the conservation of the forest and its animal life.

Andriamomonjy was quoted saying: “We have taken an approach to the conservation of the Beanka Forest resting on working in unison with local people to fulfill aspects of their economic and development needs and bestowing a sense of natural patrimony of the organisms that live in their forest. These are aspects critical for any long-term successful project. The discovery of this new species of bird and other organisms during the late 2009 expedition underlines the importance of our mission and the uniqueness of the Beanka Forest.” With other species and now Mentocrex beankaensis being found and identified, one has to wonder how many more secrets this magnificent forest in Madagascar still has in store for researchers.

Osprey History in the Making

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The Kielder Water and Forest Park is located in England. It is not only home to the country’s biggest forest areas, but the largest man-made lake to be found in northern Europe. Its remote location and breathtaking natural landscapes make the park a favorite amongst artists, hiking enthusiasts and cyclists. The park is also the perfect family escape. Animals and bird life play a vital role in the park, and recently the Kielder Water and Forest Park has taken on a conservation challenge that might just make history.

The arrival of a breeding pair of ospreys last year was an exciting event for the staff and rangers at the Kielder Water and Forest Park. It might not sound like a major event, but their sighting in the park marked the return of these magnificent birds to the Northumberland area in more than two hundred years. Ospreys are large raptors that feed on fish and are able to adapt to a variety of habitats, as long as there is water and enough food supply. Even though last year’s visitors did not nest in the park, it is hoped that they will return to the park this year, where a nesting platform will be waiting for them.

Ospreys are known to be very loyal to their partners, and more than often return to a nesting site. Rangers believe that by enticing a breeding pair to nest within the park, they will ensure the return of the birds and their young, and in future lure more breeding pairs to the park. The Kielder Water and Forest Reserve is the ideal location for ospreys, as the lake is able to provide them with both water and ample food supply. The park has now set up a nesting platform in a secret location that is situated deep within the isolation of the forest, and stands at a height of 18.2 meters. To capture the event, and allow visitors to be a part of the excitement, the park has installed CCTV cameras on the platform. This will allow the public to be a part of the excitement without any direct human interference. With all the preparations made, the Forestry Department and the Kielder Water and Forest Park will be waiting patiently to see the first signs of hope; namely the return of the male to scout for nesting sites.

Farmers Could Save Endangered Ibis

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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

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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.

Black Swift (Cypseloides niger)

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The Black Swift (Cypseloides niger), like other swifts, spends most of its time in the air. A nearctic-neotropical migrant bird species, the Black Swift breeds in areas ranging from Alaska to California, Montana and Colorado. During the winter months you will spot them in the tropics. If you are traveling through mountains or near coastal cliffs in the range of the Black Swift you are more likely to see them.

How can you identify the Black Swift? This bird species has the typical swift shape with a cigar-shaped body and crescent wings. The Black Swift is, however, a large and rather bulky swift measuring 7 inches in length. The tail is short with a deep notch. All the plumage is black except for its whitish forehead which is only seen at close quarters. Juvenile Black Swifts are marked by little white flecks. To clarify your identification of this quick moving bird, listen out for its harsh ci-chi-chi-chit call.

Black Swifts tend to be habitat specific, requiring particular conditions for nesting. Their prefered habitat is in forests near rivers. Typically they will nest behind waterfalls or even on wet cliffs and sometimes in limestone caves. These swifts enjoy a nesting environment that is damp, dark and difficult for predators to reach. Another important factor when choosing a nest site is that it must have an easy flyway for entering and leaving the nest. Because of their very particular nesting requirements, Black Swifts’ distribution is very patchy. The nests are constructed in a cup-like shape made of mud, algae and moss. Black Swifts will either nest on their own or may become part of a small colony. The female bird will lay just one egg in June or July which both parents take turns incubating. Incubation lasts about 4 weeks. The young swift will be able to fly at between 45 and 49 days old.

Black Swifts forage whilst flying either singly or in groups. They frequently forage in wide open areas or above the forest canopy in search of small airborne insects. These are certainly fascinating birds that you will want to watch out for.

Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis)

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The Spruce Grouse, Falcipennis canadensis, can be found throughout Canada excepting for the extreme north. Then in the United States you can find the Grouse in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Northern New England and Michigan. The Spruce Grouse lives in forests that contain coniferous trees, especially if they are pine and spruce trees.

The Spruce Grouse is 13 inches long and is a medium-sized, stocky, chicken-looking bird with rounded wings and a long squarish tail. The male grouse looks similar to the Blue Grouse, the only difference being the white barring and spotting on his under parts, as the Blue Grouse is totally brown. Another small difference is the tip of the tail, which is grey/black in comparison to the Spruce Grouse who has a brown tip. The “Franklin” variety of the Spruce Grouse doesn’t have the brown tip but has a white speckled upper tail.

The adult male bird wears a red comb that just covers his eyes. His neck is black, excepting for the white border around it, and his belly is grey with white spots and has black barring on the upper parts. His breast is black and has white bars going across it and his upper tail is black speckled with white spots and a pale brown band at the top.

The adult female bird has a reddish-brown or grey-brown plumage that is covered with white and dark-brown barring on the under parts and a black tail with the same brown band. She does not have the red comb like her male counterpart. The female Spruce Grouse looks very alike the female Blue Grouse but has white and black barring on her belly and the band on the tail is brown not grey. The female will make a nest on the ground, which is camouflaged well by the ground cover. The Spruce Grouse is a permanent resident but will move a small distance by foot if they need another location for winter.

During winter these birds will look for food either on the ground or in trees. The grouse is well adapted and their digestive sacs in their intestines can enlarge in size to quite an extent to accommodate the grouse’s winter diet of conifer needles. In summer they will include in their diet berries, insects and a variety of green plants. If you happen to come upon a Spruce grouse they tend to stand still even if you are only a few feet away from them. However, in the winter months they become more skittish due to lack of camouflaging and will take flight if you come within 20 to 150 feet of them.

Exquisite Bird Watching in Turkey

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Turkey is an incredibly beautiful place filled with all kinds of plants and animals. Birds are certainly found in abundance here and a large number of birdwatchers are fast discovering that Turkey is an ideal bird watching destination. In fact, if you’re busy planning your next holiday, why not consider going bird watching in Turkey?

There are a number of different travel companies that are already offering bird watching tours in Turkey. The country’s diverse geography provides a number of different bird habitats, making for excellent variety. In fact, it is the diversity of ecosystems combined with the country’s location between several migratory routes which have provided the massive abundances of birds that this country enjoys. Here you will find deciduous and coniferous forests, arid steppe, coastal areas, mountains and much more. Many birds can claim this beautiful part of the world as their permanent home. Many others regularly stop in Turkey en route from Europe to Africa and back each year. No wonder bird watching in Turkey is fast gaining a reputation for excellence!

The Turkish wetlands are often considered to be the most important ecosystems for wild birds. Many different species can be found in Manyas Kuscenneti, which is situated south of the Marma Sea and is regarded as being the most important wetland area in the country. The 64 hectare lake is home to more bird species than anywhere else in the country. Well over 60 different species make their way to Manyas Kuscenneti each year to breed. Other prime wetland areas include Sultansazligi, Izmir Kuscenneti, Yumurtalik, Akyatan, Agytan, Egirdir and Beysehir, amongst others. Rivers also provide an important habitat for birds, and here you will find that the Euphrates certainly isn’t the only one. Many river deltas, such as the Kizihrmak and the Göksu, simply cannot be overlooked when it comes to bird watching in Turkey. The country is also home to a wonderful number of mountain ranges which feature alpine meadows with heavily forested lower slopes. The most enjoyable bird watching experience to be enjoyed in the mountains can arguably be found at Soguksu National Park. Olympos National Park is also absolutely fantastic.

There is more than 8 000 km of coastline in Turkey, which features sandy beaches, salt marshes, jagged cliffs and more. This is yet another exciting part of the country’s natural habitat worth exploring as it is teeming with birdlife. If you would like to go on a bird watching tour in Turkey, you should definitely choose your seasons carefully. Spring is generally the best time to go bird watching, though it helps to go just before or after holiday season as this not only saves money but makes for a less stressful holiday. Book your ticket now to make the most of the abundant natural birdlife in the beautiful country of Turkey.

Belize is a Bird Watcher’s Paradise

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Travel champion Frommer’s has nominated Belize as one of the best bird watching destinations in the world. It isn’t hard to figure out why, with more than 570 species of resident and migratory birds frequenting this beautiful Central American country. The varied ecosystems found here provide homes to a striking variety of birds making it a true bird watching mecca.

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Crossbills Acting Cross-Eyed

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It seems that a group of rare two-barred crossbills ‘looked’ at their internal compasses a little cross-eyed since they took a wrong turn and ended up in a remote, windswept outcrop of Scottish islands. No doubt the birds came in search of food but it is unlikely that they’re going to find their favorite snack – larch and spruce cones – this far north.

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El Dorado Bird Reserve, Colombia

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The American Bird Conservancy, Conservation International and Fundacion ProAves serve as joint custodians of the El Dorado Bird Reserve situated in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range of northern Colombia. These custodians have successfully halted a holiday home development in the area, which would have proven devastating to the prolific bird life, including 21 endemic species, as well as migratory songbirds from the United States.

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