Birdland Park & Gardens in the Cotswolds

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Birdland Park & Gardens, located in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds, is home to more than 500 birds representing around 140 species, including pelicans, flamingos, penguins, storks, cranes, cassowary and a variety of waterfowl in their water habitats, with over 50 aviaries housing exotic parrots, owls, toucans, touracos, pheasants, hornbills and more. The park is also home to the only King penguins to be found in England, Ireland and Wales and a webcam allows visitors an up-close view of these fascinating birds. Specialized habitats at the park include the Desert House and Toucan House. The Marshmouth Nature Walk covers an area of 2.5 acres with a network of pathways featuring hides and feeding stations, offering visitors an opportunity to enjoy the wildlife in a tranquil haven.

The Discovery Zone features a play and seating area with two display areas, one of which offers examples of all classes of animals, including birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals and amphibians, with the other answering the question “What is a bird?” Explanations include the purpose of a bird’s feathers and how they relate to camouflage, displays in courtship, warning signals and habitat conditions. The Snowy Owl is a good example of the multiple uses of feathers with dense feathers and feathered feet offering warmth in their Arctic habitat and their color providing camouflage. The use of beaks, feet, legs and claws are detailed, along with various feeding habits. Nesting habits of birds, their breeding cycles, fledglings and parenting patterns are other fascinating topics covered at Birdland. Birds of prey – vultures, falcons, hawks, eagles, harriers and owls – are among the highlights of a visit to this nature sanctuary, and visitors will discover how they use their keen eyesight, speed in flight and talons to catch their prey with deadly accuracy.

The Desert House is home to birds that live in arid conditions, and visitors can view the birds from a platform at one end of the habitat, while the Toucan House is home to a range of these colorful birds. Events at Birdland include a Summer Talks program; Meet the Keeper; Penguin Feed; Pelican Feed; and Birds of Prey Encounter Days. Facilities include a playground, gift shop and the Penguin Café – everything necessary for a memorable family outing.

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.

Avian Edutainment at Weltvogelpark Walsrode

April 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Covering more than 24 hectares, with more than four thousand birds representing 675 species from all around the world, Weltvogelpark Walsrode is a birding enthusiast’s paradise. Promoted as the largest bird park in the world, both in land area and number of species, Weltvogelpark is located near the town of Walsrode in Lower Saxony, Germany. The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 with a host of events and special displays, one of which is more than three million spring flowers – a picturesque palette of vibrant color.

With special emphasis on conservation, Weltvogelpark offers an outing that is both entertaining and educational. The walk-in free-flight aviaries allow visitors to observe the birds in their natural habitat, while flight demonstrations demonstrate the amazing skills of birds, and feeding times provide insight into the needs of various species, including pelicans, penguins, vultures and flamingoes. The park offers special events and classes for school groups, while ensuring that visitors of all ages and levels of mobility have access to the features of the park. Experienced rangers are on hand for guided tours, and boards detailing interesting facts about the Weltvogelpark’s feathered residents are placed throughout the spacious reserve.

The park is also involved in research and conservation projects, and has had a measure of success in breeding some endangered species, including the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), and Shoebill stork (Balaeniceps rex). While breeding is generally allowed to take its natural course at Weltvogelpark, sometimes it is necessary to intervene, particularly with rare and endangered species. In these cases the eggs are artificially incubated and the birds are hand-raised, ensuring that they bond with their own species as soon as possible to avoid being imprinted by humans. In 2011 more than 600 young birds hatched out – clearly they are happy in their environment.

In addition to the outstanding facilities for the park’s birds, Weltvogelpark Walsrode boasts one of the largest botanical gardens to be found in Northern Germany. More than 70 species of roses and 120 different species of rhododendron are features of the botanical gardens, with hundreds of different trees, flowers and shrubs, both indigenous and exotic, providing color throughout the year.

Florida Scrub-Jay Festival

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

The Florida Scrub-Jay Festival is a free family event that focuses on this threatened bird species. During the day visitors will find out more about the bird’s habitat, enjoy presentations and join in on guided nature walks.

Date: 4 February 2012
Time: 10 am
Venue: Oscar Scherer Park
Town: Osprey
State: Florida
Country: United States of America

Macaw Mountain Bird Park – A Haven in Honduras

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Birding Tips, Features

Consisting of nine-acres of old growth forest, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve offers visitors the opportunity of viewing a wide variety of tropical birds in their natural environment. Located near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras, the large flight aviary is home to just about all the species of parrots and toucans to be found in this beautiful South American country, and many of its feathered inhabitants are so tame that visitors are able to interact with them at leisure.

While providing a haven for rescued, abandoned and endangered birds, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park is dedicated to educating the public about these beautiful animals and their vulnerability caused mainly the by destruction of their natural habitat. In a region known for its excellent birding opportunities, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park offers an unforgettable bird watching experience. Visitors to the park will enjoy strolling along the network of pathways which allow easy access to the entire area throughout the year. Interaction with the park’s birds allows visitors to appreciate their beauty and intelligence, while at the same time being made aware of the obstacles and dangers they face in the wild, which have brought many species to the brink of extinction.

Quite a number of the parrots and macaws found in the park were at one time household pets, but oftentimes people who buy these birds have no idea how long they live – parrots have a lifespan or 50 to 60 years and macaws can live for a century – or that because of their intelligence they require a lot of attention. So, when the birds become too much to handle at home, they are donated to sanctuaries such as the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve. Birds to be seen in the park include the scarlet macaw, buffon’s macaw, green-winged macaw, yellow-lored Amazon, white-fronted parrot, red-lored parrot, mealy Amazon, yellow-crowned Amazon, white-crowned parrot, olive-throated conure, red-throated parakeet, keel-billed toucan, chestnut-mandibled toucan, grey hawk and great-horned owl.

The Copan region of Honduras is home to more than 330 species of birds representing 51 families, and has become a popular destination for keen birders from around the world. Although birds can be seen in the wild in the vicinity of the park, bird watchers should include Macaw Mountain Bird Park in their itinerary to experience up-close interaction with the birds of Honduras.

Black-throated Robin Rediscovered in China

December 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

The Black-throated Robin (Luscinia obscura ), also referred to as the Black-throated Blue Robin, or simply the Blackthroat, is a species in the Muscicapidae family of small passerine birds found mainly in the Old World – Europe, Asia and Africa. Primarily due to decimation of its preferred habitat of bamboo thickets and high altitude coniferous forest, this elusive little bird has become quite a rare sight in recent decades. So when a team of Swedish and Chinese researchers discovered a community of breeding Blackthroats in the Qinling Mountains of north-central China’s Shaanxi province, it was a newsworthy event.

With their distinctive song consisting of short, sharp, varied strophes including harsh notes and whistles, seven singing males were counted in Foping Nature Reserve, with another seven observed in the Changqing National Nature Reserve. Being the more vocal of the sexes, males are easier to find, and it is considered to be almost certain that each male has a mate. The majority of the birds were seen in bamboo thickets and coniferous-broadleaf forests at an altitude of around 2400 to 2500 meters above sea level. Recordings have been made of the Blackthroat’s song, which will made identification easier in the future.

Resembling a European Robin Erithacus rubecula in size and general shape, the Blackthroat male has a jet-black throat and breast, and while it is believed that the female has a light-brown throat and breast, this has not been confirmed. They were first recorded in the late 19th century, and between the time of first being observed and into the early 20th century, ten of these birds were collected during their breeding season of May to August, in two different localities in China’s Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Subsequent Blackthoat sightings include unconfirmed records from China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, as well as a few birds spotted in captivity at markets. The most recent reported sighting of a Blackthroat was at the Sichuan University campus in May 2011, with reports of a Blackthroat being captured in Thailand during the winter months, which is a possible migration destination or stop-over point.

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.

Six Foreign Species Fall under Endangered Species Act

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Many bird species across the world have been placed under protection, as the importance of conserving them has become necessary. Due to their declining numbers, ornithologist have been submitting requests for at least seventy species to be noted in the Endangered Species Act since the 1980s. These species were submitted from all over the world, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that most of these bird species submitted would come under the Endangered Species Act. Now six foreign bird species have been entered onto this database.

To speed up the process of getting the suggested list of endangered bird species recognized, the Centre for Biological Diversity began legal proceedings in the years 2004 and in 2006, and by 2008 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a list that featured proposals for five bird species, but noted that an additional forty-five foreign species deserved to be listed as well. The Center for Biological Diversity once again put pressure on the department in 2009, which led to the agreement to extend the list and six species recently received their permanent place under the protection act. These species are the Jerdon’s Courser, Cantabrian Capercallie, Eiao Marquesas Reed Warbler, Slender Billed Curlew, Marquesan Imperial Pigeon and Greater Courser.

One would wonder why the Center for Biological Diversity could be campaigning for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize foreign species, but the answer is quite simple: the restricting of the selling and purchasing of wildlife that are endangered. Once on the list, funding for conservation will increase, and it will also increase the scrutiny on areas that are at risk of development programs, preventing vital habitats to be destroyed. Agencies such as the World Bank would be required to ensure that prospective project land is not the habitat of the birds on this list.

The attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, Justin Augustine, commented that they are pleased that the birds that are bordering on extinction will now receive the protection they deserve, and that being under the Endangered Species Act gives these species a better chance of survival and will also bring attention to the urgent need to conserve the bird species that find themselves under threat of human intervention and development.

Explore the Birds of Vermont Museum

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Through its displays of superb wood-carvings, representing close to 500 birds from 258 species, the Birds of Vermont Museum offers visitors the opportunity to discover the diverse birdlife of the State of Vermont. The life-like carvings are displayed in settings closely resembling the habitats each species would favor in its natural surroundings. As a non-profit organization, the museum is dedicated to educating the public, while encouraging an appreciation of the environment and the wildlife, particularly of the feathered kind, that depends on the environment remaining intact.

Most of the museum’s birds have been carved by Robert Spear, Jr., a local naturalist and author who founded the museum to pursue his goal of using biologically and anatomically accurate wood carvings to teach both children and adults about the essential role birds play in the ecosystem. The museum’s collection is arranged in four major groups in accordance with their habitat – Wetlands in Spring and Fall; Endangered and Extinct; Special Exhibit; and Nesting Birds and Raptors.

The Wetlands in Spring and Fall category features a loon family, spring and autumn migration scenes, and two wetland dioramas. The Endangered and Extinct category features a range of birds, as well as an Archaeopteryx – a genus of theropod dinosaur controversially believed to have been the oldest known bird. The intricately carved California condor is one of the largest of Bob Spear’s works and took him more than 500 hours to complete. The Special Exhibit located near the Autumn Migration Diorama consists of a Turkey which took the meticulous artist two years to complete. The Nesting Birds and Raptors display is in the main gallery and features all the nesting birds of Vermont in their respective nests displayed in more than 120 glass cases, while raptors in flight hang from the ceiling overhead. A Winter Diorama displays birds that only visit the area during the wintertime, and then only if their food supplies have run out in their northern habitats. The balcony off the main gallery features hawks and their prey, as well as a magnificent Bald Eagle.

The Birds of Vermont Museum is located in a 100-acre nature conservation area, and in addition to viewing the wood-carved birds, visitors can stroll along the various trails and participate in early morning Bird Monitoring walks, and students can sign up as volunteers to assist with various projects. This unique and fascinating museum is an enduring testament to the efforts of a group of people dedicated to sharing nature’s wonders with others.

Pigeons Can Recognize Human Faces

July 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

It seems that years of sharing space with humans and being forced to adapt to changes in city lifestyles, has taught pigeons a few tricks that are quite remarkable to say the least. They might seem to most people just ordinary birds, but on taking a closer look pigeons are actually highly intelligent and are able to differentiate between humans, not by the clothes they wear, as they have learnt that clothing changes, but by facial recognition, which is extremely remarkable.

The perception capabilities of pigeons were tested previously in a laboratory, but researchers of the University of Paris Quest Nanterre La Defense decided to take their next experiment into the “wild” so to speak, to see how undomesticated pigeons would react. To ensure that the test would be performed as accurately as possible, two researchers were selected who shared the same build and skin color, but wore laboratory coats of different color. These two researchers then went out into the park to feed the pigeons. The first researcher threw out the food and then stood back ignoring them, giving them the opportunity to eat the food without being disturbed. The second also threw out food, but then chased them away, being hostile towards the pigeons.

For the second session, both researchers were told not to chase the pigeons, and allow them to eat, but the pigeons had remembered who the hostile researcher was and avoided her. They decided to repeat the session a few times over, even getting the researchers to swop their lab coats, but still the pigeons would avoid the researcher who was hostile on their first encounter. This confirmed the suspicions of the team, that the pigeons relied on facial recognition to detect hostiles.

Facial recognition is not a new skill in the bird world, and other researchers have discovered in previous years that birds such as magpies and jackdaws are also able to recognize humans according to their facial features. So next time you think about chasing away a bird, think twice about your actions, as you might not remember which bird you were hostile to, but they are more than likely going to remember you!

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