FeatherFest 2013

March 7, 2013 by  
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FeatherFest offers birding enthusiasts the opportunity to experience birding and nature photography at its very best in a series of outdoor adventures. Be prepared to spot as many as you can of the more than 200 bird species in the area. The base for the festival will be on the campus of UTMB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, with trips to beaches, bays, marshes, wetlands, wood motts and coastal prairies. For more information visit galvestonfeatherfest.com

Dates: 11-14 April 2013
Venue: Galveston Island
State: Texas

Waterbird Conservation in the African-Eurasian Flyway

October 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

As a joint effort between BirdLife International and Wetlands International, and supported by UNEP-GEF (the United Nations Environment Program -Global Environment Facility) and a number of donors and partners, Wings Over Wetlands was the first international wetland and waterbird conservation project to take place in the African-Eurasian flyway region. The project initially ran over four years (2006-2010) and enlisted the aid of international conservation organizations and national governments to support migratory waterbirds in the African-Eurasian region.

Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) also supported field projects in eleven wetland areas in twelve countries within the region – Haapsalu-Noarootsi Bays in Estonia; Biharugra Fishponds in Hungary; Nemunas River Delta in Lithuania; Banc D’Arguin National Park in Mauritania; Namga-Kokorou Complex in Niger; Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands in Nigeria; Saloum-Niumi Complex in Senegal and Gambia; Wakkerstroom Wetlands in South Africa; Dar Es Salaam Wetlands in Tanzania; Burdur Gölü in Turkey and Aden Wetlands in Yemen.

While the original WOW project has run its course, leading international conservation organizations dedicated to protecting of waterbirds and their habitats developed the Critical Site Network (CSN) Tool giving easy access to information on the sites deemed critical for waterbird species. As one of the major achievements of the WOW project the CSN tool provides information for more than 300 migratory waterbird species, highlighting what can be achieved when like-minded conservation organizations work together. This wealth of information assists authorities at local, national and international level to identify the network of sites essential to specific waterbird species, thereby enhancing conservation efforts.

The WOW project also strengthened the implementation of AEWA – the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement – which lists 255 species of birds that are dependent on wetlands for their annual migration and breeding cycle. These include many species of pelicans, grebes, cormorants, divers, herons, rails, storks, ibises, flamingos, spoonbills, ducks, geese, swans, waders, cranes and gulls. Parties to the agreement are required to implement conservation measures set out in the AEWA Action Plan, including habitat conservation, research and education projects and management of human activities. The 5th session of AEWA representatives was held in La Rochelle, France on 14-18 May 2012, under the theme of “Migratory Waterbirds and People – Sharing Wetlands”.

Montezuma Muckrace Birding Competition 2012

August 16, 2012 by  
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Taking place on 7-8 September the Montezuma Muckrace is a 24-hour birding event to raise fund for conservation projects within the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. As one of New York State’s prime birding destinations, Montezuma offers birders a memorable event as birds are counted within the boundaries of the complex. For more information on this event, which is sponsored by the Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex and Audubon NY, please visit the Friends of Montezuma Website.

Dates: 7-8 September 2012
Venue: Montezuma Wetlands Complex
State: New York
Country: United States

Pacific Flyway Migratory Birds Assisted by Rice Farmers

July 3, 2012 by  
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Following the introduction of rice as a food crop during the California gold rush, farmers reportedly battled to find the ideal growing conditions for decades before discovering the right combination of terrain and rice varieties which has turned California into the largest producer of medium and short gain japonica (sushi) rice in the United States. Its annual production of more than two million tons of rice makes it the largest rice producer in the nation and contributes over $1.3 billion to California’s economy. However, all of this success has come at a cost to the birdlife that depends on the wetlands that have now been claimed as rice paddies.

The good news is that more than 165 rice farmers have committed to the implementation of a plan to rectify this situation, and working along with the US Natural Resources Conservation Service a system of islands and suitable habitats will be built to provide migratory birds with a place to rest, feed and hopefully breed. An amount of $2 million has been allocated to fund the project in an effort to build up bird populations that have been declining at an alarming rate. California’s Sacramento Valley forms part of the Pacific Flyway which stretches from Patagonia to Alaska, so the planned improvements will make a significant difference to the welfare of migrating birds which already deal with a perilous journey each time they migrate. In addition to building new habitats and islands, the farmers are adapting their irrigation methods for their paddies. Instead of draining the fields completely in winter in preparation for the new season, the farmers will drain the fields slowly, leaving some partially flooded to provide feeding a nesting grounds for water birds, thereby aiding conservation efforts.

Despite the fact that rice paddies now cover up to 95 percent of the native wetland area of Sacramento Valley, dozens of migratory water bird species can be seen here, including American avocets, cinnamon-teal ducks, dunlins, dowitchers and black-necked stilts. Scientists will need at least two years of monitoring and data gathering to determine the success rate of the project, but with the willing cooperation of local farmers, they are hopeful that the new measures, which require only a fraction of the farming land, will result in a significant increase in water bird populations.

Wings ‘n Water Festival 2012

June 15, 2012 by  
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The new and improved Wings ‘n Water Festival offers a family-fun, weekend of birding activities for all ages. Features of the festival include folk music, local seafood, hands-on activities, and loads of arts and crafts. For more information contact www.wetlandsinstitute.org.

Dates: 12-14 July 2012
Times: 10-4 (THUR-FRI) 6-10 (SAT)
Venue: Wetlands Institute
City: Stone Harbor
State: New Jersey
Country: USA

9th Annual Galveston FeatherFest

December 22, 2010 by  
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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  
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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.

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.

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.

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