Tape-luring depletes birds’ energy

 Ecuador's Plain-tailed Wren showed clear signs of being disturbed by the repeated use of lape-luring. Photo: Browerk (commons.wikimedia.org).Enlarge image

Ecuador’s Plain-tailed Wren showed clear signs of being disturbed by the repeated use of lape-luring. Photo: Browerk (commons.wikimedia.org).Enlarge image

Field research in Ecuador on the playback of bird sound recordings to lure them out of cover has shown that the method adversely affects their behaviour.

In the forests of Ecuador, Plain-tailed Wrens nest in bamboo thickets, singing complex and continuous melodies. Residing nearby are Rufous Ant-pittas, small, secretive birds that hop like thrushes and whistle in mossy forests. Together, their songs fill parts of the South American Andes. Continue reading

Urban birds cope better with bad weather

Great Tit copes with bad weather better in an urban environment, possibly due to the variety in dietary options provided by garden feeders. Photo: Dan (commons.wikimedia.org).

Great Tit copes with bad weather better in an urban environment, possibly due to the variety in dietary options provided by garden feeders. Photo: Dan (commons.wikimedia.org).

The cold, wet winter of 2012 made woodland Blue and Great Tits struggle, but their town-dwelling counterparts had a better breeding season afterwards, a new study shows.

Research by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University, Essex, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh, examined breeding patterns of Blue and Great Tits in Cambridgeshire over a 10-year period up until last winter. They discovered that the birds breeding in urban areas are better able to cope during unusually cold and wet weather because they are less reliant on feeding their chicks a single food source. The study compared 2012 – a year with temperatures significantly lower than average, with a particularly cold and wet spring – to the previous nine years.

Of three sites monitored, birds at Brampton Wood NR (a typical mixed deciduous woodland of Common Ash, oak and Field Maple) struggled most during 2012, the wettest year in England since records began in 1910. The other sites surveyed were the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens in Cambridge city centre and Cow Lane NR, a mixed riparian zone of willows and reed beds close to the banks of the Great Ouse.

Both the number of chicks in the brood and their individual weights were lower than normal across all sites in 2012, but the most significant decrease was seen in the traditional woodland habitat of Brampton Wood. Usually, both common tit species lay one egg per day until their clutch is complete and then begin to incubate them. However, the Brampton Wood birds delayed their incubation in response to the onset of cold weather, which in turn delayed chick hatching. This prolonged stalling of the nesting cycle was unprecedented during the 10-year period of the study at any of the sites, and was likely due to the negative effect of the cold on the woodland bird’s caterpillar prey.

For Great Tits, the period from laying the first egg to hatching was 32 days at Brampton Wood, a period almost twice as long as the urban site’s 17-day period. Typically, a long delay in hatching leads to a smaller brood size and fewer chicks successfully leaving the nest.

Dr Nancy Harrison, Senior Lecturer in Life Sciences at Anglia Ruskin, said: “The birds breeding in the good woodland habitat really struggled during last year’s cold, rainy spring. The breeding season is controlled by a hierarchy of factors including daylight and temperature, with temperature playing a key role in caterpillar reproduction and growth.

“Variability in the lifecycle of caterpillars will inevitably impact on birds that prey upon them.  Although we believe temperature was more significant than rainfall on this occasion, heavy rain can wash caterpillars off leaves and increase their scarcity for predators. Blue and Great Tits in urban areas often forage for other prey and so are less reliant on one particular food source. These ‘urban scavengers’ were better able to cope in 2012 when these caterpillars were in short supply.

“Over the 10-year period of the study, birds living in the traditional woodland habitat fared significantly better and produced larger and healthier broods than their city cousins. However, if these extreme weather events become more commonplace due to the effects of climate change, then birds living in urban environments may have the advantage.”

So, birds breeding in native British woodland are more susceptible to the effects of extreme weather conditions than those in urban environments, concludes the study published by online science journal PLOS ONE. The full article can be read online at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075536.

Record number of observations from Spring Alive

Spring Alive, Birdife International’s Europe-wide migration recording scheme, has logged a record count this season.

Swallow is one of five species that children and families across Europe have been asked to log as they arrive. Photo: Steve Young (www.birdsonfilm.com).

Swallow is one of five species that children and families across Europe have been asked to log as they arrive. Photo: Steve Young (www.birdsonfilm.com).

From February to June, participants in the scheme observed and registered the arrivals of five bird species in Europe, and made more than 270,000 observations of migratory birds, the highest number ever!

The people taking part in the educational programme, mainly children and their families, represent countries across the whole of Europe, from Portugal and Ireland to Russia and from Finland to Cyprus. The Spring Alive programme increases in popularity every year, and offers a fun way to develop knowledge about migratory birds, and raise schoolchildren’s awareness about nature protection. The Spring Alive website had more than 104,000 individual visitors, who recorded their observations.

The record breaking Spring Alive season in Europe ended on 21 June. Among the Spring Alive nominated species (Swallow, White Stork, Common Swift, Cuckoo and European Bee-eater), Swallow and Common Swift turned out to be the most frequently observed birds (comprising 37 per cent and 32 per cent of observations, respectively). The top three participating countries were Russia, Italy and Ireland.

The success of Spring Alive is very encouraging, as it shows that more and more people want to connect with nature. In September, the programme is moving to Africa, as birds leave their breeding areas in Europe, where temperatures will be decreasing, and head for the warmer African continent. All members of the public are invited to follow arrivals of ‘Spring Alive birds’ on the African continent via the Spring Alive website.

Source: www.birdwatch.co.uk

Birdsong phone apps ‘harmful’ to birds, say Dorset experts

The RSPB has described the actions of some visitors as "selfish"

The RSPB has described the actions of some visitors as “selfish”

The “harmful misuse” of mobile phone apps that mimic birdsong can stop birds performing important tasks such as feeding their young, experts have said.

Dorset Wildlife Trust said visitors to Brownsea Island were using apps to imitate Nightjar calls to entice birds out so they could photograph them.

The RSPB said birds could be diverted from vital tasks and said people might be “devastated” if they realised.

Hilary Wilson, from developer iSpiny, said the apps were a learning tool.

“We welcome this discussion into the ethics of using recorded songs,” she said.

‘No respect’
Brownsea Island nature reserve manager Chris Thain said: “Use of these apps is not suitable for nature reserves and can be potentially harmful to sensitive species.”

Tony Whitehead, public affairs officer for the RSPB in the South West said: “Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young.

“It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season.”

Mr Thain added: “The apps are becoming quite common, and are great, but their use needs some guidance I feel.

“I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realised the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife.”

Dr Wilson, who oversees the Chirp! app for iSpiny and said the firm was the UK’s leading developer of apps about birds and bird song, said: “Our apps aim to assist in learning and identifying bird songs and calls but we realise that they may be used to encourage birds to respond.

“We urge great caution – birdsong is simply a pleasant sound to human ears, but to birds it is a powerful means of communication… the issue with recordings is simple – out of consideration for both the birds and fellow birdwatchers, just keep the volume low.”

Nesting birds are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which states it is an offence to intentionally disturb them.

Brownsea Island, which now has signs warning visitors about phone app use, has Special Protection Area status for the habitats it provides for birds, including the Nightjar.

The species’ habitats have seen a recent recovery in the county.

source. bbc.co.uk

Migratory birds brighten summer in Bahraich

BAHRAICH: Birds need no visas to cross the borders and they are already here as the special guests of summers. A number of migrant birds have entered the Indo-Nepal borders to stay here for a few months as a part of their annual migration.

According to bird experts, despite gradual loss of natural habitat of birds and animals, sighting six types of migrant birds and their 48 species here was a good sign.

The bird count was jointly organised by the Department of National Park and Wild Life Conservation (DNPWC) and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) at the Godavari Botanical Garden on Saturday.

“We could count 48 birds’ species in total during the two hours of watch, out of which six were migratory birds including Eurasian cuckoo, Asian cuckoo and Chestnut headed bee-eater,” said the bird expert, B Thapa. “As compared to previous years, the count is not much high, however, given the gradual loss of their natural habitat due to ever widening urbanization, the results should be considered positive,” he added. Three teams comprising 11 to 12 members each had participated in the bird count.

According to Sushila Nepali, chief executive officer at BCN, networking of migratory birds has emerged as a very important issue as the birds migrate during summer and winter seasons especially for breeding.

“In search of a better climate, they travel miles during the two seasons. Their stay at the migrated place is important as this is time when they add to the growth of their population. As many birds are on the verge of extinction due to uncontrolled poaching and loss of habitat, we have a serious responsibility to take care of these birds and save them,” Nepali said. “This year the theme of the World Migratory Bird Day is also ‘Networking for migratory birds’, which is aimed at raising awareness on conservation of the birds,” he added

According to ornithologist, Hem Sagar Baral, this is the time when one can clearly hear the calls of cuckoos near woodlands and gardens. “It is a special time for nature lovers as the musical call can be heard throughout the spring and summer season,” Baral said.

Baral stated that it was perhaps the Pied Cuckoo that travels the longest distance to come to Nepal during summer. “Some of the summer birds travel around 5,000 km to reach here. These birds migrate from different regions of the world like Asia, Sub-Saharan and African region to visit Nepal for breeding,” he said.

Bimal Thapa added that in Nepal, ‘Katustauke murali chara’ or the chestnut headed bee-eater is mostly the first one to enter the Indo-Nepal borders among the other migrant birds. “It makes its entry the earliest, making the first calls of spring,” he added.

source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Gibson Woods: Nature preserve provides peaceful getaway from surrounding industry

Gibson Woods provides a three-mile trail system for visitors.

Gibson Woods provides a three-mile trail system for visitors.

Research shows walking benefits both the body and the mind, and the Northwest Indiana region is full of parks, trails and nature preserves that highlight the beauty and diverse landscape of the area. Throughout the summer in Home and Garden, the Times will highlight some of the best places to walk and enjoy the unique topography this region has to offer.

HAMMOND | Tucked away in northeast Lake County is a parcel of undisturbed land known for its tranquility and rare environmental features.

Gibson Woods Nature Preserve is a special place among nature enthusiasts, ironic because of its location in the heart of Northwest Indiana’s industrial region. Other than the National Lakeshore, Gibson Woods is the longest un-dissected dune ridge in Indiana, making it an urban oasis for outdoor lovers and ecologists alike.

Though owned and operated by the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, the natural features of Gibson Woods qualifies it to be dedicated as a state nature preserve, said Sandra Basala, superintendent of visitor services with Lake County Parks.

“Many people have no idea that the preserve is there because of its location in the city,” she said.

Surrounded by 131 acres of topography that is a well-preserved example of the landscape as it appeared 4,000 years ago, the preserve’s three-mile trail system begins with a handicapped accessible boardwalk before the natural sand of the dune and swale topography takes over, Basala said.

“The Short Trail or the Prairie Dune Trail is about a half mile long and is closest to the Nature Center, making it a popular route for families,” she said. “The Nippissing Lake Trail is about one mile long and traverses the west side of the park, while the two-mile Long Trail ventures into the eastern portion of the preserve.”

The trails are of flat terrain and follow the dune ridges, she said. However, because Indiana has dedicated the space as a nature preserve, dogs and bicycles are not allowed and flora and fauna may not be removed from the grounds.

Walking along the trails, guests will observe a dynamic place that is ever changing, Basala said.

“Sometimes water fills the swales and sometimes they are dry,” she said.” In the early spring and late fall, migratory birds stop by Gibson Woods on their journey.”

A trip to the park in June will be highlighted by beautiful wildflowers and flowering trees, she said.

“More than 300 species of plants have been identified in the preserve, several of which are considered threatened or endangered,” Basala said.

More than 160 species of birds have been recorded at the preserve, which is also home to endangered or rare animals in Indiana.

Gibson Woods Nature Preserve is located at 6201 Parrish Ave., Hammond. For more information, call 219.844.3188 or go to lakecountyparks.com.