Environmental history key to the future of England’s wildlife

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Protecting and enhancing our wildlife for future generations will need radical new policies informed by history as much as science, according to an academic at the University of East Anglia.
Landscape historian Prof Tom Williamson suggests that far from being ‘natural’, nature and the countryside have for centuries largely been the result of the activities of humans. Because of this, we need a better understanding of the human history of important habitats in order manage them into the future. Continue reading

Little bird strikes fear in hearts of orchardists

A silver-eye foraging. Photo: Allen Newton

A silver-eye foraging. Photo: Allen Newton

It might be one of Perth’s smallest birds, but the tiny cry of the silver -eye is enough to send shivers down the spines of local fruit growers.

One of the metropolitan area’s most common small birds, the silver-eye – officially titled the grey-breasted white-eye – was known as “julwidilang” to the Noongar. Continue reading

Birds indicators of connectivity in Hunter Valley

Grey-crowned babblers have been spotted around regrowth areas at Mt Owen in Upper Hunter Valley.

Grey-crowned babblers have been spotted around regrowth areas at Mt Owen in Upper Hunter Valley.

Comprehensive studies are showing birds are making their way back into landscapes that have been mined in the Hunter Valley region.

Mining companies and bird enthusiasts have found rehabilitated mining sites are sustaining the return of some bird species that have been previously displaced by mines.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage regional manager Andrew McIntyre says the property he’s been studying is showing positive renewed bird activity.

“We found a suite of birds on the property and their presence on that property indicated there was that ecological connectivity with larger patches in the adjoining landscape,” he said.

“There’s quite good evidence, based on the monitoring the mining companies are required to do, that at least some species, including some of the rare species are actually moving back into their rehabilitated landscapes.”

Threatened bird species are reportedly moving back into previously mined areas at a rapid pace.

Mr McIntyre says Mt Owen mine in the Upper Hunter Valley has demonstrated grey-crowned babblers are settling into the region again, using “quite early age regrowth of five to ten years”.

Rio Tinto also reported ten year regrowth being used by speckled warblers, another threatened woodland bird.

Mr McIntyre says the region is even seeing new and introduced species moving in.

“The Hunter Valley really is quite unique in the sense that it has a lot of western influences,” he said.

“Because there’s a natural break in the Great Dividing Range up the valley, it’s one of the lowest points in the range on the Eastern Seaboard.”

Mr McIntire compares the Hunter Valley with the region of Capricornia in Queensland, where arid land birds “come in quite close to the coast”.

“For instance I saw a red-capped robin, which are seriously arid land birds, at Jerry’s Plains west of Singleton,” he said.


Maine News: Comical Puffin Bird Re-Colonizes East Coast

A puffin with a mouth full of small fish. (Photo : REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic)

A puffin with a mouth full of small fish.
(Photo : REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic)

Puffins, comical parrot-penguin seabirds, have returned to the Maine islands and are successfully finding plenty of food for their young chicks.

Last summer, young puffins died at alarming rates due to a shortage of herring, which led adults to feed their young with fish that were too big for them to swallow. Many puffins died while surrounded by piles of uneaten fish.

According to the Concord Monitor, chicks are getting plenty of hake and herring, says Steve Kress, director of the National Audubon Society’s seabird restoration program and professor at Cornell University.

Although conditions for puffins are steadily improvning, scientists remain concerned that the problems will persist.

Kress says that the occupancy of puffin burrows on Maticinus Rock and Seal Island, the two largest puffin colonies, are down by one third in population size. Birds will most likely die over the winter, and others are too weak to produce offspring. The exotic species of bird is still very threatened.

Puffins are described as “comical,” resembling a cross between a parrot and a penguin. Puffins come ashore only to breed each spring, spending most of their lives at sea. They feed on small fish, such as herring and hake.

Puffins were almost wiped out a century ago. Kress and his team launched a recolonization effort dubbed the “Puffin Project” by transferring young puffins from Newfoundland to Maine’s coast.

Puffins are susceptible to environmental change; the birds are vulnerable depending on the availability of certain types of fish.

“It could happen here. We will learn. The puffins will teach us about the oceans and what’s happening to them,” Kress says of the project.

Watch the video below of the Puffin Project.


Wind Power And This Bird Get Along Fine

You know how to turn a global-warming denier who has little interest in the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels into a bird lover? Bring up the topic of wind power. Instantly the risks of population declines and extinctions, previously ignored, become important. Every bird is precious!

The shame of this is that it turns the question of how to develop more wind power – which we need to do, but need to do with minimal impact on birds (and bats and even humans) – into just another overheated ideology-underpinned food fight, with little discussion of actual science.


We mention this because some of science has indeed come in on the question of wind power’s potential impact on the greater prairie chicken. After studying the issue for seven years, Kansas State University researcher Brett Sandercock has determined that “we don’t have evidence for really strong effects of wind power on prairie chickens or their reproduction.”

Sandercock said this was a bit of surprise because other studies have shown that oil and gas development does affect prairie chickens.

For their study, the researchers looked at three sites, one of which was developed into the Meridian Way Wind Power Facility, near Concordia, Kansas. This allowed the team “to observe greater prairie chickens before, during and after wind turbine construction,” according to the university. In another surprise, the researchers found that newly hatched female survival rates increased after wind turbines were installed. One possible reason: the wind turbines might have keep predators away from nest sites.

Federal regulators are contemplating [PDF] whether to list a close cousin of the greater prairie chicken, the smaller lesser prairie chicken, as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, but the bigger bird is far from in robust health (the Sierra Club calls it a “species at risk”). From the Nature Conservancy:

The three subspecies of the greater prairie chicken have enjoyed radically different fates. The heath hen became extinct in 1932, Attwater’s prairie hen survives only in small portions of southeast Texas and is listed as Endangered in the US, and the greater prairie chicken, though threatened and isolated in much of its range, remains numerous enough to be hunted in four states. Once inhabiting the wide plains of the central US in vast numbers, the bird has fared poorly as its grassland habitat has been converted to other uses.

The full Kansas State study is available online as a PDF.

Source: http://www.earthtechling.com/2013/07/wind-power-and-this-bird-get-along-fine/

Environmental group marks bird migration day

Muscat: For the first time in the Sultanate, the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) commemorated World Migratory Bird Day 2013 under the global theme ‘Networking for migratory birds’.

World Migratory Birds Day 2013

World Migratory Birds Day 2013

The two-day event in Muscat included public lectures, a dedicated photography exhibition and a bird watching tour.

“There are millions of migratory birds which occupy the grounds of Oman and its varied habitats. It is our responsibility as a community to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these precious creatures.” said Waheed Al Fazari, an Omani bird watcher and wildlife biologist, during an evening of lectures at the Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) Eco Centre.

Al Ansab wetland (Muscat Daily)

Al Ansab wetland (Muscat Daily)

Oman-based wildlife photographer, Jens Eriksen also spoke about migratory birds during the first day event.

The annual worldwide campaign raises awareness on migratory birds and their environments as well as conservation solutions.

“ESO continues to invest in providing training on bird research,” commented Juma Al Araimi, ESO Field Assistant,

“Suitable habitats are vital for migratory birds as they provide the areas necessary for feeding, resting and breeding,” he added.

Al Araimi further said that the theme ‘Networking for migratory birds’ also highlighted the need to cooperate and network amongst organisations and people to conserve migratory birds.

ESO concluded the Oman LNG sponsored event activities with a bird watching tour on day two for visitors and keen bird watchers to Al Ansab Wetland in the heart of Muscat to observe the beautiful mechanics of nature’s pilots. With its abundance of bird life, the Wetland is home to approximately 280 species of seasonal birds. The wetland is also renowned for some Omani plants, butterflies and other flora and fauna.

source: gulfnews.com