All posts by bird-nerd

A what?? of wagtails

BY Karen Hunt

birdlife.com

What do you call a group of willie wagtails?

Its one of those questions in search of an answer but beware, past attempts to collectively name birds have left more cases of misleading information than a Dodgy Brothers ad.

Take owls for example. Being a mostly solitary bird, its unlikely they would ever form a parliament. And having seen a couple of parliaments in my time, I have to say the reputed wisdom and dignity of the owl is very much in abeyance.

Crows are rarely murderous, although definitely malicious, and I’ve never seen them muster. Choughs don’t clatter, eagles never convocate and robins are rarely a riot. I have trouble imagining a hill of sand-pipers. or a wisp of snipe even though I held a Lathams Snipe once and it WAS pretty small.

On the other hand, a peep of chickens sounds just right. As does a pandemonium of parrots, a screech of gulls and a murmuration of starlings. And having once raised Guinea fowl, I can attest that a confusion of guinea fowl is just that.

A pretence of bitterns could I guess be explained by the birds constant disguise as a reed but please explain – what is a twack of ducks? My dictionary has twack meaning to strike something hard with the back of the middle finger and although my experience with ducks is not extensive, their lack of a middle finger seems to render that explanation a tad ridiculous.

So what to call my Willie Wagtails?

It has to be a word that encapsulates their perkiness, their cheerful fearlessness and air of joie de vie combined with their sartorial splendor, a classic tuxedo jacket and slim line trews. The word must do justice to the constantly flicking tail, which seems to have go than the Eveready battery bloke.

So, how about a waggle of willies?

Works for me.

Highway construction postponed for migratory birds in Xinjiang

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-14 11:27:04|Editor: Yurou

ebird.org

URUMQI, July 14 (Xinhua) — The construction of a highway in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has been postponed to protect migratory birds.

In mid-June, workers found a large number of birds building nests and hatching in the cracks of the rocks laid on the roadbed of a section of Barkol-Hami highway. The birds Sturnus roseus, commonly known as rosy starling, are natural enemies of locusts. Xinjiang has set up nests in mountainous areas and grasslands to attract the birds to combat a destructive plague of locusts in recent years.

“A large number of starlings have settled in Hami thanks to artificial nests and related publicity activities. In most parts of the Hami grassland we can prevent locust plague without using pesticides,” said Li Zhanwu, head of the locust and rat plague control station in the city of Hami.

“We decided to suspend construction until the baby birds are hatched and leave the nests,” said Li Zhigang, one of the project managers.

The construction company also set up more than 20 warning signs in the site where birds are abundant. Construction of the postponed road section was scheduled to be completed in mid-July. But now it may be delayed by about one and a half months.

The 76.5-km Barkol-Hami Highway is an important transportation project in eastern Xinjiang.

Birds with ‘blood coming out of their mouths’ fall from sky, on to primary school grounds

Elizabeth Henson, The AdvertiserJuly 12, 2019 8:54pm

Some of the Corellas that were suspected of being poisoned. Picture: Caspers Bird Rescue.

At least 50 birds with “blood coming out of their mouths” have fallen from the sky and landed in a primary school north of Adelaide, horrifying young students.

The RSPCA, the Environment and Water Department and the Primary Industries and Regions Department are investigating the incident that occurred at One Tree Hill Primary School, in front of children in Out of School Hours and Vacation Care at the site, on Wednesday afternoon. The school posted on its Facebook page that there were “no survivors,” saying the wild corellas were believed to have been poisoned.

“I received a distressing phone call from a worker at school who was finding the very sick birds all over the school,” the post read. The children in vacation care were very upset at the scene of birds falling from the sky and in pain with blood coming out of their mouths.”

“The children were so caring and wanted to make sure the birds were getting some help.”

The post went on to thank the local wildlife rescue organisation – Caspers Bird Rescue – for attending the school and collecting the birds. Caspers Bird Rescue co-founder Jess King, 26, told The Advertiser authorities needed to get to the bottom of how the mass death occurred.

“Somebody needs to answer as to what has happened,” she said. “Regardless of whether it was an accident or not, you don’t just go throwing poison down (recklessly).”

Ms King said Caspers Bird Rescue took the birds to veterinarians in Para Hills and Roseworthy for treatment, however all but one to be euthanased.

“There was no way to treat them – they’ve all ingested so much,” she said. “It’s quite devastating to be completely honest.”

“In the five and a half years we’ve been active…we have not seen something like this before and neither have the vets.”

Initially, the school believed all of the birds had died. However, Caspers Bird Rescue co-founder Sarah King said one corella had survived against all odds.

“That’s pretty amazing,” she said. “Unless you get a bird that you literally see (eat poison), there’s not much you can do.”

However, Ms King said the bird’s condition was still precarious.

An RSPCA spokeswoman confirmed the RSPCA was investigating the incident but said it was too early to speculate on the cause. An Environment Department spokeswoman said the agency was also investigating the incident in collaboration with PIRSA.

“A disease investigation is underway,” she said. “Samples are being retained for potential toxin testing, which would take several weeks to complete.”

An Education Department spokeswoman said the department had been in contact with the school about the matter.

“This is a concerning situation,” she said. “We are reaching out to the school to offer any support they require.”

A Playford Council spokesman said the council did not use poison as part of its bird control measures.

“In the past two years, the City of Playford, has invested significant resources into non-lethal strategies to deal with marauding Little Corella flocks with limited success,” he said. “These non-lethal measures, last undertaken in 2018, included use of a predatory hawk and gas guns. At no time has council implemented any measures that include the use of poison.”

Too Drunk to Drive, Man Saves Baby Bird’s Life By Paying Uber to Bring it to a Rescue Center

By McKinley Corbley -Jul 8, 2019 http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org

(Stock image)

A baby bird has been given a new lease on life after a resourceful partygoer made sure that it could be transported to a rescue center in the safest – and most modern way possible.

Animal rescuers from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah (WRCNU) were surprised to find an Uber waiting outside of their front doors last week. The only passenger that had been waiting in the backseat of the car was a tiny baby bird.

Tim Crowley and his friends had rescued the bird as they were in the middle of enjoying a weekend get-together in Clinton. They had been sitting outside when the bird suddenly fell out of the sky – and they could not figure out where it had come from.

Upon calling the WRCNU, rescuers said that Crowley ought to bring the bird in for treatment as soon as possible. Since Crowley had been drinking, however, he and his friends did not feel capable of driving the little lesser goldfinch to the animal hospital.

“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he told KSTU. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”

Crowley and his friends then called an Uber for the bird and told the driver about their unusual passenger. When the driver canceled the trip due to the bizarre nature of the journey, Crowley then waited to tell their second driver about the feathery passenger until she had already arrived.

Luckily, the woman agreed to drive the bird to the rescue center.

Though WRCNU rescuers were confused by the arrival of the little bird, they quickly took it under its wing and made sure that it got the proper treatment.

The bird, who has fondly been named “Petey Uber” by the rescuers, will most likely be ready to be released back in the wild just in time for the migration season at the end of the summer – and it’s all thanks to Crowley’s quick thinking.

Bird found dead in Scotland was UK’s oldest Arctic tern

SCOTSMAN REPORTER Published: 06:00Monday 08 July 2019

image from Pixabay.com
A seabird found dead on a nature reserve has been named the UK’s oldest ever recorded Arctic tern – beating the previous record by nearly two years.

First ringed as a chick at Buddon Ness in Angus, the tern was discovered at the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Forvie National Nature Reserve in Aberdeenshire. The bird was found to be 32 years old, almost to the day, when it died, which is more than double the average tern lifespan of around 13 years.

The previous record holder was a tern recaptured on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, in 2010, just over 30 years after being ringed as a chick.

Arctic terns are among the most remarkable birds that visit Scottish shores. Their pole-to-pole migration is the longest known annual journey by any animal. By moving continually between Arctic summer and the Antarctic summer, terns see more daylight than any other creature on earth. Clocking up up to 44,000 miles each year, the record-breaking bird may have flown up to 1.408 million miles during its lifetime.

Daryl Short, Reserve Officer at Forvie, who found the deceased bird, said: “It’s incredible to think that the bird I found flew the equivalent of to the moon and back, and then back to the moon and some way home again. Arctic terns are amazing animals. The birds are currently protecting their chicks at Forvie and other nature reserves around the country and they’re not afraid to give you a bump on the back of the head if you get too close to their nests.

“But unfortunately for them, terns are prey for some other seabirds, such as falcons and large gulls. So there was certainly an element of luck to this bird’s long life.”

The record-breaking tern will have survived predators, storms and food shortages to possibly parent well over 50 chicks. It probably travelled well over a million miles in its lifetime.

Stuart MacQuarrie, head of nature reserves for SNH, said: “This incredible little bird was first ringed on a Special Area of Conservation and found again 32 years later, not too far away, on one of our national nature reserves. As well as evidence that the bird regularly returned to this part of Scotland to rear its chicks, this shows the importance of protected areas and nature reserves for wildlife.

“Scotland’s nature reserves are beautiful places for people to visit. They are also carefully managed for conservation and important places for research, making a real contribution to tackling biodiversity loss. Our reserves constantly surprise and delight in equal measure and this little bird captures something of what makes them so special.”


A mischief of magpies – maybe

Karen Hunt

It was a quiet afternoon.

The family of magpies who had made my back lawn their afternoon tea spot were out in force, mum (or dad) and the four kids, just chillin”.

Without warning, Dad (or mum) flew in with capital punishment on his (or her) mind – and possibly murder in his (or her) heart.

I don’t know what the offending party had done – showed just a bit too much underwing at the bird bath when others were watching out? Added a flirty trill to the dawn chorus? Didn’t make sure all the kids got a worm? I’ll never know, but the punishment was swift, savage and relentless.

The attack continued for several minutes.

Tactically it was brilliant – the element of surprise followed by an all out attack, giving no quarter with the victim not having any chance to either fight back or flee. Who knew that magpies had mastered the Art of War?

The youngsters circled the battling pair uttering little cries of alarm but sensibly, keeping their distance.

And then it was done.

The victim fled. The attacker cast a disdainful glance in my direction, dismissed me as completely irrelevant, and settled down to find a grub. The kids took a quick meeting then surreptitiously moved off to the far corners of the lawn, and changed their minds about begging for a crumb.

And, once again, it was a quiet afternoon.

Hong Kong customs seizes B1.56m worth of smuggled bird’s nest

The smuggled goods were seized at the Hong Kong port of the bridge on Tuesday. (Handout via South China Morning Post photo

WRITER: SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Customs officers have seized HK$400,000 (1.56 million baht) worth of bird’s nest from a car at the border checkpoint of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge port, the first smuggling case involving an outgoing vehicle detected at the site.

Officers intercepted the outgoing private car on Tuesday at the Hong Kong port of the multibillion-dollar bridge, which opened in October.

The Customs and Excise Department found 10 kilogrammes of the popular and precious delicacy in a spare tyre concealed in an altered structure underneath the rear of the SUV, which was about to cross the 55 kilometre mega bridge.

The male driver, 23, was arrested.

A department spokesman said it was the first time smuggling activities were detected in an outgoing private car stopped at the port since the bridge was launched.

An investigation was in progress.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of HK$2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

In April, customs seized 105kg of smuggled bird’s nest worth HK$3.5 million in an operation.

Officers stopped an outgoing private car at Shenzhen Bay

Officers stopped an outgoing private car at Shenzhen Bay border checkpoint, recovering 7kg of the delicacy. A further 79kg and 19kg were later seized at an industrial unit in Kwai Chung and a flat in Sham Shui Po. The male driver, 42, and a woman, 47, were arrested.

In the past 18 months, customs seized 1,112kg of smuggled bird’s nest in 14 cases.

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Wildlife expert Nick Mooney says eagle windfarm deaths higher than reported

ABC Radio Hobart By Georgie Burgess

Wildlife biologist Nick Mooney says it is not known how many eagles are killed by windfarms.
Supplied: Birdlife Tasmania

A wildlife expert has called for independent monitoring and studies into eagle deaths caused by windfarms, warning the problem is only going to get worse as the industry expands in Tasmania.

Under Commonwealth legislation, windfarm companies agree to “offsets” when an endangered bird is killed. Offsets include the companies paying compensation, funding research or the protection of nest sites.

“A lot of people call it blood money — it’s compensation for killing endangered species,” wildlife biologist Nick Mooney told Leon Compton on ABC Radio Hobart.

Musselroe Wind Farm, Tasmania’s largest, has reported 11 wedge-tail eagle deaths and one white-bellied sea eagle death since it was constructed in 2013. Mr Mooney believes the mortality rate is higher.

“We don’t know how many are killed, there is no proper study,” he said.

It is estimated there are less than 350 breeding pairs of the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tail eagles, and in 2017–18, 29 were killed by powerlines. Mr Mooney has raised concerns with how offsets are decided and set, and said they are based on modelling and projections rather than real data.

“It’s almost a nonsense to be setting offsets on speculation,” he said.

he Musselroe Windfarm, owned by Woolnorth, offsets deaths through funding the protection of wedge-tail eagle nests on private land.

“The trouble is, the assumption is that will increase production of eagle chicks to compensate for deaths,” Mr Mooney said.

“But you need about 12 extra eagle chicks to compensate for every adult eagle killed at a windfarm.

“There’s no evidence the covenanting process has increased production at all.”

A spokeswoman for Woolnorth said protecting eagles was “extremely important” to the company.

“There are very few eagle collisions at our wind farms and they in no way threaten the bird’s sustainability,” she said. “Woolnorth is trialling a number of mitigation projects and will continue to offset eagle impacts that occur at its wind farms, in addition to continuing to work with state and Commonwealth regulators to manage the impact on eagles.”

There were no eagle deaths reported at its Studland Bluff and Bluff Point windfarms between 2016 and 2018.

Mr Mooney said while there is no suggestion companies are hiding bird deaths, the system of reporting was a potential conflict of interest.

“The amount of offsets you pay is related to the number of eagles you’re found to be killing,” he said.

He said searches for dead or injured birds were often underneath and near turbines, meaning some may not be found and reported.

“Anything with wings is going to wobble off.”

Mr Mooney said real data needed to be collected, and a proper study of eagle populations around windfarms was needed.

“It’s inexcusable not to have eagles with GPS packages on them to find out how many were killed,” he said.

The Cattle Hill Windfarm, which is still under construction, has committed to trailing new technology to prevent eagles being kill in turbines. It will install monitoring towers to identify when an eagle is in the flight path of a turbine and shut it down.

A spokesperson for the Environment Department said the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act set out the requirements for offset proposals and used the most recent available scientific literature.

Animal lovers chasing glimpse of rare species fuel tourism boom but can create headaches

ABC Kimberley By Erin Parke

Discoveries of rare and endangered animals in Australia’s remote deserts have prompted mini tourism booms, but they are also causing some headaches for local Aboriginal rangers and their conservation efforts.

Bird obsessives, known as twitchers, have descended on remote sites in the wake of rare parrot sightings, such as the rediscovery of the princess parrot by rangers in 2012 in the Northern Territory.

“The scientists got really happy because it was the first one around that area, followed by all the birdwatchers,” said Anangu Luritjiku ranger Terrence Abbott.

“They wanted more details, so we tried to make it sort of secret at first because we didn’t want everyone arriving on a big bus.”

But the location soon leaked and lit up birdwatching chat pages online — and the twitchers started to arrive.

“We’ve got a permit system out there, but these ones here were illegal visitors without a permit.”

“When we went out there to patrol the area, we saw one tourist with a ladder on the top of his car, so we went and had a chat with him,” Mr Abbott said.

It’s a growing issue in areas where local Aboriginal rangers are making regular scientific breakthroughs, documenting the presence of animals thought to be extinct or only found in small geographical pockets.

The discoveries often come on Aboriginal-owned land where visitors — campers, fishermen or animal enthusiasts — require a permit to enter, something the rangers said many tourists did not realise.

The number of permit systems is growing in outback Australia; there are six in the Kimberley region of Western Australia alone, with most costing less than $50, including camping.

Bird-related tourism boom

Animal-inspired spike in tourism have helped fund ranger work and create local jobs.

After the night parrot — so rare it’s been referred to as the million-dollar bird — was photographed in the Great Sandy Desert in 2017, the number of visitor permits sold jumped 80 per cent.

Paruku head ranger Jamie Brown said they kept the news quiet for awhile to make sure the birds were protected.

“We were really worried because we didn’t want a big impact of lots of people coming in, and we didn’t know how to manage all of them as well as the bird,” he said.

“These twitchers, they love all sorts of birds, and this is a really rare one, so we could have a big run of people if we’d put it out straight away.”

“Most people who visit here do the right thing, they get their permit and they are respectful.

“Being a ranger is really good — it’s not just about the animals, we are getting more young people in to work with us and get out on country and learn from the old people.”