Boris & Irina reunite in Azerbaijan

Written by The Amazing Journey Team

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After spending the winter far apart in Eastern Sudan and Western Saudi Arabia respectively, Boris and Irina (two of our satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings) have apparently reunited in Azerbaijan during their long journeys home to Kazakhstan.
Boris's track is in purple and Irina's in torquoise.
Boris’s track is in purple and Irina’s in torquoise.
In our last update on March 15th, we had followed Boris (on his rapid migration north from Sudan) to a location in Syria close to the Iraq border which he arrived at on Monday, March 10th. We now know he stayed there until the morning of Friday, March 14th but then travelled on, and by the afternoon of Sunday, March 16th, he’d arrived in Eastern Azerbaijan, near the west coast of the Caspian Sea.
We had also followed Irina, who stayed longer on her wintering grounds (in Saudia Arabia) than Boris but she set off from there on March 6th and by March 10th, she had arrived in Iraq near the Syrian border. We now know she stayed there until Friday, March 14th but then pressed on and by the afternoon of Sunday, March 16th, she too had arrived in the same area of Azerbaijan that Boris was in.
While it will require further survey and monitoring in the future, it looks highly likely that we have now discovered an important Spring migration staging site for Sociable Lapwings in Azerbaijan.
Historical records in our database have indicated that this area of Azerbaijan might be a last Spring stopover site for Sociable Lapwings before they cross the Caspian and head on to the Emba valley in Kazakhstan. Our knowledge of regular Spring staging sites is very restricted but now this location in Azerbaijan and another site in Syria where c. 2,000 birds were located in 2007 appear to be regular staging sites. As indications are that both Boris and Irina passed close to or through this area of Syria this year, it is indeed possible that they might have stopped at the Syrian location for a few hours before moving on non-stop to Azerbaijan too.
It is likely that there are not many large stopover sites for Sociable Lapwings on their Spring migration back to Kazakhstan. The journey home is rapid and the entire route through Central Asian semi-deserts in Spring is much wetter throughout, offering extensive suitable resting and feeding habitat that is unavailable in the Autumn.
As of Monday, March 24th, Boris and Irina are both still staging in Azerbaijan on the East Caspian coast.
The great image at the head of this post by Philipp Meister is of a flock of Sociable Lapwings encountered at Gobustan, Azerbaijan on 6th April 2006.
The shores of Lake Hadzhibagul in Azerbaijan. Image Courtesy of The Amazing Journey Team
The shores of Lake Hadzhibagul in Azerbaijan. Image Courtesy of The Amazing Journey Team
In February this year our Sociable Lapwing Study team received news of another important Sociable Lapwing migration discovery, from the same area of Azerbaijan, that was made in Autumn 2013.
On 20th October 2013 Pedro Romero Vidal recorded a flock of 45 Sociable Lapwings at Lake Hadzhibagul and on November 7th he found another flock of 15 there. Pedro regularly counts waterbirds at the lake to record their numbers and diurnal activity patters for his MSc thesis at Greswald University, Germany. On both occasions the birds he encountered were feeding on muddy ground with small pools.
Of great interest to us was that among the 45 birds he encountered on October 20th, no less than four were colour-ringed. One carried a blue and a white ring, but in general, viewing conditions were not sufficient to read the full combinations. However, as the majority of birds carrying rings now must come from the Korgalzhyn region of Kazakhstan, and as four ringed birds were seen together, it seems likely that these birds were ringed in Central Kazakhstan near Lake Tengiz.
This is another piece of the jigsaw in our quest to reveal the Sociable Lapwings’ migration routes. It suggests that some birds, and perhaps only in some years, do not take a detour around the North shore of the Caspian, but cross it directly from the West Kazakhstan or North Turkmenistan coast.
Until now this has only been proven for the bird’s Spring migration route.

Irina reaches Saudi Arabia

Posted by BirdLife International The Amazing Journey Project
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Irina is now in North West Saudi Arabia near Tabuk and appears to be in an area of irrigated, agricultural pivot fields. © Image courtesy of BirdLife International
One fascinating aspect of Sociable Lapwing migration is that these birds make their journeys in a series of hops rather than in one jump.
The last review of our satellite-tagged birds’ movements was made on October 28th and at that point we found Boris had remained staging near the Turkey/Syria border for at least 19 days and Ainur has remained in the same location for a month in South East Turkmenistan. While conditions remain favourable, migrating birds use these stopovers to feed, rest and restore their energy before travelling on.
Irina has however pushed on south and she is now in North West Saudi Arabia near Tabuk and appears to be in an area of irrigated, agricultural pivot fields.
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Irina’s location in pivot fields at Tabuk.
Irina’s arrival in Tabuk is significant as it confirms this location as a current regular stopover/wintering site. Last year, on November 15th 2012,  Rob Tovey found a flock of ten birds close by and Abaj, one of our previously satellite-tagged birds, was also found nearby in January 2011.
Previous historical records of Sociable Lapwing flocks in Saudi Arabia include 25 in 1934 and 45 in 1988. Irina’s arrival in Saudi is only the seventh record since 1950.
Rob Tovey also recorded a larger wintering flock of 35 Sociable Lapwings some 100km further south in South-western Saudi Arabia near Jizan in February this year.
It will be interesting to now see where Irina heads next. Will she stay and winter in Saudia Arabia or perhaps push on again and head across the Red Sea into Africa?
Here is a map showing the progress of our three tagged birds so far this autumn.
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Tagged Sociable Lapwing progress as at 28th October 2013.
If you would like to sign up for email alerts so you can stay in touch with the progress of our three tagged birds please follow this link.
If you have seen any Sociable Lapwings recently or encounter any in the coming months we’d like to hear from you. You can submit your own sightings here.
We look forward to bringing you more news of the next stage of the Sociable Lapwings amazing journey shortly.
RELATED ARTICLES
Satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings are on the move again
Sociable Lapwing – Critically Endangered birds needlessly killed in Kuwait
Sociable Lapwings shot in the Middle East
Surprise report from troubled Syria
First meeting of the AEWA Sociable Lapwing International Working Group in Syria

Satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings are on the move again

Written by BirdLife International Amazing Journey Project
With a lack of trackable Sociable Lapwings to report on over the last year, we are delighted to now reactivate the Amazing Journey website to bring you news about the migrations of three new birds that scientists from RSPB and ACBK fitted with satellite tags earlier this year.
The lapwings – a male and two females – are breeding adults that were caught at the nest and satellite-tagged at separate colonies near to Lake Tengiz, in central Kazakhstan, this summer. Each successfully fledged young before leaving their small nesting colonies to gather together with birds from other nearby colonies in readiness for their autumn migration. This gregarious behaviour is why the species is called ‘Sociable’ Lapwing.
RSPB's Professor Rhys Green and Dr Rob Sheldon fitting a satellite tag in June 2013. Image courtesy of RSPB
RSPB’s Professor Rhys Green and Dr Rob Sheldon fitting a satellite tag in June 2013. Image courtesy of BirdLife International

Since mid August we’ve been anticipating the newly-tagged birds’ migration would soon begin. As days passed with no movements and then days turned into weeks, our monitoring team started to become increasingly concerned. While signals received from the tagged lapwings seemed very good, no changes in the birds’ locations were detected.

Most years Sociable Lapwings depart from their breeding areas in mid to late August. Was something up? Were the new satellite tags working properly? Could our birds really still be in the Kazakh Steppe, OK, and just waiting to depart?
We were all immensely relieved when the action finally began, confirming that all was well with the lapwings and that their tags were working properly. Remarkably all three of our tagged birds departed on the same day – Tuesday 17th of September.
A post-breeding flock of Sociable Lapwings gathering before migration. Image courtesy of BirdLife International
A post-breeding flock of Sociable Lapwings gathering before migration. Image courtesy of BirdLife International
Ruslan Urazaliev, who leads the Sociable Lapwing study for ACBK in Kazakhstan, comments “Throughout late August and most of September the wind has been mainly from the south and conditions here have remained warm. This probably delayed the birds migration. Although we searched all the areas where the satellite signals suggested our birds were gathering, we couldn’t find any Sociable Lapwings during the last few weeks. However, we did find large numbers of Ruff still present in the Steppe and they usually depart long before this. The wind patterns appear to have changed in recent days which may have allowed the Sociable Lapwings to finally begin their migration.”
To help report on the migration of the three tagged birds individually we have followed tradition and given each local names again. Boris, who was fitted with his satellite tag on June 5th 2013, carries the tag ID 123086 and a colour ring combination; green blue, orange blue. His coordinates and path are marked in blue on our map. Irina, who was fitted with her satellite tag on June 4th 2013, carries the tag ID 123088 and the colour ring combination; green blue, orange white. You can see Irina in the main picture at the head of this post. Her coordinates and path are marked in green. Ainur who was also fitted with her satellite tag on June 4th, carries the tag ID 123087 and the colour ring combination; green blue, green white. Her coordinates and path are marked in Red.
You can see the first stage of the tagged birds’ migration below and can click to enlarge the map.
Boris (blue), Irina (green) and Ainur's (Red) initial migration routes - September 17-23 2013. Click to enlarge.
Boris (blue), Irina (green) and Ainur’s (Red) initial migration routes – September 17-23 2013. Click to enlarge.
Boris nested at a colony close to the Sociable Lapwing main study site at Korgalzhyn but has now moved nearly 1,800 km west in two days and at the time of writing is near Stavropol in south-western Russia. Irina has taken a slightly more southerly course west from her breeding site, some 60 km south east of Korgalzhyn, with an initial flight of just over 1,000 km. She then paused briefly to the East of the Caspian Sea before taking a second flight to a stopover close to Boris in Russia. Whether she crossed the Caspian Sea or took a route around its northern shores is, of course, unknown. Ainur who had nested in a separate colony close to Irina, has headed about 1,400 km south to a location near to the southerly borders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Expert Sociable Lapwing tracking analyst Johannes Kamp comments
Boris has travelled to a new area between Volga and Kalmykia which is very interesting. If coordinate detail is accurate, it suggests that some birds do cross the North Caspian semi-desert. Previously there has been no evidence for this, with all our other satellite-tagged birds going around the North side of this area.
“Irina has taken a non-classical route that is mostly used in spring (along the Emba valley). She is following in the footsteps of Erzhan, our first tagged male that transmitted for four years bringing us the most comprehensive information of all our tracked birds.”
“Ainur has almost certainly headed for Lake Talimarzhan in Uzbekistan where the big Sociable Lapwing stopover site was discovered by UzSPB last year.
Where the birds head next can be predicted but discovering their exact routes and stopover sites is a vital part of protecting these Critically Endangered birds on their migrations.
The ongoing Sociable Lapwing conservation action that multiple national BirdLife Partners are taking for the species through this BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme project is funded by Swarovski Optik, RSPB and Mark Constantine. Without their support, vital research, monitoring, hunting intervention and conservation action would not be possible.
If you would like to sign up for email alerts so you can stay in touch with the progress of our three tagged birds please follow this link.
If you have seen any Sociable Lapwings recently or encounter any in the coming months we’d like to hear from you. You can submit your own sightings here.
We look forward to bringing you more news of the next stage of the Sociable Lapwings amazing journey shortly.

Sociable Lapwing – Critically Endangered birds needlessly killed in Kuwait

Written by Ian Fisher/RSPB
As regular readers of the Saving Species blog will know, the RSPB has been supporting work on the Critically Endangered sociable lapwing since 2005, and from 2011 has been acting as Co-ordinator for the implementation of the International Single Species Action Plan for the species under a Memorandum of Cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).  We know from extensive research between 2004 and 2012 that sociable lapwings are declining due to low adult survival, which is almost certainly caused by being shot during migration. There is evidence from known stopover sites in north-eastern Syria and some areas in Iraq from 2008 and 2009 that these birds are widely hunted by both locals and visiting falconers from the Gulf States.
The latest reports from the region are the first to confirm the killing of sociable lapwings in Kuwait.  The birds appear to have been shot on 12th March. Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations says:
Regrettably, this is the first confirmed hunting of sociable lapwings in Kuwait, and this latest information is of particular concern as these birds were returning to Kazakhstan where they would have started breed in 6 weeks time.
In May 2012, the revision of the 2002 Action Plan was adopted by the 5th Meeting of the Parties to AEWA (MOP5) in La Rochelle, France (see more details on the Amazing Journey website). This identified the urgent need for action across sociable lapwing range states to implement and enforce effective hunting legislation.  Sergey Dereliev, AEWA Technical Officer states:
Although Kuwait is not yet a Contracting Party to AEWA, the Government has expressed its interest in the objectives of the Agreement through attendance at MOP5, and it could play a significant role in the Gulf region in helping to halt the decline of this Critically Endangered species by implementing and enforcing hunting legislation.  By improving adult survival by 30% we could see a stabilization of the current population size on the way to a future increasing population trend.
RSPB and Swarovski Optik have been working through the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme to save the sociable lapwing. You can follow our work on the Amazing Journey website. This year we are planning to attach more satellite tags to the birds on their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan and track them to the Middle East. This will further our understanding of the migration route and enable us to target future awareness-raising and advocacy at the right stop-over sites and range states. You can support our work by making a donation via the Amazing Journeys ‘get involved’ pages.
Dead lapwings, and a male as he should be seen on the breeding grounds in Kazakhstan
Dead lapwings, and a male as he should be seen on the breeding grounds in Kazakhstan

First meeting of the AEWA Sociable Lapwing International Working Group in Syria

Written by AEWA

The AEWA Sociable Lapwing International Working Group (SLIWG) is an inter-governmental body which was convened by the AEWA Secretariat in 2010 in order to coordinate and guide the implementation of the Single Species Action Plan (SSAP) for the Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius). The Sociable Lapwing SSAP was approved by the 2nd Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) in 2002, but a revision was initiated in 2009 and a significantly revised and updated SSAP will be presented to MOP5 in 2012. SLIWG is the second AEWA Species Working Group to actually convene a meeting after the Lesser White-fronted Goose International Working Group.

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Meeting participants of the first SLIWG meeting. Image curtesy of AEWA

The first SLIWG meeting took place from 18 – 20 March 2011 in Palmyra, Syria. It was attended by representatives of eight Sociable Lapwing Range States: India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey. Additionally, experts of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME) took part as observers to SLIWG.

The event was hosted by the General Commission for Al Badia Management and Development and the Ministry of State for Environment Affairs of Syria and was accommodated in the Headquarters of the Al Badia Commission. Locally, the organization was ably handled by the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife, supported by the BirdLife International Middle East Secretariat. The meeting would not have been possible without the funding provided by a list of organizations, institutions and initiatives: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife UK) through a UK Darwin Initiative grant, BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme, Swarovski Optik, the AEWA Secretariat, Save Our Species and the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

On the first day the Working Group dealt with house-keeping issues, one of which was the election of the chair, Saudi Arabia, represented by Dr. Mohamed Shobrak, who will be heading the group for the period until the next meeting, provisionally planned in three years’ time. The three NGOs attending the meeting (RSPB, BirdLife International and OSME) were confirmed as permanent observers to SLIWG. The Group also signed off two important papers – its own Terms of Reference and the format for National Reports. The Terms of Reference clarifies the goals, role and scope of SLIWG, its membership (expanded to 13 Range States after recent discoveries of important non-breeding congregations of Sociable Lapwings, such as in Oman the frequency of meetings (three years) and the rotational principle of chairmanship (triennial term of office). Financial assistance for eligible countries to attend future meetings will be conditioned by the timely submission of national reports. The Group’s logo, website and intranet were discussed and directions were given to the AEWA Secretariat and the Group’s coordinator on their finalisation.

SLIWG members agreed with the proposal of the Secretariat to outsource the coordination of the Group to RSPB.

The SLIWG also included a session to close the Darwin-funded project on the flyway conservation of the Sociable Lapwing which was implemented by RSPB and other partner organizations over the last two years. The present Range States gave updates on the status of the species in their countries and undertaken research, monitoring and conservation action. Finally, the project leader, Dr. Robert Sheldon, summarized the outcomes of the whole project which constitute a great contribution to our knowledge about the species and its conservation.

On day two, participants broke up into two regional groups and held workshops on the prioritization of activities from the draft revised SSAP to be implemented by each Range State over the next triennial period. This priority list will be guiding the work and fundraising efforts of all involved stakeholders.

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The group also brainstormed on monitoring gaps and needs which produced a broad outline of a common monitoring scheme which will be further developed by a drafting group.

Towards the end of the meeting, Jim Lawrence of BirdLife International presented the activity of BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme and particularly the work done on the Sociable Lapwing where the species’ champion has been Swarovski Optik. The meeting participants greatly welcomed the announcement that Swarovski Optik has extended its support for the Sociable Lapwing by another three years. On behalf of Andreas Pittl, Head of Marketing at Swarovski Optik, Jim Lawrence distributed five pairs of binoculars and two spotting scope sets to Range States in support of their field work.

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On the final day participants went into the field in the vicinity of Palmyra, including to Al Talila Nature Reserve where Sociable Lapwings have been observed staging during migration in the autumn of 2010.

The SLIWG meeting was supported and moderated by the AEWA Technical Officer, Sergey Dereliev.

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UK stone-curlew population goes from strength to strength

Written by James Hamilton/Birding247

The UK’s Stone-curlew population is literally going from strengh to strength. Results of the species breeding success, has led to celebrations [not too many beers we hope – ed] by the RSPB and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) who have been celebrating along with farmers in the Eastern region following the news that by working together, they have helped the vulnerable Stone-curlew population in the area to be moved from a status of ‘high conservation concern’ to a ‘medium conservation concern’.

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Eurasian Stone-curlew. @ James Hamilton

Stone-curlews are large wading birds whose habitat consists of treeless, stony terrain and grassland. This special bird’s most striking characteristics are their long yellow legs and large yellow eyes, the power of which enables them to feed on insects at night, giving rise to their local name of goggle-eyed plover. They are a shy, sensitive species and negative changes in their habitat will often result in lowered breeding success.

Before habitats were changed to arable farming and forestry after the Second World War, there used to be more than 1,000 breeding pairs in England. Numbers of Stone-curlews fell by over 85% between 1940 and 1985, when the numbers hit a low of 150-160 pairs.

In 2010, thanks to work of farmers and landowners, often working with the RSPB over the past 25 years, the entire UK population of stone-curlews increased gradually to 370 pairs. The Eastern Region is home to two thirds of these rare birds, and as one of the two main strongholds left in England, the agricultural community has a vital part to play in the survival of this special species.

This year’s fantastic result for stone-curlews has been achieved through many CLA members, other farmers and landowners putting measures in place to intervene when agricultural operations pose a threat to Stone-curlews on their land and implementing positive land management, such as creating cultivated fallows, which provide essential nesting and feeding habitats for the birds.

This evening’s event aims to thank the farmers in the region who have stepped up for nature alongside the RSPB and to recognise their continuing commitment to the conservation of Stone-curlews. Their achievements this year are extremely significant both to the survival of Stone-curlews, but also as an indication of what can be achieved for a multitude of other vulnerable species in the future.

Simon Tonkin, Senior Conservation Officer for the RSPB in Eastern England says: “Hearing the eerie sound of Stone-curlews calling at night is a sound I will never forget. The opportunity to observe this distinguished inhabitant of Breckland is all thanks to the farmers and landowners working together with the RSPB to make a real difference for farm wildlife.

These farmers demonstrate the value of funding through agri-environment schemes, which is why it is essential that farmers be given the right level of incentives through the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. We strongly feel that there is a way to ensure farmland is managed in a way that is prosperous for farm wildlife, food production and farm businesses.”

This event provides an opportunity for us to jointly applaud the work of those farmers across the region stepping up for nature on their farms and making a real difference for such an iconic species of the Brecks.

Gerald Grey, Head keeper at the Hilborough Estate explains: “The Hilborough estate working together with the RSPB continues to be a great experience as we are both pulling in exactly the same direction, attempting to provide countryside rich in farm wildlife that we can all enjoy and protect for future generations. By providing habitat for Stone-curlews we have also been able to provide habitat for Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove, arable flora and farmland butterflies.

Hugh Van Cutsem who owns the Hilborough Estate is a former chairman of our Norfolk  CLA branch and his approach to conservation is typical of so many of our members, says Rob Wise, CLA regional adviser. “They have been prominent in their support for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and we have numerous examples of the work they do for wildlife and the environment – farmland birds especially.

We can all be proud of these results.” concluded Rob.

New study reveals links between wader declines and land use

Written by RSPB Scotland

A new study exploring the causes of population change in upland waders has found that no single cause is connected with recent decreases in populations. Instead, the research by the RSPB suggests that different factors associated with varying land-use may be influencing changes in certain species.

In the first country-wide assessment of its kind, the study looked at five wading bird species — Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, European Golden Plover, Dunlin and Common Snipe — and explored changes in their populations across various upland habitats. 142 individual survey plots were identified for study within the following regions; East Flows, Exmoor, Lake District, Lewis & Harris, North East Scotland, North Pennines, North Yorkshire, South Pennines, Wales, West Flows. It found that where declines had occurred, they were linked with factors such as habitat cover, forest edge exposure, grouse moor management intensity and crow abundance.

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Eurasian Curlew on grassland. © Attila Seprényi

Wading birds were once a common sight on farmland and uplands, but in recent decades they have suffered dramatic population declines in many areas. The Repeat Upland Bird Survey carried out by the RSPB suggested declines of over 50% of Lapwing, Dunlin and Curlew over the last 25 years in many parts of the British uplands.

These losses have prompted further investigation to try to identify the reason behind them. Using data from these previous upland bird surveys, RSPB scientists, with support from Scottish Natural Heritage, were able to analyse changes in the abundance of waders over almost 1500 square kilometres across the UK’s uplands. This examined whether population changes could be linked to variations in land-use, such as the amounts of nearby forestry, or the intensity of grouse moor management, which involves burning heather and legal control of predators such as foxes, crows and stoats. Heather on moorland is burnt in strips to create a mosaic of young nutritious heather which acts as a food source for grouse, and older stands which provide nesting habitat and cover.

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Northern Lapwing on wet meadow. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Results, published in the journal Bird Study, found that numbers of Golden Plover and Snipe declined more in upland landscapes where there was more forestry in surrounding areas. The exact causes for this relationship are not known, but waders breed on the ground and as such are vulnerable to predation. The surrounding forest may well be beneficial to nesting crows or foxes, which are the main predators of eggs and chicks of upland waders. Other recent studies have shown that changes to upland wader abundance can be influenced by numbers of predators, and this study suggests that afforestation, in some areas, might be an important factor behind this relationship.

Declines in Lapwing numbers were greatest in areas dominated by heather. For this species, links to predation were also identified. Regionally, Lapwing populations fared better on areas with more intensive grouse moor management and worse where there were high crow numbers. The same was not true, however, for Golden Plover, which surprisingly suffered greatest declines in areas where grouse moor management was more intensive.

Dr Murray Grant, a principal conservation scientist with RSPB, said: “The decline of uplands waders has been a cause for concern for a number of years, particularly as the reasons for these changes were not clear cut. These are birds that many people will recognise and were commonplace three or four decades ago. This new research provides useful indicators on which factors might be important in driving declines in these splendid birds. The next task will be to use this information to dig a little deeper and determine the mechanisms for the declines and what we can do to help these species on areas where decreases are greatest.

Professor Des Thompson, Policy and Advice Manager for SNH, commented: “This research shows the complex nature of changes in our wader populations in the uplands, including vividly revealing the decline in Curlew and Lapwing numbers. Many people working in the uplands lament the loss of these birds, so we do need to intensify our understanding of what is happening — and then try do something about it.

This article was reposted from BirdGuides.

Important staging site of Sociable Lapwing identified in East Turkey

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders

Recent report by the Sociable Lapwing project team suggests that an important staging site was identified for Sociable Lapwing in East Turkey. Staging flock was found by members of Doga Dernegi, the BirdLife International Partner in Turkey, by providing coordinates of one of the Amazing Journey travellers, named Erzhan.

Erzhan is one of satellite marked Sociable Lapwings from Kazakhstan which provided signals on October 3rd form East Turkey. Based on Mr. Ferdi Akarsu (Doga Dernegi), local team searched for Erzhan on Ocotber 9th and found a hundred birds close to Erzhan’s location while next day numbers increased to more than 550 individuals. Erzhan was not seen in the field, possibly due to the bad and wet weather, and number of birds was probably underestimated.

Turkey seems to play a key role in holding Sociable Lapwings at least during fall migration. In October 2007 the largest flock ever of 3200 Sociable Lapwings was found, also in Turkey. Despite this number overwrote the suggested population figures conservation efforts continued to stop further decline of Sociable Lapwing populations.

BirdLife International says “this new information strongly suggests that this part of Turkey is important for staging Sociable Lapwings.” Additional ground monitoring of migrating flocks supports the project at several sites throughout Turkey.

More information about the project could be read and birds could be followed on Amazing Journey’s website.

Animated map overview of Erzhan’s journey to Turkey. Note sound clip is attached with animation. To avoid disturbance of others turn the volume down or mute. Refresh (reload) page if map doesn’t appear.

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Elevation chart of Erzhan’s presumed routing.

Farmland bird populations in sharp decline, Government figures show

Written by RSPB

Overall farmland bird populations in England fell by 5 per cent last year to their lowest level for 40 years, according to official figures released in late July.

Statistics released by Defra covering 19 bird species which rely on farmland have shown the steep decline between 2008 and 2009. RSPB scientists say the one year decline may be down to factors including a cold winter and the loss of set-aside in the countryside.

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Northern Lapwing in breeding habitat pasture in England. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Some of the most worrying declines include Northern Lapwings (12 per cent decline), Corn Bunting (7 per cent) and Grey Partridge (23 per cent). Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) – the advanced environmental subsidy package for farmers – was designed to boost individual threatened farmland bird species like these.

Where HLS has been deployed, farmers have achieved great successes for wildlife – but it currently covers under ten per cent of farmland. And it is now under threat from the coalition Government’s proposed budget cuts.

“It’s difficult to draw any hard and fast conclusions from a short one-year time span, but this certainly makes for some depressing reading,” said RSPB director of conservation Dr Mark Avery.

“The winter before last was a moderately cold one which could have impacted on birds’ ability to find food. We may also be seeing the knock on effect of set-aside being abolished in 2007, removing valuable foraging and nesting habitats for wild birds in the farmed countryside.

“Northern Lapwings – known to some as the ‘farmer’s friend’ – are particularly vulnerable and their populations have been steadily falling for more than 30 years, so a decline of 12 per cent in one year across England is really bad news.

“Those farmers who are helping to save this beautiful, threatened bird through the Higher Level Stewardship are achieving some great results. So to cut this important environmental scheme now could be disastrous.”

The long term decline
The figures released today also show a new long term five-year decline of 10 per cent. Farmland bird researchers say this long term decline shows that the Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) scheme – the basic environmental subsidy package – is not working as well as it should be. 

While HLS was designed to save threatened species, ELS was designed to reverse the overall decline in farmland birds. 56 per cent of farmland in England is in ELS.

“The five year decline of 10 per cent is a real cause for concern. It indicates that ELS is not working as intended,” Dr Avery continued.

“On the RSPB’s own farm in Cambridgeshire we have seen bird numbers almost triple thanks to ELS, so we know it can be done. There are many different options in the ELS scheme but unfortunately we are not seeing the right options used in the right ways.

“Farmland birds need farmers. The NFU and CLA-led Campaign for the Farmed Environment aims to boost wildlife-friendly activities on farms. These results show how crucial this effort is. The Campaign has the RSPB’s full support, and we applaud those farmers who are adapting their farms to care for wildlife as well as producing high-quality food. We just need more people to join in.”

What can I do?
We’re celebrating the work the UK’s farmers do for wildlife
Find out more about the Nature of Farming Award

A great breeding season for UK???s Avocets: record-breaking year at RSPB’s Read’s Island

Written by WildLife Extra

The bird that is the logo of the RSPB – and a symbol of bird conservation – has had a good breeding season, with record-breaking numbers at one UK reserve and the return after a 16-year break at another.

A failing breeding Pied Avocet colony on the Humber has enjoyed a dramatic reversal in fortunes with its most successful season ever, thanks to a major restoration project.

The RSPB estimates that at least 200 Pied Pied Avocet chicks have fledged this year on its reserve Read’s Island. Not only is this about 25 per cent higher than its previous best season, it is the first time any young have fledged on the site for three years. Situated near the south bank of the Humber, Read’s Island used to be one of the UK’s most important breeding sites for the Pied Avocet, but the river’s strong tide eroded the pools where the birds breed, causing the colony’s productivity to collapse.

A grant of almost £50,000 from SITA Trust enabled the RSPB to rebuild and protect 10 hectares of Read’s Island in the hope of securing a future for the Pied Avocet colony. Deep feeding pools were created, capable of holding water during the breeding season and islands were built for the birds to nest on. In addition, existing banks were repaired to help protect the Pied Avocet nests from high spring tides.

Prior to the restoration project, the number of breeding Pied Avocet pairs on Read’s Island had shrunk to a mere 50 pairs. This season there are in excess of 200.

Pete Short, the RSPB’s Humber Site Manager said: “The project has been a huge success and we are delighted that the island has regained its former glory as one of our most important Pied Avocet breeding colonies.’

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PERFECT ENVIRONMENT: Pied Avocets have returned to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk for the first time since 1994. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Conservation work has paid off
Meanwhile, Pied Avocets have bred for the first time in more than 15 years at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk. Partly as result of the work undertaken on the reserve’s wader scrape last winter, the habitat is perfect for the breeding Pied Avocets and this year the birds have returned to the reserve and bred successfully for the first time since 1994.

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SYMBOL OF SUCCESS: Pied Avocets have enjoyed a fantastic breeding season. © Jan Wegener

‘The work on the scrape has really paid off this year, which has been the best yet for waders, including Wood, Green and Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Redshank, three pairs of Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit, says Pensthorpe’s zoo and conservation manager Tony Durkin. ‘The adult pair and their fours eggs were watched by millions on this year’s Springwatch series and after successfully avoiding trouble from their wildlife neighbours, the chicks have fully-fledged from the scrape.’

There are many theories about why there has been a 16-year break from Pied Avocet breeding at Pensthorpe, but the Wensum Valley, which the reserve sits in, acts as a migration corridor for birds and over the past few years Pied Avocets have been seen regularly, only to disappear in mid May.

‘We are delighted that the Pied Avocets have finally bred at Pensthorpe after such a long absence and hope they will return next year,’ says Tony.