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1  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birds Chat / It's time for 'Winter' visitors on: October 04, 2013, 08:54:52 am
If one is interested in migrant birds, the ideal time to look for them is during the last two months of the year, by mid-November, the majority of our wintering birds may have arrived in our shores. The migrant birds generally start arriving here late in August and early September. When the cold wind from the Bay of Bengal begin to blow over, heralding the onset of the North-East monsoon. But it will not be until October and November that the main influx takes place. During these two months large number of winter birds arrives from their breeding haunts in the dist and part of Asia and Europe.

There are nearly 427 species and sub-species of birds in Sri Lanka today and of them approximately 176 are migrants. And, except a few species of oceanic birds, all of them fall in to one category - winter visitors.

From which parts of world do these migrants birds come and how? What are there migratory routes? These are but a few of the questions posed by amateur bird watchers. Detailed studies carried out by ornithologists in this country an elsewhere have revealed that majority of migrant birds found in Sri Lanka come from countries situated within the temperature zone.

Almost all migratory waders seen here during the North-East monsoon have breeding grounds in the Steppes and Tundra, north of Asia and Europe. Such birds as the Turnstone, Marsh Sandpiper, Sanderline, Long-tailed Stint and Caspian Plover may Sri Lanka from breeding grounds in Northern and Southern Russia or from places within the Arctic Circle.

The Great brown-headed Gull and the Herring Gull; which occasionally visit our coastal lagoons, definitely come from large lakes in central Asia and from Russia, including Siberia, while their smaller relative, the Whiskered Tern comes here from inland lakes in Kashmir.

The Pintail, Garganey, Shoveller and Gadwall are some of the wild Ducks most of us will know may have seen some time or other. But how many of us actually know the great distance they fly to reach the warmth of our shores? The vast majority of them come from countries far North of Asia and Europe, and a few from Tibet and Mongolia. The commoner snipes - pintail and fantail-hail from places situated thousand miles apart. The first comes here from the East Siberian marshes and other from Northern European countries, Japan and northern China.

The migratory Warblers (as many as eleven are known) almost certainly come from breeding grounds in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. While a couple of Warblers come from Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Himalayas, the Blue-Chat, Pied Ground Thrush, Northern Orange Headed Ground Thrush and Indian Blue Rock-Thrush come solely from Himalayan foothills.

So do some of the migratory flycatchers, i.e. Blue-throated Flycatchers, Brown Flycatchers and the Layard's flycatcher. It is certainly that the Indian White Wagtail, Eastern Gray wagtail and the yellow-headed Wagtail too come from the Himalayan nesting grounds.

The Indian plaintive Cuckoo and the Asian Common Cuckoo certainly breed in the same localities as the flycatchers, and used the same routes along the west coast to reach Sri Lanka.

The Hawks and Eagles encountered in the island during winter period come from a variety of countries in Asia and Europe. The Siberian Honey Buzzard has its headquarters in Eastern Siberia, while the Desert Buzzard comes from Japan or perhaps from Burma.

The four species of Harriers occur in the island have been traced to breeding grounds in northern parts of Asia and Europe.

The Osprey and the short-eared Owl are birds of the Temperature Regions. The rarer Red-legged Falcon arrives from breeding places in the North East of Asia and the Kestrels fly in to Sri Lanka from Western European countries, Japan and Northern China. The Purple Wood Pigeon obviously comes from Bengal Indo-China and the two migratory Turtle Doves have their nesting haunts from the Himalayas and Central Asia.

The Black-capped Kingfisher and the Tiger or Malay Bittern are considered rare migrants whose nesting grounds have been traced to Western Sumatra, Burma and Malaysia to China.

The bird watchers countrywide looks forward to the arrival of the Eastern Swallow than the other migrant birds. It is one of the first to appear in our shores, scattered flocks having been seen here as early as the third week of August.

The Eastern Gray Wagtail, perhaps the commonest and the most welcome visitor in the Central Hill Zone, may be another forerunner in the long train of winter visitors in our country immediately on arrival in the Island it be takes to the hill country and as a result its first arrival is hardly recorded in the low-lands.

The Sandpipers, Stints, Curlews, Golden Plover, too arrive in the late August or early September. Many of the smaller passerine birds start to arrive in the late September or October.

The Pintail Snipe comes in from September. The ducks, teal and other wild fowl are surely the last to start on their migratory journeys, which can be judged from the vast flocks that appear in Sri Lanka during November and December.

Sunday Observer
by K.G.H. Munidasa
2  General Chat / Conservation / Bellanwila-Attidiya: bird paradise gone bad - Daily News on: September 10, 2013, 06:15:54 am
The bellanwila-Attidiya marsh is situated on the south-eastern outskirts of Colombo. The area comprises of shallow freshwater ponds, canals, marshes, scrublands and seasonally flooded grassland, with scattered pockets of shrubs and small trees.

The Bolagoda canal runs through the marsh dividing the area approximately into two equal parts. The area was reportedly used for rice cultivation until 1978. Yet, predominantly due to increasing severity of drainage problems paddy cultivation was abandoned. Now, most lands have been re-colonized by a diverse vegetation that provides habitat for a great variety of wildlife, in particular for insects, fishers, reptiles and birds

The area is particularly rich in waterfowl, including many migratory species. Being in the proximity of the capital city, the marsh is also of great importance for the leisure and nature experience of city dweller, and provides ample opportunity for conservation education, nature study and research activities.

Bellanvila-attidiya sanctuary (BAS) is listed in the directory of Asian Wetland by the IUCN in 1989 and designated as important bird area by Birdlife International. It was declared a Sanctuary under the fauna and flora protection ordinance by gazette extraordinary No 620/9 of 25th July 1990.

Natural habitat
It is one of the last remaining natural habitats for many species of invertebrates and vertebrates displaced by urban and suburban development. It provides valuable resources to migrating birds for them to complete their annual migratory cycle.

The marsh supports a wide variety of water birds in small numbers, and is an important rooting site for herons and egrets. Over 168 species of birds have been recorded from the marsh. Of the diverse array of invertebrates found in the marsh, 77 species of butterflies and 37 species of dragonflies have been recorded.

A thorough study and survey of the invertebrate diversity needs to be initiated, the waters of the marsh is also home to over 44 species of fresh water fish, of which four are endemic to Sri Lanka. Nearly 30 species of amphibians (frogs and Toads) have been observed in the marsh of which 4 are endemic. There are also a considerable number of reptiles and mammals in the marsh. Otters, hard shell sand soft shell terrapins, many species of snakes and lizards, and even the rare and endemic golden palm civet have been spotted in the marsh.

A considerable land area of Bellanvila-Attidiya wetland has been lost. The most obvious and damaging threat to the marsh is the continuing dumping of raw garbage into it. Another serious threat is the effluents and pollutants released from the nearby garments factories into its waterways.

These factory effluents discharge to the local drain flow into the bolaoda canal, and have resulted in major fish kills. These fish kills have decimated the local population of several species of fish, including two species endemic to Sri Lanka.

The economically important freshwater shrimp macro brachium Rosenberger, have almost been exterminated in the marsh. The dumping of domestic waste along the adjacent road has also caused serious pollution problems.

Most of the larger trees have been cut down for firewood resulting in reduced nesting places for the birds and other animals.

There is also a considerable amount of Hunting of large water birds going on, particularly with snares, nets and catapults. Egg-Collecting is also a threat to the bird population in mash. Some of the development projects in surrounding areas also illegally encroach into the marsh from it periphery.

If the Bellanvila- Attidiya marshes are to survive to the new millennium, the garbage problem needs to be resolved immediately. Otherwise the long term repercussions to the ecology of the marsh will be most severe.

Also Habitat fragmentation, and changes in water level that degraded native vegetation habitat and provided access for invasive native and non-native weeds and accelerated the succession decline of Bellanvila-Attidiya Sanctuary habitat, Plant and animal pest invasion, loss of natural character and changers in plant dominance have profound effects on the animals that depend upon aquatic environments as a source of food and refuge and as a nursery for their young, land filling and drainage of wetland for urban or rural development are considerable threats for Bellanvila-Attidiya mash Sanctuary.

When we look at the important of Bellanvila-Attidiya Sanctuary, we can conclude that Bellanvila-Attidiya Sanctuary has particularly productive ecosystems that can provide many benefits such as energy production, research and education, recreation and tourism, water flow regulation, protection against natural processes and calamities, contribution to maintenance of processes in natural systems, biodiversity uniqueness and gene pool, socio-cultural significance and landscape beauty. It is our duty to protect our mother nature for future generation enabling them to live in a sustainable society.

Daily news
3  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / Yala closed in September for maintenance on: September 10, 2013, 05:41:49 am
The Yala National Park will be closed for visitors in September, a Wildlife Conservation Department spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said bookings of bungalows would not be allowed for local or foreign visitors from September 1 to 30. She said the park will open to visitors again in October.

The spokesperson said during the period of closure, maintenance work of bungalows and the park would be carried out.

She said as Yala is always crowded with visitors, closing the park for a short period during the drought season of every year is a usual practice to allow wild animals to rest.

The Yala National Park that consists of five blocks is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It spreads over an area of 1,260 square kilometers.a

Daily news
4  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birding Site / Horagolla National Park on: September 10, 2013, 05:18:48 am
Horagolla is a well known place in Sri Lanka due to it being the ancestral home of the famous Bandaranaike family, which produced three Sri Lankan Prime Ministers. The Horagolla Estate was once a vast extent of land which in 1973 former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike donated 33 acres under the land Acquisition Act to the State.

The rich Bio-diversity of the donated land led to the Wildlife Department to converting it into a sanctuary which on July 28, 2004 was named as the Horagolla National Park

The area is called Horagolla due to the abundance of Hora trees found in the vicinity. If you travel about one kilometre from Nittambuwa to Veyangoda, you will arrive at the Pinnagolla junction. About 600 m on the left turn at the junction is the entrance to the park. This is the smallest National park in Sri Lanka. It is situated about 40 km from Colombo.

A magnificent lake by the entrance unfolds before your eyes. Its spectacular scenery, such as the green forest cover and pristine water area treat for the eyes. The temperature at Horagolla which belongs to the low-country wet zone, ranges between 27 to 29 C and the South West monsoon brings the rain. The roads inside the park are attractively paved with stones and numbered with arrows to enable visitors to find their way with ease. The full length of this path runs through the forest about one and a half kilometres
The tall trees are well covered overhead with their thick spread of leaves providing a canopy and the desired effect of darkness in the forest. At every cross road in the interior, stone benches provide seating accommodation for tired visitors.

The mammals include the Fishing cat, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotain, Golden Jackal and Grizzled giant squirrel which have been recognized as perment residents in the Horagolla National Park. Visitors are advised to keep to the path in this revere. Silence and patience is a must. Otherwise you will not be able to see the animals.

This park is very rich with flora and fauna which include Hora (Dipterocavpus zeylanicus), Kekuna (Canrium zeylanicus), Godapara (Dillenia rrtusa), Kithul (Caryota urens), Nedun (Pericopsis mooniana), Atamba (Mangifera zeylanica), Ruk Attana, Ankenda, Milla (Vitex pinnata) and moonamal. Invasive species such as Indian del are also common.

A giant Puss Wela (Liana rheedii) which is more than 250 years old also can be seen. Among the vine creepers are Korasawel, Garadia wel, Suduwel and Bambara wel found in this park. Also Wenivel, which is in the herbal category and Watessa plant that covers most of the wet ground

About 64 bird species are found in the park. The most common of them are the Parakeet, Black-crested bul bul, Barbet asian koel and Asian brown flycatcher.

The Sri Lankan grey Hornbill, Sri Lankan Hanging parrot and Layard's parakeet can also be spotted. The park also records various kinds of butterflies such as Ceylon bird wing, Blue mormon, rare clipper.

As in most sanctuaries, Horagolla is a haven for reptiles. Russell's viper, Green wipe snake, Pythons, Cobra, Cat snake and Kangaroo Lizard (pinum kattussa same name) are also found at Horagolla National park

Adjoining the Horagolla wewa is a beautiful summer hut built for visitors to rest at the end of their walk through the forest. In the same location is an Animal museum and centre which treats injured animals. At breeding centre is a pair of Stunted Deer (Olu Muwa).

This National park at Horagolla is a place where people can enjoy the beauty of nature. It is indeed a place of value for students of the flora and fauna. No special permission is required for an ordinary visit other than for research of scientific experiment.

The Horagolla National Park is truly worth a visit by both young and old and is certain to etch in-erasable memories
Daily News Paper cutting
5  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birding Site / The Angamedilla National Park on: September 10, 2013, 05:15:28 am
We left on an expedition to the Angamedilla National Park from Giritale and couple of hours later reached Diggalpitiya and then crossed Radavige Oya, a branch of Ambanganga for a break.

On the other side of the road, I noticed a statue of God Ganesh's under a big tree and watched as a passer-by hung small leaves and worshipped the statue. This traditional observance is usually done by villagers as protection from animals and other things. We too hung leaf branches before continuing our journey.

Abundance of greenery was a sign that the entrance to park was closed. A wayside notice board in Sinhala which however was upside down, indicated that there were road blocks every 100 metres.

Angamedilla Park Warden Sunil Shantha with his assistant was at the park office to welcome us.
Angamedilla is the latest in the list of National Parks in Sri Lanka declared by the Wildlife Department on July 6, 2006.

It falls under the Dry Zone evergreen forest and board the catchment area of the Parakrama Samudraya. The temperature ranges between C 20-34 degrees in dry period while the annual rainfall is between 1,200 - 2,000 mm received from North East Monsoon which starts from September to February.

The Angamedilla National Park is spread over an extent of 8,729 hectares of land bordering the Parakrama Samudraya in North, Yoda Ela in the East, Ambanganga in the South and Radavige Oya in the West.

This national park is situated 225 km from Colombo and is approachable via Dambulla, Kandalama and Bakamuna. Another route is from Giritale via Elahera, Diyabeduma, Attanakadawela and Diggalpitiya from where you can turn to the right and travel for 3km to come to the entrance.

King Parakramabahu is stated to have built the stone anicut in Angamedilla to divert water from Ambanganga through the Yoda Ela to Parakrama Samudraya, which is opposite to the main entrance. After walking under a canopy of trees into the forest campsite (200m from the stone anicut), we proceeded to the safari with Sunil Shantha driving and doing the guiding.

We passed a holiday bungalow in Angamedilla. This area not only provides facilities of holiday bungalows for visitors but also two camp site to choose from.

The start of our safari was the Elephant holding ground although the Wildlife Department had spent good amount of money for the construction to be completed three years ago, it is yet to open. The slight drizzle turned into rain as we left in the jeep, into the forest

A herd of a wild-boar scampered into the thicket on hearing the noise of our vehicle. But a pair of jungle fowl carried on regardless.

The Sri Lankan elephant, sambar deer, Indian muntjac, axis deer, Wildboar, Grizzled giant squirrel and Porcupines inhabit this green forest along with the Red slender loris, Tufted gray longur and purple faced longur. The reptiles recorded here are Vipers, Cobra, Gold and Black tree snake and pythons. Among the birds are Pita Rat Kerala (Red backed woodpecker), Red Faced Mal Koha (Watha Rathu Mal Koha), Nil Peda Biguharaya (Blue tailbee-eater), Indian Peafowl, Sri Lanka gray hornbill, Red wattled lapwing, Ceylon paradise-fly catcher, Refous-winged bushlark and Brahmini kite.

We crossed a few streams and Samanala (butterfly) bridge and continued through thick tree scrubs, grassland and muddy spots.

The most common of flora and fauna seen in abundance were Weera, Kohoba, Kaluwara, Milla, Velan, Dhaba and Kumbuk along the river bank.

The rain affected our tour and our jeep got struck twice in the mud but ultimately we reached Mahaiyawa Wewa at the other end. We were surprised by the magnificent environment at Mahaiyawa Wewa. Its gave a spectacular scene of the 470 feet hig Sudu Kanda in the background of the reserve.

Sudu de Thuduwa (Black headed ibis), Karawel Koka (Perple Heron), Diyakawa (Great Comarent), Kahameti Koka, Sudu Medi Koka, (Intermediate Egret) and Lathwekiya (Painted Strokes) were seen in most places. We used the same track on our return to the park office with an experience unforgetable

Daily  News Paper cutting
6  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birding Site / Kaudulla National Park on: September 10, 2013, 05:01:00 am
Kaudulla National Park, situated alongside the Kaudulla tank, said to have built by Princess Biso Bandara a sister of King Mahasen is one of the prominent national parks of Sri Lanka.

The park is unique as, it is the only national park where a one-third of its area is surrounded by water.

Situated in the Polonnaruwa District, it is in the AGA divisions of Medirigiriya and Hingurakgoda and comprising the villages of Rathmale, Gal Oya, Rotawewa, Sinhagama, Kituluthuwa, Divulankadawala, Viharagama, Tissapura, Meniksorowwa and Kaudulla. The western border of the Kaudulla Park signifies a chain of mountains about 60,500 metre in height. And in the east it borders are the Kaudulla tank and a scrubby forest.

The region receives an annual rainfall of 1,500 to 2,000 milimetres from the rain from the North East monsoon. A dry period persists from April to October and temperatures range from 20.6 centigrade (69.1 F) to 34.5 centigrade (94.1 F).

Many plant and grass species grow well during the rainy season and due to the abundance of food and water, even during the dry period, large number of herbivorous mammals are attracted to the park.

Most of the tourists visit the park during the dry season as it is referred to as the spring season of the park.

But according to tourism experts the best time to visit Kaudulla national Park is between August and December, as the population of elephants peak to over 200 in September and October.

Apart from the elephants Kaudulla is home to 23 species of mammals including Sambar deer, Sri Lankan Axis deer, Chevrotain, wild boar, leopard and sloth bear. But a leopard or a sloth bear is sighted very rarely. This park is also one of the sites in which the Gray slender loris is reportedly found in Sri Lanka. Following the discovery of a two-month old albino Sri Lankan axis beer calf. Kaudulla is probably the only national park in Sri Lanka where albino axis deer exists

Many plant and grass species grow well during the rainy season and due to the abundance of food and water, even during the dry period, large number of herbivorous mammals are attracted to the park.

Most of the tourists visit the park during the dry season as it is referred to as the spring season of the park.

But according to tourism experts the best time to visit Kaudulla national Park is between August and December, as the population of elephants peak to over 200 in September and October

In addition, the national park recorded 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 160 species of birds. Among the large water birds spot-billed. Pelicans, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Spoonbill, Grey-headed fish eagle, black-headed ibis painted stork, open bill stork are common sights in the park.

It is also home to freshwater turtles, flap-shelled turtle and Indian black turtle.

In addition to watching wild life, tourists and local visitors are provided with many facilities which include a museum, paddle boat service, two camp sites and a tourist bungalow.

According to the officer in charge of the Kaudulla National Park Eranda Gamage, this park was established on April, 2002, and is maintained by the Wild Life Department. He also points out that Kaudulla also connects Somawathiya National and Minneriya and Wasgomuwa National Parks and is helping roaming elephants and other wild life to prevail and travel in larger areas.

He also states that the tourists who visit the park are provided with knowledgeable guides free of charge and they are able to stay at the tourist bungalow which can be booked at the head office in Colombo

Daily news
7  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Other Wildlife Chat / Other Wildlife / Why do leopards and tigers have spots and stripes? on: September 08, 2013, 06:46:31 am

A new study carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol, tries to answer the question everyone has asked themselves at least once: 'Why do leopards have spots and tigers have stripes?' They studied 35 species of wild cats and analysed their fur markings, to understand what makes them have such different patterns on their fur.

The researchers photographed different details in the looks of the cats and integrated them into a mathematical model of pattern development.

The conclusion was that the animals that lived in the trees, in dense habitats and were active at low levels of light, have the most chances to be pattern. These very complex and irregular models on their fur have probably evolved to help the cats have a good camouflage.

This link between environment and fur patterns is quite strong but after looking at the evolutionary history, we can see that these patterns can evolve but also disappear quite fast. It also gives an explanation to why black leopards are common but black cheetahs are unknown - leopards live in several habitats and also behave differently. Several environments allow one species to develop original colours and patterns and to make them permanent in a population.

The explanation linking leopards' patterns with environment is plausible but it also highlighted some exceptions: some cheetahs have spots even though they live in open spaces, while the bay cat and the flat-headed cat, who prefer closed habitats have plain coats. Another intriguing thing is that out of the 35 species, only one cat has vertically elongated patterns, that had nothing to do with grasslands: the tiger. On the other hand, tigers seem to camouflage really well so why don't other animals have vertical stripes too?

There are still questions to be answered, but this method confirms Rudyard Kipling's explanation of leopard's spots and the environment "full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-blatchy shadows".

Sunday Observer
8  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Shearwaters show signs of recovery as Allen Cay IBA is declared mouse-free on: September 08, 2013, 05:38:02 am

Allen Cay in the Bahamas, an important breeding site for Audubon’s Shearwater and home of an eponymous endemic iguana, has been declared free of the invasive house mice which were threatening both species.

“This announcement is a major milestone for the recovery of Allen Cay, and we plan to replicate this success on other islands being damaged by invasive alien species,” said Eric Carey, Executive Director of BirdLife Partner the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).

The cay was de-moused by a partnership including BNT, Island Conservation, Dr John Iverson of Earlham College, and Dr Will Mackin, Seabird Co-Chair of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.

Allen Cay is one of three cays in the Allen’s Cays Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), in the northern Exuma Islands 60 km southeast of Nassau. The IBA supports the third largest breeding population of Audubon’s Shearwaters Puffinus lherminieri lherminieri in the Bahamas, as well as the Allen Cay Rock Iguana Cyclura cychlura inornata, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

The inadvertent introduction of non-native house mice led to an artificially high population of normally transient Barn Owls, which stayed to eat the mice, but ate shearwaters and young iguanas too. The shearwater mortality rate was twice as high on Allen Cay as nearby cays without mice.

Beginning in 2009,  the partners conducted extensive planning, field trials and public outreach. The Bahamas Ministry of Environment authorised the project in April 2012, and the mice were removed in the following month.

In the first week of June this year, the partners visited the Cay, confirmed the absence of mice, and noted early signs of a recovering island ecosystem. Preliminary findings suggest a significant drop in shearwater mortality.

Mouse removal is part of a larger effort to restore the natural environment of Allen Cay. To minimise the risk of mouse reintroduction, BNT will develop a biosecurity plan, and work with recreational boaters and fishers.

“Invasive species are the leading threat to the Caribbean’s rich biodiversity”, said David Wege, BirdLife’s Caribbean Programme Director. “By building local partnerships and training practitioners in the region in invasive species removal techniques, we are increasing capacity for island restoration to permanently protect the Caribbean’s native species.”

Funding support was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife. Charter boat operator Powerboat Adventures and the John G. Shedd Aquarium also made significant contributions

BirdLife News
9  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Critical bird habitat in Peru expanded to protect 23 threatened species on: September 07, 2013, 06:55:36 am

Land acquisitions to help protect one of world's rarest birds
Two new key properties have been acquired in northern Peru that will expand Abra Patricia Reserve to over 25,000 acres and help protect habitat for one of the world's rarest birds, the Long-whiskered Owlet, along with 23 other globally threatened species.

Critical habitat
The acquisitions were funded by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and completed by Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), ABC's partner in Peru. When combined with three other properties purchased by the two groups in January and February 2013, the newly acquired lands total 1,261 acres. The Abra Patricia area is recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a critical site for both the endangered Long-whiskered Owlet as well as the endangered Ochre-fronted Antpitta.

The Long-whiskered Owlet - discovered in 1976,
The Long-whiskered Owlet, which was only discovered in 1976, is one of the tiniest owls in the world, measuring only five inches tall. The bird's long, wispy facial feathers extend out past its head, creating the appearance of long whiskers.

The reserve at Abra Patricia consists of land privately owned by ECOAN as well as a 40-year conservation concession on forestry lands. When added to the recent acquisitions, the reserve now totals more than 25,000 acres managed by ECOAN for conservation.

These land acquisitions continue a string of recent successes ECOAN and ABC have celebrated in northern Peru. Their recent reforestation campaign resulted in completion of a new tree nursery at La Union, just north of Abra Patricia Reserve, and the planting of nearly 75,000 native trees and 25,000 coffee bushes in a variety of mixed forest, shade agriculture, silvipasture, and living fence systems on private lands near reserves. Those reserves were established to improve habitat on degraded lands for resident and migratory birds. Communities involved in the effort included San Lucas de Pomacochas and surrounding villages who are working to establish new protected areas for the communities' forests and watershed.

Twenty-three globally threatened species
The Abra Patricia Reserve is located in cloud forests in the Department of Amazonas and is adjacent to the Alto Mayo Protected Forest. The area is home to more than 300 bird species including many endemic to Peru. Twenty-three of these species are considered globally threatened. In addition to the Long-whiskered Owlet and Ochre-fronted Antpitta, other rare, threatened birds include the Royal Sunangel, Johnson's Tody-Tyrant, Ochre-breasted Tody-Tyrant, and Pale-billed Antpitta. Several songbirds that breed in North America, such as the Swainson's Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler, winter in the forests of Abra Patricia, as well. Abra Patricia is also home to the critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey and a diversity of other wildlife and rare orchids.

One of the premier birding destinations in Peru
Located along the Northern Peru Birding Route, Abra Patricia is one of the premier birding destinations in Peru, itself one of the premier countries for birding in the world. The Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia often serves as a base for birding tourists who typically spend several days at other regional birding spots, such as Waqanki, Huembo, and Gotas de Agua. Owlet Lodge is a four- to five-hour drive from the airport in Tarapoto, and the spectacular Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird can be seen just an hour's drive away at Huembo Reserve. To learn more about the ecotourism and birding opportunities in the Abra Patricia region, visit our Conservation Birding website.

Support for the land protection and acquisition, as well as the community programs and reforestation efforts, was generously provided by the IUCN NL / Small Grants for the Purchase of Nature (SPN) sponsored by the Netherlands Postcode Lottery, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, DJ & T Foundation, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory Tropical Forests Forever Fund, Jeniam Foundation, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, New England BioLabs Foundation, Lorna & Mike Anderberg, Cathy & Warren Cooke, Patricia & David Davidson, Nancy and Dick Eales, Joyce Millen & David Harrison, Stephen Rumsey, the Robert Wilson Charitable Trust, and Connie & Jeff Woodman.

10  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Fifteen New Species of Amazonian Birds on: September 07, 2013, 06:27:12 am
 An international team of researchers coordinated by ornithologist Bret Whitney of the LSU Museum of Natural Science, or LSUMNS, recently published 15 species of birds previously unknown to science. The formal description of these birds has been printed in a special volume of the "Handbook of the Birds of the World" series. Not since 1871 have so many new species of birds been introduced under a single cover.

"Birds are, far and away, the best-known group of vertebrates, so describing a large number of uncataloged species of birds in this day and age is unexpected, to say the least," said Whitney. "But what's so exciting about this presentation of 15 new species from the Amazon all at once is, first, highlighting how little we really know about species diversity in Amazonia, and second, showing how technological advances have given us new toolsets for discovering and comparing naturally occurring, cohesive ('monophyletic') populations with other, closely related populations."

Amazonia is home to far more species of birds -- approximately 1,300 -- and more species per unit area, than any other biome. Technological advances such as satellite imagery, digital recordings of vocalizations, DNA analysis and high-powered computation power have taken the age of discovery to the next level, and were key ingredients in the discovery of these new species. However, such discoveries still depend on exploration of remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, just as they did a century ago, and this sort of fieldwork has been carried out by the LSUMNS every year since the early 1960s.

Other ornithologists involved in the project include Mario Cohn-Haft of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazôniain Manaus and Alexandre Aleixo of the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém, both received their Ph.D.s at LSU from the Department of Biological Sciences. Also an author on many of the papers is Luís Fabio Silveira of the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo, which has a formal agreement for collaborative field and laboratory research with the LSUMNS. More than 30 authors participated in the 15 species descriptions, each peer-reviewed as an independent scientific paper. Authors also include ornithologists from Colombia, Argentina and the United Kingdom. Most of the new species were discovered by Whitney and Cohn-Haft by detecting differences in their songs and calls in the field

11  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Discovery of breeding ground of Critically Endangered New Zealand Storm petrels on: March 06, 2013, 01:32:39 pm

New Zealand Storm-petrel, thought extinct for 200 years, found breeding just 50 km from Auckland City
February 2013. Researchers are elated to find the sparrow-sized New Zealand Storm-petrel, thought extinct until 2003, is breeding on Little Barrier Island Hauturu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park near Auckland. The team of researchers is led by Chris Gaskin - Important Bird Area Programme Manager for Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) - and Dr Matt Rayner from the University of Auckland.

Not seen for 200 years
The seabird is listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List and finding the breeding site is vital for their conservation. Three specimens of the diminutive 35g seabirds were collected off New Zealand in the 1800s and are held by museums overseas. Since its rediscovery, there has been speculation as to where this seabird breeds.

The team camped on the Poor Knights Islands, Mokohinau Islands and Little Barrier Island using radio receivers to zero in on the breeding site.

Needle in the haystack
"It's like looking for a needle in the haystack," said Chris Gaskin. A critical breakthrough came last year when the project team found brood (incubation) patches on birds caught at sea. This determined the timing of incubation in New Zealand Storm-petrel, the best time to find breeding birds on land.

Tiny transmitters
This year, 24 birds were caught at sea using specially designed net guns and small 1g radio transmitters were fitted to each bird. Automated receivers narrowed down the search. Team members, based at a remote camp on the north coast of the Little Barrier Island, using handheld receivers and spotlights, confirmed that birds were coming ashore under the cover of darkness and moving inland. This prompted moving the search area. Then, when a signal was picked up of a bird stationary in forest at night, team members were able to get a clear fix on where that site was.

Dr Rayner says: "The site being monitored is very fragile and with birds at a delicate stage in their breeding cycle. We are using automated equipment for the most part and maintaining a hands-off approach, although team members visiting the vicinity have also been keeping watch."

"On Friday morning a bird was discovered on the ground, possibly having just left its burrow. At the same time team members detected another bird, this one most probably on a nest," said Chris Gaskin. "It's an amazing result for our enthusiastic and dedicated team."

Members of the research team will remain on the island over the coming weeks. Aerial surveys are also being used to try and establish the distribution and size of the population. The Hauraki Gulf Forum is about to publish a Hauraki Gulf seabird management strategy and research plan drawing on the work of Chris Gaskin and Dr Rayner and New Zealand and international collaborators.

Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, John Tregidga, said locating the breeding ground was internationally significant and further highlighted the importance of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as a globally significant biodiversity hotspot. Dr Rayner, a Little Barrier Island trustee, said the discovery reiterated the importance of careful management of conservation jewels, such as Little Barrier Island and surrounding marine environments.

The project has been funded this year by grants from Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, BirdLife International Community Conservation Fund, The Little Barrier Island Hauturu Supporters Trust and ASB Trust, Auckland Council, Forest & Bird Central Auckland Branch and Peter Harrison/Zegrahm Expeditions, with further support from the Department of Conservation, Hauraki Gulf Forum and Landcare Research.
12  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Low-Pitched Song Indicates Fairy-Wren Size on: March 06, 2013, 01:25:22 pm

A male fairy-wren's low pitch song indicates body size, a new international study has shown. The study led by University of Melbourne researcher Dr Michelle Hall, is the first to show that the larger the male fairy wren, the lower the pitch of his song.

"This is the first time we have been able to show that song pitch indicates body size in song birds," said Dr Hall from the University's Department of Zoology.

The study, which began when Dr Hall was at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, has been published February 20 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Reliable communication about body size between animals is particularly important when communicating with mates or rivals. For example the bigger the rival is, the more likely it is to win in a fight so a song pitch indicating a large size may deter rivals.

"Surprisingly, there is very little evidence that the pitch of calls indicates body size differences within species, except in frogs," she said.

"In birds in particular, there has been no evidence that the pitch of songs indicated the size of the singer until now."

The study involved measuring the leg length (a good indicator of overall body size) of 45 adult male purple-crowned fairy-wrens. It found there was a correlation between the lowest song pitches and male size.

"We found the bigger males sang certain song types at a lower pitch than smaller males," she said.

Purple-crowned fairy-wrens are creek-dwelling birds from northern Australia and, like their close relatives the blue wrens, males sing trill songs after the calls of certain predators, a context that seems to attract the attention of females.

Males have a repertoire of trill song variants, and it is the low-pitched variants that indicate the size of the singer.

Dr Hall showed that it may be the complexity of birdsong that has obscured the relationship between body size and song frequency in the past.

"Birds can have large repertoires of song types spanning a wide frequency range, and some birds even shift the pitch of their songs down in aggressive contexts," she said.

"Focusing on the lowest pitches that males were able to sing was the key to finding the correlation with body size."
13  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Canadian Homes a Kill Zone for Up to 22 Million Birds a Year, on: March 05, 2013, 09:01:55 am

The thud of a bird hitting a window is something many Canadian home owners experience. Up until now, little research has been done to document the significant these collisions for Canada's bird populations. A University of Alberta biology class project supervised by researcher Erin Bayne suggests that many birds meet their end in run-ins with Canadian homes.

The U of A students estimate a staggering 22 million birds a year die from colliding with windows of homes across the country.

The research was done in Edmonton and surrounding area using evidence gathered from more than 1,700 homeowners. Homeowners were recruited to become citizen scientists for the study. The citizen scientists were required to complete an online survey where they were asked to recall fatal bird hits over the previous year.

Bayne and his team processed the Edmonton data and concluded that with approximately 300,000 homes in the study area the death toll for birds from window strikes might reach 180,000 per year.

The researchers applied that figure to national housing statistics and arrived at the 22 million figure for bird vs. window fatalities. Bayne says that many people recalled bird strikes at their homes, but there was little awareness that residential window deaths might affect bird populations.

The main factors influencing the frequency of bird -- window collisions were the age of the trees in the yard and whether or not people fed birds.

"In many cases people who go out of their way to help birds by putting up feeders and bird friendly plants are unwittingly contributing to the problem," said Bayne.

One tip the researchers have for the safer placement of a bird feeder concerns its distance from the house. Bayne says the safety factor has to do with a bird's flying speed. As with car crashes; speed kills.

"A feeder three to four metres from a window is bad because the bird has space to pickup lots of speed as it leaves the feeder," said Bayne.

Fast-flying birds like sparrows and chickadees and aggressive birds like robins are apt to collide with windows placed too close to free food.

Placing the feeder either closer or much further are options.

Researchers believe many window collisions are caused by in-flight mistakes. "It's called a panic flight; a bird startled by a cat or competing with other birds at the feeder may suddenly take flight and doesn't recognize the window as a hazard" said Bayne.

ScienceDay News
14  Latest News Updates / International Nature News / Bright blue lizard discovered in the rainforests of Vietnam on: March 03, 2013, 10:48:19 am

Reptile specialists from the Alexander Koenig Museum in Bonn, together with colleagues from the Lomonosov Moscow State University discovered a magnificent new lizard in the south of Vietnam which has been named Calotes bachae.

Like all males of the family Agamidae, these lizards like to impress the ladies with their brilliant colours. During courtship the heads of lizards become a startling azure colour.

Unusually, like a Chameleon, they can also change their colours. For example, at night they are rather dark and brownish, almost inconspicuous. When courting they are bright blue, but after a turf war inferior males lose their colours, paling in just a few minutes.

The animals have been known to the Vietnamese and to scientists for a long time. However, they assumed that this lizard was the same species of blue lizard known from Myanmar and Thailand. However, the German-Russian research team determined, by using a genetic, test that this lizard belongs to a different species.

It is relatively easy to spot the new species as it seems quite happy to live in urban areas, and even in a metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City, where you can find the beautiful animals in parks and flower beds.

15  General Chat / Equipments / IS 70 R Fieldscopes - Opticron on: March 03, 2013, 07:30:10 am
The IS 70 R offers a great mix of style, performance and adaptability and is an ideal choice for people wanting a high-spec. entry level spottingscope for target shooting, birdwatching or plane spotting that delivers higher light transmission and greater top end magnification compared to smaller 50/60mm ‘scopes.

Featuring a 400mm, 4-element objective lens with a surface area 35% greater than the IS 60 WP, both straight-through and 45° angled models benefit from a re-engineered optical system to improve light transmission and resolution, delivering bright, crisp images with good colour contrast.

In line with our commitment to offer the best choice of eyepieces to suit your budget and application, the IS 70R is fully compatible with IS, HR2, HDF and SDL eyepieces. For general use we recommend the 40933S HR2 18-54x

The lightweight ABS polycarbonate body is 100% nitrogen waterproof and clothed in protective rubber armour that gives a reassuring feeling of quality to the touch as well as giving greater protection against and knocks and bumps.

Both models feature a +/- 90 rotating tripod sleeve for maximum positional flexibility when attached to a tripod or bipod, retractable sunshade to reduce glare and are supplied with a comprehensive 10 year guarantee.

A wide range of eyepieces are available for use with IS 70 R fieldscopes and choosing the best eyepiece will depend on price and application. The eyepiece is an integral component in the system and a higher quality eyepiece will deliver a superior viewing experience.


IS Eyepieces
Dedicated long eyerelief eyepieces and best overall choice as a first eyepiece. 40918S IS Zoom features a twist-type retractable eyeyecup. Both eyepieces screw directly onto telescope bodies. 5 year guarantee.

HR Eyepieces
Long eyerelief eyepieces delivering full field of view with spectacles. 40933 HR2 zoom delivers superior clarity and color contrast and is fitted with a twist-type retractable eyecup. 5 year guarantee.

Note. Eyepiece adapters are required to fit HR eyepiece to IS 70 R bodies. These are supplied 'free of charge' if purchased with a new scope body or priced at £9.00 inc. VAT if purchased separately. Use 40925S adapter to fit 40930S and 40931S HR internal screw thread eyepieces. Use 40928S adapter to fit 40933S HR zoom collar thread eyepiece.

HDF Eyepieces
The preferred choice for quality and viewing comfort, HDF T eyepieces have large dia. eyelenses that provide 'walk-in' field of vision. All HDF eyepieces offer full field of view with or without glasses and are designated wide-angle. Models marked (*) feature a twist-type retractable eyecup. 10 year guarantee.

Note. Eyepiece adapters are required to fit HDF eyepiece to IS 70 R bodies. These are supplied 'free of charge' if purchased with a new scope body or priced at £9.00 inc. VAT if purchased separately. Use 40927S adapter to fit 40862S HDF collar thread eyepiece. Use 40925S adapter to fit 40810S, 40809S, 40858S, 40860S and 40861S HDF internal screw thread eyepieces.

SDL v2 Eyepiece
5-group 8-element ‘super’ zoom, the SDLv2 eyepiece maximises the performance gains inherent in Opticron ED objective lens fieldscopes at higher powers while maintaining superior cross-field definition coupled with exceptional viewing comfort. Model features twist-type retractable eyecup. Supplied in soft case. 10 year guarantee.

Stay-on-the-scope Waterproof Cases
Water resistant multi-layer padded cases individually designed to fit each model. Protects instrument while fitted to a tripod and in use. Includes removable end caps and adjustable carry strap.

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