Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2002

JUNE 2002 - from the Editor

Never write an editorial when you are angry!

This is probably good advice from anyone who is not involved in the labyrinthine working of politics Italian style. However, as you will see, much of the news in this edition of Ali Notizie is about politics and politicians and the threats that they pose to wildlife in Italy.

Tragically it’s not just Italy, the situation is as bad, or worse, in France, Malta, Cyprus and many other countries bordering the Mediterranean. Now the politicians have new buzz words and the most popular at the moment is “Sustainable” - this means you can do wrong as long as you don’t do it too much. It means that you can kill birds as long as you leave enough to shoot next year. It means you can put off the day of reckoning when the electorate is going to ask, “Who is responsible for this?”.

Politics is with us, we may hate it, you may think that we should not be involved in it - but we are, whether we wish to be or not. The European Birds Directive is mentioned in this edition. This directive is not perfect but it does offer many basic and effective laws protecting the birds ine. There is currently a working party, set up in the corridors of European power, with the task of writing an Interpretation Guide for the Birds Directive, and this working party has its own buzz words - Sustainable Hunting.

Why do we need an Interpretation Guide for a European Directive? Unless, of course, it is an attempt to water down the protection of birds and make life easier for the hunters...

In Italy you will read, the phrase is, “Sustainable Development” - now what on earth does that mean? What is sustainable? Perhaps the development - not necessarily the environment, but this is something for the future when profits have been made and people are only just beginning to count the real cost.

Yes, dear readers, I am angry, not just with Italian leaders who care nothing for the environment but with all those of our species who cannot see beyond the end of their noses. What sort of world are we leaving to our children and grandchildren?

A final question, and I have just asked many - what can we do?

First, I’ll tell you what we can’t do - and that is to give up.

Our President asks that we recruit new members and I firmly agree with him on this. The more members we have, the more influence we have with those in power - look at what the million plus members of the RSPB have achieved, just by being a million! In some ways we are a strange group, very few national conservation bodies have branches in “foreign lands” and none are as strong as we are, but just think of what we could achieve if we, too, could double our membership. Please speak to friends and colleagues about our work if you think they might be interested, I’ll happily send an information pack to anywhere in the country!

I commend this edition of the Ali Notizie to you; it is not a happy list of progress made on all fronts of the conservation struggle, it is a short list of very serious setbacks. The situation is not without hope because, in a democracy, all political parties fall in time, but before that happens the Berlusconi government can do a lot of harm to wildlife in their country, and LIPU is doing all it can to stop or limit the damage.

From the President of LIPU

Danilo Mainardi

A "ONE - FOR - ONE" RECRUITMENT DRIVE

What is going on here in Italy? A bill is currently before Parliament which, if passed, will hand over decision making powers about hunting to our Regions. And then there is the so-called Brusco's Law which would give the green light to both hunting and creeping development within our National and Regional parks.

All this makes me question the motives of our politicians. We already know they require short-term results in order to achieve the votes that keep them in power. Where the environment is concerned, it is almost a rule that sacrifices are required in the short-term in order to ensure long-term benefits. Nature takes its time about things. Unfortunately it seems that only the enlightened and informed among the electorate appreciate this fact.

Localising/regionalising the law-making process is not a good idea for our wildlife. We live in a world where habitat damage transcends borders. The effects on swallow populations, to take one example, require global environmental policies and actions.

The environment is also about human well-being and, ecologically speaking, Italy is our world to protect. Unfortunately, localised policies and legislation often lack teeth and "let someone else worry about the environment" is often the attitude. Politicians stand to gain locally, selling popular issues to an electorate greedy for short-term gratification.

I have spent a lot of my time writing about how economic decisions are arrived at. Tackling the symptoms of environmental degradation is a never-ending job and requires a continuous drip-feed of grants and funding. But this brand of economics does not really help our environment in the long-term. We need to deal with root causes, and this is where political teeth are required.

It is vital that organisations such as LIPU become bigger. We have to grow if we really want to influence politicians and their decisions. At LIPU's last National Assembly I set out what I see as three simple facts.

Political power is in proportion to size of membership.

A large organisation has more influence and greater financial freedom.

A larger LIPU will have greater influence on society and politicians in terms of values that protect the environment.

If each of us could recruit one new member, it would be a great achievement. And just think what strength you would be adding to LIPU.

SOS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Hunting in National and Regional Parks; shooting of already pro-tected species; ruining precious habitats. Just some of the at-tempts to dismantle Italian envi-ronmental law.

by Claudio Celada

HUNTING

There are many people, like us, who in the early 90’s followed, step by step, right through to their passage through Parliament, the national law on hunting (no 157 of 1992) and the framework law on protected areas (no 394 of 1991), and yet just do not grasp much of what is going on right now. Even with their limitations and imperfections, the two laws in question have represented a cultural leap in environmental matters as far as our country is concerned. Just think of the attempt to link seriously the hunting calendar with the biological needs of migratory birds or the innovative logic of managing single areas within “systems” (the Alpine arc, the Apennines, the islands, the maritime zones). Though it may be true that following the passing of these two laws, many things have continued to go wrong (for example, the derisory percentages of funds going to the environmental management of habitats within protected areas), it is also true that many of the most important protected areas in Italy have resisted unplanned urban development and have curbed the destruction of the more precious habitats.

But let us come to today. The impression is that within the last few months it is as if there has been a culural leap backwards of at least 30 years, a real and serious dismantling of the environmental regulatory framework in the name of concepts much in fashion and just as much abused, such as “legislative readjustment”, “sustainable development”, “federalism and respect for local self-determination”.

It is true that the regulatory framework in Italy is a highly intricate jungle, but it is not by giving consent to hunting in protected areas, as proposed in the bill presented by national assembly member, Signor Brusco, that the problem will be resolved. Respect for local auto-nomy does not mean allowing the Regions systematically and senselessly (that is to say without due scientific basis) to depart from the list of species that may be hunted and from the principles underlying the hunting calendar provided for in the European Birds Directive (409 of 1979) and from the national legislation on hunting. Which is exactly what is proposed by the bill no 628, currently at an advanced stage of preparation in the Agicultural Commission of Parliament and already voted through the Senate with 153 votes in favour, 18 against and 5 abstentions!!

Birds have wings!! They cross regions, countries, even continents to complete their own biological cycles. No local body may assume the right to ignore this fact. Even more so, sustainable development does not mean putting forward an endless list of enormous infrastructures yet again un-connected to any long-term vision of how the changes in our country should evolve over the next 30 years. Nor can we accept with enthusiasm the “boom” in wind-powered energy in our country without even the existence, in the greater part of the regions, of any regional energy planning or at least guidelines to protect the most sensitive areas from the environmental point of view. Take great care - if you think that wind power simply means a couple of soaring towers with elegant and tapered sails, go and cast a glance at the network of roads and infrastructurs that go with them. If we don’t change course, “thanks” to windpower we shall lose the greater part of the remaining untouched Appennine ridges as well as the more remote areas of Sardinia (there where they catch the eye less and don’t disturb the tourists).

I am obviously failing to deal with details such as the putting up for sale of public land or the broad attack on the Regional Parks. Or yet the project for new skiing centres within the Abbruzzo and Gran Sasso National Parks and the Laga mountains, all of which lie in a natural wilderness for which we are the envy of all Europe. But, what do you want us to do? There are so many things going on in our country!!

Wildlife is Everyone's Heritage

The Bill devolving hunting regulations to the Regions has already been passed by the Senate and is awaiting the vote in Parliament. If it gets through, the Regions will be given the right to decide which birds they can shoot and when they can shoot them. We are talking about our natural heritage here …. just as much as our monuments and art treasures. Wildlife diversity is a very good indicator of the ecological and cultural state of our nation.

Animals, particularly birds, need open space to continue their life-cycles. Regional boundaries mean nothing to them, think of migrating birds. With this in mind, unified wildlife management is plain common sense, and is something we would lose if the Bill is approved.

And what are the Regions doing?

Hunting in Spring for migrants, for young deer and for Roebuck, with ever fewer rules. That is what a number of the Regions want. Anything but defending the country's wildlife heritage!

Some Regions have already put forward laws which propose the modification of the hunting calendar, bringing forward the opening of the season and/or putting back the closing date, entirely unconnected with principles or biological reason-ing. There is a serious risk that the proposed changes are going to impinge on the migration period or even the breeding season itself.

TUSCANY

On 5 June, the Regional Council of Tuscany approved the new law on hunting. It is an unprecedented attack on wildlife with a “Hunting Calendar” which violates both the Community rules on wildlife and the law (157/92). It opens the way to the hunting of the rarest species such as the Ruff, it lengthens the period of hunting, it relaxes restrictions on shooting migrant birds from hides and it allows the hunting of Roebuck and young deer in spring.

EMILIA – ROMAGNA

The dates for the next hunting season proposed by the Regional Council of Emilia-Romagna will allow spring hunting of Roe deer and other grazing animals, as well as allowing exceptions of some protected species, such as sparrows and starlings. The opening date is set for the 2 September.

SARDINIA

Approved by the Region of Sardinia is a law which prolongs the end of the hunting season to 28 February. This illegitimate and unconstitutional act violates the principles of the framework law on hunting, 157/92, according to which, wildlife should be protected in the interests of the national and international community. Hunt-ing is tolerated as far as it does not go against the needs of conservation (in all cases the hunting season, in all regions, should be within the period 1 September and 31 January). Also violated are the community and international rules on the protection of wildlife and habitats. Hunting in February quite simply puts into serious danger the safety of many migrants and the nesting and reproduction of other resident species of bird.

VENICE AREA

The Government, after examining the Regional law (no 7, 13 March 2002) from the Veneto, has decided not to have recourse to the Constitutional Court. There is therefore nothing now in the way of the new law that provides for the shooting of fish-eating birds, protected by the European directive, such as Herons, Cormorants, Bitterns, Gulls and Kingfishers, as well as the destruction of their nests. In spite of repeated calls by our associations for the use of alternative methods for the protection crops and livestock, the Region has given support to the anti-environmental demands of the hunting lobby.

UMBRIA

The Region of Umbria has approved a new law on hunting that, among other things, relaxes the control of shooting from hides. It also permits hunting to take place all year round in areas where dogs are trained, lengthens the hunting year by extending it into the migration season and provides for the possible control of wildlife populations by hunters.

LOMBARDY

The Government has withdrawn its action in the Constitutional Court against the Region of Lombardy’s law on hunting, passed in 1999. The Region has therefore unfrozen the regional law, which came into force on 25 May. This act authorises the following:

- The capture of birds with nets (in violation of the European directive on Birds).

- The use of birds in public business (e.g. in restaurant dishes, such as polenta and osei).

- The reduction of taxes on shooters over the age of 65 (from 108,000 lire to 54,000).

- The reduction of regional fines (the minima go down from 200,000 to 60,000).

- Hunting in Apennine passes (the only restriction being in Alpine passes above 1300m).

- The ending of bans on hunting along local roads and around disused barns.

- The possibility of hunting on snow-covered land in the mountain communities outside the Alpine zone.

- The freedom for shooters to move throughout the region without paying more taxes.

On the other hand, fines range from 400,000 to 1,200,000 for whoever disturbs a hunter while occupied in pursuing, flushing or killing wild creatures; fines which are doubled if the “disturber” is a voluntary game guard!!

THE FINAL SHORE

Basilicata: what can we do for the last forty kilometres of sandy shore that are in danger of turning into concrete, roads, harbours and holiday villages?

by Gianni Palumbo

“Twilight reigns supreme in this maze of tall deciduous trees. Policoro has the tangled beauty of a tropical swamp, pungent smells rise from the rotting leaves and the wet earth, and if you penetrate their verdant labyrinth you can even imagine yourself to be in some primitive part of the globe where the foot of man has never trod.”

(Norman Douglas, Old Calabria 1915)

Unpolluted sandy beaches are more and more of a rarity in this country. Already in Basilicata there remain only 40k still complete with dunes, pines and significant areas of wetland. They lie close to the mouths of the five rivers of ancient Lucania, which flow into the Ionian Sea, and their names are: Forest of Pantano di Policoro, and on the coast, Forests of the Sinni Mouth, Agri Mouth, Cavane Mouth, Basento Mouth and Mouth of the Bradono. These five names mark areas on the western coast of Basilicata that have been recognised and put forward as European Special Areas of Conservation.

Defended by Europe

In what is left of this coastal paradise LIPU, collaborating with the Regional Office of Nature Conservation, is carrying out a scientific ringing pro-gramme. During spring and autumn migration thousands of birds pass through: Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, and other warblers, Blue Throat, Blue-headed Wagtail, Swallows: a very long list in addition to soaring birds which pass high overhead; Crane, Stork, Greater Flamingo, Hen Harrier, Black Kite, Osprey.

And just as many overwintering birds find refuge on this coast: e.g. Reed Bunting, Moustached Warbler, Bearded Tit, which nest in eastern Europe. All this within a framework of wonderful, luxuriant nature and a sea consisting not only of salt water but grains of sand which together form miles of winding dunes.

Destroyed by Italy

This strip of paradise, the last remaining on the ruined, urbanised, concreted coast of Italy, is now also on the brink of being reduced to a merry go round of leisure pursuits.

Tourism projects, passed as policies for “sustainable development”, in fact risk wiping out one of the richest sites for biodiversity in the Mediterranean basin. Five tourist harbours (one close to each river mouth) are proposed along forty kilometres of coast, and ten or so tourist villages sheltered behind the Special Areas of Con-servation. All without any proper planning and with a devastating impact on the environment.

Action to Take

First, LIPU has joined the Committee for the Defence of the Ionian Coast (www.liberaassociazione.org/comcosta/), which includes a variety of associations with the aim of drawing attention to how far these tourist development policies conflict with con-servation and sustainable dev-elopment. LIPU has decided to launch a campaign to defend these, the “final shores” to have escaped disastrous damage. Among the first steps are to flag up the issue to the Nature Conservation service of the Environment Ministry and send a petition to the Commission of the European Union. It will demand respect for the Habitat and Birds Directives, and save from speculators this important stretch of the Ionian coast in Basilicata, the last length of sandy beach in Italy.

THE CAMPAIGN

LIPU's actions to save the last integral beach system on the Italian coastline:

Along with other interest groups we have encouraged the formation of a Committee for the Defence of the Ionian Coast of Basilicata, promoting awareness and arranging meetings.

We support legal initiatives instigated by the Committee and other independent actions.

We have sent a petition to the Environment Commission of the EU and to the Nature Conservation section of the Ministry of the Environment.

Through the Committee we are promoting a public petition which in less than two months has collected over ten thousand signatures against the con-struction of megavillages and tourist harbours on this coast.

To raise public awareness we are organising a national demo-nstration “The Final Shore” on 6/7 June 2002, and preparing a publicity campaign that will last all summer.

We are carrying out research into bird migration on the Ionian coast, particularly at the mouth of the Cavone river, using ringing for study purposes. This biennial research is one of the few projects that has been carried out in southern Italy.

We support the conservation measures of the Special Areas of Conservation under the Natura 2000 initiative with monitoring schemes, and by widening the knowledge of the public and of civil servants about the importance to wildlife of the Ionian coast of Basilicata.

FROM PANETTONI TO THE BEACHES

by Danilo Selvaggi

“The Final Shore” is the major new LIPU campaign, which sets out to save the Basilicata coast on the Ionian Sea from concrete and from environmental degradation. This will also be the central theme of the first report of our Research into Biodiversity in Italy, a project implemented with funds from the Christmas promotion of Panettone, begun in December 2001 and now in the last stages of completion.

The question of the Italian coast, especially the sandy coastline, has been for too long unspoken (covered up by interests often incompatible with the needs of the environment) with the result that very few stretches of sandy coastline are still in their natural state. Almost everywhere concrete, roads and illegal building have taken the place of sand, dunes and pines. The first questions for the LIPU “observatory” will be: How many sandy beaches are there to be protected? How many can be restored? What kinds of wildlife, in what numbers, take refuge, and should continue to take refuge there? What kind of genuinely ecofriendly tourist development can be proposed as an alternative to super villages, to “use and discard” holidays, involving the destruction of nature and its replacement by plastic?

So look forward in the next few months to LIPU’s first report on our mission “The Final Shore”.

URBAN ECOLOGY

ECOLOGICAL INFRASTRUCTURES?

by Marco Dinetti

In this century we have a great task in front of us: to dovetail the legitimate needs of human societies with those of the rest of nature, of biodiversity. Under-taking development along eco-logical lines may seem contradictory, but in reality much can be done to reduce its impact and to improve or renew habitats.

Damage limitation

Where roads are concerned, one must begin at the planning level by selecting less detrimental routes. There must also be modifications to reduce the damage they cause, such as fencing to prevent animals from getting on to the road surface, and safe places to cross, underpasses for foxes and badgers, amphibian tunnels, passages for deer and sound-absorbent, but not transparent panels, to make birds fly higher above the passing traffic.

These measures could reduce the heavy losses on many roads, in particular those busiest or near protected areas and corridors of animal movement (rivers, hedges, avenues of trees). Many species can fall victim to the roads, but hedgehogs, toads and owls, particularly Little and Barn Owls, are those most often involved. The final point involves environmental compen-sation, in other words the reconstruction of habitats dam-aged or altered by engineering projects, so that they do not lose their functionality as ecosystems.

LIPU: Highways Project

In this respect in Italy we have to start almost from scratch, even to realising there is a problem. To this end LIPU is taking forward a programme of research and practical developments, financed by the Road Safety Inspectorate of the Department of Transport, which proposes a campaign for the raising of awareness and the production of a report on the current situation regarding roads and wildlife, plus the collation of technical guidelines that will carry forward measures for lowering their environmental impact.

COLFIORITO MARSH

A European project for Bittern conservation and for species associated with agricultural areas.

by Marco Gustin

Colfiorito Marsh, Umbria, spring 2002. There are developments little short of dramatic as far as the area which housed our biggest breeding population of Bitterns is concerned. With no rain for months, the water table of the most elevated wetland in Italy has been lowered by over a metre from its normal spring levels. This had been an ideal site for Bitterns, a priority species drastically reduced in Europe in recent years, but this spring its monotone booming has been little heard.

Only one male

According to our foremost national authority on the species, Dr Luca Puglisi of Pisa University, who has studied the Colfiorito Bitterns for several years, there has been only a single booming male this spring, as opposed to 7-8 previously. Any abnormal event therefore, such as prolonged drought in the breeding period, could render in vain the efforts that LIPU is making here to safeguard this species, tied to extensive reedbeds that are now ever more rare in this country.

Indeed at the end of September the LIFE project will be completed, undertaken by our association with EU finance, which plans a series of actions for the conservation of habitats and priority species both nationally and in Europe. Most important are those involving the safeguarding of the Bittern, and species associated with perma-nent meadows, such as Wood-lark and Ortolan Bunting. The study areas, which are Sites of Community Importance and Special Protection Zones, comprise the Colfiorito Marsh of over 200 ha and the Annifo-Arvello and Ricuciano plains of over 400 ha altogether.

The LIFE Project

If the situation of the Bittern is indeed alarming, the LIFE Project has allowed specific actions to reach a definitive phase. For example, there has been a major initiative to protect the marsh from pollution by noxious substances, possibly originating from accidents on the nearby road involving heavy vehicles.

There have also been useful works towards raising its profile. A second hide is under construction, offering panoramic views and wheelchair access. Promotional and informational materials have been produced (booklets, posters, stickers etc) to illustrate the biodiversity of farmland areas, grasslands and wetlands; the reedbeds and open waters of Colfiorito Marsh.

Delayed Mowing

The most significant action has been the persuasion, thanks in part to financial incentives, of tens of landholders in the Annifo-Arvello and Ricuciano plain to delay the mowing of their plots. Delaying haymaking by about a month over a total area of over 60Ha has guaranteed a good breeding outcome for several species associated with this habitat, such as Woodlark, Stonechat and Ortolan Bunting. The adoption of a "centrifugal" pattern of mowing, from the centre towards the outside of the meadow has also helped to protect birds such as the Quail which keep very much to the ground.

FARMING

ARE YOU ENJOYING THOSE ICE-CREAMS?

What they cost to produce does not correspond with the purchase price, so what do they really cost us and what is the environmental damage we are financing?

by Giovanna Pisano

I can see you and I'm not a little envious. You're relaxing over there with an ice-cream on a hot summer day, taking advantage of one of the best things to have been invented in Italy to thwart the heat:, milk plus sugar, freeze and..... heh presto! But was the real price of your frozen cone just the couple of euros you so willingly handed over? You probably think it was, but are you quite sure that's all you paid? Well, don't be too sure.

Let's see what we actually pay.

The cash that has just left your wallet has to be added to what you've already paid - in taxes. What happens to this money is a mystery to most of us. Yes, your ice-cream did cost a lot more than you thought, but that's not the end of the story. As tax-payers and consumers we are the unwitting supporters of a system of subsidies which is responsible for the disappearance from our countryside of thousands of birds. To be fair, we also play a very small part in ensuring the survival of some of our feathered friends, but this comes about almost by accident. This forms the background to almost all the food products that appear daily on our dining tables. Sugar and milk, for example, attract special treatment. The subsidies paid to support these two sectors are the most generous of all and, as is always the case, as these are calculated according to levels of production, they are the most generous to those who farm the most intensively, whereas the small operator goes to the wall.

But what am I doing here, preventing you from enjoying an ice-cream by writing in a publication read by lovers of birds, indeed of all Nature? What I'm leading up to is the infamous C.A.P., the European Common Agricultural Policy. It has repercussions on our lives and on our environment that only a well-informed public can do anything to change. Thanks to the C.A.P., once-common birds - the swallow and the lark, for example - are fast disappearing along with their vanishing habitats. Grazing pastures, once upon a time populated by dairy cows, have been largely abandoned in favour of sheds for intensive rearing. Here, the animals are fed on a mixture of concentrates and silage.

In excess of two million cows are held in sanitised conditions, their udders bursting, each producing, on average, 5000 litres of milk every year. On the other side of the coin are the natural pastures that have been left abandoned. Ungrazed Alpine pastures are being taken over by saplings, a process that represents habitat loss for birds, like the partridge and the corncrake, and many others.

Beyond Europe

It is we who pay for the EU freezers that store unsold butter and milk (thirty thousand tonnes of butter, eighty thousand of powdered milk in 1999), but the chief expense is the exportation of a portion of this unsold produce. In the rest of the world milk costs half of what it does in Europe, as does sugar, and our producers would be unable to compete without a "helping hand". It is we, through our taxes, who make up the price difference. What is paramount is getting rid of the excess. As for sugar, our subsidised exports are undermining the economies of many Third World countries, which simply find it impossible to compete.

Let's see, then, the number of times we have paid.....SIX is the answer.

1. For milk and sugar we pay double their estimated worth on the inter-national market (the price is kept artificially high).

2. We pay subsidies to the producers.

3. We pay to have a proportion of the excess produce stored in freezers.

4. We pay to export the remainder of the excess.

5. We pay for the purification of our water when it has been contaminated by bacterial and pesticide pollution.

6. We also pay, even though this cannot be expressed in monetary terms, for the incalculable cost of biodiversity depletion in our country

As a society, what we do not pay for is the return and restoration of flora and fauna in their rightful place or providing to all producers fair and equal support.

30 euros a week

Ice-creams, pasta, meat and salad. Every day we pay more for these than the amount appearing on the receipt. This means that a family of four has to find nearly thirty euros a week to subsidise farmers, Few of us are aware of this. On the other hand, we give far too little to those people who provide us with a service by farming in ways that protect both our health and the natural environment.

Now, to recover from all this bad news, by all means have an ice-cream, but later on do give us your support when we invite you (soon) to join in the chorus of protest which BirdLife International will be raising in a European-wide campaign, together with LIPU and all other like-minded folk.

We shall be demanding protection for birds that depends on good farming practices for their existence. We shall be on our way just as soon as talks in Brussels resume on the future of food and on the state of the flora and fauna in Europe.

TAKE A WALK WITH A SHOREBIRD

Let's take an imaginary walk with a shorebird of our choice, to discover more about the inhabitants of the mud flats in which it lives.

by Guido Premuda

Shorebirds can be small or large, with long or short legs, which are either red or black in colour. Their bills are either straight or curved up or downward.

Their plumage is simple, but during courtship it can become very colourful. Some birds may even grow a crest of feathers on their crown, which looks as though a slightly eccentric artist has been at work, one, which never ceases to amaze us. Nature, in combination with evolution and the passage of time, has given rise to creatures which are similar in appearance, but at the same time specialised, namely the waders or shorebirds.

The Italian name for this group of birds, limicoli, (limo means mud) suggests that these birds live in muddy, watery habitats, for example sandy river banks, beaches, brackish lagoons and freshwater marshes. The morph-ological differences between the various species indicate how they have become specialised over time. Each has become distinct from the others, carving out a niche that is linked mainly to its source of food. For example its bill may be long or short depending on the depth of mud, and turned up to facilitate scooping up water and filtering small organisms, and its legs may be short or long in order to feed in shallow or deep water.

The first step.

When we go bird watching in a marshland reserve, possibly from inside a LIPU observation hide, it's difficult at first to identify the birds as they seem so similar, especially from a distance. If we look more carefully, it then becomes possible to distinguish them.

The simplest method of learning to identify the various species is to have in mind a familiar wader, maybe one that is common in the areas you visit most often, and to memorise any distinctive characteristics. This will be your reference 'typical shorebird', for example the Common Sandpiper, Ruff or Lapwing.

Then compare other waders with your 'model'. Ask yourself if the bird you are observing is smaller or larger than you model. Does it have a short or long bill? Does it have longer or shorter legs? What colour is the plumage?

Larger species include the Avocet, Black-Winged Stilt, Black-Tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher. Medium-sized waders include members of the genus Tringa, such as the Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, as well as the Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Ruff. Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover are all examples of small waders.

Now try to observe its bill. If it's curved upwards, it's an Avocet, or it could be the rare Terek Sandpiper. Take care because the uncommon Bar-tailed Godwit also has a slightly upturned bill. If the bill is turned downwards, it may instead be a Curlew, a Whimbrel or even the very rare Slender-billed Curlew. The smaller Curlew Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper also have bills curved slightly downwards. Leg length can also be an aid to identification. For example, Plovers, Little Stints and Lapwings have short legs in proportion to the size of their bodies.

The bird's behaviour can be distinctive even from a distance. The rhythmic beat of the Common Sandpiper's tail for example is very characteristic. Finally, even the bird's habitat is an important criterion for identification. For example in the gravel deposits along some riverbanks, you may be able to see small Plovers, the rare Stone Curlew and the Common Sandpiper. By the coast and on brackish lagoons, the Oystercatcher, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover and (in winter) the Sanderling and more likely.

Using a kind of gradual selection you can proceed step by step to exclude those species which do not correspond to the general characteristics observed, thus restricting the field to a few, enabling you to identify the species using a combination of further criteria. In all cases a good identification manual is indispensable, a field guide which should not be left at home but always taken with you on excursions. It's actually very important to compare the birds you see with the illustrations in the guide while you are actually in the field and not when you return home as the memory of the birds' characteristic features will no longer be clear.

NOTABLE OBSERVATIONS FOR SPRING 2002

There have been lots of observations in the recent period, in fact spring 2002 will be remembered for the influx of migratory species that have used the Italian peninsula as a bridge between Africa and Eastern Europe.

Aquatic species

There have been some interesting reports of White Pelican, one of which stayed the whole winter in Valle Santa, another seen several times in March and April in the province of Modena, and from 2 to 16 April at the Oristano lakes. There were many reports of Glossy Ibis in migration, 342 individuals observed in March and April, including a single flock of 81 on 6 April at the Lago di Alviano (S. Laurenti).

Raptors

In March the annual census of Short-toed Eagles was carried out at Arenzano (GE). 727 individuals were reported, 122 of them in just one day, 17 March. 200 people were involved in the census.

There was a strong Pallid Harrier migration with 102 being reported for the whole of Italy. There were good numbers of Steppe Buzzard, with about a dozen observations in early March at the Straits of Messina, one in the province of Como on 10 March and another on migration at the Capo d'Otranto at the end of April, in company with two Long-legged Buzzards.

Waders

Two observations were recorded of Broad-billed Sandpiper: 2 individuals at the Vasche di Maccarese on 17 April, and another at the Saline di Comacchio on 11 May.

THANKS TO YOU

WORK IN PROGRESS

Albatross campaign

On 14 January Prince Charles held a reception in London in support of the BirdLife International campaign "Let's save the Albatross". The campaign is aimed at cutting the slaughter of thousands of albatrosses and other marine species, killed every year by "longlining", a fishing technique employing extremely long lines and thousands of hooks. Prince Charles expressed his support for the campaign and for BirdLife's efforts aimed at drawing up an international agreement to protect albatrosses and petrels. At the reception the guests included several experts in marine birds from BirdLife and representatives of the Governments of those countries that practise longlining, such as Chile, Peru, Argentina and New Zealand. There is more information on the albatross campaign on the website: www.birdlife.net/seabirds.

Migrating birds and mobile phones

In recent years there has been an enormous increase in the numbers of telecommunication transmitter towers, that are proving to be fatal obstacles for so many migrating birds. The United States Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that four or five million birds are killed each year in North America, by hitting these transmitters. 230 different species of migrating birds have been found dead, mostly neotropical species.

SLOVAKIA

Imperial Eagle persecuted

About 30 to 35 pairs of Imperial Eagles breed in Slovakia, but unfortunately they have been subject to serious persecution. According to SOVS (BirdLife partner in Slovakia), there have been at least three attacks on these birds. In April a tree with a nest containing two eggs was used for target practice. The branch holding the nest was so damaged it had to be removed. Fortunately the pair of birds succeeding in building a new nest and manged to raise one young. In June, a large fir tree, a long established breeding site, was cut down. There were two young in that nest. In July a seriously injured adult male was recovered. It had been shot 11 times and died soon after. Its companion was unable to feed its young alone and they died. In spite of enquiries by local police, supported by SOVS, the culprits have not been traced.

WORLD CONFERENCE

New hope for the planet at the World Summit of the Environment in Johannesburg.

by Danilo Selvaggi

Between late August and early September, Johannesburg will be hosting a crucially important event for the future of the Earth: the World Summit on the Environment and Sustainable Development, known as Rio +10. It is ten years since, in Rio de Janeiro, the world's national leaders met to agree a common strategy to meet the threat of environmental catastrophe.

The very first conference to debate these issues was held in Stockholm in 1972: The World Conference on the Human Environment. It wound up proceedings with a series of recommendations for govern-ments to protect the environment. By 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, these recommendations should have become more substantial and concrete. And so it was that projects were formulated and agreements reached that were aimed at environmental protection and sustainable development (including, for example, Agenda 21), all of which raised everybody's hopes. Only to be dashed once again, for even the aspirations in Rio turned out to be little more than statements of principle. So now it is the turn of Johannesburg to try again. Rio + 10 will be tackling already widely-debated areas of concern: climate change, deforestation, desertification, biodiversity and pollution will all be considered.

Also on the agenda will be the ever-growing threat of water shortage, farming methods and the North-South divide. So Johannesburg provides another spark of hope. It may enable us to change course; it may ensure that vague intentions and empty words are at last turned into positive action.

This is our fervent hope.

ANTIPOACHING

by Sabino Cinque

The region of Salerno has many areas of importance to wildlife that are unfortunately in need of constant safeguarding and defence against poaching, or against those who simply believe they have the right to exploit all kinds of natural resources. Environmental crime and related commerce are very complicated, with wide ramifications.

A few kilometres from Salerno some workers were discovered in a warehouse making traps for catching mammals, and making leather articles for horse riding, decorated with badger pelts. These animals, a protected species, originated in Basilicata and were caught by merciless and cruel poaching. Another raid nearby by the antipoaching police from Nocera Inferiore, with the collaboration of LIPU patrols, has revealed yet another infringement. One person was in possession of and illegally embalming protected species, including Buzzards, Purple Herons, Greater-spotted Wood-peckers, Kingfishers and many more small birds.

The trade in badger skins and the taxidermist were both discovered thanks to the sometimes dangerous investigations by LIPU guards. Motivated by their boundless love of nature, they seek tirelessly to strike at poaching in all its guises, in a region where it often has strong links to organised crime.

RESERVES AND CENTRES

CARLOFORTE RESERVE: A HOME FOR FALCONS

There is a small island near Sardinia where a colony of the very rare Eleonora's Falcons are nesting under the watchful eye of LIPU volunteers

by Ugo Faralli

If you arrive by boat, you will find yourself confronted by a sheer and apparently lifeless rocky cliff. The silence of the wind, the sea breeze, the sound of the waves, the cries of seagulls and at times the occasional dolphin accompany you to this special location. If you follow the path that leads to the old lighthouse, either on foot or by bicycle, you find yourself immersed in a vivid ensemble of sounds and colours. The various shades of green of the pine trees and garrigue (open area of Mediterranean scrubland) to-gether with the wings of colour-ful butterflies combine with the song of the warblers and sparrows to make this a truly unique place.

It's a LIPU reserve

This special and unique place, with its sights, sounds and fragrance, is the Carloforte reserve, or rather the LIPU reserve of Carloforte. By adding the name of LIPU we can acknowledge with great pride our role in saving and managing these 6 km of coastline and scrub-land.; an ideal habitat for many species of animals and plants. The word LIPU is a logical addition because without the ideas, courage and enthusiasm of the members and volunteers in Cagliari and indeed Sardinia itself, the area today would be the same as so many other similar ones. There would be roads and hotels everywhere, holiday apartments and discos to the right, and tourist centres and marinas to the left.

We have been stationed at Carloforte since 1980 when we held our first surveillance camp to convince the local authorities that this place is special and unique. We convinced them by remaining glued to our binoculars for days on end, by studying the behaviour and habits of animals, by watching for poachers and reporting them, by giving guided tours to tourists and school parties and by talking to everyone about the natural world and about falcons.

Together we protect them

The falcons in question are Eleonora's Falcons, one of the most threatened species of birds of prey, with a population reduced to about 6000 pairs, the colonies being distributed in Cyprus, Morocco, Greece and the Balearics. In Sardinia, the LIPU reserve of Carloforte in particular is in the centre of the falcon's breeding area. Now more than 100 pairs return each year to build their nests on these rocks, while we wait anxiously in amazement for their return. These falcons are resident in Africa and Europe or more precisely in Madagascar and the Mediterranean Sea. Every year they fly for thousands and thousands of kilometres between African savannah and forests during winter where they feed on insects, and then on to ravines and cliffs of the Italian coast where they nest and raise their young.

We said previously that we had convinced the local authorities that this place was unique. Last year we signed an agreement with the Comune of Carloforte and the Province of Cagliari allowing the reserve to be managed by a LIPU representative, together with the provision of a study and observation camp, the creation of informative material and educational programmes and events. We have even included the Sardinian Region in the programme and thanks to their financial assistance, the reserve now has a visitor centre.

As a testimony to the international importance of Carloforte and its falcons, our British branch LIPU-UK has collected the necessary funds for the restoration of the base camp. So from this summer, in place of the old tents the volunteers and researchers will have at their disposal a wooden building with 6 beds and a small kitchen, electricity and bathroom facilities to enable the study camps and surveillance work to continue.

Ugo Faralli is the national representative of LIPU Reserves Section

TRANSPYR PROGRAMME

Since 1979 the Organbindexka Col Lobre (OCL) Association has organised a census of migrating birds that cross the Pyrenees in autumn. They monitor population numbers of several species and explain the extraordinary phenomenon of migration to the general public, and the difficulties that European birds are under. The census runs from 15 July to 15 November at three main sites in the Pyrenees, in the Pays Basque. The most easterly, at Organbindexka, is one of the most important migration sites in western Europe, together with Falsterbo in Sweden and Gibraltar. Participants in the Transpyr Programme early enrolment is advised as accommodation is limited.

Organbindexka Col Lobre (OCL), 11 Rue de Bourgneuf, F-64100 Bayonne – Tel. 0033 5596203 – Fax 0033 5596206 e-mail: ocl@wanadoo.fr

www.Organbindexka.org

The abbreviations for areas des-ignated for various levels of pro-tection can be very confusing. We read of IBA, Ramsar site, SSSI, SPA and so on. It can be even more confusing when trans-lated into another language. Here is a brief explanation of some of the designations in use in Italy, Ed.

WHAT IS A ZPS?

These are Special Protection Zones, following the EU Birds Directive, obliging member states to designate a network of sites for the protection of birds endangered at the European level.

WHAT IS A SIC?

According to the Habitats Directive, regarding the protection of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora, member states must also set up a network of sites, or Sites of Community Importance, where the safe-guarding of natural habitats is guaranteed.

WHAT IS A SPEC?

Species of European Con-servation Concern are those in decline on a European level and are divided thus:

SPEC 1 - globally threatened, not just in Europe.

SPEC 2 - concentrated wholly in Europe and in decline.

SPEC 3 - not wholly dependent on Europe.

SPEC 4 - not endangered but endemic to Europe and therefore important in the preservation of biodiversity.

Woodlark and Ortolan Bunting are in SPEC 2. Bittern, Stonechat and Quail are in SPEC 3.

News from LIPU-UK

SUBSCRIPTIONS - 2003

In the last issue I explained that it might be necessary to ask you to accept an increase in the subscription level from the beginning of next year. I also asked for the views of you, the members.

I can now tell you that of over 50 responses, only one was not in favour of raising the membership fee to £15 and many said that the move was well overdue!

This is the first time since the foundation of LIPU-UK, thirteen years ago that we have sought to raise your costs, and no-one likes to see expenses rise but we feel that this increase is both justified and necessary.

FINANCIAL PROGRESS

Our financial year runs from July to June and enclosed with this issue is a copy of our full Annual Report which is has been submit-ted to the Charity Commission. With that is a statement of the financial activities of LIPU-UK in the year 2000-01.

Because our annual turnover is less than £250,000 there is a requirement for our accounts to undergo an independent inspec-tion rather than a full audit. This rule by the Charity Commission is to keep audit costs to sensible levels. However, we do have to produce a proper set of accounts for inspection and, although we believe that the financial state-ment gives a clear picture, a copy of those accounts will be supplied, if required, on receipt of a stamped addressed envelope.

THE YEAR 2001-02

I recently closed the books on the year 2001-02 and, subject to inspection, I can now give news of another very successful year for LIPU-UK.

Membership has continued to move ahead to the present level of 1052 and the funds raised was, again, an increase on last year – a total of £55887 com-pared with £52034. Heartfelt thanks go to all who made this possible.

We funded all the projects we agreed to, and, as you have just read, the Carloforte reserve in Sardinia now has a base camp which totally funded by LIPU-UK – a super achievement. The success of the year’s fund raising can be seen our low costs (al-most 90% of the funds we raised have been devoted to conservation) and the Oasi Fund, our long term reserve purchase fund is now close to £34000 – good foundations on which to build.

Gift Aid

I’ve mentioned Gift Aid often and this scheme allowed us to reclaim over £6000 from the Inland Revenue last year, this be-ing tax already paid on both do-nations and membership sub-scriptions.

LARGE PRINT

We take a lot of trouble to make the Hoopoe and the Ali Notizie interesting , in-formative and easy to read.

If, however, you have diffi-culty reading our publications please drop me a line and they will be sent in a version using larger print.

POACHING - AGAIN

Brian Russell, one of our newest members who joins us having seen at first hand some of the il-legal, savage acts while on holi-day in Italy.

He wrote to BirdLife Interna-tional and was answered by Marco Lambertini, Director of Network and Programme and, before that, Director General of LIPU. I print Brian’s letter below, his words say what we all feel...

Subject: Shooting Of Migrating Honey Buzzards In Sorrento, Italy

Last week whilst I, my wife and 4 friends were on holiday in Sorrento, Italy we wit-nessed a wonderful wildlife spectacle when at least 300 Honey Buzzards and hundreds of hirundines migrated past us on their way north to their summer breeding areas.

Unfortunately this was marred by sounds of guns being fired and the sight of a Honey Buzzard plummeting to earth after being shot.

On Wednesday 8th May, following a morning of low cloud and persistent rain we noticed our first Honey Buzzard about 4 p.m. flying low over the rocky coast just south of Sorrento. By 6.30pm we estimated we had seen at least 200 moving through in waves of small and large groups. The migration continued early the following morning when c100 more Honey Buzzards were seen.

As the weather was still cool and cloudy, with little wind they were flying very low, la-bouring to gain height, which most did manage to achieve north of Sorrento.

Shortly after they first ap-peared shots were heard. At about 5.30pm several guests and staff at the Hotel Dania in Capo Sorrento where we were staying, saw someone in a nearby farm shoot a Honey Buzzard. It fell from the sky and landed on a net covering citrus fruit trees in the farm below.

After a moment the bird be-gan to struggle. To their credit the Hotel Manager and a Waiter, with some difficulty managed to rescue it and took it to a local vet. Evidently it was then transferred to some sort of animal hospital in Naples but we don't know how badly injured it was.

We and other guests were very upset by this appalling act. Some were visibly distressed.

I am letting you know of this as I would appreciate any ad-vice you may have on whether there is any effective action I could take in using this incident in the battle against the senseless shoot-ing of birds, which is still so prevalent in some countries.

Welcome, Brian, your membership will help LIPU in the struggle against this sort of brutality.

TAIL FEATHERS

Among our list of translators (including this issue) is Peter Rafferty of Carlisle. Peter has published a book of poetry which he describes as, “It's called Eoliths, from Arrowhead Press (check out their website where you'll even find a picture of me at Leighton Moss!), and it's a collection of poems. Dense, dark and difficult poems a lot of them. Indeed the Cumbrian Writers' Database describes them as being "not for the faint hearted". However there are quite a few that are concerned with birds or Italy, plus translations from Italian poets...”

Eoliths, by Peter is available from Arrowhead Press, 70 Clifton Road, Darlington, Co Durham, DL1 5DX, £6.95, post free for LIPU-UK members.

www.arrowheadpress.co.uk

Off the Beaten Track

Peter Rafferty

Automotrici stutter along the branch lines

of the plain, where the folds of the first Apennines

twist to knots only faith can unpick through the haze

above little halts, sunk among crickets and maize;

where the soft clack of sandals on cloister flags

has slowed to a shuffle, now candlesmoke drags

a screen across canvases, dark as a veil

of a widow who numbers her beads by the rail.

There, best in the world, is where I would stay,

A village Capo di Stazione,

with my gold-braided cardinal cap, that would greet

the two-hourly trains, hear them fade through the heat.

And I would have too, a little plot under vine

I’d drive to in evenings, then when the new wine

was ready, a well-picked few would come round,

tilt the year in the glass, its sunlight unbound.

The translators responsible for the work in this issue are:

Steve Langhorn, Alan Morgan, Peter Rafferty, Anne Taylor, Pamela Tew, John Walder and Brian Horkley

My thanks to them all.

All the line drawings in the Ali Notizie are used with the kind permission of the RSPB.