Download the LIPU-UK Annual Report 2007-2008 here

Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - December 2008

Editorial December 2008

FEARFUL TIMES

The months since I last wrote have been like no others in our lifetime as the economies of the world have stumbled and the fear and uncertainty is still with us.

As you know we do hold the Oasi Fund for the future purchase of a nature reserve, or something of similar value, and, as yet, we have not found a candidate project for this fund which meets our criteria. I’d like to reassure all members and donors that these funds are as safe as is possible in today’s financial uncertainty.

As trustees we have two clearly defined duties which are not always easy to reconcile; firstly, we must safeguard the property of the charity and, secondly, we must strive to maximise the return on the funds we have.

To these ends your board has spent a lot of time exploring the options available; we have never been exposed to the risks of investing in the stock market, having always chosen the lower risk of having a deposit account with a bank. Only a few banks will accept charity funds and offer a worthwhile interest rate and we have enjoyed a good rate and excellent service for many years with the Cheltenham & Gloucester, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lloyds TSB the only bank on the high street rated AAA by Moodys.

However, we are looking to diversify and have been seeking a second home for part of the Oasi Fund. I am happy to be able to report that we have been able to secure an account, through CAF – the Charities Aid Foundation, with an excellent return with one of the smaller building societies which is owned by the Bank of Scotland.

As interest rates plunge it is more difficult to achieve the level of income we have enjoyed whilst keeping the risk to the lowest level but I think we have a good balance and I hope you will find this short report reassuring. Your support is even more important than ever and it is important that you know that everything possible is being done to safeguard the funds which come from the extraordinary generosity of our members and friends.

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RESOURCES NOW! - TO SAVE THE SAVEABLE.

As the loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of the environment accelerate, direct action is needed to contain the damage: but Italy still does not abide by directives on bird conservation.

By Giuliano Tallone, President LIPU

That fact that everywhere the most common and widespread birds are in serious decline is an indication that man’s activities – agriculture on an industrial scale, over-fishing and the destruction of forests have made our planet sick. This was the message that Bird Life International presented to the international summit in Buenos Aires.

Data contained in the report ‘The State of the World’s Birds’ confirms that the grave state of our planet, made worse by climate change, is the result of unsustainable human activity.

Bird species that migrate across Europe, the Middle East and Africa have decreased by 40% in the last 30 years. There has been a sudden and worrying decline of 45% in 20 European countries since 1980. Elsewhere, birds are signalling that the earth is faring badly and that we are over exploiting her resources.

Populations have declined in North America and the development of the infrastructure across Asia and the Pacific has been responsible for 30% of threatened extinctions. The economic growth of India and China is now the greatest threat to the natural world. Despite the obligations imposed on all countries, the objective of halting the decline in biodiversity by 2010 is already unobtainable.

Conservation needs more resources

As the deterioration accelerates more resources need to be directed towards conservation. Between 1994 and 2004 16 species have been rescued from extinction but resources are often insufficient and now drastic cuts by the new government loom on the horizon. In order to tackle the biodiversity crisis and climate change the Italian government should be investing urgently. It should guarantee that activities around the Natura 2000 sites are sustainable and identify with the objectives laid down by the European Union and the United Nations.

In fact, since June 2006, Italy has been under investigation for breaches of the directive on bird conservation. The procedures are dragging on with over 60 violations being cited. The most serious are those regarding hunting with the abuse, for example, of allowing the hunting of protected species and not making provision for the critical periods of breeding and migrating. There is still nothing in our law that places on the government a duty of care for wildlife. This grave omission which jeopardizes our precious heritage should be made good but, instead, the politicians play around weakening the laws already in force and distancing us even further from international norms.

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IN ARGENTINA, AT THE BIRDLIFE SUMMIT

Globalisation has created huge problems, and the damage caused will be difficult to repair. Close collaboration, across five continents, is increasingly successful in the defence of avifauna and biodiversity.

by Claudio Celada, Director of Conservation, LIPU

The impact on the environment is obvious even before we land in Buenos Aires. As we approach Ministro Pistarini International Airport the lights shine below, apparently so neat and orderly. But this is a megalopolis, of 12 million inhabitants, a city so vast it seems not to end. On the streets it is impossible to ignore the pollution caused by old-fashioned diesel engines. Earlier our flight passed over the coastline of Brazil – the Mata Atlantica, a coastal forest, and the Cerrado, a dry forest habitat. The land is fragmented by soya cultivation, and many of the deforested allotments look new. Here are the consequences of globalisation and of European agricultural policy lying before our eyes. Development is taking place at an alarming speed, and on an alarming scale – especially in this part of the world.

New challenges for the BirdLife partnership

Starting our six-day summit, it was clear just how much our partnership has grown! Growth not just in the number of member countries (112), but also in results achieved and their importance. The scale of the environmental challenge has forced us to grow and adapt.

Tropical forests saved

In 2006 the Ugandan government agreed to the destruction of the Mabira forest in favour of a palm-oil plantation. This forest hosts 300 species of birds and nine species of primates, some in danger of extinction. Nature Uganda (BirdLife in Uganda) has worked with other associations to set up a defence movement. The government is now re-evaluating its position following strong opposition from local populations, and evidence from Nature Uganda demonstrating that the scheme is not even economically viable.

San Rafael is the largest remaining expanse of unfragmented Atlantic forest, some 70,000 hectares in size. Guyra Paraguay (BirdLife in Paraguay) has bought 6,200 hectares of this habitat, hosting 28 threatened species of birds. Guyra is now starting actively to manage and protect this area.

Harapan in Indonesia (more than 100,000 hectares) and Gola in Sierra Leone (about 75,000 hectares) are other examples of successful large-scale protection schemes achieved by BirdLife.

Good news from Canada

A coalition of non-governmental organizations including Nature Canada (BirdLife in Canada) has persuaded the Provincial Government of Ontario to protect more than 50 percent of the boreal forest. The Quebec Government is also taking steps in the same direction. Canada is determined to make a significant contribution, not just by protecting migratory birds which are in rapid decline, but also by fighting global warming.

... and sites saved in Europe

The Rospuda river valley in Poland contains one of the best-preserved peat deposits left in Europe. Under threat from motorway construction, this site has been saved thanks to the persistence of BirdLife International; in particular of OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) supported by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). After long negotiations, an alternative route avoiding this exceptionally important area was finally accepted by the Polish Government. Birds such as Sea Eagle, Stork and Capercaillie will continue to nest undisturbed amongst the lynx and wolves. The Musk Orchid (Herminium Monorchis), a red-list species in danger of extinction, is also present.

Species rescued from extinction

Approximately one in eight species of birds is in danger of extinction. It is thought that 153 species of birds have become extinct since 1500; 18 species in the last 25 years; and three species since 2000 alone. Results show that extinction can often be avoided by taking adequate intervention. Between 1994 and the present day, at least 16 species have been preserved by specific action plans, including the Hermit Ibis, Californian Condor, Bermuda Petrel, Mauritius Parakeet, and the Kakapo of New Zealand. None of this would have been possible without the solid scientific knowledge of biology and ecology on which the action plans are built.

Challenges for our time

The biodiversity crisis has many causes: destruction and fragmentation of habitat, climate change, invasive species, hunting and poaching. Even renewable energy, a necessary development for safeguarding the future of our planet, will cause serious problems if not planned in a thoughtful way. The crisis is on a planetary scale and solutions must have global reach too. This is the clear message from the BirdLife summit; by working together it is possible to achieve important conservation results.

A safer journey for migratory birds

There is no better example than migration to illustrate the importance of co-operation between BirdLife partners. For many years now, LIPU has worked for a safer journey for birds. We have achieved a lot in the struggle against poaching, the destruction of wetlands, and inhospitable agriculture; both along the Italian peninsula and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. But what about the rest of the migration routes? Malta, for example is one of the riskiest areas for migrating birds because of the scale of poaching. Now, thanks to the courage of BirdLife Malta and the pressure put on by the European Commission, spring hunting has finally been banned. Our partners in NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and the Vogelbescherming (BirdLife in the Netherlands) have been particularly active, because their members refuse to accept the idea that “their” migratory birds cannot reach the breeding areas of North Europe.

Environmental solidarity leads to greater awareness for those of us who have the conservation of birds and biodiversity at heart. Being a member of LIPU means being part of this global community. It means helping nature and birds all over the planet.

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HUNTING – MINISTER REFUSES TO MEET LIPU PETITION

LIPU’s campaign against the special dispensation for hunting raised 200,000 signatures but the minister has declined to receive LIPU representatives to hand over the petition. And now a new emergency has arisen with Parliament resolved to discuss modifications (for the worse) to the law 157/92.

By Giovanni Albarella, LIPU office of institutional relations

Closed last September, LIPU’s campaign against the derogation, or special dispensation, from the law prohibiting the hunting of small birds scored a notable success: 200,000 signatures. That’s 200,000 times “no” to that anachronistic, and illegal, practice of hunting protected small birds such as chaffinches, pipits and bramblings. This practice – justified as “traditional” – has resulted in the death of a very high number of birds which should not be hunted, using the expedient of a particular dispensation conceded by the law.

The European Commission has had its say on the matter, charging Italy with an excessive and improper use of these derogations and making it clear that they, as they are used in Italy, are nothing but a disguised method of hunting birds which should be protected. This is why our petition and the demand that the most unacceptable form of the dispensation, the so-called “letter C”, should be entirely cancelled and no longer applied in our country.

It is with regret that we must report that the minister of agricultural policy, Luca Zaia, has declined to receive LIPU for the handing over of the petition. No reply to our requests, not a “yes” not a “no” – nothing. All in all, behaviour which is not only clearly improper towards LIPU and its campaign but also and above all an affront to the thousands of people who have sincerely expressed themselves by signing the petition.

All this however has not dissuaded LIPU from pursuing its campaign. Quite the contrary. This campaign has already, over the last few months, borne important fruit, among which are the ban on putting into effect these dispensations in Zones of Special Protection (SPAs) and the fact that many regions have been persuaded not to allow them. It will move on, it will grow in scope and it will become more widespread. Even as we write the first debates are already in progress in Parliament over some of the new proposals for the modification of the law 157/92 for the protection of wildlife and the regulation of hunting. Proposals, I should say, which for the most part are intended to devalue and weaken the legislation.

You remember the great battle of four years ago against uncontrolled hunting? Well, they are at it again with a new attempt to lengthen the hunting season, to widen the list of game species and to de-penalise offences. It all adds up to a very serious development of which we shall spell out the details in the next edition of our magazine and which will, above all, see the firm opposition of LIPU and we are certain, of all our members who love nature and have its best interest at heart.

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“THANKS TO LIPU I HAVE KNOWN TRUE FREEDOM – THAT OF NATURE.”

These lines were written by Moncef Aissa, a prisoner held in ‘semi-liberty’ in the Casa Circondariale of Ferrara. Moncef has collaborated with LIPU for six months, thanks to Project Sesame. A relationship which became a friendship with the passing weeks. Now we can say we have made a new birdwatcher. For his past, most painstaking, work, we thank him and will remember him.

From Lorenzo, Davide and LIPU di Ferrara.

“A few months ago I did not even know LIPU existed, and now I feel a part of it. Strange but true. My unexpected experience has changed my way of seeing Nature – “to observe, not just to see”, as Lorenzo says – and feeling responsible for living beings which depend on me has made me feel useful to something greater.

“It will seem strange to you that from being a prisoner, I could come to know freedom and its value but believe me, I have seen true freedom, the freedom of Nature, absolute freedom, that of the Swifts, which, once cared for, seize the sky to fly. I myself have contributed to giving freedom to living beings, and I would never have thought, that as a prisoner, I could give absolute liberty to anyone. This has been possible because I am part of a great family that works to heal wounded animals, and one of its main aims is to set them free.

“In these months I have learnt so much, working in the field with most able people, learning things no school could teach. The experience started from amazement, step by step becoming more profound. This experience has changed me from within as a person, now I stop to observe birds and can recognise some species (before, I did not even know what a Jay looked like). LIPU has given me a humane character, besides an environmental education, and I hope to be able to do something myself, in a small way.

“I would like society to dedicate more time and resources to LIPU, and the persons who choose to study and work for Nature, because to protect wildlife means to protect Nature, and protecting Nature means protecting the future of our children.”

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PREACHING THE IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY

A growing understanding is not always matched by an appropriate level of competence and knowledge. LIPU continues to work alongside local institutions.

by Elena Rossini, coordinator of the Natura 2000 Varese project.

For many years now LIPU has been actively collaborating with the Varese provincial authorities and the Cariplo Foundation to set up various projects in the area with the aim of enhancing the environment. This cooperation continues throughout 2008-2009 with the Natura 2000 Varese project (“Natura 2000 Varese – Centre for the Promotion of the Natura 2000 Network in Varese Province”).

The idea was born out of the need to develop the Natura 2000 Network in the province of Varese – thanks to its daily contact with people on the ground, LIPU has realised that even though there is a growing sensitivity towards ‘biodiversity’, there is still a lack of understanding of the subject, not only on the part of the public, but also among those working in administration.

What is emerging, in particular as regards this latter group, is that choices relating to certain developments in the province are being made in direct contradiction to the goal of biodiversity, so that urban or infrastructure expansion is encroaching on areas that enjoy the status of SCIs (Sites of Community Importance) or SPAs (Special Protection Areas). Moreover, according to a recent study of the Lombardy region, there is a distinct lack of awareness on the part of the public that they are living in areas that have been ‘prioritised for biodiversity’.

The project aims to operate at different levels.

1. At the physical level it will only be possible fully to realise the potential of the Natura 2000 project by making the ecological connections between the SCIs, the SPAs, and other protected and environmentally important areas.

2. A level of coordination by means of an ongoing dialogue between the managers of the sites that form part of the Natura 2000 Network.

3. Finally, we must not forget the need to implement a coordinated plan of communications that involves the local communities, given that the Network and all it stands for are part of the community itself, both in environmental and in cultural terms.

The ‘Natura 2000 Varese’ Project

Concrete action for environmental enhancement.

Between January 2008 and March 2009 LIPU will have initiated many undertakings to improve both the environmental quality of the Natura 2000 Network sites within the province, and to raise the level of awareness of both the public and the local institutions to the extent that they will themselves become the standard-bearers of the Network. In particular, some 11 schemes to improve the environment are envisaged: from the installation of nesting platforms for the White Stork and the Osprey, to an electric-powered boat to provide guided tours on Lake Varese, or even to the restoration of an ex-industrialised area to its natural state and the provision of new hides for birdwatching.

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INTERVIEW

The planet continues to suffer but we can reverse the trend. Man continues to consider himself outside of nature but the negative consequences of his behaviour are becoming ever more evident.

By Andrea Mazza, LIPU Press Officer and including an interview with Marco Lambertini of BirdLife International

The brain drain also strikes in the sector of nature conservation. One such example is Marco Lambertini, from Tuscany, ex-Director General of LIPU who now holds the prestigious chair of Global Director of Programmes for BirdLife International at Cambridge.

Marco can boast some great successes among which are the institution of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago; the first “rainforest restoration concession” (first example in the world with 100,000 hectares directly managed by BirdLife) and the formation of the first association for the conservation of birds in Brazil. So what are the projects for the future? Five million hectares of tropical forest managed directly with the BirdLife partner by the end of 2015.

Andrea: “Which are the most worrying signs and, on the other hand, the most encouraging that emerged from the new report “State of the World’s Birds?”

Marco: “The planet continues to live in a runaway ecological crisis, the decline and extinction of species is one of the most clear and worrying indicators. In the last three decades 20 species of birds have become extinct; three in the last eight years, with a rhythm of extinction between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than in the rest of the history of life on earth.
“The other part, the rising number of successes demonstrates that it is possible to reverse this tendency to negative behaviour and allocate resources in an appropriate way. For example, of 190 species of critically threatened birds, 25 have improved their status, 24 have slowed their decline and 16 would have become extinct without our action.”

A: “It seems 13% of the total living species risk extinction. How can we avoid this?”

M: “We have short term options, intensive and reactive intervention to aim high and vigorously to save species critically on the edge of extinction. And there are longer term preventative options such as protecting the most important sites, such as the IBAs, for breeding, migrating and wintering birds; besides influencing the political territorial waters of the policies on fish, forests, water, energy and the development of infrastructure. All these have impacted the natural environment on a vast scale. Finally, but not least in importance, the awareness of people, children and adults of a style of life that is sustainable and harmonious with nature.”

A: “What are the strong points of BirdLife International?”

M: “BirdLife is the biggest alliance of world organisations for the conservation of nature. Its principal strength is its ‘localness’, that is the fact that it is a federation of national associations able to understand the local problems, to speak to the real public to influence the appropriate government and institutions.
“No other organisation has a similar network of indigenous structure and activity in the territory. On the other hand to be part of a big international network provides a high profile that reinforces the political weight and offers the opportunity to exchange experiences and community programmes without comparison with other more centralized international organisations.”

A: “Birds, biodiversity, people. What is the tie that unites these three cornerstones of BirdLife?”

M: “The relationship is simple, the problem is that man continues to consider himself to be outside of nature and the ecosystem of the planet without accepting the idea that we are intrinsically part of it and our quality of life and the survival of our species entirely depends on it. An ever-more globalised world is more evidence of the negative consequence of our behaviour.”

A: “What message can one take from the world summit in Buenos Aires?”

M: “The network has grown: now we have 112 partners with a total budget of about 450 million dollars and 6,500 members of staff. The sign, however, of less enthusiasm is a loss of growth of members, down in the last four years by about 2.3 million. We must communicate more that we do and attract more support, also we must fight against the consequences of the world economic crisis.

“New directions are certainly a major concern of climate change with new programmes tied in particular to the conservation and the restoration of forests to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, alongside more classic long-term programmes like the IBA, the threatened species, the migratory birds, the habitat priorities and the environmental education.

Who is Marco Lambertini?

The rise of Marco Lambertini began at an early age with membership of LIPU and WWF. Then came the career with LIPU: first as a volunteer, then responsible for a Section, then coordinator in 1980 of the first birdwatching campaign and then responsibility for a reserve.

From 1990 to 1997 he was Director General LIPU. Today he is Director of Global Programmes for BirdLife International, at the office at Cambridge, and coordinator of the development network of more than 100 organisations and programmes of six regional offices located in various continents. Passionate about communication he has published about 20 books in Italy and abroad.

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THE ROLE OF LIPU GROWS INSIDE THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF BIRDLIFE

The world meeting of BirdLife International is held every four years. This year the event was held from September 22-27 at Buenos Aires in Argentina thanks to the support of the Argentine partner Aves Argentina (AOP).

Present for LIPU were the Director General, Elena D’Andrea and the Director of Nature Conservation, Claudio Celada.

On this occasion the election of regional advisors was also held and saw the admittance of Elena D’Andrea from LIPU onto the European Committee. This body of BirdLife Europe works to verify the progress of the strategic programme, of the European budget as well as participating in the definition of global strategy of BirdLife International. The summit has finally approved the new strategy of BirdLife International: among them the main ones of the struggle of climate change and the carrying out of the Preventing Extinctions programme.

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FROM THE WORLD OF LIPU.

Congratulations

At the LIPU Assemblea held at Montepulciano last May two prizes were awarded. The staff prize to Danilo Selvaggi, for his help in increasing the growth of the association and the regional award to Giancarlo Silveri of the Treviso region for his activities with the people of that area.

The Hoopoe returns to Milan

Not, of course, the bird itself, but of the symbol of our association. There has not been a Milan section in LIPU for over twenty years, but now there is a group of enthusiasts keen to resuscitate the regional section. Among more than 4,000 members of LIPU in Milan we hope there will be a number sufficient to promote our activities – preservation of habitat, environment education, organization of field trips, lectures, discussion evenings, etc. The first proposed trip of the Milan section will be to observe the spring passage of the Short-toed Eagle and will be held on March 8, 2009 at the Parco del Beigua. We hope many will attend. For information please phone 366-4305389, or e-mail milano@lipu.it , the web site is www.lipumilano.it .

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ART AND NATURE JOIN IN BEAUTY

An exhibition of paintings, photographs and poems representing the Oasi LIPU di Cave di Gaggio has successfully emphasised the value of this natural area just a few steps from Venice.

By Giampaolo Pamio, LIPU delegate Venice section.

It was the idea of two volunteers from LIPU Venice section, Maria and Silvia, to organise a show to emphasise the importance of this reserve by joining together the love of nature with that of art.

A beguiling idea, that brought close together some of the possible links between art and nature. After a year of contacts, meetings and initiatives ‘Oasi… art and nature’ was finally achieved.

The success of the project was based on the contributions of volunteers and activists from the LIPU Section of Venice with the help of other associations from the area and the local administration. The Oasi di Gaggio in this way has been revisited through the eyes of artists perhaps more interested in photography, painting or the inspiration of poetry, than of nature itself.
Yet for these same artists the experience of the Oasi has signified a pleasant osmosis between art and nature, a condition that has also involved the very young with a ‘Junior’ show dedicated to them which proved an unexpected success.

The Oasi di Gaggio, in fact, even though situated in a strongly urbanised area such as the hinterland of Venice is not much visited by the citizens. Therefore there has been great amazement of both the competitors and the visitors that, thanks to the show, they understand that a treasure chest of nature is just a few steps from home.

The Oasi is situated in the territory of the Commune di Marcon (Ve) and the exhibition ended with a selection of eight photographic–pictorial works to be used to create postcards of the Oasi. These will result in a precious ‘limited edition’ of the Oasis di Gaggio to tempt the collectors.

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EURO BIRDWATCH 2008

On the 4th and 5th of October, BirdLife International held a European bird count in 30 different countries.

by Andrea Mazza, head of the LIPU Press Office.

The results of EuroBirdWatch are in: 2,700 events, 30,000 participants, and 2.2 million birds counted. LIPU alone organized some 50 events, which drew 1,000 people. The rarest birds, and the most notable species from a conservation point of view, were mainly sighted in the wetlands of the Lentini Biviere and the Saline di Priolo Nature Reserve in Sicily. Sightings included 1 Pelican, 28 White Stork, 21 Caspian Tern, a Glossy Ibis, two Terek Sandpiper (a rare irregular migrant), 9 Ferruginous Duck. At the Simeto Delta, still in Sicily, results included a Booted Eagle and three Purple Gallinule.

Other significant records were a Black Kite and 11 Little Bittern at San Giovanni Incarico (Frosinone), 12 Lesser Kestrel and 3 Pygmy Cormorant at Lago Salso (Foggia), 3 Cranes at the Lago di Montepulciano Nature Reserve (Siena), one Black Tern on the South Lagoon (Venice), a Purple Heron and a Black Stork at the Ca’ Rossa Pieve d’Olmi Oasis (Cremona), a Glossy Ibis (Priolo Saline), and two Nightjar at the LIPU Santa Luce Nature Reserve (Pisa).

In Italy, the most frequently seen EuroBirdWatch species were Yellow-Legged Gull, Mallard, and Greater Flamingo.

Oasis Life – Prize Winners

Last October 4, the winners of the Oasis Life photography competition were announced at the Torrile Oasis near Parma. The competition was organized by LIPU with the support of Swarovski Optik Italy and Salmoiraghi & Viganò.

Overall first prize was awarded to Maurizio Dallavia, for a portrait of a Little Egret; second prize to Luciano Piazza for a portrait of a Bearded Tit; and third prize to Guido Bissattini for a winter scene.

The three categories of Oasis Life, Oasis Portrait and Oasis Digiscoping were won by Maurizio Perazzoli, Pierluigi Rizzato and Roberto Audino respectively. Five prizes were also awarded in Junior categories.

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NEWS IN BRIEF

Guido Giovara manager of the Centre of Asti reports that the formation of the Asti LIPU group in 1982 concentrated on helping injured wild creatures. In 1997 with the support of the Province of Asti a recovery centre was set up where injuries could be treated without delay. Subsequently the group activity has centred on environmental education in schools, projects of urban ecology, and raising awareness of the environment and this summer many schools took part in environmental activities.

Despite many difficulties – mainly lack of money and resources – they have gained great satisfaction when animals and birds are released from the centre back into the wild. And July 27 this year saw the release of Tawny Owl, Kestrel and Buzzard and a magnificent Short-toed Eagle.

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NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

Sardinia – a beautiful island

In the last edition I mentioned that we were looking forward to our third holiday on the island of San Pietro, better known as Carloforte, home of the Eleonora’s Falcons of the cliffs of the LIPU reserve.

It did not disappoint even if the delayed flight meant that we missed the ferry we had wanted to catch, but better late than never - it was almost like returning home, nothing had changed and within five or six minutes of leaving the ferry we were wheeling our bags into the Hotel Paola. Welcomed like long-lost family we settled in and in the dining room made our acquaintance with the geckos in the lights (see inside rear cover). Geckos are much loved and it is considered good fortune to have them in your home, from their point of view, the inside of a wall light is warm and the light attracts the insects so we were all dining together.

The island is unlikely to attract bird watchers who are interested in building a long list of species seen, but if you want quality birding I think it is hard to beat. Just outside the town (there is only one) are salt pans where the Flamingoes and Slender-billed Gulls are resident and, in the autumn, the waders are still passing through. We saw very good numbers of water birds most days including Water Rail on our day of departure, beside the water Stonechat were easily seen perched high on the bushes.

From the wetland we drove north west and sought the birds of the hills and the cliffs. A couple of pairs of Raven were in the same territories as last year but there was a lovely surprise as we found an Osprey which stayed on the island for a week before leaving for Africa. Of course the real reason for the visit was the chance to sit on the cliff tops and just marvel at the flying skills of the falcons and this year was even more spectacular than in the past

Luciano Durante, the reserve warden, told us that this year the birds had arrived from Madagascar about three weeks later than usual and many had simply not got around to breeding. About forty pairs had nested and were feeding young (usually it is 90 - 110 pairs) and for the rest, all they had to do was feed themselves and fly for pleasure. And what pleasure they gave us as they patrolled up and down the coast, then, as if bored, one would suddenly launch a mock attack on another bird, climbing and diving and turning so tightly that it left me short of words to describe the spectacle.

All good things come to an end and after a week and another crisis getting on the ferry, it is Italy – you expect a crisis, we returned home with photographs and memories of some beautiful birds.

Just a few days later I had intended to return to the island to see the work of the anti-poaching camp near Capoterra to the south west of Cagliari and I was keen to join the volunteers of the camp. However, this was delayed by storms and floods in the area which flooded towns and washed away roads and tracks in the mountains, the area suffered the normal annual rainfall in two hours!

Late in November I was back at Luton airport for a flight to Cagliari for a brief but very busy visit. I was met by Luciano and Claudio Celada, our Conservation Director, and together we drove into Cagliari for a meeting with the staff of the Region to discuss the new management agreement for the Oasi Carloforte. With that meeting complete, we drove to Iglesias for a similar meeting with staff of the Carbonia province, by now it was dark and we dropped Luciano at the ferry to San Pietro then set off to find Pula and our bed for the night. Late in the evening we met and had dinner with Giovanni Malara and the volunteers of the camp, it was very late when we returned to our hotel, it had been a long day and sleep came quickly.

The following morning Giovanni explained that we were to find the tracks used by trappers and then we would find their traps and destroy them. He didn’t mention the four mile climb to get to the start point and the fact that this was all on very steep hillsides – good game!

By the end of the day we had destroyed around 400 traps and we repeated the tally on the next day, but I was left with a feeling that we had but scratched the surface of the problem, but to do nothing is not an option. Giovanni gives up all his holidays and most week ends to do this work, as an unpaid volunteer, he recruits the helpers, he organises the camps and he was keen to show us what the funds from LIPU-UK had achieved.

On the second day we were walking along another track, there seemed to be so many, when Giovanni pointed to a trap on the ground and as I moved in to dismantle it, Claudio called, “Smile, David, you’re on candid camera!”. I was bemused until Giovanni pointed out two camouflaged cameras that he had come to recover. There was a pair of cameras, carefully hidden cables, a control unit capable of recording for a hundred hours and a battery to power it all – all bought with our support. That evening I was shown a recording of a trapper, clearly identifiable, taking a bird from the trap and putting it in his bag, evidence to be given to the police with an insistence that they take action.

Few of the thrushes caught in these snares are eaten by the poacher, almost all are sold to the restaurants for good money - I was even shown a newspaper feature which pointed out to visitors to the area where they could go for a dinner of blackbird!

I left with regret that I hadn’t been able to stay longer and help more, with admiration for the volunteers who do such important and difficult work and with more than a little pride that we in LIPU-UK had helped to make it all happen.

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It’s never all bad

Margaret Denby of High Wycombe wrote in a letter, which I’m sure she won’t mind me quoting, “You might be interested in a bird story connected with our first house in Italy. Some birds (I have forgotten what species but it was over 50 years ago!) nested in the letter box in the village ( a tiny place inland from Rapallo). The village postman put a notice on the box and told people not to post their letters in it until the birds had left. Everyone obeyed and the babies did eventually fledge. Perhaps not the story one might expect to come from Italy, but I promise you, completely true.”

Birdfair – August 2009

We are taking a fresh look at how we attend the British Birdwatching Fair at in August at Rutland Water. We have a couple of vacancies on the stand and if anyone would like to help out for a day would they please contact me for more information –Thank you.

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Project support – 2009

Full details will be in the next issue of the Ali but this is a good time to tell you that your board of trustees agreed the following level of support for LIPU Projects in 2009:

The Migration of raptors through Sicily (year 6)

Antipoaching, Sicily, Brescia area & Sardinia

Raptor Recovery Centres – medicines etc

Lesser Kestrel nest box monitoring in Puglia

Survey of coastal breeding birds, Marine IBAs

Survey of the Little Bustard

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Thanks to the translators of this issue: Cicely Adelson, Joanna Bazen, Carol Debney, Barry Jones, Bryan Lewis, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty & John Walder.

Line drawings are used by courtesy of the RSPB, the photographs are © David Lingard.