Ali Notizie - The English Digest - June 2008

EDITORIAL JUNE 2008

As you probably know, our business year runs from July to June and as we approach the end of this, my tenth as your delegate, it is time to look back and I think we can do so with some real satisfaction.

Fund-raising is always the main aim of most charities and we are no exception, what matters is what the funds are spent on and later in this edition I’ll be explaining our policy on reserves in more detail. For now, let’s look at the year just closed; thanks to a substantial legacy and a very generous donation from the Valerie White Memorial Trust we raised nearly £123,000 - a tremendous achievement for which my thanks go to all who contributed to this.

As you can imagine income levels like this mean that we have comfortably covered our commitments to funding projects in Italy in the coming year. We’ve been able to take on an active recruitment campaign and despite the costs of printing and distribution our expenditure is still only 7% of our gross income. As the year progressed it became clear that LIPU needed a little extra help in two areas - the trapping of thrushes in Sardinia and the Recovery Centre (CRUMA) at Livorno. The board was happy to be able to offer help in time to make a difference and so, this year, we are funding more projects than ever before - six important works for the benefit of the birds.

At the end of May I was asked to attend the LIPU “Assemblea” or AGM at the reserve of Montepulciano; the famous wines of the area were not the reason for going but they did make the visit memorable!

On Friday a Congress was held with speakers from, among others, the Ministry of the Environment and the Federation of National Parks, we also heard an excellent presentation on Marine IBAs from Ana Merinho of SPEA, the BirdLife partner of Portugal.

The following day was for the delegates and members and we heard of LIPU’s progress and achievements in 2007 and the plans for the coming year. In the afternoon the balance sheet was presented and approved but I think the excellent lunch conspired to make most of us suffer heavy eyelids and steady breathing!

Before leaving the reserve on Sunday we were taken on a very green tour of the lake on an electric-powered boat, (see the cover) which has its batteries recharged from solar panels on the roof and sets a very good example of, in the latest jargon, having a very small carbon footprint. Then a very leisurely lunch at a local trattoria with a glass of their local wine and a start on the journey back to Parma and then the joys of Stansted.

The real value of attending is showing the support of our members and the chance to meet, away from the formal meetings, to hear the thoughts of the staff and volunteers and learn how we can help in the years ahead, it was a lovely and very useful working weekend among friends.

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ENVIRONMENT AND THE ITALIAN CONSTITUTION

The Italian Constitution is still very much alive, sixty years after its birth. However it remains silent on two important issues: protection of the environment and biodiversity.

This year the Italian Constitution is sixty years old, and it is wearing well for its age. Even so, there has been much recent talk of changes, such as the roles of the two Chambers of Parliament, the powers of the regions – already the subject of reform a few years ago – the electoral system, and other changes of mainly political interest. But there is also a proposal to introduce an explicit reference to the “environment” – an old proposal, dear to the hearts of LIPU and to others who care about the future of our ecosystem. When the constitution was originally drafted, the founding fathers were preoccupied with more important problems (such as avoiding a civil war which would have ripped the country apart), and the environment was mentioned only in an oblique way.

Moreover, the concept of the environment was rather different then from what we understand today: the battles against pollution, nuclear power and hunting which characterised the 70s and 80s lay far into the future. In those days people talked about “landscape”, the fundamental law for which had been passed just a few years earlier in 1939 (and which with some adjustments is still active today). Article 9 of the constitution covers landscape - “The republic promotes the development of culture and scientific and technical research. It protects the landscape and the historic and artistic heritage of the nation”. Another major preoccupation was the right to health, covered by article 32 - “The republic protects health, both as a fundamental right of the individual and in the interests of the community, and guarantees free treatment for the poor. No individual can be treated forcibly except where provided for by law. In no case can the law overstep the boundary imposed by the respect due to every human being.”

But what about the environment? It wasn’t mentioned then, and it isn’t mentioned to this day. During the 70s, as part of the fight against pollution, a succession of courts – up to and including the Constitutional Court – established the principle that the two concepts of landscape and health, taken together, produce a concept of “environment” as we know it today. There is a legal “right to the environment”, considered as a union of the “right to landscape” and the “right to health”. Many people think that the time is overdue for introducing the environment directly into the text of the constitution itself. LIPU has been in close contact with some members of parliament who share our aims, and who may be able to help make this happen. In the previous two parliaments attempts have led to nothing. In the newly-elected parliament, another attempt is being made by Andrea Fluttero, environmental spokesman for the Alleanza Nazionale. We hope this attempt will finally succeed, and we will certainly do our part. We are also lobbying for constitutional change to cover not just the environment, but also the more specific (and equally important) concept of biodiversity. We are confident that this historic goal will finally be achieved. All LIPU members should be proud that their support has made this possible.

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ZOOM

IBA network, first the land and now the sea

Start of the LIPU project to identify the most important sites for sea birds

The IBA (Important Bird Area) network started because BirdLife partners wanted to identify and protect the most important sites for the long-term survival of natural populations of birds. IBAs are chosen for their quantity, standards and usability on a global scale. Until now the main objective has been to identify IBAs on land (including freshwater habitats), and impressive results have been achieved in Europe and also throughout the world (in Italy alone 172 have been identified); now the challenge is to extend the IBA network to the marine environments.

Marine IBAs

Marine environments are very important for birdlife: for example over 60 species of birds depend on the European seas during at least one phase of their lives. The majority of these species are highly dependent on the integrity and quality of the marine ecosystems in which they live; many marine birds, like for example the Cory’s Shearwater, are in a vulnerable state of conservation, whilst others, like the Balearic Shearwater, are critically endangered. However, in spite of their importance, marine environments do not receive the protection they need, mainly because of the difficulty of identifying and managing protection areas. There is today, in addition, a serious lack of scientific information on the distribution, numbers and behaviour of ornithological species in marine habitats. This is why many partner associations of BirdLife International, like LIPU in Italy, have undertaken to identify marine IBAs. These are coastal or open sea areas which have been or are being established around Greece, France and Malta. LIPU has already identified IBAs in some coastal areas where important colonies of marine birds are located, but a specific project to identify important marine areas for birds was started at the beginning of this year.

The Project

LIPU signed an agreement with the Ministry for the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea with the aim of identifying an initial list of IBAs. The objectives of this project are: to collect data about the distribution, abundance and behaviour of some species of marine birds; to refine scientific methodology for identifying marine IBAs; and to draw up an initial inventory of marine areas relevant to the long term conservation of populations of marine birds. The data collection will focus on some beautiful species of great conservation interest, like the Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, the Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii, the Slender-billed Gull Larus genei and the Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. Amongst the most important activities during the project will be bird counts along shipping routes and along the coasts, and a study of Cory’s Shearwater using telemetry.

Bird counts along shipping routes

These will be carried out using a standardised method extensively used at the international level, which will allow sharing out and comparison of data gathered by various BirdLife International partners. The method consists of covering in a boat a linear journey (transect) from the coast towards the open sea, counting all the birds sighted within a band up to 300 metres from the same boat. Each sector will be covered by one or two spotters who will note down all the birds observed in flight or on the water. This data will be analysed statistically in order to estimate the spatial distribution and the abundance of the different species all along the route. A note will also be taken of birds sighted outside the band 300 metres from the boat, but this will only be used to obtain additional qualitative information, such as the presence or not of a specific species. During the journeys other further information useful for the analysis of data will be collected, such as the behaviour of the birds at the time of sighting, the presence of marine mammals, the presence of boats and fishing activities. Sectors will be covered in this way throughout the Mediterranean (for example in the Tuscan Archipelago, on the Eolian islands and the Tremiti islands). The objective of these bird counts is to obtain precious information on the feeding areas used by marine species during the breeding season and about areas where birds gather outside the breeding season.

Bird counts along the coast

The project will also include bird counts on coastal promontories in order to obtain data on the activities of marine birds close to the coasts and to colonies, and information about migrations of these species (for example, identification of areas crossed during migration, number of species and number of individual birds spotted in these areas). These observation sites include the Straits of Messina, Cape Murro di Porco, near Syracuse in Sicily, and the Cape of Otranto, at the tip of Italy’s heel.

Studying Cory’s Shearwater by means of telemetry

One specific study on the Cory’s Shearwater will be conducted on the island of Linosa, where there is one of the largest and most important colonies of this species. There will be a special study on the movements which individual birds make during the breeding season from the colony to feeding areas in the open sea. This monitoring will be done using satellite radio (GPS logger and compass logger) which, secured onto the back of the Shearwaters for a few days, will allow the exact position of the birds to be established at regular intervals. It is possible in this way to obtain data which up to now was rarely available, about the activity and paths followed during the movements of the colony and around the area of open sea used mainly for feeding. At the same time as this telemetry study a census of nesting pairs on the island of Linosa will be carried out, to evaluate breeding success. All the data collected during the project will constitute the basis for defining the methodology for identifying marine IBAs and to obtain an initial list of possible areas. The importance of such work is even greater if one realises that the European Commission has fixed 2008 as a final date by which all the member states of the European Union must designate Special Protection Zones in marine environments and must at least present a detailed plan as to how these states will identify such SPZs in the years following 2008. The network of marine IBAs identified by BirdLife International, and therefore the LIPU network in Italy, will be able to represent the scientific basis for the designation of marine environment SPZs, which is what happened for the terrestrial environment IBAs.

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AGRICULTURE CAN RHYME WITH NATURE

Parmesan producers help bird conservation by using traditional production methods

The choice of using forage to feed cows which produce milk used to make Parmigiano-Reggiano can potentially improve the environment as well as the quality of the product. This is the hypothesis behind the project that LIPU has developed thanks to the funding of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium and the Provinces of Modena, Parma and Reggio-Emilia as well as the Emilia-Romagna Region. The Parmesan producers must obey new production rules inspired by the traditional methods, which state that cows must be fed on locally-produced forage. At least 50% of the daily portion of dry matter fed to the cows must be of hay. All of the dry matter of the forage must come from the “Comprensorio” the zone including the provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova, and produced from especially-dedicated meadows of grass and alfalfa. The grassland environment, which has almost completely disappeared from the plains in the North of Italy after the introduction of intensive farming techniques, is indispensable for the presence of several threatened animal and plant species. Permanent grasslands are also fundamental in the fight against global climate change, since they contain as much carbon as forests, but the least of chemical products (fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, etc). From the project it has become clear that some species linked to grassland are most abundant in the “Comprensorio” area, such as the Skylark, the Corn Bunting, the Lapwing, and the Green Woodpecker. Furthermore, the Red-Footed Falcon is only found in the Comprensorio area, where it prefers alfalfa grassland as it can find its favourite preys: locusts, grasshoppers, etc. Results show that the traditional methods of producing Parmesan are important for bird conservation in rural environments. This proves that it is possible to find an balance between quality of the product and quality of the environment, and it constitutes an example for all good quality produce which is regulated by laws.

Parmesan is only Parmigiano-Reggiano

The European Court of Justice has decided that the term “Parmesan” cannot be used for any parmesan-like cheese produced elsewhere is Europe. The name Parmesan, as translation of Parmigiano-Reggiano, can only be used by producers of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium.

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NATURE RESERVES

Saline di Priolo, Protecting a Jewel

A reserve which is in the heart of an industrial area with multiple environmental problems but which, thanks to LIPU’s work, is still a very important site for migrating wetland birds.

South east Sicily has a system of wetlands which provides a place to rest and feed and, to a lesser extent, to breed or over winter, for migrating birds in this part of the Mediterranean. On 28 December 2000 the Priolo Salt Flats were designated a nature reserve in order to protect them for the migratory and resident wetland birds that use the system of basins in the salt flats. The Saline Priolo is a small but important coastal wetland in which, despite the damage that has radically altered the face of this corner of Sicily, huge flocks of birds can be seen at different times of the year. As the managing authority, LIPU began immediately to monitor and protect the area and its strategic importance for both migrating and resident birds. In fact Priolo, once known only as the site of one of the biggest industrial complexes in Europe, is now home to a nature reserve with two important strategic roles to play. The first is to conserve an area of fundamental importance for bird migration in Europe, and the second to reclaim land which has suffered an alarming level of pollution. LIPU immediately launched a recovery programme. The removal of an old disused oil pipeline that crossed the mud, an example of the devastation in the area, was a priority. The next part of the plan for regeneration was to build two hides and begin active management of the site. The provision of some artificial islands has added to the numbers of over wintering birds and doubled the number of nesting species like the Little Tern, as well as the arrival of new ones, like the Avocet. The Saline di Priolo, with its 233 species, makes a very real contribution to the conservation of birds dependent on coastal salt marshes. This area, together with the Magnisi Peninsula, accommodates more than half the bird species of Sicily. This is about 40% of those seen in the whole of Italy and it is even more remarkable given the small size of the reserve and its position in the heart of an industrial area.

The most interesting time to visit is the autumn when it is possible to see huge flocks of herons, egrets, etc. There are flocks of thousands of waders and colourful flamingos using the marshes to feed on their way to their wintering grounds. Then there is the Caspian Tern, the symbol of the reserve which is the most important site in Italy for this species and the best place to see it. At the moment LIPU is considering many projects to improve conditions on the reserve, all of which take into account local factors. Soon a project to increase the size of the reserve will begin. During this summer a process of identification and recording will begin. In a few months this will provide a detailed picture of the environmental conditions on the reserve. This will give the Environment Ministry the opportunity to put in place a long awaited plan to reclaim the area.

However, in the last few months a paradoxical and unexpected situation has arisen. The regional government of Sicily has, through the Department for the Environment, suggested changing the managing body. Only a few weeks before, the Regional Council for the Protection of the Natural Environment had considered that we at LIPU were worthy to carry out the work in the light of the transformation of the area and our successes in wildlife conservation. Despite everything LIPU continues to manage the site. We recognise that the reserve cannot solve all the environmental problems caused by the industrialisation of the Syracuse region. However our presence does represent a positive hope for rebirth even in places that seemed to be lost for ever.

An invitation to visit

The reserve can be visited all year and has bird hides and a reception.

Riserva Saline di Priolo: tel: 0931/735026; e: riserva.salinepriolo@lipu.it

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PROJECTS

A house for the Lesser Kestrel

by Marco Gustin, Species and Research

A practical programme for the conservation of the Lesser Kestrel in Puglia and Basilicata: making the townspeople aware of them is absolutely essential

The “House for the Lesser Kestrel” project has been for LIPU its most important conservation initiative for a globally threatened species of the last 10 years. The great changes in the world of agriculture and the developments in the techniques for the restoration of historic buildings have brought with them a considerable impact on the breeding colonies of Lesser Kestrels, Falco naumanni, which in many cases have suffered the loss of entire broods. The Lesser Kestrel is present in Puglia and Basilicata with some 1.8% of the Italian population and it is in these areas that conservation and environmental education programmes have been introduced. In particular, 200 nest boxes have been installed and monitored in Gravina in Puglia, Altamura, Acquaviva delle Fonti, Cassano delle Murge and Laterza. Overall, 16 nest boxes have been occupied (8% of the total) while 39 have been visited. The occupancy rate in the first year is never high and it is often necessary to wait a year or two for the artificial nests to be accepted fully by the birds. Moreover, several studies have suggested that the tendency to occupy new sites, including artificial nests, may be highly dependent on the success of the breeding season. In those years when a low rate of starts and eventual breeding success is recorded, because of inclement weather or lack of food, artificial nest sites are also used less. To sum up, nest boxes are a useful conservation tool to be used successfully in those situations where a rapid intervention is necessary. What is more, a campaign has started to collect information on how people in Gravina in Puglia and in Altamura perceive the Lesser Kestrel using sample interviewing techniques. The results have shown that the Lesser Kestrel is largely unknown: it seems that the greater part of the local populace is unaware that the bird of prey lives in their city, though as a matter of fact they said that they would be pleased to see it. In consequence, the greater part of the destruction of nests probably happens through ignorance and not through deliberate action. This information has changed the starting point and the direction of the educational project. In the school information pack, as well as in that aimed at the adult public, considerable emphasis has been placed on the bird itself, on its intrinsic interest and on the details of the nest as well so as to promote recognition. The environmental education campaign has included a series of teaching activities for schools: lessons in class and in the field, a competition for the creation of the best campaign to promote the species, a travelling exhibition and the publication of two booklets.

The Nando Peretti Foundation backs the Lesser Kestrel

An essential grant in support of the “House for the Lesser Kestrel” has come from the Nando Peretti Foundation. Choosing to help this LIPU project was motivated by the realisation that it is necessary to give a clear signal in the battle to save this little bird of prey, the emblem of the Murge, from extinction. The Nando Peretti Foundation contributes to and collaborates with many LIPU projects concerned with the protection of animal species at risk of extinction in Italy or the world. For further information: www.nandoperettifound.org

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PINK AND BLUE RIBBONS FOR THE WHITE STORK

By Roberto Santopaolo, Rende delegate

Started in 2003, in collaboration with Enel (the National Electricity Board), the LIPU project has made electricity pylons safe for nesting, encouraging ever more pairs to choose Calabria as a place to raise their young.

It was in 2003 that a pair of White Storks (at that time the only pair in the province of Calabria) decided to nest at the same site - an electricity pylon - as the previous year. It was this fact that encouraged the Rende branch of LIPU to set up the “White Stork” project in association with Enel.

The project consists of various actions, all aimed at encouraging the nesting of this species in Calabria, and falls within the Plan of Action for the Conservation of the White Stork that has been developed in Italy by LIPU. Furthermore, the project is part of the national “Welcome back the Stork” programme run by Enel whereby they hope to protect all migratory species that have a natural inclination to nest on pylons. Looking back over the history of the project, we can see just how effective these operations have been in encouraging these magnificent birds to nest. Already in the winter of 2003 the Rende branch of LIPU had installed four artificial platforms in the Valle del Crati, two of which were on Enel pylons, while the other two were on metal poles that had been erected in the immediate vicinity of the Luzzi nesting site. The collaboration with Enel also meant that the electric cables could be insulated on all four pylons where the pairs were nesting. In addition to these measures, in the same year LIPU volunteers began an intensive surveillance and study programme at the nesting sites, as well as monitoring the area for possible new nesting sites. Running in parallel with these activities, there has also been a campaign to raise awareness in school children and students, while many farmers in the surrounding areas have also been alerted to the presence of these nesting sites. In 2005 LIPU volunteers in Calabria spotted another two nests, both once again on Enel pylons: one in the plain of Sibari (Loc. Stombi (CS)), the other in the Strangoli area (KR, Valle del Neto). Once again the electric cables were insulated, while at Sibari another artificial platform was installed on a pylon adjacent to that with the nest. In June 2006 with the collaboration of the Department of Ecology at the University of Calabria and the INFS the first four young storks that had hatched at the Sibari site were ringed. In 2007 another pair of storks established themselves in the plain of Sibari, nesting on an electricity pylon at Trezzarie, around 5km from the first site. The old nest at Stombi was no longer occupied, whereas the artificial platform that had been constructed on the adjacent pylon in 2005 now was. Thanks to this structure, the number of nesting pairs has increased in Calabria to 4 in 2007 and, encouraged by this success, it has been decided, in agreement with Enel, to give a decisive thrust to the “White Stork” project by significantly increasing the number of platforms. In the early months of 2008, no fewer than 18 new wooden platforms were erected in areas that are considered to be ideal nesting sites for this species. Once the pylons to support the platforms had been selected -11 in the Sibari area, 5 in the middle of the Valle del Crati, and 2 in the Valle del Neto (KR) - the building of the platforms proceeded, and the electric cables then insulated to prevent electrocution. This project involved a huge amount of work for the Rende branch of LIPU - the construction of the platforms, the contacts with Enel, the various authorisations, surveys, etc. – but also from Enel, which devoted human resources, workdays, and lost income due to the inevitable power cuts. These sacrifices and triumphs won the attention of the local and national media. Right from the beginning, the project has been the subject for coverage on TV Calabria and on “Planet File” of Rai3, while it has also received various mentions on local radio networks and has had numerous press releases published in local newspapers. The media interest is understandable: it was the first time that such action on behalf of the white stork had been seen in Calabria (or anywhere in the south of Italy for that matter), while the breeding success of the species also depends on the help that LIPU will be able to provide.

Where the White Stork is nesting

The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is considered to be of SPEC 2 status, meaning it is a species that needs conservation measures. In order to check on its status, every ten years a census of the nesting population is conducted throughout Europe. The last was carried out in 2004 (6th international census) throughout 39 European countries, one of which was Italy. Over the last three years, LIPU has continued to monitor the Italian population, particularly in the South, analysing the total number and the average number of fledglings per nest, and the number of nesting pairs in the region. The trend of the nesting population in Italy shows a decline in the north of Italy compared to the nesting population in the south, in particular to that in Sicily which at present is one of the most important regions in Italy from the point of view of nesting pairs.

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BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL

The New Red List of the birds of the World

Updated every four years, the Red List of the International Union for Nature Conservation represents an analysis at world level of existing ornithological species and their conservation status. A few days ago the latest revision was published, and the facts presented give pause for thought. First of all climate change, a negative factor now recognised by many scientists as likely to increase the number of species at risk of world extinction. Long periods of drought and catastrophic meteorological events which unleash themselves unexpectedly with devastating violence, observed ever more frequently in recent years, represent a factor of great stress for the habitats on which many threatened species depend. This adverse climate, with ever more man-made destruction, have brought about increasing possibility of extinction of bird species in all Continents. The Red List 2008 brings an update on the situation of the 1226 bird species at present threatened throughout the world. Eight species in particular have been added to the Critically Endangered list, and of the 26 species which have changed category on account of diminished population, 24 have done so on reaching a category of greater risk. It is a case, moreover, of widespread European species, such as the Curlew (Numenius arquata) and the Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata), both classified in the last edition of the Red List as Least Concern, and now become Near Threatened at global level.

But there are many such examples. In Australia the population of Mallee Emu Wren (Stipiturus mallee) is undergoing a rapid decline, and the habitat of this species is now so fragmented that even a single fire can have catastrophic consequences for the species, with the last significant population of 100 birds confined to 100 sq. km. in the south of the country. There are many examples: In the Galapagos Islands, the Charles Mockingbird (Nesomimus trifasciatus) is classified Critically Endangered and is now confined to two islets far from Floreana. Its population is drastically diminished from an estimated maximum of 150 individuals in 1966 to less than 60 today. In Papua New Guinea, deforestation caused by growing demand for palm oil has brought some species, such as the New Britain Goshawk (Accipiter princeps) to rise to a more threatened category.

Nevertheless, the Red List does not bring only bad news. In fact, the situation of two species has improved: The Imperial Pigeon of the Marquesas (Ducula galeata) and Owen’s Kiwi (Apteryx owenii), both the subject of conservation projects. “This shows not only that conservation measures work”, says Stuart Butchart, Co-ordinator of Bird Life International, “but that they are vital if we want to prevent the extinction of these and other species.” Butchart adds, “Birds are doubly affected by loss of habitat and climate change. When the population begins to fragment, the effect of climate can have greater consequences, bringing increased risk and local extinction. Other significant examples of species threatened by atmospheric events are the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhinchus pygmeus) , passed from “threatened” to “gravely threatened” because of sudden acceleration of the decline of population: the main causes are loss of habitat and the degradation of the pools at low tide upon which it depends during migration. We can speculate that 57% of the reproductive habitat of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper will disappear by 2070. “This latest revision of the Red List” comments Jane Smart, administrator of the programme Species of the IUCN, “shows how birds are under enormous pressure from climate change. The Red List exists fundamentally for governments to take seriously the information contained in it, to do their best to protect the world’s avifauna.” To counteract the constant threat of extinction of so many species, Bird Life International has launched a programme of prevention of extinction, the greatest related to avifauna that the world has ever known. It comprises action on all the 190 Critically Endangered species of the Red List 2008, so that international organisations and ornithological experts may take the necessary measures to prevent disappearance.

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PETITION

We need 30,000 more signatures to save 2,434,000 birds!

Killed for fun!

There are only few days left to sign the petition “Killed for fun”, against the hunting, permitted by local derogation or by-law, of small protected birds. So far 70,000 signatures have been collected but 30,000 are still needed to stop hunting of Chaffinches, Bramblings, sparrows, and other birds that a by-law allows to be hunted. There are over 2,500,000 birds killed each year for fun. You can sign the petition on-line at http://www.lipu.it/tu_petizione_caccia-online.htm

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MAINARDI'S CORNER

Danilo Mainardi, Honorary President

The cunning petroica

Some species of birds are known for hiding their food, returning to find it later. The Petroica australis goes one step further in protecting its buried hoards.

Species that hide their food rely on an ability to remember “reference points”, such as stones, fallen trunks or other natural features, near to where their food is hidden. But there can be more to this behaviour than simply hiding food and finding it again. Take the Petroica australis or New Zealand Robin, a small, insectivorous passerine which is as well-known in New Zealand for its habit of burying edible “treasure” as jays and nutcrackers are in Europe. In the case of the Petroica, these hoards consist of small (or not-so-small) quantities of dead insects. Helped by a fearless attitude to humans on the part of these little birds, researchers have carried out field experiments both on pairs and on individuals, supplying a large quantity of larvae of Tenebrio molitor , the same type of coleopteran larvae used as bait by fishermen. Researchers found that males, which are far more aggressive than females, created a small number of large caches located near to each other, and then stayed put to guard them from possible thieves. The shyer females bet everything on spreading their hoards around, a strategy which makes them more difficult to find. But this is not all! When two individuals work alongside each other, they hide a smaller number of larvae than they would when working alone, even when working alongside their own mate. It is as if they follow the human principle: “it is good to trust; but not to trust is better”.

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NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

A word about your Ali

Carol Debney

Whenever the Ali drops through your letterbox, it brings the latest news, reports and information about events affecting birds and conservation in Italy. From time to time, if David Lingard or any of the other trustees has a personal experience to recount – or wants to make a relevant point about matters Italian – their contribution is included.

However, the Ali is a members magazine and we would like to hear from members of LIPU-UK. So if you have a tale to tell about birdwatching in Italy or a visit you have made or if you have a topic you would like to raise, please let us know. We have some new ideas to keep the Ali fresh and from the September issue we would like to include a members’ letters page – a forum for your ideas and opinions. So if you would like to contribute please write to David Lingard, he’s waiting for your letters or emails.

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Readers’ Letters

A visit to Italy almost always combines huge pleasure with a sprinkling of frustration. This most often means the museum, gallery, palazzo or church, I particularly wish to visit, is under renovation, completely covered in scaffolding or closed until further notice. But there are compensations. A few years ago while staying in Umbria, I trekked off to a remote village to see a church which according to the guide book was well-worth a visit. It was closed. Securely locked, barred and bolted.

But it was in a delightful setting, quiet and peaceful, surrounded by trees and bushes and huge terracotta pots filled with flowers. Suddenly a Hoopoe appeared from behind a pot, prodding the ground with its curved bill for insects. I’ve never had such a close encounter with this lovely bird. When it saw us it took off, for all the world like a huge butterfly and slowly flapped into the woods. Frustration over...

Carol Debney

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OUR FINANCIAL RESERVES POLICY

Having funds in reserve is a necessary part of life for us all, but it has special meaning for a charity and the Charity Commission expects all charities to have a policy on reserves and to review that policy regularly.

Donors give money to a charity to support its aims and purposes. These are many and varied and the use of the funds donated can range from supporting high ongoing expenditure to pay salaries, to accumulating funds for supporting specific projects or to operating as grant making bodies. As a result, some charities live from hand to mouth, whilst others build up funds at the Bank. e.g. grant making bodies will, typically, have a capital sum invested and spend the income from those investments on their charitable purposes.

LIPU-UK does not pay salaries and operates entirely on the basis of voluntary support. There are, however, ongoing administration costs and we have a Business Reserve of £2,000 to cater for any unexpected event needing immediate liquidity; in the ten years that I have been your delegate to LIPU we have not needed to use this reserve.

In addition to this reserve we have a Designated Fund, the Oasi Fund, into which we save all funds which are raised over the annual commitments to projects in Italy. Members’ generosity has meant that, for the last few years, we have comfortably exceeded our commitments and the fund has grown steadily. In addition, legacies, which cannot be anticipated have boosted the fund further, and its present healthy state has meant that we have been able to respond to requests from LIPU for further project funding in the coming year and have already sent €80,000 to fund 6 projects - more than ever before.

The Oasi Fund is held with the aim, ideally, of buying land in Italy, to be owned by LIPU, not us, for use as a nature reserve. To be adopted the site must fulfil two criteria: (1) It must make a clear conservation difference and (2) It must not incur unaffordable long-term running costs. In the past three years, a few candidates have been proposed but only one met both the above criteria; unfortunately the area in question is in Sicily and after much research it was felt that the risk factors were too high; sadly, we have turned away from this area.

We are still looking for a suitable candidate reserve which meets our criteria. Our responsibility as Trustees of the funds donated brings with it the need to act prudently and as we will be spending a lot of your money, we want it to be committed to a really worthwhile project. Meanwhile the fund continues to grow thanks to your generosity and to a substantial legacy in the year just closed, The Oasi Fund is now in the region of £280,000. We have always taken a very cautious approach to this fund, it is not invested in the stock market, it is held on deposit in a high interest account with a major British Bank and in the year just closed (our business year ends on 30 June) it earned over £16,000 in interest.

All of these facts will be covered in our Annual Report but I felt that a more detailed explanation of the reasons for holding funds in the way we do would be of interest to all who, when all is said and done, are those who have so generously provided the funds - please don’t stop!

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TAIL FEATHERS

Thanks to all those who have helped to reduce costs by receiving the Ali on line and those who have changed their method of membership renewal to a Bankers’ Order, these simple steps really do help reduce costs.

The Ali is changing and I welcome your comments; this issue is the first to use recycled paper which is, at last, a similar price to that of the paper we have always used. The old paper was made from sustainable eucalyptus forests but I am sure you will agree that this is one step “greener”.

For the September issue of the Ali we will welcome Carol Debney to the editorial and translation team and I am sure we will benefit from her experience as Deputy Editor of Birdwatching magazine from which she recently retired. Welcome, Carol.

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Many thanks to all the translators of this issue:

Cicely Adelson

Barbara Avery

Joanna Bazen

Daria Dadam

Barry Jones

Caterina Paone

John Walder

The line drawings in this issue are used by kind permission of the RSPB. Photographs are by courtesy of those credited, the remainder are by David Lingard.

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