Ali - March 2007

Editorial March 2007

Progress and projects

It’s the time of the year for looking up and looking ahead, we heard our first Chiffchaff the other day and the flood of Summer migrants can’t be far away now, so it must be time for the Spring newsletter. Much has happened to the Ali since our last appeal issue and I hope you agree that the new format is better and more exciting.

Can the same be said about the situation for the birds? Yes, I think it can, in some areas, and I could choose just three of many to justify that.

In this issue you can read of the recovery of the wetlands, in Caserta province, which used to be the domain of organised crime and hunters who shot without discrimination. It has been taken back for the benefit of the people and is now managed as a bird reserve.

Latest news is that the region of Sardinia has now designated all of its Important Bird Areas (IBA) as Special Protection Areas which confers, for the first time, some measures of protection on these areas. Thanks to LIPU’s work Italy has 172 IBA, covering 16.6% of the country, the United Kingdom has 287 which cover 12.4%, so Italy can be seen to be taking this seriously and all the ground work was done by LIPU.

A measure of LIPU’s standing can be seen when we remember the recent decree by the Environment Minister which should have done much for the birds but failed in the parliament. The ministry has prepared a replacement, in close consultation with LIPU, and the draft has, so far, met with approval from all the parties concerned.

So much for looking back, what are we going to do in the year ahead? The answer is not simply “business as usual” because at a very late stage in our planning we’ve been able to offer extra help to our friends in Parma. Our appeal this year is the first to be launched in March in the hope that the effects of tax bills and the expenses of Christmas are well behind us and that it will be easier to support the projects for 2007.

In the last few weeks our very good friends in AISPA (The Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals) have asked if, together, we can do more this year and so we have offered to support a third major project this year. The details are spelled out later but our colleagues are delighted that the survey of raptors migrating through Sicily will be repeated for the fourth year thus adding valuable data to that already gained through the support of AISPA.

In previous years members of LIPU-UK have responded to our one and only appeal in the year with amazing generosity and I hope it will be the same this year. We have five very sound and important projects to support, we have kept costs to a minimum so I expect that about 90% of what you give will directly improve the lot of birds in Italy - please give generously. Thank you.


by Giuliano Tallone


Climate changes and pollution. These are problems that can no longer be overlooked. Luckily there is also good news, such as the European Union halting the traffic of wild birds, one of the main causes of extinction of species involved.

Recently, global phenomena that are visible in our day to day life have become hot conversation topics: climate change, Kyoto Protocol, emissions quotas, pollution, sustainability and so on… LIPU and BirdLife International always plan their objectives very carefully, and they keep a long-term vision of their aims, so that their scarce resources are best used to protect our feathered friends and their environment. The link between bird conservation and global phenomena is becoming increasingly apparent.

In this issue it is discussed how monitoring and scientific research are important to understand these processes, and how volunteers play a vital role in this. From the news point of view, we can highlight some important successes: first of all, the European Commission decided to stop completely the trafficking of wild birds captured from other countries. This means the downfall of a large trade that involved millions of birds, and used to cause a huge pressure on many species, like parrots. Ten years ago, BirdLife and LIPU tried to achieve a similar result with the campaign “Ban the Bird Trade”, but the economic interests had prevailed. Today, also thanks to the fear linked to the management of bird flu, the European Veterinary Commission has reached this important decision.

Another important success comes from Italy, in the region of Campania: the transformation of reservoirs from poaching grounds to Nature Reserves. Finally, the important role of nature reserves is discussed in various aspects. Thank you to you, LIPU member, for your continuing support!

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By Claudio Celada, LIPU’s Director of Nature conservation

Going bird watching for the love of it and for pure enjoyment is the first step towards the protection of the birds we love and a contribution we make, together with experts and researchers, to our better knowledge of them and to a respect for Nature

“To strengthen, mobilise and expand a world constituency of people who have at heart the fate of birds and their environment”. This is one of the strategic objectives that Birdlife International has set itself in order to guarantee the conservation of birds around the world. The task, then, for LIPU and all the other global partners of Birdlife International is to find the most effective ways to set alight the spark of interest in birds and to keep it burning. There is no magic recipe, but there is no doubt that real experiences in the field are fundamental:

These are all occasions not to be missed if you are to become involved in a world which can bring you moments of real joy and then become a passion. And this is what LIPU is about. So far, then, it’s all ‘heart’ and enthusiasm. But there is also from the conservation point of view, so-to-speak, a utilitarian dimension which not all birdwatchers realise and which many experts are equally unaware of. The fact is that nature conservation cannot take place without observation in the field. The more these observations are organised, explicit, and structured the better. In this, the role of the volunteer has no substitute. Here are two examples.

Monitoring the IBAs and Nature Network 2000.

In no member state of the European Union would it have been possible to define the IBA (Important Bird Areas) without the contribution of the many volunteers who have provided data on the distribution and abundance of rare species, on colonial species and information about the passage of birds on migration. Well, the information collected has now borne fruit as the European Commission has legislated for the protection of the IBAs as Zones for Special Protection. It is no exaggeration to state that, without the contribution of volunteers, Nature Network 2000 as we know it would not exist.

Birds show us that things are going wrong.

You don’t have to be an expert birdwatcher to be aware of the crisis which many of our farmland species face. What now has to be done is to “translate” impressions and hunches into exact methodologies of collecting data, which will allow us to produce numerical estimates covering the extent of the crisis as it unfolds. In fact, the anxiety already expressed by LIPU about the decline of sparrows in rural areas is now about to be put forward in a more “quantitative” way through the questionnaires sent out to members and through thorough surveys in the field. At the same time, the European commission has selected from among the indicators of sustainability the so-called Farmland Bird Index (FBI). This indicator takes into consideration the relative abundance of birds in farmland areas as a measure of our quality of life. It will be a specific obligation of the member states of the European Union to monitor the state of bird conservation in rural areas. What is more, if important organisations such as the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) in the United Kingdom or SOVON in the Netherlands can count on tens of thousands of volunteers, there must be a good reason.

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By Fulvio Mamone Capria

From criminality hot spot to Nature Reserve. This way LIPU has won the battle to re-establish legality in wetland areas along the Campania coasts.

LIPU has won the battle to safeguard the reservoirs of the Soglitelle of Villa Literno, in the Caserta Provence: they have been included in the “Foce Volturno” Nature Reserve. Here is an account of how this battle was won. Along the coast there are hundreds of lagoons and reservoirs created on territory belonging to the Italian State. On the reservoirs hunting was allowed 365 days a year, with people shooting herons, birds of prey, and Stilts, using stolen shotguns or guns with the serial number ground away, and using illegal taped songs to lure the birds. The change occurred in 2001 with the operation Volo libero (“Free to Fly”), which aimed at claiming those areas back for the local people, and at turning bunkers into hides to observe birds. This utopia brought together an officer from the carabinieri and a handful of volunteers from LIPU. The carabinieri officer was Sgr Ultimo, who had become famous for his successful fights against mafia. LIPU volunteers had one main goal: to break down the enormous power and network of the poachers. The plan was to move from the “simple” task of arrest to a complete eradication of the activity. Ultimo’s men, including the warrant officer Diego Evangelista, together with the LIPU volunteers, disguised themselves as poachers, and joined hunting and shooting clubs to gather information, taking photos, and videos. From a simple police operation, the project became a battle for legality, as Sgr Ultimo said “ My aim has not, and never will be, to conduct a police operation in itself. My aim is to give people back what criminals have stolen: their rights. The right to life, to honest work, to clean water, to clean air, to ground that is not poisoned, and to biodiversity”.

The project focused on the lagoons of the Soglitelle, where the lakes are plentiful and shallow, a wide wetland area. LIPU conducted a campaign and collected 7,000 signatures on a petition to safeguard the reservoirs. However, results were not immediate. Finally, on 23 January 2003 Sgr Ultimo was charged with the seizing of the reservoirs in the name of the Minister for the Environment. The latter is now in charge of purchasing the reservoirs and helping the managerial body to protect and manage the area. Since the moment the reservoirs were seized, LIPU has been active in involving more and more people. Finally, the government body for the Campania region, decreed that the area was to become a Regional Nature Reserve, Zone of Special Protection (SPA), and Wetland area. This excellent result was possible thanks to the help of many governmental and local authorities.

Now the second phase, where the Government has to manage the territory has begun; drainage, creation of natural paths, surveillance, maintenance, high quality agricultural practice, and scientific research, and youth occupation are all on the agenda. The best way to wipe out the culture of violence is to give hope in the future. This project would have pleased Giovanni Falcone (a magistrate famous for his fights against mafia – murdered by the mafia in 1992 he has become one of the symbols of justice), unforgettable friend and guide of Sgr Ultimo, who strongly believed in the need to educate young people to legality. We hope to succeed.

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By Lorenzo Borghi , national adviser LIPU.

Advantages and problems associated with providing natural access to Reserves and Sanctuaries.

The environment is an investment to be conserved and cherished. One of the goals for which LIPU has worked for years is to bring nature to a wider variety of people. Some people with physical limitations tip toe into the world of nature questioning whether they have lost their ability to enjoy its wonders. Our experience is that making nature available to all is a worthwhile investment. Up to now the recognition of this ideal has been spasmodic and only occasional in Italy and in Europe. In 1998, at Ferrara, LIPU organized an international meeting to promote and encourage “simple and natural access” to nature’s environment. It was a first but important step forward.

New perceptions.

At the Ferrara LIPU quarters, we have learned from people with impaired vision. Nature’s world can awaken those senses that we use perhaps badly or only seldom, such as hearing, smell and touch. Therefore, when we come to places rich in sound along the nature trail, we suggest a stop of three to five minutes, in silence, with eyes closed, to appreciate the senses of hearing and smell.

Providing an accessible trail.

Attention should be paid to the materials used when constructing the pathways. Natural materials such as wood and straw are good for pathways, especially when they cross animal tracks and areas with growing plants. Also, we must bear in mind that making the pathways too easy could reduce the sense of adventure that people experience when getting away from their routine life

The experiences of LIPU Ferrara.

Flooded islands and beaches are not readily accessible places. The Ferrara section of LIPU has provided a facility for the Isola Bianca reserve. In 1997 LIPU launched a boat, for the nature reserve, that had been acquired from funds provided by local businesses. The vessel is unusual in that it can take, very easily and safely, a disabled person in a wheel chair. The Isola Bianca has become the scene of even more experiments; on the island some of the paths have been constructed to take wheel chairs, without damaging the surrounding micro-habitat. The board walks are generally in wood with metal netting. For those who have impaired vision, a guide has been produced in Braille. Even the Fauna Instruction Centre has been made wheelchair accessible. In this site, the path has been equipped with a hand rail, and every change in direction is signaled by three incisions in the wood. Here, the footpath has a ribbed base that allows blind people to walk safely utilizing their stick. The observation points for birds have special hides, shaped to allow wheel chairs to enter and face the views.

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Andrea Mazza, LIPU Press Officer

The importation of wild birds into Europe, one of the main causes of extinction and ill-treatment, has been definitively halted.

Good, no, excellent news: the EU has forbidden completely the importing of wild birds which every year are captured in the wild for sale in Europe as “pets” or companion animals. The decision, taken at the start of the year by the EU Committee that gathers together the heads of the veterinary services of the member states, has been warmly welcomed by LIPU and its fellow associations in BirdLife International. At least two million birds a year will now be spared from “bird traffic”, a phenomenon responsible for the decline of numerous species, among which the African Grey Parrot. According to the data from CITES, the Washington Convention on the trade in endangered species, at least 360,000 African Greys, coming mainly from the Cameroon and the Congo Democratic Republic, were legally traded between 1994 and 2003. As well as the African Grey, the trade hits other species hard, such as the Senegal Parrot, the Scarlet Macaw and the Choco Toucan. It is thought that overall some 3000 out of the world’s 9600 bird species have been victim of commerce in recent years. The losses suffered by these creatures during the long transportation after capture are grave, indeed 60% of the captive birds die before they reach

their destination, after being shipped under terrible conditions. It is as well then, that the EU has confirmed the temporary provision made in October 2005 after the discovery of cases of avian influenza. Credit is also due to the RSPB, which convinced Tony Blair to request that Europe made the ban permanent in December 2006.

The excessive and unsustainable trade in wild birds has been a critical factor in the extinction of at least 52 of the 133 species lost in the last 500 years. More recently, a good 62 of 179 species classed as Critically Endangered have been disappearing as a result of bird trafficking, which in addition has been identified as a component in the risk to 10%, or 200 of 2000 species now classified as Near-Threatened. The provision made by the EU will be hugely significant in global terms for the protection of the species involved. It is thought that Europe to date has been responsible for 90% of the birds that have fallen victim to international commerce, to the tune of one to two million.

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Andrea Mazza,

A complete study of the nesting birds and birds of prey in the area of the Bellunesi Dolomites National Park will be developed by LIPU in the next two years.

The Golden Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon, the Black Woodpecker and the fabled Corncrake ; soon the numerous and important species of birds nesting in the National Park of the Bellunesi Dolomites will be studied in depth for two years, thanks to an agreement that the Director of the Park, Nino Martino, has drawn up with LIPU. The aim is to create a breeding atlas of birds, and a complete study of the most important diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey, as well as the woodpeckers nesting in the Park and in the IBA – Special Protection Zone of the Bellunesi Dolomites. The LIPU researchers will also carry out a census of the Corncrake, whether within the protected area or in the adjacent area to the IBA – SPZ, where there are between 10 and 20 pairs of this species. The BDNP boasts the presence of 141 species of wild birds, 115 of which are breeding there. Among them are the Golden Eagle, with 8 pairs (6 in 2003), the Honey Buzzard, the Black Kite, the Goshawk, the Sparrowhawk, the Buzzard, the Kestrel and the Peregrine Falcon. Among the night-raptors are found the Eagle Owl, the Little Owl, the Long-Eared Owl, the Tawny Owl ,and Tengmalm’s Owl. There are also numerous species of Picidae; besides the Grey-Headed Woodpecker, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Black Woodpecker, and the Wryneck can be admired. LIPU’s study will also be made possible by the co-financing of the Cariverona Foundation. “This affirms a growing interest towards Nature in the banking community”, declares Elena D’Andrea, the Director General of LIPU.

The Corncrake: a World-wide Endangered Species

There are only 550 pairs of Corncrake left in Italy, concentrated in the Veneto region, a few dozen in the BDNP, in Friuli Venezia Giulia and in Trentino Alto-Adige. Endangered and near-extinct at the global level, the Corncrake has suffered a numerical fall of 50% worldwide in the last 20 years. The reasons? Abandonment of traditional agricultural practices in mountain areas (and consequent reforestation), and urbanisation and intensification of agriculture in lowlands. Another important factor affecting the decline has been the practice of grass-cuttng at the wrong time of the year, that is, at nesting time, causing destruction of eggs and killing chicks and adult birds.

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By Giuliano Tallone LIPU President

Protected areas as an important tool in bird protection.

For many years LIPU and Bird Life International have focused on identifying and preserving areas of importance for birds at a national and international level. In this sense BirdLife discovered ‘globalisation’ before it became a fashionable topic of discussion.

The unforgettable Colin Bibby, who was responsible for much of the scientific work of the RSPB and then of BirdLife, published the first global inventory of the areas of greatest importance for birds in the early 90s, the Endemic Bird Areas [EBA].

In the following decades came lists of IBAs [Important Bird Areas] from Africa to Asia. In Europe the main tool for conserving the IBAs became the Wild Bird Directive of 1979, followed by the Natura Network 2000, which, in turn, came from the Habitat Directive. This choice was made because of the lack of any reference to reserves in European laws or regulations, even though there are protected areas in the vast majority, if not all, of the Countries of the Union.

In 1992 the European parliament chose not to consider the existing network of reserves, which were very heterogeneous in the different Countries in terms of purpose, management, and regulation. Instead, it produced a plan for independent Special Protection Areas [for birds] and Special Areas for Conservation, based on number of species and habitat. The Special Areas for Conservation are for the moment known as Sites of Community Importance. Between them they do not make proper reference to methods of conservation management in individual countries. The Natura 2000 therefore became a system which matched national schemes, at times completely but at others only in part, or even not at all.

In Italy the two systems survive alongside one another for the best part but not all the time. In absolute terms the management of protected areas is the most important instrument to guarantee the survival of threatened species. They represent the core areas, with the specialist staff and equipment, and the management and financial structures to carry forward the work of conservation. Their role is fundamental even for the development of the SPAs and SACs outside the reserves . Natura 2000 sites should not be the only measure of the effectiveness of conservation work, however useful the general regulations and instruments such as the Rural Development Plans might be. The implementation of these plans needs to be at a local level where there is the required expertise, knowledge and, indeed, vision to achieve the conservation objectives. This is valid both for the areas on land where there is already a well developed system of reserves but also for the marine environment where much remains to be done.

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BirdLife fights to save the last colony of Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) in the Middle East, thanks to the discovery by an Italian scientist who grew up within LIPU.

It happened suddenly in a remote corner of the Syrian desert, not far away from the historic city of Palmyra. Gianluca Serra, introduced to birdwatching in the late 80s when a youngster at a LIPU course in the Massaciuccoli Oasis, and subsequently a researcher at the Institute for Wildlife, had decided to experience an international project with FAO, founded by the Italian Cooperation. The aim of the project was to create and highlight the importance of Syrian protected areas. While talking to nomads and local hunters, he had often heard them mentioning the “big dark bird”. After endless days of searching in the desert, one morning during Spring 2002 he spotted something unbelievable: the eastern population of the Bald Ibis was not extinct. The excitement was, however, soon overridden by worries. The colony was extremely small: only three breeding pairs, plus a sub adult. The vulnerability of such a small colony became apparent when in 2004 an individual did not come back from migration, and another one was killed by a poacher. In Spring 2004, therefore, there were only two breeding pairs. With the end of the FAO project, it was down to BirdLife, proud of the successful conservation programme of the western Ibis population in Morocco, to take control of the Ibis project. It took BirdLife more than a year to gain permission from the Syrian Government, and in 2005, without any previous protection and surveillance, the Syrian Ibis colony did not fledge a single nestling. Fortunately, the following year an agreement was reached with the local government to allow field work, and results were quickly achieved. The two breeding pairs produced six fledglings, the highest number ever recorded. In Summer, thirteen Bald Ibis, the largest group of these birds seen in decades in the Middle East skies, started their migration journey southwards. Three individuals were fitted with a radio transmitter. After descending from the western part of the Arabian peninsula and crossing the Yemen, the birds finally crossed the strait that separates Arabia from Africa. After flying almost 3,000 Km, they settled in Ethiopia to winter, luckily choosing a quiet area with minimum hunting pressure. Thanks to Gianluca, the Syrian team, BirdLife, and the support of the local authorities, the Bald Ibis has become very popular in the country. This is now tangible in the several conservation action plans. BirdLife and the Syrian Agricultural Minister are signing a long-term agreement to fund continuous surveillance of the colony during breeding season, on their winter grounds, and a project to look for more colonies in Syria and in other Middle East Countries and Africa. Despite its non-conventionally beautiful appearance, the Bald Ibis has always been subject of admiration in the Arab Countries, as it was seen as the guide of pilgrims to Mecca. Today, it is the symbol of an emerging movement of Syrian conservationists, and a source of ornithological and environmental pride for the country and region. Like the phoenix, the Bald Ibis has managed to be reborn from its ashes…and we will do all we can to make sure it keeps flying in the Arabian skies.

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by Elena D’Andrea General Director of LIPU

Birds and nature for the well-being of people and their quality of life: this is what LIPU intends to conserve.

We are proceeding with the presentation of the Strategic Document “LIPU 2006 – 2010: five fundamental years for the conservation of biodiversity”. We have already indicated that the LIPU Mission is to safeguard birds and biodiversity, a difficult task because of the profound and fast-moving environmental crisis we are experiencing, but a fundamental step to halt the loss of biodiversity.

The first section of the strategy: “Conservation of nature and environmental politics” analyses in detail what LIPU can and must do to prevent the extinction of bird species and to improve the level of conservation and defend the habitat necessary for life.

To reach this goal we have set ourselves some specific aims: -

The value of members

LIPU has many roles in conservation actions: lobbying, awareness raising, education, bringing legal charges, working with volunteers in the LIPU Oases and the Rehabilitation Centres. The help and support of you all as members is fundamental.

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by Danilo Mainardi LIPU Honorary President

Pigeons, it has been discovered, can recognise a thousand different human faces. This news intrigued me, so I went to read the original article. It is, I would say, a typical piece of psychological research. A device projects photographic images for birds to recognise; every time a bird touches the correct image with its beak, it is rewarded (with a seed of grain). To me, the conclusion is not in the least surprising. True, the ability to remember so many images is not a trivial thing, however pigeons are highly social creatures and how could they possibly lead their lives if they didn’t have such a good memory? Pigeons have a complex social structure. When they are wild, they nest in caves, and go foraging in places where they either hope, or know, that they can find grain. If you watch them flying in formation, you may instinctively compare the group behaviour with a shoal of fish, particularly one menaced by predators. When feeding on the ground, especially if the food is spread in only a small area, there is a clear pecking order, which becomes even more obvious if we put some grain in a container. In short, pigeons recognise each other individually, and memorise even individual social statuses. The authors of this article make an additional comment: they suggest that their data may contribute to our understanding of the evolution of both cognitive skills and intelligence. This may be true; however this makes me realise that once again, we can’t help taking ourselves as the yardstick against which we measure everything else. And in this case it may even be true, because both pigeons and men are social beings. However, and more importantly, there are other animals, almost completely asocial, with minds just as intelligent. We can safely assume that their needs are rather different, and as a consequence they develop rather different skills. Take the lynx, for example, that lives an almost completely solitary life. To conclude, we not only tend to underestimate animals (otherwise this discovery would not have been news), but we also struggle to recognise the existence of minds, which are rather different from our own.

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I am grateful for this article from trustee, Carol Debney, who leads tours to her favourite area in Italy.


Carol Debney

For many birdwatchers planning a holiday, Italy is not the first destination to spring to mind – which is a pity because Italy is a great place to see birds.

As LIPU-UK members we are aware of the problems of bird conservation but it’s not all gloom and doom, Italy has plenty of protected areas and nature reserves where brilliant birding can be enjoyed.

It was in Italy that I saw my first Hoopoe, Little Egret and Bee-eaters and these occasions were family holidays when birding, as a planned activity, was not on the agenda.

Since then I’ve made many visits specifically to see the birds of the Po Delta Park. This area of north-eastern Italy lies between the historic cities of Venice and Ravenna.

It consists of a huge wetland where the River Po and its many tributaries run into the Adriatic Sea. In spring and autumn it’s a migration hotspot filled with birds heading to and from their northern breeding grounds as well as many wonderful species that breed here.

The lagoons, saltpans, rivers, woodlands and beaches are alive with wildfowl and waders such as Spotted Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Curlew Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Stints, Little, Cattle and Great White Egrets, Little Bittern, Night and Squacco Heron. Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gull and the beautiful Slender-billed Gull occur and you can see many terns including Common, Little, Whiskered, White-winged Black and Black Tern.

Everywhere you go there is birdsong. Nightingales, Cetti’s Warblers and Great Reed Warbler provide choral accompaniment along with the soft purring of Turtle Doves and the sounds of gulls and terns overhead.

Among many highlights of a trip I led in early May last year, was the sight and sound of Cuckoos. We were guaranteed to see a pair in flight every morning as they looked for nests of Great Reed Warblers, hoping to lay their eggs. Our hotel backed onto the River Po di Volano and on the opposite bank was a large reedbed. Here the raucous song of Great Reed Warblers formed part of the dawn chorus – a dead give-away to the predatory Cuckoos. But exciting early morning birding and great to see Cuckoos which have declined in the UK.

A birdwatching holiday to the Po Delta Park not only produces interesting birds such as Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey, superb sightings of Marsh Harrier and the elegant Montagu’s Harrier but you see these birds very well and often repeatedly. It is a wonderful, unforgettable experience.

And that’s not all: this is an historic area where towns such as Ferrara, Comacchio and Ravenna reveal their ancient treasures. Ravenna is not to be missed. Here in the Basilicas of S. Vitale and S. Apollinare Nuovo you can marvel at mosaics from the 5th and 6th Centuries which portray the court of the Emperor Justinian and the influence of the Ostrogothic King Theodoric. Among the mosaic portraits and decorations are many delightful images of birds and animals just like those that still inhabit the area today. Still fresh and lively after 1,500 years.

Add to this the wonderful food, wine and the company of friendly, vivacious people and, at least for me, this is the perfect destination. But, like so many people, I have fallen under Italy’s spell and no sooner has one visit ended than I am planning the next.

Considering it’s poor reputation Italy can provide excellent birdwatching and though the hobby is still in its infancy, you can now meet Italian birdwatchers at the nature reserves. The very word ‘Birdwatching’ is recognised in Italy where only a few years ago it was unknown. This has been helped by publicity for the Po Delta Birdwatching Fair held in Comacchio and now an annual event. It attracts many visitors and encourages school participation in educational programmes.

Italy has many dedicated environmentalists and conservationists who work tirelessly to promote the welfare of the wildlife. They appreciate the support of LIPU-UK but also the presence of British birdwatchers in Italy which indicates that their message is reaching a wider audience.

Our support raises the profile of birdwatching and emphasises the importance of ‘green’ tourism. Hotels and restaurants are pleased to see us and the appearance of binoculars and telescopes at the roadside often attracts local interest. It’s another way to support the work of LIPU and to have a terrific holiday at the same time! It’s well worth considering next time you are planning a trip.

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Thanks to the generosity of members and friends of LIPU the appeal last year was as successful as in previous years. in raising over £23,600 towards the four projects we undertook to support.

As well as donations from members and friends, we are grateful for the valuable support we receive from trusts and grant-making bodies; I am pleased to be able to be able to thank the following for their generosity.

The A S Butler Charitable Trust gave £100; The Clare-Lees Trust gave us £200; The Shirley Pugh Foundation for the Welfare of Animals gave £100; Mrs & Mrs Sergison-Brooke donated £100; The Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature gave £500; The Udimore Trust gave £50 and the Valerie White Memorial Trust made a donation of £500.

Bird clubs and groups were represented by the Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society who gave us £150; Gwent Ornithological Society donated £25; the RSPB South Lakeland Group gave £100 and the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers made a donation of £100 - sincere thanks to them all.

LIPU-UK has always felt that the active pursuit of legacies is not our way of working but we feel that we should acknowledge with thanks legacy income from the estates of the following former members: Miss Ella Curtis, Mr William Dixon, Miss Molly Eady and Miss Edna Howard.

Finally, I am grateful that, for another year, AISPA, the Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals, continued its valuable support by adopting in its entirety one of the two major projects. AISPA has played such an important part in the founding of LIPU and in support through LIPU-UK over the year that a special bond exists between our organisations - long may that continue.

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As I mentioned earlier, we have made a late change to our plans, thanks to a generous proposal by AISPA we shall now fund the following projects in Italy in the year ahead:

Major Projects

1. Anti-poaching camp at the Messina Strait. This is a major success and very few birds were shot in 2006 - we must keep the same presence to keep the situation under control. In addition the anti-trapping work in the north of the country will have our full support.

2. The scientific monitoring of 3 of the 13 species identified as endangered and requiring absolute priority to safeguard their future; they are Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle and Little Bustard.

3. New addition - a fourth successive year of work to understand and map the migration routes through Sicily in the Spring - this works very well in conjunction with the anti-poaching camp at the Strait of Messina.

Minor Projects

4. A continuation of last year’s work to protect the Corey’s Shearwater at their breeding sites on the island of Linosa.

5. Another ongoing commitment is the support of LIPU Recovery Centres buy the funding of drugs, medicines and other consumables.

I am sure you will agree that this work is important and I can tell you that much of it will go undone without our help, so please support this appeal with your customary generosity. As in previous years, any surplus will be added to the Oasi Fund, our hope for the future is to be able to buy a nature reserve in Italy for LIPU. Thank you all.

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A recent LIPU Press Release:

Poaching: 14,000 illegal traps confiscated by LIPU volunteers in the Cagliari area of Sardinia. Thousands of thrushes and robins killed. LIPU calls for intervention by the State Forest Rangers.

In only five days in early January 14,000 traps and 91 nets were collected by the volunteers, in addition to the 10,000 already removed in December. LIPU points once again to the absence of the local police in enforcing the law.

The use of so many nets is also worrying. They catch all species of birds indiscriminately and taken from several sites added up to a total of 400 metres. Twenty five volunteers from all over Italy took part in this campaign to tackle the illegal slaughter of an estimated 600,000 birds. Giovanni Malara, camp organiser, said, “We knew that the situation in Capoterra was serious but we had no idea that we would find anything like this. We are still asking ourselves what the authorities are doing to combat these illegal activities. For our part, we fully intend to continue with our action in future”.

LIPU has been in contact with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry concerning these issues, denouncing the apparent impunity that poachers enjoy and requesting the State Forest Rangers to take action in Sardinia.

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I am grateful, as always, to the team which translated this issue so well:

Cicely Adelson, Joanna Bazen, Ambra Burls, Daria Dadam, Bryan Lewis, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty and John Walder.

Note the absence, for the very first time, of Brian Horkley who has translated the Ali since our foundation - Brian and Joyce are enjoying a holiday in New Zealand. My special thanks go to Daria who took over Brian’s role for this issue.

Line drawings used by permission of the RSPB

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