Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - Autumn 2009

Editorial Autumn 2009

JOINED UP CONSERVATION

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Head Office in Parma to catch up with what is happening in Italy and to see how we can help the work of LIPU in 2010.

The Conservation Department was able to show the results, which have already been analysed, of last year’s work on marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs), and very impressive it is. Two methods of gathering data were used, one was modern and high-tech and the other had observers on boats counting birds in the time-honoured way.

The observers were able to assess how many birds were using areas around the 139 sea tracks (transects) patrolled, over a total distance of nearly 12,000 kilometres. The other method involves attaching miniatuture GPS devices to about 30 birds of the shearwater family to discover their flight paths during incubation and, later, when feeding the young.

Knowledge of this sort doesn’t come quickly and, unfortunately, the Ministry of the Environment agreed to fund this work for only one year, but in the next issue of Ali I’ll be able to explain how we can help.

The following day we left the office for a day looking around Brabbia LIPU reserve near Varese, north of Milan, almost at the foothills of the Alps - a beautiful area just a short distance from the Swiss border. In years gone by, the reserve had been a peat bog from which the peat had been extracted commercially; now there are channels of open water between huge reed beds and it has all returned to nature.

Of course nothing is straightforward; some years ago someone dropped a piece of Indian Lotus root into nearby Lake Varese, it has spread like wildfire and is now a problem in Brabbia. The flower is beautiful and the seed pods, which look like shower heads, are much used in dried flower arrangements but it would have been better if it had not been released into the wild!

Nonetheless, Brabbia is a successful reserve, visted by many thousands of people every year and similar numbers of birds. Much work is now going into an attempt to extend Brabbia marsh to the south, to bridge the gap between it and the Ticino Regional Park. If this is successful it will create the first eco-corridor connecting the Alps and the Apennines; a corridor down which birds can move in safety.

More and more in our own country conservationists are seeing the value of connecting nature reserves, the sum of the parts far exceeds the value of the units when separate. It is good to see similar goals being defined in Italy.

The visit was over and the final joy was flying, by Ryanair, from Parma back to Stansted with memories of good company and a team of dedicated people working for the benefit of nature.

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

A real success in the province of Pavia for the “ComunicAmbiente” project on environmental education. Teacher training was followed by student projects showing the relationship between human activity and climate change.

by Stefania Ratano, Warden of the LIPU Bosco Negri reserve.

Climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of the 21st century and an issue which should, above all, concern the young. It is now more than evident that climate change has had negative effects on biodiversity, on the ecosystem and hence on the life of man. A real contribution must come from a collective consciousness and an awareness of the fundamental role of the individual.

The idea is not only to explain climate change to the students, but to show ways of improving the situation in day to day life. This is not an easy task and one which has to involve all members of society, beginning at school with the help of teachers and the active involvement of the students. These are the aims of the “ComunicAmbiente” environmental project which saw the participation of the schools in the province of Pavia last year.

The aim of the project was f and, at the same time, to promote any possible positive, active involvement.

Originally an idea of the education section of LIPU, the “ComunicAmbiente” project was organised in collaboration with the town of Pavia and with the contribution of the Cariplo Foundation. The project included several approaches. It began with a training course tailored for teachers, education authorities and others on the techniques of environmental communication. It continued, concentrating on teaching methods for an efficient communication of the problems relating to climate change and was held at the end of last January at the Regional Environmental Education Centre of Pavia.

Theory and practice

The workshop was subdivided into a theoretical part, held by expert teachers of environmental problems and scientific communication, and a practical part in which the participants were divided into groups. The teachers taking part came from all areas of the province of Pavia, with 15 schools participating; they were given an agenda called “ComunicAmbiente – a school year together” which included practical ideas, suggestions and information for the whole school year. The teachers then put into practice the ideas developed in the workshop, working with the students to create a campaign of awareness and, in particular, a poster showing climate change and the practical initiatives that could limit the impact of human activity on the natural environment. A competition for the best work was organised to stimulate the active participation of the students.

The prize, a free trip to the LIPU reserve in Torrile, was won by class 1E of the “Giovanni XXIII” middle school in Lardirago which designed an original, hypothetical Facebook page of Planet Earth. The project ended with a party, held at the CREA (the Regional Centre for Envionmental Education) on the 9th May. For the occasion, all the posters made by the classes which had participated in the competition were exhibited and presented by the students themselves. In this way, they were able to exchange ideas and opinions.

Many people were present at the event which ended with the prize-giving for the school competition. Eighty people, including students, teachers and parents, came to the party which was an important opportunity to discuss the need to act together to improve social awareness on a day to day level. “ComunicAmbiente” provided an opportunity for the schools in the province of Pavia, to discuss and face up to complex subjects, such as the problems associated with climate change and the relationship with human activity. This opportunity was extended to the whole region.

The project’s prize-winning poster emphasised the extent to which the campaign for environmental awareness and responsibility had inspired all the schools in Lombardy.

NATURAL BONDS

In environmental education, “teaching” does not always lead to the desired results. It is best to talk directly to the heart: an objective that can only be achieved through first-hand experience in the field.

by Chiara Manghetti, LIPU Head of Education

If we knew all the negative consequences of an action, would that be enough to stop us doing it again? What would actually make us change our behaviour?

Calls to change our behaviour and to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, both for the protection of the environment and for our health, are becoming more and more widespread. The melting of South Polar glaciers and ever more frequent hurricanes hit the front pages. But catastrophe has not been enough to convince people to change even the smallest, harmful form of behaviour towards the environment or to convince us to use natural resources in a more thoughtful way. Why is it so difficult to convince people to change their habits in order to help the environment? Maybe the current approach just isn’t right.

Head or heart?

Traditional education separates man from the surrounding world, considering the individual a self-sufficient microcosm. Nature is something “different” and we should not be surprised that calls for respect are not enough. We need to make people aware that nature is part of their own lives. How can this be achieved? We need a different educational approach. Stephen Jay Gould, palaeontologist and popular science writer, said, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love”.

Environmental education has to be based on this concept, moving away from traditional book work, making nature come alive. The natural world has all the means of stirring feelings and creating bonds with people: watching the waving branches of trees; discovering the microscopic life of a drop of water; tasting the smell of wet soil after rain. Moments of deep emotion such as these, develop an increasingly acute sensibility, in both adults and children, and lead to a deeper understanding of our place on earth.

Nature is fun

There is always a moment for us, whether naturalists, birdwatchers or interested people, that sparked our excitement in the natural world. Perhaps as children, chasing a lizard or helping a wounded bird. With this in mind, the object of environmental education is not to teach others “how to behave”, but to share with others the emotion that the natural world excites in us. Children who visit LIPU reserves and centres are not there to take part in “open-air” science lessons, but to experience something that stirs deep emotion.

There are students who have never laid down on the grass to look for insects, who have never seen a nest or who have never touched and played with soil. Children who take part in environmental education with LIPU have the chance to discover and relish these joys and to discover the pleasure of sharing them with others. They may return home a little dirty, but are surely enriched by the discovery that nature is fun. LIPU also helps teachers by offering training courses and workshops using this interactive approach.

Education for all

School is not the only priority; we need to encourage love and respect for the environment in society at large. While it is true that children are our hope for a more responsible future, they also need the support of all of us in developing and retaining these values. They need support and guidance from their families, from sports and hobby coaches and from the media. What is the influence of television and the internet on our children? How much time do children spend with their grandparents, their baby-sitters or taking courses such as music, swimming or volleyball? Education is important for all of us, whatever our age.

LIPU runs birdwatching courses for the family where volunteers guide parents and grandparents, helping children to know the sky and its inhabitants. Sunday workshops involve the whole family in art and in play on LIPU oases. An educational project that is dear to our hearts is “Go Green” which provides adolescents with the opportunity to meet in oases and reserves, and to learn the importance of teamwork and become conscious of their responsibility towards the environment and to its other inhabitants. Groups of young, trained volunteers operate in the LIPU Oases of Crava Morozzo (Cuneo) and Castel di Guido (Rome). This autumn we will extend the project to the LIPU Oasis at Bosco Negri (Pavia) and following that, to other LIPU sites.

Seeing is believing

As an association that protects the environment, we have a duty to warn against the risks of wasting energy and natural resources which lead to climate change and the loss of biodiversity. We do this with an interactive educational approach, asking schools, families and the wider public, to observe and report the arrival of migratory birds every spring. Project “Spring Alive!” gathers these sightings from the general public, providing researchers with the data to assess the effect of climate change on migration by comparing arrival dates by species over the years. This project lets us study in a simple, direct way the little-known link between climate change and the loss of biodiversity. During Spring 2009, more than 100,000 sightings were recorded across Europe, 25,000 of these were from Italy.

Let’s make the future together

The next ten years are going to be crucial for the future of the environment and biodiversity; the decisions taken and behaviour adopted could decide whether nature will be protected or destroyed. Environmental education may end up playing a decisive role, causing people to think, consider and then act. LIPU is involved in a number of projects, the main objectives of which are to involve more and more people in loving and respecting the environment.

To find out more about our educational projects, go to: www.lipu.it/educazione or write to: educazione@lipu.it

HUNTERS IN ITALY HAVE GREATER FREEDOM THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN EUROPE

The appeal from LIPU to the Senate is: if there must be change, make it strengthen the safeguards and the struggle against the poaching. Stop a new appeal to the Chamber for “hunting with no limits”.

By Danilo Selvaggi

The chorus of ‘No’ to the text that Senator Orsi raised at the hearing of the Environment Committee of the Senate is the latest indication of how strong the resistance is to the latest attempt to reform 157.

There is opposition from both the lay and scientific community. The National Institute for Wildlife (INFS) has exposed the many technical errors in the proposals for change which it basically rejects. While not expressing serious doubts, the regional governments who would have the responsibility for enforcing the regulations are, at best, still lukewarm towards them. Agricultural associations are doubtful, asking only for action to prevent damage to crops.

The Federation for Agritourism strongly criticises the changes and complains about the damage done by hunters. Italy is the only country to allow free access to private land with all this entails in terms of disturbance and security risks. In short, environmental and animal activists have laid bare the innumerable flaws in the proposal which they reject outright.

LIPU has already made it clear to the Senate that Law 157 is the most permissive in Europe; it really is a myth that Italian hunters are an oppressed group. On the contrary, there are few countries in Europe that hunt as much as we in Italy do. There are some 50 species we can hunt – only France has more. Our open season lasts for five months, but this does have extensions and exceptions.

Then there are the abuses of derogations and such dreadful practices as the use of living lures. LIPU insists that if there is to be reform, it must be made by paying the greatest attention to conservation, the fight against poaching and a better administration of the rules which are often lost in the labyrinth of petty bureaucracy and malicious lobbying.

The opposition to hunting comes not only from environmentalists, but also a surge of public opinion. The 1,500 amendments to the proposals tabled by politicians, along with the opposition from government departments, are suggesting that these changes will never be passed.

The battle is not yet over. Senator Orsi seemed to have capitulated when he said, “In 16 years hunting will cease to exist’’. However, we must not trust him as yet another attempt to extend the hunting season was made in September, although it failed. We must remain on our guard and continue to play our part.

Even in 2009, there are derogations in many regions; despite the action taken against them by the European court, the number of birds that can legally be killed is increasing. The most serious cases are those of Lombardy and the Veneto. Despite the threat of fines and two judgements against them from the Constitutional Court, they have introduced a new regulation adding 32,000 Hawfinches, 50,000 Meadow Pipits, 100,000 Bramblings and half a million Chaffinches to the schedule! To a lesser degree Umbria, Tuscany and Marche have followed suit. The Court of Justice will probably condemn them strongly, but meanwhile LIPU is asking both our government and Europe to intervene urgently.

BIRDLIFE – AN INTERVIEW WITH ANGELO CASERTA

“We will not accept compromises in the recession”

These are the words of Angelo Caserta, from the helm of the European division of BirdLife. Among his priorities are the defence of the Birds and Habitats Directives, to work for beneficial reforms to the agricultural policy and the “Action Plan for Species” which is essential to the safeguarding of biodiversity, particularly in the countries of eastern Europe.

by Andrea Mazza, LIPU Press Officer

Angelo Caserta, 44, from Rome, is the new regional director of the European division of BirdLife based in Brussels.

What are the principal lines of action from BirdLife Europe?

First of all, the lobbying of European politicians. One of our most important objectives is the reform of European agricultural policy which weighs heavily where birds and biodiversity are concerned.

Do you have other themes?

The defence of the EU’s Habitat and Birds Directives. Some powerful lobbies, such as the building industry, would like to see the influence of these directives reduced. So we are working hard with the new European parliamentarians; the increased strength of the Greens and the greater environmental focus of the conservative elements in Europe are causes for hope. Then there is climate change; we are alarmed as the EU moves its emphasis away from environment towards energy issues. This could lead to biodiversity suffering terribly.

How do you work with other partners in the network for the protection of nature?

The work on birds and protected areas undertaken by associations and ornithologists is fundamental. We are putting in place an “Action Plan for Species” which pays particular attention to the eastern countries where there is still great natural richness, but where legislation is as yet weak.

The objective of stopping the loss of biodiversity before 2010 has failed. What is the reaction of BirdLife?

A recent EU study has acknowledged this failure and has set the alarm bells ringing. We now need to see significant political movement, starting with the community directives which must be reinforced rather than weakened. In 2010, the year of biodiversity, we want to progress further along the road of making agreements with industries over more environmentally sustainable methods of production, such as that reached recently with Eurogypsum, the association of plaster producers.

Do you think that the global economic crisis could have negative impacts on the protection of nature?

I don’t believe it will. The production of organic goods, for example, has barely been touched by the crisis. This would indicate that in spite of having smaller resources, many believe that products which benefit the environment are still worth the extra expenditure.

We have not yet mentioned communications and fundraising.

We will certainly need new communication strategies for raising public awareness. As to fundraising, I think that there is a good opportunity for growth; the resources and complexity of BirdLife make the partnership attractive to the eyes of many potential donors.

Reserves and Centres

THIRTY YEARS OF CARVA AND 30 YEARS OF LIPU

It was in 1979 that LIPU’s Reserve (or Oasis) of Crava Morozzo was established. It was the first area to be protected, supported and managed by LIPU in order to save the most important elements of nature and biodiversity in our country.

By Ugo Faralli, responsible for reserves and centres

The oasis at Crava is the oldest of LIPU’s reserves and the one that showed the way. Thirty years ago, who would have guessed that this would lead to a new way of looking at nature and the environment. It is no longer something of secondary importance at the mercy of events, but something of real value, to be treated with consideration by ordinary people and administrators in public office.

Crava was the spark that led the Association, together with the WWF, to consider the land, and hence the flora and fauna it contained, as a public asset. An asset that must be protected and safeguarded. That, in essence, is the story of Crava Morozzo, the first of LIPU’s reserves and of those which followed during those first 30 years.

Over the years, the reserve has been defended, supported and managed through the involvement of thousands of LIPU’s volunteers and members. LIPU’s reserves have come along way from the defence of the last marshlands and stretches of unspoiled coastline in the last years of the 1970s. Today we protect areas which are increasingly recognised and appreciated by public institutions and people.

From those first steps, motivated by passion, through the battles against environmental degradation and ill considered hunting laws, we now enjoy the recognition of the European Union, of the State and of local institutions. Today, the 31 LIPU reserves, from the Alps to Sardinia, are part of Nature Network 2000 on the list of areas protected nationally by the Ministry of the Environment, within the National Parks system.

They protect around 4,600 hectares, including hillside woodland, rocky coasts, marshes and inland lakes, beaches and lowland forests, small islands and ponds where over six thousand different animal and plant species may be found. Some of these are threatened with extinction and are on the international ‘red list’. The emphasis has, of course, always been on birds, but they are just a subset of that much more serious and concrete aim of protecting all the other animal and plant species and the landscapes in which they live. These are places of nature conservation which allow a real interaction between man and nature, with their various methods of making contact with the natural world, such as the observation hides and the walkways which allow visitors to get close and to feel the excitement of nature.

Millions of pairs of eyes over these 30 years have marvelled at a Kingfisher diving, at the aerobatics of an Eleanora’s Falcon or at the colours of orchids and butterflies encountered in the course of a nature walk. These sights have passed on an ever more important message: that people must understand that the LIPU Oases are special places in that they mirror the complete work of the Association. These are places you enter in order to become an integral part of the natural diversity of your local environment. They are not just protected areas, but also places where students and teachers go, sites where activity of social value takes place with disadvantaged children and ex-offenders.

They are the object of study for university theses and scientific research, as well as places for voluntary work by local businesses and for co-ordinated programmes between people working in agro-tourism and their partner organisations. Events and theme days are organised, with summer camps and games for children and scouts. We must be grateful for that forward thinking dream, that ‘crazy idea’ of three visionary volunteers from the Cuneo branch of LIPU: Tomaso Giraudo, Ada Gazzola and Franco Bergese.

Facts and figures of the first 30 years of activity

The Crava Morozzo Oasis was born in 1979 thanks to an agreement with the local authorities. In 1987, thanks to the Region of Piedmont, the oasis acquired the title of “Special Natural Reserve”. The agreements for collaboration between the Oasis of Crava Morozzo, managed by LIPU, and the Park of the High Pesio Valley go back to 1988.

In total, about 300 hectares are protected (six of which belong to LIPU) which host more than 2,500 different species of animal and plant. Within the area, birds such as Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Tufted Duck, Black Kite and Hobby can be found nesting. The reserve has a Visitor Centre with a teaching room, a residential suite with 14 beds, about three kilometres of paths (of which 900 metres are accessible to the disabled) and eight observation hides (including one underwater where one can see fish and the “hidden side” of Little Grebe).

Since its creation, the Oasis has hosted over 300,000 visitors, including 15,000 children. And what are the plans for the next 30 years? The ‘General Plan of the Crava Morozzo Nature Reserve for the years 2010 to 2015 – LIPU’s commitment’ is already in an advanced stage of preparation. This will be presented to the Park of the High Pesio Valley and the Region of Piedmont by the end of the year.

FRIENDS OF LIPU

Swallows: turning a principle into a reality

By Claudio Del Lungo, former advisor on the environment for Florence

There is a small town in the province of Florence where more than 50 years ago, houses were built with many ‘loopholes’ high in the facades to enable Swallows to build their nests. Today, those same houses, in the centre of the town, still hold an important number of the migrating Swallows that in spring and summer fill the skies in this part of Tuscany.

This example is even more significant because this town is situated in one of the areas most densely populated by hunters in this region. Nevertheless, decades ago, there were people here who cared about the needs of one of their most loved birds.

Concern for the continued well-being of wildlife has caused the Councillors of the Comune of Florence to guarantee the effective application of a by-law that enforces existing community and national laws for the care of animals.

With these considerations in mind, I issued an order, authorised by the Mayor, which lists the prohibitions, sanctions and the obligations for restoration in the event of damage to the nesting places of Swallows. But, above all, this attaches legislation in matters of sanctions, urban-planning and the urban police, so that it becomes binding and fully operational and not just a matter of principle.

The ordinance 2312 of April 23 2009, was also the last by-law of my term of office in the Comune of Florence between 2004 and 2009. This represents the completion of a cycle for the care of birds which has seen the installation of artificial nests in public parks, feeding stations, natural paths with information panels showing the bird species present, the publication of the third Atlas and other initiatives which I hope will leave a sign of ‘civilisation’ in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

In fact, if the phrase of Gandhi: “ The greatness of a nation is in its progressive morals, they can guide one by the treatment reserved for the animals”, has value, Florence in these years is definitely making moral progress, at least in this respect.

THE INTELLIGENCE OF CORVIDS

From myth to science

Danilo Mainardi Honorary President LIPU

Two thousand years after Aesop’s fable about the ‘Crow and the Pitcher’, the extraordinary intelligence of Crows has been scientifically proven by research from Cambridge University.

It is well known that corvids are very intelligent birds. A study by the University of Cambridge has demonstrated that, at times, these birds use extraordinary stratagems to obtain food. About 2000 years ago, a fable told the story of a thirsty crow that, not able to obtain water from the bottom of a tall, narrow jug, took a rock and by dropping the rock into the jug, discovered that the water level rose. It repeated this several times until it was able to drink and so saved its life.

This story was used by Aesop to illustrate the teaching of morals such as ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and probably the same narrator had never thought that the fable could have some fundamental reality. However, recently a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge has put forward a similar proposal. Four black Crows, called Cook, Fry, Connelly and Monroe were put in front of a tall, high-necked glass with water at the bottom containing a floating worm which was out of their reach.

At the side of the glass, a handful of stones like those mentioned in the ancient fable was placed. Extraordinarily, they were used by these birds to raise the level of the water and easily reach the worm. Cook and Fry achieved their feat at the first attempt, while for Connelly and Monroe a second chance was needed, which also demonstrated the existence of an intraspecific biodiversity with regard to the capacity of solving problems.

In every case, however, the birds have shown extreme care in the performance of their actions. First they assessed the water level, observing the container both from the side and above, and then they used only the amount of stone necessary to raise the worm within reach of the beak.

NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

A welcome contribution from Jan Hunt of Box in Wiltshire follows, please keep these pieces coming – it really does make the Editor’s life easier if there is a selection of articles “in the can”.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

Jan Hunt

It’s a May morning – my first back in southern Italy for ages – and I’m woken by something strange, so strange that despite the early hour I’m out of bed and padding across chilly tiles to peer out of the crack between the shutters. I can hardly believe it. They’re everywhere. What has disturbed me is the dawn chorus of an excited flock of small birds.

I fell in love with Positano many years ago, entranced by the towering cliffs that drop down to the sparkling sea, their craggy ledges crammed with shrubs, the air thick with the smell of wild fennel. If there was anything missing from this magical place it was the birds. There were none, or virtually none. A sparrow flapping in the mouth of a scrawny cat. A pigeon loitering optimistically around the terrace of Ciro’s, the busiest bar in town. The only birdsong came from a blackbird in a cage. I knew the locals considered little birds a delicacy, bigger ones excellent for target practice. I comforted myself with the thought that at least we Brits care about our birds.

And yet there they were playing hide and seek in trees that – after one of the wettest springs for years – were as lush as a rainforest. Over the following days I made a point of listing them. There were tits of all kinds, robins, greenfinches, goldfinches, chaffinches. Pigeons, lots of them now. Gulls, and high in the sky the wonderful scream of circling swifts, the chittering of house martins.

A friend who lives up in one of the dramatic wooded valleys just beyond the town added to my list. Tucked well away from habitation he regularly sees both Barn and Tawny owls, Treecreepers, Firecrests, Serins, Wrynecks, Wrens and Peregrine falcons. The list went on and on.

Only another bird fanatic would understand the absolute joy I felt.

But why this sudden explosion of bird life? Thinking about it, talking to people, I decided that it’s Positano’s ever-growing reputation as a tourist centre that – in some convoluted way – may account for the success of the birds. Locals are too busy making a living to follow the traditions of hunting and trapping. Or if not too busy, too tired. Though a few older residents may still go up into the mountains in winter, the younger ones go off to Thailand or New Zealand for a well earned rest.

But once the wholesale persecution stopped, another thing has undoubtedly helped the bird population to soar. It’s that wonderful attitude southern Italians have to keeping things tidy. In general, they don’t. No-one is hacking back the trees, pulling up any less-than-perfect shrubs, spraying weedkiller – hence plenty of food and shelter for the birds. A crack high up on the outside wall of an old house offers just enough space for sparrows to tuck a nest. Some broken pipes discarded behind a wall make a home for a robin family. It’s a world where humans and wildlife of all kinds seem to co-exist amiably, for most of the time anyway. For me it’s a wonderful world.

Here where I live outside Bath the gardens are impeccable. Areas are paved and decked, lawns manicured, hedges replaced with easy-to-manage fences. Tiny blue pellets confetti the soil, protecting delicate flowers from slugs. Ponds are netted to protect the exotic fish. The sounds of summer… are strimmers and sprays!

True, some of our neighbours do feed the birds - though not too close to the house where they’ll make a mess. Elegant wrought-iron feeders are carefully positioned in the middle of lawns where they can be seen from indoors, (despite the fact that there’s no shelter from sharp eyed sparrowhawks who pluck the unsuspecting diners like plums from a tree.) Nature has been tamed. Is it any wonder that every year we have fewer and fewer birds around?

What’s missing is the wildness, the rich and wonderful chaos that all wild creatures need to survive. My trip to Italy gave me new hope, a realisation that – against all the odds – things CAN change for the better for birds. I only hope that the southern Italians don’t follow in our footsteps. I have a feeling they won’t.

* * *

ANNUAL APPEAL

Despite all the problems and uncertainties surrounding us, this year’s appeal was another success, thanks to the generosity of our friends and supporters, - a last minute flurry brought the total raised to over £21,000! Over the years we have steadily increased the project support we give to LIPU in Italy, from about £24,000 ten years ago to a superb sum of £62,000 last year and the results of that work are clear to see.

Anti poaching patrols and camps have almost eradicated the shooting of raptors migrating through the Messina Strait in springtime. Essential and valuable data have been collected to help our understanding of the routes taken by these migrating birds. IBAs are being monitored and the progress in uprating them to Specially Protected Areas (SPAs) is far in advance of almost all other European countries. Lesser Kestrels are making use of over 200 nest boxes on the rooftops of southern towns, and the list could go on.

Of course it’s not over; as one door closes it seems another opens and there is so much still to do to stop the trapping of thrushes and small songbirds in Sardinia and the valleys around Brescia. This work is in hand and we will continue to fund it as long as the need remains. Thanks to you all we shall do this, and if you missed the opportunity to help the 2009 appeal we are still accepting contributions - you are not too late!

* * *

2009 ANNUAL DRAW

Our annual draw has traditionally been a popular and effective way of raising about £2,000 to put toward our annual funding to Italy. Apart from the main prize of £500 cash, most of the other prizes are given by supporters to whom we are grateful, after that it is just a case of sending out the tickets...

I realise that not everyone likes this method of fund-raising and if you are receiving tickets and you would rather not, please tell me and I will send no more and, of course, this will reduce our overheads and save a small tree.

If, however, you have considered buying tickets please consider this - the odds of winning are among the best you will find in a draw of this kind. Last year, fewer than 250 supporters took part – thank you to them – but the chance of winning our first prize is so good you might want to give it a go, when in the past you thought it wasn’t worth it. Let’s make it an even bigger success this year!

BIRDS TO PROTECT - A REPORT

Over the years we have supported a series of projects which researched the conservation status of birds such as Little Bustard and Egyptian Vulture and this work is co-ordinated by Marco Gustin.

His report was accepted by the Ministry of the Environment and was seen to be of such value that the Ministry published a summary in the form of a booklet for the public. As a result of a suggestion from LIPU this has been translated into English and a copy is enclosed for full members. If you don’t receive one and would like to do so, please drop me a line, as a have a few spare copies, but numbers are limited.

* * *

My thanks go to the team of translators who, for this issue, were:

Joanna Bazen, Carol Debney, Tony Harris, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty and John Walder.

* * *

Line drawings are used by kind permission of the RSPB and the photographs are © David Lingard.

* * *