Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - Autumn 2010

Editorial Autumn 2010

Mention robins in Italy and we probably think of the trapping going on in the north of the country but, in this editorial, I’d like to write about a robin in this country. This isn’t any old robin, it’s one who took over our lives this spring and “adopted” us.

I’d been monitoring the occupied nest boxes in the garden as part of the BTO Nest Box Challenge and it was clear that this was going to be a good year for Blue Tits as two of the boxes had ten chicks in each! The parents were looking exhausted feeding so many and we decided to help by providing a few mealworms - from such simple ideas are great challenges created...

The tits, both Blue and Great, took the food gratefully and then we saw a robin hovering near the dish of mealworms; he (or she, there is no real visual difference) was a sorry sight with almost no tail and a bare patch on each side of the face - it looks as if it had done three rounds with the local cat. Of course we took pity on him, called him a scraggy individual and threw a mealworm which he took readily and came closer for another - and another.

Imagine our feelings when we realised that we had tamed him because he would jump up and take a mealworm from a hand! What a mistake - we soon realised that he had tamed us and for the next six weeks this little bird would change our lives. It seemed that he just became bolder and bolder, in no time at all he was coming into the kitchen to find the bowl of mealworms. Next, he would fly up and perch on my hand while I held the bowl and he would sit quite happily while he beat the poor creature before swallowing it.

If we went out he would be on the doorstep when we came back - one evening my daughter called and as I opened the door for her the robin hopped in!

We were eating and the mealworm dish must have been empty because there was a face at the window - Scraggs was showing his disgust because he was feeding a family now and he expected us to be better hosts. Of course, dinner was put on hold while the robin’s dish was refilled...

If the door was closed he found other ways of demanding service. I was working upstairs in my study and the windows were open because of the warmth; I heard the now familiar flutter of little wings and there was Scraggs, so easily identified, on my desk looking at me as if to say, “Well, what are you waiting for?”.

The new routine demanded that I had a dish of mealworms on the floor beside the desk and he would fly in the back window, collect a couple of mealworms and scurry out of the other window at the front of the house. He flew this circuit round the house until the dish was empty then he’d stand beside me and just look at me and wait.

I was too slow in replenishing the dish so he went to the kitchen door - closed - so he launched himself through the kitchen widow and straight through a venetian blind to land on the table. Shirley was using her laptop computer and he just hopped onto the top of the screen and gave her the fateful stare!

The Blue Tits were not going without, both families succeeded in fledging their twenty young ones but, still the feeding by this robin went on – we wondered at one point if he was feeding a cuckoo, but no, after many days we saw the first sign of young robins around the house.

This small bird had us “twisted around his little finger” because as soon as the food supply ran out he would just come and stand on my knee if I was sitting in the garden, or on the book that Shirley was reading and just wait patiently until we were overcome with guilt and set off to the house to get more.

As I write this piece, the family has just gained its independence, our overworked parent has slowed right down and we don’t have to order mealworms every two weeks any more, perhaps monthly now. This year has been our “Robin Spring” and a rare privilege, I shall always think of Scraggs, who now has a single full-length tail feather, whenever I read of the trappers in the north of Italy.


Giuliano Tallone, LIPU President

Budget 2010: on the horizon, a drastic reduction in the funding of the National Parks. At risk, the survival of 23 biodiversity strongholds and, as a consequence, the survival of tens of thousands of species of animals and plants which live in them.

A bolt from the blue has struck, right in the middle of the International Year of Biodiversity, and now risks passing into history as the moment marking the beginning of the end of our network of protected areas.

If it wasn’t already clear that the “across the board” cuts are the only practical outcome to emerge from the Government’s policy of restoring to health the disastrous public finances, the proposal to cut the finances of the National Parks could be seen as a joke.

And yet, the International Year of Biodiversity itself risks going down in history as the moment in which were written the last words on the existence and the role of the National Parks. Inserted into article 7, subsection 24, of the Budget Act of 2010, is the provision for halving the resources set aside for protected areas which would bring to the edge of paralysis the greater part of these sites and to the closure, according to LIPU, of at least half of them.

This is a really serious blow, right at the moment when green tourism is gaining strength as a great economic opportunity for national development, let alone any consideration of the role which the 23 National Parks – real biodiversity strongholds – have in the safeguarding of biodiversity.

If the life of the Parks is in jeopardy, all the more so is that of the tens of thousands of animal and plant species which live in these areas which cover some 5% of the national landmass. This amounts to one and a half million hectares of our countryside which from tomorrow could be exposed to the threat of disappearing under concrete with all the attendant hydrogeological risks. It goes without saying that we now face the risk of seeing our country’s symbolic species, such as the bear, the wolf and the eagle disappearing, perhaps for ever, from our land.

This absurd cut comes on the very day following the first national conference on biodiversity and on the eve of the first national plan on the subject. This really important event, for which LIPU has struggled long and hard, may well turn out to be still-born since the National Parks are one of the main bases on which this Plan is to be put into action.

If the crisis has to affect everyone, yes everyone, in some way, and we are all to be called on to make sacrifices, it is worth considering one fact: overall, the cut in the National Parks budget is equal to “only” 25 million Euros. That is less than half a day’s coffee for every Italian, of no use in filling in the holes in the public finances and even less in setting up a strategy for investment and growth. It is going, on the other hand, to strike where, from an economic point of view, it could bring about opportunities for jobs and development. In addition, it is not taking into account the role of the Parks, not just in the protection of single species, but also, more generally, in the conservation of our quality of life, our atmosphere, our food and our water supply: all those things which the European Union calls “ecosystem services”.

Neither does it amount to very much to know – after the street demonstrations by LIPU and many other environmental associations under the slogan “I too used to live in the Park...” – that the Government has allocated four million more Euros for the year 2010 to close the gap. This is a stopgap measure which must not be allowed to hide the real situation: next year there will be 25 million Euros missing from the current total of around 50 million. The same minister of the environment, Stefania Prestigiacomo – who has to balance the accounts against the plummeting resources allocated to the ministry – has appealed for the 50% cut in the budget of the Parks to be removed from Article 7. There is nothing to do but hope that this appeal for an adjustment to the legislation in the autumn will be heard, together with the voice of those, such as LIPU, who have worked for years in favour of the development of a real and effective “network of protected areas”. After many big steps forward, this network risks being struck a fatal blow by this budgetary measure.

A Minister without a budget

Between 2009 and 2011, a halving in the resources at the disposal of the Minister of the Environment

It is in vain that LIPU, together with the other environmental associations, is asking the Government when and how much it intends to invest under the headlines of Environment and Biodiversity. If our appeals remain unanswered then a deafening noise is coming from the figures past, present and future.

Already included in the cuts to the funds for the ministry contained in the first Tremonti decree of two years ago, the executive had proposed a reduction in the budget of the Environment Ministry equal to 52% between 2009 and 2011, putting immediately into effect – just to show they are serious – a reduction of 678 million Euros out of the 1,300 million available in 2008.

Even more worrying is the situation emerging in the run up to the publication of the Budget of 2010. As the same minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, already announced at the end of last year, the resources available to the ministry are falling at an unsustainable rate from 1,700 million guaranteed in 2008 to 1,265 million in 2009 down to 738 million in 2010 with 590 million promised for 2011. That is a halving in just two years, two thirds less, on balance, between 2008 and 2011.

This is an outrageous attack on the environment, and on the Parks, which no requirement for rebalancing and reducing the public purse can possibly justify.

Giuliano Tallone is the Director of the Circeo National Park, 60 miles south of Rome.


By Giorgia Gaibani and Sara Orlandi

A Golden Eagle flying over the mountains is a symbol of uncontaminated nature. The beauty of this raptor is enchanting and conveys a sense of freedom that we now need more than ever before.

Besides being naturally charming and among the biggest raptors in Italy, it plays a unique role in the ecology. However, in spite of its charm and importance, the Golden Eagle is threatened by the increasingly irresponsible exploitation of natural resources by man.

LIPU, together with Norda, the bottled water supplier, decided to study the Golden Eagle within some Important Bird Areas (IBAs), in order to identify the main threats and find possible solutions. So, we surveyed within the following IBAs where the majority of these beautiful raptors nest:

Gran Paradiso - IBA 008,

Lagorai – IBA 046,

Stelvio National Park – IBA 041,

Dolomiti Bellunesi – IBA 050

and Monti Sibillini - IBA 095.

What are the threats to the Golden Eagle?

Destruction of their habitat: Golden Eagles usually go hunting over pasture and mountain grassland. Unfortunately, these areas are disappearing because streets, infrastructure and ski-lifts are being built and because of a general decrease of sheep farming.
Possible solutions: A better management of sheep farming and agriculture. Prohibition of building new mountain roads and new ski-lifts.

Electric lines: Birds can die because of electrocution and collision with the cables.

Possible solutions: Make electric lines safer by effective systems to make them more visible.

Windmills: Birds can collide with the towers of the turbines or with the moving blades.

Possible solutions: Do not build such infrastructure in areas that are important for eagles, birds and bats.

Climbing where the Golden Eagles nest: Even people who approach nesting sites at a distance are extremely disturbing for Golden Eagles. This can lead the eagle to leave the nest.

Possible solutions: Forbid activities such as climbing and paragliding in nesting sites.

Poisoning: Eagles still die through eating poisoned food which is used to control those species considered dangerous (dogs, foxes, wolves).

Possible solutions: A thorough control of the territory by the authority. More information and education.

Many of these threats do not just affect Golden Eagles and birds but also man, whose life depends on nature (for health, nutrition and culture).

Through this project, LIPU was able to mark on the maps the threats to the Golden Eagle in those IBAs that have been analysed.

Through the information we gathered, we have been able to:

Our future actions will aim to:


By Danilo Selvaggi, Andrea Mazza

Tourism is rapidly expanding and green tourism even more so. There are new risks, but there is also the opportunity for greater awareness and development.


Italy has all it needs to promote the development of natural tourism.

According to experts, tourism will be one of the future’s greatest industries. The statistics already speak loudly and clearly: nearly 250 million people work in this sector worldwide and there are a billion international travellers a year with a further 4% increase in the international tourist industry expected by 2020. Italy has always been popular with visitors and today, with 41.1 million arrivals annually, is the world’s fifth most important tourist destination and, here too, further increases are expected.

Tourism and nature

Alongside the growth in international tourism, green tourism is becoming increasingly popular. Parks, reserves, farm holidays, bird-watching, remote areas and near ones that can be equally beautiful, are highly sought after by many tourists, keen to get in touch with nature and to have deeper experiences than those our increasingly chaotic towns have to offer.

If truth be told, nature can sometimes suffer in such situations. Badly managed or excessive tourism can be a serious threat to the conservation of wildlife, special localities and habitats, especially in the case of exotic places where a large concentration of biodiversity is relatively unprotected by laws and regulations, putting nature at risk. Green tourists must be aware of the fact that visiting a place of interest must mean preserving rather than plundering its beauty. However, natural tourism, if carried out in a responsible manner, can offer a real opportunity to appreciate and thus protect our natural heritage.

Italy and our English “cousins”

Our country offers ample opportunities for the development of natural tourism. Italy has, for example, 23 national parks and hundreds of regional and local parks and reserves. LIPU also has many reserves, with numerous and diverse environments and an extraordinary variety of birds and other animals.

LIPU’s “English cousin”, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK partner of Bird Life International) has, with its reserves and tourism policies, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and its series of didactic and informative activities have changed the way of understanding nature for countless English people. Of course, as far as the power of associations is concerned, Italy is not England, but we still have room and the possibility for growth and so much to do.

European Birdwatching Day

One particularly exciting date is October 2-3rd. It is European Birdwatch - an event that BirdLife International organises across Europe for the observation of bird migration. This annual event is organised at the start of autumn and offers a great opportunity to watch the migration of birds.

This year, LIPU Oasi, reserves and parks, and also Network Natura 2000 sites and other wildlife areas, will host guided visits organised by LIPU volunteers and workers. With the help of accompanying experts, every one of the participants will be able to recognise the species and count the numbers, contributing to the biggest European census of birds ever carried out by children, adults and families. Last year, nearly 70 thousand people took part in 35 European countries, with nearly three million birds counted. In 2010, we intend to break the record and involve even more people. It’s a fascinating event and one in which everyone, expert or not, can participate.

A new flight: LIPU & Norda for tourism and nature

Nature tourism is not only the prerogative of ornithologists, naturalists, or daring adventurers. In fact it is an experience that – depending on the chosen destinations – can be an affordable one for everyone: young, old, children and families. To demonstrate this look at the new web site
( that LIPU and Norda (suppliers of bottled water) have dedicated to families who love nature. The site explains how, despite pushchairs and baby bottles, families can safely arrange a holiday or just enjoy a day out with nature.

Born from the project “A new flight” which LIPU and Norda have dedicated to the knowledge and protection of the Golden Eagle, the site promotes useful information about nature excursions and trips suitable for everyone, where one can watch wildlife, relax, play in the open air or just enjoy a picnic.

The new site also offers the means for identification of the birds seen that you have not been able to recognise and helps to overcome the difficulties that anyone, whatever their level of experience, can encounter while birdwatching. It is a step forward in the work of LIPU for the new “sweet” frontier of nature tourism.

In the field with the Ministry

The Animal Friendly Committee Italy (Comitato Italia Animal Friendly) was founded by the Minister for Tourism, Michaela Brambilla. LIPU is part of it with our President Giuliano Tallone and Danilo Selvaggi. The Committee symbolises an important institutional obligation to nature tourism with, among its tasks, the true evaluation of Italian wildlife areas for tourism. The role of LIPU on the Committee, which also includes MPs and representatives of other institutions, will be to promote the most important sites for birds, including, of course, the LIPU Oasi through birdwatching, excursions, and information and the creation of a network of services and activities for natural tourism.

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Danilo Selvaggi

Thanks to LIPU, significant modifications have been made to the regulation of hunting but still the majority of regional governments do not apply them. This dreadful lack of respect for the law has already earned our country condemnation from the European Court of Justice.

The new regulations governing hunting include protective measures (forbidding hunting during breeding and migration, special provision for threatened species and conservation of habitat), but how many regions will comply with the new rules? In other words, will they escape from the pressure from the hunting lobby and shorten the hunting season, reduce the number of species that can be taken and bring in conservation measures?

The new rules

To help with the decision, LIPU has sent the regions a document that sets out their obligation to comply and the steps they must take. The case is strengthened by a further document from the national government that confirms the necessity of reducing the amount of hunting.

However, not all the regions are choosing to comply. Puglia and Lazio have done something by shortening the period for hunting thrushes, woodcock and some duck which is some help, but not enough. Not one region has yet planned an assessment of the incidence of hunting in nature reserves, as required by the EU. So, LIPU and environmental organisations must resort to the courts to get the illegal hunting calendars dropped, the directive reinstated, and above all, nature given at least some of the protection it is too often denied.

Italy must abide by a single hunting season from 1 October to 31 December as the new law requires.

Derogations condemned by EU

The illegal situation is confirmed by the fact that procedures of the European Court of Justice (begun in 2006) have received only tardy and partial response from the Italian government which has been strongly condemned by the commission. It is now bringing a new action to ensure that Italy complies with the decisions of the court. It has, above all, both the Veneto and Lombardia in its sights. These regions are, as you read this article, deciding whether to allow further derogations which would make the situation worse, or to recognise, at long last, that their prime objective should be to protect the natural world.


by Ugo Faralli, LIPU responsible for Oasi and Reserves

Some new arrivals

LIPU reserves have two new nesting species. An unexpected email from Michele Pegorer announced two breeding pairs of Glossy Ibis in the LIPU Oasis of Cave Gaggio, to the north of Venice. Then a telephone call from Maurizio Ravasini confirmed that a pair of Spoonbill had just hatched young in the LIPU Oasis of Torrile, near Parma.

It is not the first time that these two species have bred in Italy, but it is the first time they have bred in LIPU reserves. Both Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill are water birds that have expanded their breeding range in recent years. The reasons for this expansion in Italy are many and varied: natural increase of range; the first effects of climate change; and better wetland protection, to give just a few examples. To this, we can proudly add our own good management.

Glossy Ibis: our “icing on the cake”

For many years, the Oasis of Cave Gaggio has been looked after by LIPU volunteers from Venice. Though small in terms of area, only recently increasing from 13 to 40 hectares, it is large in terms of numbers of bird species. Here, two pairs of Glossy Ibis have nested among the herons and cormorants. Since 2004, this wooded area has attracted colonial birds, starting with Little Egret and Night Heron. They were joined in 2007 by Cattle Egret and Squacco Heron, and, in 2009, by Grey Heron and Pygmy Cormorant. A small colony of Purple Heron lies only a few hundred yards away in the adjoining reedbed. To protect this habitat, LIPU has asked the local authorities to limit human disturbance by restricting fishing. We would now like to see an expansion in feeding areas which are rather scarce at the moment and the creation of a pool to benefit Glossy Ibis as well as herons at large. We are discussing strategies and options with local landowners.

Spoonbill: a reward for 25 years hard work

Torrile has a similar story, though with a longer history. This oasis was created with the aim of attracting as many birds as possible, alongside other animal and plant species. In the mid-eighties, Maurizio Ravasini and LIPU volunteers from Parma planted thousands of willow and alder saplings, hoping to create a habitat favoured by herons and similar species. This hard work has paid off. The oasis boasts breeding pairs of all the species of European heron, with the addition of Spoonbill from last summer.

Here is Maurizio’s report. “As often happens in the animal world, it wasn’t love at first sight between the Spoonbill, and Torrile Oasis. Regular sightings started in the year 2000. In the spring of 2002, two pairs of adult males and juvenile female Spoonbills built nests in the reed bed, laying four eggs and three eggs, none of which hatched. In 2004, three birds were seen between July and August, and in the following years, a few individuals stayed over during migration. Now we come to 2010. In May, during the breeding season, a group of four individual adults was observed repeatedly in the trees of the heronry wood. Later that month, a pair of adults was seen displaying, and a few days later they were refurbishing an abandoned heron’s nest. In July, this pair regularly fed three chicks which fledged on the 22nd. They were still present in the oasis a few days later, finally leaving during August.”

From this year, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill have joined the 135 other species that nest in LIPU Oases and Reserves. Some of these species are widespread and well-known, such as Blackbird, Swallow and Chaffinch. Other species are rare with unfamiliar names. Ferruginous Duck at Palude Brabbia, Biviere di Gela and Saline di Priolo, Eleanora’s Falcon at Carloforte, Lesser Kestrel at Gravina di Laterza and somewhere in between lie the localized species: Kentish Plover at Ca’ Roman, Little Tern at Saline di Priolo and Black Kite at Castel di Guido.

So who will join us next? We are accepting bets. The next addition could well be Black Stork at Gravina di Laterza.

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Danilo Mainardi

It often happens that someone asks me why birds are so important in terms of the conservation of nature. And from me, unfailingly, comes the reply: just think of the swallows, hard even to find in places now, as their numbers go down year by year. One example suffices for all. And it is not merely a matter of protecting the environment, for swallows are things of beauty in themselves, and a sky that is empty of swallows is a sky that is full of sadness. Then too, there is the charm of their song – how heavy a loss that would be – and a world without swallows would be a world less beautiful. And what is worse, moreover, is that a nature which has no place for swallows is without doubt one which is no longer healthy, no longer one which is a source of good for us and our children.

All very fine, but since we at LIPU consider ourselves scientific, let me bring some logical order and historical context to the reasons why the protection of bird life is so important, and why so many people from our dedicated band of volunteers dedicate so much of their time to the protection of birds, a constant theme from the now forty-plus years of our beloved association.

Let us go back first to the days when LIPU was born. Those were different times, when the main objective was simply to prevent the slaughter of our beautiful birds, as happened then more than nowadays, merely for the fun of it. A so called sport such as this, predicated on the suffering of sentient beings, seemed to us morally unjustifiable, and if this was so at the time, it is no less the case today. More so now, because we know more of the sensitivity and intelligence of birds. The mind of a crow or parrot, may well be different from that of a mammal, but this does not mean it is any less sophisticated.

And naturally we speak in terms of the beauty of birds. We are uniquely placed to do this because along with the birds, and unlike most other mammals, our most acute senses are those of hearing and sight, an evolutionary trait which brought us humans to stand upright, watching and listening rather than gathering in olfactory data, as do our familiars the dogs and the cats, along with most of the fur-clad races of this world. Together with the birds indeed, our image of the world is an audiovisual one, so that when the female bird of paradise is dazzled by the plumage of her suitor, we too are dazzled with her, and both we, and the female nightingale, are enthralled by the song of the male.

That, however, was then. Now as well as this, we must take account of the expansion of ecological knowledge. Nowadays we know that what must be protected is biodiversity in its totality, not birds alone. And this is what we must do, whether for them or for ourselves, as the case of the swallows tells us: if the insects disappear because chemicals have driven them out, then it is farewell to the swallows as well. But that is not where it would end. For this reason, we at LIPU have added to our old driving-forces new and urgent ones; we have learned through this and other examples, that birds are also extraordinary biological indicators, through their mobility and capacity for intelligent choice, which can quickly tell us if something is not working in the environment.

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A brief report from the indefatigable Giovanni Malara, the LIPU volunteer who devotes most of his time to thwarting the efforts of poachers all over the country.

The first weekend in September was spent mainly on anti-poaching activities on the Strait of Messina. Eight volunteers took part. They carried out two search activities with negative results: one at night against Dormouse poaching in the Bova (RC) area in the Aspromonte National Park, in collaboration with the local Carabinieri and the other during the day in the area of Motta San Giovanni a resting place of Marsh Harrier and Honey Buzzard, in collaboration with the Guardia di Finanza.

In the course of three nights volunteers removed seven tape lures for attracting Quail and a net for trapping birds. The net was placed on poles near an irrigation tank – water is an irresistible attraction for birds in this very dry area.

These nets capture passerines, especially Goldfinches. The females are immediately killed, while the males are sold as cage birds or to be a decoy.

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Birdfair 2010

Carol Debney

The British Birdwatching Fair held at Rutland Water every August is a red-letter event in the birdwatching calendar. Many people attend every year and it’s developed something of a party atmosphere where friends from all over the world meet and catch up with one another. The diversity is truly amazing and BirdFair can legitimately claim to be an international event – 22,400 people attended this year.

From our vantage point on the LIPU-UK stand in marquee 4 we can watch this multicultural world go by but few visitors actually manage to pass us without at least signing our petition – Shirley Fleming, wife of our chairman Joe – is tireless in her pursuit of signatures and we achieved 1,200+ this year.
We also had the charming presence of Ugo Faralli from Parma HQ. Ugo is responsible for reserves and oasi in Italy and enjoys explaining the latest work of LIPU to the members who come to say ‘hello’ and the other visitors to our stand. He also helps us in the difficult task of trying to obtain new members. We managed to obtain a few and some renewals but this is a constant battle. If anyone has any ideas about how to obtain new members please let us know!

However, just as many LIPU-UK members are Italophiles, so Ugo is an Anglophile. He just loves coming to the UK. He has even been known to be complimentary about our motorway cafes! – and has never been allowed to forget it – but he is a great ambassador for LIPU and his Italian charm is a bonus for us at the Fair.

This was my 21st birdfair – I can hardly believe it but it is true – though it is only since my retirement from Bird Watching magazine that I have been fully engaged on the LIPU-UK stand. The major change that I notice in BirdFair over these years is one of size.

This event has grown! A day is no longer sufficient to see everything, attend talks and events. I wonder if a three-day ticket would even be enough. But one thing hasn’t changed –in my eyes at least – and that is the friendliness of BirdFair. It has somehow managed to retain the friendly atmosphere that it had from the beginning.

It’s a tribute to the event that despite its growth and the fact that everyone is competing for new members, new bookings and sales; despite the heat, the rain or the mud, the aching backs, the sore feet and sore throats – everyone is still smiling. Perhaps it’s because we all share a common cause in the welfare of birds and conservation and concern for the environment. Whatever it is I wish we could bottle it – we’d make a fortune on the LIPU-UK stand!

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For those who have not opted out of the draw you will find tickets with this issue of the Ali. We have changed the format this year and are offering three cash prizes which is easier than offering prizes which may not be what the winner wants.

We have also increased the price of each ticket but halved the number printed, this will have no effect other than to reduce production costs. Please support this fund raising effort if you can; based on previous years the odds of winning a prize are about 1 in 80 which is a lot better than the National Lottery!

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I am grateful, as always, to the team who translated this edition: Jo Bazen, Tony Harris, Caterina Paone, Peter Rafferty, Gaia Tocci, John Walder and Carol Debney who co-ordinated the work.

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

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