Ali (Wings) - The English Digest - Autumn 2012

EDITORIAL AUTUMN 2012

It is so easy to read in the papers of an earthquake in some distant part of the world, feel sympathy for the victims and then put it out of the mind. But have you ever thought of just how you might deal with the situation if it happened to you.

There was a severe quake in L’Aquila in April 2009 and the pictures were flashed to us by the media who rated the event as important because of a heavy death toll. In May this year, two earthquakes were centred on San Possidonio, in Modena province, less than 50 miles from LIPU headquarters in Parma. Mercifully, the casualties were so light that the Reuters report of the event concentrated on the loss of half a million wheels of Parmesan cheese.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of the local people and thought that the first few hours would inevitably be chaotic before help arrived. The Protezione Civile arrived from all over the country with strong teams from Tuscany and Lazio bringing water, first aid and shelters - all learned from experience of previous disasters. The football field became a “tent city” and the initial shocks to the people must have slowly settled as order replaced the uncertainty.

Then what would happen? How long will it last? What on earth are we to do with the children? Questions, the last a real worry for any parent.

Staff and volunteers from LIPU felt certain that they could contribute something to take some of the stress and misery from the victims by turning up and helping to occupy the hands and minds of the young ones. Inspiring a little hope in them and instilling a respect for wildlife and for those who protect it, that will, we hope, remain with them for a long time. See page 16 for more from Chiara Manghetti.

GOOD NEWS FOR NATURE

The return of the Bonelli’s Eagle and White Stork; the European Union’s initiative against illegal hunting, initiatives to stop land waste. Good news which strengthens the efficacy of our efforts in defence of the environment and of biodiversity.

Let us start with the bad news.

The so-called “Spending Review” is paralysing the already difficult support of the National Parks, cuts which fall heavily on staffing, and hence, on good administration. As Giuliano Tallone has informed us, to ask further sacrifices of the Parks is truly suicidal. Once more we must ask the Government to reconsider its position in the interest of making a clear stand to safeguard our natural heritage.

And now the hopeful news.

This year, more than 30 young Bonelli’s Eagle have fledged in Sicily. Safeguarded by dozens of LIPU volunteers and other associated friends, their successful flight is a blow to those who, for decades, have destroyed nests and stolen the young raptors as “pets” or for falconry. In the skies of Sicily and Calabria hundreds of new storks, who are reoccupying southern Italy with their majesty and beauty can be seen. All this is constantly monitored by our volunteers, who, throughout “Stork Day” accompany townspeople to rediscover this fascinating and symbolic bird.

In order to see many other migrant birds, the dates for the diary are the 6th and 7th of October, with Euro Birdwatch 2012. All the European bird-protection associations included in Birdlife International will train binoculars and telescopes skywards to observe millions of wild birds. In Italy, LIPU will open its reserves and organise birdwatching initiatives with the local delegations to help members of the public to take part.

Another interesting proposal is from the Minister for Agricultural Politics, Mario Catania, who suggests a law which will stop the waste of land by “cementification” and the so-called “change of use” of wild places. LIPU thinks that the problem is so serious and urgent that it must be included in the parliamentary programme as soon as possible.

Finally, a turn of events in “illegal hunting”.

Our protests, especially those against the illegal, traditional, hunting of small birds such as finches including brambling, instigated a first action of European Community Infringement in 2001, and a second, more severe procedure in 2006, which brought Italy a condemnation in the European Court of Justice. In 2008, LIPU mobilised all its people, members, volunteers, delegates, and collected more than 200,000 signatures to say “No” to this, now intolerable, form of hunting. Since then, we have continued to denounce it until, last May in Brussels, we were received by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janek Potocnik, to whom we recounted the history of this grave Italian course of events, and from whom we have obtained the promise to enforce the judgements of law. And so it has been. A few days afterwards, Potocnik wrote a letter to the Italian Government (in primis to Minister Clini) requesting the cessation of this intolerable infringement up to now on pain of a new and this time definitive condemnation of Italy. We shall see in the next weeks how Government, Parliament and Regions will conduct themselves in consequence. This is a part of LIPU’s daily work and is certain to rank as one of our greatest successes.

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BONELLI'S EAGLE HIGHLIGHTS

by Angelo Scuderi, LIPU National Advisor, and Marco Gustin, Species and Research Manager at LIPU

The sun is rising on a cold March day. The volunteers from LIPU, EBN Italy, WWF, the Fund for the Safeguard of Predatory Birds and MAN are already working in Sicily to safeguard the last breeding pairs of Bonelli’s Eagles in Italy, a species which has been classified as endangered in the country.

There is no time to waste. Each team is assigned tasks to undertake and the areas to protect. They need to safeguard the last couples of this species before the poachers attack the nests. Twenty couples, when seen at a national level, are very few indeed.
This dramatic scenario has led various nature conservation associations, co-ordinated by LIPU, to intervene before it is too late. A first group of volunteers, who, united by the simple pleasure for birdwatching, started monitoring part of the Sicilian population of this species, gave birth to a working group which was able to assess the causes of several breeding failures recorded over the past few years. Some Sicilian ornithologists had already raised the alarm on both the abnormally poor breeding success of the species and the thefts of eaglets from their nests. As for the latter, the issue was raised when one of the ornithologists discovered such a theft at the historical site of Pizzo Muculufa.

The crucial role of Italy

Before describing how this extraordinary project developed and the crucial results obtained by LIPU, it is important to have a look at the data concerning the status of Bonelli’s Eagles. In 2000, total population size for this species in the EU was 880 - 1,000 pairs, between 15% and 24% of the global population. However, fewer than 20 pairs were known to breed in Italy.

Even in Europe the species has had an unfavourable conservation status in the periods 1970-1990 and 1990-2000.

The nesting population in Italy represents 2% of that of the European Union and of Europe in general. However, considering the extremely disadvantageous situation of this species at a European level and its reduced distribution compared to the past, Italy plays a paramount role in the safeguarding of this species in the Mediterranean area.

The Bonelli’s Eagle is among the species included in the Annex I of the Birds Directive and it is rigorously protected both at an international level by an International Action Plan and particularly at a national level by the Italian Hunting Act (Art.2, 157/92).

The project in Sicily

In light of the last update on the situation of the species in Sicily, a new campaign aiming at assessing the known sites and their conservation status was launched last spring. The known sites were 22, to which three more were added after being discovered during the assessment campaign launched in 2011.

Firstly, each site was given a code to avoid using names of places in the various reports which might help identify the location of the nests. Then, one or more sites were given to the volunteers who committed themselves to monitor the breeding process of each couple.

The first task undertaken during the 2011/2012 breeding season was the recognition of the 25 known breeding sites in order to verify their occupancy and organise the monitoring campaign accordingly.

During the season, 23 out of 24 sites were occupied and three new sites were discovered, thus taking to 26 the total number of known couples that have bred in Sicily.

The research activity undertaken in the new sites was launched thanks to the available information derived from the monitoring which has taken place in nearby areas, or in areas where the birds were known to have bred in the past.

The design of a distribution map has helped intensify the checks in the most suitable areas or in the historical ones where signs of threats have been identified.

This activity started in November 2011, the same period in which the couple usually occupies the nesting site and defends it with territorial behaviours (undulating flight, courtship rituals etc.) and continued until last July.

During the breeding season three more couples have been discovered, as well as two new occupied territories, which now amount to 40. However, ten out of forty sites showed no signs of the birds’ presence (nests, recent observations and suitability of the area); six had birds that have been observed several times but their breeding was not confirmed, unlike 28 other couples where there was clear evidence of success.

Hours and hours of observation under the blazing Sicilian sun have enabled 75 volunteers from four surveillance camps to follow the acrobatics of this species and consistently check the various nesting sites. This allowed them to follow, step by step, the monitored couples and the first flight of the eaglets. There was a lack of information from the nests in the Trapani area, even though the good results obtained from the observation of the new couples, together with the assessment of the successful breeding, leave hope for increased future knowledge on this species.

One of the crucial steps to safeguard this species was made on the 29th March 2012, when an agreement protocol was signed by the group coordinating the protection of predatory birds in Sicily (LIPU, EBN Italy, WWF, FSN and MAN) and the Sicilian Forestry Unit, core of the regional CITES unit. The co-operation with the latter materialised thanks to the activities undertaken at Geraci Siculo, a site in which some Lanners were confiscated during the display by some falconers.

Nevertheless, the day where this species will no longer be considered endangered in Italy is still far away. Indeed, according to a study conducted by LIPU for the Italian Ministry of the Environment, the current population has a 30%-70% chance to be extinct within the next century. If such risk had to be reduced to only 1%, then Sicily should have a minimum of 100 couples, which is the goal that LIPU wants to achieve in the next ten years.

THE RABBIT HUNTING EAGLE

Bonelli’s Eagle is a fascinating species: its behavioural, eating and breeding patterns are peculiar and unique.

Indeed, it has elusive habits, it is specialised in rabbit hunting and breeds, rather accidentally, by using ledges and rocky walls in the little inhabited territories of the Sicilian hinterland. Nowadays, this species is present only in Sicily, as nothing is known about the active and living couples present in Calabria and Sardinia, the only two regions that were historically hosting the species.

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AUTUMN BIRDWATCHING

by Marco Gustin, LIPU Species and Research Manager

A long season is approaching in which we can observe and learn how to recognise birds in their natural environment. There are so many opportunities for watching different species amongst the migratory and overwintering birds.

Before the great winter cold spell, autumn offers, from the middle of August until the end of November, a long period for watching migrating birds. Millions of birds which have nested, and their young, fly over our country on their way to Africa. At the end of summer (between the end of August and the first fortnight of September) we can concentrate on watching trans-Saharan migrants such as for example, amongst aquatic species, the Garganey, and also the many species of sandpiper, which can be seen in migration from July (Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, etc.). The birdwatcher who is desperate to see rare birds can gain great satisfaction in September, but, better still, in October, by visiting the small islands around the Tyrrhenian Sea such as Lampedusa, Linosa, Ventotene, Capri, and many others. These islands are hosts in autumn to many accidental migrants going to Africa, such as the Red-breasted Flycatcher, Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler or even the Red-flanked Bluetail.

From October Italy is often ‘invaded’ by partial migrants (amongst ducks the Teal, Gadwall and the Eurasian Wigeon) and amongst passeriformes the Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Chiffchaff and Robin. All these are migrants coming from northern and eastern Europe, which will overwinter in parts of the Mediterranean basin after the trans-Saharan migrants have left Italy.

And it is appropriate that Eurobirdwatch should return in the first weekend of October with an exhibition on migration organized by LIPU on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October in LIPU’s own oases and reserves and in many other protected areas in Italy.

At last, November arrives. In this month it is possible to see passing overhead partial migrants such as Fieldfare and Redwing or Egyptian Goose and Common Crane. These are sometimes in flocks of thousands of individuals. A last assault of the migrants before the long, cold winter.

ALVIANO OASIS (North of Rome and east of Lake Bolsena)

The Alviano Oasis, formed in 1978 over an area of 800 hectares and enclosed in the Tevere River Park, comprises the whole artificial basin of Lake Alviano which was formed when the Tevere was dammed. The rich vegetation provides both protection and marshland.

In autumn great flocks of ducks arrive, especially Pochard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and other species such as Kingfisher, Great Crested Grebe, various species of heron, cormorant, various species of gull and raptors which can easily be seen thanks to viewing towers, footbridges and well equipped hides. The Oasis is open from 1 September to 15 May. Visits on Sundays and holidays excluding Christmas, from 10 till sunset with a short break for lunch. For more information: Tel. 0039 0744 903715.

LIPU SALINE DI PRIOLO NATURE RESERVE (North of Syracuse in Sicily)

The “Saline di Priolo” Nature Reserve (40 hectares) managed by LIPU protcts a large wetland zone along an area of coast near Priolo and Marina di Melilli (SR). A total of 216 species of birds have been recorded in the area and amongst these, of special interest in autumn, is the Caspian Tern, which was chosen as the emblem for this Reserve.

In autumn birdwatchers can see flocks of several thousand waders, hundreds of herons, thousands of Black Terns, and many other species. Several accidentals might be observed: amongst these are Greater Sand Plover, Pintail Snipe, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Lesser Crested Tern, Ruppell’s Warbler and many others. The Reserve is open to the public all year round, every day. Guided visits for groups or schools must be booked in advance by contacting Reserve officials (Tel. 0931/735026).

LIPU SAN PIETRO OASIS (Carloforte, south west Sardinia)

The LIPU Oasis of Carloforte represents an important feeding and nesting area for many species of birds. The rarest and most significant species is Eleonora’s Falcon which breeds in a important colony of over 100 pairs. In autumn (end of August to the beginning of October), when the falcons are very active in hunting, many can be seen before migrating towards Africa. It is also not difficult to come across the very rare Audouin’s Gull or the Shag. Guided visits go along various paths provided with information panels and an information box (a sort of mobile visitors’ centre) to coordinate education and conservation activities. The oasis can be visited by contacting the manager of the oasis (tel. 338-2776307), or by guided group or school visits which must be booked in advance.

SALINE DI MARGHERITA DI SAVOIA (Gulf of Manfredonia, east of Foggia)

Along the state highway 159, after Frattarolo and Daunia Risi, south of Manfredonia, are the salines (salt pans) of Margherita di Savoia, the most important wetland area in mainland southern Italy. At the end of October the first contingent of overwintering ducks (especially Wigeon, Shelduck, Shoveler and Teal) arrives; but from August to September there is a great crowd of waders of various species like Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Dunlin, Little Stint, Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. It is also quite usual to see falcons such as Lanner and Peregrine hunting.

The site can be visited by contacting either the forest management in Trinitapoli or through the tourist office in Margherita di Savoia (tel. 0883.659108).

EUROBIRDWATCH 2012

The new session of Eurobirdwatch will take place over the weekend of 6 and 7 October 2012. This event dedicated to birdwatching is organized by BirdLife International in 27 European countries and by LIPU in Italy. LIPU oases and reserves and other important areas in Italy for birdwatching will welcome birdwatching fans and families to observe about 300 species of wild birds. Those who attend will have the opportunity of taking part in a great European census of migratory birds.

For more information you can telephone n. 0521.273043 (e-mail: info@lipu.it) or visit the LIPU website www.lipu.it.

A SMILE FOR SOME

Chiara Manghetti - LIPU Education Officer

A day with the people affected by the earthquake in Emilia Romagna. The feelings, memories, emotions, as told by those who tried to bring a little help in the field. Help, especially to children, the most affected by the tragedy.

A great woman who loved all living things, Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that we will never know how much good a simple smile can do. And that’s what I understood, when I was with volunteers and LIPU staff, on June 30 in the camp of San Possidonio, in the province of Modena and Reggiolo, in the province of Reggio Emilia. On 20th and 29th May these two locations lived through a terrible experience - two earthquakes that caused the collapse of homes, businesses, schools, churches, and among the rubble were the citizens’ daily life along with their dreams and their hopes.

A few days after the earthquake, we wondered how LIPU could make a contribution to help and be close to the people in their need. Nature, we believe, always brings joy and serenity to people, especially to children who are instinctively closer to it. It was then that groups of volunteers and LIPU staff from various parts of Italy, including some from LIPU Nature Reserve Bosco Negri (near Pavia) and the Oasis LIPU Castel di Guido (near Rome), gathered to spend a day with the children.

It is hard to describe that day; there were so many different emotions and, although television and newspapers has already shown horrific images of destruction, experiencing them at first hand was, indeed, something very moving. Before arriving in San Possidonio, we passed through municipalities of Emilia and were taken aback by the destroyed sheds, the collapsed buildings, the tents in the courtyards and gardens of the houses. Everywhere there were red and white ribbons, but most impressive were the piles of rubble. Destroyed buildings that had offered security and held a family’s memories of a lifetime. Even the tent cities there have appeared different from what you see on TV - smells, voices, sounds that the screen cannot possibly describe or imagine.

At San Possidonio we were greeted in the tent city of Civil Protection of Tuscany, very well organized and enthusiastic volunteers and well prepared. We immediately saw that most of the guests were families with many children. At first, the younger guests looked at us in a little awe. But soon we started to play games with them and involved them all. Guided by LIPU educators, these children have now learned to recognize animal tracks, using pens and finger paints, have built and painted artificial nests to hang in their future homes, schools, and finally they made masks of birds of prey.

The day ended, in a field near Reggiolo, with a message of great hope - the liberation of some birds of prey treated by LIPU recovery center of Reggio Emilia.

In the eyes of the people you clearly see the wounds of the tragedy, and one day of distraction could not heal them. But we had a strong feeling of bringing a little colour and joy that was, and is still needed. At the end of the day, to part from the children and return to our own cities, safe in our homes, was much more difficult than any of us could imagine. But, from these little things, from the “simple smile” are born larger things, and these are more important and beautiful than the scenes of devastation we saw.

So, from September, LIPU, thanks to the delegation of volunteers from Carpi, will involve the school children of San Possidonio in environmental education activities, with the intention of bringing them to rediscovering their land as a place to love and, together, to protect.

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CAN WE LIVE WITH THE ANIMAL WORLD?

Marco Dinetti - LIPU Urban Ecology

In recent years Italians’ respect for, and sensitivity towards, animals has grown, as the passage of new legislation along with the growing number of groups of birdwatchers and animal rescue centres shows.

The law of 2004 banning the mistreatment of animals recognises that they are sentient creatures and the new highway code now requires animals injured on the roads to be cared for.

The numbers of animals in distress that have been helped is testimony to the change in attitude, In 1987, CRUMA, the rescue centre for marine and aquatic animals managed by LIPU in Livorno cared for 68 animals while in 2011 it was 3,997. Together, all LIPU’s centres care for between 15 and 20 thousand animals a year.

Flagship species and research

Everyone knows the Barn Swallow and many people are delighted to have them nesting under their eves. Sometimes they add suitable nest sites to their buildings but there are still those who destroy Swallow and House Martin nests even though they are protected by law.

The interest in wildlife research has also grown. In the eighties some parts of the country had no ornithologists but today there are groups carrying out research in every region. Birdwatching is becoming more popular while the number of web sites and shops devoted to wildlife photography and gardening point to yet further growth in interest in all forms of wildlife

Problem Species: the need for objectivity

Species such as city pigeons and Herring Gulls, deface buildings, eat crops and cause birdstrikes at airports.

LIPU has always recognised such problems and put forward effective solutions but there are still those who want to resolve them by the gun, ignoring European law which calls for ecological forms of control.

From time to time, with no scientific basis, negative attitudes come to the fore. Headlines such as ‘Pigeons, a danger to health’ can cause hysteria if one so much as lands on a balcony even though, while we know that if we take normal hygiene precautions it is perfectly safe to allow children to play in the piazza. Who can forget the false rumours and hysteria about bird flu? The psychosis brought on by the media meant that people were calling LIPU, terrified by the robin in their garden!

We need above all to develop a culture that understands biodiversity, enjoys the beauty of nature and deals with problems in a rational manner. From such a perspective there should be an opportunity to bring in further legislation to safeguard biodiversity which relates to all species, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates alike.

In understanding ‘other’ animals we will understand ourselves and we and they will be better off.

PANTANELLO, A NEW LIPU OASIS

By Lauro Marchetti – Director of the Natural Monument of the Ninfa Park

On 21st April last there was the signing of the protocol between LIPU and the Caetani Foundation for the management of the Pantanello Natural Area in the Province of Latina.

When, in 1992, Fulco Pratesi and Arturo Osio were leaving the Ninfa Park, in the company of two councillors of the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, they were walking through seemingly endless agricultural land. The area was devoid of trees and home to just a few Chaffinch along with the odd Zitting Cisticola and Tree Sparrow. They could not know that in the years to come the area would be transformed into marshes and woods - a veritable treasure chest of nature and home to Ferruginous and other ducks, herons, woodpeckers and falcons as well as badgers, porcupines, wild boar and martens.

The idea, which took shape in the flat land on the inland borders of the Pontine Marshes, was founded on a memory of flood plain forest and marshes which had been among the most impressive in Italy. These had stretched from the Lepini Mountains to the sea and from the first volcanic slopes to the north and to Terracina in the south. The water of the river Ninfa, soaking the parched earth, enabled the growth of thousands of tiny seedlings of oak, ash, alder and willow. Soon the first paths were laid out and observation hides were constructed for the use of visitors in the future.

The first sign of what was to come occurred in September 2003 when, suddenly at sunset, from the direction of one of the coastal lagoons of the nearby Circeo National Park a drake Teal landed in the marsh. With its neck very much up it remained cautious and alert, making a number of flights before leaving. The following morning saw a group of drakes and ducks landing in line astern and today some five to six hundred of them winter together. Never could we have thought that Nature would regain its own in so short a time - the little seedlings, having grown at an astonishing rate, are now of a size to host Green Woodpeckers, Tawny Owls, tits and dormice, helped along by nest boxes. From the peaks of the nearby hills a Peregrine flies like an arrow in search of a ready meal while, with a more relaxed wing beat, Marsh Harriers glide along between the reed beds and the marshes.

Broad spaces have been left open and, where possible, the reeds are regularly cut with a water blade - a banquet for snipe and all the various related wading species as well as being a hunting ground for Bee-eaters, Kestrels and Buzzards. The kilometres of mixed hedging are home to Hedgehog, Pheasant, Blackbirds and thrushes as well as to the various Sylvia warblers while butterflies are coming together in greater numbers in a garden area specially created for them. The Nightingale concert has been joined now by that of the thousands of frogs and toads in company with newts and water-living tortoises. Life has not only returned but, so to speak, exploded in stark contrast to the neighbouring area which is heavily built up and fragmented in an area strongly affected by man’s imprint with industrial plant everywhere, and even a military airbase.

This island of greenery and of blue water, fed by a precious and abundant spring which enchanted Pliny the Elder and, well managed and cared for by the Caetani Foundation, has from now on an ally of great and proven worth - LIPU.

The owner of the Ninfa and Pantanello, Lelia Caetani, the last bearer of the thousand-year-old family name, and her English husband, Hubert Howard, both now no longer with us, have begun a gripping adventure for the environment which has brought many new supporters and new ways of thinking about the respect for the environment. Pantanello is the natural legacy of this and together we shall continue to work together and to progress along the road of protection and promotion for the good of all living things.

PANTANELLO: OUR GREEN CLASSROOM

By Gastone Gaiba, LIPU Representative in Latina.

On 21st April 2012, LIPU’s Latina association brought into being a 30 year-old dream: the inclusion of the Pantanello into LIPU’s system of reserves and oases.

The Oasis of Pantanello is the green classroom where the Latina delegation has, for many years, been developing the activities for learning about the environment. Thousands of children from the schools of Latina and elsewhere in the province, as well as from Rome, have been able to come to watch birds while dozens of teachers have taken part in training workshops. At the same time, great numbers of nature enthusiasts come to see this incredible environment which has been “handed back” to Nature. Thanks to the presence of six ponds, of numerous water courses, of reed beds and strips of river bank, Pantanello plays host to more than 120 species of both resident and wintering birds. Since December 2009, LIPU’s Latina section has conducted a series of surveys of the species present and noteworthy records are numerous. The most numerous presence is without doubt that of the Teal, the first species to “make its appearance” in Pantanello. The ponds of the Oasis have seen several examples of the rare Ferruginous Duck in the last three years while the dense reed bed has sheltered and, we are sure, will continue to shelter the shy Purple Heron. Among the birds of prey, Peregrine, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier are present and, during the migration period, both Booted and Short-toed Eagle.

90 YEARS, BEST WISHES TO BIRDLIFE!

Andrea Mazza - LIPU Press Officer

In 1922 the International Council for Bird Preservation was formed, later to become BirdLife International. Ninety years on, Marco Lambertini, Director General of the environmental network, describes the current situation for the birds of the world, and how the approach to nature conservation is changing.

London, June 20th 1922. A number of people from different countries meet in the private residence of the British minister for finance. United by a passion for birds, and faced with a growing commercial trade in feathers and increasing threats to migratory birds, they concluded that only coordinated action at an international level would be adequate for the defence of nature.

So was born, ninety years ago, the International Council for Bird Preservation. Presided over from 1922 to 1938 by co-founder T Gilbert Pearson, the organisation many years later in 1993 was to change into BirdLife International, now the biggest partnership in the world for the defence of wild birds and of nature, with ten million members in 116 countries.

In 1966 the ICBP was a founding member of the IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and since then has been concerned with the drafting of the Red List for the birds of the world. In addition it was a promoter of the International Convention for migratory species and of the European wild bird and habitat directives.

On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of BirdLife, Ali asked Marco Lambertini, formerly LIPU Director General, and now Director General of BirdLife, to sum up the gains made by BirdLife and the strategy for the coming years.

How would you define the current state of health of the world’s bird populations?

The overall picture cannot be said to be rosy. Allied to the trend of the human demographic, there is exponential growth in the consumption of resources and pressure on natural habitats. And the conservation status of species is the clearest indicator of the crisis. The Red List of endangered species has grown in recent decades and the status of such species has in general declined across all habitats, geographic regions and species groups. One in eight bird species is considered to be at risk of extinction (about 1200), of which 200 are critically endangered. It is an unprecedented global ecological crisis that we must turn round as quickly as possible.

What has been achieved in recent decades?

Knowledge of and sensitivity to environmental problems has grown enormously at all levels: governments, press and public. There has been a massive expansion of protected areas in the last fifty years. New approaches to conservation have been developed outside the traditional reserves: landowners, companies and local communities have decided of their own accord to protect natural areas within their remit. Many species have been saved from certain extinction and many others are recovering well. The value of ecosystem services is recognised more and more and will soon be made quantifiable. Air quality, water flood prevention and soil retention, pollination, biochemical materials and the gene pool will have a recognised value so that any who damage them will face penalties. An economic argument, then, for nature conservation, in addition to the ethical, recreational and spiritual ones.

What outlook do you see in the next few years for the great partnership that is BirdLife?

Ninety years ago BirdLife was born from the idea that to combat the killing of birds on migration or for the trade in feathers to decorate rich ladies’ hats, there had to be international cooperation.

The same principle is even more relevant to the globalised world of today. If traditionally, however, the focus of attention was on individual species, conservation strategies today must be integrated with models of social and economic development in order to respond to the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of the problems. Our project, therefore, in the Harapan forest of Sumatra, is not just to plant trees that will only bear fruit after decades, or to encourage the recovery of tiger and hornbill populations, but is tasked with improving the lives of the local people.

Conservation today sees plants as well as animals as part of our own future. It is an evolving strategy found among all the national associations that form BirdLife, LIPU no less. It is a reflection also of the worsening ecological crisis but also one which gives hope of a new model for development, harmonious and sustainable.

THE BIRDLIFE NETWORK IN NUMBERS

Year of foundation 1922

Countries represented: 116

Members: 10 million

Website: www.birdlife.org

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WHITE STORKS BREED AGAIN IN CALABRIA

Roberto Santopaolo

After six long months the 2012 breeding season of the White Stork in Calabria has come to an end with the flight of the last of the new birds - to the great satisfaction of the LIPU volunteers.

Here is a summary of this year’s data:

Another important aspect is that four new couples arrived this year, attracted by the presence of shapes and nesting platforms, they then built their own nests thus increasing the number of nests in new places both in Valle del Crati and on the Sibari plain.

It brings to a close a breeding season which has brought much satisfaction but also some concerns and, perhaps, a little regret as funds are low, which makes it hard to continue the creation of platforms.

We must thank Salvatore, Antonio, Marilena, Mario, and Giuliano, all exceptional volunteers who have monitored and supervised the birds’ progress, but, just as importantly, they created the favourable nesting conditions for this species in Calabria, by building the platforms.

Despite the lack of economic resources our enthusiasm drives us to continue. The White Stork project will not stop, it will continue, and next year should see another ten nesting platforms, along with the plastic silhouettes which attract the birds to nest in the area. The aim is to build up the breeding population and extend the area of nesting in the areas mentioned - the Valle del Crati and the Sibari plain

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NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

LIPU-UK Annual Draw

The annual draw has become a traditional event with the tickets timed to go out with the Autumn edition of the Ali. This year we follow the same successful format as in previous years and we ask for your support for a simple method of raising funds for conservation.

The prizes are simple and attractive, three cash prizes totalling £800 are offered and, in previous years about 250 people have competed for them which is very much better odds than the National Lottery! If you’ve not tried this before, please buy a few tickets this year and help the birds in Italy - you might even win one of the prizes.

We realise that this is not to everyone’s taste and I do not send tickets to those who have told me they are not welcomed - so if you do receive unwanted tickets, just drop me a line and they will be your last.

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This edition has been translated, to the usual high standard, by the following members of our translation team - my thanks to them all: Cicely Adelson, Barbara Avery, Joanna Bazen,Giusy Fazzina, Peter Rafferty and John Walder.

Line drawings are by kind permission of the RSPB and photographs are credited to the respective photographers, except the cover picture of a Whinchat which is © David Lingard.