The Hoopoe

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The Hoopoe - January 2000, incorporating Ali Notizie



In a month when the news media are looking back over the last century, or even ten centuries, it must now be right to sit and ask what has happened - and what has changed - in the course of one short year. Wiser words than mine point out, in this issue, that even a thousand years is but a blink in evolutionary terms; but the pace of change accelerates without remorse - and that change is rarely, if ever, for the better. Indeed the rapid change which often troubles us is giving creatures, the world over, no time at all to adapt. However, despite this, we must look forward as well as back over a year which has been successful for LIPU UK. Over one hundred new members have joined us in the last year - which completed our first decade. A decade in which we have supported our friends in Italy both morally and financially and also with direct help on the ground by volunteers helping in the hospitals and at the anti-poaching camps. We are getting stronger but LIPU members are still outnumbered by hunters in Italy by over 25 to 1 - yet forty years ago there was no LIPU and the hunters had it all their own way. Now they have a strong and moral opposition and you are all a part of it - and that leads to my theme this year. In the course of the last eighteen months many of you have written wishing me luck in the role of your representative, but let us never forget that the strength of the resistance movement is not the representatives - it is the members, all thirty thousand of them - in Italy and in this country. It is our members, and our friends, who have made LIPU what it is today. It is you who have raised funds; which this year will exceed a total of a quarter of a million pounds since our foundation. It is you who have signed petitions. It is you who have gone to Italy to help on the ground and, above all, it is you who have kept the faith and are still standing for the objectives of the conservation and protection movement in Italy. I thank you all - and now I ask you to help again. LIPU UK launches only one appeal per year and this year the need is as great as it has ever been. In the coming year we will be supporting four projects in Italy and the cost of the work has not lessened. The major battle we will fight this year will be the illegal trapping of the song birds in and around Brescia. I have written earlier of the unspeakable suffering of the robins caught in the cruel archetti traps; we saw them, on television, fluttering vainly in the traps, held by shattered legs. Our anger will change little but our funds can and that is why the campaign against the trappers gains our support - support we offer gladly to stamp out this disgusting practice.


Looking Back

In June of last year I had the great pleasure of sending for the first time, for me, a bank draft for another splendid sum of £24000 to our friends in Italy. This has been devoted to the projects of our choice:

Thanks to the generous support of members and friends of LIPU UK this was possible.

AISPA, the Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals maintained its long standing friendship with LIPU by making another very generous donation.

The Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature donated £250, the A S Butler Charitable Trust £200 and the Udimore Charitable Trust £50.

The Amersham Bird Club, the Bradford Ornithological Group and the Cheltenham Bird Club each gave us £25.

The Dinefwr Green Group donated £100; the Dursley Bird Watching and Preservation Society, £150 and the Gwent Ornitholgical Society, £25.

Lymington & District Natural History Society made a donation of £20; the Taunton RSPB Members Group gave £40, the West Cumbria RSPB Members Group, £50 and the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers, £50.

David & Shane Bryan raised £40 from their annual car boot sale; Philip Harwood gave £100 which was from his plant sales as was the £10 from the Stewartry Branch of the SOC.

Jean Jackson held a coffee morning which raised £111 and Jill Kendrick raised £17 from her annual sale of fruit.

LIPU members and friends responded magnificently to the appeal and donated a further £10734.

To everyone who contributed and sent cheques, no matter how large or small, LIPU says a very sincere "Thank you" - your support is truly valued.

Looking Forward

A year ago I said I wanted our publications to be sent out at the same time as their Italian counterparts and that has now come to pass. In addition all LIPU UK publications are available on the Internet - truly in the public domain.

The Anti-poaching Camp in Calabria which is mounted each year will find it easier to spot both birds and poachers thanks to LIPU UK. We have purchased two telescopes and I am delighted to say that the Italian tripod manufacturers, Manfrotto, have agreed to supply two tripods with heads for LIPU. This has been arranged through the UK distributor, Calumet Trading, and we thank both companies sincerely.

This year we plan to reinstate the annual LIPU UK draw which in years past was a popular and effective way of raising funds. We will send out tickets with the June newsletter but we realise that such events are not everybody's cup of tea. If this is the case we hope you will not be offended, please disregard the tickets, there is no need to return them - thank you.

Montagu's Harrier

Conservation News from Italy

From The President of LIPU
Danilo Mainardi
"A millennium, as such, does not mean very much" - says William L. Allen, Director of the National Geographic Society – "after all, it is only because we have ten fingers, and our ancestors decided to use them as a base for a counting system, that we do it that way".

I agree. For me, a millennium does not mean a great deal. For one thing, this amount of time, in the story of life, is nothing. A glance at the fossil exhibits in the museum is enough for me to realise that at least hundreds of thousands of years are needed for changes to occur in species. However, when I look around at what is happening today I realise that enormous changes are taking place. In the space of a person's lifetime so much has changed. There seemed to be an infinite number of swallows when I was young and there were sturgeon in the River Po. So, in those terms, if I think of the future, a thousand years seems too long to me. We must concentrate our efforts on the next few decades. Either we do something quickly, or it will be too late


Armando Gariboldi

Italy's role in Europe, and the introduction of a single European currency, have been important topics for discussion in recent months. There have been elections for the European Parliament, with an Italian being elected for the first time as President of the European Commission. But, for those of us who are concerned about the environment, through our love for animals, which certainly do not recognise political frontiers, the subjects under discussion and the tones being used often leave us feeling distanced and worried.

For anyone who knows a little about nature it is obviously absurd that man should seek to invent boundaries, where none in fact exist. The long flight of a swallow, from Africa to northern Europe, is not interrupted by customs at each of the countries it crosses. Neither does it ask permission to fly over. There has always been a European Union for Animals, and it is only in recent centuries that it has become ever more threatened and fragmented.

But these reflections become real concerns when we hear the arguments and discussions of Italian representatives in the European Parliament. Do they really know anything about the environmental themes which will be on the Union's agenda in the coming years? Are they aware that delegates of every nation are fighting in a kind of national team to extract the most advantage for their own country? Do they know that in France the Hunters' Party (CPNT) has succeeded in getting 6 members elected to Brussels? As representatives of Mediterranean culture in environmental politics, are they really aware of the environmental peculiarities, and the needs, of Italy and other countries in southern Europe?

We fear not. This is why LIPU has become part of BirdLife International, a group of Associations which are independent of their respective national governments and which have decided to work together, under a common flag, for the good of nature. The 98 world wide partners of BirdLife International have just approved a joint European and world strategy for the next four years.


Armando Gariboldi Every naturalist is aware of how difficult it is to manage wildlife within imaginary boundaries, drawn by Man for his own administrative purposes. The boundaries of communes, provinces and regions, as well as the limits of protected areas, are simply lines drawn on the map, and have no meaning for animals, especially very mobile species like birds.
This is why LIPU is trying to work across political lines. It is worthwhile taking a look at the environmental situation over the whole of Europe, at this threshold of the new millennium, and looking forward for the next twenty years or so.
The state of the environment, especially in Western Europe, is now well monitored and research studies are published periodically which keep us aware of the situation. Currently there is a slight improvement in some respects, although the general situation is still unsatisfactory. As far as birds are concerned, although no species has become extinct during the last century, and indeed some, for example, the still rare Audouin's Gull and the rather more common Herring Gull and Cormorant are increasing, it is also true that more than 10% of bird species are in danger. Moreover, many of the so-called common species, such as Swallows, Skylarks and Stonechats, are clearly decreasing. In other respects, too, there have been gains and losses. For example, although there has been some progress in reducing substances which destroy the ozone layer, or which acidify lakes and rivers, in many other instances of pollution the situation is still very serious.
In many sectors, for example the accumulation of pollutants in aquifers, the possible damage to public health of large-scale electromagnetic installations, or genetically modified plants and animals, the data which are available are still not complete. Consequently, the "state of health of the Union" remains worrying. There is still a lot to do on all fronts, even where some positive results have already been achieved. The problems can be tackled at all political and geographical levels; even in a small commune significant results can be achieved for the protection of nature.
At the world conference of BirdLife International in Malaysia guide lines were drawn for a great effort in the protection of birds and biodiversity.
In October, at the nine day world conference, 439 delegates, representing about 80 countries belonging to BirdLife International, met to discuss the world situation in the conservation of birds and new common strategies for the period 2000-2004. There was very strong evidence to support certain propositions.
1. The number of species threatened with extinction is still rising, reaching the considerable figure of almost 1200 (about 12.5% of the total) and the geographical areas where the most species are at risk are Brazil, New Zealand, Tasmania, Philippines and all the islands of the Pacific.
2. Most, if not all, species of birds are good indicators of the quality of the environment.
3. More and more "common" species of birds are in decline due to deterioration in habitat, largely through agriculture and building.
4. Birds and people are closely linked by their problems, but also by their possible solutions.
The conference agreed a strategy for the next five years. The four key words for this strategy are: Species, Sites, Habitat, People.
During these coming years we will all be working on a world wide network of IBA (Important Bird Areas), on areas which are important for endemic species, on the collection of data, on the drafting and implementation of action plans for the species most under threat, and action in awareness, education and political lobbying.
BirdLife is thus in a phase of great development and consolidation. Among the representatives there was a strong sense of belonging to an organisation of serious minded people, pragmatic, and with a willingness to do something, who prefer action to idle chatter. LIPU has been recognised, for its work and organisation, as being among the ten best associations of the entire network and in that sense there is a growing expectation, from our partners, to support other, weaker associations.
Gianni Palumbo and Andrea Corso
The cicadas keep up their incessant chirping, perhaps a lament in the unbearable heat which is burning up the stubble in the already dried up fields, yellowing the shrubs, splitting the grey bark of almond and old, contorted olive trees. In the scanty, precious shade of these trees the cicadas chirp within the protective foliage; in the same priceless shade two birdwatchers lie hidden, finding welcome rest. They are sitting under two of the biggest and oldest olive trees, binoculars hung round sunburnt necks, rucksacks thrown to the ground, telescopes aimed, they wait in perfect silence.
We have been waiting a couple of hours here in the country, in Sicily's interior, far from any town, any buildings even, where the horizon is broken only by a few ancient ruined stone farm buildings. Sweating and thirsty, we need a cooling wind. Before us rises a white limestone cliff, almost dazzling us with its light and beauty. Very few birds are singing, they are silenced in the overpowering heat. The only sounds are the distant ringing of bells from the thin sheep on the sparse pasture and a sharp cry from a small bent shepherd, a wandering figure burnt and distorted by the heat. Today we seem to be in the Middle East, in fact we are waiting for a bird that hereabouts is quite common and frequents, as elsewhere in Europe, similar habitats and countryside. We lie in wait for the European Lanner (Falco biarmicus feldeggi): one of the rarest and most beautiful of raptors, a pearl of Italian wildlife and a much sought after "prey" of all birdwatchers.
Almost unknown
Lanners breed only in certain areas of central-southern Italy, in Greece, Turkey, Albania, and locally in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. With about 300-350 pairs throughout its whole range it is among the rarest and most localised of falcons in Europe. Of these, about 60%, that is 150-200 pairs, breed in Italy.
Very few ornithologists and European birdwatchers have had the good fortune to observe and study this enigmatic and fascinating species. For this reason, data on the Lanner are so scarce and fragmented as to make it the least known raptor in Europe. Try and find a good drawing or a photo of the Lanner, subspecies feldeggi, in any field guide or even in larger ornithological works, and your attempt will fail miserably. The few photos and illustrations which are available always depict examples of the much more common African subspecies (biarmicus, erlangeri, tanypterus and abyssinicus). Only in the recent and more authoritative work on the identification of raptors (Dick Forsman "The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East; a handbook of field identification, 1999) do we find a photo of a young European Lanner in flight.
Action Plan
The rarity of the species and lack of information on it make it necessary to set up an Action Plan for its protection and study. Last October LIPU and BirdLife International initiated an international meeting of Italian and foreign experts at the Pollino National Park. The results of this meeting were encouraging, at least in respect of the conservation of the species. We have identified the priorities and conservation objectives to achieve in various countries of the Union and in some states outside Europe. In addition, the first international Action Plan has been drafted, containing numerous suggestions and practical initiatives. Now the Plan is being closely examined by BirdLife International, awaiting its formal approval and publication by the Council of Europe.

Armando Gariboldi

In all parts of the world glaciers are currently in retreat. In 100 years the area of permanent snows in the Alps has been reduced by half.

This summer I had the good fortune to visit the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains and their biggest glacier, the Colombia. The 4 kilometre wide cliff of ice is still imposing but is now separated from the refuge, built in the 1930's right on what was then the edge of the glacier, by a wide, bare expanse of earth and pebbles. In about 70 years the glacier has retreated more than 1500 metres.

In fact, this Canadian glacier is not the most striking example. Today, all over the world, the perennial snows are disappearing. From the great glaciers of the Antarctic, from which come icebergs as big as Sicily, to the Himalayas, to the Alps, every minute the glaciers are reducing in size at an ever increasing rate. Only some glaciers in the Andes, such as the spectacular Perito Moreno, seem to be resisting better than the others, but even they are now showing clear signs of giving way.

In Italy the situation is equally striking: in the course of a single year the Alpine glaciers have retreated almost 20 metres. The most sensational examples leave us speechless: in Lombardy in but two years, from 1995 to 1997, the Lupo glacier retreated 190 metres and in the Aosta Valley the Grandes Murailles almost 50 metres in one year, 1996/97. In the whole of the Italian Alps about 85% of the glaciers are in rapid retreat: at this rate it is estimated that they will have completely disappeared within a century. Currently, the approximately 600 square kilometres of perennial snows in the Italian Alps are exactly half of the area of a century ago. This current phase of retreating glaciers started around 1850, and the rate has increased dramatically in recent years. There has been a continuous reduction in snow fall, an increase in the amount of rain and an increase in the average temperature.

Such acute climatic and environmental changes, of course, affect the behaviour of the populations of many species of animals and plants which are linked to these peculiar cold ecosystems. In particular, Alpine species, in some cases real relics of the ancient Quaternary glaciation, are feeling the effects of these changes, to which must be added the impact of human activity and bad management. So splendid birds like Ptarmigan, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse are disappearing at an alarming rate, whilst other more adaptable species, such as Snow Finches and Ermine, seem to be developing new patterns of behaviour, less dependent on the presence of ice and snow. Some plant species have been reduced to smaller and very localised areas.

It is therefore urgent to begin specific conservation programmes for alpine species and for their high altitude habitats, starting with relatively simple courses of action such as prohibiting hunting of those species which have now been reduced to dangerously low levels, and taking active management measures for the conservation of alpine pastures, many of which have been abandoned. Climate change is a global phenomenon whose ultimate effects are yet to be seen. Only by taking action at a global level, starting with the industrialised countries, can there be any hope of any reverse in this tendency.

Mauro Canziani
That an administration wants to dismantle the best developed park system in Italy is an environmental scandal and an outrage against the people.
The landscape in Lombardy is the result of intense, even uncontrolled, human activity and is certainly one of the regions whose environment is most at risk. There is a risk of permanently damaging the environment and an extraordinarily beautiful landscape for ever. It includes alpine and pre-alpine habitats, lakes, part of the Apennines and a magnificent system of large rivers, the Ticino, Adda, Oglio, Mincio, Po, whose woods and marshes are criss-crossed by a network of historically ancient irrigation canals.
To protect these important natural and cultural assets Lombardy has developed one of the best systems of protected areas in Italy, based on a network of large river parks with additions such as the Parco Agricolo Sud Milano and a number of Nature Reserves which have been established to protect important features, such as woods used by breeding herons. All these parks, which were protecting a substantial proportion of the area of the Region, were designated Natural Parks, and therefore covered by national regulations for protected areas.
But from 1996 the regional administration has been intent on a process of demolishing the best developed park system in Italy, doing so systematically, even perversely: on the one hand declassifying the Natural Parks, Regional Parks and some Nature Reserves to the level of Natural Monuments, and on the other hand blocking the working of the parks by failing to approve necessary plans and cutting off their funding.
Redesignating Natural Parks as Regional Parks has meant that the Lombardy parks have been taken out of the protection of national regulations, with serious consequences: hunting is allowed in large areas of the parks, buildings and roads have been permitted, and the opinions of the Park Authorities with regard to land use planning are in no way binding. The lack of approval of co-ordinated development plans has stripped the existence of the Parks of any meaning, depriving them of their chief planning powers, which, by law, every park must have.
And now the final blow: it is proposed to modify current Regional Law with regard to protected areas, in that the Park Plans will be declassified (with certain exceptions) from the level of Regional to only of Provincial importance, and therefore the park boundaries will no longer be protected in law, but can be modified by a simple administrative procedure without a vote at the Regional Council. LIPU and other environmental associations, as well as some agricultural organisations and the Park Authorities themselves, are all strenuously objecting, unanimously requesting the Regional Authority to withdraw this iniquitous action. There has been no response so far. It is listening only to the construction lobby and has decided to kill off the Lombardy Parks to give free access for building in the protected areas. LIPU and the Associations are determined to fight this process all the way.
The behaviour of the Regional Authority is an affront to environmental conservation but also to the general population. The problems of environmental protection are questions which concern everybody and are of prime importance in our present day economy and society. This is because degrading of the environment can not but consume for ever a resource which is limited in quantity: the land.
What can the ordinary citizen do? First of all, one can find out what activities really do benefit the whole community and which, on the other hand, are to the economic advantage of but one or a few. Special knowledge is not necessary, it is enough to be aware of what is going on. Everyone can defend their own quality of life, starting by making political choices which are seriously in favour of environmental protection and which place human activities within the context of sustainable development.
Pierandrea Brichetti
Some species have disappeared but others have arrived. Since the '60's at least 34 "new" species have been recorded in Italy, including 4 "exotics".
We live in a world where it always seems to be items of bad news which get published, and many concern nature and wildlife. Just thinking about birds, there is not much to be cheerful about: in the last 100 years in Italy alone we have lost about ten breeding species, including White-headed Duck, White-tailed Eagle, Black Vulture, Osprey and Crane, just to mention the better known ones. Of course we have protected the natural environment, we have restored some of it, we are actively managing it, we have initiated reintroduction programmes, and some of these are giving us welcome surprises, such as recent breeding success by Lammergeiers in the Alps and White Storks in the Po Plain.
Our efforts would not be enough if they did not take into account the complex and fragile mechanisms which regulate the balance of nature and which have brought a breath of new life to birds in Italy.
The fact that the beginning of this recuperation phase in Italian bird life coincided with the start of the conservation movement in Italy could be just chance. But it is undeniable that some ventures, such as the establishment of protected areas and the limiting of hunting activities must have helped considerably. There are other significant coincidences. Ducks have increased in species and number since the beginning of restrictions on spring shooting, whose effect on breeding birds is undeniable.
Great news from BirdLife International:
On 31 October 1.7 million signatures had been collected throughout Europe for the petition against the hunting of migrating birds. Therefore, strengthened by this excellent result, in January we shall present ourselves at the European Parliament to defend the Birds Directive and save thousands of migrating birds. In Italy we managed, in only six months, to collect more than 100,000 signatures.
Footnote, by January 2000 the target of two million signatures had been reached - an excellent result.
More funds
For the first time, specific funding is being made available to the CFS (State Forest Guards) for anti-poaching activities and monitoring of environmental quality. Thanks to lobbying by LIPU and support from some Members of Parliament, it was possible to make an amendment to the new finance measures just approved by the Senate, providing a sum of 1.5 billion lire (about ½ million pounds sterling) per year for the next three years. It should allow the CFS to intensify its struggle against illegal killing and also its work in monitoring the environment., such as identifying illegal tipping of rubbish or pollution, as well as avoiding the interruption of their presence at the Straits of Messina due to lack of funds. By the time you read this it is hoped that Parliament will have approved the measures.
Action has been continuing against illegal unauthorised building developments. It is a national disgrace which in the last 30 years has not even spared protected areas and parks from destruction. Following a report presented by the LIPU branch in Catania in 1985, magistrates took action against illegal developers. However, unscrupulous speculators continued to construct new houses within the Reserve and in 1990 a second case brought by LIPU resulted in the seizure of the holiday village, Rainbow. Since then the excavators have moved in to tear down more than 600 illegal buildings. This news is at last positive, after years of battle, and we now hope that the area can be returned to its original beautiful state.
Last summer LIPU participated in the "Pelagos 99" Campaign, a cruise which was organised to disseminate correct information and publish material concerning some protected marine areas in Tuscany, Lazio and Campania. The cruise was made possible through collaboration between MAR (Association for Marine Activities and Research) and other organisations, including LIPU, and was aboard the CP 451 Bannock, a ship which had already been used in the past for important scientific research. It set sail from the port of Naples on 26 July and finished its expedition on 16 August at Civitavecchia, with intermediate stops at the islands of Ventotene and Ponza in the Pontino archipelago, and the islands of Montecristo, Giglio, Capraia and Elba in the Tuscan archipelago.
At the various stops, meetings and debates were organised between the "Pelagos 99" team, local people and representatives of the local administration. On 30 July at Secche di Tor Paterno, near Rome, a conference was organised on " Protected Marine Areas: economy and ecology in balance as a managed resource". The meeting, at the Lido in Ostia, was also used to publicise some of LIPU's marine initiatives. The organisers are now planning next summer's "Pelagos 2000" to continue the work of promoting education, training and scientific research, as well as recreation activities which are compatible with protected marine areas.
Ugo Faralli
Here is a new LIPU Reserve in the Gravina di Laterza, a natural canyon which holds important secrets for threatened Italian wildlife, such as the extraordinary presence of a small white vulture.
The most famous is Matera with its magnificent rocks, the most artistic is Massafra, cut between rocky villages, the most studied is Palagianello, for its fossils, but the most important naturalistically is Laterza. We are talking about "Gravine", great fissures in the earth's surface, a kind of canyon cutting right through the Murge plateau, in the interior of the Province of Taranto. It is not surprising that birdwatchers from LIPU in Taranto were attracted by the Gravina di Laterza and as far back as 1984 LIPU was asking for a Reserve to be established for the 800 hectares of the canyon.
Egyptian Vultures, sacred bird of the ancient Egyptians, melodious Blue Rock Thrushes, acrobatic Wheatears, hunting Lesser Kestrels and Lanners, are just some of the many interesting species of wildlife which could not fail to capture the attention of local naturalists. Three years ago a request was made to the Provincial Administration of Taranto and the Commune of Laterza to manage the area. Over the years the Reserve had become a hunting ground for poachers, a dump for refrigerators, washbasins and old cars, and a source of pollution. It took three years of difficult meetings and diplomacy before agreement between LIPU Taranto and the various authorities was finally reached.
Thanks to the determination of LIPU delegate, Paolo Lodeserto, on 8 June 1999 the President of LIPU, Danilo Mainardi, signed a management contract with the Province of Taranto and the Commune of Laterza for the Gravina di Laterza Reserve. With funds provided by the two authorities a modern and welcoming visitor centre will be built, with a magnificent view over the Reserve. There will be guided visits and events, information panels and teaching materials, and a well-camouflaged hide from which to observe the breathtaking panorama. Everyone is invited in spring to Laterza, to come face to face with rare Egyptian vultures, falcons and the wild depths of this most beautiful of Italian canyons.
A Rare Natural Phenomenon
The western part of the Province of Taranto is characterised by deep incisions in the calcareous strata, locally called "gravine". The rocks have been eroded along geological weaknesses and the result is a fantastic landscape of cliffs, stretching from Ginosa to Grottaglie. Man has always used the canyons as places of refuge, constructing houses, churches, villages and small towns of stone, leaving evidence of a world where man and nature lived in harmony. Laterza is one of the most impressive canyons in this part of the Mediterranean and one of the biggest in Europe: it is 500 metres wide, with 200 metre high cliffs, and the wildest and protected section is over 6 kilometres in length. There are many endemic and rare plant and animal species. Some birds are of special interest. In spring and summer there is a breeding pair of the rare Egyptian Vulture and also nesting Black-eared Wheatears. It is always possible to see Lanners, Ravens, Peregrine Falcons and Blue Rock Thrushes. There are also Eagle Owl and Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and Scops Owl, Kestrel and Common Buzzard.
1999 was a marvellous year at the LIPU Volta Scirocco Reserve. As a result of close control of water levels many species of birds were able to rest there and some to breed. Visitors could observe a good variety, including some quite rare ones: Black-winged Stilt, Shoveler, Mallard, Garganey, Gadwall, Purple Heron, Teal, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Cuckoo.
Last summer the manager of CRUMA (Recuperation Centre for Marine and Aquatic Birds) had located breeding Bee-eaters close to a building site and in danger from the work being done there. Together with the legal department of the LIPU branch of Livorno a petition was presented to the authorities citing a possible violation of regulations. Consequently, the situation was monitored and work within the breeding area was suspended until the young flew their nests in early August.
While some countries in Western Europe are seeking to extend the hunting season, in the East other nations are ready to abide by the international regulations. The most recent case, and a positive one, is that of Bulgaria, where the government has decided to change the closure date to 31 January, in line with most European countries. It was in 1997 that in Bulgaria the shooting of wildfowl, following pressure from the hunting lobby, was put back to the end of February. The decision is largely a result of the increasing co-operation between the National Forestry Department and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. It is an unpleasant piece of news for Italian hunters who are keen on slaughtering ducks in Bulgaria.
G. Gasparetto Stori and L. Pretto
A project to prevent pollution by natural cleansing methods. Nitrogen and phosphorous in the Venetian Lagoon, coming from municipal, industrial and agricultural dumping, are particular problems in this wetland area. A scientific study estimates that 6,643 tons of nitrogen and 683 tons of phosphorous are washed into the lagoon each year. In each case this is more than double the amount which the lagoon can safely cope with.
The plan has been to halve the amount of these chemicals entering the Lagoon, but it is a difficult task. Now, with technical developments in bioengineering, there is a project to exploit the capacity of certain plants to clean the water naturally, reducing the level of pollution. There will also be engineering works to raise the banks in some areas, improve the regulation of water levels and create more wetland, introducing those plant species which can clean the water.
Technical experts are very interested in these habitats and plants, especially for the high rate at which they can treat pollutants in the water. It has been estimated from mathematical models and analysis of the quantity of water in various parts of the system that it is possible to reduce nitrogen levels by 60% and phosphorous by 85%.
The strategy of BirdLife International for 2000-2004 includes a greater emphasis on people. It is through ecosustainable development, education and general awareness that birds and biodiversity will be protected.
La Fondation Moisés Bertoni (BirdLife Paraguay) is managing a project centred on the local community: the indigenous population of the forest reserve of Mbaracayù are able to continue their traditional and sustainable hunting within the reserve, so preserving 64,400 hectares of Atlantic subtropical forest which would otherwise be threatened.
Projects in Cameroon and in Tanzania are aimed at improving living conditions of the local populations, based on long term sustainable use of the limited resources of the forest, developing alternative sources of income, initiatives in social developments and education and awareness projects. This is aimed at reducing the non-sustainable exploitation of the forest, such as clear felling to create agricultural land, pasture and timber.
In the Pallas Valley in Pakistan, the local population is involved in a joint conservation and integrated development project led by BirdLife. An unacceptable rate of timber extraction in the adjacent valleys has caused serious damage to biodiversity, has increased soil erosion and led to the disappearance of non-timber forest products. In view of the catastrophic floods in the region the advantages of the survival of the Palas Valley forest are self evident.
In Nigeria, the NCF (BirdLife Nigeria) is collaborating with the RSPB and the Nigerian Government to formulate plans for the fair distribution of water coming from a new dam. Tests have been conducted to ascertain the amount of water which should be released to reproduce the previous natural flooding of the wetlands, with advantages to the fishermen who depend on them for their survival, and the 200,000 migrating water birds which also use them.
A project which has been conducted by RSCN (BirdLife Jordan) has revitalised the village of Dana on the edge of the Valle Dana Reserve in Jordan. It links sustainable agricultural development and local arts and crafts in the development of eco-compatible tourism in the area. The reserve gives special rates for tourists who are staying in the village and now has about 30,000 visitors a year.

Great Bustard

A return to News from LIPU UK

Robert Gifford told us of his experiences at the Anti-Poaching Camp in Calabria last Spring. He now gives us a look back over the differences between the camp now and when he first went to the south as a "vol". If anyone is interested in the camp, Robert will be happy to talk if you telephone on: 01376 551950
Kristine Moore shares her experiences of culture and bird watching in Sicily. She and Dominic have visited the island many times and ride there and back on two motorcycles. I rode until a few years ago but went quite that far from home!
However, I have a few small items before these:
The beautiful drawings of birds in this issue were drawn by Szabolcs Kokay and are used by kind permission of my friend Imre Fater of MME, the BirdLife Partner in Hungary. I will tell you more of Imre and his work for the protection of the Great Bustard in the next newsletter
Next a clipping from the Daily Telegraph last November:
"An Italian engine driver brought his train to a screeching halt to save a wounded buzzard lying on the tracks. The driver spotted the bird soon after the train left Lecco, northern Italy. He stopped the train, jumped off and rushed to the rescue. Baffled passengers applauded when they realised what was going on and a few even scrambled to help. The bird had wounds from shotgun pellets."
There is hope...
Robert Gifford, Braintree, Essex
Returning to the camp after 8 years I was still amazed at the unity and genuine passion of the volunteers. It was hard to imagine that during the early years of the camp (late 80s to early 90s) the volunteers were all camping in caravans and tents on the mountains surrounding Reggio Calabria. I remember our transportation in those days, a real jalopy minibus - from a distance it looked like it was held together by sticky tape.
After all these years, with continued support from LIPU, and with volunteers from various conservation groups travelling every year to Calabria to protect this magnificent annual migration, the camps are now well organised. A villa close to Reggio is now used for accommodation. Communication systems have improved with rented cars, mobile phones and radio contact available.
The camps consisted of Italians, Germans and Britons. Being mobile and having the Forestallee to assist us, our objectives were not only to count and identity raptors but this particular camp was also geared up to count and identity Bracci (poachers). Over the years our presence has driven the hunters away from the hillside, now they are using their own houses to shoot from, their balconies and flat roofs make ideal platforms. At one time hunters who were seen shooting in the hills could quickly melt away into the thick of the aspromenta, making it difficult for the guards and helicopter to locate them. The situation is now somewhat different, the killing still goes on, only now the hunters can melt away into an urban jungle. This makes it very difficult for us to pinpoint which houses are being used as a killing platform.
Volunteers were strategically placed around the suburbs of Reggio and at various locations on the mountains. Many different species of raptors were seen and recorded. We had the use of one telescope, which was great for identifying raptors etc but was essential for scouring the rooftops and picking out individuals.
Unfortunately there is still conflict between the Calabrian culture and the annual migration. Hopefully with educational programmes supported by LIPU in Calabria, and public awareness campaigns throughout Italy the next generation will begin to understand how important these birds are to our ecosystem. I hope more volunteers will venture to this part of Italy as our presence is being recognised - public opinion is turning in our favour and hopefully in another 8 years we may have reached our goal and have an observatory where people can witness one of nature's great phenomena and the birds will be able to pass through the Messina Straits safely and unharmed.


Kristine Moore
We know Sicily well, as motorcyclists and tourists of sites and sights and have become more interested birdwatchers only in the past few years. June and July can be impossibly hot in Sicily, probably the worst time of year to see birds there, and for some unfathomable reason this is when we usually go. Not one drop of rain fell in the month we were there.
As clued-up street-wise Londoners we were disappointed to find on our second day in Marsala that the car we had hired for the first few days had been stolen. No - not really, towed away!
The car was hired to visit the more inaccessible (at least by public transport/bicycle) places e.g., Lo Zingaro, a 1620 hectare reserve in the north west coast dropping from 900m to the sea, which was unfortunately closed to the public on the day we first visited due to windy weather and the consequent risk of fire. Usual New Year motto - always phone first! The return trip was rewarded with a lovely early morning walk along this wild and beautiful coast. The path begins with a tunnel, harbouring many nesting swifts, common and possibly pallid, which was perhaps dug for the road along the coast that was thankfully never built. In the middle of this bright and clear morning we first hear and then see an unidentified tawny brown raptor (perhaps a Bonelli's eagle) soaring out over a rocky precipice 300m above us. Many goldfinches on their tribal wandering were observed and, despite their continued and lovely singing, we failed to identify the two types of unseen warblers. Greenfinches and Serins were also spotted here.
Marsala, famed for its dessert wine, Punic boat and the landing point of Garibaldi's Thousand is a confident town with a lovely old centre mostly closed to traffic. Within cycling distance to the north are the evaporating pans (a lone and unidentified tern spotted here) and windmills used to harvest salt from the sea and the Phoenician remains on the strangely tranquil low lying island of Motzia in the middle of a shallow lagoon. The usual suspects on this trip were green & gold finches / swifts & swallows and another unidentified brown raptor making sorties from a lone conifer.
High spots –
Three Hoopoes (a first for us and who could believe that such an implausible bird should be so beautiful both at rest & in flight) seen on a cycle ride in a wood near the beautiful Norman Greek cross church near Castelveltrano.
Crested Larks which, despite extremely bright conditions, were almost undetectable on the grey mottled stone forming the, almost deserted, Greek ruins of Herclea Minoa.
On a 6am cycle ride towards Motzia being detained by three locals, claiming to be fellow "naturalists", who charmed us with delicious cornetti (breakfast cakes) and coffee from the back of their car.
Serins singing away in trees near the railway stations in the scorching midday sun (why were we always at railway stations then I wonder – well we always had to get back for lunch and a siesta!).
The Valley of the Temples near Agrigento straggling a high ridge and affording wonderful views and almost unimaginable heritage, the usual suspects and a majestic (and unidentified) raptor cruising the thermals below.
Palermo is an astonishing city much improvement taking place in even the short time we have been going there with the repopulation of the historic centre, the reopening and many previously closed and uncared for monuments and the reincarnation of the Travel Card. The zenith for us at La Zisa, a recently reopened Norman Place, a few km distant from the centre (in the 11th century a country retreat!) which is an island of calm in a boisterous place and which boasts a remarkable internal ornamental watercourse originally supplying the fishing pool in the front garden with rain water from the roof. In this urban and polluted place though the bird life is restricted to the various city parks. Our favourite is the centrally situated Garibaldi Gardens and many a happy break was spent there being enthralled the tiny sleek Serins and welcoming the cooling shade of the monumental banyan trees that form its core.
Mauro Manino of LIPU in Palermo had kindly offered some guidance and the possibility of a guide for some of the areas he had suggested we visit. We had declined the offer in the main because our plans were fluid and in part because we didn't want to "put anyone to any trouble". That is a lesson learnt and next time we will take him up on that offer.
We will return to Sicily for more bird watching, better informed, better on songs and at a more suitable time of year and having understood one of the truisms of bird watching. It provides the notional excuse to stop and look and listen hard, without others necessarily thinking that you've lost your sanity or your breath, and in that stopping and looking and listening we saw much further into Sicily that we have done before.
It may be surprising but LIPU UK has decided, once again, against an increase in the subscription fee. This is partly because of the strength of the pound and also because many members already send in "a little more". It will, therefore remain at £13 for the coming year.
About one in three members now pay their annual subscription by standing order and the introduction of this service has gone smoothly. Many find it convenient and if you would like to take advantage of this easy way to pay please let me know and I'll send the necessary form. However the time-honoured method of sending a cheque is just as welcome as it has always been!
The Anglo Italian Society for the Protection of Animals is the organisation which was instrumental in the founding of LIPU in 1965. LIPU started with 300 members, met in the British Institute in Florence and was financed by AISPA. Today, 35 years later AISPA still makes a substantial annual contribution to LIPU UK and it can truly be said that there is a special relationship still between our two organisations. Long may that flourish.
Last September, I visited Parma to discuss the progress made by LIPU and the best ways in which we, in the UK, can support the work in Italy in the coming year.
LIPU UK has agreed to provide much needed funding to help the following four projects move forward for the benefit of birds in Italy.
Trapping in Brescia
I referred to this barbaric practice earlier and, although much progress has been made, the cruelty has not yet been stamped out. Much needed publicity was given by the BBC in June 1999 and, once again, we will help in the fight to save the song birds of northern Italy from suffering a slow, painful and illegal death.
The Raptor Recovery Centre at Sala Baganza
This is doing wonderful work on the hundreds of wounded birds which are brought in every year. The theatre seen below is well equipped, but the building in which it is housed, is in urgent need of maintenance. Unforeseen problems have arisen such as the need to remove asbestos from some parts of the building. The work is going to be expensive and we have offered to help with the cost of this essential work.
The Anti-Poaching Camp in Calabria
Once again LIPU volunteers will oppose the poachers on the Straits of Messina. This spring we will help with the provision of telescopes and tripods as well as much needed funds for the success of the camp. The sight, pictured below, must become a thing of the past.
Shot buzzard
The Swallow Project
LIPU is collaborating with NCF, BirdLife in Nigeria, to help villagers in the Ebok-Boje area maintain their alternative food sources after they stopped harvesting swallows for food in 1998. Before that, up to 200,000 birds were taken for food every winter.
I am sure you will agree that these projects are all worthy of our help and I ask for your support in our appeal this year - Thank you.


LIPU UK continues its struggle against the killing and cruelty towards birds which still goes on in some parts of Italy and intends to support LIPU in 2000 in the following projects:

Please help us