The Hoopoe

The Hoopoe - January 2002, incorporating Ali Notizie

Line

WHY?

This picture was taken at the Bosco Negri LIPU Reserve, near Pavia in the north of Italy in November last year.

Reserve warden, Christina (Kicca) Nera holds a wounded Spoonbill - shot before it even reached its first winter!

Wounded with fractures to a wing and one leg, the young bird was found and brought to LIPU for care. The story has a happy ending as the bird is recovering well and is being cared for until the weather is suitable for a release.

But, what did the Spoonbill do to deserve being shot? Does it look anything like one of the birds on the hunting list? No - this is just another example of the trigger happy type of hunter who blasts away at anything that flies within range!

This sickening sight only serves to stiffen the resolve of the staff, workers and volunteers of LIPU in the struggle to make this sort of photograph a thing of the past. It also reminds us, in this country, of what we are here for and how fortunate we are not to have to face this sort of problem in Britain.

Eight hundred thousand hunters, favoured by the Berlusconi government, are faced by only thirty thousand conservationists of LIPU - but nobody said it was going to be easy.

That's numbers, but what of the quality? Kicca is one of the many dedicated workers for LIPU. She is a full time warden of the woodland reserve and is anything but a nine to five worker. Much of her time is spent in the schools of the area where she inspires in the children an interest and a respect for nature.

She knows that this work in the schools is the most important investment in the long term future conservation of wildlife in Italy.

We, members and friends alike, of LIPU-UK are also making a difference, and in this issue I shall be telling of the vital conservation work we have pledged to support in the coming year.

I can also announce an exciting new strategy which will break new ground in the way in which we help our friends in the front line.

I hope you find this edition of The Hoopoe interesting, please consider passing it to a friend and, perhaps, recruiting that friend to become a new member, all are welcome and we need all the support we can muster.


THE VICTIMS OF OUR SUCCESS?

The UK branch of LIPU gets better and better. Membership continues to rise (up 25% in 3 years) and campaign funds rise steadily year by year (up by 60% in 3 years), but this success has created its own problems for us. Happily I am now able to describe an exciting new strategy which will do even more for the cause of bird protection in Italy.

Each autumn LIPU-UK meets with our Italian friends and agrees to support four projects in the following year and the funding level of each. This gives us a firm target to aim for in our fund raising throughout the year and allows LIPU to plan and start work confident that the UK element of the funding can be relied upon.

However, what happens if we do too well? Problems can appear if we have raised more funds than the budgets of the projects require and unplanned expenditure rarely produces good value for money. We now have a strategy, agreed with our friends in Italy, of what to do with any surplus funds raised and we think this will appeal to our British members because it is similar to the work of the RSPB over the years.

It will probably surprise you to know that very few of the reserves in Italy are owned by LIPU. Invariably LIPU has negotiated an agreement with the local authority, the land owner, for the designation of the reserve and a contract for LIPU to manage the reserve. The advantage is that the authority is funding the running costs but the disadvantage is that there is no guarantee of a long term future.

A nightmare scenario could see the development of a wetland reserve with improved habitat and good populations of birds under LIPU management, wrecked after a change of political party which could terminate the agreement with LIPU and turn the wetland over to the hunters. This is entirely possible.

We believe that a nature reserve should be forever, not for a three year contract, then to have its future renegotiated and we would like to help our Italian friends acquire their reserves, as the RSPB slogan says, "For Birds, For People, Forever". We hope and believe that this very British view of land ownership will appeal to you, our members and friends, and we hope you will continue to support us as generously as you have in the past.

There are so many causes to be won, however, that this will be a long term aim. We will still support LIPU in the agreed projects each year; that will not change, we will still fight against the poaching, the trapping and the cruelty, but, in the event of us raising more money than is required for the four projects we now intend to support a fifth desperate need - the Oasi Fund, saving for the future purchase of critically important habitat.

Lastly, may I say that the reason we can even consider this fifth, long-term, project is the extraordinary generosity which you have all shown over the years but this is not the time to say that the work is over - it certainly isn't, so please support us in this year's appeal with all the generosity and enthusiasm which you have shown in the past - Thank you all.

From The President of LIPU

Danilo Mainardi

ITALIAN HUNTING IS INTERNATIONAL

Perhaps as a result of the successes of the conservation bodies Italian hunters are turning more and more to killing wild animals and birds in other countries. Of course, it is not just the cacciatori - hunters from other countries also travel in pursuit of their prey; but the sheer scale of the problem is shown by the following press release from Vicenza in northern Italy last November. It describes an seizure by the Forest Guards of a truck full of frozen birds being smuggled in from the Balkans.

FIVE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AND NEARLY ONE MILLION SMALL BIRDS, FROZEN, HAVE BEEN SEIZED.

Vicenza, 17 November 2001 - This morning, presented in a press conference were the results of a police operation by the Forestry Police which has broken up the largest-scale illegal importation of protected wildlife so far discovered in Italy.

Operation Balkan Birds, was directed by the Substitute Prosecutor Dr. Vartan Giacomelli of the State Public Prosecutor's Office of Vicenza and was carried out by officers of the National Forestry Police in Veneto, working from offices in Vicenza, together with the regional Forestry Police of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

A large freezer truck found to be transporting twelve tonnes of illegally imported wildlife was seized. First estimates are that the load consists of at least half-a-million small birds and mammals.

The accused belong to two distinct companies, that of 'ERIC MIR' that has as its head Enrico Rampazzo assisted by Mira Milicevic, Giuseppe Rampazzo and Francesco Rampazzo and that of 'LUBE YU' owned by Luciano Bellentani that carried out the transport using Bruno Dal Pont who was helped by the Yugoslav Ivan Borovac.

The five arrested and the two still at large manage a considerable business which provides the organisation for foreign hunting trips, in particular in Balkan countries. At the same time they imported into Italy large quantities of protected wildlife which finished on the tables of restaurants and private houses with an annual turnover of more than £1,000,000. The activity has been going on for at least five years.

Those arrested used transport fitted out with false bottoms and hidden compartments to avoid customs checks but also used false documentation relating to the countries of origin which were obtained by bribing the necessary officials.

The protected species were indicated in the documents as legally-imported game, also using false veterinary certificates, often Romanian or Croatian.

At the Italian border they gave false declarations of the real nature of the imports, on their quality, the weight and what it consisted of.

As a result of enquiries it has emerged that 'LUBE YU' and 'ERIC MIR' sent a regular flow of hunters to a variety of locations in the Balkans (Yugoslavia, Bosnia), where they stayed in hunting lodges and hunted in some of the most pristine environments remaining. This type of activity, completely legal if carried out with huntable species was often transformed into a massacre with the killing of many protected species.

Some poachers were able, in the course of just a few days stay in these 'Game Holdings' to kill more than one thousand birds, without distinguishing between those which could be legally hunted and those which were protected.

Those arrested could also, on payment of several thousand pounds, shoot super-protected species such as bears and wolves. As for the transport of the hunter's bag, 'LUBE YU' and 'ERIC MIR' would take it, so avoiding any problem for the poacher-tourist.

But the 'tourist package' seemed not only to limit itself to hunting alone: in the 'hunting lodges' the journey was enlivened in certain cases by 'young ladies of easy virtue', some hired in Caribbean countries, which the organisers put at the disposition of the paying guests.

Conservation News from Italy

A MOMENT OF HAPPINESS

My friend Piero Angela supports the view that life is a matter of rewards and penalties. I think he may very well be right. Here I am today, about to start writing my traditional piece "From the President", and feeling quite defiant. I am saying to myself: No, no penalties today, today I want some rewards. Rewards for me, and also for you. Too often I write in these pages about environmental, social and economic problems. Usually about all the things that are not going well. All the sadness and lamentations. All the penalties of life, according to Angela. Now, just for once, I want to linger for a while on what is, for us in LIPU, the supreme prize: the birds.

If there is one common denominator that unites us all, it is the birds themselves. We are united in our enjoyment in working as volunteers, in defending the environment, and in discussing the significance of biodiversity, the iniquity of hunting and even in debating what might be the best political approach for nature. We enjoy developing important activities in environmental education and getting involved in international projects. But, and I do not think I am mistaken in this, towering above this pile of problems, are the birds themselves. Because birds give us so much delight.

Try to recall one of your truly happy moments. When I do it, I can recall the smell of wild flowers, the warm sun, binoculars up to my eyes. I can see once again an Eleonora's Falcon at San Pietro. Or perhaps an Egyptian Vulture at Laterza. Or, up in the Alps, an eagle, high in the sky, its shadow gliding over the green pine woods. Higher still, in the meadows above the tree line, I hear again a distinctive whistle, the alarm call of a marmot.

Fantasy apart, I believe that we might be undervaluing the pleasure we get from observing birds in their natural surroundings, and all the positive feedback we get from it. After all, it is from such delight that LIPU was established, and has since developed its work in protection, reserves, environmental education and the recruitment of members and supporters.

LIPU PROJECTS

by Claudio Celada, LIPU Director of Conservation

WE ARE ADOPTING IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS (IBAs).

Europe, Africa, the Middle East, a large part of Asia and parts of the Americas: the IBA project is truly world wide, but, of the 192 Italian IBAs, each of us can adopt the one nearest to us.

One of the most important aspects of a conservation project is its continuity; its ability to produce lasting results. Often many years of work are needed to achieve the targets which we set ourselves. This applies to the IBA project, which is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and which in Italy is entrusted to LIPU. We have dealt with this subject many times in Ali Notizie: we are doing so again to bring you up to date on some significant progress.

At the international level the IBA project has already reached global proportions. The IBA schedules for Europe, Africa and the Middle East have actually been finalised and circulated. The situation in other parts of Asia is also progressing well and in the Americas as many as 12 countries have drawn up lists of IBAs. As far as Italy is concerned, since the book with the latest list of IBAs came out last year, we haven't stopped. Thanks to a grant from the Ministry of the Environment we have been able to complete the computer mapping of the IBAs and have expanded the data bank for birds, involving a wide network of professional and amateur ornithologists.

The main aim of all the many members of LIPU who have contributed to this project is to provide guidelines by which to relate the network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to the system of IBAs.

What are SPAs? According to the European Bird Directive the member states of the European Union must designate a network of sites (SPAs) which can contribute to the protection of species of bird that are threatened at the European level. Since the European Court has confirmed that IBAs constitute a reference point to evaluate whether member states are fulfilling their obligation to designate SPAs, the IBA programme has assumed great importance.

In a political climate which is not really favourable towards conservation, LIPU's task in providing guidelines appears far from easy.

Why adopt?

During the BirdLife European Conference held in Gibraltar last September, a European project for the long term monitoring of IBAs was launched. The idea is simple: form a network of local groups, each of which "adopts" an IBA, for example the one nearest to them. Each group (or it could be a keen individual) will take on the monitoring of the most interesting species of birds which are found in the IBA, and will keep an eye on the actual and potential threats to the IBA itself. Besides providing total coverage of IBAs the aim is to develop continuous monitoring of some of them.

In my opinion this project represents a great opportunity for all activists and members of LIPU. We can be proud to be part of a European project and to have an influence on conservation in an area which we care about. It is also worth noting that the lack of data about birds is often the first obstacle in obtaining recognition of sites as IBAs or SPAs. Conversely, the first step towards conservation arises from knowing the wildlife value of a site.

When the ornithological conference took place last September at Castiglioncello (Liguria), LIPU groups had already agreed to adopt one or more IBAs. So we hope we can also succeed in involving all the different members of the bird world in Italy, overcoming our differences in order to achieve this great aim which we have in common: to safeguard the most important national sites for birds.

BETWEEN THE ALPS AND THE PLAIN

by Mauro Belardi

A spectacular IBA, full of wildlife, on Lake Mezzola: White Storks and Golden Eagles, Curlews and Alpine Choughs. Would you like to help us count them?

The nature reserve at Pian di Spagna - Lago di Mezzola, lies to the north of Lake Como, where the valleys of Valtelline and Valcliavenna open out, and the Adda and Mera rivers meet, spreading out to create what was once a huge wetland area, and is now partially reclaimed.

This is an area of great biodiversity, in a special location, between the plain and the Alps, but also between the Italian peninsula and the continent of Europe. The environment is truly spectacular and very rich. The plain which surrounds the lake is still largely agricultural and is bounded by the steep rocky slopes of the high mountains, covered in woods of sweet chestnut, rising into beech woods, conifer forest, then sparse grazing and alpine meadows. This is one of the few places in Italy where in spring you can see White Stork, Golden Eagle, Curlew and Alpine Chough, all on one day.

Hundreds of Tufted Duck, Pochard and Gadwall winter on the lake, as well as other species of duck, some of them less common, like Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Common Scoter and Eider. In winter the plain is home to a considerable number of raptors such as Hen Harriers and passerines like the Great Grey Shrike. During the breeding season on the other hand the pearls of the reserve are Purple Heron and Bittern, while woods and rock faces provide nest sites for Black Kite and Eagle Owl.

The nature reserve comprises 1,600 hectares and is managed by a consortium of mountain communes in collaboration with local organisations.

Eco tourism

Although protected under the Ramsar Convention and recognised as an IBA and SPA, the area is not free of threats. After grand plans for development failed, and a major expansion of industry in the valleys more or less came to an end, today the greatest threats are arson in the canebrakes, an increase in tourist development and the expansion of roads.

This reserve, together with other protected areas in the region (two other IBAs, Alpi Retiche and Alpi Orobie are nearby) is now in a position to demonstrate that development can follow another route, towards high quality eco-tourism. Because of its rich bird life the Pian di Spagna has always been a favourite place for the birdwatchers of central Lombardy to hone their skills. Despite this, LIPU struggled to collate the facts for the IBA project due to the wide variety of observers, divided among small groups, and the mixture of recording methods used. One of the most popular areas for birdwatching in Italy nearly missed an important deadline to ratify its protection.

The census

From this paradoxical situation came the idea that the IBA should be "adopted" by the LIPU Regional office for Lombardy/Piedmont in collaboration with the permanent observatory at Pian di Spagna, to ensure standard monitoring and collection of information from all bird lovers in future. To ensure continuity, co-ordination and technical support, a group of volunteers from the LIPU reserve at Cesana Moderno will work on the project, collating index cards and computer data recording, as well as taking part in the counts. The observatory will also ensure a permanent presence on the spot and the involvement and collaboration of local organisations. Many birdwatchers and ornithologists in Lombardy have already committed themselves to this project, involved at last in a concrete conservation scheme that will recognise their hobby and value their local knowledge.

ANTI POACHING

by Rino Esposito

Along the Domitian coast, in the provinces of Naples and Caserta , there are hundreds of pools, little artificial lakes used by poachers to lie in wait for water birds. Men with the cowardly spirit of the sniper. Men who every spring, in the close season, make war on Herons and Black-winged Stilts, Flamingos and many species of duck, Marsh Harriers, Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits and Little Egrets. They are "lion hearted" these poachers: well hidden inside concrete bunkers dug underground beside artificial ponds, and which command high rents (£2500 - £5000 a season), in an area which is dominated by the organised and very violent crime of the camorrosi of Casale Monferrato, who control the whole territory with an iron hand.

The ponds and bunkers are all illicit, set up on state property, breaking laws on planning, the environment and hunting. And here they remorselessly shoot down thousands of birds belonging to protected species. These are migrants from Africa on their way to the breeding grounds of Europe. For them the ponds represent the only suitable area to rest and recover during the long journey, but the poachers' guns will halt their flight forever. This poaching is a general social phenomenon and a defiance of authority, but it is also a way for criminal organisations to control territory and divide it from decent society, from the young and the old and nature lovers, who would like to enjoy walking to the ponds, to see and to study the fascinating spectacle of migration.

Last summer, after months of investigation and stakeouts, LIPU officers and police from the Environmental Protection Command carried out two raids which led to charges being made against seven poachers, among them the son of the Commander of Municipal Police from Villa Literno, and the confiscation of shotguns, bird-callers and other equipment, as well as ten or so live ducks used as decoys, and fifteen or so dead "prey", including Garganey, Teal and Black-winged Stilt.

BIRDWATCHING

THE VULTURE OF THE ALPS

To find the spectacular, seek out the Lammergeier.

by Luciano Ruggieri and Franco Roscelli

I had finally clambered to the col at 2200 metres. In spite of the ski poles which helped me to walk in the fresh snow, the climb had been extremely taxing in several places. But once I had arrived at the crest, an incredible panorama rewarded me: in the midday sun the snow covered Alps gleamed with silky reflections, like a white dress suit.

We were taking a little lunch when before me in the valley I noticed a silhouette flying slowly above the larches. In the half second that passed before I raised my binoculars to my eyes, a flash of an underwing set my pulse racing - it was not an eagle but a Lammergeier! It rose almost effortlessly on the thermals, without moving a wing, pivoting its great tail in the wind and turning its primaries up slightly - an adult in full plumage, with unmarked primaries and secondaries that seemed completely fresh, and a rusty cream breast. Head tilted downwards, its black beard looked directly at me, from only 15 metres above. There was nothing I could do to keep it longer, to prolong this phenomenal sight. Instead, the Lammergeier went its way, closing its wings up slightly and gliding down the valley, further and further...

A memorable return.

It is no longer impossible to see Lammergeiers in Italy. Thanks to an international reintroduction project set up by the FCBV (Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture), the Lammergeier started nesting again in the Alps in 1998. It is one of the largest European vultures; the last one in Italy was killed in 1913. Its great wingspan allows it to scan the mountains for animal carcasses, generally those of Chamois and Ibex, looking for bones in particular, which they swallow whole or after breaking them by dropping them onto rocks. At present there about 58-63 birds spread along the Alpine chain, and 8 pairs have been formed. The first nesting took place in France (Haute Savoie), but now two pairs have bred in the Stelvio National Park.

The presence of the Lammergeier depends on an undamaged alpine environment and a healthy population of hoofed animals. The protected areas and the national parks are the best places to see them, with winter being one of the best times. Certainly it is no Sunday stroll, given that the birds inhabit the High Alps even in the depths of winter, but the greatest prizes are not won without effort! The Lammergeier is not afraid of humans, and they can sometimes be viewed for long periods at a distance of only a few hundred metres. Watching how much at ease it is in flight in such a harsh environment, one cannot but think of the great value that each one has for all of those who love nature as it used to be - wild and untamed.

Where can they be seen?

The Lammergeier is extremely sensitive however to any disturbance during nesting, which can be as early as February. One can see them (taking full heed of the regulations of course, and without causing disturbance) by going to the Stelvio National Park (www.stelviopark.it). Bormio is especially recommended, as sightings can be easily come by, and without even having to go on a long march through the snows - they may even be seen from the swimming pool at the Terme Imperiali!

An alternative itinerary which gives the possibility of a winter sighting is that which goes from the Terme di Valdieri to the Questa Refuge in the Alpi Marittime Natural Park in Piemonte, adjacent to the Mercantour National Park in France.

All the young Lammergeiers released by the project have been given clearly visible white wing markings. If you have the good fortune to see a wing-marked bird, make a sketch immediately and refer it to the park authorities, or to the network of observers of the species such as that of the Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS

HUNTING

Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, Regional Affairs Secretary, Signor La Loggia and Agriculture Secretary, Signor Alemanno have presented a bill to Parliament aimed at "amending" aspects of the 1992 Hunting Act. If this bill is passed it would give Italian Regions the right to override aspects of national law, such as, for example, the timing of the hunting season, without having to obtain prior government permission. In effect, this could also give the regions the go-ahead to hunt protected species and migrating birds of prey and "take the lid off" the numbers of kills the hunters can make. It could also see the return of indiscriminate trapping methods - thus making a mockery of EU legislation. It is bad news and would lay Italy open to legal sanctions from Brussels.

LIPU has written to Parliament requesting the scrapping of this bill and demanding the adoption of EU directives on hunting.

VENETO REGION

Question: Are a few shoals of sea bream worth more than thousands of Herons, Night Herons, Cormorants and Terns?

The Po Delta is one of Italy's most important ecological sites and yet the Veneto Regional Council is trying to find crafty ways around EU Birds Directive legislation. It wants to see a cull of "fish-guzzling" birds that it thinks are damaging the local economy and is letting the local fishing industry do the dirty work. All this, with no agreed upper limit on "kills", no restrictions on the targeted area within the Delta, nor on the time of day or night. Also, fishermen would be allowed to destroy eggs throughout the year.

It is obviously all a result of vigorous lobbying by the fishing industry, but we cannot entrust wildlife control measures to local fishermen, armed to the teeth with guns! LIPU has already developed a strategy for dealing with such conflicts of interest in a humane and ecologically sensitive manner. We offer advice to local and regional councils on the matter.

LIPU has lodged an appeal at the Veneto Regional Court to try and scrap this proposal, which flies in the face of Italian and European law. The LIPU group in Venice has also written a letter of protest.

BIRD-RINGING IN BASILICATA

The coastline of the Ionian Sea basically forms the "instep" of the "boot" of Italy. 30 km of this coast lies within the region of Basilicata and it remains relatively unspoilt by tourist and industrial development.

It is also an important site for passage-migrating birds and a bird-ringing project started there at the end of September. Bird species include: Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, Cetti's, Sedge and Willow Warblers, Stonechat, Yellow Wagtail, Swallows etc.

A meeting entitled "What future for our coastline?" was arranged by LIPU and held in the nearby town of Pisticci. The aim was to raise local awareness of the coastline's environmental importance and to draw attention to the human-related pressures it faces. LIPU is working hard to encourage the local authorities to protect this area from further damage at the hands of tourist industry multinationals.

HERONRY IN DANGER

"Heron City" can be found by the banks of the River Piave, about 30 km north-west of Treviso (Veneto).

It is a recognised IBA (Important Bird Area) and its wet woodlands provide ideal nesting sites for about 100 pairs of Grey Herons and 25 pairs of Little Egrets - not to mention the 110 other bird species recorded there.

The local town council at Pederobba, recognising its value, has been trying for a while now to get government protection for the site. In the meantime they asked LIPU to develop a nature trail for birdwatchers and to organise walks for school parties and other groups. Unfortunately the provincial council has thrown a spanner in the works by allowing the middle of the heronry site to be used as a training ground for hunting dogs and their attendant humans!

On 27 October LIPU volunteers came across 12 mature white poplar trees that had been badly damaged by chain saws and 5 others that had been felled. In the process, 32 Grey Heron and 5 Little Egret nests had been wrecked. The damage had probably been done in early July, at the same time as our site information display boards had been vandalised. This coincided with our strong objections to the siting of the dog training area at the heronry.

Thanks to the determination of our volunteers, footpaths and signs are being restored and birding and guided visits have resumed. LIPU certainly will not be going away!

SEIZED: 12,000 TRAPS

As usual, the seasonal slaughter of harmless little birds got underway recently in the valleys around the northern city of Brescia. Gangs of trappers try to justify their grim "sport" by claiming that it is an old local tradition.

To scatter these deadly "gin-traps" throughout these beautiful wooded valleys, thus condemning small birds to a slow and painful death, is truly a shameful ritual. Not only is it a product of ignorance, but of wanton cruelty, that damages the natural ecosystem and reflects very badly on our own national environmental reputation.

(This pile of archetti traps was just a part of those seized.)

To date, words have not sufficed to stop this outrage, which goes on every year. However, 3 LIPU volunteers led by LIPU officer Piergiorgio Candela have worked tirelessly for 2 months and have confiscated 12,089 traps and 90 bird catching mist-nets. No-one deserves the threats and abuse that these people have shouldered in the process, but they were driven on by their commitment to protecting the environment and to drawing attention to current EU legislation on the matter.

Thanks to them, literally hundreds of thousands of small woodland birds have been able to complete their autumn passage south.

PADOVA

Peregrine Falcon

The south-eastern cliffs of the Rocca Pendice, for alpinists the most interesting area in Teolo (PD), will be closed to climbers from March to May, to protect the Peregrine's breeding site. Breeding Peregrine Falcons in the Euganei were first confirmed last spring but were put at risk from a group of climbers, who, in spite of warnings from LIPU volunteers, went too close to the nest. In the distant past, this rare raptor was observed in the Euganei in the spring of 1951, more or less in the same spot as the present nest site.

VOLUNTEERS FOR NATURE

Many, many people work as volunteers in Reserves and Centres, making a fundamental contribution to the organisation and to nature.

by Ugo Faralli

Many of our volunteers really enjoy the physical work involved in maintaining LIPU reserves. Whether it is planting willows and alders to improve woodland, creating islands for nesting terns, transporting and repairing wooden boards for footpaths or building observation hides from almost nothing. There is such a group of people at the Reserve at Casacalenda and Molise.

Here they also get involved in taking censuses of spiders and butterflies, hollowing out small wetland areas and looking after hundreds of injured birds. Most of them have their own full time jobs, as well as other interests, but almost their first thought goes to the Reserve and all the things to be done there. Giulio is in a rather more fortunate position, being retired and Isa is still a student, but has some time she can give to working at the Reserve. They get involved in guiding school parties, maintaining and repairing the tractor and other equipment, feeding injured birds and encouraging visitors to become members of LIPU.

The magic phrase is voluntary work. I have known LIPU for some twenty years now, and started off doing voluntary work. We are all fully aware of the fundamental importance of the volunteer, especially in an Association like ours, and in the activities of Reserves and Centres. Without them the LIPU network could not exist. It would not have been created, could not be run, and economically would not be viable.

For this reason, and it might seem a little contradictory, the work of the volunteers has no price, it can not be quantified. We have tried and only come up with incredible numbers. If we take four typical volunteers, working at Casacalenda, as an example, together they put in at least 45 hours a week, on a wide variety of tasks. If we had to employ professionals and pay the market rate, LIPU would spend more than 70 million lire (£23,000 sterling) a year. LIPU could not possibly afford that, for any of its Reserves and Centres.

But the real value of voluntary work goes beyond numbers and money. It is about passion, commitment, conviction, capability, professionalism, dedication, respect, solidarity, friendship, sacrifice and ….. love, for nature and for LIPU. Thank you to all the hundreds, the thousands of voluntary workers.

EUROPE IS UNITED

In September, more than 120 representatives of partner associations, from 36 countries, met for the 6th European meeting of BirdLife International.

Major bird protection organisations were brought together for 5 days, for meetings and workshops on the variety of conservation and educational activities achieved within the European programme. Much time was also spent on developing new proposals and ideas for the future.

There was discussion about the IBA project, started by BirdLife in 1981 and which has now become extremely important, and how to develop effective protection over the entire IBA network in Europe, and also how to increase the size of the Associations. Ideas were also put forward on the revision, for 2004, of the publication "Birds in Europe", that sets out the status of birds across the continent. Another much debated issue was that of hunting, where there are very different situations. In Mediterranean countries there is still a serious and controversial problem, but in central and northern Europe the situation is much better. With regard to hunting, BirdLife would like to develop strategies and objectives that take into account the differences between and the realities of the various partners.

There was much discussion on the Agriculture campaign, which is in preparation for 2002, and possible campaigns for 2003 - 2004: migratory birds, afforestation, hunting, promotion of the IBA concept. In order to bring together a strong and incisive campaign at the European level there has to be input of knowledge, stimulus and energy from each individual Partner, as well as adequate overall planning and sharing.

Discussion followed on how to find the resources to achieve so many activities and projects of nature conservation and education. Here, there is a clear distinction between "free" resources, such as association subscriptions, and those that are tied to particular projects, coming from public funds, private companies and donations from individual people. It is clear that more "free" funds must be made available, both to guarantee the efficient working of an Association, and to finance much needed activities such as the campaigns and education, where there is a shortfall in both public and private funding. With regard to certain campaigns, the one to save the Albatross and marine birds has been widely debated and the active involvement of LIPU and the other partners has been requested. As for saving the Albatross, it is a matter of getting involved in fishing politics, which we must do, but always staying faithful to our mission, the conservation of birds, and taking account of such important issues as climate change and deforestation.

ALPINE ENCOUNTERS

The Swiss-Italian Alps are dotted with camping barns and mountain refuges providing shelter for the many visitors, be they climbers, walkers or skiers. During the winter months, these places act as "food-magnets" for the local bird-life. Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor and Alpine Chough are especially drawn to the bounty of discarded scraps.

Alpine Accentors are bold, sparrow-like birds, almost confident enough to take food from your hand. Alpine Choughs are often confused with rooks, from a distance, being highly gregarious, but are smaller, have a yellow bill and red legs.

The countryside immediately east of St. Moritz in Switzerland is fabulous for winter birdwatching. Setting off from San Moritz Bad, follow the "Sentiero delle Cince" footpath that takes you 6 km eastward to Pontresina. Birds are noticeably confiding in this neck of the woods, particularly the tits, Crested Tits included. They really will take the food out of your hands!

Along the way, you might also catch a glimpse of Nutcrackers, Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatches. Not to mention other wildlife such as chamois, roe deer and red squirrels.

The walk takes you along the banks of a lake, up through coniferous woodland to Alpe Staz and then drops down to the railway station at Pontresina. Even in the depths of winter the path is usually easy and well-trodden, with only a 200 metre hill in between. You can catch the little red train back to San Moritz if you wish.

Translation of this issue has been by:

Steve Langhorn, Bryan Lewis, Peter Rafferty, Anne Taylor and Brian Horkley.

Drawings by courtesy of the RSPB

A RETURN TO NEWS FROM LIPU-UK

It is always very difficult singling out donors for thanks but it is entirely right to acknowledge with thanks support received from charitable trusts. Their generosity deserves to be recognised and it is with sincere gratitude that I thank the following for their kindness in the past year.

The A S Butler Charitable Trust gave £100; the W A Clare Lees Trust, £250; The G W Trust, £150; The H E Knight Charitable Trust, £100; The Peter Smith Charitable Trust for Nature, £250; the Udimore Trust, £50, the Wetland Trust gave us £25 and the Valerie White Memorial Trust made a donation of £1500.

Gianpiero and Paola Ferrari held a charity dinner at their restaurant in Quorn and raised almost £600. David and Shane Bryan donated £100, the proceeds of their car boot sale. Jean Jackson of Market Drayton held a "small fashion show" and gave the proceeds of £100 to LIPU. Pip Harwood donated £150, the result of talks and the sale of plants. Another talented speaker is Mike Shepherd who raised £195.

Organisations who helped us this year included Amersham Birdwatching Club who collected £50, the Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society donated £150, Gwent Ornithological Society gave £25, the Stewartry branch of the SOC raised £40 and the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers gave us £50.

The thanks to our supporters are not complete with mentioning AISPA which has continued to support us very generously throughout the year, the special bond here goes from strength to strength.

Finally my sincere thanks to all of you who made my work both possible and enjoyable by your generosity and to the majority of you who have completed the Gift Aid forms allowing me to recover over £8000 of your tax from Gordon Brown - we can do better things with it than he can! Thank you all.

WHAT WE ACHIEVED IN 2001

In a turbulent year LIPU was faced with a series of challenges including a change of government to one which is firmly in sympathy with the hunting lobby.

We in the British branch had a really successful year in which our membership increased and is now firmly in four figures. Fund raising was, thanks to you, at one of our highest levels and, as a result, we were able to support the following projects in Italy:

As I explained in the summer we were also able to respond to unexpected needs and made a grant to the Parabiago branch to help them back to their feet after their premises were vandalised.

In a partnership with AISPA we were able to fund the start of the work to build a visitor centre at the Carloforte reserve on Sardinia where the Eleonora's Falcon is protected by LIPU during the breeding season.

Finally because of the extraordinary generosity of you all we were able to start saving for our long term aim and the Oasi Fund was established.

Red Kite

THE LIPU ANNUAL APPEAL- 2002

Our targets for helping our friends in Italy this year are, as in previous years, fourfold and the project leading our effort is again the struggle against the poaching and trapping so graphically described in this issue. The task is so much harder with the present government in power, but giving up has never been the answer.

At our meeting with LIPU directors last year we agreed that the UK section will raise funds to support the following projects:

1. Opposition to the poaching on the Straits of Messina in the spring to safeguard the tired migrants as they cross from Sicily to the toe of Italy. We will also support the struggle in the autumn against the disgusting trapping of the robins and other song birds.

2. Last year we responded to an urgent appeal to help with the provision of a visitor centre on the island of San Pietro, Sardinia. This was to help in the protection of the beautiful Eleonora's Falcon which nests on the cliffs of the islands. This year we'd like to finish the job of building and equipping the centre. This entire project will then have been carried out by LIPU-UK.

3. The costs of running the Recovery Centres, or hospitals, is high and we have agreed to provide much needed medicines and surgical instruments for the use of these centres.

4. Our final project is in the south of the country where the reintroduction of the endangered White-headed Duck has started. We have agreed to contribute to the costs of this important project.

Finally, a reminder of our long term goal of purchasing a really important piece of Italy to become, if not already, a nature reserve, owned by LIPU - for ever.

I am sure that you will agree that these are truly important works deserving our support and I hope you will support our appeal this year with the generosity of previous years.

To keep postage costs to a minimum, your donations will not be acknowledged unless this is requested - please accept our sincere thanks for your support.

A THOUGHT FOR REFLECTION

by Roger Jordan

When it comes to respect for the Earth and living in harmony with nature, we can learn a great deal from native peoples. In that vein I offer the following "tale of two Americans" for reflection.

In his first 100 days in office in 2001, President George W Bush announced his intention to:

In 1851 Chief Seattle of the Squamish tribe on the north west coast of North America said, "Teach your children what we have taught our children; that the earth is their mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit on the ground, they spit on themselves. The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. Where is the thicket? Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living, the beginning of survival".

2001 PRIZE DRAW

Thanks to over 300 people who took part, last year's Prize Draw was a splendid success. We raised a magnificent £2,358, an increase of a third on the previous year. The draw took place in Ferrari's Trattoria restaurant in Quorn, Leicestershire on Saturday, 27th. October, and the tickets were kindly drawn by Gianpiero Ferrari, himself a keen member of LIPU.

The winners were:

1. Donald Hamilton

2. Mrs. K Moles

3. Anne Dawney

4. David Trainor

5. Mrs. M J Gibbs

6. John Taylor

Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the losers - better luck next time!

A special thanks also to all those who most kindly sent in donations. All the proceeds go towards the projects agreed with LIPU and described in this issue.

SMALL FEATHERS...

I have some items which may be of interest:

LIPU enamel brooch badges at £2.50 inc post.

"Encounters with Birds... in prose and poetry" by Graham Bell; priced at £5 per copy, this includes postage and a donation to LIPU campaign funds.

LIPU car stickers - no charge, changing the car is expensive enough!

PETITION

Thanks to all who collected signatures and sent them in to me. The parcel cost £20 to send, which tells you how successful this was, we collected over 6000 signatures - an excellent effort.

I understand the comments received about dates of birth on the petition form, this is common in Italy although not really necessary. If we have to repeat this exercise in the future there will be no similar box.

* * *

Norman Sills, a long standing member living near Thetford in Norfolk is a keen student of Italian but lacks the opportunity to speak the language locally. If anyone would like to join Norman in polishing their Italian please let me know and I'll put you in touch.

* * *

Congratulations to members Sue Collier and David Hills who will be married on 9 February. Sue is a founder member of LIPU-UK and can be seen each year on our stand at the British Bird Watching Fair at Rutland Water.

* * *

MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTIONS

How many organisations can boast what we do - that our subscription is the same now as it was in 1989? Where else can you do what we do for only £13 a year? Why on Earth don't we raise the subscription?

These are questions I am often asked and I have always answered that the level of £13 has been the about the same as the 3500 lire the members in Italy pay. It is also true that many members actually pay more than the "basic" £13 and that extra allows us to meet targets without asking for more which might be difficult for some.

This year, however, LIPU has increased its subscription level to the equivalent of £15 and we may be approaching the day when we have to follow suit... I intend to maintain the annual subscription for 2002 at £13 but with a view to a possible increase to £15 next year if you, the members, agree. Please tell me what you think!


STOP THE MASSACRE

APPEAL 2002

LIPU-UK will continue its struggle against the killing and cruelty towards birds which still goes on in Italy and intends to support LIPU in 2002 in the following projects:

Please help us - make a donation of any size to LIPU-UK

Line