News on the Wing

February 2019 Edition

New Zealand baffled after protected little blue penguins stolen from nests – The Guardian

Two men wielding a crowbar raid wild nests in Napier, possibly to sell the animals into the illegal wildlife trade.

A little blue penguin, native to New Zealand
A little blue penguin, native to New Zealand, are an at-risk species. Photograph: DoC/Brent Tandy

Two of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable penguins have been stolen in a brazen overnight raid on their nests in New Zealand.

Little blue penguins – or kororā – are native to New Zealand and are listed by the Department of Conservation (DoC) as an at-risk, declining population. Little blues are the world’s smallest penguin, and are threatened by common predators such as dogs and cats, urban development on their coastal environment and being hit by cars, boats or caught in nets

Last week two men wielding a crowbar orchestrated a late-night raid on a little blue penguin burrow at Perfume Point in Napier, on the east coast of the North Island.

The DoC believes the thieves used the crowbar to prise heavy rocks off the penguins burrow, and then hooked the instrument around the birds’ necks to pull them from their sanctuary

One penguin died in the attack, and two others were wrapped in towels and taken away in a vehicle, in what DoC staff worry may not be a one-off smuggling attempt, with the birds likely destined for the illegal wildlife trade.

Rod Hansen, a DoC officer at Hawkes Bay, described his team as “outraged and disturbed” by the incident.

“We are really concerned as we believe this might not be a one-off. The very next day another penguin/kororā was found dead floating nearby and it appears it may have died from a head injury,” said Hansen.

“We have no idea where these birds are being taken to and we are seeking CCTV footage from the surrounding area.”

Little blue penguins moult from January through to March and stay in their burrows for protection during the “vulnerable” period. Hansen said it was “disturbing” that the thieves had chosen to target the animals when they were enclosed and defenceless.

“They are nocturnal animals and the time this offence occurred – in the evening – further suggests the poachers knew exactly when best to target the birds.”

Locals in the area expressed shock and disgust at the incident, which has rattled the local community who play a vital role in protecting the birds and their fragile coastal habitat.

“I think it’s pretty sick really,” one local told Newshub.

Kororā are protected under the wildlife act and anyone found harming the animals could face a NZ$100,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

New Zealand police have been contacted for comment.


American Bird ConservancyAmerican Bird Conservancy – @ABCbirds
The 50 Northern Goshawks in the species’ Haida Gwaii population (islands off British Columbia’s west coast) population comprise a highly unique and at-risk group, according to a new #ornithology study. Via @ScienceDaily:…


Richard Howlett  Richard Howlett – @RichardHowIett

Short Eared Owl flyby with Goldfinch escort, in the Fens. #Winterwatch


American Bird Conservancy American Bird Conservancy – @ABCbirds

“Turbines seem to move slowly. How can they be harmful to #birds?” We hear that question a lot. But turbine blade speed is deceptively fast. Watch our short video to learn why. Then see more about #bird smart wind:…

Bird-Smart Wind Energy: Protecting Birds from Poorly Sited Wind Turbines

(Article extracted from American Bird Conservancy – )

Wind energy and birds: The two can co-exist, but only if turbines are sited properly. The United States is now the world’s leading producer of wind energy, with tens of thousands of wind turbines in operation and many more planned. As a result, bird mortality from collisions  is escalating every year, especially in areas where turbines and their associated power lines and towers have been poorly sited from the perspective of bird conservation.

The annual loss of birds from wind turbines was estimated as high as 573,000 in 2012. However, vastly more turbines are in operation now, and more than 1.4 million bird deaths are projected by 2030 or earlier if the U.S. meets its goal of producing 20 percent of electrical energy with wind. If that figure reaches 35 percent, as new Department of Energy projections suggest, up to 5 million birds could be killed annually. These estimates do not include birds that are killed by collisions with associated power lines and towers, which could be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions annually.

Alternative energy is critically important to address pollution and climate change, but we strongly believe that renewable energy sources should not be embraced without question. Our Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program’s primary goal is to protect U.S. native birds from the rapidly growing threat of poorly sited and managed wind turbines.

Our work on wind energy and birds is an important component of our efforts to “eliminate threats” and “conserve habitats.”

Bird evolution is a complex and fascinating part of natural history, and we’ve tried to condense it down for you in just four pages of BTO News. Download the article at and read more about how birds came to be. #Winterwatch






Want to know even more about bird evolution? The team at @CornellBirds have created a brilliant game to learn more about the evolution of flight in birds. Warning: this is highly addictive! Play it at #Winterwatch


Flap to the Future – The flight adaptations game
Play the free educational game about birds, adaptations, and flight from the Cornell Lab. Start as a dinosaur and level up to earn your wings and master the skies. Then jump ahead millions of years…


Poet Nan Shepherd, just mentioned on #Winterwatch, is part of a long tradition of poetry about the natural world. BTO is trying to bridge the gap between science and art, and collaborated with @magmapoetry on a special issue on climate change. Read more at


BBC Earth  BBC Earth – @BBCEarth

The race is on to save the world’s vultures

The race to save Africa’s vultures
Eight of Africa’s vulture species have declined by an average of 62 per cent in the past 30 years, for some species that number is as high as 80 per cent; the threats facing these creatures are…

🐝  @seed_ball

Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying

Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying
The stripy fields have been planted across England as part of a trial to boost the natural predators of pests that attack cereal crops

‘A hydra with many heads’: Australia needs better protection from bio-invasion

The Guardian –
Lycodon capucinus from Pranburi Forest Park
In 1987 Asian wolf snakes appeared on Christmas Island and by 2012 four species of lizard were extinct in the wild. Photograph: David Frohlich

In November 2018 the owners of the huge Ocean Monarch oil rig, towed into Hobart waters for maintenance, refused to let the Tasmanian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) inspect the hull for marine pests. One of the EPA’s concerns was a foreign sea squirt that had appeared in Western Australia in 2010, invading seagrass meadows in Perth’s Swan River.

In January the rig’s owners, Diamond Offshore, said they would inspect the rig themselves and submit their findings. The EPA’s impotence in this incident prompted calls for reform of biosecurity laws.

Australia is not as safe as it should be from invasive species, especially those that harm the environment. In 2017 an independent review of Australian biosecurity reporting to the government found that little had changed since the 2008 Beale review of quarantine, saying: “Australia has a relatively poor knowledge of the biosecurity threats to its natural environment. This is largely a function of the absence of commercial incentives to research and monitor environmental pests and diseases.”

The stakes have never been higher, given that invasive species are one of the main threats to Australia’s biodiversity, according to research by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

And in today’s globalised world, people and products are travelling more than ever, affording unprecedented openings for animals, plants and pathogens to spread and wreak havoc.

Up to 1960, some 20 mammal species were lost to foxes and cats, with rabbits contributing in some cases. In the 1980s, six frogs went extinct from chytrid fungus, a virulent pathogen from Korea. The southern corroboree frog would have joined their ranks had some not been brought into captivity.

A feared South American disease, myrtle rust, arrived in 2010 and three rainforest trees, namely native guava, scrub turpentine and main range myrtle, are already suffering so badly they have been recommended for listing in New South Wales as critically endangered. The main range myrtle is down to 10 trees surviving in the wild. More than 240 plant species show signs of infection and dire impacts are expected on more of these in future.

In 1987 Asian wolf snakes appeared on Christmas Island and by 2012 four species of lizard were extinct in the wild. One of these – the blue-tailed skink – vanished from its last refuge just weeks after three of them were found inside dissected snakes. Some blue-tails were captured in time, so they survive behind glass, but the less fortunate Christmas Island forest skink is gone forever.

Also extinct is the Christmas Island pipistrelle, a tiny bat, and while its demise was a complicated tragedy, wolf snakes and introduced giant centipedes are implicated.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Bye bye blackbird?: RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch marks 40 years

World’s biggest wildlife citizen survey maps changing fortunes of Britain’s bird populations

A coal tit on a garden feeder
Coal tits are among the species enjoying a resurgence, with counts almost tripling over the past 40 years. Photograph: David Jones/PA

The garden of 1979 was filled with glossy gangs of starlings, the atonal chirp of sparrows and the tap-tap of song thrushes breaking open snail shells.

In 2019, you’re more likely to hear the screech of a ring-necked parakeet, the “coo” of a collared dove or the “woo” of a woodpigeon.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is marking its 40th year this weekend, with half a million people expected to spend an hour counting the birds in their garden or local green space in what is the world’s biggest wildlife citizen science project.

The RSPB survey reveals sharp vicissitudes of fortune for our garden visitors over the years. Starlings have fallen by 80%, song thrushes by 75% and house sparrows by 57%. Even ubiquitous garden heroes the robin (-31%) and blackbird (-41%) have become more scarce.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Florida: Republican ‘green governor’ seeks to reverse predecessor’s legacy

Ron DeSantis has broken with fellow Republican Rick Scott in seeking to oust officials who authorised controversial land deal

Cleaning up the fragile Everglades wetlands is one of the top priorities of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has unveiled a $2.5bn package, which also aims to tackle rising seas and block offshore drilling.
Cleaning up the fragile Everglades wetlands is one of the top priorities of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has unveiled a $2.5bn environmental package. Photograph: Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Barely a week after positioning himself as the new champion of Florida’s polluted waterways and beaches, the new Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is facing an early test of the environmental credentials that have put him at odds with his predecessor, Rick Scott.

DeSantis has called for the mass resignation of Scott’s hand-picked team of water policy managers, after they defied his request to delay awarding an eight-year land lease extension to the sugar industry giant Florida Crystals in the fragile Everglades wetlands. The land, south of Lake Okeechobee, is earmarked for a $1.6bn clean-water storage reservoir that DeSantis wants completed within four years, to hasten restoration of the state’s famous River of Grass

But several of the directors of the South Florida water management district, which is responsible for water quality from Orlando to the Florida Keys, are continuing to refuse his demand that they step down, setting the stage for DeSantis to forcibly remove them from office over a snap November land lease vote that environmental groups criticised as “illegal, shameful and undemocratic”.

The fight with Scott’s panel of industry-friendly representatives highlights DeSantis’s desire to seize control of Florida’s water policy in the wake of the red tide epidemic of toxic algae that swamped the state, wrecked tourism and killed tens of thousands of marine animals last year.

Read The Guardian’s full article here.

Thousands of birds at risk as wetland is threatened by overexploitation

1-February 2019

Doñana National Park, in Spain, is a crucial stopover point for thousands of migrating birds. However, over-intensive irrigation is threatening these valuable wetlands.

Flamingos at Doñana National Park © RameyLauren
By Margaret Sessa-Hawkins
During the migration season, hundreds of thousands of birds descend upon Doñana National Park in Andalusia, Spain.
These thousands of European and African birds all flock to Doñana —an area of low-lying marshes, shallow streams, and rolling sand dunes— to rest, to refuel and to breed. Throughout the course of the year, more than 300 different species of birds can be seen in the park, including the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala, the Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti and Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax. The largest nature reserve in Europe, Doñana has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, a Ramsar site, and is part of the Guadalquivir marshes Important Bird/Biodiversity Area, considered an IBA in Danger, and currently identified by BirdLife as one of the most threatened IBAs around the world.

Unfortunately, numerous dangers currently threaten the wetlands, and the birds that inhabit them, according to a recent report by SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife Partner in Spain). The principle of these threats is over-intensive irrigation. Groundwater under Doñana is tapped both for wells and to irrigate surrounding farms. However, illegal exploitation of these aquifers to irrigate out-of-season strawberries and blueberries is causing unsustainable water usage that threatens the marshes. The situation is so extreme that half the systemically monitored threatened birds in Doñana are showing a downward trend, and some species, like the Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, are running a serious risk of extinction, while others, such as the Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, can already be classified as locally extinct.

In response, SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) is urging the Government of Spain (the State Party to the World Heritage Convention) to declare Doñana’s aquifers globally overexploited, to shut down all illegal water tapping, and to ensure that a program is in place to stop the illegal abstraction of ground water.

However, even if these changes are made, there are still unresolved threats to Doñana, which are also linked to local uses. While grazing livestock is part of the park’s sociocultural heritage, overgrazing of livestock threatens the park through trampling on nests and birds, as well as vegetation damage. Additionally, the uncontrolled growth of Wild Boar populations has been harming the birds of Doñana especially, as the boar eat both the eggs and chicks of dozens of species that nest on or near ground level. In 2017 alone, nearly 800 nests of Purple Heron Ardea purpurea were predated, and practically the totality of the of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida breeding colonies.

If these problems are not addressed, Doñana will continue to lose biodiversity at an alarming rate, and the pristine expanse of natural beauty that is Doñana National Park will be under the very real threat of permanent collapse. This can seriously affect the status of Doñana as a World Heritage Site, National Park and EU Special Protection Area/Special Area for Conservation.

Original article from Birdlife International can be found here.

Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the books. Here’s your comprehensive guide to the Act—and why it’s at risk. #ProtectTheBirds


Little Green Space 🐝
Little Green Space


Trees are brilliant for our health and wellbeing. In London alone, they remove an amazing 2.4 million tonnes of air pollution every year. So let’s plant more!



Eastern curlews are a miracle of nature. And they are disappearing fast

The Guardian –

This remarkable bird flies from Siberia to Australia and back every year, but we must save the unglamorous mudflats if it is to survive.
An Eastern Curlew walking at Shoalhaven Heads in NSW
‘Fewer and fewer eastern curlews are reaching old age. The global population has crashed by 80% in the past 30 years.’ Photograph: Duade Paton/AAP

Like many Australians, I’ll be spending part of my summer holidays by the sea. Australia has the sixth-longest coastline in the world. More than 80% of the population lives near the coast. The coast is embedded deep in our psyche.

If, this summer, you spend any time in Westernport, or Port Stephens, or Eighty Mile Beach, or Toondah, or any of a dozen other coastal locations, keep an eye out for a mottled brown bird with a long, curved bill like an ibis. It’s about the size of a chicken, and when the tide is out you might see it feeding along the water line, probing for crabs and other invertebrates. Or if the tide’s rushing in, you might see it flying along the coast to a resting place on some group of secluded rocks, calling out its name the whole time: “Cur-lew! Cur-lew! Cur-lew!”

The eastern curlew is the largest migratory shorebird in the world. There are about 100 species of migratory shorebird, or wader, navigating nine different migration routes that together cover every continent except Antarctica. Of these routes the eastern curlew is found in only one: the east Asian-Australasian flyway. It breeds in Siberia but it spends more than half the year in Australia, recuperating upon its arrival in September before fuelling up for its return flight in April.

I could use flowery language to tell you how extraordinary the eastern curlew is, but I’d rather let the facts speak for themselves: before it leaves Australia it spends weeks feeding at every available opportunity so that by the time it leaves, it has nearly doubled its own bodyweight in fat, the fuel for its migration. Just before departure the internal organs that it doesn’t need while flying shrivel up to almost nothing, saving the bird a precious few grams of weight.

When it leaves Australia it flies for days, non-stop to the Yellow Sea, where it replenishes its fat reserves on the intertidal mudflats of north-east China and the Korean peninsula. Then it flies non-stop to Siberia. It stays in Siberia for only six weeks: long enough to breed and then incubate the eggs. Baby curlews are independent from the day they hatch, and once the chicks hatch the adults head south again.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

El Yunque national forest in Sierra de Luquillo, Puerto Rico
El Yunque national forest in Sierra de Luquillo, Puerto Rico. Photograph: Stuart Westmorland/Corbis/Getty Images

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished

“We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.

“It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”

Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Paul Tout
Paul Tout – @adriawildlife
Further to the story of the giant Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) flock in Slovenia, estimated at 2 million birds, here is a photo of part of the flock by Tomaž Mihelič. It covers 5 hectares … 50,000m2 so about 40 birds per m2. Locality (quite rightly) withheld.


Moa for sale: trade in extinct birds’ bones threatens New Zealand’s history

Skeletons fetch thousands, but sales put swathes of environmental and climate data out of reach of scientists

The giant moa was a flightless bird that became extinct 500 years ago
The giant moa was a flightless bird that became extinct 500-600 years ago Photograph: Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Paleontologists are begging the New Zealand government to immediately halt the trade in the priceless bones of the extinct moa bird, fearing that millions of years of science is disappearing as entire skeletons are broken up and sold over the internet or smuggled overseas.

Moa, giant flightless birds which stood up to 3.6m tall, were endemic to New Zealand and became extinct about 500-600 years ago. When they were first discovered by Europeans they were considered a scientific marvel and kickstarted a global frenzy, as museums competed to acquire specimens.

Under New Zealand law it is legal to sell moa bones and egg shells found on private land. There is no requirements for experts to sample or study the bones, or survey the site, as is standard practice in the UK and many other countries. In November a private collector in Britain purchased an entire moa skeleton for $34,000 in West Sussex.

Although it is illegal to sell or collect moa bones from public conservation land, experts and the department of conservation say looters routinely plunder caves and swamps for remains, which in their entirety can fetch between $20,000 and $50,000, or between $70 and $350 per bone.

There have been incidents of entire skeletons appearing in European auction houses with suspect or unknown origins, according to the moa expert Trevor Worthy.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Beach hoods: guarding nests of hooded plovers a job for us all

As hundreds of runners pound along the sand, another race is on – to protect the young of this dapper but vulnerable bird.


A juvenile hooded plover.
A juvenile hooded plover. Photograph: Glenn Ehmke/BirdLife Australia

Australians love the beach. Every summer hundreds of thousands of us descend upon our beaches in a pilgrimage that is both a rite of passage and a ritualistic confirmation of national identity. But is there a down side to this passion, especially for the animals that call the beach their home?

The Rip to River Classic is one of the oldest fun runs in Australia, held along the beach between Point Lonsdale and Ocean Grove in Victoria after Christmas for the past 39 years. Hundreds of people choose to shake off festive season hangovers and run 10km of ocean beach to raise funds for the Ocean Grove Surf Lifesaving Club.

The scene at the finish line is chaotically festive. A PA blares in front of the surf club, which is going through a major reconstruction. A throng of spectators mill about the tired runners. There are even food trucks. Local MP and Victorian minister for police, Lisa Neville, is there to hand out prizes and hold a press conference to open an observation tower on what she says is Victoria’s most heavily visited beach. Her announcement is overshadowed by questions from the media contingent about violence on city beaches.

But the beach can be a harsh place for other reasons too.

Take hooded plovers – dapper little birds that skitter across the sand of our southern surf beaches. With dainty orange legs that whirr underneath as if they were a child’s wind-up toy, hooded plovers seek out small bugs and tiny sea creatures hidden among the seaweed on the tideline left by the surf, or venture into the wash left by the crashing waves.

They nest on the beaches too, though nest is a relative term. It’s more a shallow scrape in the sand with perhaps a sprinkle of seaweed or shells here for disguise. It’s a hazardous – and to us seemingly ridiculous – nesting strategy, exposed to the elements, tidal surges and passing predators. The parent birds place their faith in the ability of the eggs and chicks to blend in to their surrounds, and head off in the other direction, often pretending to be injured in an attempt to distract nest raiders away.

On a hot summer’s day, the parent birds wet their feathers in the water and scurry back to sit on their eggs to cool them down. If we are sitting on a towel near the nest, or just walking too close, they won’t approach, and the eggs will bake. That’s if they’re not discovered by a gull, a raven or a wandering dog first. To be honest, it’s a surprise that any hooded plovers have survived on our crowded beaches at all.

Read The Guardian’s full article here.

Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
How a family rescued Penguin, an injured Australian Magpie, and how she ended up rescuing them too.


BBC Wildlife  BBC Wildlife – @WildlifeMag

@BAS_News  Happy #PenguinAwarenessDay! We’ve teamed up with

to bring you fascinating facts about these beautiful birds:






BirdLife InternationalBirdLife International – @BirdLife_News
Did you know that more than half of the world’s penguin species are sliding towards extinction? On #PenguinAwarenessDay, you can help. Read more and donate to help us #ProtectAPenguin here:

Every penguin, ranked: which species are we most at risk of losing?
10 of the world’s 18 species of penguin are threatened with extinction. Discover where they live, and the threats they face, in this illustrated list of the world’s species
Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
Break out your fanciest suit—it’s #PenguinAwarenessDay! Celebrate these classy-looking birds with some cool facts:



Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety

Fecal sacs are essentially bird diapers—here are some possible reasons why chicks produce them.


Little Green Space 🐝Little Green Space


Found a bumblebee struggling in winter or bad weather?

@BumblebeeTrust says put on/near flowering plants. If no flowers, mix 50% white refined sugar & 50% water (brown sugar/honey = bad for bumblebees) for it to drink; it should gain energy & fly off. See




BBC Springwatch  BBC Springwatch – @BBCSpringwatch

Who’s ready for #TheBigGardenBirdWatch?


One week today and we cannot wait! To get involved hit the link!…




January 19, 2019
Little Green Space 🐝 Little Green Space

🐝 @LGSpace

97% of UK wildflower meadows have been eradicated since WWII. 163k people have signed @UKChange petition calling on @michaelgove to save butterflies, bees, wildflowers by protecting our remaining 3%. Let’s get that to 200k – ps sign/RT! Via @Love_plants


Team4Nature and 9 others
BirdGuides BirdGuides – @BirdGuides
The demand for palm oil could spell the end for Gurney’s Pitta:

Palm oil demand pushing pitta to extinction
The last fragments of forest supporting Gurney’s Pitta are being cleared for oil palm plantations.

Little Green Space 🐝 Little Green Space

🐝 @LGSpace

A foraging bumblebee is only ever about 40 minutes from starvation. Let’s plant nectar-rich flowers in our gardens and community spaces!



The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts – @WildlifeTrusts

Please consider leaving dead plants in your garden over winter – they provide sheltered spots for hibernating ladybirds and other creatures.






Crimes against nature: how greed fuels illegal trade in animal parts

Scotland Yard’s small wildlife unit opens its store of raided treasures for the first time.

DC Sarah Bailey with some of the finds she has seized from illegal traders.
DC Sarah Bailey with some of the finds she has seized from illegal traders. Photograph: Linda Nylind/Guardian

Row upon row of primate skulls sit in a glass case, jaws stuck forever in a grimace. Rhino horns big and small rise from a table, a depiction of Jesus on the cross in ivory lies on a table, as does a polar bear skin; in the corner a rack is laden with fur coats; another glass case contains mounted butterflies.

The items – a mix of the achingly beautiful and the macabre – sit in a storeroom in south London. They are all items seized by Scotland Yard’s wildlife crime unit and behind most is a story showing how greed, obsession and the yearning for profit collide.

This week the small unit made headlines with its investigation of Stephanie Scolaro, a London heiress and Instagram model who imported and sold hats made of python skins. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service and in a later interview the heiress questioned what harm she had done.

DC Sarah Bailey has an answer: “Illegal wildlife is the fourth-biggest illegal market in the world behind drugs, guns and human trafficking.”

The trail that led to Bailey knocking on Scolaro’s door, started in Indonesia where poachers killed and skinned the snakes to order.

The skins were sent via Germany where their customs intercepted them wrapped in a travel bag addressed to a woman in Mayfair.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Terra Incognita Terra Incognita – @TerIncogEco
We had such an overwhelming response to #wildlifeblogger18 that we’re publishing a book to celebrate some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Check out our journey!…


The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts – @WildlifeTrusts

Small numbers of snow bunting breed in Scotland, but in winter flocks settle on the coasts of northern and eastern Britain #LoveWildlife


BTO Garden BirdWatch BTO Garden BirdWatch – @BTO_GBW
#TawnyOwls are our most reported owl in gardens but, due to their nocturnal nature, they remain a bit of a mystery. You can help us better understand their behaviour! Have you #HeardAnOwl? Find out how to get involved: #Winterwatch


BirdLife InternationalBirdLife International – @BirdLife_News

Sometimes things can seem hopeless, even though they’re not. These birds prove it’s possible to come back from the brink of extinction.

The Comeback Kids: five birds brought back from the brink
Conservation is working: 25 bird species have been saved from the Critically Endangered category this century alone. Read five of the most inspiring stories of birds that have recovered thanks to the…

Woodland TrustWoodland Trust – @WoodlandTrust

#PineMartens are iconic #woodland mammals. Their populations are largely restricted to northern and central #Scotland and they are notoriously difficult to spot! #Winterwatch


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
66 million years ago, a large asteroid struck the earth, devastating the world’s forests—and kick-starting the era of modern birds.

How Birds Survived the Asteroid Impact That Wiped Out the Dinosaurs
Today’s great diversity of tree-dwelling birds can be traced back to small ground birds that survived global forest destruction.

Little Green Space 🐝Little Green Space


The UK is one of Europe’s least wooded countries. We need more trees! Including because:






CO2 soaks


Clean air




Renewable carbon-neutral fuel


Fruit, nuts


Less floods




Cooler towns







Richard Fox Richard Fox – @RichardFoxBC


NatureUK and 5 others

January 2019 Edition

Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety

Using 1,347 bird specimens, scientists have tracked the sootiness of the air in the Rust Belt from 1880 to 2015.

Sooty Feathers Tell the History of Pollution in American Cities
Preserved birds and digital photos help pinpoint levels of black carbon and the changes that led to its decline.
Fair Isle Bird Obs  Fair Isle Bird Obs – @FI_Obs
This magnificent Short-eared Owl was the highlight of yesterday’s ringing. Only the 4th to be ringed in the last 30 years on Fair Isle. Look at those eyes!


Audubon Society Audubon Society – @audubonsociety
We now have larger fires and longer fire seasons due to #climatechange. How do they affect birds?


Surveys reveal worrying Yellow-naped Amazon declines

Full story can be read here.

As they fly to their roosting sites in the tropical dry forests in which they inhabit, the echoing calls of Yellow-naped Amazons seem to be fading. This is a logical repercussion of the findings of recent research, which showed that the populations of this species, which is classified as Endangered, are markedly low and rapidly declining in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

In partnership with NGOs in the country, Loro Parque Fundación is committed to trying to reverse this situation in south-west Nicaragua, with two projects underway dedicated towards the conservation of the species. One project is being conducted in the Paso del Istmo together with Paso Pacífico, and the other in the Ometepe islands in Lake Nicaragua with Fauna & Flora International and the community group Loreros Observando y Conservando Ometepe (LOCO).

As with other parrot species, Yellow-naped Amazon is in decline across much of its range (R J Schuerger).

Woodland Trust   Woodland Trust – @WoodlandTrust

The 24th November 2018 is #TreeCharterDay! What are you planning to do to celebrate? Share your #TreeCharter ideas and photos with us! #SaveTheDate


Johnny  Johnny – @norfolkshuck

The first of our west Norfolk rewilders has decided to take the leap! A new 1000 acre space for wildlife. Wetlands, woodland, Heath, grass and scrub. Outstanding landowner/manager commitment. #Rewilding



Audubon Society Audubon Society – @audubonsociety
Shoebill chicks can go for thousands of dollars on the black market. So dedicated fisherman in Zambia have banded together to protect the birds and their nests.


Cornell LabCornell Lab – @CornellBirds
The eastern U.S. is set to get a bevy of winter visitors, including Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls. Evening Grosbeaks could make their best showing in 20 years. Have you seen any yet?

This Could Be the Winter You Get Evening Grosbeaks at Your Feeder
At the end of September, three birders in Cape May, New Jersey, got a preview of what’s shaping up to be one of this winter’s birding highlights. It took the form of 1,570 Red-breasted Nuthatches…
BirdGuidesBirdGuides – @BirdGuides
Introducing the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project:

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project
Richard Baines, Turtle Dove Project Officer at North York Moors National Park Authority, introduces a novel project that aims to save one of our fastest-declining species from extirpation.
Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
The Dovekie, a keystone Arctic species, is changing its diet to survive warming oceans—at least in the short term.


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
Take a look at one of the latest murals in the #AudubonMuralProject, Frank Parga’s Gyrfalcon, and learn more about the project:


Ella McSweeney  Ella McSweeney – @ellamcsweeney

“With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm.” The Insect Apocalypse Is Here –

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here
What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?
Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
Climate-threatened Barn Owls live in open habitats across the U.S. However, their populations have decreased due to excessive use of rodenticides and changing land-use practices.



🐝 @seed_ball

Since WW2, the UK has lost 97% of native wildflower habitats. Give wildflowers this #christmas! #beefriendly


Trump’s environmental rollback rolls on

Published on BBC News – 6 December 2018 – link to page and article here.

Sage grouse male
The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

The Trump administration has dealt a double blow to Obama-era environmental policies in an ongoing rollback that has targeted scores of rules.

The Department of the Interior unveiled plans to allow oil drilling on millions of acres that have been off-limits to protect the greater sage grouse.

And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would end rules limiting carbon emissions on new coal plants.

The rollback continues despite the US’ own dire warnings about climate change.

Interior department documents said Thursday’s order would protect sage grouse “while also ensuring that conservation efforts do not impede local economic opportunities”.

The interior department plan is expected to be finalised in 2019.

The greater sage grouse, a chicken-like bird known for its striking plumage and mating dances, has a habitat spanning parts of 10 states from California to the Dakotas.

But less than half a million of the birds remain, making the species near threatened.

Nada Culver, of conservation group The Wilderness Society, said in a statement about the policy: “The sum total of these changes may well be more than the species can bear.”

Swift parrot polyamory a new threat to critically endangered species’ survival

From The Guardian – link to full article here.

Shortage of female swift parrots caused by sugar gliders wreaking ‘havoc’ on mating

A swift parrot
Swift parrot numbers have declined significantly in the past four years and it is estimated only 1,000 breeding pairs remain. Photograph: Chris Tzaros
Tasmania’s critically endangered swift parrots are facing a new threat to survival – polyamory.
A study by researchers at the Australian National University, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, has found that a chronic shortage of female swift parrots caused by intensive predation by sugar gliders has wreaked havoc on the bird’s usually monogamous breeding habits and lowered the survival rate for young hatchlings.
Lead researcher Prof Rob Heinsohn said the unusual behaviour was caused by a significant disparity in the number of males and females in the parrots’ breeding grounds of the blue gum forests in south-east Tasmania. Surplus bachelor males were pressuring paired-up females for sex and getting into fights with paired males.
BirdLife InternationalBirdLife International – @BirdLife_News
The Northern Bald Ibis is no longer Critically Endangered! Here’s how we got it on the road to recovery.

Important new breeding sites of mythical ibis discovered
It has had a dramatic history and was almost lost to extinction. Now this Critically Endangered bird is bouncing back with record breeding success in Morocco in 2017.

‘A legitimate zoo?’ How an obscure German group cornered global trade in endangered parrots

from The Guardian

Glossy-black cockatoos were among the birds ACTP was permitted to import from Australia. Photograph: Dave Watts/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Exclusive: A secretive organisation based in a German village has amassed one of the world’s largest collections of rare parrots. How did Martin Guth, a former nightclub manager, persuade governments to authorise the export of so many endangered species?

Australia gave endangered birds to secretive German ‘zoo’, ignoring warnings

by in Melbourne and in Berlin

It’s an unlikely spot for a zoo – down an unmade, dusty road, amid a wood to the east of the German capital Berlin.

But here in the village of Tasdorf, hundreds of the world’s most endangered and rare parrot species are said to be housed at the headquarters of the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP).

The site is not easily accessible by public transport, and there is no car park. No signs offer information about opening hours or admission prices. The main entrance is through a roller-door. Next to its main building, on an adjacent house, a small sign gives a mobile number to call if no one is home.

From these obscure premises, a former nightclub manager and unofficial debt collector, Martin Guth, has been able to acquire one of the largest private collections of threatened birds in the world. The collection includes imperial and red-necked parrots from the Caribbean island of Dominica, endangered Australian cockatoos and about 90% of the global population of Brazil’s Spix’s macaw, a species that is now extinct in the wild.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Bitterns, curlews and lapwings at risk as vital wildlife funds dry up

Bird experts call on ministers to plug gap left by EU grants worth millions of pounds
A €3.9m EU grant helped restore the bittern’s reedbed homes in Yorkshire and Humberside and restore numbers.
A €3.9m EU grant helped restore the bittern’s reedbed homes in Yorkshire and Humberside and restore numbers. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

They are some of the most elusive birds to nest in the UK. Indeed, they hide so well in their reedbed homes that ornithologists can only estimate bittern numbers by counting the sources of the booming sounds made by males in summer. It is a census that has produced alarming results. Only 11 booming bitterns were counted across the country in the 1990s.

But since then the bittern has begun to bounce back – thanks to a remarkable system of EU environment awards called Life grants. One of these, worth €3.9m (£3.5m), has helped ecologists restore the bittern’s reedbeds in South and West Yorkshire and rebuild bittern numbers.

Other threatened species to benefit from Life grants include stone curlews, golden plovers and lapwings, and plants such as the sundew.

But that Life grant system is now under threat itself, and unless a replacement is found a critically important mechanism for saving endangered species will be lost.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

Axolotls in crisis: the fight to save the ‘water monster’ of Mexico City

from The Guardian. Read the full article here.
An axolotl.
Axolotls are embedded in Mexico City’s culture, and murals and graffiti depicting the unusual creature are ubiquitous in the capital. Photograph: Jan-Peter Kasper/EPA
The city’s floating gardens are a prime party spot – but pollution has driven the axolotl population to the verge of extinction. Can a radical plan save them?
Like many residents of Mexico City, my experience of the floating gardens of Xochimilco has mostly been tinged with alcohol. After all, every weekend, this Unesco world heritage site turns into a bacchanal, with groups aboard the canals’ iconic boats celebrating everything from high school graduations to engagements and weddings.

But this is a weekday morning, and Carlos Sumano, who is steering my canoe through the floating gardens, or chinampas, says that sort of unfettered use has taken its toll on the ecosystem. During his six years working in Xochimilco, Sumano has come across everything from pushchairs to television sets in canals.

Water pollution has also affected the region’s most unique creature: the axolotl.

When the Aztecs established themselves in the nearby city of Tenochtitlan, they found in Xochimilco what appeared to be the larva of a salamander. Fascinated, they called the animal “water monster” and incorporated it into their mythology as the mischievous and renegade brother of the god Quetzalcoatl.

Its divine character didn’t keep the Aztecs from eating it but, thanks in large part to the low-impact agriculture of Xochimilco, human and amphibian thrived.

Australian populations of threatened bird species halves in 30 years

from The Guardian. Read the full article here.

Migratory shorebirds populations down by average of 70% from 1985 to 2015


wandering albatross
The wandering albatross is one of the 43 bird species listed as vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered. Photograph: Momatiuk – Eastcott/Getty Images

Populations of threatened bird species in Australia halved in the past 30 years, according to a new national Threatened Bird Index.

The index is the first part of a large data consolidation project being undertaken by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, along with the University of Queensland and Birdlife Australia.

It consolidated more than 180,000 surveys from 35 monitoring programs on 43 bird species that are listed as vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered and found an average population decline of 52% between 1985 and 2015.

Populations of migratory shorebirds species dropped by an average of 70% over the same period.

The index will be updated annually and be expanded to a broader threatened species index, covering mammals, plants and freshwater species, over the next few years.

The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts – @WildlifeTrusts
Bitterns went extinct in the UK in the 1800s, returned but faced extinction again in the 1990s. Now reedbed recovery is helping them thrive!


“World’s Rarest Bird” Sighted in Brazil

From the American Bird Conservancy – read the full article here.

Existence of Female Stresemann’s Bristlefront Renews Hope for Species’ Survival

Contact: Amy Upgren, American Bird Conservancy, Alliance for Zero Extinction Program Officer, Phone: 540-253-5780 | Email:


Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas photographed this female Stresemann’s Bristlefront on Dec. 12, 2018 re-confirming the species’ existence. Additional photos and a recording of the bird are available for download; please credit Fundação Biodiversitas when using these files.

(Washington, D.C., December 20, 2018) An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was recently observed in Brazil after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the female bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and its partner organization in Brazil, Fundação Biodiversitas, have been on high alert about the species’ population, which numbered as few as 15 in recent years. In a bid to assess the current population, Fundação Biodiversitas, supported by ABC, sent a team this fall to scour the species’ remaining habitat, which includes forest within and outside of the Mata do Passarinho, or “Songbird Forest,” Reserve.  After several unsuccessful searches, the female bristlefront was seen outside the reserve’s boundaries by Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas and researcher Marcos Rezende Peres.  The team also obtained a recording of the bird.

BirdLife InternationalBirdLife International – @BirdLife_News
Conservation can sometimes seem depressing. But there were some very positive developments in 2018.

12 positive environmental stories from the past 12 months
Reading about the environment can sometimes seem like a depressing litany of fading species, increased development, and a warming planet. But there are reasons to be hopeful. As we approach the new…
Woodland TrustWoodland Trust – @WoodlandTrust
Identify #trees by using their twigs with our handy ID sheet! #NatureDetectives


November Edition

Cody the Lovebird Cody the Lovebird – @birdhism
Replying to @Tinilily


Little Green Space Little Green Space – @LGSpace



Leave fallen and rotten apples in your garden – red admirals love them! Lovely video by


#GreenSpaceTips #butterflies #Autumn

Manhattan Bird Alert Manhattan Bird Alert – @BirdCentralPark
Rising sea levels on the Atlantic Coast are flooding Saltmarsh Sparrow nests and threatening the species with extinction

A saltmarsh sparrow chick at Hammonasset Beach State Park.

Saltmarsh Sparrows Fight to Keep Their Heads Above Water

Clever crows reveal ‘window into the mind’

New Caledonian crow (c) James St Clair

Clever, tool-using crows have surprised scientists once again with remarkable problem-solving skills.

In a task designed to test their tool-making prowess, New Caledonian crows spontaneously put together two short, combinable sticks to make a longer “fishing rod” to reach a piece of food.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists say the demonstration is a “window into how another animals’ minds work”.

Go to to read the BBC’s full article about these clever birds.

Audubon Society Audubon Society – @audubonsociety

Twin Cities, two approaches to bird safety. Minnesota’s newest stadiums stand in stark contrast when it comes to preventing avian collisions, and Audubon’s

@alisaopar chats with managing partner Bill McGuire about bird-friendly planning:


The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts – @WildlifeTrusts
Every Sunday night from 8-9pm it’s #wildflowerhour. Share photos of the flowers you’ve seen growing wild this week. Here are some tansy flowers from today.


BirdLifeBirdLife – @BirdLife_News
Enormous mice are eating seabird chicks on Gough Island. An ambitious new plan is trying to change that.

Ambitious plan to remove “mega-mice” to save millions of seabirds
RSPB Science  RSPB Science – @RSPBScience


@martinRSPB discusses the latest paper showing the shocking evidence that invasive house mice are causing the loss of two million seabird chicks a year: #ornithology


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety

For more than 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped protect birds by conserving land in every state. Tell Congress to permanently reauthorize this important program: #SaveLWCF


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
New research finds that Carolina Chickadees require a landscape with 70% native plants to keep their population steady. Is your yard more of a ‘food desert’ or delectable buffet?


British Museum  British Museum – @britishmuseum

In ancient Mesopotamia, ostrich egg shells were often cut open and used as cups or bowls. This example was made around 2,600 BC and is decorated with a mosaic rim and base #WorldEggDay


Ashmolean Museum  Ashmolean Museum – @AshmoleanMuseum
Happy #WorldEggDay! This is a decorated ostrich egg found in pieces in a grave at Naqada, Egypt, dating to around 3600 BC


Compound Interest Compound Interest – @compoundchem
On #WorldEggDay learn what gives egg yolks and shells their colours, and what can give boiled egg yolks a green hue:…


RSPB  RSPB – @Natures_Voice
94% of our turtle doves have been lost since 1995 and your help is urgently needed! Advising farms and reserves on their hedgerows and ponds can help to provide nesting sites, one of the key ways to help the turtle dove breed and raise healthy chicks!

Time is running out for turtle doves
BirdLifeBirdLife – @BirdLife_News
Everyone’s heard of elephant poaching, but at today’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London, we’re reminding the world of the birds that desperately need us to #EndWildlifeCrime >

An international plan to save the Helmeted Hornbill
Audubon Society Audubon Society – @audubonsociety
You might have heard the cartoon character’s fictional call—but have you listened to the soft, cooing voice of the real Greater Roadrunner?


BC BC – @savebutterflies
Some of the UK’s best-loved birds and butterflies could be wiped out as there is not enough habitat for them to cope with the effects of a warming climate, a study involving Butterfly Conservation has revealed. #ClimateChange Find out more:


October Edition

Trees for Life Trees for Life – @treesforlifeuk
The Millingerwaard rewilding story – a 600-hectare rewilding site in the Netherlands, demonstrates perfectly how both people and wild nature can benefit when natural processes are given free rein to reshape landscapes.

Millingerwaard celebrates 25th anniversary | Rewilding Europe
Little Green Space  Little Green Space – @LGSpace

Sadly, the skylark’s beautiful song is increasingly uncommon. Keep the magic in our countryside by supporting conservation coalition


e-action here: (link: #wildlife #MakeADifference


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety

After sparking a U.K. birding movement over the past decade,

@urbanbirder is now bringing his message to the international stage. Learn about the art of city birding from our FAQ session: (link:


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
Gorge yourself on the photos of these “gorgets”—the glittering feathers on the throats of many male and some female hummingbirds: (link:


Audubon SocietyAudubon Society – @audubonsociety
Yes, birds can get drunk—and if they don’t sober up before they fly, the outcomes can be deadly. (link:


BirdGuides BirdGuides – @BirdGuides

No matter how many photos you see of Oleander Hawkmoth, they never fail to impress! This one caught overnight in Glamorgan by



Oleander Hawkmoth by paul parsons
J. of Avian Biology  J. of Avian Biology – @AvianBiology
Small birds fly at high altitudes towards Africa – This new study shows that passerines migrating from Scandinavia to Africa fly as high as 4000 m above sea level #ornithology #MigConnectivity (link:…


Woodland Trust Woodland Trust – @WoodlandTrust
“There is rhythm in the woods, and in the fields,
Nature yields:
And the harvest voices crying,
Blend with Autumn zephyrs sighing;
Tone and color, frost and fire,
Wings the nocturne Nature plays upon her lyre.”
– William Stanley Braithwaite


BBC Springwatch BBC Springwatch – @BBCSpringwatch
Scottish GPs to begin prescribing rambling and birdwatching

Scottish GPs to begin prescribing rambling and birdwatching
BirdLifeBirdLife – @BirdLife_News
Last year, the Critically Endangered Hooded Grebe’s courtship dance was filmed for the first time.

The last dance? Critically Endangered grebe’s mesmerising display filmed for first time
BBC Earth  BBC Earth – @BBCEarth
Bird tweets and chirps could teach us about our own language

The link between birdsong and language – @physorg_com