October, 2012

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Saving Species

The need for species conservation has never been greater. Despite notable successes in improving the fortunes of a number of bird species, more are being forced onto the list of those that need attention, both globally and in the UK. If we want to have a
  • SAVE: Who wants some good news?

    Did you see The Guardian today?  A new study by the Peregrine Fund found that just two years after diclofenac was banned in Pakistan, breeding populations of the critically endangered long-billed vulture at study sites had increased by up to 52%.

    This is fantastic news. 

    It’s not the end of the road.  We know that human diclofenac is still being used illegally for livestock in many parts of south Asia, so diclofenac is still getting in to the ecosystem.  Also, alternative drugs that either are known to have the same toxic effect as diclofenac (or are untested) are still being used legally.  And the populations of endangered Asian vultures still need to be rebuilt to be sure of their long term survival.

    So we still have a long way to go in the fight to Save Asian Vultures from Extinction.  But we are getting there.

    Thank you for helping give these iconic birds a future.


    To find out more about SAVE, click here.

    To find out more about Save Our Species, one of the major donors for the vulture work in South Asia, click here.

  • Raso Lark: Field work team reports from island of Sao Nicolau

    [John, Helen, Nick and Juan continue telling us about their work in Cape Verde]

    Normally Helen Moncrieff is an RSPB warden on Shetland, but here she is sharing her tales from her sabbatical in Cape Verde. 

    We are currently on the large, inhabited island of Sao Nicolau for a couple of days.  We are following up a record of a Raso Lark here a few years ago (the only sighting away from Raso since the species was discovered to science!).  We're also monitoring the tiny population of Cape Verde warblers on this island.  There was no sign of Raso Lark, as expected, but we have had some good sightings of the warbler today.  It was quite a hike through the Riberia (a steep, dry valley), but the scenery was breathtaking.

    We've settled into a daily routine already:

    - First light of the day - we collect our mouse traps (the humane type) - marking and releasing any mice caught. 

    - Breakfast.

    - Bird and reptile surveys, before the heat sets in. 

    - Seek shade.

    - Cooling down in the wonderful sea, where the snorkelling reveals many species of beautiful fish. (It is also our bath and laundrette!)

    - BIG lunch, often fish caught by our lovely Biosfera friends.

    - More surveying, or hike to another area of the island.

    - Sleep under the stars. [We spent a night sleeping under the stars in a shearwater and petrel colony.  What an amazing experience!  The sounds went on all night, first the Cape Verde petrel, then the Cape Verde shearwater and other petrels and shearwaters joined in the chorus. Lying on our sleeping bags with these super seabirds skimming above our heads making all sorts of crazy sounds will be a lasting memory].

    BUT, our new routine was upset when a cargo ship run aground on our island one morning, Fortunately, the crew have managed to put the fuel oil in containers, so the threat of pollution is gone.  What will happen to the ship, nobody knows. The friendly Philippino crew have to wait onboard until specialists work out if the boat can be towed off. We truly hope they will succeed.

    Despite this we managed to squeeze in two nights on Raso. It is amazing to think that this small barren island, only seven square kilometres, is the only place in the world that the Raso lark exists.  We did some reptile transects and some vegetation monitoring. This will help inform work on Santa Luzia.

    And, indeed, tomorrow we return to Santa Luzia, to finish our fieldwork which aims to set the baseline for planning the restoration of these now uninhabited islands.  We made good headway with our reptile, mouse and bird monitoring.  We have collected a fair few cat scats too, which will be analysed to get more information on their diet. 

    Got to sign off now. Hope all well back home. 



    Thankfully, the beautiful beaches of Santa Luzia appear not to have been polluted by the recent grounding of a large ship (photo: Paul Donald, RSPB)

  • Migrating birds – some good and bad news

    Some good news from Central Asia…

    One of the most recent conservation organisations to become a partner supporting international sociable lapwing conservation is BirdLife’s national affiliate, the Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds. During their first surveys for the species (made possible by the Species Champion Swarovski Optik), they made a remarkable discovery – more than 400 birds present at the Talimarzhan Reservoir in Kashkadarya Province, during their migration south.

    To read more about this significant discovery, visit The Amazing Journey website.

    …and some bad news from Europe…

    The leading bird in a European project to develop a method to save the rare northern bald ibis was killed last weekend by hunters in Italy. Goja was on her way to wintering grounds in Tuscany when she was shot down.  Johannes Fritz from the University of Vienna has been hand-raising the birds and teaching them how to migrate from breeding areas north of the Alps in Germany and Austria to wintering grounds in Italy. 

    Goja's fate is not unique.  Last autumn, the project lost up to 15 of 37 migrating birds to hunters in Italy. It is heartbreaking that at the same time as we are trying to secure more funding to extend the reintroduction project, illegal hunting continues to be a serious problem across southern Europe.

    To read more about Goja, visit the Nature website, and find out about the RSPB's work on the northern bald ibis and latest tracking information here.