Saving Species

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
  • Scopoli's shearwater - at least 30 years old!

    [Dora Querido brings us news of an interesting find in Malta]

    What are we talking about? A Scopoli’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) - the Mediterranean Cory’s shearwater that was recognized as a different species in November last year.

    Where? In the southern cliffs of Malta, Hal-Far area.


    Scopoli's shearwater (Ben Metzger)

    When? Last week, 7 of August 2013.

    How was it found out? The LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, lead by BirdLife Malta, is retrieving geolocators from Scopoli’s shearwater and found this female ringed 28 year ago!


    Fieldworker with shearwater (Ben Metzger)

    Why 30 years at least? Because back in 1985 this bird was already ringed as a breeding adult and the ecology of the species tell us that female Cory’s shearwaters take 5 to 6 years to reach maturity. Most likely this bird is at least 33/34 years old. However, if in areas of persecution, birds can breed earlier as there will be more nest space available, the earliest scenario being two summer after hatching.

    Is it a record? For Malta, yes. The previous oldest records known were 22, 21 and 20 years after been ringed.

    What is the oldest bird of similar species? A 50 year-old Manx shearwater recorded in Lleyn peninsula, north Wales in 2002. Or a 53 years-old royal albatross in New Zealand.

    What is the project trying to achieve? It aims to identify important feeding areas for seabirds in Malta so they can be protected under the designation of marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs).  

    How is the project going? Extremely well!

    How so? Last year was the first field season and it was a success - we had more then 200 contact points from 23 storm petrels tagged using radio tracking technology (see more here). We deployed a total of 57 GPS data loggers on Yelkuan and Scopoli’s shearwaters. We also deployed 9 geolocators last year on Scopoli’s shearwaters and we have already retrieved all of them - it’s truly remarkable!

    Wow, that's lucky! Yes and no. We do have a tireless fieldwork team doing an outstanding job. Actually, they could use some help.

    What do you mean? We have a call for volunteers: 14 days on a yacht doing bird and cetacean observations until October. Interested? (find out more here) ... and don’t forget, you can follow the project on Facebook).

  • Fundraising for wildlife: Three cheers for Kathryn!

    Guest blog by Kathryn Speak, Graphic Designer & Illustrator, and self-confessed nature nut!

    My name is Kathryn, and I’m a graphic designer and illustrator based in Chorley, Lancashire.  I am lucky enough to have been brought up surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside the UK has to offer. From local walks around the Ribble Valley to weekends and holidays in the Lake District, as a creative person I’m continuously inspired by nature. I’m also extremely lucky to have a job which allows me to be as creative as I want. So last year I thought, why don’t I combine the two. I decided to start sketching up some of the birds I’d been photographing throughout the year.  I realised that there is so much more detail in our little feathered friends than what you see at first glance. There are so many bright and vivid colours on show! Even the tiny little wren, he’s just covered in the most beautiful plumage. People just don’t seem to appreciate the many different markings and beauty in some of our more common birds.

    So I thought it would be great to show off these colours in a slightly abstract style. At the time I was just working on the sketches as an illustrated project piece to go into my portfolio, but after showing the final versions to friends and family, they all asked if they could buy one (or two!). So I thought it would be a good excuse to have them all printed up so that I could sign and number each one, and hopefully more people would be interested, and with some of the money raised going back into the looking after our feathered friends then it would be a worthwhile project.

    British Feathers – Series One is the first set of birds that I have worked up and finalised. The sketches are first created by hand. After this process, once I am happy with the feathers, I create each individual feather digitally. Then the fun part of the process is choosing the colours. Going off the various images I have, I pick a colour to best represent the birds feathers. These are always a lot brighter. For example the magpies which I created, I used a vivid colour pallet of  greens, turquoises and rich blues to bring his feathers out. The idea is that the colours are exaggerated and highlighted. Although to be fair, there isn’t much exaggeration needed, some of them have the brightest coloured feathers, it’s actually more difficult making sure it’s as vibrant as it possibly can be. Finally they are reproduced to scale as giclée prints on thick 300gsm paper, numbered and then signed.

    I am already preparing my next series, but it is proving difficult to decide which birds to illustrate! Hopefully this project will give something back to the work that the RSPB does, because their help means I can continue drawing our spectacular British birds.

    Kathryn is generously donating 10% of profits to the RSPB from the sale of her wonderful pictures, such as the glorious kingfisher below.  To see the full range - and the chance to own one of these limited edition masterpieces, click here.  We thank her for her support.


  • Northern bald ibis - Turkish birds arrive at Palmyra (Syria)

    [An update from Chris Bowden, International Species Recovery Officer] 

    Following a successful breeding season for the semi-wild northern bald ibis population at Birecik, SE Turkey, six of the birds were released as part of trial re-introductions work in late July.  A dedicated team first caught up all the birds for the annual ringing/check of the birds at the Birecik ‘Kelaynak’ breeding station run by the Turkish Ministry of Nature Protection and National Parks, and six were selected for release in the hope that they would survive and migrate. Three were fitted with satellite transmitters, and to reduce the chance of persecution, their bright rings were replaced with much less conspicuous ones. Four of the birds were 2013 juveniles, and in addition, two one-year old birds were also released.

    For the first two weeks, the birds remained very close to the breeding station, feeding at a number of local sites in the area, as well as taking supplementary food provided. This week, however, excitement mounts as five of the birds have departed south, and the intriguing news is that they have stopped off very close to Palmyra in Syria, where the remaining wild population there has this year sadly declined to just one individual.

    Whether the birds will stay in the area or continue their ‘migration’ further south, we will find out from the satellite signals. The work was recommended as a priority at last year’s inaugural meeting of the AEWA International Working Group for Northern Bald Ibis, held at Jazan in Saudi Arabia and by the International Advisory Group for Northern Bald Ibis (IAGNBI). Several partners are involved in the work in addition to the Turkish Ministry, with satellite tags provided by Doğa Derneği (BirdLife partner in Turkey), with Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and RSPB support.


    Ibis experts Taner Hatipoglu and Lubomir Peske preparing a tagged ibis for release (Chris Bowden/RSPB)