Each spring thousands of migrant birds cross Malta on their way to breeding grounds in Europe, and some of them even choose the UK as the summer home. In Malta, hunting birds is a cultural tradition, and although there are laws in place to govern when shooting can be carried out, a huge amount of protected birds are illegally killed. Our partners at BirdLife Malta are campaigning and working on the ground to stop illegal hunters who flout the rules and continue to kill protected birds.One of the most common birds targeted by hunters is the turtle dove, a species on the verge of extinction in the UK and with a group of conservation bodies, including the RSPB, pulling out all the stops to save it. Find out more about Operational Turtle Dove hereFor more on this story, have a look at this article on BBC Nature to see some images from Malta, but be warned, some of them are quite graphic and pretty heartbreaking too.
Sadly, Malta is just one of many countries across the Europe where species such as turtle doves are sought after quarry species for hunters, other include Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, and Portugal.
[Rob Sheldon, the RSPB's Head of International Species Recovery Team has been in Bangladesh reporting on work to help save the spoon-billed sandpiper]
My visit to Bangladesh has come to and end. It has been hugely satisfying to see the excellent work carried out by our partners in Bangladesh. With the reduction in hunting pressure at Sonadia and the great survey work being undertaken by Sayam and Foysal, it is clear that the future of Sonadia Island, as a home for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, is in safe hands.
The Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project has been working with BirdLife International and the RSPB to ensure that Sonadia Island’s conservation importance is recognised. It is excellent news that Sonadia has been given global recognition through being declared the 20th Important Bird Area (IBA) of Bangladesh by BirdLife International. A site is recognised as an IBA only if it meets certain criteria, based on the occurrence of key bird species that are at risk of global extinction or whose populations are otherwise irreplaceable.
Photo credit - Sayam U Chowdhury
“A series of recent surveys confirms that Bangladesh is still an extremely important wintering ground for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and we identified Sonadia Island as the main wintering site in Bangladesh” said Sayam U. Chowdhury, Principal Investigator of Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project.
I think Sonadia Island is incredible. During winter, huge flocks of migratory birds gather to feed on the mudflats. It’s spectacular, and even more amazing to think they have flown thousands of kilometers across Asia to get here! Sonadia Island is simply irreplaceable...
During my visit to Sonadia we were able to discuss the IBA declaration with delighted local officials. Inamul Haque, Assistant Conservator of Forest (coastal), Cox’s Bazar, said “mangrove coverage of Sonadia is expanding with our recent work which is improving the biodiversity of the area. We have been supporting the Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project by avoiding mangrove planting in areas that are important for shorebirds. We have also been protecting the key sites from illegal hunting. I am delighted that Sonadia is receiving the international recognition it deserves by being declared an Important Bird Area. ”
So plans are already underway for the next big awareness raising event of World Migratory Bird Day, and I’ll be returning for further project reviews later this year.
Photo credit - RSPB
This work is supported by SOS and WWT
Guest post by RSPB staff member and author Conor Mark Jameson.
The RSPB holds its annual weekend for members at York University each spring during half-term. The students are away and the wildfowl own the campus. Members (and staff and volunteers present) are treated to a range of stimulating talks and activities, guaranteed to recharge the batteries, remind us what multi-tentacled beast we are, grappling with challenges on all sides. Most of all you leave York with the strong sense that there is hope yet for saving nature. This year I was lucky enough to be invited to give a talk which I call Silent Spring Revisited – Rachel Carson’s legacy.
As I did a bit of last-minute adjustment I realised the significance of the date. Tuesday 14th April was the day in 1964 when something very significant happened that is much less well remembered than Silent Spring itself, published just over a year earlier.
On that spring morning, Rachel Carson died. It comes as a surprise to people when I tell them this, just as the event itself came as a shock even to many of those who knew well the naturalist, scientist, author and campaigner. They didn’t know she’d been ill, and they didn’t know because she hadn’t told them. She thought that knowledge of her condition would be used against her by her opponents, deniers of the widespread harmful effects of indiscriminate pesticide use.
In fact Rachel Carson had been battling cancer and a succession of illnesses for a large part of the four and a half years it took her to research and write Silent Spring. Arthritis required her at times to use a wheelchair.
Forty-nine years on, this anniversary Sunday morning fittingly brought strong, mild blustery winds from the south and west. With them came the long awaited and much delayed spring migrant birds from the south, where they had been backing up around the Mediterranean and beyond. Chiffchaffs at last were calling from the bare treetops among the halls of residence on a misty Yorkshire dawn.
The turbulent air also encouraged our Scandinavian visitors to head once again north and east. Redwings streamed overhead and out towards the sea, and we craned our necks seeking our first glimpse of swallows arriving to replace them. Someone reported seeing a waxwing and a willow warbler in the same hedgerow – an unusual collision of arrivistes and the departing. But it wasn’t until I’d made the journey home afterwards, south by train against this general flow of returning nature, that I found my first swallows. There were three of them, surfing the wind over the village a few hundred metres from the house, by way of welcome. They’ve made it again, as always oblivious to all that’s going on below them, in our increasingly uncertain world.
Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s passing. It would be fitting to mark the occasion then not with a minute’s silence, nor even with a minute’s applause, but with a minute’s birdsong, and other springtime sounds from nature. Perhaps we might even officially designate it Rachel Carson Day.
People wherever they are might then listen for the birds, and take a moment to recall Rachel Carson’s determination, courage and sacrifice, in the face of powerful opposition, in raising the alarm about the danger of biocide misuse. She didn’t live to find out what came next. She did this work not for her own benefit, but for those who would follow. This is one hero we mustn’t allow to be unsung.
Conor has written for the Guardian, New Statesman, Ecologist, BBC Wildlife, Birds and Birdwatch magazines, among others. He has worked in conservation for most of his life and describes himself as a partial migrant, currently living in England. His book, Silent Spring Revisited, is now out in paperback.