PICK OF THE GERMAN WEEK 2000
The Red Kite Milvus milvus
German Bird of the Year 2000
The Red Kite Milvus milvus
News from the
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BIRD(S) OF THE WEEK
If ratified, a FIRST for Switzerland: male Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca carolinensis) in the nature reserve Vogelraupfi on the River Aare between Walliswil and Bannwil.
And another Green-winged Teal and (at least) 2 Black-tailed Godwits of the Icelandic race (Limosa limosa islandica) at the Leybucht, east Friesland - Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) still arriving despite snow and 0°C in parts of Bavaria – also in Bavaria a Whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybridus) and a Steppenkiebitz () – 8 Bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) singing near the coast in Lower Saxony with Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) in full voice not too far away – Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatos) on the move north – first Red-throated Pipits (Anthus cervinus) and Lesser Whitethroats (Sylvia curruca) – large groups of Common Cranes (Grus grus) (550 /220/120) feeding on the fields in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – early Hoopoes (Upupa epops) and Great White Egrets (Egretta alba) – Lesser White-fronts (Anser erythropus) still around in the North – Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli) in Baden Wuerttemburg – Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) over glider aerodrome at Eutingen (brilliant site for migrant raptors)
…..and an irresistible sighting, even if an introduction. Proud – and aggressive Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) parents parade with their cygnet around a small pond near Herborn, Hesse. Nice and early too! Last year they tried, unsuccessfully, to hatch a single egg. "If at first you don't succeed……"
NEWS OF THE WEEK - CONTENTS SUMMARY
1. The Unsung Oiled Birds of the Wadden Sea
2. Pesticide Plague
3. Spring Sunday in Saxony & Thuringia
5. Best of Europe
THE OILED BIRDS WHICH DON'T MAKE MAJOR HEADLINES - ILLEGAL OIL DISCHARGES IN THE NORTH SEA
In 1988 the German federal and provincial governments scrapped charges for the use of facilities for free discharge of waste oil for ships visiting the North Sea ports. In the 3 years following, the number of oiled birds among the seabird corpses washed up on the beaches of the Wadden Sea was dramatically halved to only 40 %. This good environmental news was of course too good to be true; since 1991 most of the port authorities have again levied fees for the service. Result – more oiled birds. Over the past 9 years, 6 out of 10 seabird corpses were oiled.
These figures have been made public in a new report published by the National Park administration in Toenning, Schleswig-Holstein. The biologists who produced the report see a clear causal link between the alarming increase in such deaths and pollution from illegal oil discharge at sea. Direct proof is however hard to come by.
The head of the Wilhelmshaven office of the National Park, Irmgard Remmers, describes the development as "most regrettable". The free facilities are still available in Lower Saxony ports; but the vast majority of the merchant ships dock in Hamburg and Bremen.
Environmental organisations demand a European solution. "This does not mean that national states can duck out of the responsibility" said a WWF spokesperson. The WWF appeals urgently to the federal and provincial governments to return to a no-fee system for oil discharge in port facilities. Experts point to the possibility of including oil disposal costs in the general harbour fees as recommended by the European Parliament. The European Commission has yet to reach a decision.
The figures of oiled bird corpses are among the results of an on-going research and development project by the federal Environment Ministry, which has been running since 1988. The examination of the flotsam on selected North sea beaches will continue on a regular basis until August 2001.
Further comment from a local level:
The battle against illegal waste oil discharge in the North Sea (as elsewhere) is pursued only half-heartedly by the authorities. The following story is sadly a regular routine on the East Friesian coast. Twice a month workers of the provincial authority for Water-Management and Coastal Protection collect dead seabirds from the beaches of the mainland and the islands. The majority of the birds are oiled. In a 3 year project the Lower Saxony authorities are trying, in cooperation with the federal Environment Ministry, to discover exactly how many seabirds are victims of the stealthily increasing oil pollution of the North Sea. Concrete results are expected in 18 months time when the project comes to an end. In winter however hundreds of dead seabirds are regularly washed up. And there is no sign that the problem is decreasing; rather the opposite. One thing is certain. Analysis has confirmed unambiguously that the majority of the affected birds have come into contact with dense waste oil which has been illegally discharged at sea. Most are ocean birds; in particular the Guillemot (Uria aalge) but also the Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialus) and the Gannet (Sula bassana). Normally a rare sight on this part of the coast; but now more common as oiled and rotting corpses. The illegal discharge of dense waste oil has been an environmental problem for years. Although Lower Saxony ports, as a notable exception, offer a cost-free disposal, time is often of the essence for the captains of merchant ships. Far easier to open the vents on the high seas where controls for example by helicopter are few and far between. The resulting slick attracts the seabirds on the search for food. Some of the dead birds are then washed up in the coast. How many sink or are taken by predators is not known – almost certainly the majority.
According to the Federal Environment Office, a department of the Environment Ministry, about 30,000 tonnes of pesticides find their way into German lakes and rivers every year. In a study carried out by a research group at Giessen University it was estimated that 0.01% of all pesticides used annually find their way into the water. The main sources of this pollution are run-off from vineyards, seepage in light soil, accumulation in river basins, drainage from agricultural land and large-scale fruit orchards.
SPRING SUNDAY IN SAXONY & THURINGIA
After the second attempt Spring has arrived in the South-East. Hopefully to stay this time. On two lakes at least 5 pairs of Bearded Tits (Panurus biamicus) are in residence an some of the Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) territories are occupied. Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) have settled in 3 breeding grounds and the Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)is on the move. A Bluethroat sang in a renaturised opencast mining area. In some areas today, the 2nd of April Blackcaps(Sylvia atricapilla), Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) and a lonely Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) were seen. The Swallows (Hirundo rustica) continue to migrate along with Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans) and occasional Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). (Courtesy of Rainer Steinbach)
The webcam on the Storks' Nest in Rathenow, Brandenburg is once again in operation. The male arrived on 30th March; the female kept him waiting till 3rd April.
The Bird Island on the Fulda Meadows. Pictures, information and an Internet Explorer with some interesting features for birders - and only a sensational 64Kbyte!.
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