10 October, 2006

A colorful bird new to science has been discovered in a remote Andean cloud forest

A colorful bird new to science has been discovered in a remote Andean cloud forest, spurring efforts to protect the area, conservation groups have announced.

The bright yellow and red-crowned Yariguies brush-finch was named for the indigenous tribe that once inhabited the mountainous area where it was discovered and which committed mass suicide instead of submitting to Spanish colonial rule.

The discovery, published in the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, comes at a crucial time for conservationists. Thanks in part to the discovery, the government has decided to set aside 500 acres (200 hectares) of the pristine cloud forest where it lives to create a national park.

Read more from Herald Tribune

18 August, 2006

Tame European Honey Buzzard

European Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) are often surprisingly tame. You can see them sometimes even in the middle of towns and you can get very close to them. This individual was today in Alkkulanlammi ponds in Viiala and I digiscoped it from the distance of about 50 meters.

10 February, 2006

Take a look at Harri Kallio's Dodo - photos!

Harri Kallio's winning photos at Fotofinlandia 2006

It's not a big surprise that Harri Kallio won the Fotofinlandia 2006 Award. He combined the real photos from Mauritius and digital dodos. Take a look at the photos, they tell more than my words.

(Photo © Harri Kallio)

09 February, 2006

Major Northern Hawk Owl influx continues

Since last October, 75-80 Northern Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) have been seen in Pirkanmaa county in Southern Finland and new individuals are found still every now and then. Last big influx here was between September 1987 - March 1988. During that time 77 owls were found. So, if you have never seen this beautiful owl, it's your chance now.

The photo on the left is taken with cell phone camera through my binoculars.

08 February, 2006

Eurasian Treecreeper on the ground

It's still quite common belief that Eurasian Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris) do not eat from the ground. Even some bird books tell that as a truth. But as you can see, that's not true. Among birdwatchers this is no news, as many birdwatchers have seen treecreepers eating small pieces of nuts and seeds from the ground at feeding places. This bird is one of three treecreepers that have been visiting in our feeding place during this winter.

06 February, 2006

Bird Flue aka Avian Influenza aka H5N1

Finnish authorities have declared large areas of Finland as a risk areas of Avian Influenza. This decision is simply ridiculous.

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, between 250,000 and 500,000 people die from normal Influenza infection each year worldwide. But the Avian Influenza has killed totally only 86 people since 2003... So what is the real risk - normal Influenza or Avian Influenza?

All the incidents are from countries like Cambodia, China, Turkey, Iraq etc. What's common with these countries is that their citizens live together with chicken and ducks and transportation of poultry is light years behind from western systems. So it should no be a big surprise why diseases spread from animals to humans so easily in those countries.

Why there's no Avian Influenza for example in Australia, India or Africa, where millions of birds migrate ever year?

Well, obviously it's not the wild birds that spread it, but it's the poultry that humans transport between countries. But it's so much easier to accuse wild birds, than start to teach poor countries how they should handle their poultry...

UPDATE 14.2.2005: First wild bird cases of avian influenza in EU

As you probably already know, three swans and a wild goose in Greece, up to 22 dead swans in southern Italy and Sicily, and a swan in Slovenia have died of avian influenza. All the swans are believed to be Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), a species that visits southern Italy and Greece from the Black Sea region. Their movement into southern Europe is likely to be in response to freezing weather conditions around the Black Sea.

It is possible the swans caught the disease from other wild birds, although this is unlikely given the tens of thousands of waterfowl that have tested negative for H5N1 over the last decade. A more likely route is through contact with infected poultry or their faeces. Mute Swans, like wild geese but unlike most ducks, often feed by grazing on agricultural fields. The practice of spreading poultry manure onto fields as fertiliser is widespread in many parts of Eastern Europe, and this is a possible source of infection. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned, "Viruses can stay alive in the manure for many weeks. If the manure is spread too quickly in the fields, the virus may contaminate poultry." The swan deaths highlight the need for implementation of strict biosecurity measures in infected areas, and also highlight the need for monitoring of healthy wild birds for the presence of the virus.

The finding of dead swans will fuel the debate over how H5N1 is spreading. However, it is notable that if wild birds had been spreading the disease across continents there would have been trails of dead birds following migration routes, which isn't the case. There is still no explanation as to why certain countries on flight paths of birds from Asia remain flu-free, whilst their neighbours suffer repeated infections, nor of why only a single strain of H5N1 is found in outbreaks west of China.

More about this in Birdlife International's news page.