April Bird Watch, 2016

Steve Jones from Dol continues his study of the island's birds. Anyone who is seeing or hearing anything of interest in the bird world is invited to contact him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wheatear Wheatear Photo: Steve Jones

April 8th 2016: As no doubt most have heard, the Nightingale is singing most of the time now.

I saw another new bird for me - Corn Bunting, once again picked up by its call, as one I wasn't familiar with. It has been in for a couple of weeks but I hadn't been close enough to see it.

Corn Bunting. Photo Steve Jones

Went up to Sv Nikola earlier in the week to see what was about, and very disappointing on the bird front. A solitary Kestrel, a Wheatear and a couple of Chaffinches singing but not seen.

Sveti Nikola, the island's highest point. Photo: Vivian Grisogono
10th April 2016: Just got back from a 90 minute wander ............... heard two Cuckoos - so another arrival - and one Hoopoe calling, although saw neither.
Cuckoo, April 28th 2016. Photo: Steve Jones

Also to be added is Linnet - I thought I had been seeing/hearing them for a while, but needed more confirmation, and I managed to get my telescope on one this morning.

14th April 2016: I have been going to appointments in Jelsa all week. I was a little bit early today and went for a stroll - thought I heard Bee-Eaters, wasn't 100% but am pretty confident so you want to keep your eyes peeled. Heard a Cuckoo in Dol yesterday .... still not seen a Swift which is a surprise to me, I suspect they might be making appearances in the UK anytime now.

15th April 2016:  Just came back from Jelsa and had a definite sighting of Bee-Eaters so my hearing was good yesterday.

Bee-eaters. Photo: Steve Jones

Eco Hvar comment: I also saw the bee-eaters in a little flock above one of Jelsa's back roads a couple of days ago. They seem to have arrived right on cue, to judge by past years. Many are having to find new homes, as a large nesting place just opposite the Bagi petrol station on the main road was dug up a couple of years ago, exposing their warren of nesting holes as pitiful relics of the past.

Bee-eaters nesting holes exposed to predators and the elements, April 2015. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Bee-eaters' nesting holes ruthlessly exposed to predators and the elements, April 2015. Photo: Vivian Grisogono 

21st April 2016: As I barely visit a town for any period of time I am still not hearing/seeing any Swifts. Are they in in Jelsa now? I was in Split yesterday and they are everywhere, I thought I heard one in Stari Grad this morning, maybe they are just arriving. Interesting, as they would only be arriving just about now in UK, For some reason I assumed things would be earlier here.

Eco Hvar comment: Yes, the swifts have arrived in Jelsa, and just today they were extremely busy renovating their nesting places under the eaves of the buildings on the main square. A diligent and co-operative crowd!

Swifts preparing their nests on Jelsa's square, 21st April 2016. Photo Vivian Grisogono

22nd April 2016. Picked up the Nightjar "churring" last night so another recent arrival.

23rd April 2016. Another long awaited  .................. Vuga/Golden Oriole I hear calling this morning and it certainly wasn't yesterday.

Sunday 24th April.2016: Went out for 90 mins or so early this morning, wondering if the low cloud, mist and rain would have any influence on things. It was very quiet, even the singing had gone quiet apart from the dawn chorus - who can blame them?

Keep hearing Cuckoo, but long distances away and not lucky enough to have seen one here. I still wonder what their host bird would be if they breed.

Anyway, as I was driving along the airport road I chanced upon a Woodchat Shrike, all over in a few seconds. I had seen one here on Hvar a couple of years ago on holiday albeit elsewhere on the island.

Woodchat shrike (c.2013). Photo: Steve Jones

Also saw a good number of Swifts in Stari Grad - so interestingly it wouldn’t be much different to UK arrivals.

Eco Hvar: Saturday and Sunday, 23rd and 24th April 2016 have been very rainy, with some thunder and a lot of low-lying clouds. The birds seem to lie low during the heaviest rains, and then emerge in full song as soon as calm is restored. It's quite a contrast to the previous period of hot sunny weather, but welcome refreshment for gardens and fields - also for dust-covered cars.

Rain clouds hanging heavy over Pitve Church. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

© Steve Jones 2016

For more of Steve's beautiful nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017, and Butterflies of Hvar 

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Eco Environment News feeds

  • Farmed kelp could produce plastic substitutes, beauty products and food supplements. Just steer clear of seaweed chocolate

    Think sun, sea, Skye – and seaweed. It’s early summer off the west coast of Scotland, and Alex Glasgow is landing a long string of orangey-black seaweed on to the barge of his water farm. It emerges on what looks like a washing line heavy with dirty rags, hoicked up from the depths. And yet, this slippery, shiny, salty substance might, just might, be going to save the planet.

    When it comes to sustainability, seaweed is about as shipshape as it gets. Minimal damage to the environment, check. No use of pesticides, check. Diversifies ocean life, check. Uses no land, check. And, in the case of Skye’s seaweed farm, spoils no one’s view, check.

    Kyla Orr and Martin Welch of KelpCrofters check the crop from their boat

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  • Most comprehensive analysis ever of conflict-driven climate impacts shows emissions greater than those generated by 175 countries in a year

    The climate cost of the first two years of Russia’s war on Ukraine was greater than the annual greenhouse gas emissions generated individually by 175 countries, exacerbating the global climate emergency in addition to the mounting death toll and widespread destruction, research reveals.

    Russia’s invasion has generated at least 175m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), amid a surge in emissions from direct warfare, landscape fires, rerouted flights, forced migration and leaks caused by military attacks on fossil fuel infrastructure – as well as the future carbon cost of reconstruction, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever of conflict-driven climate impacts.

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  • Diving with marine life such as blue sharks is growing in popularity in the UK, spurred by footage of encounters on social media

    We have only been waiting in the grey Atlantic swell a few moments when the first flash of metallic blue appears in the water. A blue shark, a few miles from the coast of Penzance in Cornwall, emerges from the depths. It is time to get in the water – but part of my brain rebels.

    “It’s not what you think it will be like … not that ingrained fear that everyone has about sharks. But until you get in the water with them, that fear will remain,” the guide says to the group.

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  • Bangalow Koalas and private landholders have planted more than 377,000 trees across the region

    In 2016 a friend phoned Linda Sparrow about a 400-metre stretch of koala trees on the western edge of Bangalow, a small regional town in northern New South Wales.

    The landscape in the region had long since been cut back by loggers and farmers, and there were precious few eucalyptus trees left to provide refuge for koalas looking for food or shelter.

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  • Hexton, Hertfordshire: On the chalk hills in early summer, green is dominant – but only until the yellows take over

    The rain-soaked chalk hills are a celebration of green: the green of crimped agrimony leaves and glaucous sedge blades; of horsetail, hogweed and unripe wayfaring berries. Greenery everywhere, energising everything. I hear it in the whitethroat’s scratchy bursts, see it in sunlight on spent cowslips and feel it in the pull of my breath as I climb the hill. I wonder if it’s the heightened sensitivity of the human eye to green light that has brought on this verdant synaesthesia. Whatever the reason, the intensity of colour fuses and confuses my senses, making it hard to spot the green orchids I’ve come here to see.

    But as the path narrows, the abundance of orchids – all of them common twayblades (Neottia ovata) – is such that I almost tread on one. Kneeling in the grass for a closer look, I can see inflorescences rising from pairs of egg-shaped leaves, each with a slender downy stem and green flowers held aloft on short stalks. Every year I’m astonished by the huge personalities of these miniature blooms. The labellum (the lower modified petal) is deeply forked like a pair of legs, and banded with two dark green stripes that mark a nectar-bearing groove.

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  • Captive breeding in Norway has built up numbers endangered by the climate crisis and golden eagles but only a more diverse population will survive in the long term

    Deep in the Norwegian mountains, amid a vast expanse of bright snow and howling winds, Toralf Mjøen throws a piece of meat into a fenced enclosure and waits for a pair of dark eyes to appear from the snowy den.

    These curious and playful arctic foxes know Mjøen well. He has been the caretaker at this breeding facility for 17 years, going up the mountain daily to feed them at their enclosures near the small village of Oppdal, about 250 miles north of Oslo.

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  • Many people fear the UK’s draughty old properties are too great a challenge for the technology

    Heat pumps could be the single largest step a household can take to reduce their carbon emissions while saving money on their bills. But many in Britain fear that, even though millions of homes across Europe have benefited from the shift away from gas or oil boilers, the UK’s draughty old homes could prove too great a challenge for the technology.

    The concern is unsurprising given that the UK has some of the least energy efficient homes in Europe. A study by the smart home company tado° monitored 80,000 users across Europe to find how quickly properties lose heat when outdoor temperatures fall to zero. It found that UK homes lost on average 3C after five hours without heating, compared with just 1C in Germany and 0.9C in Norway.

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  • Pennsylvania families worry about rising cases of rare cancer with well pads near homes and stalled House bills

    One evening in 2019, Janice Blanock was scrolling through Facebook when she heard a stranger mention her son in a video on her feed. Luke, an outgoing high school athlete, had died three years earlier at age 19 from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

    Blanock had come across a live stream of a community meeting to discuss rare cancers that were occurring with alarming frequency in south-western Pennsylvania, where she lives.

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  • Porto Alegre’s poorest neighborhoods, often closest to rivers and with the worst infrastructure, bore brunt of crisis

    It had been raining for nearly a week when the floodwaters first reached Marcelo Moreira Ferreira’s home in Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul.

    His wife and their four children left to seek shelter with relatives, but Ferreira, 51, wanted to stay: his father had built the modest one-storey structure and he had lived there his entire life.

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  • Having created a watchdog for the environment, the government took its teeth out and muzzled it. Can public outrage rouse the Environment Agency to action?

    When Helen Nightingale joined the National Rivers Authority, the predecessor to the Environment Agency, in 1991, she thought of her work as a calling. She had been fascinated by nature since she was a child, when she used to poke around in the earth on her father’s allotment, looking for worms and beetles. In her job, Nightingale spent most of her time walking along the rivers in Lancashire and Merseyside, taking water samples and testing oxygen levels. She was responsible for protecting rivers, and she often learned about sewage and pesticide pollution from members of the public who called a dedicated hotline. “They’d phone you up and say, ‘There’s something wrong.’ And you would go out straight away,” she recalled. “You stood a much better chance of figuring out what was wrong if you could get there quickly.”

    Nightingale, who has a Lancastrian accent and curly blond hair, investigated pollution like a hard-nosed police detective inspecting a crime scene. She would visit dairy farms, industrial estates and sewage treatment plants, dressed in a raincoat and boots with steel toe caps, and usually started with the same question: “Can I look at your drains?” The work was demanding, and the pay, when Nightingale started, was just £9,500 a year (the UK average at the time was around £12,000), but she was proud to be protecting the environment. “It was a dream job,” she told me. “If we sat in the office, our boss would say, ‘Why are you here? Go out and look at something.’”

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Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

  • A landmark treaty to protect the world’s oceans could go into effect soon — but experts argue it must consider climate change if it is going to succeed.

  • The ocean feeds us, regulates our climate and sustains economies. Yet numerous threats are devastating the health of marine ecosystems. In honor of World Oceans Day, we take a dive into efforts that are charting anew course for our oceans.

  • It’s easy to take what happens under our feet for granted.

    Whether you know it or not, thousands of species of mites and springtails are scurrying about the soil like tiny essential workers. By feasting on and excreting decaying matter, like leaves and wood, these critters move planet-warming carbon into the soil, improve its structure and supply nutrients that help plants grow.

    But scientists are digging up new findings that show heat and drought, often exacerbated by climate change, are taking a massive toll on mites and springtails, Sofia Quaglia reported for The New York Times.

    When the soil dries up, so too do their soft bodies. Using data from 38 studies on mites and springtails, researchers found that prolonged dry spells can slash their numbers by an average of 39 percent. And a one degree Celsius rise in temperature can cause a nearly 10 percent drop in springtail populations.

    “They really do bad,” Gerard Martínez-De León, an ecologist at the University of Bern, told The New York Times. “If there are very high temperatures for, let’s say, one week, two weeks, one month, this affects them directly. Probably as much as the lack of moisture does.”

    Though the underground world is incredibly rich — harboring more than half of Earth’s biodiversity — soils, and the critters that live in them, are understudied. And that lack of understanding might be the biggest problem facing soil invertebrates, Quaglia writes. If we don’t know how species contribute to the ecosystem, we don’t know what will happen if they’re lost.

    “Soil has been like a black box,” Leticia Pérez-Izquierdo, researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change and co-author of the study, told The New York Times. “And we’re now starting to open it.”

    Everything we do know points to the critical role healthy soils, and the organisms living them, play in stabilizing the climate.

    Take fungi. A Conservation International study found that intricate underground fungal networks work together with plants to absorb massive amounts of carbon — equivalent to more than a third of the world's annual fossil fuel emissions.

    Conservation and restoration activities that protect soil are becoming increasingly urgent. The United Nations has warned that 90 percent of the Earth’s topsoil — where crops, forests and more grow — could be degraded by 2050, in part due to intensive farming practices. Degraded soil not only stores less carbon, contributing to climate change, but it also is less drought tolerant — which, in turn, makes it more vulnerable to climate change.

    Fortunately, there are ways to break this downward spiral. For example, land management practices like no-till farming, sustainable grazing and planting cover crops can enhance agricultural production, increase soil fertility and boost carbon storage, while reducing the loss of topsoil through erosion. That’s a win-win-win for people and the planet.

    Further reading:

  • There’s only one place on Earth where reef manta rays are truly thriving. A new study finds that this manta haven is even more special — and threatened — than previously thought.

  • Fishing is a way of life in Peru. But one of it's most important fisheries is not immune from human-made pressures like overfishing and mining. Now, a new protected area is offering a new lease on life.

  • Our health is personal, but health risks are not. Around the world, entire populations — both human and wildlife — are facing new health challenges, all driven by the same culprit: environmental degradation.

  • Around the world, more than 3 billion people have been affected by extreme weather over the past 20 years — but those impacts are very unevenly distributed, according to a new Conservation International study.

  • A bold initiative to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon has made substantial progress despite some unexpected hurdles, according to an upcoming report.

  • On a tiny island in the Philippines, fishermen and green sea turtles live side by side in hard-earned harmony. That wasn’t always the case. Slowly and steadily, they have returned, a story of against-the-odds compromise.

  • On an expedition to Bolivia's Zongo Valley, a team of researchers recently discovered 20 species completely new to science, and rediscovered several species that had not been seen for decades.