Wednesday 14 November 2012

1st meeting of the AEWA NBI International Working Group

The first meeting of the AEWA Northern Bald Ibis International Working Group will take place at the Jazan University in Jazan, Saudi Arabia on Monday the 19th to Thursday the 22nd of November 2012 at the kind invitation of the Saudi Wildlife Authority and Jazan University.

After convening the Working Group in 2011 as foreseen in the AEWA International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Northern Bald Ibis, a first face to face meeting with the appointed representatives from all the seven range states as well as other international experts will take place.

Following the Terms of Reference for the Working Group, the meeting will focus on setting up and agreeing on Working Group functions (electing a Chair country, confirming observers to the Working Group and discussing budgetary issues) and identifying international priority measures for the Northern Bald Ibis on the basis of the AEWA International Single Species Action Plan.
Since its adoption in 2005 the plan has become largely outdated and this meeting presents an excellent opportunity to launch its revision process.
Different conservation actions resulting from the identified priority measures will also be discussed.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Aylal, again at Tamri

Aylal, which was based in the Douira area since April, has been making trips eastwards, sometimes up to 18 kilometres inland. Occasionally there was also a shift to the south to the Souss-Massa National Park limits.
On October 19th, however, in the morning, it moved northwards, stopping at Cape Ghir and finishing at Tamri area, where it has been spending last days.

Friday 12 October 2012

US Fish and Wildlife Service supports NBI

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Northern Bald Ibis conservation project with US$24,821 through its Wildlife Without Borders programme.

This is one of only twelve selected for funding, out of one hundred proposals received.

Those funds will be used to improve knowledge about movements of NBI as well as for improving breeding habitat and roosts, as well as trying to attrack birds to deserted colonies.

Another recent contribution from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund will also help to improve knowledge about the movements of the species.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Northern Bald Ibis in Ancient Egypt

In 1989, Gunter Dreyer discovered in a tomb at Abydos, 300 miles south of Cairo, ivory or bone tablets some 5,400 years old, that reveal one of the oldest known stage of the hieroglyphic writing. Those small plates, about three centimeters squared, were probably used as labels to show the origin and content of boxes and containers. Among more than 200 pieces, one represents, apparently, a Northern Bald Ibis.

Akh, about -3400
Since then, a crested ibis has represented the hieroglyph Akh, having probably an phonetic correlation between the bird and the concept.
Representing Akh besides a solar disk is very common  
The Akh is one of the five constituents of the human personality which becomes eternal and unchanged in the Death Realm. Akh also means "to be resplendent, to shine", wich could be related to the glossy Northern Bald Ibis feathers.

Northern bald ibis as Egyptian hieroglyph
Another Akh in a sunk-relief 

The coloured versions of the Akh seem to diverge from the natural colour pattern. This is probably due to the fact of a progressive decline of Northern Bald Ibis. The material and pictorial evidence dealing with the northern bald ibis is much more accurate, precise, and elaborate in the early periods of Egyptian history (until the end of the 3rd millennium BC) while, in later times, the representations become more and more schematized, showing probably that the artists were no familiar to the bird in the late phase because ok the extinction of the species in Egypt.

More information about Northern Bald Ibis in Egypt is available on this interesting work by Jiří Janák.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Untagged NBI in Spain

As a result of the recent sight of an untagged NBI in Manchester (UK) it's worth to remember other non-ringed birds that have been spotted in the last decade. On there's information on those records in Spain. 
Sightings of NBI in Spain are extremely rare during 20th century. The only known observation of this species was in Doñana, Southern Spain, in 1958. Nevertheless in 2004 one specimen was observed in very good condition in La Aldehuela (more than 1000 m osl), Ávila (Central Spain) between December 17th and 22th.  Apparently, the bird was there since one month before.
Northern bald ibis in Ávila (M. Rouco)
Observations stopped when temperatures became rougher.
Another image of the same animal  (M.Rouco)

During the same month another individual was seen in Extremadura. In this case, it was a young bird observed between December 1st and 6th and again, between March 24rd and 27th, 2005, near  Trujillo, Cáceres
Young NBI in Cáceres, on the ruins of  de Santo Domingo church (J. Briz)
This bird was still seen through a total of ten months  (Prieta, J. y Mayordomo, S. 2011. Aves de Extremadura. Vol. 4. Anuario 2004-2008. SEO-Cáceres. Plasencia), though its fitness was slowly deteriorated at the end of September, 2005.

The potential arrival of Moroccan birds is very unlikely, given the distance and the lack of observations in the last decades. Apparently, both birds came from any private owned zoological park having its birds untagged and whose facilities are inadequate to keep birds safe and secure. 

More recently, a SEO/BirdLife's team spotted another untagged NBI in southern Spain. In this case was, again, one young bird. Different sightings belonging, probably, to the same bird occured between February and May 2012, in the area of the Campiñas of Eastern Seville. This location is not far from the place were "proyecto Eremita" are been released and where they nest. It this case, we cannot rule out that any wild-born bird from released individuals has escaped to the compulsory tagging.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Northern Bald Ibis in UK?

Last summer an adult Northern Bald Ibis has been spotted in Greater Manchester.
"Dozens of birdwatchers have flocked to catch a glimpse of the Northern bald ibis seen around the Ken Ward sports centre in Hattersley, Tameside", says the article in the Manchester Evening News.
NBI in Manchester (photo Manchester Evening News)
Although the bird it's probably an escapee, there wasn't, apparently, any ring or tag on the bird.
If anyone can provide more information about this bird, please, come into touch with us.
Other recent observations of NBI in UK have been recorded at and are also presumed escapees:

15:50 05/07/12

15:15 26/05/12

17:07 11/09/11

09:16 30/10/02

21:29 29/10/02

11:18 22/03/01

Tuesday 11 September 2012

NBI among the 100 most endangered species in the World

IUCN and the Zoological Society of London  have just published a book, Priceless or Worthless?, including the 100 most threatened species, both flora and fauna.

Northern Bald Ibis is among the ten birds included in this book.

In addition to that, other sections in the book include recent extinctions as well as speies that, thanks to conservation efforts, have improved their conservation status.   This book can be read or downloaded  on-line.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund supports NBI conservation in Morocco

    The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has granted SEO/BirdLife with US$5,000 in order to mark some NBI with GPS tags.
    The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a significant philanthropic endowment established to do the following:
    1- Provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives
    2- Recognize leaders in the field of species conservation; and
    3- Elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate 

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Eastern population: Odeinat stops transmitting

Our colleague Chris Bowden reports us that, sadly, Odeinat has stopped transmitting. The team responsible of his monitoring had hoped this might have been a temporary blip, but this now seems unlikely.
Although the solar-powered satellite tag has already transmitted for slightly longer than the manufacturers expected, it is rather worrying that it was an abrupt stop. We will obviously give any updates if things change, and any further interpretation on what may have happened. We hope to get the regular Ethiopian wintering site checked early next year, but its possible there may not be much to add until then. 
Unfortunately the site where Odeinat has overwintered the past years has not been possible to reach and check.

Thursday 19 July 2012

History of a confusion (and 4)

Read part 3


Frierich Wilhelm Hemprich met Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg in Berlin and they became friends. Both were students under Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein who  proposed them as naturalists for an expedition to Egypt in 1820. They travelled along the Nile, Palestine, Lebanon, Sinai, the Red Sea and Eritrea, gathering tens of thousands of specimens. In Massawa, Eritrea, in 1825, while organising their travel to the Highlands of Abyssinia, Hemprich died of fever and was buried on the island of Toalul.
Among the thousands of species collected they shot two birds of an unknown species that they called Ibis comatus ("hairy ibis"). In memory of his dead friend, Ehrenberg decided to change the name into Ibis hemprichi in 1832. He published the results of their expedition on the Symbolae physicae where he shared the authorship with Hemprich.Nevertheless, the description was unvalid, nomem nudus. Eduard Rüppell, who has also participated in an expedition in the same area during the same period published the species as Ibis comatus, Ehrenberg.
More or less at the same time,  Johann Georg Wagler in1832 described Geronticus calvus from South Africa, but nobody realished that both species were related. It was in 1849 that Ibis comatus entered into that genus, becoming Geronticus comatus, but the authorship was attributed to Rüppell. By this time, Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach published, in 1847, Die vollständigste Naturgeschichte der Sumpfvögel and  created a new genus for the species, calling it Comatibis comata

North Africa

In 1874 J.H. Gurney published Rambles of a naturalist in Egypt & other countries where he talks about the evidence that Geronticus comatus once existed in Egypt but that now "retired further south".

Between 1839 and 1842 Alphose Guichenot participated in an expedition whose results were published in 1850 in the  Exploration Scientifique de l'Algerie: pendant les annees 1840, 1841, 1842. Gichenot main speciality was fish and reptiles, but a great ornithologist also participated in the trip, François Levaillant. The name given to this bird was Ibis calvus.

Engravure by Clerge after a drawing by Levaillant from Exploration Scientifique de l'Algérie: pendant les années 1840, 1841, 1842 by A. Guichenot (1850)

Leonard Howard Lloyd Irby includes in his Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar (1895) a reference to Ibis comatus on Tangier and Mogador, in Morocco.


The first record for science on a big Northern Bald Ibis colony in Bireçik, besides the Euphrates in Turkey was C.G. Danford who published a second report on his trip to Turkey in 1880: A further contribution to the ornithology of Asia Minor
Other travellers had recorded this before outside the scientific journals. This was the case of Josef Cernik, engineer who stayed at Birecik in 1873. Before that, in 1839, William Francis Ainsworth recorded the ibis from Bireçik and also from Yaylak, 70 km above Bireçik in the Euphrates valley. The colony counted thousands of birds during 19th century until, at least, the 1930s. In 1954, Cafer Turkmen took the first pictures of kelaynak at Bireçik.

Rothschild et al. 1897

Henry Eeles Dresser published his History of the Birds of Europe between 1871-1881 He describes Ibis comata, Redcheeked ibis, from Turkey and North Africa, but don’t even mention it from Europe. He quotes Tristam who saw the bird in Laghouat, Algeria. 

Somebody had to realise that the abundant material comming from Turkey and North Africa corresponded to the same species that was widely described for Europe. It was Lionel Walter RothschildErnst Hartert and Otto Kleinschmidt who first published the evidence, as we already mentioned, based on a specimen from Bireçik and the illustrations by Albin and others. 

Friday 13 July 2012

East Population update: Odeinat back in Southern Saudi Arabia

Migration started again for the Syrian ibis, and confirming a report from the wardens in Palmyra that the birds had left the colony, Odeinat has already departed and made a very fast journey down to NE of Jazan, in Saudi Arabia, quite near to a previously favoured area.

Thursday 12 July 2012

History of a confusion (3)

Read part 2

An European species?

Johann Andreas Naumann (1744-1826), the namegiver of some birds like lesser kestrel, Falco naumanni, was a farmer and amateur ornithologist who started an important collection of birds which is still preserved. He was also father of Johann Friederich (1780-1857) and Carl Andreas (1786-1854) who continued and enlarged the family collection. The elder is considered the father of European ornithology and is the author of Naturgeschichte der Vögel Mitteleuropas, one important work on the birds of Central Europe. 
In this work, Otto Kleinschmidt illustrated a pair of Northern Bald Ibis with an alpine landscape in the ground.
By this time, the species was extinct in Europe. Two years before the publication, in 1899, of Naturgeschichte der Vögel Mitteleuropas a trio of naturalist had published one important paper.
The threesome was formed by Lionel Walter Rothschild, Ernst Hartert and Otto Kleinschmidt. Rothschild was a member of the Rothschild financial dynasty, one of the wealthiest families in the world. He wanted to run a zoological museum since his childhood, and he amassed the largest zoological collection ever owned by a private person, with millions of insects and hundred of thousands of vertebrate specimens. Hartert was a German zoologist who held the ornithological curator position during almost 40 years at Rothschild museum and was also responsible of the museum's quaterly publication Novitates Zoologicae. Kleinschmidt was a German pastor, theologist and ornithologist who was precursor of the idea of Formenkreise or superspecies.
The paper was entitled Comatibis eremita (Linn.), a European bird. Why should be this a surprise? We have seen that Northern bald ibis was a species well known in Europe. Besides the different works that described the species since 16th century, illustrations, legal documents and popular names prove that the species existed.
Since the first descriptions by Gesner or Belon, many authors have quoted previous ones while the species was probably declining. Most of them never saw the species and just compiled information previously published.

Decline and fall into oblivion 

As we already show, most of 17th century authors just used images already published (see parts 1 and 2 of this series).

Eleazar Weiss was a German professional painter who settled in England in 1707, where he married and raised a family, changing his name to Albin. He earned his living by making watercolours of the collections of wealthy patrons. The Natural History of Birds was done late in his life and was the first large English work on ornithology. The copper plates were hand-coloured by himself and his daughter Elizabeth and published initially in London from 1731-1738. Eleazar Albin was probably one of the last to describe an European northern bald ibis from a stuffed specimen, from the collection of Sir Thomas Lowther, a landowner from Yorkshire
He doesn't mention any of the confusing previous works, gives new information about the bird and writes in present tense, suggesting that most of the information was, to his knowledge, recent. Albin writes they build for the moſt part in high Walls of demoliſhed or ruinous Towers which are common in Switzerland and later The young ones are commended for good Meat and county a Dainty; their Fleſh is ſweet and their Bones tender and, again, ... deſert places; where they build in Rocks and old forſaken Towers.
Even if Thoſe that take them out of the Neſts, are wont to leave one in each, that they may the more willingly return the following Year this wasn't enough to reduce the decline of the species. 

In 1760,  Mathurin-Jacques Brisson in his Ornithologie introduces again new information about Coracia cristata, specially about the feathers and their greenish gloss under the sun, having probably a direct knowledge of the bird. He still includes our species among crows. 
In 1776, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffondescribes still the Coracias huppé or Sonneur (Bell ringer, due to the call made by this bird who some persons find similar to the sound of cowbells). He stills have no doubt about the presence of the bird in Switzerland and he even talks about a dissection of its stomach to find mole-crickets inside.

John Latham (1740 – 1837) in his work A general synopsis of birds published in 1781, describes our species among corvids, following the tradition, but showing the similarity with ibis. It seems that the author uses indirect references.
There's no illustration of the species, but the work was translated into German by Johann Matthäus Bechstein (1757-1822) who called it Allgemeine Übersicht der Vögel (1791–1812). This author includes a plate with a Waldrapp. The illustration could be inspired by Albin's, but it's much more simple and added some water besides the bird, maybe influenced by other descriptions that considered it as an aquatic bird. On the same page we can see a cuckoo's rufous phase adult female.

In 1789, a series of letters from William Coxe to William Melmoth compilled into Travels in Switzerland, and in the country of the Grisons, says that This bird is entirely unknown to M. Sprungli, though said to be a native of the Swiss mountains. He took great pains to discover it, but in vain; and suspects, after all, that if it does really exist, it is only a variety of the preceding (talks about Corvus Graculus, Red-legged Crow, currently Pyrrhocorax graculus, Alpine chough). 
It seems that, between the realistic descriptions of the bird done by Albin or Buffon and the letters from Cox, the bird became extinct or extremely rare. 

A French dictionnary on Natural Sciences published in 1818 doubts the existence of the species and describes how the names where used for other species. Some authors started thinking that it was a legendary creature, an animal that never existed.

Read part 4

Thursday 5 July 2012

History of a confusion (2)

Belon, 1555

Pierre Belon
(from Wikimedia)
Let’s come further back to the past, again to 1555. Pierre Belon, wasn’t a typical naturalist of his time. He did one of the firsts scientific trips in history, to the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, including Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt … between 1546 and 1549.
He was killed in Bois de Boulogne, in Paris, when he was returning to Chateau de Madrid, where he lived.
L'Histoire de la nature des oyseaux is a great work but, unfortunately outshined by its contemporary and more complete Historia animalium by Conrad Gesner.

He describes the cormorant very clearly, giving data on its behaviour and habitat. For instance, he mentions that it is among the few web-footed birds that can roost on a branch. Nevertheless, the illustration cannot be more confusing.

Posture is atypical for a cormorant or any related species, but, more importantly, it has no webbed toes. Besides the lack of feather tuft, it resembles a compact NBI.  However, Belon says: Phalacrocorax & Coroni thalassios en Grec, Corvus aquaticus en Latin, Cormarant en Francoys. That is, bald raven (phalacrocorax) and sea crow (coroni thalassios) became synonyms to cormorant. There was always some confusion, apparently, between descriptions of Northern Bald Ibis and Cormorant, which caused, apparently, the transfer of the name Phalacrocorax from the one to the other. Some authors, like Gesner, or later, Aldrovandi, tried to clarify, but the statement by Belon started a deeper confusion.
Aldrovandi tried to correct the incongruence between the description and the image and “retouched” the illustration, with a position closer to a cormorant, and new legs and feet. If we reverse the plate, we can see that the head is almost identical with the body just in a different in position..

So, what is Phalacrocorax bellonii? A chimera, a hybrid animal with parts of several different birds?  But, which bird is depicted in the original plate by Belon? Probably, this author was over confident with the identity of the two separate species and he therefore took an image of a bald ibis and removed the tuft which he maybe assumed to be just an embellishment.

Jonston, 1657

Jan Jonston
(from Wikimedia)
Jan Jonston was born in the  Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (the biggest European state at its time) from Scottish parents. After his studies in many Polish establishments, being a Calvinist he could not be admitted in the celebrated Jagiellonian University, in the very Catholic Cracovia, and so he had to go to Scotland to study in the less ancient but also renowned Saint Andrews University. He continued his training in several of the Holy Roman Empire’s Universities (today in Netherlands and Germany) finishing his studies in Botany and Medicine in Cambridge.
He published Historiae naturalis de avibus libri VI cum aeneis figuris in 1657 in Amsterdam, and the copperplates were made by Matthäus Merian, the elder who also copied previous images. In fact, Merian died in 1650, after a long illness, thus the plates should have been ready well before their publication. This work replicated the previous confusion about synonyms and identities, but at least Phalacrocorax Bellonii disappeared.
Again a virtual library, in this case from Strasbourg Universities, allows us to see the whole text.

On this detail from plate 47 we can see, again, the images taken from Gesner and Aldrovandi. Both are taken from the originals (and both are mirror images from the original prints). The text confirms the confusion. Aldrovandi’s bird is described as if it was a cormorant, even though it does not have webbed feet, and Jonston accepts to include it among web-footed birds.  He also criticised the inclusion of Gesner’s bird among web-footed species, even though it remains there.

There is a short text in French, probably also included in one French edition of Historiae naturalis (up to the 18th century). If checked carefully, we can see that the copper plates have been retouched or even redone, because there are some minor differences in feather detail.
Whoever prepared the plates, added between both NBI drawings, the name Corbeau Hupe (in current French would be corbeau huppe, crested raven). Maybe the author  could identify both images as the same species? The first name given by Linnaeus to Northern bald ibis was Upupa eremita. As Upupa are hoopoes, maybe the author of the short text was familiar with Systema naturae, or maybe the Swedish naturalist just took a popular name  for the bird.

A whole  century later, a curious François-Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye des Bois  was devoted to compiling and publishing a large number of  works in different fields. His Dictionnaire raisonné universel des animaux, ou le règne animal, consistant en quadrupèdes, cétacés, oiseaux, reptiles, poissons, insectes, vers, etc. published in 1759 includes corbeau de bois, forest raven, and records, almost verbatum, previous authors. His corbeau hupé (that is, crested crow) is not the same that appears in the Recueil. There are no images, but the description is unmistakable. He mentions the confusion of some concerning this species and former authors’ Phalacrocorax..

Read part 3

Thursday 28 June 2012

History of a confusion (1)

Gesner, 1555
Conrad Gesner
(from Wikimedia)

Conrad Gesner or Geßner was a Swiss naturalist very respected in his time and in the centuries that followed. Many consider him the father of modern zoology due to his Historiae animalium, more than 4500 pages in five volumes. The first four, devoted to mammals (Quadrupedes vivipares), herps (Quadrupedes ovipares), birds  (Avium natura)  and aquatic fauna (Piscium & aquatilium animantium natura) were published between 1551 and 1558, and the last, dedicated to snakes and scorpions was posthumous. The first four volumes were translated into German in 1563 under the title Thierbuch. It’s one of the first natural history works that include colour illustrations of animals and their environment and the first that includes fossils.
Gesner studied in many European towns: Strasburg, Basel, Montpelier or Bourges, in addition to Zurich. He’s the first author to give a unequivocal and clear depiction of Northern Bald Ibis. 

Gesner’s engraving represents a young NBI in a realistic way. We can here see reproductions of the Latin and German editions.
Conrad Gesner died of plague at the age of 49 during one of the epidemics that followed the great pandemic called the black death.
Those interested in Gesner’s work can find his work scanned in the web. The third volume, Avium natura, is here.

Aldrovandi, 1603

Pope Gregory XIII will always be remembered for commissioning and being the namesake for the Gregorian Calendar, conceived to avoid Christmas being celebrated in summer.  During his time, he was better known for his political activity, being behind many religious plots, including  St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres of Huguenots (August, 24th, 1572) and wars involving most catholic kingdoms against Othoman Empire and England. 

Ulisse Aldrovandi
(from Wikimedia)
Nevertheless, his cousin was Ulisse Aldrovandi’s mother, and this allowed this naturalist from Bologna to be reinstated in his public offices (he was suspended for a dispute with the official University authorities) and to request financial aid to help him publish his books. In the volatile religious atmosphere of his time, he was also arrested for heresy. He didn’t travel too much and spent most of his life in Bologna, where he died at the age of 82.

Among his works, stands Ornithologiae, published in several volumes which we can consult on line at the virtual library from Bologna University. The third volume (1603), devoted to  birds with webbed-feet, includes, in chapter LVI, the Phalacrocorace, or aquatic ravens of Pliny. The previous chapter, devoted to the cormorant, Corvo aquatico, clarifies how this differs from the following group. Sheet 268 shows the very famous and fine image of Phalacrocorax ex Illyrio missus, that is the "bald raven from Illyria"..

Turning the page we find a surprise. Aldrovandi took the image from Gesner’s Corvus sylvaticus, as if it was a different species. The print is a mirror image of the original, which is normal when you copy to a woodcut or a copperplate, that is printed in turn the other way round. 

Obviously, the inclusion of two versions of NBI in a volume, particularly one dedicated to web-footed birds is really quite odd.

Keeping in mind the means available at that time, it’s logical that authors copied each other and that, in some cases, they tried to guess whatthe previous author was describing. Aldrovandi identified Gesner’s ibis as another species, probably because this was a juvenile, with its feathered face, which presumably caused the mistake. But Aldrovandi cites also Bellonius, who is no other than Pierre Belon. This French naturalist published, also in 1555, L'Histoire de la nature des oyseaux considered one of the first works of comparative anatomy. Among other quotations of Belon, Aldrovandi includes in chapter LVI another Phalacrocorax , this time Phalacrocorax Bellonii. However, this time it is a web-footed bird. The illustration is quite confusing. 

Which bird is this? Many other illustrations in the book are difficult to identify, but this one is particularly puzzling. We should reject cormorants and mergansers, which are well illustrated in other chapters. What is, then, Phalacrocorax Bellonii

Read part 2

Sunday 24 June 2012

Syria: no success for the breeding pair this year

By Chris Bowden

We have heard from the team that the breeding pair has failed to fledge any chicks this year. This is obviously a serious blow. In addition, the captive pair in Syria has also been unsuccessful, but did get rather closer to breeding than last year. We will give further details as they emerge, and will update the progress/movements of the male, Odeinat - apparently the only bird with an operational tag at the moment.

One piece of more positive news is that the semi-wild Birecik population in Turkey had a far better breeding season than usual with around 38 juveniles fledging.

Syria, no success for the breeding pair this year

We have heard from the team that the only breeding pair in Syria has failed to fledge any chicks this year. This is obviously a serious blow. In addition, the captive pair in Syria has also been unsuccessful, but did get rather closer to breeding than last year. We will give further details as they emerge, and will update the progress/movements of the male, Odeinat - apparently the only bird with an operational tag at the moment.
One piece of more positive news is that the semi-wild Bireçik population in Turkey had a far better breeding season than usual with around 38 juveniles fledging. 

Friday 22 June 2012

Sankt Gallen, 1562

The wonderfull collection of digitalized codices from Sankt Gallen Abbey library, in Switzerland, one of the oldest and richest medieval libraries in the world, offers us a very special work of great interest to know about Northern Bald Ibis historical distribution.

The manuscript includes Four-part vocal pieces for holy days of the church year, and it's numbered 542 in the catalog.

Prince-bishop Diethelm Blarer ordered Italian composer Manfredo Barbarini Lupo, from Correggio, composed these challenging vocal pieces, Father Heinrich Keller (1518-1567) wrote the text, and the manuscript illustrator Kaspar Härtli from Lindau on the northern side of the Bodensee illuminated the first pages with the important holy days of the church year.

Some of the sheets show an important number of birds, not to scale.

Page 5 shows, among goldfinches, crossbills, wagtails, robins, wrens, bullfinches, and some other birds difficult to identify, probably the finest, most accurate image in the group, a young northern bald ibis, proving a familiarity of the artist with the bird.

Source: Cod. Sang. 542, page 5, Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen / Codices Electronici Sangallenses

Thursday 31 May 2012

NBI video

A video on the work that is been done by the Souss Massa National Park authorities with the support of BirdLife.

Björn Welander and Neil Owen coproduced the film and both together with Danielle Calenti present and narrate the story. There's a website where they tell quite a lot on NBI and on their project and also have more links to some video fragments.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Aylal's update

Since mid April, Aylal stayed in an area in the north of the park and unprotected area beside it. It didn't make big movements. Bassically, it's spent all the night by the same roost on the coast and move by the coast and inland during the day.
Scimitar-horned oryx at Arrouais reserve
(photo Imad Cherkaoui)
Some of those records are on the Arrouais reserve, not far from Tifnit, which is a protected area where gazelles and scimitar-horned oryx are in acclimatation for their further reintroduction in nature. For instance, one reintroduction took place in 2008 in the Mssissi reserve, in Errachidia region.
Vegetation there is formed by Ononis natrix, Retama monosperma, Echinops spinosus, Lycium intricatum, Launaea arborescens, Centaurea sp. and Limonium mucronatum, in addition to some exotic Eucalyptus and Acacia trees that where planted decades ago to avoid wind erosion.
NBI usually don't come into this reserve, maybe because vegetation is too dense, but it seems to be an adequate habitat for feeding in some seasons. In fact, the prefered feeding area is the coastal strip west to the reserve, where the Tiznit village is and where the steppe is well developed among the fixed dunes.

The GPS records show us some other preferred sites outside the National Park. It’s well known that NBI use to feed sometimes outside the limits of the protected area, usually on fallows.

Monday 30 April 2012

Aylal leaves the colony

Since mid-April, Aylal, who has spent last weeks in the breeding colony, deserted Tamri region to establish in the Northern area of Souss-Massa National Park, the same it has been occupying before breeding season

Nest desertion is not common, but sometimes happens either when one individual in the pair disappears or if clutch is lost. The first quarter has been very dry this year. Between January and March, the total rain amount has been just 5,6 mm and humidity less than 55% on average. On the other side, the same trimester in previous years has been much more humid, with 124 mm in 2010 and 158 mm in 2011 and an average humidity of more than 65%. Those conditions have probably been too bad for overall productivity and for food availability.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Four adult birds in Syria!!

Despite the fact that the country is going through a hard time, the ibis rangers in Syria told us this week that a fourth bird has just arrived back at the breeding site in Palmyra!
As our colleagues from RSPB describe in the website on the monitoring of this population,  he newly arrived bird is an unringed adult, perhaps a bird born in 2007. This could also be one of the two unringed birds seen in February at the wintering site in Ethiopia. It is not yet clear whether it is a male and if it is pairing up with the unpaired female (Salama) or not. If it was the case, we should have two breeding pairs this year. In fact, Odeinat and Zenobia have nested once again this season.
Salama satellite tag has stopped transmitting, but Odeinat's one is still working.

Saturday 14 April 2012

First chicks

Since the last week of March, the first chicks started to hatch at Moroccan colonies. As we already commented, our wardens feel that there's a little delay in the phenology, due, mainly, to the lack of rain during last winter that could have an impact on ecosystem productivity and, thus, on food availability.
Data received from Aylal show us that adults in Tamri stay in a narrow coastal area of about 8 km long but less than two kilometers wide.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Aylal at Tamri

Since last post on Aylal, this ibis equiped with a GPS satellite tag stays around Tamri colonie, making short movements three or four kilometters appart from the colony.
This behaviour is absolutely normal during breeding season and shows the importance of having good feeding habitats close to good nesting sites.

Monday 12 March 2012

Aylal, at the colony

Last data recived from Aylal show us that it's has joined Tamri colony since March, 4th. Aylal has spent last weeks around the area of Tamraght, but now it seems to be full time in the area of the colony.

Nevertheless, our wardens feel that the breeding season is a bit delayed compared to previous years, probably due to drought during winter and some recent cold weather.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Inspiring NBI

Here we can see some drawings by Joaquín López-Rojas with a mixed technique: pen drawing and digital colour.

This Sevilla based artist has participated in many publications about nature in Spain, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea. 

Wednesday 7 March 2012


Very recently, Northern Bald Ibis was the main character on a short documentary on Moroccan TV. It's in arabic, but if you cannot understand, images are worth to see.

Enjoy it!!

Friday 2 March 2012

All three Syrian adults, back in Palmyra

Our colleagues in Syria just told us that all three adults, Odeinat, Salama and Zenobia, are safely back from migration on the Syrian breeding grounds today. Odeinat has been transmitting since a couple of weeks, but Salama hadn't since late last year, but this now seems to simply be tag failure rather than anything worse. 

Still no sign of the other two untagged birds that were seen on the Ethiopian wintering grounds, so where those birds go is becoming a source of speculation. 

Or perhaps they will appear at Palmyra one of these days.


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