Monday, November 30, 2009

Ivory-billed Woodpecker and musicians

The news of the rediscovery of Ivory-billed Woodpecker, has stunned ornithologists world-wide. It was a surprising story as the species was assumed to have gone extinct in North America since the last confirmed sighting in 1944. This news affected not only bird watchers and scientists, but also musicians. This is the result; a song dedicated to Ivory-billed Woodpecker by ‘The Moss Piglets’.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker – BirdLife factsheet

Read the paper on the rediscovery of Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bird Watching in October 2009 - ‘Sri Lanka Birds’

Sri Lanka Birds’, online data base for bird observations around the country, completed another successful month by the end of October 2009. A short summary of the results obtained during the month of October is given in this brief report. This analysis is based on the data downloaded on 16th November 2009.

New members -9
Total members -370
FOGSL warmly welcomes new members to the ‘Sri Lanka Birds’ community.

Total Number of Observations -1753
Number of Species -178
Number of Endemic Species -22
Number of Proposed endemic Species -7
Number of migrant species -20

Nesting records
Number of observations -14
Number of species -10
Baya Weaver, Black-crowned Night Heron, Common Tailorbird, Great Cormorant, Great Egret, House Sparrow, Intermediate Egret, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Scaly-breasted Munia were the species observed with nesting activities.

Mostly recorded species (No: of observations)
House Crow (60)
Yellow-billed Babbler (55)
Red-vented Bulbul (54)
White-throated Kingfisher (51)
White-bellied Drongo (51)

Top five users (No: of observations)
Newton Jayawardane (661)
Nadika Hapuarachchi (373)
Rahula Perera (215)
Amila Sumanapala (205)
Susantha Weerappulige(63)

A total of 34 locations were visited during October by ‘Sri Lanka Birds’ members. Highest number of observations was made at Ragama (389) as in many previous months. Most of the locations visited during the month were in Colombo city.

Current statistics describing the number of field visits, number of observations and bird species, as well as the number of users registered in the system, are displayed on the login page of ‘Sri Lanka Birds’ -

FOGSL highly appreciates the contributions of members towards conservation of birds through this initiative.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fynbos Plant Kingdom and the Bird diversity in Cape Peninsula – South Africa

[FOGSL member Nishanthi Perera recently visited Cape Town, South Africa to participate at the DIVERSITAS 2nd Open Science Conference on ‘Biodiversity and society: Understanding connections, adapting to change’. She wishes to share her experience on Nature of Cape Peninsula with our readers.]
South Africa is the only country in the world with its own floral kingdom, which is known as the Cape Floral kingdom. Of the six floral kingdoms of the world - Antarctic, Australasian, Boreal, Neotropic, Paleotropic and Cape - the Cape is the smallest and richest, with the highest known concentration of plant species. This floristic Region is home to the greatest non-tropical concentration of higher plant species in the world, with 9,000 species crammed into its small extent. Incredibly, more than 6,200 (69 percent) of these species are found nowhere else in the world. Furthermore, five of South Africa's 12 endemic plant families and 160 endemic genera are found only in this region. Table Mountain alone has almost 1,500 species in 57 square kilometers. The area is one of the 34 global hotspots, and is one of the only two hotspots that encompass an entire floral kingdom (the other being New Caledonia).The Fynbos comprises of hard-leafed, evergreen, and fire-prone shrubs that thrives on the region's rocky or sandy nutrient-poor soils. The tallest shrubs are the proteoids and are 1- 3 meters in height and have large, leathery leaves. South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea (Protea cynaroides), is perhaps the most famous species of Fynbos, along with Ericas and reeds (which is known as Restia). The Fynbos Biome bears a certain resemblance to the vegetation in other Mediterranean or winter rainfall regions, as it has to adapt to wet winters and dry summers. The Table Mountain National Park as well as the Kristenbosh Botanical garden is a showcase for this flora, with representative examples of all the major communities. I had the opportunity to visit both places and became mesmerized with the colorful splendor they present.
The mountains may appear to be a botanical paradise and a zoological desert at the first glance, as you won’t find any of Africa’s Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, black rhino and buffalo) here, but rather a number of smaller mammals such as baboons, jackals, duikers, and bontebok and gysbok antelopes, which are dependent on the Fynbos for their survival. Other Fynbos species include the rare ‘Geometric Tortoise’, and the endangered ‘Table Mountain Ghost Frog’. Beneath the shrubby flora there is a teeming world of small creatures, which lives in partnership with the plants. For example, some Fynbos species rely on Pugnacious ants to burry their seeds protecting them from fire and predators. In return, the ants are rewarded with a “snack” called 'Elaiosome' (fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds) by these seeds.
The avifauna of the Cape Floristic Region is characterized by low diversity, most likely the result of structural uniformity in the vegetation and a shortage of available food. Of the 320 or so regularly occurring species of land birds here, only six are endemic. Nevertheless, the area is considered an Endemic Bird Area by BirdLife International.
During a bird watching trip on the 17th October, we were able spot more than 120 species. When strolling among the beautiful flowers at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens it is quite easy to observe some important Fynbos endemics such as Orange-breasted Sunbird, and Cape Sugarbird. Cape Francolin, Double-collard Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Cape Thrush, Cape Robin-chat, Karoo Prinia, and Speckled Mousebird are some of the birds abound the gardens. Raptors such Black Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Kestrel were also observed. Two Spotted Eagle Owls were also found roosting on a tree. One of the most distinctive brides at Kristenbosh is the Helmeted Guineafowl, while species such as Cape Suprfowl, Egyptian Goose and Hadeda Ibis were also spotted walking and flying among the bushes.
After Kristenbosch, we stopped at the False Bay Ecology Park, which is a leading conservation, environmental education, recreation and ecotourism centre. The park is home to around 235 bird species including Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Lesser Flamingos, and large number of waders. As in Sri Lanka the Flamingos do not breed at the site, but many juveniles resided within this wetland throughout the year.
Around 30 African Jackass Penguins, which are globally threatned, were spotted at the Boulders Beach, which is part of the Table Mountain National Park. Today there are an estimated 11,000 breeding pairs of Jackass Penguins at this location. According to the tour operators one can also swim amongst these Penguins, but the cold Atlantic waters prevented us from attempting it. The Cape region has been heavily settled for several centuries, and large areas of natural vegetation, particularly in the lowlands, have been cleared for agriculture and urban development. Invasive alien species, both plant and animal, together with altered fire regimes, pose great threats to this eco-region.
The Cape Floral Kingdom contains eight protected areas which comprise the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site that also includes Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the first time that a botanical garden has been recognized as a world heritage site for its biodiversity. Download the ‘Book of Abstracts’ (2.5MB) to read the abstract on “Challenges in maintaining the Ramsar Wetland of international importance status at Bundala wetland complex in Sri Lanka” by Nishanthi Perera and Sarath Kotagama (Page 244) presented at this conference.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

P.B. Karunarathna Memorial Bird Education Exhibition

14th Annual P.B. Karunarathna Memorial Bird Education Exhibition was held from 28th October to 01st November at the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo. This annual event is organized to commemorate late P.B. Karunarathna, one of the founder members of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka and a well known naturalist of the country.
Bird awareness seminars were also conducted for the school children of some selected schools in parallel to the exhibition.
FOGSL thanks all the members who supported in many ways to organize this exhibition.