Forktail 31 published

Front-cover-ForktailOBC Members will now have received, or shortly be receiving, their copy of 2015’s Forktail. Issue 31 appeared later than anticipated, for which the Club apologies. The delay was due to technical problems outside of our control.

However, we are sure members will consider it has certainly been worth the wait. The latest issue is packed full of 14 full papers and 7 short notes covering a wide variety of topics. Among the main papers is one documenting the extinctions or near-extinctions caused by excessive wild trapping and trade in a number of Asian bird species. This is an issue of growing concern, but there is gathering momentum for action to be taken.

A paper on the number of species and subspecies in the Red-bellied Pitta Erythropitta erythrogaster complex is certain to be of particular interest to pitta-listers.

Non-members will have to wait until 2018 before they can download all the papers from Forktail 31. The Club’s policy is to make the scientific information freely available three years after publication date. The papers from Forktail 29 will therefore soon be available on this website.

Volunteers sought to survey Yellow-breasted Buntings in Mongolia

Male Yellow-breasted Bunting © G. Amarkhuu

Populations of Yellow-breasted Bunting, Emberiza aureola, are rapidly declining across their range and the species has recently been classified as Endangered by IUCN. They were once common in the northern Palearctic from Finland and Belarus, eastwards to north-east Asia. Mainly due to excessive hunting in China and several other reasons, the species has declined across its range and become quite rare. However, ecological aspects of the decline remain unclear.

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BirdingASIA 24 published

CoverBA24Oriental Bird Club members should now have received their latest issue of BirdingASIA.

Featuring a superb image of a Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara by Jainy Kuriakose on the cover, the issue is packed full of bird news from around the region.

Articles include the latest taxonomic updates – splits and other changes – through to little known birding areas in the Philippines, together with all the latest conservation news.

For anyone with an interest in birds of the Oriental region, subscribing to the Oriental Bird Club to receive your biannual BirdingASIA and the Club’s Journal, Forktail, is an absolute necessity – so if you  haven’t done so already, subscribe today!

Mixed news for Asia’s vultures

Slender-billed Vultures, Assam (c) James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

Slender-billed Vultures, Assam (c) James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

The latest issue of the IUCN’s Vulture Specialist Group newsletter (PDF, 200KB) has been published. Covering vulture news from around the world, the newsletter includes mixed news from Asia where, on the positive side, there is a growing prospect of the first releases back to the wild of Critically Endangered vulture species in Nepal and India.

Offset against this, however, are ongoing concerns over the continuing use of the vulture-killing drug diclofenac and derivatives thereof: one Indian pharmaceutical company is challenging in court the latest ban on multi-dose vials of the human formulations. Meanwhile a paper demonstrating that aceclofenac (a pro-drug to diclofenac) is indeed metabolised directly to diclofenac in cattle has been published this month, highlighting the urgent need for a veterinary ban.

OBC Autumn Meeting 2015

The OBC Autumn Meeting, incorporating the 31st AGM, will be held in the Wilkinson Room, St John the Evangelist, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN on Saturday 5th September 2015.

The meeting starts at 11:00 and all are welcome – please bring your friends. Snacks, cakes and hot and cold drinks will be available all day.

Sales by WildSounds
Prize draw in aid of the OBC Conservation Fund
The AGM, at which only OBC members may vote, will be held at 12:00

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Illegal cage bird trade threatens Black-winged Myna

Black-winged-Myna / Khaleb-Yordan

llegal trade is pushing the Critically Endangered Black-winged Myna towards extinction © Khaleb Yordan

Jakarta, Indonesia, 13th August—So rare that captive breeding centres have been robbed, the soaring prices and drop in availability of Black-winged Mynas in trade point to a species on the brink.

Black-winged Mynas are prized in the cage bird trade for their striking black and white plumage, lively behaviour and singing ability; today their extreme rarity in the wild adds to their desirability.

The species is native only to the islands of Java and Bali and is protected under Indonesian law. Despite this, illegal capture in the wild continues, while trade is carried out openly in Indonesia’s notorious bird markets.

Surveys by TRAFFIC and Oxford Brookes University researchers between 2010 and 2014 found significantly fewer Black-winged Mynas available in the three largest bird markets in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta: down by three-quarters since the 1990s. This coincides with a more than ten-fold increase in asking prices and the near complete decimation of the species in the wild.

The crisis facing the Black-winged Myna and other Asian songbirds is scheduled to come under expert scrutiny next month at the inaugural Asian Songbird Crisis Summit, taking place on 26-29th September 2015 in Singapore.

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100,000th image milestone for Oriental Bird Images

The 100,000th image on OBI: Bar-headed Goose at Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, Dholpur, Rajasthan, India. (c) Sunil Singhal.

The 100,000th image on OBI: Bar-headed Goose at Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, Dholpur, Rajasthan, India. (c) Sunil Singhal.

Oriental Bird Images, www.orientalbirdimages.org, the online photographic image resource library of the Oriental Bird Club today celebrated with the upload of its 100,000th image.

The stunning landmark image is a portrait of a Bar-headed Goose taken by Sunil Singhal at Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, Dholpur, Rajasthan, India on 16 March this year. Bar-headed Geese are known to migrate over the Himalayas at altitudes of more than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft).

“The uploading of the 100,000th image is testament to the years of dedicated hard work put in by a multitude of unpaid volunteers over the past 13 years since OBI was launched,” said Krys Kazmierczak, who conceived the idea for a publicly accessible online image library for Asian bird species and subspecies.

“The library speaks volumes for the sheer dedication of more than 1,500 amateur and professional bird photographers who have freely contributed their stunning images to this resource for bird researchers worldwide.”

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Superabundant bird decline mirrors Passenger Pigeon

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

One of the Eurasia’s most abundant bird species has declined by 90% and retracted its range by 5000km since 1980 a new study shows.

Yellow-breasted Bunting was once distributed over vast areas of Europe and Asia, its range stretching from Finland to Japan.

New research published in the journal Conservation Biology suggest that unsustainable rates of hunting principally in China have contributed to a catastrophic loss of numbers and also in the areas in which it can now be found.

“The magnitude and speed of the decline is unprecedented among birds distributed over such a large area, with the exception of the Passenger Pigeon, which went extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting”, said Dr Johannes Kamp from the University of Münster, the lead author of the paper.

High levels of hunting also appear to be responsible for the declines in Yellow-breasted Bunting.

“A Century on from America’s folly and Asia is blindly following suit, allowing a once superabundant bird to spiral into oblivion,” said Richard Thomas, OBC Council Member.

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Birding Viet Nam

The following is based on an article by OBC member Andy Mears that first appeared on the Birdguides website. Many thanks to Birdguides for granting the OBC permission to repost the article here.

Vietnam is a bird-rich country bordered by China, Laos and Cambodia and strategically placed on the OBC region’s eastern seaboard. From wintering Rufous-tailed Robins to breeding White-winged Magpies, the country has much to offer the travelling birder or interested reader.

Talk to non-birders about Vietnam and they are usually surprised to hear that it is a popular birding destination. In the same way that Ethiopia is perceived to be stark and famine-ridden, Vietnam is often viewed as war-torn and scarred. Neither perception is correct. Vietnam is in fact within an important area of endemism and retains some valuable tracts of rainforest that can easily be visited by birders today. Add to that accessible mountains and wetlands that host some of the rarest shorebirds on earth, and Vietnam becomes a stunning destination.

Vietnam-Cutia

Vietnamese Cutia photographed in the Da Lat uplands of Southern Vietnam by BirdtourASIA tour guide James Eaton. James is a regular contributor to the OBC’s Forktail and BirdingASIA journals. BirdtourASIA is a proud corporate sponsor of the Oriental Bird Club — many thanks to James for providing photos for this article.

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