Thursday, 23 October 2014

Birdwatch - latest editorial

November 2014 | Issue 269

For many years now, Birdwatch has been proud to honour the best in bird art through the Artist of the Year Award. We started this annual competition back in 1997, and it has since evolved into a major national award organised in association with the Society of Wildlife Artists and Swarovski Optik. In other initiatives during the last two decades we have also celebrated outstanding talent in bird photography, from film-based competitions back in the Nineties to publishing the mouth-watering calendar for Swarovski’s ongoing Digiscoper of the Year competitions.

But what of the other facets of birding that deserve recognition? Think back to this time last year, and a lot has happened in a remarkable 12 months. For me 2014 stands out more than anything as a year of action, a year in which birders were motivated to seize the initiative and try to bring about change for the better. Champions of the Flyway, spring hunting in Malta, Hen Harriers and grouse shooting – all now well-known campaigns putting bird protection and conservation firmly back on the map.

It was the idea of acknowledging the success of these headline-making campaigns, and the achievement of the people behind them, that helped inspire a new initiative we’re launching this month: the Birders’ Choice Awards. It’s high time we all recognised the best in birding (and the worst!), so in this first year of the awards we have devised 10 categories and a wide-ranging shortlist of contenders; voters can also nominate their own favourites. From conservation, campaigning and companies to products, people and even the birds themselves, we want birders everywhere to vote and make their opinion count. It’s quick and easy to do so (turn to pages 43-44 for details) – please cast your vote, and help us spread the word by encouraging your friends to take part, too.




Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gull v rat

I just returned from another excellent trip to the Azores, spending most of the time leading a group on the western island of Flores. There'll be more on that trip and the excellent birds we had in due course, but for now I thought I'd share this sequence of photos of an atlantis Yellow-legged Gull (or Azores Gull if you will). This bird in Lajes harbour was aggressively defending a nice dinner it had lined up - a Black Rat. We were surprised at what short work it made of the rodent - here's how:

The gull aggressively defended its 'meal' from other gulls nearby ...
... before moving in to finish the job ...
... first, grab rat by neck ...
... then line it up carefully, because ...
... it's going down in one ...
... then swallow, tail and all

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