Archive for BirdLife International

Reversing the tide on marine litter

It’s summer time, so it’s only natural that people – especially holiday-goers – are making a beeline for coasts and beaches. But as if jostling for space with other vacationers on the beach and water wasn’t enough, there’s also marine litter to contend with. This may seem like ‘just rubbish’ to us, but for seabirds, its effects can be devastating. Continue reading

Gulls, turtles and seals, three marine triumphs

Marine wildlife in Europe has long been suffering because of human activities. Although we have a lot of work to do still, here are three marine stories that show the Nature Directives work when they are put to good use. Continue reading

Paraguayan forest finally gets protection

Twenty-three years after its creation on paper, part of Paraguay’s San Rafael National Park has finally been afforded some real protection. Continue reading

Protecting birds in ‘tropical’ Europe

Given the nature protection laws in the EU (the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive), it’s easy to believe that all European territories are well protected. Continue reading

Keeping an eye on Balearic Shearwater

It’s been over a decade that Balearic Shearwater has held the dangerous title ‘Critically Endangered’, which puts it at the very top of the European Red List of Birds. To make sure it doesn’t disappear before our very eyes requires some very careful monitoring at sea, where it spends most of its life, and also on land where it breeds. But so far we haven’t been doing enough to ensure the conservation of this species and if we wait any longer, we might notice too late that it’s gone forever. Continue reading

Seabirds and fishing gear – a conundrum

Every day across the world, fisher men and women are out at sea, along coasts or far offshore in search of a good fish catch. Seabirds are irresistibly drawn to their boats, the bait, and the promise of a tasty and easily caught meal. But getting too close to fishing gear is dangerous, and unsuspecting seabirds get accidentally hooked or entangled, and then drown. Unintentional deaths like this are called ‘seabird bycatch, and it kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds each year. It’s also costly for the fishing industry as a hooked bird is an expensive missed chance to catch a fish. Continue reading

Great news for Pacific seabirds and marine mammals as Russia bans driftnet fishery

This week, Russia introduced a law banning large-scale driftnets in their waters. These nets, up to 32 kilometres long, are used by Japanese and Russian vessels to target various species of salmon in the Russian Far East. Continue reading

Troubled waters for our seabirds

Did you know that we have 82 species of seabird in Europe? You probably recognise the most charismatic ones, like the clown faced Atlantic Puffin and sharp blue-eyed Northern Gannet. But there are many other species you may not know because they actually spend nearly their entire lives out at sea and so are rarely seen, only coming to our shores to breed before flying off again into the deep blue. Many of these species are in trouble, facing declines and possible extinction based on the latest scientific information. The current situation is clear: urgent action is needed so they don’t disappear from Europe forever. Continue reading

Three blades or none?

Spinning through flying space, three blade wind turbines are good for the climate, but are known to kill birds. Strategic positioning and shut downs during peak migrations help, but a Spanish company may have invented an even better solution that will come onto the market soon, the Vortex Bladeless

Wind energy is thankfully moving us away from the oil dinosaurs, and more and more are popping up at offshore sites and on land. But three blade turbines can pose a dangerous obstacle for unsuspecting birds if they are placed in key habitats and important migratory corridors, as has been the case in Spain. It is true that the total number of bird deaths caused this way is insignificant when compared to other threats, like house cats, but wind turbines are more likely to add to the risks for long-lived and rare birds, such as raptors, which are of great conservation concern. So in a world where wind energy is ever growing because it is an environmental solution that will help us fight climate change, anyone who develops a wind turbine without blades would certainly be doing birds a favor.

Vortex Bladeless wind turbine prototype (c) Vortex

Just consider southern Spain’s Tarifa, which overlooks the Straits of Gibraltar, where there are nearly 1000 turbines. Here you can see many cliff nesting raptors in the area, Griffon Vultures, Bonelli’s Eagles, Short-toed Snake-eagles, Common Kestrels and the endangered Egyptian Vulture. Since 2002, turbines at only two of Tarifa’s sites have been killing about 57 Griffon Vulture and 67 Common Kestrel each year. These straits are also an important migratory corridor for thousands of migrants travelling between Europe and Africa. Groups of birds travelling at night or in poor visibility are especially vulnerable when they encounter turbine blades. The sad truth is that no one really knows how many birds die because when a bird gets hit, they may fly for a while before falling to the ground dead or hurt. It is often impossible to find dead or injured birds, as many get carried away and eaten by scavengers. For long lived species with small populations and low birth rates, especially any endangered species, deaths that occur this way can be devastating.

This is why SEO/BirdLife in Spain has taken a close look at the environmental and human benefits of Vortex Bladeless wind energy in comparison to three-bladed wind turbines. But what exactly is Vortex Bladeless? It’s a wind generator without blades. Instead of capturing energy via the rotational motion of a turbine, it takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that occurs when wind breaks against a solid structure (Kármán Vortex Street). The Vortex structure starts to oscillate, and captures the energy that is produced.

Not surprising, SEO/BirdLife discovered that bladeless would not only be good for birds, it’s good for people too. A turbine without blades removes the threat of dangerous obstacles hitting birds as they try to fly through. But its structure also takes up less space so would leave more land untouched and cause less habitat fragmentation, so again, good for birds. The Vortex design is also much simpler than conventional wind turbines, so much cheaper, and less pieces which makes them easier to install. The bladeless turbines are completely silent, a plus for people living close by.

So why haven’t we seen the Vortex Bladeless anywhere yet? Well, the technology is still at the prototype stage and needs investors to scale it up to hit the market. The company has launched a campaign where investors can contribute with small sums of money in exchange for funny t-shirts and hoodies with designs showing the benefits to birds. They hope to pilot the bladeless in India to test the technical and economic feasibility of going commercial.

Who knows, bladeless wind technology may be coming your way soon…

Conservation successes overshadowed by more species declines

Successful conservation action has boosted the populations of Iberian Lynx and Guadalupe Fur Seal, while African Golden Cat, New Zealand Sea Lion and Lion are facing increasing threats to their survival, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Ninety-nine per cent of tropical Asian slipper orchids – some of the most highly prized ornamental plants – are threatened with extinction. Continue reading