Armchair Travel with Naturetrek
Armchair Travel with Naturetrek

Episode 3 · 1 year ago

Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in Andalucía, with Niki Williamson


With fewer than a thousand birds remaining in the wild, the Northern Bald Ibis is a bird on the edge of extinction, but with a successful reintroduction programme underway in Andalucía and intensive conservation work in Morocco, there is hope for this species yet…

Welcome to another need to tick.PODCAST WO e bring Worldlife to you in your living room. In this episode itseems punk is not dead as totally the Nicky Williamsson talks to us about thereintroduction of the northern Bard ibes in Andelucia and Don your hostSaras Rost, Natud, TREX, markety manager and bringing this podcast foryou from lockdown in altens. Welcome to another NATO treck podcastnow joining me today is Tulyde Nicki Williamson now Nikki has worked andvolunteer for the RSPV for twelve years managing habitats, hoding her birdingskills and brandishing power tools with varbying levels of success, and foreight years she was part of an advisory team working with nature friendlyfarmers to make the countryside a better place for wild life. Hhas alsobeen involved with Operation Turtldov working to ensure a future for thisdesperately declining bird as well as the UKG has worked on vital projectswith conservation grade in west Africa, but now lives in Serden, Spain, nearTarifa, where she works full time as a wildlife guide and she's joining us onthe line. Now from lockdown in SILTEN SPAN, nicki hello! Welcome! How are youmy everybody, Hi Hi, Sarah Jice, to see you nice to see you too? So how is lifegoing in lockdown yeah? It's okay, it's okay! WE'RE GETTING! There were. I know we're one of the luckyones because we live in a small village outside Terifa, so we coul at leastlook out and out of our windows and see the beautiful countrysides. We even getto see some migrotue birds, migrating rapters,going right over our house. Sometimes so. We've got some nature to keep ersentertainnt SS yeah. It's always g. He not killars on hands. It's not yeah,absolutely absolutely yeah! So I know you've worked on projects alot in the UK and also in most Africoents today, you're going to betalking about something, that's particularly close to your heart, andthat is the northern bold ibis. Now I know what people Di Bess look like I'msure many of our listeners due to, but can you just describe them for peoplewho aren't familiar with them yeah? Well, what but they're just quiteextraordinary Loky, really a lot of people immediately. Look at them and say thatthey're ugly, but I think the therere anything but that they have thisextraordinary iridescent plumage, which covers their kind of you, know Turkey,sized body and really really shines when it catches the sun, but so from the neckdown absolutelygorgeous immediately. But then thei heads are bald, as the name suggests,and this strange raw, looking painful, looking pink mask, covers their entireface and ends up in a huge downcurved bill, just really extraordinary.Looking Burd the the plumage starts with a kind of Mohawk from halfway backon the head, this enormous kind of feathered crest and they always justlook a little bit confused by their own appearance. Sometimes I always think weget to see them a lot at a nesting colony near here, and they just have this kind ofextraordinary air of bafflment. I always think, but the way they behave toweet towardseach other is just so endeering and charismatic they preen each other. Theygo to huge lengths to when they're building the nest they bring back giftsto one another when they're renewing the nest at the beginning of thebreedhing season. So you might see a female sat in thenest, for example, and the Maile will turn up and he will have brought somegift for her, which could be anything from a a TWIG, a kind of useful gift.Ria Char charm, yeah, we know how to Cha their ladies ther, yeah orsometimes hey'vl come back with something really disgusting like to useTC or something like that. But she'll... equally pleased whatever it is thathe's brought and yeah the interactions are just really fantastic to see reallycharismatic bird wow looky female board ibis with theused tissues, how lovely wel the name Northern Bod ibes suggests that there'sa southern counterpart is is that the cats yeah there's the southernBaldiabis is in South Africa, its quite similarlooking but different. It has a much whiter face with the red on the top,but the northern bald ibis is very much a separate species that used to cover.I mean the range was huge: it used to cover the whole of Europe, but it'sretracted right into a couple of very small remaining areasnow so its really very, very entvingerd to be shes, so that's thei, currentstater, so theyare they critically endangered O. it's it's got better recently. At onepoint: They were in the top ten most endangered birds ofthe world, because all of their existing world populations had dwindledto a few individuals. But thanks to I, especially thanks to ongoingconservation work in the core population on Morocco, they've actuallybeen downgraded from critically endanger to endangered in two thousandand eighteen. So there's some light at the end of the tunnel for them.Certainly, okay, so presumably you're going to tell us about your work andconservation with the ball diebuts buts. Why is this conservation needed what'sgone wrong, to bring them so close to extinction? Presumably, they haven'talways been in need of conservation, ORSO, close ovixstinction. So can youjust describe for our listeners what has happened to their population overthe last hundred years, or so to bring them to the point that they are now yeah? Basically, it's this kind ofperfect storm of all the things that we hear about that result in speciesbecoming endangered. I suppose the top culprit, you would say, isagricultural intensification, as it often is thereis a big hit. They feed largely on large bodiedinsects. You know crickets grasshoppers locust frogs young nestlings if they find themKa kind of Omnivorous, but large bodied insects being a big part of their diet.So, of course, when DDT was broadly used in the S, that was a huge impactloss of habitat through agricultural extension, habitat degradation, butalso persecution, because in the past te've been revedoes, you know kind of almost religiouslyiconic birds in some areas, but also because of the way they appear, theyrekind of feared as evil, spirits or witchis, so they've been shot andpersecuted as well in their history. So basically, all these things havejust come by loss of Nesting, sights as well their cliff nesters and findingcliffs to nest on near enough to the pastures that they need to feed on. Itbecomes increasingly difficult, as human population expands and areas aretaking up. So all these things, hare kind of combined to just really almost wipe them out. Youknow at one point: There were just a couple of hundred birds left so yeah. They came very, very close to theedge of disappearing altogether wow. What is the species level now? What's thepopulation level, so there's still less than a thousand of them in the wildthere's. The main population is in Morocco into sort of nearby areas inMorocco and there, as I sort of mentioned, ther they're, doing wellthey're increasing, there's around about seven hundred birds in the wildthetre, truly wild remnant population.

Then there's a population in Turkey ofaround just over two hundred birds, but theyre, Migrat, trey, and so many arelost on migration. That they've actually started taking the populationinto captivity, so they're free during the breeding season to reproduce, butthen they're taken into captivity to prevent the migrating, because so manydie or a shot or in some way lost on migration that they can't be allowed todo that anymore. Then, apart from that, there was a small population in Syria, wasrediscovered in the early two housands, really small, maybe twenty and they dwindled back down to tonothing again. There's just one female bird left and then across this, thecivil war started there and it was that populations considered extinctsagain so and of course, that it' at a shame and sucha challenge for them, where presumably so so much of the the habitat that theBal dibess needs to forrage and find food is now sadly, obviously occupiedwith refugee counsan and things like that, presumably yeah, it's just apartfrom anything, it's just impossible to get in and continue any conservationwork there yeah yeah Y, so there's just no way to even think about introducingthem there. No, I don't know no, so what conservation efforts are beingthat and in the areas where we, where we can work, or at least when lockdownis lifted. Yet you are able to to help out what was it you've been working onyourself? Well, what W we're particularly lookyhere in the Straits, because there's a really very success, successfulreintroduction project which was started in two thousand and four. Itwas a partnership as quite a number of partners in there, but the main onesbeing fairly local zoo, where there's they'revery experienced in captired breeding and the local authority as well. Theyreintroduced birds onto nearby military lands where there's cliffs and you know obviously very lowintensity, grayes pastures, because it's military lands and a lot of peaceand quiet for them to just kind of get on with being ibises. So they startedthere and they reintroduced the first thirty birds in two thousand and four and then they carried on. I think itwas it's Raer about two hundred birds werereintroduced over the first, the sort of first phase of the project, thefirst five years, nd by two thousand and eight. They had their first nest and by thusand and fourteen they hadpretty much filled every available nesting site on those cliffs and asthey do the way the colonies reproduces when they sort of Philli space, a smallnumber of pairs will tend to branch off and go and start a new colony somewhereelse, which is what's happening in Morocco. Incidentally, at the moment,but here that happened in two thosand and fourteen five pairsleft, the main colony found some random little cliffs next to a car park, indsome cafes alongside main road and said well, this looks perfect. We'll tryhere and they've been really successful. The same tenpairs that Coloniesha beengoing on since then. It's still there. Certainly last year, when we werelooking, they were an additional two pairs were trying to top squeezingalong the other sides, and they were. We were seeing chicks with three andfour sorry nes, sorry with three and four chicks in them: making use of the surrounding area.There's lots of pasture and low intensity grazing that sort of thing.So it's really fantastic to be able to take people there to see them as well,because obviously they're just right next to the road and and what do the locals? Think ofthem are they? Are they interested in...

...them? The same way that in Britain thesa growing interest that, with the public of wanting to get into into birdwatching or people the locals interested in them there, or is itreally just tourist a coing to see them? I think that the groundwork done forthe project was done exceptionally well. There is a lot of community work, wentinto explaining to people what was happening and when, when the peole,when the birds turned up there on these cliffs, the locals really took them toheart. You know- and I think also it's because so many birders go to see them.That continues the interest, and obviously you know you can go intothose cafes and Sundays and a lot of the customers. There are verders andthey can really get interested and see why it'sbeneficial to have the birds there. One of the cafes has changed its Lowgo tofeatur and northern bald ivis and how its last Jes that definitely Takentohert and then theyv built a little hide and Interpretation Center opposite thecolony now as well. So it's a well known attraction now, yeah,that's brilliant and, of course, all of these people that are going there tosee them staying in local accommodation. There, pviding income, ther spendingmoney in cafes, restaurants, and what have you and it obviously helps thelocal economy. So I assume people will see benefits that way as well, sothey're doing well in that car park in particular it seems, but how is theoverall Spanish population doing what about other threats that they might have? Well, obviously, it's interesting thisyear because of the because of the lockdown and whichactivities a considered, considered essential work on which aren't you know,monitoring work is obviously depleted. This year, compared to others, butcertainly until last year, they were the wild population. Here is holding steady at about about eightybirds in the main colony and then there's this additional sort of ten totwelve pairs in the roadside colony, so yeah they're doing well. They were inthe initial phases of the project. You know when you have a populationthathat's. This small kind of small accidental threats can can make areally big difference to their success. So I know in the first year that yearsthere were problems with them hitting power lines in the warea of areas ofpower lines where they were getting electurecuted, but they funded quite extensive repairwork to stop thathappening, because you know one small area where they're constantly gettingelectricuted makes a huge difference to a tiny amount of animals like that. Certainly recent maries for theroadside colony. There was what was it two years ago now. I thinkthere was a roving eagle owl and it came into that area. It's a lovelylittle area next to a river and there's also a colony of Catalig rits and thetrees down there. So it came down and it wiped out the entire breezingcataligue colony, and then it moved on to the northernbald ibis colony. So I think it took. Basically it wasalmost farming them. It was just going back night after night, a d just takingone chick to chicks and it took a while to figure out what was happening. Youknow they thought. Maybe it was some kind of Muscleid. You know a Stote typePredator, but they eventually caught it on camera,so they captured the bird and relocated it to somewhere else, and it left onechick that year one chick survived and we were really concerned that theywouldn't go back because they're very they're, coliny nesters. You know thatthey're tightly bonded as a colony, and we were worried that the traumer ofjust having seen an entire generation wiped out would mean that they wouldn'tnest there anymore. But you know they...

...came back and none of the breedingadults were lost and the following year was probably themost successful ever in terms of fledge chicks. So so that was great at Tha.There is resilient, as that you know so. Hopefully, they'll continue to do well wow, so they know are spreading across spade. Despite that, thechallenges that th they're, having like this ONS overing natural challenges, aswell as the threats from from humans, which you just outlinedand with records coming from state- and I read France and Italic Well- could we, you know, expect boad ibis inthe UK and the DEA future, or is this never to be expected? Well Wow? That would be a thing Wuldn'tther there am the they're, certainly mobile,and I think you know we've seen from thereintroduction project on the cliffs they'r relocated to this one. You know a few miles away where we cansee them on the colony they've also been observed quite regularly. Small groups of themactually just fly across the Straits to Morocco, groups of six to ten sort ofthat kind of Sizeo. The same kind of size like as, if they're looking tostart a new colony over there, which is great because, like were usedto seeing things like short toaed, Eagles, struggling against the wind andgoing Oh, it's too difficult, and then there's this incredible bird just goesacross for the day, just to see what happens and also last year. Actually they werea group tried to spread north and they got as far as Extramajura in Spain, which, unfortunately they were thenshot. Somebody shot them for no apparent reason, because that wouldhave been the real if they had made it to in my head, always imagine theymight have made it to Monfragway, which is this amazing, mountainous area ofextre majory that some of nature, treck customers probably know quite well. Ican just imagine that they could have set ut there, and that would have beenthe real mark of success that this small colony of eighty birds insouthern Spain were now recolonizing, Spain and big numbers, so that would have been fantastic. Ithink a way to go before you'll be getting them on your lockdown garden,burding Le Onican. Only hope yeahight yeah okay, so they seem to be doingfairly well and Andalucity, and is it actually easy to see these birds ifsomeone wants to come to Andalucy nate treck clients, for example, and wantedto see the balldivers? How easy is that Werk an Niggo? Well, I mean it's in the breedingseason. It's just fantastic because the hide that's been built now is met asaway it's across the road and you can watch them really anytime. You know they'd beturning up there and I think the first records this year back on the nestingcolony were in late February and they'll be through right through thebreeding season. You can see them close. All this charismatic behavior, reallyreally fantastic, but even outside that you know once the autumn comes, and thechicks and adults have moved off the nest, they tend to turn up in it's alittle bit more of an adventure going to find them, but we always try d. TheyTel Sthis is thisis, you doyeh and Yeah Tos. Don't you your guiding our guest oto go and find them yeah? I mean obviously it's that there's many manyattractions in the in the Straits, but the northern bold dibis is such aniconic sort of bird. You know it's it's fantastic and they're, quiteconfiding that throughout the it's just part of their behavior, thatthey're always found close to human...

...activity. Part of that is avoidingpredation or because of the pastures that weourselves have created in the past, for them to use they're quite associatedwith humans. So when we do find them out on the fields, you can really getquite close to them. They they're really astonishingly tame almost eventhough they haven't been raised as tame birds, they're, just anaturally very confiding bird. So you can get really really good views ofthem, ount in the countryside as well. Well, that sounds wonderful. It soundsquite temting. Actually, especially right now, yeah, you should come out. Definitelywell show you ootball Ovis, yeah yeah, you strangely tempted me to I they do.They do sound like charming animals reatly. When you know people look atthem and think O it's a a face. Only a mother could live twhat. Do you think the? What effect doyou think the lockdown will have on the population? It's an interesting one. Isn't it Imean just the brief sort of moments that Iget to wonder outside when I'm taking the dog out. I really get theimpression that everything's so alive and Natureis really moving back intospaces where it wasn't before. You know we have a much bigger spotless, stylingreast right in the middle of the village than we've ever had before. Youcan really hear them in the evening, but for the bald ivis it's a little bitdifferent because, especially on this roadside site,that's most likely that they chose that because of the proximity to humanbeings, you know all the bars and the traffic and the car park means thatthey're much like less likely to get predated. So it's interesting. It's going to bereally interesting to get back out there and see how the colonyis doing on once we'reallowed to go out and see, but hopefully they'll be doing just as wellas ever and it'll turn out that they don't need our help. That much afterall, anymore wit, all of these abandoned bars andrestaurants. You are bikin bacces to see all of these wonderful presentsthat are in the BFOR TI tis nests with lovey bottles of fear and things thathave been taken back to the female. So I upgraded from twigs and do THATA'ndgone to a sing Fox and knives, and things like that, raded, the kitchen dea, an Nicki, we're hoping that lockdownfor everyone's sake. Of course, it ends as soon as it's able to put lookingbeyond that. What do you think the future holds for the Balldibisis? Heoll look good well, let's hope so sorry, yeah,certainly for our small colony in Spain. The future looks pretty bright, the thereally hanging on against all the odds and that when that colony broke awayand headed north, that was such a positive sign that that's the beginning of somethingreally special and it would be so fantastic to think that they start recolonizing the the whole ofSpain from our small little project here in Undelusia. Well, let's hope, with the work withpublic engagements and getting people on board with actually protecting thesemagnificent birds that when the time comes, that they do decide to breaknorth again, they will be received in the same way, but we'll have a warmerwelcome and with very much hope to be able to anticipate seeing them on.Indeed, Najor trectors in the likes of Extramadura, as you've suggested sowell. We'll keep our fingers across TROFOR absolutely yeah. Well, Nicki is been a pleasure talkingto you and have their likewise. It cli shot insight into the wonderful lifeand conservation of the board ibis. If you'd like to travel with Nicki to seeBorthe bisondeed any other thos that...

Nicki may be guiding, you can see hertours on her profile on our website to be dww, ntmack top coe a UK and just goto her profile. Thank you very much to listen to more Oour podcast just gothrough Ou podcast web page at Nat, TTo, Curdet, UK flord, Lash podcasts, thanksfor listening that.

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