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© Delta Birding Festival

DeltaBirding Festival

Big news for The Delta Birding Festival 2017

The fourth edition of the Delta Birding Festival is scheduled to take place on 22nd, 23rd and 24th September. As usual, it comes filled up with big names and big news. After bringing renowned ornithologists like Lars Svensson, Hadoram Shirihai, Killian Mullarney or Markus Varesvuuo, to name just a few, it seemed hard to find more guests speakers that could match that level of expertise and popularity. DBF 2017 will present to the birder community some more top level speakers.

We will start with Arjan Dwarshuis. Arjan is a Dutch archaeologist who actually never studied stones but concentrated on his passion: birds. He has been birding since he was a kid and in 2016 he took one of the most demanding challenges a birder can take. He wanted to beat the highest ever record in a Big Year, that is, a race from January 1st to December 31st to watch as many bird species as possible from all around the world. In 2015, the American birder Noah Strycker outdid all previous Big Year records by listing 6.042 bird species -more than half of the bird species on Earth- but Arjan Dwarshuis was also pursuing that dream and he did what seemed simply impossible: he didn't only break the record, he smashed it with 6.852 species! On November 20th he had already beaten Strycker's figure, so he still had more than one month ahead add up more and more species.

Arjan will talk about his Biggest Year, as he calls it, how he planned the trip during one year and a half and of course about his plans for the future. He has set a new challenge which is to beat his own record and reach the magic figure of 7.000 species in a 2018 Big Year. Will he do it? We don't know but if somebody can do it, that's Arjan Dwarshuis.

The Delta Birding Festival 2017 will also be proud to have among its guests the first American speaker in its four years of life. Jennifer Ackerman is a scientific writer for The New York Times who has written a true best-seller, The Genius of Birds, in which she has gathered and put in one place all relevant studies on bird intelligence. The result is magnificent since it turns upside down the reader's vision on the capacities of birds when confronted with the results of dozens of studies that show how smart, clever or sharp birds can be.

Jennifer Ackerman, also a birder since an early age, has been birding regularly whilst being a scientific writer for The New York Times. In DBF 2017 she will give a talk on her book and we will interview her, so if you are curious about the subject of bird intelligence this is your chance to learn more from the hand of an expert.

Her book deserved and interesting review in La Vanguardia by Ima Sanchís that you can read here
www.pressreader.com/spain/la-vanguardia/20170318/283308932297745

Many other guests speakers are coming to the Festival, the most remarkable being Tim Appleton, director of the most famous bird fair in the world, Nigel Collar, former executive at BirdLife International and Klaus Malling Olsen, a seagull expert who is publishing the definitive seagull guide this year. All these three people are very renowned ornithologists and they have many interesting things to say with decades of experience backing them up.

Technology will also have its role in DBF 2017 in the form of studies based on geolocators, GPSs and other gadgets that ornithologists use to track bird movements around the globe. Vilppu Valimaki, a Finnish expert who has worked in Switzerland, Holland and other countries will talk about how she managed to tag dozens of birds with GPSs and geolocators and will unveil the astonishing results these techniques have yielded so far in the study of migration of some species such as the Northern Wheatear. She is also a passionate birder and participates in bird races and competitions, such as the Champions of the Flyway in Israel with the Finnish team Artic Redpolls, 2016 and 2017 winners of the race. So, she's got a lot of interesting stories to tell too!

The DBF also sets money apart for conservation or monitoring programmes. 2017 is the year to raise money for the Turtle Dove, formerly a very common bird in Europe that has seen how its populations have crashed all over the continent. In many countries, a 60% to 90% decrease has been observed and the reason why this is happening can only be partly understood. It seems that habitat destruction and agriculture intensification are the main reasons but hunting is probably another important factor in the equation. In the whole of Europe the level of hunting of the Turtle Dove is unsustainable but in Eastern Mediterranean is a real slaughter, with millions of birds killed on migration each year.

However, some researchers, by tagging turtle doves  with GPSs, have found that some birds avoid migrating over the areas with high hunting pressure and prefer to migrate over the sea and cross the desert straight away, which requires a larger effort but it's safer. It seems that populations that use those routes are more stable than the others. Doves from Catalonia and Southern France may belong to that group since their populations have been stable in the last 15-20 years. The DBF will give money to a project in which BirdLife, the Catalan Ornithological Institute and the Centre Tecnològic i Forestal de Catalunya are in partnership to equip with GPSs doves in Catalonia. The cost of this devices and their maintenance is very high, so quite a lot of money is needed.

We are proud to contribute to avoid that the turtle dove becomes the 21st Century's Passenger Pigeon, which became extinct in the American continent in 1914 after the killing of millions of birds during decades in a story of true human foolishness.

See the full programme of events at http://www.deltabirdingfestival.com

Abel Julien
Unitat de Divulgació de l'Ornitologia - Institut Català d'Ornitologia
http://abeljulien.blogspot.com