Early birds in Stavanger

By Ann Elisabeth Laksfoss Cardozo, University of Stavanger

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My task for Work Package 1 will be to trace the history of the Revtangen ornithological station at Jæren, and to investigate and report the background and development of the yearly backyard bird count in several European countries.

Partly to learn more about birding and the people involved in it in Rogaland, I signed up for a guided bird walk on May 26th 2020. Due to the Corona-virus restrictions, there were limited spaces, but the 20 lucky ones met at 6:30 am Saturday morning at Byhaugen café.

Bird walk
(c) Ann Elisabeth Laksfoss Cardozo

In the middle of the above photo is ornithologist Øyvind Gjerde who guided us. He has been birding in the Stavanger area since 1977 and participates in a large range of birding activities. To help us identify the birds, Gjerde brought large bird cards and listened carefully for bird sounds. As we followed him towards the lake, we heard more bird songs than we were able to spot, because the lush green forest gave camouflage to all but the Blackbirds. The walk went on a path covered with leafy trees towards Lille Stokkavatn.

The other participants were of different ages and walks of life, one mother with a five-year-old, some groups of friends, some couples. None of us were experienced birders. We made friends and shared ideas on birding, gardening, making compost and communal farming which seems to have become more popular lately.

When we came down to the lake, we saw swans, different types of ducks, mostly mallards with ducklings, and the main attraction, according to Gjerde – a Great Crested Grebe. He explained that the movement we observed was a “dance” where the partners stretched their necks against each other as part of the mating process.

Great Crested Grebe
(c) Per Erik Skramstad (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

After we had heard and seen pictures of Chiff Chaffs, Wrens, Blackbirds, Starlings, Chaffinches, Mallards, Great Crested Grebes, and several others, and having spotted many of the birds, we returned to the starting point. The local neighbourhood organisation of sustainable living, which organised the walk, provided an organic sandwich from a local baker. All the participants even received a bag of flower seeds for the bumble bees. What a perfect way to start the weekend!

(c) Ann Elisabeth Laksfoss Cardozo

Despotiki Lake: A wetland of international importance for birds

By Dr Andreas Ch. Hadjichambis, Scientific Director of Cyprus Centre for Environmental Research and Education – CYCERE

Click here to read in Greek

Despotiki Lake, an important wetland of International Importance, is located on the Akrotiri Peninsula (Cyprus) and specifically on the Agios Nikolaos Farm, which belongs to the Holy Bishopric of Limassol. It lies about 100 meters from the Cyprus Centre for Environmental and Research and Education (CYCERE). It is an artificial ecosystem, created in 1960 for the purpose of irrigating the crops of the surrounding area.

Despotiki Lake, CYCERE, Akrotiri, Limassol, Cyprus
Despotiki Lake, CYCERE, Akrotiri, Limassol, Cyprus

Despotiki Lake has an area of one hectare and a depth of about 10m. It is enriched with fresh water from the dam of the river Kouri. Today, it is still used for irrigation purposes but is now considered a very important ecosystem, which contributes to the enrichment of the underground aquifer in the region of Akrotiri. Despite being an artificial lake, the vegetation around it has gradually transformed into natural wetland vegetation. It is a biotope of high importance and ecological value, which attracts many species of migratory and predatory birds. In particular, it serves the needs of thousands of migratory birds that arrive on the island every year. This is due to the fact that it is the southernmost freshwater catchment in Cyprus, i.e. the last stop of migratory birds migrating from Europe to Africa and the first stop they encounter on their return. Cyprus is a very important place for birds nationally, in Europe and globally. More than 200 species pass through Cyprus during their migration. Due to the rich bird fauna observed, Despotiki Lake is an important station for bird watchers, both from Cyprus and abroad. Specifically, more than 50 species of birds have been recorded to date, one of which is endemic: the Cyprus Scops Owl or Thupi (Otus cyprius), 6 of which nest in Despotiki Lake Nerovouttis – Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Black Francolin or Fragolina (Francolinus francolinus), the Little Owl or Koukkoufkiaos (Athene noctua), Trivitoura – Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais pallida elaeica), Common Wood Pigeon or Fassa (Columba palumbus), Barn Swallow or Stavlohelidono (Hirundo rustica) and the remaining 43 are migratory. Several of them, such as the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) reproduced in Despotiki Lake. Of this total, 10 are protected and are presented in an annex to European Directive 79/409 on the protection of birds. In addition, 156 species of birds have been recorded in the wider area of Despotiki lake, of which 3 are endemic, 17 are nesting permanently and 139 are migratory, of which 32 are protected under the aforementioned European Directive. This rich attraction and conservation of the bird fauna is due to the rich aquatic microfauna of the Despotiki lake, which offers abundant food to the birds.

Δεσποτική Λίμνη: ένας υγροβιότοπος διεθνούς σημασίας για τα πουλιά

Δρ Ανδρέας Χατζηχαμπής, Επιστημονικός Διευθυντής του Κυπριακού Κέντρου Περιβαλλοντικής Έρευνας και Εκπαίδευσης – ΚΥΚΠΕΕ

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Η Δεσποτική Λίμνη, ο σημαντικός αυτός υδροβιότοπος Διεθνούς Σημασίας, βρίσκεται στην Χερσόνησο του Ακρωτηρίου (Κύπρος) και συγκεκριμένα στο Αγρόκτημα του Αγίου Νικολάου, το οποίο ανήκει στην Ιερά Μητρόπολη Λεμεσού, σε απόσταση περίπου 100 μέτρων από το Κυπριακό Κέντρο Περιβαλλοντικής Έρευνας και εκπαίδευσης (ΚΥΚΠΕΕ). Αποτελεί ένα τεχνητό οικοσύστημα, το οποίο δημιουργήθηκε το 1960 για σκοπούς άρδευσης των καλλιεργειών της γύρω περιοχής.

Δεσποτική Λίμνη, ΚΥΚΠΕΕ, Ακρωτήρι, Λεμεσός, Κύπρος
Δεσποτική Λίμνη, ΚΥΚΠΕΕ, Ακρωτήρι, Λεμεσός, Κύπρος

Η Δεσποτική λίμνη έχει έκταση ένα εκτάριο και βάθος περίπου 10 m. Εμπλουτίζεται με γλυκό νερό από το φράγμα του ποταμού Κούρη. Σήμερα συνεχίζει να χρησιμοποιείται ακόμη για αρδευτικούς σκοπούς ακόμη αλλά θεωρείται πλέον ως ένα πολύ σημαντικό οικοσύστημα, το οποίο συμβάλλει στον εμπλουτισμό του υπόγειου υδροφορέα της περιοχής Ακρωτηρίου. Παρά το γεγονός ότι αποτελεί μια τεχνητή λίμνη, η βλάστηση γύρω της μετατρέπεται σταδιακά σε φυσική παρυδάτια βλάστηση. Αποτελεί ένα υψηλής σημαντικότητας και οικολογικής αξίας βιότοπο, το οποίο προσελκύει πολλά είδη μεταναστευτικών αλλά και αρπακτικών πουλιών της περιοχής. Ειδικότερα, εξυπηρετεί τις ανάγκες χιλιάδες μεταναστευτικών πουλιών που καταφθάνουν στο νησί κάθε χρόνο. Αυτό οφείλεται στο γεγονός ότι αποτελεί τη νοτιότερη υδατοσυλλογή γλυκού νερού στην Κύπρο, δηλαδή τον τελευταίο σταθμό των μεταναστευτικών πουλιών που μεταναστεύουν από την Ευρώπη προς την Αφρική και τον πρώτο σταθμό που συναντούν στην επιστροφή τους. Η Κύπρος είναι ένα πολύ σημαντικό μέρος για τα πουλιά σε εθνικό, ευρωπαϊκό και παγκόσμιο επίπεδο. Πάνω από 200 είδη περνούν από την Κύπρο κατά την μετανάστευσή τους. Η πλούσια πτηνοπανίδα που παρατηρείται στην Δεσποτική λίμνη αποτελεί πλούσιο και σημαντικό σταθμό για πτηνοπαρατηρητές, τόσο από την Κύπρο όσο και από το εξωτερικό. Συγκεκριμένα, έχουν καταγραφεί μέχρι σήμερα πάνω από 50 είδη πουλιών, εκ των οποίων το ένα είναι ενδημικό (Θουπί Otus cyprius), τα 6 φωλιάζουν στη λίμνη Νεροβούττης – Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Φραγκολίνα – Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus), Κουκκουφκιάος – The little owl (Athene noctua), Τριβιτούρα – Eastern olivaceous warbler (Hippolais pallida elaeica), Φάσσα – Common Woodpigeon Columba palumbus, σταβλοχελίδονο – Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) και τα υπόλοιπα 43 είναι αποδημητικά. Αρκετά από αυτά, όπως η Μαυροκέφαλη πάπια – Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), η Πρασινοκέφαλη πάπια – Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), η Νερόκοτα – Common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) και ο Καλακανάς – Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), αναπαράγονται στη Δεσποτική Λίμνη. Από το σύνολο αυτό, τα 10 είναι προστατευόμενα και παρουσιάζονται σε παράρτημα της Ευρωπαϊκής Οδηγίας 79/409 για την προστασία της πτηνοπανίδας. Επιπρόσθετα, στην ευρύτερη περιοχή της λίμνης έχουν καταγραφεί 156 είδη πουλιών, εκ των οποίων τα 3 είναι ενδημικά, τα 17 φωλιάζουν μόνιμα και τα 139 είναι αποδημητικά, εκ των οποίων τα 32 είναι προστατευόμενα βάση της προαναφερθείσας Ευρωπαϊκής Οδηγίας. Η πλούσια αυτή προσέλκυση και διατήρηση της πτηνοπανίδας οφείλεται στην πλούσια υδρόβια μικροπανίδα της λίμνης, η οποία προσφέρει άφθονη τροφή στα πουλιά.

Vrijwilligerswerk in de ornithologie

By Caspar Beckers, Junior Researcher, Institute for Science in Society, Radboud University

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Ons onderzoek gaat over historische ‘citizens’ in citizen science binnen de Nederlandse ornithologie. Wie waren deze citizens precies? Hoe raakten ze betrokken bij vogelonderzoek? Wat karakteriseert deze vogelaars? Dit zijn enkele vragen die we trachten te beantwoorden. Door het verleden van vrijwillige vogelaars te begrijpen kunnen we nu en in de toekomst de waardering voor citizen science binnen de ornithologie vergroten en verbreden binnen de samenleving.

Het nachtelijk ringen van spreeuwen nabij Den Haag in 1931. Van onder naar boven: dr. K. Waldeck, dr J.C. Koch (die niet de spreeuw eet maar de ring met zijn tanden dicht maakt) en J.P. Bouma. Foto F.P.J. Kooijmans.
Het nachtelijk ringen van spreeuwen nabij Den Haag in 1931. Van onder naar boven: dr. K. Waldeck, dr J.C. Koch (die niet de spreeuw eet maar de ring met zijn tanden dicht maakt) en J.P. Bouma. Foto F.P.J. Kooijmans.

Hoe begin je een onderzoek naar historische vrijwilligers? De ornitholoog Karel H. Voous bleek het plan te hebben opgevat een boek te schrijven over de geschiedenis van de ornithologie in Nederland. Gaandeweg kwam hij erachter dat de vogelaars zelf ook interessant zijn om over te schrijven. Zo werd zijn boek uiteindelijk een biografisch woordenboek waarin ongeveer 550 professionele en amateur ornithologen zijn beschreven. Het is een perfect begin voor ons onderzoek.

Tot nu toe zien we dat de meeste vrijwilligers mannelijk en hoog opgeleid waren. De meeste hebben een achtergrond in het brede vakgebied van de biologie en sommige hebben van vogelen hun werk weten te maken. Maar niet iedereen had een achtergrond in de biologie. Bijvoorbeeld Willem Kraak, een leraar klassieke talen, gebruikte zijn vogelaarsvaardigheden om aan te tonen dat de vogels waarover Homerus schreef andere soorten zijn dan werd aangenomen.

Aan het begin van de 20e eeuw werd vogelen steeds populairder. In heel Nederland vonden amateur-ornithologen elkaar en richtten vogelwachten en -clubs op. Sommige van deze groepen waren niet meer dan een stel vrienden met dezelfde hobby. Na verloop van tijd kregen de verschillende vogelclubs echter een hogere mate van organisatie; sommige gingen zelfs samenwerken met universiteiten of andere onderzoeksinstellingen. De groep op de foto, de Club van Haagse Trekwaarnemers, was gevraagd om spreeuwen te ringen voor een Zwitserse universiteit. Met veel enthousiasme hebben ze meer dan 4000 spreeuwen in twaalf nachten weten te ringen.

De geschiedenis van citizen science in de ornithologie in Nederland is rijk aan dit soort personen en groepen. De amateur ornithologen waren zeer toegewijde en zorgzame personen met een voorliefde voor de vogel in het vrije veld.

Studying Volunteer Dutch Ornithologists

By Caspar Beckers, Junior Researcher, Institute for Science in Society, Radboud University

Click here to read in Dutch

Our research concerns the historical ‘citizen’ in ornithological citizen science. Who were these people? How did they get involved in ornithology? What are some of the characteristics of these volunteer birdwatchers? Those are some of the questions we want to answer. By understanding the history of amateur birdwatchers we can make citizen science within ornithology even more inclusive and appreciated.

Ringing of common starlings in the middle of the night near the Hague in 1931. From front to back: dr. K. Waldeck, dr. J.C. Koch (not eating the starling but closing the ring with his teeth) and J.P. Bouma. Photo: F.P.J. Kooijmans.
Ringing of common starlings in the middle of the night near the Hague in 1931. From front to back: Dr. K. Waldeck, Dr. J.C. Koch (not eating the starling but closing the ring with his teeth) and J.P. Bouma. Photo: F.P.J. Kooijmans.

So where do you start if you want to study Dutch non-professional ornithologists? Luckily the professional ornithologist Karel H. Voous started to write a book about the history of ornithology in the Netherlands around 1990. However, he quickly shifted his approach and started writing about the ornithologists themselves in the 20th century. It became a biographical dictionary of around 550 ornithologists, both professionals and amateurs. In other words: a perfect starting point for our research!

What we’ve found so far: almost all amateur birdwatchers were male and well educated. Most of them had a career in the broad field of biology, some managed to make ornithology their work. But not all of them had a background in biology. Willem Kraak, for instance, was a teacher of classical languages who used his birdwatching skills to determine that Homer wrote about different birds from those originally assumed.

In the early 20th century, birdwatching became more popular. Amateur ornithologists across the Netherlands found like-minded people near them and set up local birdwatching societies. Some of these were very loosely organised, just a group of friends with the same hobby. Over time these groups became more organised, some even started to cooperate with universities. The group on the photo (Club van Haagse Trekwaarnemers) was asked by a Swiss university if they could ring common starlings. They accepted and began to ring more than 4000 starlings in twelve nights.

The history of citizen science in ornithology in the Netherlands is rich in such individuals and groups. The amateur ornithologists were very committed and caring persons with a profound love for birds in the wild.

Falkejakten, min vei til naturbevissthet

av Ellen Hagen, museumspedagog ved Arkeologisk museum, UiS

For this post in English, click here.

Woman holding falcon.

Jeg har alltid vært opptatt av fugler, og har både høns og ender i hagen. Men det er spesielt en type fugl som har gjort meg tydelig interessert i naturen og bevisst på økosystemet, nemlig rovfuglene. Interessen for rovfugler kom først i voksen alder, det er ikke en fugleart folk flest ser hver dag. Og når du ikke er bevisst på ting, har de dessverre en tendens til å forsvinne ut av hodet.

I mitt tilfelle hadde jeg aldri sett en rovfugl på nært hold før, og kunne da heller ikke skille mellom falk og hauk. Av ren nysgjerrighet, og en dose tilfeldighet, havnet jeg inn i falkejaktens verden. Og da jeg opplevde den første falken fly fra hansken min, fløy noe av sjelen min etter, det føltes i hvert fall slik. Falkejakt er glemt i Norge, og i prosessen ble det stigmatisert, så uten å finne noen her i Norge å lære falkejakt av, reiste jeg ene og alene til utlandet for å finne ut hva det var, og hvorfor folk gjorde det.

Jeg møtte vennlige folk som tok imot meg, mennesker som var opptatt av naturen, av bærekraft, av kulturarv og av jakt. For falkejakt er en jaktmetode, og er erkjent av UNESCO som en immateriell kulturarv. Falkejakt betyr å jakte med en trent rovfugl på byttedyr i sitt naturlige habitat, og de som trener rovfuglen kalles for en falkoner. Falkene jeg trente og jaktet med, endret min livsstil og gav en klarere bevisstgjøring av naturen. Bærekraft er det ordet som skinner rett igjennom, for det er ikke alltid at falkene klarer å fange noe, for om byttet er i god form, slipper det unna. For du kan komme hjem med bare nye opplevelser av å ha tilbrakt en dag i naturen, og det er det som er så viktig, å være der ute.

Mating av en ung falkekylling for hånd (c) Ellen Hagen

Oppi dette ble jeg selvsagt begeistret for alle typer rovfugler, de er ikke bare vakre, men de har en essensiell rolle i økosystemet, de er indikatorer på at naturen fungerer som den skal. Jeg er opptatt av alt det en rovfugl trenger for å overleve. Jeg ble altså interessert i fuglekikking og natursaker på grunn av de trente falker, falkejakten berører mange tverrfaglige områder inkludert naturvern. Da vandrefalken nesten ble utryddet for ca 50 år siden grunnet rovdyrforfølgelsene, brukte et prosjekt i Sverige metoder fra falkejaktsavl som reddet vandrefalksbestanden i Norge. Iveren min for rovfugl førte også til at det ble satt opp hekkekasser for ‘urbane’ vandrefalker i bymiljø og på flyplasser innen regionen. Falker skaper engasjement og glede hos folk, en bevisstgjøring som og kan generere til at folk byr seg om naturen disse dyrene bor i. I falkejaktmiljøet pratet jeg med Professor Tom Cade (1928-2019), ornitolog og falkoner, som var svært støttende da han hørte at det fantes noen med falkejaktkunnskaper i Norge, og i 2019 ble Norsk Falkejakt Forbund opprettet. For om man er interessert i rovfugler, så lærer man om økosystemet, og det er for meg, første steg mot å bry seg om naturen og rovfuglene som er avhengig av den.

Ble du og nysgjerrig? Sjekk www.norskfalkejaktforbund.no, eller ta kontakt med ellen.hagen@uis.no, museumspedagog ved Arkeologisk museum, UiS.

Falconry, my gateway to environmental awareness

by Ellen Hagen, museum educator at the Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger

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I have always been fascinated by birds and have both chickens and ducks in the garden. But, there is one type of bird in particular that has made me more interested in nature and aware of the ecosystem: birds of prey. I first became interested in birds of prey as an adult. They are not the type of birds people see every day. When you are not aware of certain things, then they, unfortunately, tend to escape your mind.

In my case, I had never seen a bird of prey up close, and I could not even distinguish a hawk from a falcon. Out of pure curiosity, and a bit of randomness, I ended up in the world of falconry. When I experienced the first falcon fly off my glove, a part of my soul followed, or that is what it felt like. Falconry is forgotten in Norway, and has been stigmatised in the process. Without anyone to learn falconry from in Norway, I travelled abroad for the sole purpose of figuring out what it was and why people pursued it. I was met by welcoming people, people that were environmentally aware; aware of nature, of sustainability, of heritage and of hunting. Because falconry is a hunting method, and is even recognised by UNESCO as an intangible heritage. Falconry means hunting with a trained raptor for its prey in its natural habitat. The person who trains the raptor is called a falconer. The falcons I trained and hunted with changed my way of life and made me deeply aware of nature. The word sustainability echoes throughout falconry; we do not always catch prey, because it may be so fit that it gets away. You can come home with nothing but your experiences from having a day in nature, and just being out there is the most important thing.

Feeding a young falcon chick by hand. (c) Ellen Hagen

I am of course excited about all kinds of raptors. They are not just beautiful, but they have such an essential role in the ecosystem: they are indicators of a healthy environment. I am concerned about everything birds of prey need to survive, and I got interested in birding and nature conservation because of the trained falcons. Falconry touches upon many interdisciplinary areas, including conservation. When the peregrine falcon almost became extinct about fifty years ago, because of persecution of predators, a project in Sweden used methods developed though falconry to save the peregrine population in Norway. Through my enthusiasm for raptors, nesting boxes for peregrine falcons have been set up for urban peregrines in city environments and at the regional airport. Falcons engage people. Their presence creates happiness, an awareness of nature, and might even go as far as to make people care about their natural environment. In the falconry community I spoke to Professor Tom Cade (1928-2019), ornithologist and falconer, who was so supportive when he heard about the existence of a person with proper falconry knowledge in Norway, and in 2019, the Norwegian Falconry Association was created. If you are interested in birds of prey, then you learn about their ecosystem, and for me, that is the first step in caring for nature and the raptors that depend on it.

Did this spark your curiosity? Check out www.norskfalkejaktforbund.no, or contact me at ellen.hagen@uis.no, museum educator at Museum of Archaeology, UiS.

Connecting with and through birds

On April 2, we officially launched the EnviroCitizen project, bringing together researchers from seven European countries. We were supposed to all be in Stavanger, in the university board room overlooking campus. Instead, most of us were sitting at home, looking at each other on a computer screen. Like so many other events in the wake of Covid-19, we met virtually through a Zoom meeting.

Over the next 42 months, we will study how engagement in birding-related citizen science projects can make the participants into better environmental citizens. Supported by the European Horizon 2020 funding scheme, we bring together scholars from history, literature, anthropology, STS, education, biology, and ecology in order to gain a deeper understanding of the formation of environmental values and action.

Photo of online meeting
Launching the EnviroCitizen project online

These are certainly interesting times to be launching a citizen science project of this type, where both we and the people we study and work with face new challenges. We all have to seek new forms of togetherness and find new ways to strengthen connections and communities at a distance, often through digital media. We don’t know how soon the situation will return to “normal”, assuming it ever does. These are times that cry out for engagement and citizenship.

A picture containing outdoor, street, light, small

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The Jørgensen bird feeder, April 2020.

As people are sheltering in their homes, nature experiences become even more valuable sources of such engagement. We see reports from across the world how backyard birding is becoming ever more popular. Confined to our homes, we observe the nature we can find right outside. Feeders attract birds to our backyards where we can watch them. The possibility for home birding to build and strengthen environmental citizenship has never been more relevant.

Over the next few months, we will be presenting the research teams and share our plans and initial research. Follow our research here on this website, on Facebook, or on Twitter over the next years to get regular updates on our research.

Finn Arne Jørgensen
EnviroCitizen Project Coordinator
Professor of Environmental History, University of Stavanger