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Successful Saker Conservation LIFE Conference

The final conference of the Saker conservation LIFE project was held in Eger, Hungary 16-18 September. More than 60 participants from 10 countries attended the conference, where they could learn about the Saker conservation activities in the European range of the species including the results of the LIFE projects lead by Bükk National Park Directorate and expert-wisely co-ordinated by MME/BirdLife in Hungary and RPS in Slovakia.

The programme of the conference, and the abstracts of the presentations and posters are available here.

A layman’s report has been done in the frame of the LIFE programme for those, who are not experts in the topic. The layman’s report can be read here.

Report on Sakers' Wintering Sites in Niger

Late October 2009 the satellite-tracked Saker Dorottya from Hungary arrived in Niger. She spent most of the following four months 50-25 km NNE of Zinder (roughly 14.00 N 9.00 E). The areas where she stayed are mostly quite flat coversands. Local rainfall averages 300-400 mm/yr. The main crop is the grain crop millet, grown by Haussa farmers. The other main land use is pastoralism, carried out primarily by Peul families.

From 7-16 February field work was carried out to investigate her behaviour and ecology in that area. She was observed twice. One regurgitation pellet and one plucking remains were found. Twenty km of power line were walked, and 25 prey-and-vegetation transects of about 2 km each.

The pellet contained remains of a beetle or beetles and of birds. No mammal hairs were found. The plucking remains may have been of a chicken. The local vegetation structure proved to be very open, with less than 20 trees/ha. The area were Dorottya stayed the first two months, around Dania, still contained some more or less natural habitat. Where she stayed the second two months, around Toumnia, all had been converted to millet fields A third area, 70 km further south-west, were she stayed only one night, had more trees (70 trees/ha) but was also mostly millet fields Local bird biomass observed varied from 1 to 2.5 kg per km of transect. Grasshopper presence and reptile presence were low, mammal hole presence was not very high either. Comparison with habitats and prey availability in areas in Europe would be of interest.

The main danger to Saker appears to come from boys with slingshots and from local hunters. On the other hand birds like the Saker are seen as bringing good luck, and as useful in controlling birds and rodents that may attach millet crops. These aspects may be entry points for a conservation campaign for Saker and other raptors.

Saker Conservation - To Be Continued

EU's LIFE Committee has approved our new Saker conservation project for support. The aims of the project are to transfer knowledge from the recent LIFE programme to Romanian and Bulgarian colleagues on one hand, and on the other hand to continue insulation of the most dangerous places in Hungary and - involving one electric company as a partner (Západoslovenská energetika, a.s.) - in Slovakia. In the frame of the project, effects of wind farms and diet composition will also be assessed.

14 organisations of 4 countries will participate in the project co-ordinated by Bükk National Park Directorate.

Project partners: In Bulgaria: BirdLife Bulgaria In Hungary: Kiskunság NPD, Körös-Maros NPD, MME/BirdLife Hungary, Pro Vértes Public Fund, Zöld Folyosó Public Fund, ÉMÁSZ, DÉMÁSZ, MAVIR In Romana: MILVUS, BirdLife Romania In Slovákiában: RPS, ZSE, a.s.

Duration of the project: 01.10.2010 - 30.09.2014.

Approved total budget: € 4 032 828 - of which 74,55% will be covered by the EU