The Ortolan Bunting Will Finally Be Off the Menu in France!

 “We have won our battle against Ortolan Bunting trapping and the phenomenon is basically wiped out from Les Landes.”

 THE MESSENGER took audiences into the fields of Les Landes, in south-west West France, to witness the illegal hunting of Ortolan Bunting, a practise that was decimating local populations.  Now, the Ortolan Bunting will finally be off the menu in France!  No other European songbird has declined as rapidly in recent years, with an overall decline of 84% since 1980 due to poaching and intensive agriculture – this, despite hunting of the species being forbidden by French law since 1999 when it became a protected species.   Because the Ortolan dish is considered a cultural tradition, authorities had often turned a blind eye to the activities of poachers.

 

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For the past 10 years, LPO (League for the Protection of the Oiseaux) the BirdLife International partner in France has been fighting this illegal practice on the ground, and also in the air, where alongside CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter), they have been identifying trapping sites and releasing the birds, before alerting the authorities. Until recently, these interventions were the only way to identify and prosecute the poachers, who operated with the blessing of local elected officials and hunting officials, and who claimed that the state “tolerated” these practices. Indeed the authorities wouldn’t file charges for installations of 30 traps or less. More on the practise and new developments in this article from Bird Life International.  

The French Ministry of the Environment requested  guidelines to study the Ortolans on a continental scale. 

Frédéric Jiguet from Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, (featured in The Messenger) partnered with other scientists from more than 12 countries across EU to conduct the study.  He also worked in partnership with ONCFS (French Hunting & Wildlife National Office).  

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Frédéric Jiguet and his colleagues research work helped convince French Ecology Minister, Nicolas Hulot, to call for a definitive end to the hunting.  This was followed up in the field with a high pressure from the police this past fall, so there are now very few poachers.

The main conclusions are that the numbers migrating by south-west France are estimated on average   only 81,000 pairs (300,000 individuals including juveniles), with a recent decline estimated between -20% and -30%, while the overall trend of birds using the western flyway, or the eastern flyway, is a decline of lower amplitude estimated between -10% and -20%. The birds flying by south-west come mainly from Poland (probably 75%), the others coming mainly from Germany and Sweden, and also from Norway (where there are only astonishingly only 10 breeding pairs left) – so almost only from EU countries.   The first pages of the report are a summary of overall results, then detailed parts on each techniques.  (genetics, isotopes, geolocators). (see links below) 

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Andrea Rutigilano, an on-the ground warrior for CABS also featured in the film says, “We have won our battle against Ortolan Bunting trapping and the phenomenon is basically wiped out from Les Landes.”

Frédéric JIGUET sent us the links to this comprehensive research study about the Ortolan Bunting.

You can download the full Ortolan Bunting report in English at this link.    

The report is also available in French here

Two amazing books: ” Birds Art Life ” by Kyo Maclear and “The Evening Chorus” by Helen Humphreys

 

 

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“In  Birds Art Life, writer Kyo Maclear embarks on a yearlong, big city adventure chasing after birds, and along the way offers a luminous meditation on the nature of creativity and the quest for a good and meaningful life.”

I recently finished Kyo’s Mclear’s memoir Birds Art Life and I was sad to put it down. It felt as if I was just getting to know someone – someone who shared my passions and the questions I have about the world around me. It was a conversation that I didn’t want to end!

 

“Birds Arts Life” is an astute memoir of connection and discovery, a distilled crystal-like celebration of the small and significant, the imperfect and the struggling, and the liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open.”

Through four seasons, and guided by a new companion, Kyo discovers the world of birds. These are the birds that pass through our cities and our yards. The birds that float on our lakes and rivers, both the remarkable and the unremarkable. Her words are a refreshing break from the sensational and newsworthy events that seem to shout at us every day.  She reflects on small things that create meaning in our lives – a choice is both bold and honest.

 

 

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“Helen Humphreys ‘The Evening Chorus’ is brilliant evocation of an unforgettable time and place and a natural history of both the war and the human heart.”

The Evening Chorus is a work of fiction that interweaves three compelling stories: James Hunter, who spends the second world war in a POW camp. His young wife Rose who, in James absence falls in love with another man, and James sister Enid who forms a friendship with Rose that alters the course of all of their lives.  Notably, for those interested in birds the character James Hunter is inspired by the real life birdwatcher John Buxton. Buxton, while held captive as a prisoner of war in WWII, studied a family of redstarts and wrote a book about his observations. Today this book is still regarded by many as one of the most comprehensive single-species studies ever undertaken.

The writing throughout The Evening Chorus is beautiful. Rooted in the rhythms and imagery of nature and featuring chapter headings named after various flora and fauna, this novel is moving, meaningful and a pleasure to read.

You can pick up Birds Art Life or The Evening Chorus at your local bookstore or through any of the major on-line retailers. I really loved reading these books and highly recommend them. ENJOY!

 

THE MESSENGER AT FESTIVAL DU FILM VERTE, FRANCE

It is the start of bird migration season, so we are watching the skies with anticipation and hope that our migrating feathered friends make it to their breeding grounds once again. This Sunday  THE MESSENGER,  our award-winning environmental documentary directed by Su Rynard is screening at Festival du Film Vert à Ferney-Voltaire in Voltaire, France. Sally Blake and the Films à Cinq team (our French co-production partners) are wonderful to work with!  Thanks to ARTE France and all our other partners for making this film possible. French subtitled Trailer included in this post.  French synopsis for the film below.    We can all make a difference to help songbirds.  Please spread the word about our film’s message. If you want to see the film or book it for a screening please check out the options and get in touch with us.  Screening and contact options here. 

The Messenger est une enquête innovante qui expose les raisons de la disparition massive des passereaux, et qui suit au plus près les ornithologues et écologistes dans leur mobilisation. Le film embarque les spectateurs pour un magnifique voyage à travers le monde, révélant comment les problèmes que rencontrent les oiseaux entrainent des conséquences accablantes pour notre planète, et pour nous-mêmes.

Take Action information to help songbirds  here. 

 

The 6th edition of DREFF – Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival, Santo Domingo

Can’t say enough good things about Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF).

This was a very different kind of film festival.

DREFF is an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and the Global Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) Foundation. Their goal is to promote environmental films and raise the level of public awareness.

 

publico-4They do this by connecting the film a dedicated audience. The Messenger was paired with several high school groups and screened at different locations in Santo Domingo. Teachers had prepared the students for the screening (including assignments) so they were very attentive!  Filmmakers accompanied their films into the classroom, engaging in lively Q&A’s. It’s great to see environmental films reaching these younger audiences and to see these audiences connecting with the material.

The screenings were rewarding, as was the company. All filmmakers stayed in the same hotel, and spent many wonderful evenings talking — exchanging ideas, perspectives and stories from around the globe. Our screening days took us in very different directions, as many filmmakers travelled all over the Island to present their works to a variety of cities, towns and communities. Programming included films from Chile, the Yukon, South Africa, the UK, the USA and more.

 

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Personal Highlights included a walk through the botanical garden accompanied by a local bird guide who pointed out many resident species that I had previously never seen or heard.

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On the last day of the festival we participated in a beach clean-up. Hundreds of people were present, combing through layers of debris, most of which were discarded plastics. The site of all this garbage along the beach was sobering.  Shocking as it seems, recycling programs are rare in Caribbean countries and there is so much waste! (What ever happened to glass bottles and deposits?) And bottled water is such an environmental tragedy on every level).

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While the beach clean-up left us with the feeling that so much work needs to be done, the festival was a shining example of what can be done, and what is being done with positive and tangible impacts.

Festival Highlights – American Conservation Film Festival

A weekend at American Conservation Film Festival 

The American Conservation Film Festival was created by a group of volunteers who shared both a devotion to film arts and a commitment to conservation.  Three years ago ACFF screened a short film “Silent Skies” which was in essence, a three minute pre-cursor to The Messenger.  I didn’t make it there at that time, so I was delighted to receive the invite present The Messenger at this years fest and present a key-note talk at the filmmakers workshop.

After landing at Dulles Airport I picked up a rental car and headed down a winding road, through the picturesque fall countryside towards Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Much to my chagrin, the road was at first, flanked with Trump for President signs. I found myself clutching the wheel cursing and working up a sweat, wondering if there was anything I could do to break the spell this putrescent demi-god of late capitalism has cast over many US citizens. Driving through this short stretch of road felt like a trip through purgatory, so when I arrived at the National Conservation Training Center, it sure felt like heaven.

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Potomac River

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I was invited to the festival as a key-note speaker in The Filmmakers Workshop. The festival set out an ambitious agenda for workshop participants with great panelists. Topics ranged from impact film making to pitching to an expo of the latest camera gear.

Highlights of my trip included a peak into the archive with Mark Madison, the U.S. FWS Historian at NCTC. Here they have many treasures – personal highlights include Rachel Carson’s typewriter, her magnifying glass, along with Victorian style bird dioramas.

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The Messenger screened Sunday evening to a full house. I was accompanied at the Q+A by Bridget Tinsley , an ecologist with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, who are doing some great work with Chimney Swifts and Grassland birds.

The American Conservation Film Festival Continues Oct 29th and 30thAnother full weekend of not to be missed films! I urge anyone in the area to attend.

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