Wild Birds Know No Frontiers
Every day the world grows smaller. Birds are constantly crossing man-made barriers as well as the natural ones they have had to contend with for centuries. Whether from the Arctic, Scandinavia, Britain or Central Europe, their paths inevitably take them through France on their way to winter quarters in the Mediterranean and beyond.
Ospreys from Scotland, Black-tailed Godwits and Spoonbills from Holland, Cranes and Honey Buzzards from Scandinavia, Brent Geese from Russia, as well as the hordes of Willow Warblers, Swallows, Cuckoos, Tree Pipits and all the other familiar woodland and farmland birds of northern Europe – all need safe havens here if they are to survive from one season to the next.
And it is not just the migrants. France is one of the largest countries of western Europe. Its landscapes range from the high mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees, through the wooded hills of the Massif Central, the plains and lakes of Champagne, to the marshes and estuaries of the Vendée and the Camargue. Habitats like these are the very heartland of the breeding bird populations of western Europe.
Everyone knows of the Camargue – for many older birdwatchers it was their first venture into the wider world of European birding. Others have visited the lakes of La Brenne and the mountains of the Pyrenees. More recently the Cranes and White-tailed Eagles of the north-eastern lakes have attracted much attention. But much of the rest of the country still seems to be unknown territory as far as many birdwatchers are concerned.
And yet, there are some wonderful birds and places waiting to be discovered Bluethroats in the west coast marshes, White Storks breeding as close as Normandy, Collared Flycatchers in Lorraine, Griffon Vultures in the Cevennes, hordes of raptors crossing the Pyrenees more than are seen at the Bosphorus. And this in spite of the fact that France is the most popular foreign destination with British holidaymakers, and that French is the most widely taught second language in British schools. Not to mention the myriads of British citizens who own holiday homes in France, or who have retired there. If you want to know more about the birds of France, to find out the best places to go to see them, and to help protect them and the places in which they live, join the LPO today, or subscribe to one of its publications – L'Oiseau Magazine and Ornithos.
Investing for the Future
The LPO works for the protection of birds and the places on which they depend for nesting, wintering and during their migration.
- In 1912, it created its first bird reserve, 'les Sept-Iles', off the north Brittany coast, to protect the seabirds breeding there, particularly the important colony of Puffins – and hence its adoption of the species for its logo.
- Since then the LPO has purchased several more key nature reserves and visitor centres, as well as being involved in the management of many others – places such as the Basses Vallées Angevines, the Ile de Ré, the marshes of the Vendée and Poitou-Charentes, the Lac du Der-Chantecoq in the Champagne region, etc.
- It is active in the care of injured birds, with centres for victims of oiling at l'Ile Grande in Brittany and for raptors and other birds in the Auvergne.
- By setting up the system of 'Refuges LPO', private individuals and local authorities can declare spaces such as private gardens, school grounds and town parks as nature reserves, where wildlife is protected and the habitat enhanced. Currently over 8000 refuges cover 21,000 ha, and the network is expanding fast.
- There is a continuing programme of protection for individual species Montagu's Harriers in cereal crops, terns nesting along the rivers Allier and Loire, Peregrines in the Massif Central, Corncrakes in Anjou, White Storks using artifical nesting platforms more and more widely, Lesser Kestrels on the Crau and elsewhere in the south of France, etc.
- A series of Annual Campaigns have raised awareness and funds for specific projects. Among some more recent ones have been those to conserve fragile populations such as those of Little Bustards, Lesser Kestrels and Bitterns, and to raise awareness of threats to still common birds like Swallows and House Martins.
- The LPO also masterminded the petition which raised over two million signatures (over a million in France itself) in favour of restricting the hunting season in France, still one of the longest in Europe. It continues to pressurise the authorities to bring French hunting legislation and seasons into line with the spirit of the European Birds Directive, and to ensure that the law is effectively enforced.
- Since 1980 based in the historic Corderie Royale in Rochefort (and since 2009 in the nearby and equally historic Fonderies Royales), the LPO has a network of active local branches throughout France to spread the word as widely as possible, and now includes the FIR (Fonds d'intervention pour les rapaces) now renamed 'Mission Rapaces – for which birds of prey are the special focus of attention.
- It is the French partner for BirdLife International, and is coordinator of the Important Bird Areas programme.
The LPO in Action
The LPO, with the help of its members (ca 44,000) and supporters,
- buys land to protect habitats in key areas
- improves the habitats where birds live, by planting trees, creating ponds, working with industry to reduce the hazards from high-power cables, etc.
- advises farmers on land-management and protection of nest sites
- is active in the reintroduction schemes for former breeding species such as Griffon and Black Vultures
- researches the best ways of caring for injured birds and rehabilitating them to the wild
- educates and raises awareness in the public, especially children, of the importance of birds and the environment
- encourages people to declare their gardens as 'Refuges LPO' – over 10,000 of these now exist
- cooperates with other conservation organisations, particularly via BirdLife International
- publishes the magazines L'Oiseau Magazine and Ornithos, plus booklets, leaflets, posters, etc. for information
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