Edition 1480
23 June 2018
Edition: 1480

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Urban development and climate change unsettling storks

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in Algarve · 01-03-2018 13:04:00 · 0 Comments

The development of two abandoned buildings in the Algarve cities of Lagos and Silves is raising eyebrows among bird-lovers, who are querying what has happened to the storks’ nests that once sat atop them.

Urban development and climate change unsettling storks

An old hotel in Lagos and an abandoned cork factory in Silves that once housed the city’s fire station, both of which had storks’ nests on them for many years, have been torn down in recent months.
This is driving the storks to less conventional high-points like nearby stadium floodlights, residential buildings and atop construction machinery.
Storks and their nests are protected in Portugal, under decree law 140/99 of 24 April, and the disturbance, removal or destruction of nests outside authorised periods can be penalised.
Permission to move nests must be requested to the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF), which is responsible for stipulating if, how and when the nests can be moved.
In a statement sent to The Portugal News, the ICNF explained that unless the nests pose “extreme danger to public safety”, they cannot be moved during breeding season.
The law recommends approval to move a nest is only granted between 1 September and 31 December.
In Silves, storks can be seen circling and chattering in large numbers above the building site, coming in to perch on what is left of the edifice when construction machinery stops.
A Silves local commented: “It’s sad. They don’t know what’s happened to their nests or where to go.”
The building in question is reportedly being renovated to accommodate a supermarket.
The ICNF told The Portugal News that the Silves project “was given authorisation for the removal of six storks’ nests”, and that a period was stipulated for carrying out the operation, “outside breeding season.”
A spokesperson for the supermarket chain in question told The Portugal News that when it took over the building, “there were no stork nests housed on it.”
It said “the removal of the nests was the responsibility of the previous owner in coordination with the ICNF.”
A similar situation is unfolding in the nearby Algarve city of Lagos, where an old hotel has been razed that also housed storks’ nests.
Concerned Lagos resident Paul told The Portugal News that “these storks nested on the abandoned hotel roof for about 15 years or more, but recent work to demolish the hotel has left them homeless. They still frequent what is left of the building.”
He added that the owners of apartments in the immediate vicinity have seen “an influx of displaced storks building on their roofs”, suggesting that builders could “erect purpose-built pylons along the river banks to attract the storks.”
In recent years, much new development, especially in the Algarve, has taken place around existing storks’ nests, which in many cases were preserved, along with old red brick chimneys on which they sat, and incorporated into projects as focal points.
According to the Portuguese Birdwatching Society, the SPEA, while some storks now inhabit their nests year-round, particularly in the south of the country, many return after migrating for winter and are “disoriented” when they arrive and find the nests gone.
Speaking to The Portugal News, a SPEA spokesperson explained storks usually pair for life and return to and rebuild the same nest every year for the reproductive period, which is roughly from February to July or August.
However, the spokesperson explained that climate change could be causing the storks to return to Portugal from as early as December, while others remain in Portugal year-round.
Concerns have also been raised that the increasingly inclement weather is taking its toll on the nests. There have been suggestions that the unseasonably blustery and cold weather experienced in recent years is obliterating nests and affecting breeding, namely in terms of chick survival. 

However, a 2014 survey found that the number of storks’ nests in Portugal had risen by around 50 percent over a decade.
A national census carried out on the species between March and June 2014, documented 11,694 storks’ nests, whereas ten years earlier there were around 4,000 fewer.
Experts attributed the rise in nests to two distinct environmental problems: excess waste and a crayfish plague. 
Throughout Europe, the stork is a Category SPEC 2-classified species (Species of European Conservation Concern), since European populations have an unfavourable conservation status and the world’s population is concentrated in Europe.
The ICNF describes the white stork as being “strongly-rooted in Portuguese culture”, and “a characteristic element of the landscape in many regions of the country, and a species normally admired and respected by the vast majority of the population.”
It corroborated that in recent years there has been a “marked increase in the number of storks” remaining in Portugal “throughout the year.”

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Edition 1480
23 June 2018
Edition: 1480

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter

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