The protection of the roosting sites is considered as one of the most sensitive aspects for the conservation of the lesser kestrel. The indiscriminate cut of trees utilised as roosts or the lack of care in preserving the roosting sites are among the main causes of mortality of lesser kestrel specimen during their long migratory path.
The roosting sites’ choice by the lesser kestrel is never fortuitous. These sites/trees are chosen because of their specific microclimate linked to the location which make the colony feel protected. The mere disturb of these places generate displacement and confusion in the colony, so that once a single tree is cut for preventing the specimen to roost, it is possible to observe many specimen flying all around in the city centre or roaming about the country side without possibility of resting.
This is the reason way the EU Action Plan states that “Presence of single trees or wires (for roosting, resting, etc.) near the colonies seems favourable, especially in the post-fledging and pre-migratory period (De Frutos et al., 2009; Franco et al., 2005). Post-breeding communal roosts of adult and juvenile individuals are important element of their breeding cycle, in late July to late September (pre migration). Roosts are big stop over sites, concentrating large parts of the breeding population. Favourable conditions for roosting and hunting are necessary to allow the species to prepare for migration. The species is quite conservative and uses the same trees over many years. Known roost sites should be protected”, EU Action Plan, p. 8.
The action’s effectiveness – which follows specific normative obligations contained into the Regional Regulation 24/2005 – should be rewarded at the following different levels i) the sensitisation of the roosting sites owners through door to door meetings followed by collective public events will improve the status of protection of the species preventing the cut of well-individuated and known roosting sites (NOTICE BOARDS), ii) the localisation of these sites obtained through mapping and GPS utilisation will be followed by the placing of layman notice boards showing LIFE+ and Natura 2000 Network logo and the sentence “with the financial support of the EC” and explaining the species’ features and the importance of the site for its conservation. This specific marking will provide these places with a special status on the territory, clearly identifiable, iii) periodic and dedicated cleaning service will serve for eliminating one of the main causes of complains by the roosting sites owners and by the population contributing to make more acceptable the presence of such a huge colony, iv) the placement of panels or tarpaulins under the tree’s foliage prevent the guano spreading all around the roosting tree and facilitate the periodic and dedicated cleaning service.
The above mentioned actions are conceived as a whole for positively influencing the attitude of the population towards the lesser kestrel. While sub-action i) and ii) act on the cultural aspects, iii) and iv) support the first two from the material point of view, limiting the possible troubles for the population deriving from the presence of so many specimen in a very restricted space. Other details related to the effectiveness of this action and to the way of measuring its success are here below provided.
i) AWARENESS RAISING ACTIVITIES
a) Inception questionnaires, participated workshops, and soft communication tools to be distributed among the stakeholders will contribute in raising the roosting sites’ owners awareness, b) The positive attitude of the population towards the lesser kestrel should also contribute to prevent cuts of the roosting sites, c) Public stigma of behaviours against the animals should be also rewarded as a way of changing the opinions of the population, specifically the roosting sites owners which have a so big responsibility.
ii) ROOSTING SITES’ LOCATION, MAPPING & IDENTIFICATION
The great majority of the roosting sites are located in the two historical centres of Gravina and Altamura, within the SPA “Alta Murgia”. Just few of them 3 or 4 are placed just on the boundaries of the SPA. The project will take into consideration just the roosting sites located within the SPA for actions C4 and D4. Actually there are no maps available for showing the evidence of this statement. A map of this kind should be elaborated through GPS, during the project activities C4 and D4.
For providing a greater effectiveness to the regulation issued by the Apulia Region in 2005 (n° 24 of September the 24th, 2005) concerning “Conservation measures related to priority wild birds’ species of Community Importance nesting in constructed centres located in SICs or SPAs” which among the others do not allow the cutting of roosting sites for the Falco Naumanni, it is proposed the creation of a data base where the roosting sites and the hosted population are enlisted and periodically monitored. The roosting trees mapping provided to the two partner municipalities in 2010 following a wide monitoring activity which interested nine municipalities in the area (Altamura, Gravina in Puglia, Cassano Murge, Minervino Murge, Santeramo in Colle, Acquaviva delle Fonti, Gioia del Colle, Matera, Montescaglioso) will be the starting point of this action.
iii) PERIODIC CLEANING SERVICE
The roosting sites’ periodic cleaning service relies on the existing municipal cleaning service. The tender contract for the management of the public hygiene in the partner municipalities will be integrated with targeted exits, aimed at taking care of the roosting sites. This service will be active each project year from April to September when the lesser kestrel nests and breeds in the project area. For the trees where it was placed a panel or a tarpaulin, the cleaning will consist in removing, emptying in special container , cleaning and placing back the panel/tarpaulin under the tree’s foliage.
iv) PROTECTIVE TARP FOR LIMITING GUANO SPREADING (please refer to the here below scheme)
Protective tarpaulins, flexible, handy and easily washable will be purposely designed at the aim of preventing the guano spreading in the surrounding. The indication of tarps can be considered valid concerning the trees, while in other cases such as for roosting sites present in schools or other public places, other solutions will be purposely projected. The principle remains the same: to prevent guano from spreading under the tree/roosting site preserving the hygienic conditions of the place and reducing the potential aversion of the population towards the presence of the lesser kestrel. In considering all these conservation actions, it should be kept in mind that the population of the targeted species should increase following the project actions, so that the mood of the citizenship must be kept under control strengthening all the awareness raising actions as well as the material interventions for limiting the impact of this increase on the territory.
The protective tarpaulins will be tailor-made, adapted to the tree/site dimensions and location. The tarpaulins’ shape is radial with a diameter not smaller than 4 meters on average, to be adapted and verified on a case by case basis, according to the roosting site’s shape and location. The tarpaulins are placed 3, 4 meters high according to the tree dimension and equipped with an external rigid ring for keeping the tarp stretched (see A in attached scheme) and with long ropes for securing the external ring to the tarp (see C) and shorter ones for sealing the tarp’s internal ring to the trunk.
This simple trick would not affect the behaviour of the species, if we consider that under the trees where the lesser kestrel roosts develops the noisy life of the town with market, cars, people walking and talking each other without any prejudice for the normal life cycle of these birds. The same applies to other birds’ species.