The World Owl Conference 2017 took place from the 26th to the 30th September 2017 in the UNESCO World Heritage City Évora in Portugal. Conference venue was the University of Évora, the Colégio do Espírito Santo. In the past the World Owl Conference took place in Manitoba in Canada in 1987 and 1997, in Canberra in Australia in 2000 and in Groningen in the Netherlands in 2007.
Also the Dürrenstein Wilderness Area was represented at the World Owl Conference 2017 in Évora with presentations about the owl projects carried out there: at the main conference the owl monitoring project (Thomas Hochebner, Ingrid Kohl) and the Ural Owl reintroduction project (Ingrid Kohl) were presented on the 29th of September 2017; at a workshop on the 26th of September 2017 the telemetry techniques of the Ural Owl project (Ingrid Kohl) could be presented.
Contribution of the Wilderness Area at the Conference
Therefore the Wilderness Area was represented at the WOC 2017 in Évora with three oral presentations. In a fourth presentation the about the whole reintroduction project of the Ural Owl in Austria (Richard Zink) the Wilderness Area was topic as one of the two release areas next to the Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve. In the telemetry workshop the mounting systems as well as the telemetry technologies that were and are used in the Ural Owl reintroduction project in the Wilderness Area since 2009 were presented (Ingrid Kohl). At the main conference the Ural Owl project in the Wilderness Area with the most important results from 2009 to 2017 were presented (Ingrid Kohl). In the presentation about the owl monitoring project in the Wilderness Area that is carried out since 2015 (Thomas Hochebner, Ingrid Kohl), results of the first three of five project years were presented. Dependent on beech mast cycles and rodent cycles, Tengmalm’s Owls, Pygmy Owls, Tawny Owls and Ural Owls could be recorded in different abundance during the first three project years of the owl monitoring. In summer 2017 young Long-eared Owls were recorded for the first time in the Wilderness Area. With more than 1,400 m a.s.l. it is one of the highest Long-eared Owl broods in Austria.
Thereby the Ural Owl project in Austria respectively in the Wilderness Area carried out since 2008 and the owl monitoring project carried out in the Wilderness Area since 2015, were two of very few projects from the German-speaking area presented at the WOC 2017.
The Dürrenstein Wilderness Area with the Primeval Forest Rothwald is an IUCN Protected Area of the categories Ia (Strict Nature Reserve) and Ib (Wilderness Area) as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the primeval forest of 400 ha within Central Europe and its strict protection status at an area of currently 3,500 ha the Wilderness Area has a special importance as a reserve for many rare species and therefore as a gene pool, as a special habitat for all organism groups, and with its mighty trees it offers breeding possibilities for all tree hole breeders including owls. Consequently the Wilderness Area with its habitat as a unique protected area within Central Europe, was predestined to present its owl fauna at the World Owl Conference 2017. Primeval forests, wilderness areas respectively old-growth forests not only offer a high number of breeding possibilities for owls, also the coexistence of different owl species is easier in such a habitat due to the abundance of tree holes, hides and prey.
The World Owl Conference 2017
121 participants of 30 nations around the world attended the conference. The conference program offered two workshops, a round table, a symposium, four keynote presentations, 63 oral presentations, 23 poster presentations, a wine tasting, a Fado concert as well as two post-conference excursions on the 1st of October 2017. The two workshops on the first day of the conference dealt with topics like education as well as telemetry, nestcams and data analysis; the symposium dealt with topics around power lines, wind parks and road kill; the round table dealt with Barn Owls and transboundary research.
The four following days of presentations were carried out without parallel sessions so that it was possible to hear every presentation. The conference was represented by researchers from Australia, Japan, China, Nepal, India, South Africa, Egypt, Hawaii, Canada, USA, México, Finland, Norway, Greece, Ukraine, Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Portugal as host country. Research projects, education projects, monitoring projects as well as conservation projects from many parts of the world could be presented.
Pertti Saurola from Finland, David H. Johnson from the USA, Al Vrezec from Slowenia and Erkki Korpimäki from Finland honored the conference participants with keynote presentations. Thematic blocks of presentations throughout the conference covered breeding biology and behavior, conservation, culture, methods, evolution, taxonomy and phylogeny, monitoring, migration und dispersal, movement behavior and habitat as well as ecology. Covered were owl species like Barn Owl, Western Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, Great Gray Owl, Ural Owl, Tawny Owl, Tengmalm’s Owl, Pygmy Owl, Eagle Owl, Scops Owl, Little Owl, Desert Owl, Lanyu Scops Owl, Mottled Wood Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Pere David’s Owl, Pueo or Hawaiian Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Barking Owl. While at the World Owl Conference 2007, 206 owl species were described worldwide, 2017 already 247 owl species were described worldwide.
The conference was officially opened in an opening session by the Rector of the University of Évora Ana Costa Freitas, the President of the Municipality of Évora Carlos Pinto de Sá, the President of CCDR Alentejo Roberto Pereira Grilo, the Director of ICNF Alentejo Department of Nature Conservation and Forests Pedro Rocha and the Head of LabOr/ICAAM João E. Rabaça.
The Scientific Committee were David H. Johnson (Global Owl Project), James Duncan, Dries Van Nieuwenhuyse, Ricardo Tomé, Rui Lourenço and Inês Roque. The local organization team were Inês Roque, Carlos Godinho, Rui Lourenço, Ana Marques and João E. Rabaça. The international network were Hein Bloem, Roy Leigh, Karla Bloem, James Duncan, Dries Van Nieuwenhuyse, David H. Johnson and Aki Higuchi. The volunteer team were André Oliveira, Cátia Gamito, Patrícia Santos, Pedro Freitas, Pedro Ribeiro, Rui Silva, Shirley Horst, Cláudia Lopes and Luisa Crisóstomo.
Many thanks to the whole organization team and all participants for enabling such a rich, diverse and valuable World Conference!
Photos: Rui Lourenço, Assen Ignatov, Thomas Hochebner, Ingrid Kohl