AC/DC concert threatens rare birds

There's a story spreading like wildfire on news and blog sites (http://tinyurl.com/ac-dc-concert-birds). Very many of them have exactly the same wording, and many don't quote their sources. Here's an example:
"Rockers AC/DC may have to cancel a sold-out concert because their big sound poses a danger to rare birds.
Animal rights campaigners are threatening legal action if the band goes ahead with a gig planned for Wels airport in Austria in May.
Hans Uhl of BirdLife said birds nesting in the area at the time would be threatened by anthems such as 'Highway To Hell' and 'You Shook Me All Night Long'.
'The second biggest colony of curlews in Upper Austria and various other ground-nesting birds must not become endangered,' Mr Uhl said.
The 80,000 tickets for the event sold out within hours, after going on sale earlier this month."
 (I got this from http://www.skynews.com.au/showbiz/article.aspx?id=411151.)

I'm a hard-rock fan myself and enjoy AC/DC's music (although I prefer Alice Cooper for example), but let's get a few facts straight here:

Eurasian Curlew nest and eggs
Eurasian Curlew nest and eggs
(photo: Wikipedia)

Many of the blog replies go something like this: "It's an airport, for heaven's sake; can't the birds take a few hours of AC/DC music?" Yes, they probably can. It's not the music that threatens the rare birds but the 80,000 fans unwittingly trampling the nests, young birds and eggs that are actually laid directly on the ground where the concert is to take place in the middle of the breeding season. The stage would also be built directly on the same ground where many of the nests are. Note the "ground-nesting birds" in the quote attributed to Hans (a friend of mine, by the way). The stage and audience area will take up the entire meadow where the nests are.

BirdLife, the group Hans Uhl represents, is not an animal rights group (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_rights) composed of activists or campaigners, as stated in the reports, but a wildlife conservation group (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_conservation) composed of ornithologists (including me, by the way). There's a big difference between those kinds of groups.

Juvenile Eurasian Curlew at Wels airport
Juvenile Eurasian Curlew photographed at Wels airport by © Josef Limberger
BirdLife is not requesting cancellation of the concert but postponement till after the breeding season when the young have hatched and gotten out of harm's way (or relocation of the concert).

Some of the blogs imply that Hans thinks the bird species in question will die out ("be wiped out"). This is not true, but it is true that this particular colony of these rare birds could be wiped out, never to return, if all their nests are trampled this year. I will happily name the various bird species in question to anyone interested (it's not only curlews).

There are plans to protect the meadow as a natural area. It isn't one yet, or else this wouldn't have happened. However, the town of Wels, where the airport is located, neglected to inform the organizers that they need to go through a permit procedure involving government conservation agencies before they started selling tickets.

Adult Eurasian Curlew at Wels airport
Adult Eurasian Curlew photographed at Wels airport by © Josef Limberger
All this doesn't come out in the original reports that all the online sources refer to, quote and/or copy, but I live here and am involved with the issue, so I know better.

As a strange twist of irony, the UN has declared the day of the concert (May 22) as the International Day for Biodiversity (http://www.cbd.int/idb).

Here's Wels Airport. As you can see, it's a little smaller than, say, Chicago O'Hare. The airport's own website (http://www.wmw.at/Aerodrome/Aerodrome_Nature.aspx) brags about rare species of plants, bees and frogs as well as birds. The site's in German, but it has nice pictures :-)

View Larger Map