Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
A rather delayed update. I have been in Saratov in southern Russia for the annual autumn census. This was a very successful trip for several reasons: the new Director of the Sevetsov Institute has invested considerable time in training the staff to census to a higher and more consistent standard, the good weather made it possible to get out and census every day which is by no means assured in the autumn. The census quadrants are half the size of previous years (10km by 20km) and a full day allocated to each square.
I did not experience a blank quadrat although some of them contained some sizable towns or villages. The highest daily count for me was 138 birds and was a mixture of groups of adult males and females with young of the year. Other highlights for me were regular sightings of White Tailed Eagles, Saker Falcons and the occassional Imperial Eagle.
Back home, the new releases are still holding close to their release sites. Only one bird (a female) has moved away. This bird left the release pen at the original site a few days after release from the soft pens. She has not moved far, but has taken up residence a few kilometres away from the site, and has not returned.
The other birds have ventured out of the release areas, but have returned, normally within a day or so.
Foxes have made themselves known at the orginal release site, claiming a coupe of birds which is always a blow, but one which is almost enevitable. We hope this number does not grow.
At the second release site the birds are holding together well in a flock and this flock includes our oldest bird - Orange 15. It can only be a good thing for the new birds to have the company of such an expereinced bird. The first game shoot has taken place on the area around the second release site. We had predicted that the noise of the shotguns would not trouble the Bustards ( a pop gun when compared to the big guns of Salisbury Plain). It was great to learn the day passed of with no trouble for the Bustards, and we are all grateful to the gamekeeper and guns for taking an extra care.