Bustard Watch 22/11/2011

Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

The monitoring team has been very busy over the last few weeks as the birds have started to move, making keeping tabs on them more challenging.

The most spectacular movement has been by the bird which left the project base, and original release site on Salisbury Plain after a few days. She moved a few kilometres north and then stayed for a couple of weeks before disappearing.

Weeks went by, and then we could measure the time since the last sighting in months. We have been at this game for long enough to know that without a carcass to recover, there is always a chance that a missing bird will turn up alive and well. That said the earlier they disappear after release, the lower the chances of a happy ending.

So we had almost accepted her loss when out of the blue she was reported in Devon last week, alive and well! We have had birds make this sort of journey before, and often it is those who have set off on their own.

One spectacular example was Red 28 (from 2008), who did just this and wandered around the south west and gave us every impression of being lost. Until, that is, she hit
two years of age (when she could breed) and then turned up at the release site at he peak of the lek, and was incubating eggs within 2 weeks. We shall see if this long distance flyer from 2011 does the same.

Most of the others have stayed local, not moving more than a few kilometres, but another bird, also female, has been spending some time in Dorset, very close to an area where birds from previous years have been seen. Read the BBC story here.

Foxes have been making their presence felt at the Salisbury Plain site, as in other years, but we think, and hope, we are past the main time of threat. At the new release site the mortality has been lower, without foxes being apparent, but an electricity pylon has claimed one bird and an unknown collision another. It is still too early to claim a higher rate of success at the new release site, we must really wait until the spring, but the signs are still encouraging. There are regular birds at both sites and a handful of birds that need tracking down. All sightings are most welcomed, so please do report any that you see. If you would like to find out more you can read Otis magazine online here.

David Waters

Posted by David Waters

David Waters is the founder and director of the Great Bustard Group.

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