Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Five members of the LIFE+ team were lucky enough to visit Germany last week. A report on the visit will follow, but it was also featured in a local newspaper. The article is in German, but an internet-aided translation follows.
Help for English bustard protection: British scientists want to benefit from the experience of the state bird observatory in Buckow
Sometimes it’s good when visitors come from far away. The five Englishmen, staying on the farm of Willi Kathe in Gräningen are certainly very happy with their visit, and breakfast is just as rich and tasty. They tasted wheat beer the night before and have seen on the fields around Buckow over 1000 cranes.
1000 cranes – a number almost inconceivable for the British: in Great Britain there was a sensation when, in the summer of 2011, a group of 20 birds could be seen. As a breeding bird the crane became extinct on the island in the 17th Century.
The great bustard endured a bit longer – at least until the early 19th Century. The bustard areas in Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt are the real reason for the visit of the group. The five scientists from the Great Bustard Project work for the Great Bustard Group and the RSPB, the world’s largest bird protection membership organization. Together they are trying to bring the great bustard back in the vicinity of the famous stone circle of Stonehenge in southern England. During their visit they want to benefit from the experience of the bustard protectors in Brandenburg.
“The Great Bustard belongs to the national cultural heritage in our project area,” said David Waters, chairman of the Great Bustard Group. The bustard features in the old coat of arms and place names. The enthusiasm in the local population for the reintroduction project is huge, says Waters. Among others there was a small brewery, which sells a very successful bustard beer, and local artists create the big birds on canvas.
In 2004, the first bustards were released in England. The young birds are from southern Russia, where there are about 8,000 birds with a very large and stable population. “The two-day trip from Russia means considerable stress for the young birds brought from our project area,” says Waters. In order not to weaken the bustards unnecessarily, the biologists want to incubate and hatch the bustard eggs in England.
In order to support the existence of the last free-living great bustards in Germany, this method has also been practiced by the state bird observatory in Buckow for a long time. The Englishmen now want to learn from local experiences.
“The Thursday was therefore devoted to theory,” says Torsten Langgemach, head of the state bird observatory. When the temperature and humidity in the incubator do not exactly match that required, fewer bustard chicks hatch. After the long journey the group theory classes were important so that they could on Thursday afternoon and Friday to go on field trips. Rainy weather? No matter, because Englishmen are ultimately used to it. In Fiener Bruch they could only see a couple of bustards, and then they looked around the site as they needed to do. They met with hunters and farmers and also inspected a fox proof fence, behind which the bustards are safe from their pradators. It was certainly not the last experience of this kind, as at the moment around twelve great bustards live in the English project area. Until a stable population size is reached, it is probable that many bustard eggs there will be hatched in an incubator.
At the same time, the Havelländers can learn something from the British bustard protectors. On the project website (www.greatbustard.org), there is a link to a very professional shop with bustard articles. The number of matching t-shirts, coffee mugs and stuffed animals exceeds the number of bustards by far. A good way to make extra money for the bustard project.