Great Bustard Group
The Great Bustard Group was honoured with the patronage of His Royal Highness The former Prince of Wales. He visited the project on Salisbury Plain in 2017 and became patron in 2019.
Having a Royal patron provides vital publicity for the work of our organisation and recognises the enormous achievement and contribution to society and the environment.Read More
Our trustees have a wealth of experience across wildlife conservation and the world of business.
David K Bond
Dr Charles Goodson-Wicks
John Chitty MRCVS
Our passionate & experienced team delivers real world tangible results. We have a can-do attitude backed up by more than 23 years experience restoring lost species and protecting the environment.
The former policeman set up the Great Bustard Group in 1998 after becoming fascinated by the birds as a teenager. “I remember thinking all the interesting birds live in places like Papua New Guinea or the Galapagos,” he said.
“Then I remember seeing displaying male bustards, and thinking no matter how far you go I don’t think you will see a better sight in the bird world than that.”
David Waters, whose passion and vision has seen the project through from inception to a position where a self-sustaining population of Great Bustards in Wiltshire is now a realistic prospect, has been appointed Executive Officer and will be responsible for membership and fundraising, PR, egg collection and physical import and representation on International Organisations.
David will also manage the expansion of the reintroduction of Great Bustards to new regions including East Anglia and Lincolnshire where Great bustards were once naturally well established. He will also be responsible for a captive breeding programme for Great Bustards that we have not been able to release into the wild.
Married to David. Karen's roles include finance, membership, organising events and schools liaison. Karen also looks after Fergus, a Great Bustard that came to the UK back in 2004, and due to injury could not be released into the wild.
Steve manages public visits to see the birds and organises photo sessions in our hides. Steve's own photography frequently appears in our publicity.
An archaeology graduate and former British Army officer, Tim joined the team in Summer 2022. As Operations Director, he manages many of our essential supporting functions.
Ruth's early work with the Great Bustard Group was in 2006, when she advised on the import of birds and scientific samples from Russia, including diagnostic testing. Ruth now manages the chick rearing facilities and our sightings database.
Tillie oversees the stock in our Great Bustard store as well as being a key in planning events and finding new items. You can also find her doing tours with her detailed knowledge of the farm and Salisbury Plain.
Nigel has an impressive 40 years experience in practical conservation of the ornithology and botany of Salisbury Plain. Nigel has also conducted lion research in Botswana.
Allan made several trips to Russia and was a regular in Spain. He is our in-house agricultural advisor and maintains our tractor and implements.
Adrian is another multi-tasking team player.
Charles is a veteran of Spanish field work and posseses a very useful technical knowledge - be it with vehicles, electrical systems or cameras.
Lenka is a regular fundraiser and events supporter.
John is a team player who will undertake any task.
Trevor is happy to do whatever needs doing!
Phil's interest in wildlife started as a family activity. His main aim is to introduce his grandchildren to the wonders of the natural world.
Chris is Co-Founder at Rewild Life, helping with all things digital at the Great Bustard Group. Chris can be found helping set up the cameras around the GBG facility and at the fundraising events.
Ben is Co-Founder at Rewild Life working with the Great Bustard Group on the digital strategy. Ben is a regular at the fund raising events and supports the project in any way he can.
Fergus came from an egg the GBG and its partner organisation in Russia, the A N Severtsov Institute of Ecology rescued from the cultivators in 2004. This was the first year the GBG brought birds into the UK. The story was covered by the BBC tv correspondent Fergus Walsh. To his frustration the Russians really struggled with the sounds of “Fergus” and he was usually addressed as “Fur-goose”, and he never gave up trying to correct them.
That year the GBG brought 22 birds into the UK. They had to undergo a very strict 30 days of quarantine and it was at the very end of this period that one male bird, in a short trial flight, bashed is wing up and along with other damage dislocated his left shoulder. Despite excellent veterinary care the should could not be repaired and the male was moved to an aviary. Karen Waters has looked after him ever since. The name “Fergus” was given to him very early on and it has stuck. Fergus has lived with various other birds, including some females but his injury puts him off balance and the other birds will attack him if he falls over.
He appears to greatly enjoy people, sometimes interacting with a series of barks, grunts and a distinctive baying noise. He does sometimes tire of guests and then gives them a good peck. Over the years he has taken a small piece from the limbs of celebrities including John Craven, Ray Mears and other dignitaries like Her Majesties Yeoman Ravenmaster from the Tower of London.
The Stonehenge Bustard (Gertrude)
In 2009 the GBG was operating an egg rescue programme in Saratov Oblast in southern Russia with its project partner, the Severtsov Institute of Ecology. One of the chicks raised from this operation has become famous as, Gertrude. She was reared in the same way as the other chicks, with some elaborate measures to avoid habituation or imprinting on humans. These measures included using feeding puppets and dehumanisation suits. Gertrude, and her alone, became more attached to humans than any other bird we have reared. She lives with other female Great Bustards for most of the year, but every spring, when the other females fly to the lek, where the males are displaying, Gertrude flies across to Stonehenge and is clearly attracted by the crowds of people there. She spends the early part of the spring at the Stones, interacting with the visitors and staff, and for these few months, Gertrude is quite tame. She then flies off to join the other females later in the summer.
Great Bustards typically nest in crops and seem to like the cover it affords them. The females sit very tightly and very flat and are absolutely motionless on the approach of anyone. When the GBG was searching for nests in Spain (all fully licensed and supported by the very helpful Spanish government), we found it very hard to find the nests. The females would not flush and reveal the nest unless the searcher was within a metre or two, sometimes mere centimetres of standing on the nest.
David Waters brought his dogs out to Spain each year and the combination of their scenting abilities and the disturbance they create by quartering back and forth encourages the females to flush and reveal the nest. The technique is also used to save nesting females from the dangers of spring mowing in England.
The dogs are well travelled, have been to Spain for 5 seasons and are well trained. When working in Spain they would eat four times their usual diet, and still lose weight!