Channel-hopping bustards

Posted on Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

We are doing everything we can to discourage released great bustards from moving south in winter, unhealthy as they do in the Russian source population, information pills because it does not help their survival chances. They are released in areas of ideal habitat, more about with ample natural food. This year we have provided supplementary food using our ‘bustard’ rearing suits. The presence of a resident adult population is also a strong attraction. These things in combination seem to be working – this year almost every released bird remains around its release site.

Google map showing the locations in which bustards have been recorded in France

Despite our efforts to prevent it, we cannot help but be excited when our bustards reach France. Four birds have crossed the Channel in previous years. Three in 2005 did not return, but T5 overwintered in northern France in 2011/2 and returned to her release site in May of this year. Two more birds have joined that list this month.

L21 is the classic case – a newly released bird experiencing the urge to move in early November and suddenly disappearing. She madee the fastest trip we have yet recorded, disappearing between the evening of 4th November and the morning of 5th November, then being reported again on 6th November. In the intervening 36 hours she had flown around 400 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée region of western France.

She was reported to be tired and underweight, and was soon taken into captivity. Members of the project team travelled to Nantes to collect her and bring her back to the UK. We judged that as she was already in captivity, it would be better for her to be re-released with other bustards than into the French countryside with none of her own species to associate with. After veterinary checks she was returned to the soft release pen from which she was released two months ago, and she will shortly be able to rejoin the other nine bustards at the site. Hopefully she will not attempt to repeat her journey!

L21 in September just before release

Follow this link to read a local French newspaper story about L21:

The second of this year’s French birds has not yet been identified as an individual, but is already a first for the project, as we can be sure that it is an adult. It appears to have been spotted at either end of its Channel crossing. At 8am on 18th November a bustard flew east past Durlston Country Park in Dorset. Then at 3pm on the same day, a bustard was seen flying south near Regnéville-sur-Mer in northern France. We eagerly await the next sighting, particularly to establish which bird it is.

Categories: Great Bustards, LIFE +, News, UK

Andrew Taylor

Posted by Andrew Taylor

Andrew has worked for the RSPB in Wiltshire for three years, mainly as part of the Wessex Stone-curlew Project. In March 2011,he joined the LIFE+ team.

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