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    Test flying an RSPB drone

    This project has trialled its fair share of hi-tech bird monitoring techniques over the years, online but we experienced a new one this week when we had the opportunity to test fly an RSPB drone. The drone was fitted with a camera, GPS device and altimeter, and we tested it around our release sites. We flew at relatively high altitude over the release sites to investigate how easy it would be to spot bustards from the air, then flew closer to a group of birds to test their reaction. It was an interesting day, and it definitely looks like we might be able to make use of the drone in the future. Any available technology which makes bustard monitoring easier without disadvantaging the birds in any way must be worth a try.

    The drone

    Release site from the air

    Displaying season once again

    At the project we always look forward to the beginning of March as the start of spring for the great bustards. This is when the mature males join the younger, pilule less impressive birds in full display. The display of the great bustard is one of the strangest and most impressive in the bird world. They start by strutting with tail cocked, ailment exposing the pure white feathers underneath…

    …then inflate a pouch in their neck, pushing their long whiskers upwards…

    …before dropping their wings to essentially turn themselves inside out, becoming a massive white beacon, visible to females for miles around…

    …then, to top it all, perform a bizarre stomping dance…

    …which is presumably enough to drive any female wild!

    With this to see on a daily basis, the next two months are by far the best time to watch great bustards in the wild. To arrange a visit to the project, call 07817 971327 or e-mail visit@greatbustard.org

    All photos © David Kjaer.

    Tarpaflex donates debris netting

    Debris netting in use, salve covering a great bustard release pen

    Over the last few years we have found debris netting to be the ideal material to cover our bustard pens. It has two main advantages – its fine mesh size which removes the possibility of a bird becoming caught in the netting, and its softness compared to other netting types, reducing the chance of feather damage from contact with the netting. This may be an unusual use of debris netting, but it demonstrates its versatility in many applications.

    It is great to be able to say that Tarpaflex, a family-owned business based in Devon, have taken the opportunity to sponsor the project with five rolls of debris netting. This will be enough to cover all the pens we build in 2014, for both rearing and releasing, and we are very grateful for their support. 

    Tarpaflex is a leading name in tarpaulins and one of the UK’s largest importers, with over 110 products varying in specification, size and colour. In addition they also supply a comprehensive range of dust sheets, debris netting, scaffold sheeting and rope. Visit their website to find out more about the products offered by the company: www.tarpaflex.co.uk

    We look forward to working with Tarpaflex again in the future. 

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