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Upcoming GRMG talks

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“City Peregrines” by Nick Dixon
Nick Dixon has been professionally involved in raptor research and conservation since 1995.
He has specialised in studying Peregrine Falcons and has monitored their increasing occupation of the urban environment over the last 25 years, and is now considered a leading authority on urban peregrines in the UK.
Nick’s main study site is St. Michael’s church in Exeter, where he has monitored the breeding Peregrines in detail since they first bred in 1997. This fascinating talk includes the history, ecology and habits of the peregrine falcon in the UK, plus some amazing findings from a quarter century of studying the fastest creature on the planet. As a result of Nick’s observations, the Exeter peregrines have achieved notoriety through their extreme territorial aggression towards Buzzards over-flying the city. Nick’s talk includes amazing footage of this unique behaviour.

Date: Wednesday 6th November, 7:30pm (doors open 7pm)
Venue: British Legion Social Club, Green Lane, Hardwicke, Gloucester, GL2 4QA
There’s a bar, and under-18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets are £5 each and are available via EventBrite or by emailing glosraptors@gmail.com to book a ticket and pay on the door.

Iolo Williams

Iolo Williams is a naturalist, broadcaster, public speaker and writer who has worked in conservation for over 30 years. He is a popular member of the Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch presenting team and is well known for presenting series such as Wild Wales, Rugged Wales and Great Welsh Parks for BBC2. He is also an informative and entertaining speaker.

Iolo has a passion for British birds of prey and has been monitoring and studying them for most of his life. We are thrilled that he has agreed to come and talk in Gloucestershire and share his knowledge and experiences of this majestic group of birds. As well as talking about the birds themselves, Iolo will take us through the many dangers they face in the 21st century.

As someone who is utterly dedicated to conservation, Iolo has used his knowledge and experience to address the Welsh Assembly, proving to be a power-house of a speaker; this talk is not to be missed! All proceeds will go towards GRMG’s monitoring and conservation work.

Click here to book your place!

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Goshawk Satellite Tagging Project – September 2019 Update

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On the weekend of June 15th 2019, we were joined by Drs Ian Henderson and Greg Conway of the BTO to fit satellite tags to some of our young Goshawks both east and west of the Severn. We were delighted to get permission to do this; this is the first satellite tagging project in the county and will provide a glimpse into the secret life of the Goshawk. This is a licensed activity and highly regulated; to get to this stage we have had to apply to an independent panel who hear all the evidence and decide whether we can go ahead.

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Photo: Ben Locke

It’s important that the birds are of the right age, weight and size otherwise a tag will not be fitted; the birds’ welfare is absolutely paramount and no chances will be taken.

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Photo: Ben Locke

The process is to fit a ribbon harness which fits around the chest of the bird. The tag itself is either 18 grams for a male or 21 grams for a female and this sits on the back of the bird, it also contains a solar panel to charge the on-board battery and a “mobile phone”.
The device transmits the location of the bird, temperature, height, acceleration, direction of travel, battery level, temperature and a few other parameters.

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Photo: Ben Locke

Once the tags were fitted there is a tense wait; no information is transmitted as the tags need to charge and register but also the birds are often under cover. But it wasn’t long before we started to receive data…
Males were the first to explore but females are now moving around and the greatest distance moved so far (early September) is a female at around 18km from her nest site.

Some of the birds have gone into farmland and have often used hedgerows to roost or rest, even old hedgerows that have mainly been scrubbed out.

A couple of birds hopped briefly into Wales but only for day trips and moved back quickly.

Some birds have stayed in a tight area – not near their maternal home but they seem to have found an area where there must be food and cover.

One bird is of particular interest, a female who has visited nest sites of other Goshawks. We know it happens in breeding birds because if a pair go missing they are often quickly replaced by a new pair, who seem to be able to find old nests and use them the following year, but it is amazing to see that even at this age they seem to know what makes an ideal nesting area for Goshawks.

Some have come very close to conurbations but not flown directly over them, choosing to move along the edge and crossing a less built-up area.

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We have lost two birds at a very early stage, one of the tags has been retrieved and the bird will be sent off for a Post Mortem but there are no signs that the tag played a part in its death. Hopefully we can use the recovered tag next year, the other we are yet to look for. It’s a hard life for a Goshawk and it’s thought up to 60% of birds fail to reach maturity so this is to be expected. We know from our site visits and ringing this year that the weather was not conducive to a good breeding season – birds that went down on eggs early often failed as we had a warm spell but then a very wet, cold and windy spell which would have made hunting hard. The good news is that if the birds that went down later survived the early weeks they had plenty of food available.

As you will see some paths have crossed over each other but as far as I can tell looking at the data the birds were not in the same place at the same time. Not being very scientific a little piece of me would like them to meet although I suspect the consequences of meeting other Goshawks at this stage could be serious for a young bird.

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Photo: Semi-fledged Goshawk by Piers Suckling

It’s fantastic to look at these birds’ tracks on Google Maps etc but the real information is in the data and we hope to better understand this as the project goes on.

We are still to retrieve most of our nest cams but hopefully we will during the next couple of weeks and we are crossing fingers that that yields a photo of our first colour ringed bird.

A note about food sources: nest cams that have been retrieved over the last couple of years show squirrel is an important food source which will please foresters. It will be interesting to see if this changes for Goshawks based in the west of the county with the introduction of Pine Martens, I personally doubt it but time will tell.

Iolo Williams

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Iolo Williams is a naturalist, broadcaster, public speaker and writer who has worked in conservation for over 30 years. He is a popular member of the Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch presenting team and is well known for presenting series such as Wild Wales, Rugged Wales and Great Welsh Parks for BBC2. He is also an informative and entertaining speaker.

Iolo has a passion for British birds of prey and has been monitoring and studying them for most of his life. We are thrilled that he has agreed to come and talk in Gloucestershire and share his knowledge and experiences of this majestic group of birds. As well as talking about the birds themselves, Iolo will take us through the many dangers they face in the 21st century.

As someone who is utterly dedicated to conservation, Iolo has used his knowledge and experience to address the Welsh Assembly, proving to be a power-house of a speaker; this talk is not to be missed! All proceeds will go towards GRMG’s monitoring and conservation work.

Click here to book your place!

Southam & District Tawny Owl Project update

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An update from Rich Harris:

The Southam & District Tawny Owl Project has just completed its 4th breeding season.

In 2015 we had 12 breeding pairs in our nest boxes, and this has increased gradually each year so that we now have 27 breeding pairs this season.

The take-up of available boxes is an amazing 36% in 2019; the significant increase this year has been helped by a mild winter and an abundance of prey, especially the Long-tailed Field Mouse (aka Wood Mouse) which has been ever present at breeding sites.

Tawnies have taken to their new homes with gusto in coniferous plantains and mixed woodland where there is a lack of natural tree holes, and all the woods within the project, bar one, have maintained or increased the number of breeding pairs.

However, in ancient, mature woodland with ample natural nest sites, the uptake has been, since the project’s inception, a total blank even though it is clear while we are surveying that owls are present. Therefore I have decided to remove some boxes for repair and relocation to some new areas, and also to places in near to developing strongholds, building on past years successes.

We used a policy of placing boxes in pairs, 100 yards apart – in theory, one box for the breeding site and a second for the roosting male. The outcome has been interesting; either a second pair has taken up residence in the second box or other wildlife have moved in. Only on 3 occasions in 4 years has a male been flushed from the second box. The Tawny Owl is territorial, but seems to be able to tolerate other pairs nesting close by! So this policy has been abandoned going forward.

The positioning of boxes on the edge of woods rather than the interior has been helpful, enabling a passing owl to better identify a possible nest site. Most are East facing which is warmer and drier for the inhabitants and reduces wear and tear on the exposed box.

Although there are many reports of Tawny Owls moving into urban areas the 5 boxes in semi-urban locations have never been taken up; these will also be relocated.

2019 breeding season is underway with news of an exciting new project!

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Goshawk
Northen Goshawk – Accipiter gentilis

We ringed our first Raven chicks of the year recently – always our earliest species – so that marks the start of another busy season of nest-finding, ringing and monitoring. We have some news to announce; two of our ringers have been granted a licence to fit GPS tags to Goshawks, and we have secured funding to buy eight tags for use this year. Huge thanks to our donors/sponsors, namely the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee, Forestry England and Mr Richard Webb. This is an important project for us; it is an obvious extension of our work monitoring colour-ringed birds using trail cameras. We hope it will help us to track Goshawks that have had tags fitted to them as young birds in the nest. We should be able to assess their scale of their movement, habitat dependency and dispersal, and interactions with farmland as well as managed forest habitats. We may be able to accumulate information on the last known location of birds and mortality, and to understand the potential for population mixing and recruitment beyond the region. There is also the possibility to assess breeding home range if birds survive to adulthood or are tagged as adults.

This is in effect an extension of a project already being run by BTO staff in Breckland, Norfolk.

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Goshawk nest being monitored by a trailcam enabling us to read GRMG colour rings

BTO will license the whole activity, and BTO staff will train 2 GRMG fully-qualified ringers. Read on for full details…

Nationally, the Goshawk is a scarce breeding species and a “Schedule 1” breeding species (protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982). The species should be a common breeding raptor and although the UK population is slowly increasing, there is much regional variation, potentially due to low recruitment where persecution may pay a role. Very little is known, locally, about seasonal movements, habitat dependency, home range size, or their reliance on specific habitat types such as farmland. Farmland use is relevant given the potential for conflicts with game bird enthusiasts. Winter movements, recruitment potential and connections with more distant breeding populations are also currently unknown. Entirely new information on habitat use and the dispersal would emerge for this population, also giving the potential to compare and contrast with other regions within the UK. We would like to make it known publicly that individuals of these species are being tracked, as a protection measure.
The Goshawk is an elusive species, not amenable to normal visual observation. Advances in remote tracking offer the best opportunity and most objective way of acquiring behavioral data.

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Goshawk nest at end of season. Grey Squirrels appear to be a major food source in Gloucestershire. If this is replicated across all monitored sites this would be good news for forestry.

Project objectives: Determination of habitat use and dispersal, the farmland interaction and possibly sources of mortality in the Gloucestershire population of Goshawks:

• To track Goshawks, to assess scale of movement, habitat dependency and dispersal; interactions with farmland as well as managed forest habitats.
• Potentially, to accumulate information on the last known location of birds and mortality.
• To understand the potential for population mixing and recruitment beyond the region.
• Potentially to assess breeding home range if birds survive to adulthood or are tagged as adults.

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Links between forest, farmland and fenland habitats may be expected, especially for juveniles or females in winter and links to forest edge are predicted. Some exploitation of game bird populations is expected, though varying widely with native prey availability (pigeons, jays and squirrels), sex, age and season.

The devices supplied by a company called Movetech Telemetry, a subsidiary of the BTO. The devices weigh between 18 and 23 grams depending on sex of the carrying bird. The devices are attached on the bird by a harness, which contains a sacrificial thread that is designed to break after around 5 years.
No ill effects have been shown on birds that have been recaptured or have been collected.

The ‘Movetech’ bird-tracking system described here is a bird-borne method of tracking bird movements, by connecting to the mobile phone network. This technique has been successfully applied to similar sized birds (gulls) and raptors (Goshawks, eagles, Ospreys, harriers, Peregrines). the system is much more objective and less labour-intensive than radio-tracking, producing high precision fixed location data, unlike any other currently available method (bar satellite tracking at far greater cost).

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CHANGE OF VENUE – Adventures with Rainforest Raptors

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Due to circumstances entirely beyond our control, the venue for this Wednesday’s ‘Adventures with Rainforest Raptors’ has had to change. We’re not going far though –  just around the corner from the Gala. It’s the Oxstalls Sports Centre, Plock Court (just along from Fairmile Gardens, opposite the Beefeater), Gloucester GL2 9DW.  We’re in the Conservatory Room there.  There’s a café on site. Apologies for the inconvenience, and we look forward to seeing you there!

Upcoming event: “Adventures with Rainforest Raptors”, Wed 27th March

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The main feature is a talk and short film ‘To Find a Harpy’ with Natasha Ellison and Dan O’Neill, respectively a researcher and a wildlife film-maker who recently went to Guyana to search for a Harpy Eagle, and filmed their adventure. We will also hear from GRMG’s Jimmi Hill, who visited the Philippine Eagle Project to see its amazing conservation work – and visited an active nest in the wild. Come along and feel the heat!

This is a ticketed event; tickets are £5 and can be bought at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/adventures-with-rainforest-raptors-tickets-57329127965 or email glosraptors@gmail.com to ask for tickets to be reserved for you and pay at the door.

Venue: Gala Club, Fairmile Gardens, Gloucester, GL2 9EB
Doors open at 7:00pm for a 7:30 start.