Many will remember that this year GRMG carried out a Little Owl survey where we visited as many of the 100+ sites that were identified during surveys in 2008-11, to see if those sites still held Little Owls. Further information can be found in our recent summer update. Many thanks to Kevin Widgery for sending us this photo he took whilst contributing to this survey.
Being a county raptor monitoring group, we don’t normally post news from further afield, but we thought this might be of interest.
St. Michael and All Angels in Exeter was the first church in the UK to have breeding peregrines following their recovery from a population crash, with successful nesting occurring every year since 1997. Over the last twenty years, the adult peregrines, the number of fledged young, prey selection, behaviour and hunting, plus the peregrines interaction with other species in the vicinity has been closely monitored by individuals and via the internet. This history has been documented in a small softback book which is now available to purchase. If you’d like a copy, an order form can be found in the photo that accompanies this article.
Download the full size version here.
With the continued and growing support of numerous landowners and large estates both in the Southam area and reaching out to a 10-mile radius in the Newent area, the 100th Tawny owl box was installed on Wednesday.
The autumn 2016 GRMG newsletter has been sent out to people on our mailing list, and is now available to download here. In this issue, you will find the results from our Little Owl survey, comments on the 2016 Peregrine survey,information on wildlife crime in the county, and two guest articles – ‘The Yorkley Ravens’ by Elizabeth Sleeman and ‘Raptor Monitoring on the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate’ by Anna Field – and much more.
We are delighted to offer two talks this winter by speakers who are both nationally recognised authorities on their species. These are ticket-only events; tickets are available at £5 each from the shop on our website, http://www.glosraptors.co.uk. If you are unable to buy tickets online, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets for collection on the door.
At both events there will be tea/coffee and biscuits and a chance to chat and hear about GRMG’s latest activities and plans.
Buzzards, with Robin Prytherch, 7.30pm Thursday 8th December, Gala Club, Fairmile Gdns, Gloucester, GL2 9EB.
Robin has been studying Common Buzzards in an area south of Bristol for many years, making extensive and very detailed observations of breeding behaviour, and monitoring individual birds. He has several papers published in the journal British Birds, most recently on the way territorial size and productivity have changed as numbers have increased, and (in March this year) on “nests, nest trees and prey remains”.
Barn Owls, with Colin Shawyer, 7.30 Wednesday 25th January, Ribston Hall School, Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL1 5LE.
Colin is a raptor biologist and professional ecologist specialising in birds, mainly birds of prey and has published widely on this subject. He was Director of the Hawk and Owl Trust between 1988 and 1998. He undertook work for the BTO between 2000 and 2010 developing and implementing its Barn Owl Monitoring Programme and in 1988 founded the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN); he is BOCN Coordinator for UK and Ireland. He oversees and undertakes extensive Barn Owl nest monitoring every season.
You will have noticed that we haven’t posted anything for a while… that’s not because there hasn’t been anything going on! On the contrary, it’s because we’ve all been too busy to write anything for the website (must do better…).
So here’s a brief summary of various things that have occupied us this summer:
Nest-finding and ringing
Supporters have again tried to monitor all known Peregrine nests in the county. We’ve also been busy finding and monitoring nests of Goshawks, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Red Kites, Kestrels, Tawny and Little Owls, Hobbies and Ravens and, in some cases, ringing the young birds in them. Much of this work – but by no means all of it – is done in the Forest of Dean. This year we have been helped by a couple of climbers, who are a brilliant addition to the team.
One exciting project was that we advised and supported a crew making a film about Goshawks for the BBC’s Natural History Unit. The programme will feature our honorary president, Helen MacDonald (author of “H is for Hawk”), and she was involved in some of the filming sessions. We will report further when we know more about when the programme with be broadcast!
Since our formation less than two years ago we have made and erected about 200 nest-boxes – huge thanks to the box makers, especially Rich Harris and the Southam Crew, and to Jimmi Hill. Rich reports that 55 boxes for Tawny Owls were put up in the wider Southam area last winter, and 12 of them held breeding pairs this year – an amazing result in the first year. About 80 Little Owl boxes were made and put up, many of them in old orchards thanks to a collaboration with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust. We look forward to seeing how well occupied they will be next year (hopefully not entirely by Jackdaws and Stock Doves!).
Little Owl Survey
All the available indications are that Little Owls are in quite rapid decline, so we tried to see what we can find out about how they are faring in Gloucestershire. During the BTO’s Bird Atlas spring/summer surveys from 2008 to 2011, Little Owls were found at just over 100 sites in circumstances which suggested they were definitely or probably breeding. We decided to visit as many as possible of these sites in 2016 to see if they were still present. We are very grateful to everyone who has helped with this survey. Records are still coming in, so if we contacted you and you haven’t yet responded, please do! Currently 46% of the sites visited still had owls present which, given the vagaries of surveying wildlife – especially a partly nocturnal species, is by no means disastrous. Having said that, there is evidence that a significant proportion of previous nest sites have been lost because of alterations to (or demolition of) buildings. Watch this space for final results in due course.
Sadly, wildlife crime does not only occur on remote moors and mountains, and part of Gareth Jones’ role in the group is to liaise with and support the local police and others on raptor persecution and crime in the county. Regrettably, Gareth has had a busy summer as a result of several criminal incidents involving persecution or disturbance. It is not possible to give further details because of ongoing investigations, but rest assured that we are active in drawing the police’s attention to incidents of which we are aware.
The talks we organised (on Honey-Buzzards and Little Owls) were well-attended and well-received last winter. We are planning more this winter (on Barn Owls and Buzzards), and we will post details as soon as dates and details are confirmed. In addition, members of the group will be presenting a talk about ourselves and our activities to Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society, Cheltenham Bird Club, the Forest of Dean branch of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and to the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society.
On Thursday, April 21st the RSPCA were called to an incident involving a domestic cat and a Goshawk in the Brockweir area of the Forest of Dean, close to the Welsh border. The bird was taken to the Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre (Beckford) where an X-Ray was taken for a fractured wing. The results of the X-Ray found that the bird had in fact been shot and was later euthanised due to the extent of its injuries.