Great bustards released as part of an ambitious project that is bringing the birds back to the UK are causing a stir by conducting their own tours of southern England.
Brought from Saratov in Russia, this year’s great bustards were released in September, and there are currently 17 in the wild.
Andrew Taylor, Great Bustard LIFE Project Adviser for RSPB said; “This year’s released birds have been out for eight weeks now, and most are starting to roam more widely around their original release sites.
“Some however have been rather more adventurous than others! Black Six, named after the numbered black wing tag she carries, was last seen by project staff on the day of her release. She spent a couple of weeks on a neighbouring farm, but then went off the radar.
On dawn of 5th November, a great bustard was seen flying south from Portland Bill in Dorset, and then the following lunchtime we received a report of Black Six in a field at South Huish, near Kingsbridge in Devon. She flew north an hour later.
This week [21 November 2011] we received a report of another bustard, this time without wingtags, but with a radio transmitter, on land owned by The National Trust near Langton Matravers in south Purbeck. They certainly are getting around”
Conservationists are looking forward to seeing where the bustards will fly to next, but are appealing to the public for help.
Trace Williams Great Bustard LIFE Manager for RSPB said: “Of the 17 birds in the wild we are able to track nine directly as they have radio and satellite transmitters. The remaining birds however have no transmitters so we need people who see them, and notice the very visible numbered wing tags, to let us know by calling 01980 671466.”
The great bustard is a globally threatened species that is listed on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive. As a species of concern in Europe, the re- introduction of the birds to the UK is generously supported by the EU LIFE fund and co-ordinated by a partnership of The Great Bustard Group, Natural England, University of Bath and the RSPB.
It was formerly widely distributed across large parts of lowland Europe, but started to decline in the 18th century and is now absent from much of its original range. It became extinct from the UK in 1832, and from numerous other European nations over the rest of the 19th and the 20th centuries. It is responding well to conservation and many populations are now increasing.
Visitors are welcome to the great bustard release site to learn about the project and see the spectacular scenery and wildlife of Salisbury Plain. To book a visit phone 07817 971327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Great Bustard Group is a UK Registered Charity (number 1092515) that aims to establish a self-sustaining population of Great Bustards in the UK and create practical conservation measures for Great Bustards in Saratov, Russia. The group was created in 1998 to restore the Great Bustard (Otis tarda) population in the UK and to conserve existing Great Bustards throughout their range, particularly in Saratovskya, Russia. On Salisbury Plain a small bustard population is being created by releasing a number of birds each year.
The RSPB is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in Europe with over one million members. It speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Bird populations reflect the health of the planet on which our future depends. The RSPB became an official partner of the Great Bustard Consortium in August 2009.
Natural England is an independent public body whose purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings. Natural England have been involved in the Great Bustard Reintroduction project since its inception, particularly the licensing aspects and the monitoring of released birds.
The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities. Our Mission is to deliver world class research and teaching, educating our graduates to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence. Our courses are innovative and interdisciplinary and we have an outstanding record of graduate employment. We are ranked in the UK top 15 of universities in The Guardian, Times, Sunday Times and Independent national tables. There will be one fulltime post at the university dedicated to the monitoring of the bustards.
LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3115 projects, contributing approximately €2 billion to the protection of the environment. In 2010 the Great Bustard Project was awarded a €2.2million grant to enlarge the project over the next five years.