The global Great Bustard conservation publication
Otis Autumn 2012
Special Jubilee Edition
© Bryn Parry
© David Kjaer
GBG is celebraƟng too!
Historic success Meet our new chicks and read their incredible story The magazine of the Great Bustard Group
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A word from the Director to 3 ½ hours. The eggs can easily chill in poor weather, or bake on hot days when it can be over 40 degrees. Either will kill the egg. Once found our rescued eggs were placed in a portable incubator and endured the field tracks and paths before reaching rough roads and then the Field Sta on.
The Great Bustard Group is the UK registered charity and membership organisaƟon formed in 1998 to re-introduce the Great Bustard OƟs tarda to the UK.
A er disinfec on and measuring they were placed in an incubator where they remained un l the move to Moscow. They travelled over 1000 km on rough roads, star ng oﬀ in
The GBG is acƟvely involved in Great Bustard conservaƟon and is working with other organisaƟons, both naƟonally and internaƟonally to save the world’s heaviest flying bird. President The Rt. Hon. The Lord Tryon
the extreme heat of the middle of the day and con nuing into the night. They faced jarring from hidden potholes and endless bumps and jumps before arriving at Moscow airport the following morning. Here they lost David Waters, GBG Founder and Director The big story in this edi on has to be the
Vice Presidents Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes DL John Chi y CertZooMed. CBiol. MIBiol. MRCVS Paul Goriup BSc. MSc. Trustees David Bond (Chairman) John Browning Dina De Angelo Kevin Duncan Simon Gudgeon Estlin Waters
successful transport of Great Bustard eggs from Russia to England, and their subsequent hatching. The eggs began their existence well enough in simple scrapes in one of the huge fields in Saratov. Their mothers were wise enough to remain out of sight of patrolling ground predators such as foxes, wolves and badgers. They were able to defend their eggs from marauding crows who o en work in
the security of their incubator. Powered incubators are not allowed on the plane so the eggs had to be transferred to a thermal box which can do no more than slow down the cooling process. A er Russian and Bri sh customs and a long flight they were returned to an incubator on Bri sh soil and began the last leg of their journey to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. That any egg should survive all this is impressive. That they ALL did is nothing short of remarkable.
pairs to distract them while the other nips in
The other big story is that of what has
behind to grab an egg. But then danger that
become known as our ‘French Bird’. A young
their mothers couldn’t protect them from
female Great Bustard who set oﬀ on her own
came as teams of tractors entered the fields.
and spent the winter of 2011/2012 in France
The nests were in the path of destruc on, but
and then found her way back to Wiltshire the
thanks to local educa on ini a ves, the
drivers recognised the nests before they
company of her own species caused this bird
drove over them. Even though the area
to change her behaviour and she seemed to
around the nests was turned from a weedy
OƟs ProducƟon Team
accept humans as a next best thing, becom-
feeding ground for Great Bustards into a vast
ing quite tame. Once back with her own kind
Editor: Suzy Smithson Design: AA1 Media Ltd Print: Bath Midway Litho
ocean of brown earth, the eggs were not
she reverted to normal behaviour and lost all
crushed. The rooks following the cul va on
the tameness. Her story and survival provides
would have seen the females flush just as the
a tremendous example of the adaptability of
tractors were about to go over the nests. This
a young Great Bustard and is a tribute to her
Director David Waters Contact 1, Down Barn Close, Winterbourne Gunner, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 6JP. UK
01980 671 466 email@example.com www.greatbustard.org
me the tractor drivers got to the eggs before
Front cover photograph An original drawing Kindly donated by Bryn Parry
The absence of the
fitness and naviga onal skills.
the rooks, but this is by no means always the case. With the eggs under cover phone calls were made by the drivers and help dispatched from the Field Sta on at Diakovka. The journey may take anywhere from 15 minutes
In this issue
The new chicks are here
GBG News Wet and windy this summer may have been but it hasn’t dampened the spirits of the GBG team. From rescued eggs to the pi er pa er of ny bustard feet we’re on top of the world in the Queen’s Jubilee year.
Tug of War & giant bustards!
History of Otis Professor Estlin Waters gives us an overview of O s magazine and how it has evolved.
David Waters takes a look at how the wild Great Bustards are faring this soggy Summer.
Egg Import & rearing The team highlight the me and dedica on that went into this year’s historic import of Great Bustard eggs.
Bustard Buddies The third edi on of our exci ng new pullout and keep sec on for your fledglings!
Summer Garden Party All the news from our garden party and auc on.
Dr. Patricia Brown and her team report on their latest educa onal event.
Bustard Rescue A report on rescue ac vi es in Iran.
David Waters reports on this vital ac vity.
GBG Project Oﬃcer Aus n Weldon updates us on the life of the Red Fox on Salisbury Plain.
Queen’s Jubilee Visit The sun shines for Jubilee day in Salisbury.
Bustard Brunches GBG’s Lenka Panackova writes about the group’s latest educa onal program at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire.
GBG News Portuguese Casualty Conserva onists in Portugal sought the advice of the GBG when they were brought a casualty from farming opera ons. A small
Double help from Birdworld!
Great Bustard chick had suﬀered an amputated foot when its habitat was mown for hay. GBG Vice President and consultant vet John Chi y was asked to give advice on treatment having been sent photos and details of the chick. Sadly the advice given had to be to end the chicks suﬀering and put it down. Birds which spend li le me walking, such as gulls or even some birds of prey may live well in cap vity with one leg, just as a bird like a Great Bustard may live well with one wing amputated. Reverse these scenarios and a one legged Bustard will fare no be er than a one winged falcon. It is unfortunate that such a rare bird should be put down, but an uncomfortable, stressed bird will not contribute anything to a cap ve breeding project and its welfare must be considered. Birdworld has long been a supporter of the Great Bustard Project. This year
Monthly meeƟng goes Morris!
their help has arrived on two fronts. By carefully managing and separa ng recyclable materials the park has raised a remarkable £1,000 which Mark Anderson and Duncan Bolton presented to Aus n Weldon and Allan Goddard of the GBG (Above). The money has been put towards impor ng the eggs from Russia to the UK. GBG also extends a second thankyou to Birdworld as curator Duncan Bolton is a recognised expert on eggs and incuba on and in addi on to providing instruc on and advice to the GBG on shipping the eggs he also worked on a predic ve hatching graph using data from Great Bustard eggs in Russia and the UK. As Great Bustard eggs are opaque the weight is the best clue as to how close they are to hatching and the graph was invaluable in calcula ng the best date to transport the eggs. Thankyou Birdworld!
New Jimny hits the roads for GBG The GBG has a new vehicle and it really does look the part. The Suzuki Jimny will be seen out and about keeping an eye on the bustards and, as Aus n Weldon will be a main TTwo new the GBG’s monthly
visitors i it tto mee ng
ll. It will also foxes as well.
user, on the b
nts and seen at events
Manor Hotel in Shrewton caused quite a s r in June as they
und shows around
arrived wearing bells, gaily adorned hats and bearing an
array of unusual musical instruments. Andy and Liz
Barrington of the Great Bustard Morris side proceeded to
give a highly entertaining and informa ve talk covering the
O u r
history, skills and future of Morris dancing. Both Andy and
t h a n ks
Liz are talented musicians and entertainers through and
through and the group were soon laughing (or hiding!) as
‘vic ms’ were chosen to dress up and have a go at the
dances for themselves. GBG would like to say a huge
g re at
thankyou to Andy and Liz for a wonderfully entertaining
evening, many laughs and a fascina ng insight into the history of Morris, as well as their support of the project itself. Join them on Facebook: Great-Bustard-Morris.
Introducing NEW GBG Keepers GBG
Egg & Chick Appeal
announce that a new group of bustard keepers has joined the GBG team and are bringing a new dimension to the bustard bothy
Andover. A huge thanks to
The new chicks are here thanks to your support
The Egg and Chick Appeal has so far raised an
Charles Hibberd, Mandy
incredible £9,656. This has helped us build a
Grinter and Fred and
really high quality incuba on unit and chick
Rona Andrews and new
rearing sta on which is compliant with all the
keepers Lenka Panackova,
quaran ne regula ons. It has also helped GBG
bring eggs back from Russia for the first me.
An update on the success of this ground-
Henstock, Ruth Manvell,
breaking event is included later in this
Kevin Crane and Jeane e
magazine, but a er transpor ng the eggs, we
Smith who all joined the
now have chicks to rear. A huge thankyou is due
team in June and are now
to all those who have contributed to our
caring for our rescued
progress on this, and a renewed plea goes to
birds in the bustard aviary
those who may yet be able to help.
& giving talks to the bothy
relevance of this successful trial cannot be over
visitors on Sundays.
stated and it may change the way the project
The GBG has taken delivery of a new Fergus. No, the original Fergus has not
Dr Paul O'Donoghue, currently based at the
been disposed of, but shares a name with the larger than life crea on by the
University of Chester, is conduc ng a major
Warminster ‘Go Bustards’ project. Based on a sculpture by Ian Hooper and
gene c study of Great Bustards. Working with
painted by ar st Linda Blake, the model has a coin collec on box built inside
the GBG and overseas colleagues including Prof
it and was christened a er the inspiring visits the ‘Go Bustards’ team made to
Alonso from Madrid's Natural History Museum,
see the original Fergus.
Paul is comparing, amongst other things, the
The model was a hit at the Jubilee celebra ons in Salisbury and is scheduled
varia ons within the worlds Great Bustard
to visit fairs, fetes and other events during the summer. He is very big and
popula on. To assist with this GBG is supplying
heavy with a concrete base so he is not likely to be
samples from its own birds and from birds reared
carr carried oﬀ. The sheer size of the model does give us
in Russia as well as from historical taxidermy
a bit of a transport problem however. He is too
specimens belonging to GBG Director David
big to fit in the back of most cars, and
Waters. GBG is also helping track down historical
although it would cause a s r, he really
taxidermy specimens from museums and private
cannot go on the roof either! Fieldfare
collec ons from the UK and overseas. If any GBG
Trailers of Ford, Salisbury, have come to
members or supporters have knowledge of a
our rescue by kindly dona ng a small
Great Bustard specimen in a museum, stately
trailer to the GBG. This is being fixed up
home or school please contact GBG on
and serviced and will be in use over the
summer, our thanks go to Fieldfare for their
Ideally specimens with a known provenance are
g generosity. Please let us know if you have a good
sought, with a place and date of the specimen
idea for a venue for Big Fergus to help raise funds.
being killed, but all are of interest.
AucƟon picnic success day tremendously. GBG would like to hearƟly thank Mary and Roger for their generous donaƟon to the aucƟon, and Bob and Rachel for bidding.
The winning bidders enjoying their day - despite the cold! Last year Mary and Roger Simpkin donated a
crossed that the visitors would arrive
picnic tour of Wiltshire in their 1930's Riley
equipped for ArcƟc temperatures - and
to the Great Bustard Group’s Summer
thankfully they did! The group met in
aucƟon. May of this year saw the trip take
Ogbourne-St-Andrew, a half-way point for
place and a wonderful Ɵme was had by all.
the guests and Bob and Rachel were great
Roger prepared a route which would show
sports. They loved the idea of a White Horse
the guests, Bob and Rachel of Hampshire, 6
Tour and Roger gave a running commentary.
of the 8 Wiltshire White Horses. The day
Everyone ate whilst looking across at the
dawned and - what a freezer! Mary and
wonderful Wiltshire views from the chosen
Roger had warned their guests that open
spot. At the end of the day all agreed that
motoring can be cold so had their fingers
they had made new friends and enjoyed the
Wrapped up and se ng oﬀ for the day
CongratulaƟons to the Fat Bustards! A tug of war was held on Sunday 3rd June at 1.30 as part of the Woodford Valley Jubilee celebraƟons. The event was inspired by a photo of a similar compeƟƟon held at the same spot in Lower Woodford in the late 1960’s. There were four teams each made up of eight strapping lads; the Fat Bustards, Blind Fury, the Woodford Warriors and Powerhouse. Each team took turns to pull a carrier over the River Avon in the water meadows at Lower Woodford. Teams were comprised of valley residents, Woodford Primary school dads and other local vicƟms! And the winners were the Fat Bustards who won a trophy and a boƩle of beer for each member to help them celebrate! The Fat Bustard team was put together by valley resident Steve Grant. It was his idea for team members and supporters to buy bustard t-shirts and make a £5 donaƟon towards the Great Bustard Project. The event proved very popular and caused great amusement as the losing teams were systemaƟcally pulled into the river. There is talk of making this event an annual one, the other teams are keen to win the trophy from the Fat Bustards. But the Bustards will be ready and perhaps next year we will ask GBG Director David Waters to join in. There is talk of women’s teams forming too so watch this space all GBG volunteers!
The Fat Bustard team spor ng GBG t-shirts
News from the HCT
Thankyou to all the GBG team
Many will have no ced that Fergus has le his usual home in the GBG aviary at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. He was injured before his release in 2004 and is the first bird the GBG has cared for in cap vity. Despite his isola on rearing he has developed a strong rela onship with humans and is something of a favourite with visitors to the Great Bustard aviary at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. In spring of this year he was taken to another aviary away from public view where it was hoped that he would mate with one of the two females there. Both these females are injured birds, and although one is too
GBG’s Allan Goddard meets the local farmers
young to breed at a year old, the older was thought to be a poten al breeder.
Fergus displayed with vigour
and enthusiasm throughout the spring, and is s ll displaying at the me of wri ng. Sadly neither of the females seem to be suitably impressed re were a few and although there moments
uced neither has produced n an egg. GBG is in close
som some volunteers may on occasion be paid. Many core tasks aare undertaken by unpaid staﬀ and the ma er of being in receipt of a salary or not has no relevance on the
Salisbury Plain Project Site. These new staﬀ will help
ensure that the GBG has the Bustard Bothy covered
during weekends, high days and holidays and that
m o d i fi e d is
gus hoped that Fergus esume will be able to resume n the near his public du es in future.
bookings for site visits can be taken secure in the knowled that certain days of the week are fully staﬀed. As edge alway the GBG is indebted to its en re staﬀ and is always always ready to welcome more people to the growing team. Email ﬃ b oﬃce@greatbustard.org if you would like to come and meet the group.
Fergus (above, circle) and his ladies (above) Some of the team members at a staﬀ training day in Enford
Brunches, and into Lynne’s visits team at the
to try again
aspect aspects of their work and act as volunteers for others, and
being recruited into Suzy and Charles’ Hawk
those who are not. Some of the paid staﬀ are only paid for certain
has increased significantly with new faces having
force. There never has been a dis nc on between those who are paid and
Over the last few months the number of new staﬀ
The GBG has always been an organisa on which relies on a voluntary work
importance of the task or the person undertaking it.
G r e a t
New team members Jodi and Hazel hope we have smaller sizes for them!
Harvest is approaching, a Ɵme of change for rural foxes. AusƟn Weldon reports © Peter Thompson GWCT
© David Kjaer
© James Palmer The BriƟsh countryside provides excellent habitat and refuges for foxes, especially when the vegetaƟon is high In the last ar cle we looked at the reproduc on of
readily sustains him through the leaner
has a big impact on fox territories in terms of
the red fox and the development of young fox
months. The rural fox on the other hand is
both size and structure. While crops are high
cubs. Let’s now pick up the story with the cubs
likely to find winter a far tougher prospect.
providing plenty of cover and food is readily available, foxes will not travel far from the core
fully weaned and star ng to stand on their own feet. As with all wild creatures, only the fi est and
A close encounter with a fox scat at this
of their territory. As the ma ng season
most street-wise individuals will survive to pass
me of year is likely to give a good indica-
approaches in the winter, dog foxes are known
on their genes – hence foxes keep ge ng wilier!
on of the food available. A very so scat,
to extend their movements to increase the
o en with a purple nge, is likely to mean
chances of them encountering recep ve
Late summer is a me of change for wildlife in
berries are being eaten, whilst beetle wing
females. Vixens are also thought to spend
agricultural landscapes. Crops are being harvested
cases can be found in areas where these
more me on the periphery of their territories,
exposing animals which once could hide within
are readily available. Fox scats for the rest
thus increasing the chances of encountering a
them, so for the young rural fox, it must quickly
of the year are more likely to be hard,
mate. Consequently, if a territory holding
adapt or it will perish. This is a me of plenty and
rounded at one end and pointed at the
animal dies in the autumn or winter, another
easy pickings for all animals, so ‘young things’ can
other; they also have a strong odour, as
will quickly fill the void. This contrasts with the
grow quickly, and ‘old things’ can lay down
any dog owner whose hound has rolled in
spring and summer when
reserves of fat in readiness for the forthcoming
it will tes fy!
e far less foxes move
winter. As the summer ends and turns to autumn,
ritory and a territory may not be
Foxes have a tremendously varied diet which
fox cubs gradually start to disperse from
includes insects, such as ground beetles, berries,
their natal areas. This par cularly applies
fruits and many small mammals and birds. Essen-
to dog fox cubs which will be pressured by
ally, cubs are heavily dependent on food that
the resident adults to leave their birth
can’t run away! It is indeed this which sustains
place and establish a territory of their own.
them un l they have perfected their hun ng
Vixen cubs, on the other hand, are more
N e x t
skills. Once the berries, fruits and insects have
likely to remain in their parent’s area and
gone by late autumn and early winter, many cubs
may contribute to the raising of next year’s
will starve to death and only the strongest and
cubs if they don’t have cubs themselves.
fi est which develop hun ng skills will survive. The urban fox has the luxury of being able to
The physical altera on of the Bri sh
capitalise on mans waste via scavenging and this
countryside brought about by the harvest
reoccupied for some me.
and how it es. aﬀects foxes.
A brief history of OƟs by Estlin Waters (prof)
O s is one year younger than the Great Bustard Group. In March 1999 the first
issue of O s was stapled together, slid into
p a p e r , lithographic
expensive looking envelopes inherited from the Great Bustard Trust, and sent to all 30
37 pence to 23
members of the Great Bustard Group. From
pence. From issue
then un l July 2006 the first 18 numbers of
19 ( 2006), O s was
O s were produced by David Waters and
printed on A4 paper on his home printer. The
hundred copies were produced
circula on had increased to 74 by 2003, all
although the Great Bustard Group
sent by First Class post and by Air Mail for the
membership was about 350. Copies were
few members living abroad. 174 copies were
used for publicity and were sold to non-
costs. The aim of a self funding magazine has
being sent out by 2004 and about 400 copies
members for £3.00. Some members saved
sadly not yet been achieved but sponsors and
the Great Bustard Group money by accep ng
adver sers are being sought. Stuﬃng the
their O s by e-mail. By 2007 the member-
envelopes and hand franking the 1,000 +
Increased circula on and changes in postal
ship was about 450. Charlie Moores was
which are sent out remains a quarterly ritual
charges in 2006 lead to a new format for O s.
editor in 2010 and 2011.
for staﬀ and volunteers. O s has evolved
a modern design O s began Six
Al Dawes had edited and coordinated the produc on for several years and the new
O s had used colour from the first issue and
look O s was reduced to a folded A5 size.
the use of colour gradually increased in both
John Mackenzie-Grieve became editor in
quality and quan ty.
With these changes there was no
printed on one side of the sheet only but
reduc on in content and there was an
both sides of the page were used from issue
improvement in paper quality. The new O s
13 (Autumn 2004). In issue 31, AA1 Media
also had a wider range of contributors. The
Director Suzy Smithson took over the design
change in size reduced postal charges from
of O s and the publica on changed size
Early issues were
again, this me to standard magazine dimen-
pictures, more pages and to get no ced more widely. Suzy undertook the editorial role from issue 37. Adverts now feature and go some way to covering the produc on
with the mes and has gradually become a very professional-looking magazine that has earned compliments from many readers. It has come a long way but some look back with a touch of nostalgia to the earlier basic produc ons da ng back to last century. Some early issues are now scarce, one might say as rare as bustard’s teeth.
Monitoring by David Waters There are valid concerns over the consequences of fi ng young birds with any of these devices. Evolu on has led the birds to take a certain form. Adding coloured tags, or backpacks on harnesses will not help them. The degree to which they disadvantage them is not clear. Ar cles published in the scien fic magazines and journals claim there is no nega ve impact, but private conversa ons with some of the authors of these papers can include an (Above) Monitoring the free flying birds is an essenƟal part of maintaining their welfare
admission that they believe there is a nega ve impact.
Keeping tabs on the UK’s Great Bustards is not an easy task. Big birds they certainly are, but they can also be remarkably secre ve.
than mere observa on. Radio transmi ers of the size suitable for Great Bustards can give a detec on range of 3 to 6 miles, but this can go up to 25 miles if the receiving aerial is given some al tude. The GBG employed light
Finding out where they are, what they are
aircra on training flights to get its receivers
feeding on, where they nest and, if they die
airborne in the early years of the project.
Why the diﬀerence? To get a paper published in a scien fic journal the paper must pass a review panel that would cri cise any flaw in the methodology. As the primary objec ve of much research is
what killed them, are important ques ons. There has been a lot of pressure on the
GPS and satellite telemetry can provide the
to get a paper published, rather than inves -
loca ons of the released birds without the
gate a given topic, there is pressure to
ques ons from the licensing authori es and
monitoring staﬀ having to leave the oﬃce.
present the methodology as being without
from a project management perspec ve
Loca ons are recorded at set intervals and
flaw. Any admission that the fi ng of tags,
these answers are needed to learn how to
then periodically sent to the monitoring team
harnesses and transmi ers may have an
improve the success rate of the trial reintro-
via a satellite. To get the loca ons of the birds
impact on the bird would devalue the data, as
without having to go to the field has certain
the behaviour of the bird studied could be
a rac ons, but the loca on of a bird is only a
judged to have been altered by the a ach-
There are a number of op ons available for considera on when it comes to monitoring Great Bustards.
part of the informa on needed. It will give
ment of the devices.
nothing about the bird’s use of the loca on;
whole study could be considered compro-
is it roos ng, feeding, displaying, nes ng or
mised and the paper may not be published.
Before the young birds are released monitoring is fairly straight forward. The birds are in
just loafing? Each of these ac vi es requires a diﬀerent type of habitat. General habitat
Obtaining data by remote means remains
classifica ons can be equally vague or even
popular with academics and in some cases is
considered a valuable tool by conserva on-
some form of confinement and can therefore easily be found. A er release the whole business becomes more challenging. If they stay close to the release site the chances of a visual record are high, but if they move away the chances decline in propor on with the distance moved.
In this instance the
ists, but others reject its use. The German
A field of oil seed rape could provide an open vege ve structure with well spaced plants with a maximum height of 3” when the crop is just star ng to grow.
Released birds may be
Great Bustard project has used wing tags and transmi ers a ached to the birds by a harness in the past and have rejected them both on the grounds that these birds had a lower survival rate than birds released without the extra burdens.
fi ed with coloured wing tags to enable
Alterna vely the field could be over 2 feet of
individuals to be dis nguished. However the
solid greenery impassable to a bustard. There
The best way of keeping track of our Great
birds need to be located first. The use of
could be a short or bare patch in the field.
Bustards is under review and will be reported
remote technology gives the project staﬀ the
Without the monitoring staﬀ being there at
on in the next issue of O s.
chance to detect birds over greater distances
me, or shortly a er, the data has
ques onable value.
As Autumn approaches.. David Waters reports on the past months at the Project Site was back in the company of other Great Bustards her behaviour reverted to that of the other birds. It seems she knew the behavioural norms, but a er 6 months without seeing one of her own kind, she accepted humans as a second best op on for company. Once back with her own species the normal behaviour simply over-wrote the weaker rela onship with people.
Since being back with the other birds her flush distances and general behaviour is as that of the others, and it is not possible to get within a couple of hundred metres of her. Similar incidents have been reported by Torsten Langgemach from the German Great The wild Great Bustards have thrived at the Project Site A female released in 2011, known as T5, was
unusually tame. Nothing in her behaviour in
reported in the last edi on of O s as having
the UK had suggested this, but as me passed
spent the winter in Normandy. She had not
it was clear that this bird was far more
been seen for some
tolerant of close proximity to humans than
wri ng the last report although we were
any other bird we had reared. She s ll lived in
hopeful she was s ll alive and well.
the wild, so must have developed and
me at the
T 5 was released in September 2011. She was regularly seen around the Project Site for September and October but was last seen there in early November.
maintained good responses to predators such as foxes and dogs, but humans were accepted as not being threatening. T5 made regular appearances in the local newspapers and was even painted by a local ar st.
Bustard Project. A bird heads oďŹ€ on its own, and in the absence of its own species finds some social interac on or even food from humans and acts as a tame bird. Once reunited with its own kind, it reverts to the usual behaviour and is cau ous and intolerant of humans. In any event it is a great success that the bird has made this great journey and returned to Wiltshire. We will be watching her with great interest in the autumn to see what she does and where she goes.
As the days lengthened and spring came T5 moved away and no reports were received
Later that month she was found in Purbeck in
for much of March, April and early May. She
had flown north up to the coast near
disappeared again. A full month later she was
Cherbourg where she was seen on the 17th
found on the other side of the channel in
May. Shortly a er this we received reports of
Normandy, close to a village called Montcha-
a female Great Bustard close to Exmouth in
ton. A field of lucerne seemed to provide her
Devon. By the me we had the report and got
with all that was needed and she did not
down there, she had moved on. The next
leave the area for over 3 months. Her behav-
sigh ngs were in north Somerset, and again
iour was very interes ng during this
she had moved on before anyone from the
a Great Bustard in the area was
project could find her. Her next stop was in
something of great interest for the locals and
Wiltshire, back where she had been released.
the bird gathered quite a few fans and follow-
The reports from the west country confirmed
ers. It became apparent that this bird was
her unusual tameness, but as soon as she
T5â€™s coordinates as she made her long trip
Orange 15, our oldest bird, from 2004 was
have turned up with the other birds. She has
Bk 20 was in possession of his new feathers
found to have nested and was incuba ng at
remained elusive and as long as she
and began to fly. First inside the enclosure
least one egg this summer. This is the first
maintains this there is realis c hope that she
and then out of it. The early flights were a bit
is with a chick or even two.
shaky and we had the obvious concerns that
me we have been able to confirm that she
he would fly out at dusk and then not have
has nested. In previous years she had me and we
Despite the extra resources of the LIFE+
the energy to fly back over the fence and may
strongly suspected she may be on a nest, but
project, this is the poorest year the project
roost in a dangerous place and fall prey to a
we could never find it. This year the nest was
has had in terms of knowing what has
fox. However, he did not. On a few occasions
discovered by RSPB staﬀ working on another
happened with regard to nes ng, and the
he was encouraged to go back inside the
project and it was found to be empty some
GBG will ensure a be er programme of
enclosure at night by flushing him again. But
monitoring is in place in future years.
by July he had proved himself to be a compe-
Throughout most of June there have been 7 birds spending most d around the of their Ɵme in and alisbury Plain release area on Salisbury oduced exceland they have produced ors. lent shows for visitors.
tent flyer and behaves just like the others.
disappeared at the crucial
me later. Sadly there was insuﬃcient monitoring of the nest and we do not know the date or the cause of the eggs being taken or destroyed. Y22 from 2005 was suspected of being on a nest, and some mystery surrounds her ac vi es. As is fairly typical, she had selected a spot from which observa ons were diﬃcult, and was flushed by some horse riders who promptly reported it to the GBG. She returned to the spot and we thought the nest had been found. Observa ons over the next few days showed her to be in the same area, but the exact loca on changed from day to day. In due course the site was carefully examined and some fla ened patches of vegeta on were found but no sign of any eggs. There was evidence of droppings close by, which would not usually be le by a nes ng female as the smell could alert predators, so it may be there never was a nest there.
Y22 was then seen circling around a displaying male. This is a fairly sure indicaƟon that she is seeking to mate, and although no copulaƟon was observed she did disappear the next day.
Bk 17, a female from 2010 0 spent ich is some me in Berkshire which he an unusual direc on for the birds to go, but has sincee returned. A male from 2011, Bk 20, had very poor feathers at the me
release in September 2011. It was likely that he could get airborne, but would not be able to
decided to cut the primary and secondary flight feathers on one wing and make him eﬀec vely flightless un l new feathers grew through.. With the feathers trimmed he was released into the large
She has given us just the very occasional
ain and enclosure on Salisbury Plain
glimpse since then, when she was seen
inter there. spent the autumn and winter
feeding vigorously which indicated she was
With all the excellent work by Allan
taking a break from incuba on. By the me
Goddard there was plenty of both food and
of wri ng, any eggs she may have had will
h hough h it i could ld not cover for the bird and although
have hatched and if the eggs had been lost
leave, it did associate with the other birds
for any reason Y22 would in all probability
when they were in the enclosure. In May,
Schools & Education
Happy 60th Anniversary Dr. Patricia Brown visits Southampton University
STEM ambassadors who were helping with the logisƟcs of the event. Patricia highlights every aspect of the conservaƟon message to students
Many thanks to: Robin Smith and the team
The Great Bustard is returning to themselvesSlowly as well asbut the wider benefits surely thisof Our EducaƟon Team represented Britain. reintroducƟonbird, of Great to the onceBustards commonthe Great Bustard Group at the incredible environment, to other species and to related recent Science and Engineering Primary Schools Fair held at habitats. Not only did this raise awareness of the Group, but BriƟsh also highlighted our involveSouthampton University to place in the countryside, is ment in the context UK's celebrate its 60th anniversary. making thewider rolling hillsofoftheWiltenvironment and our cross-cultural and shire its home aŌer an absence The event, aƩended by primary schools from internaƟonal work. In the brief Ɵme we had of 175 years.
at Solent EducaƟon Business Partnership for
sponsored by Southampton University and
with them, pupils and teachers considered The public picture. is following the reintroducƟon the bigger This included the interac-
the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Ɵon and interdependence of species, the
The full programme included a Science Show, The University Light Show, Tour of The University’s
Engineering AcƟviƟes and Science AcƟviƟes. Our stand had hands on informaƟon and acƟviƟes about the work of reintroducing the Great Bustard in the UK. This was run on a Ɵmed rota for 16 groups of pupils from the various schools aƩending the event and we worked with over 150 pupils.
organising the event and inviƟng us to parƟcipate, Southampton University and the Royal Society of Chemistry for sponsoring the event, Southampton University for hosƟng us at the lovely Garden Court Venue and to Karen, Lynda and Tricia for their enthusiasƟc work that day. We look forward to working with SEBP at future events.
significance of where we, as individuals, sit in our own habitat and environment and our responsibiliƟes to wildlife both in general and through the specific work of the Great Bustard Group.
As ever, Hercule proved a huge draw to the stand for those who were passing by and the pupils and teachers scheduled for the acƟviƟes.
The main purpose of our acƟviƟes was to
They also enjoyed the live mealworm acƟvity
enable pupils to gain knowledge about and
understanding of the work of the Great
Bustards and themselves. Our new miniature
Bustard Group, especially, the process and
field laboratory with 'glamorous' scienƟst
science underpinning the logisƟcs involved in
dolls proved its worth for illustraƟng the
geƫng the birds here and looking aŌer them
hand rearing of chicks.
once they are reintroduced into the wild. We covered what happens to those successfully
The school packs given to each group, with
released, how we monitor them and what
Great Bustard related goodies for the school
happens to those unable to be released or
and the pupils, were well received. We were
remain in the wild. Pupils also found out
parƟcularly pleased with the interest shown
about the biology and habitat of the birds
in our work by other presenƟng organisa-
Hercule - GBG’s schools star parƟcipates
The Junior magazine of the Great Bustard Group. Issue 3. Autumn 2012
Big Fergus wows the crowds
INSIDE - Fergus spots the Queen! Win a bustard teddy
Big Fergus spots the Queen! In May the Queen visited Salisbury and we were invited to join in the fun! We took our latest friend â€˜Big Fergusâ€™ along and he was a huge hit with visitors!
Big Fergus has lots of family too! Some of Big Fergus’ brothers & sisters who are popping up around Wiltshire
Thankyou Warminster ‘Go Bustards’ for bringing Fergus’ family g along!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on visiting Fergus and his friends
Winner! Where do bustards meet for coffee ? In a nest-cafe !
A big bustard thankyou to all who entered our ‘Animal jokes’
in the last Bustard Buddies. And congratulations Jamie
We say ‘Ha ha thanks Jamie!’
for his winning joke!
Win a teddy We have a GBG teddy bear to give away this month. All you have to do to win him is email us the answer to the following question..
‘How many toes does a Great Bustard have? email@example.com g
Have you seen a Great Bustard? We’d like to know.. Email your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Bustard Buddies, 1, Down Barn Close, Winterbourne Gunner, Wiltshire, SP4 6JP
Rescue in Iran Alex StoƩ reports
Ahmad Bara , our Iranian correspondent, of the Iranian Bokan Environmental Oﬃce contacted the Great Bustard Group to let us know about a Great Bustard nest discovered by a local farmer in North West Iran.
and chopped vegetaƟon as well as insects. As bustards grow, mice can be introduced into their diet. Unfortunately, two weeks aŌer they were rescued, the weaker of the two chicks died. Tests did not reveal the cause of death. Feather samples have been taken for further analysis, but it is thought likely that stress was the cause or at least a contribuƟng
In the course of harvesƟng the nest was
inadvertently damaged, but its occupants, two Great Bustard chicks, were successfully
Ahmad contacted the GBG to update us on
rescued. The chicks were reported to be
his progress at the beginning of July, report-
approximately two weeks old but appeared
ing that the advice on care had been very
to be in good health.
useful in raising the remaining bird and that
The Great Bustard Group advised regarding the birds care, which can be diﬃcult, as birds are par cularly vulnerable to stress. The young birds were given water via pipeƩe iniƟally to ensure they didn’t succumb to dehydraƟon. As a stop-gap soluƟon, young bustards can be fed cat food – high in energy and protein – but longer term they need
the team were able to take measures to avoid the chick becoming desensiƟsed to humans. Ahmad and his team were able to build a run for the bird as well as fabricaƟng a dehumanisaƟon suit for use during feeding.
For the past two weeks the bird has been feeding on a variety of diﬀerent foods, though it apparently has a preference for grasshoppers.
foods more closely matching what would be available in their natural habitat. Great
The next stage for the bird may well be
Bustards are omnivorous, and as large flying
release back into the wild. Ahmad and his
birds they require a lot of energy and so in
team are now consulƟng with the GBG to try
the wild will eat a variety of foods. The Great
to plan an opƟmal release date to maximise
Bustard chicks were fed meat, boiled eggs
the chances of survival for the bird.
Sekanian Plain The chicks were found on Sekanian plain, (a hunƟng prohibited area) and is one of five important habitats for the remaining populaƟon of Great Bustards in Northwest Iran. Located 24km North of Boukan and between the villages of Qormish and Sekanian. The landscape is flat and covers about 35 km2 with a mean alƟtude of 1430m asl. The main crops are wheat, barley, chick pea plus a few alfalfa. Great Bustards nest in drywheat areas and which can cause problems during harvesƟng acƟviƟes. Most harvesƟng is done by combine harvesters which disturb the birds.
GBG’s Jubilee Garden Party
GBG smiles through the rain We report on a ‘Great’ Great Bustard Summer Garden Party On 12th July the GBG held a Garden Party in Salisbury’s spectacular Cathedral Close, and the steady rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of those in aƩendance. Held in the wonderful gardens of the Wardrobe in Salisbury's Cathedral Close the loca on could could not have been pre er. The Wardrobe is so named as it is where the Bishop of Salisbury once kept his various costumes for his work across the sweeping lawns in the Cathedral. Today the building The Great Bustard Morris side brought cheer amidst the rain
hosts the Regimental Museum of the Wiltshire Regiment. Having planned for a typical English summers day the GBG had ensured there was a marquee big enough to accommodate everyone and on the night everybody stayed dry despite the weather’s best eﬀorts to the contrary. The Mayor of Salisbury, Councillor John Collier, welcomed all and in an entertaining address observed that he was pleased the Great Bustard had been returned to the UK a er his days of flying RAF jets at low al tude had finished. The thought of a collision with the worlds heaviest flying bird would be a troubling one for both him as a pilot and for the GBG! The GBG Egg and Chick Appeal received a boost during
the auc on which was ably conducted by Chris Linney. The appea appeal had aimed to raise a to total of £10, 000 and at the start of the evening the appeal stood at just over £7,500. Bids were taken for lots as varied as a days fishing and a bespoke cake to a collec on of sstunning
scu sculptures. Chris did an excelle job of entertaining excellent the guests and extrac ng ‘just one more’ bid from them. The proceeds, combined with a raﬄe, made a splendid £2,150, almost taking the Egg and Chick Frocks were sƟll the order of the day as the determined girls simply donned their wellies!
Appeal to the target.
(Above) Fiona McWilliam entertained thee crowds crow wds
(Above) Paul Goriup cuts Ruth Manvell’s stunning cake, David Waters gets ‘volunteered’ & aucƟoneer Chris Linney at work! The auc on was followed by a performance
Smithson. The Great Bustard Morris are
great deal to all its members and supporters
by the Great Bustard Morris side. A skilled
hugely entertaining and do a grand job of
but special thanks must go to those who
team of Morris men and women the Great
promo ng the Great Bustard - GBG and the
donated lots for the auc on, to Suzy Smith-
Bustard Morris side are led by the irrepress-
Great Bustard Morris side will now be
son for promo ng and organising the event
ible Andy Barrington and have the Great
keeping in close contact and linking their
and to Karen Waters and Ruth Manvell who
Bustard theme all over their costume. GBG's
websites and Facebook pages. Ruth Manvell
prepared the food for the evening. The team
David Waters was invited to join in a dance,
had made an excep onal cake, celebra ng
of waiters and waitresses all did a wonderful
complete with bells and other accruements.
the Great Bustard, the Queens Jubilee and
job and finally the staﬀ of the Wardrobe
Vice President and Veterinary Consultant
the Olympic Games which was cut by Paul
itself deserve thanks for going the extra mile
John Chi y also joined in with AA1’s Suzy
Goriup (GBG Vice President). The GBG owes a
to ensure all went well despite the rain.
Trials, stress and success! David Waters reports on a momentous summer te ng before the shipment can take for tes
The transport of the Great Bustard chicks from Saratovv to the UK has always been a logisƟcal challenge.
place. Then there is the transport itself; 48 hou in a travel crate is not an ideal hours e experience for any bird. It was agreed at the LIFE+ Technical Working Group in 2011 that we should trial the import
It is worth remembering that the
decision to move chicks and not eggs from the start of the
In November of 2011 the agree-
project was not one based on
ment of the Russian partners and
science, but on poli cs formed from
approached about the ways of accommoda ng incubators and the
There was significant opposi on to o
lice licences were applied for. There was a
the idea of impor ng Great Bustards rds from Russia and this opposi on was based
greatt deal of diﬃculty in finding out the rules
on the idea that the GBG and its partners, ners, the
re and regula ons from the airlines. The biggest
A.N. Severtsov Ins tute of Evolu on and
challenge was ge ng past the ‘help lines’
Ecology, would hunt for nests, or even pay
again. The subsequent report confirmed
(which appeared to be anything but and
the farmers to find them. In truth, the
what the GBG had been saying for years and
should perhaps be renamed ‘the first
farmers who drive up and down the huge
now the message was accepted. But what
fields day in, day out do not come across
has all this got to do with eggs? Well, again
many nests at all, but when they do, having
the ma er of poli cs over science dictated
measures in place for the rescue of the eggs
our course of ac on. It was generally felt that
is invaluable. The fields are miles long and
eggs were associated with an illegal trade,
miles wide and the decision makers and
being easier to smuggle and that numbers
advisors had never been to Russia, never
could be hidden or altered. The fact that GBG
seen the type of agriculture and never seen
was not smuggling and had all the licences
the sheer scale of the fields. It was always
(dozens of them in fact) was besides the
apparent that although the Great Bustard
point. Chicks were considered a safer op on.
project was the only reintroduc on project in the UK to use only destroyed nests, and not take eggs or chicks from good nests, it was going to be judged and licenced in a very diﬀerent way.
A lot of the confusion and misunderstanding was not resolved unƟl we paid for a team from Hungary to visit the project in Saratov firsthand.
Thanks is due to JCS Livestock at Heathrow and the BA Cargo manager in Moscow. Our original hope was that I would travel to Russia to collect the eggs and fly back with the eggs in the cabin in an electrical incubator. Much me was spent on the ma er of transport incubators, and the fact that they looked like black boxes with wires coming out of them which led to a ba ery in a rucksack
The whole poli cal situa on shi ed when
made me think that the chances of ge ng
RSPB changed its posi on from opposing the
through either Moscow airport or Heathrow
project to ac vely suppor ng it. The project
without being shot by the police were slim!
now had a far greater degree of acceptability
At the end of May 2012 it became apparent
and transpor ng eggs was now an op on.
that I would not be permi ed to have the
Transpor ng chicks means the whole hatch-
eggs in the cabin with me. I then worked on
ing and early rearing process must be carried
having them transported in an incubator in
out in Russia. Apart from the annual GBG
an environmentally controlled cargo hold. I
veterinary trip they do not have specialist
sent in all the technical specifica ons of the
veterinary help, the
facili es have been
improved year on year with GBG finances but
purchased. This was followed by a request for
are s ll far from ideal. The summer tempera© Mike Read tures make cap ve rearing very hard and all
a UN38.3 safety data sheet for the ba ery
circulated their recommenda ons based on their experience in Hungary. Upon their
the exported chicks need comprehensive
the fi h revised edi on of the recommenda-
arrival in rural Saratov Oblast they had the
pre-export health checks. Samples must be
good grace to tear the documents up and
taken in Russia and then imported to the UK
Before their departure this team detailed and
and an accompanying document amending ons on the transport of dangerous goods manual of test criteria. This, I duly supplied.
Having learned so much about dry cell lithium
concerning their transport by air I was knocked back a bit when the day before I was due to fly out to Russia I was told that no ba eries were now allowed to be running in the cargo hold, regardless of their specificaon or cer fica on. This bad news was balanced out by a
cancelled the shipment for a second me.
I then learnt that the Animal recep on staﬀ and the airport vet could accommodate me by special arrangement, for which I was and remain, most grateful but sadly I had already cancelled the trip by the me this oﬀer reached me.
message from Moscow that I could take the eggs in the cabin, but not in a powered
I reorganised everything for the following
incubator. I immediately shot out and bought
week, leaving the field sta on on Tuesday to
a picnic cool box, a few sheets of foam and
fly from Moscow on the Wednesday. Having
some warm so thermal material.
informed everyone of this and made all the necessary arrangements I was then told that
That night I was on my way to Moscow, and then making the long overland journey to Saratov.
the Monday and Tuesday were public
© Mike Read My first plan was to be in Russia for approxi-
their last working day would be the preced-
mately four days. On arrival one piece of
cer ficate only lasts for three days, anything
export paperwork was missing and the delays
issued on Friday would be out of date by
at the UK end combined with this to mean
that most of the eggs had already hatched.
forward because of the holiday, so the date
Only four were in the incubators at the field
was changed yet again to fly on the Thursday.
Holidays in Russia! This meant that the transport vet oﬃce was not working, and ing Friday. As the transport veterinary health
I could not bring the date
sta on and two of those were suspected of
occurred when it was no ced that all the Russian
reference to the electric incubator I had intended to use. A whole pile of forms needed to be redone with reference to the cool box. At 5pm the last form was collected from the Saratov customs oﬃce by Vladimir Provonov from the Ins tute. I had been packed with the engine running for most of the day and was on my way to Moscow within seconds of the go ahead being given. The transport incubator was used to get the eggs as far as the customs line in the airport cargo village. It was designed to keep the eggs warm at 37.2 degrees. Unfortunately the outside temperature was just over 41 degrees and inside the car it was ho er s ll. The wonderful ‘computer controlled, mul func on,
thermosta cally alarmed, forced air device’ simply could not cope! Momentarily it seemed that our precious cargo would cook. Then an idea came to me, I grabbed my tweed jacket and wrapped the incubator in it. I then repeatedly poured water over the jacket and the subsequent evapora on
During all this rescheduling, cul va on con nued and another two eggs were rescued. The total was now six poten ally viable eggs, but could I export them before they hatched?
brought the temperature down again. How’s
took a turn, rain fell and weed seeds began to
All my documents said ‘eggs’ and if one of
the roads between Saratov and Moscow are
germinate. Within a few days the cul va on
them turned into a chick permission to fly
rough and the pot holes are not easy to see at
started again and shortly two endangered
would be cancelled. On the morning of my
night. Arm ache became arm pain and then
nests were reported. I informed the cargo
departure a last minute panic
arm numbness as the miles crawled by.
being bad. The unseasonably dry and hot weather meant there was li le or no cul vaon going on, therefore no eggs would need rescuing. I delayed my departure for a week as, if the rains came and cul va on started up again, the eggs would once again be at risk. And then, as if by design, the weather
that for a triumph of tweed over technology! The temperature cooled to the high 30's as we drove though the night. The rough roads forced me to hold the incubator on my lap all that way, not daring to let it rest on my leg as
anged oﬃce in Moscow of the new date, changed
At 8am we arrived at the airport having made
my cket and gave all the informa on to the
record me and only experienced one minor
Heathrow Animal Recep on Staﬀ, DEFRA
break breakdown. The paperwork challenges at
ary Vets, and the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency government vetss
the airport gave me further problems as ssomewhere along the line the des na-
who licence our quaran ne. Being
tucked away in a quiet spot in rural
changed from ‘GBG’ to a ‘Govern-
Russia I had not been able to follow
ment laboratory in Surrey’ but all
the news and learnt too late that
was in hand and soon there was
the new dates clashed with the
li le for me to do other than to
stalk around the various queues
informed that Heathrow could not
while my colleague did the nego a-
cope with any eggs arriving as they
re had so few staﬀ on duty. I therefore
GBG Staff Having been up all night and with customs all day I was delighted when the Moscow BA passenger manager arranged for me to use the VIP lounge to enable me to have a
A very good bustard mum!
shower. Whether this was for my benefit or
Introducing CrisƟna Sellares
that of those sat close to me I can’t say, but it
Cris na is GBG’s bustard rearing expert and is bringing up the ‘babies’ using techniques
was a welcome oﬀer nonetheless. At the last
that avoid contact with humans and enable them to be released into the wild. Cris na
moment before the flight I took the eggs out
grew up between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea, knowing from an early age
of the incubator and placed them in the cool
that she wanted to become a biologist. A er comple ng a joint degree on Biology by
box, which had been previously warmed by
hot water. I had to then dispose of the water
Universi es of Barcelona and St Andrews she worked as a marin marine biologist in a
as it cannot be taken on the plane.
variety of res research projects in
hrough the Finally I was whisked through
places as a far apart as
check in and security before
Norw Norway, Weymouth
ng. I being called for boarding.
an the Falkland and
collected the cool box of
I s l a n d s ,
eggs from the same
customs chap I had
m a i n l y
briefed about careful
m a r i n e
a empted to board
the plane with my
precious cargo. The ‘Director
the me she
moment to reprimand me
h had decided to
for not le ng them know
pment as more fully about the shipment
conserv conserva on and went
it had caused her considerable
problems. Trying to sound cheerful I
Wildlife Conserva on Trust, based
oﬀered to tell her some of the problems I had
in Jersey Zoo. Not long a er she was
encountered and a er a brief outline she
oﬀered a job there as a bird keeper and was trained to become an aviculturalist, learning
agreed that the flight simply wasn’t long
husbandry and breeding techniques that were used to manage endangered bird species
enough, and the eggs and I were admi ed
in cap vity. Whilst working at Jersey Zoo she undertook an MSc in Wildlife Biology and
into the plane!
Conserva on, which included a reserve management course in Africa and a research
Special permission was now needed from the captain to allow me to open the cool box and
thesis on the reintroduc on project of the Mauri us Kestrel. Having been exposed to frontline conserva on eﬀorts in Mauri us, where most species
refill the water bo les with hot water, and
of birds and rep les are both endemic and endangered, she decided to learn new
eventually this was given, then all I had to do
conserva on skills and took up a job as a falconer at the Na onal Birds of Prey Centre in
was to sit down and worry about how many
Newent, were she learnt techniques on cap ve breeding and training of birds of prey.
of the eggs, if any, had survived the heat, the
During Cris na’s varied career she has managed to combine work on breeding
rough roads, the delays and everything else
programmes of endangered birds and working as a freelance fieldworker in research
they’d been through.
projects, studying Bonelli’s Eagles and Marsh Harriers through nest cameras, carrying
On landing at Heathrow, Liz Schickle the head
out bird surveys, raptor migra on counts and ringing schemes.
Vet for the airport was there to greet me at
As a bird biologist her main interest is bird reintroduc on projects, having par cipated
the plane door. I handed her the cool box
in reintroduc ons of Ospreys in England, Black Vultures in the Pyrenees and most
and she took them straight to the Animal
recently Cirl Bun ngs in Cornwall, so she is very pleased to be given the opportunity to
Recep on Centre where GBG’s Aus n and
look a er the bustard eggs and chicks for this very exci ng new stage of the Great
Cris na had set up an incubator ready to
receive them. Cris na will con nue the tale over the page but first to introduc ons...
Chick Rearing by ChrisƟna Sellares we were allowed back inside to remove them
expected, so all we had do was to keep check-
from the transport box and place them in the
ing the instruments, and most importantly
incubator. Cu ng the tape, removing the lid
keep an eye on the eggs for signs of life.
and peeling oﬀ layer a er layer of insula ng material was like unwrapping the best
We didn’t have to wait long though, as on
present ever, and as we held the eggs in our
Saturday morning whilst inspec ng an egg I
hands they felt warm to the touch, even a er
found a small crack on it! Something had
many hours without a live source of heat. We
broken the shell from the inside, which
measured and weighed each egg as we put
means the chick had pipped! I called to the
them in the incubator for future records.
chick, making a poor impression of a
Now they were safe! Finally they were back in
mummy-bird, and put my ear to it, and
the warm, cozy temperature of 37.2ºC, the
almost immediately I heard a
correct incuba on temperature for Great
chirping back. I put the egg in the hatcher
Bustards. Two hours later the paperwork had
straight away and kept a close eye on it. As
cleared and we were able to take the eggs
the six eggs came in three clutches of two, it
was likely that the second egg of this clutch
was due to pip soon a er the first one, so it The drive back couldn’t have been in worse
was li le surprise that when I checked on it I
weather, despite Aus n’s remarkable skills at
could see it moving. When eggs move it is a
the wheel it was another rough journey for
sign that the chick inside is quite large and is
them. The incubator was plugged into the
due to hatch soon, so the second egg was put
lighter’s switch to keep it working and I held
in the hatcher too. Hatchers are run at
onto it as best I could to protect it from the
slightly lower temperature from incubators
The day that we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived. Thursday the 14th June 2012 and Dave had managed to bring six Great Bustard eggs to England.
bumps and swings of the road and the gusts
(about half a degree) but at much higher
of wind that swayed the car. The eggs were
humidity. This humidity is crucial to prevent
much warmer now they had been in for a
the membrane inside the eggshell from
while, but at this stage nobody could tell
drying out onto the face and nostrils of the
Chicks under a heat lamp in quaranƟne
whether they had made it alive, or even
hatching chick and suﬀoca ng it as it is trying
whether they were alive when they were
to come out of the egg. Once the chick has
We had been preparing for this moment for
taken from their nests in Russia. The shell of
pipped it breathes through the hole and can
days, se ng up the hatchery and rearing
Great Bustard eggs is too thick to shine a light
rest for a whole day before a emp ng to
room in the quaran ne facility, tes ng all the
through, which normally allows us to see
break out of the egg. This was the case with
equipment, from incubators, hatchers and
whether the embryo is alive and how
the first chick, who looked at the world
brooders, to thermometers, scales, lights,
developed it is. With Great Bustard eggs it is
through its peeping hole for a whole day and
heatlamps and electric fences.
a bit of a walk in the dark, and only me
night un l it decided to come out on Sunday
would tell whether the eggs had made it. Aus n (GBG’s Project Oﬃcer) le me at the lounge of the ARC (Animal Recep on Centre) where I met with Ruth Manvell (avian expert). Aus n collected Dave from the terminal then we waited. The eggs would
On arrival, the incubator was taken straight into the hatchery and three eggs were moved to the other incubator.
arrive at the ARC via customs so all we had to do was stay put. A er about an hour, with s ll
It is good to have at least two of each in a
a few hours to go, we were allowed into the
hatchery, this way if for example an incubator
oﬃces to set up and plug in the portable
was to unexpectedly fail you would not lose
incubator we had brought with us, so it
all your eggs at once. ‘Do not keep all your
would have me to reach and se le at the
eggs in one basket’ is probably an
right temperature before the eggs were put
aviculturalist’s favourite mo o! The eggs
inside. A er two hours the eggs arrived and
were here, all equipment was running as
morning. This was it - the first Great Bustard egg from Russia to hatch in cap vity in the UK! I was trying not to think about the vastness of this milestone as I weighed it and checked the chicks physical condi on. Precocial birds like these come out with eyes wide open and kicking up a fuss, but it was also wet and red as I placed it in the brooder to dry out in peace. It was exci ng, but work went on as usual, checking the eggs and instruments, keeping an eye on the other egg in the hatcher and watching over the first chick as it rested and dried out.
quickly from them on how to behave like a Great Bustard. The last two eggs have hatched recently and both chicks are doing well, so they too will be joining the other three in a couple of days. Looking a er the eggs and chicks has been, and con nues to be, a very rewarding challenge. I have had so much help and support from everyone in this amazing project. Allowing the chicks to develop in as natural way as possible is a full- me job that involves keeping them constantly s mulated The newly hatched chick taking a look at its surroundings
with new challenges to allow their senses and skills to grow, and for their natural
For the first day of their lives most chicks
trying to join its elder sibling on its laps
don’t normally need much, as the yolk sac
around the brooder. The following day they
they’ve been living on inside the egg gets
were moved to the rearing room and kept in
absorbed into their bodies just before hatch-
the rearing box, a small square compartment
ing, and it provides them with enough
under a heatlamp, to make sure they
nutrients and fluids to keep them going for a
wouldn’t get too cold.
day or two. So I just kept the chick dry and warm, and gave it some water every few hours for the first day. By the following morning the second egg had pipped and was on its way, and it was me to start feeding the first chick. It eagerly took a few mouthfuls from the puppet, the ins nct kicking in and reac ng to something small being waived at the end of a giant beak. The chick grew stronger by the hour, first crawling on its belly and soon trying to sand up on its li le legs, li ing all its body and stretching its neck. Walking was on the wobbly side for a good three days, with lots of falling over and crashing around while trying to feed. I imagine the eyesight had to develop quickly too, and I could see it becoming more spa ally aware as its ability to focus and aim for the food got be er.
From that moment on rearing the babies became a progression of baby steps on which the chicks were gradually introduced to new features in their environment and their diet. First the par
could get some fresh air and sunshine. The me spent outdoors increased as they became more confident with their surroundings, and they also started pecking at the grass and insects for themselves. The pellets with vitamins that they had for the first day of
which really had them going!
posi ve and sa sfying.
sheltered pen planted with grass where they
brooder next to it. This was a good thing, as it
the first one, becoming more ac ve and
chicks from day one is proving to be both
short walks and meals outdoors, in a
plenty of worms, crickets and grasshoppers
second chick developed at a similar pace as
there are losses, but overall this first trial of
rest of the room, then they were oﬀered
could hear its sibling making a racket in the
and both were reunited in the brooder. The
on. Nothing in nature is ever perfect and
during the day, so that they could explore the
lucern, oilseed rape, and most importantly,
didn’t take long for the second chick to hatch,
pecking at stones or pulling bits of vegeta-
on that separates the box with
egg, was calling vigorously, especially when it
wild. With the encouragement of its sibling it
stretching their wings, chasing insects,
the rest of the rearing area was removed
their lives soon were enriched with chopped
out, just like its mum would have done in the
confident, whether it’s running, jumping,
having the eggs here with us and rearing the
Meanwhile the other chick, s ll inside the
encouraged the chick inside the egg to come
behaviours to be displayed as they get more
One of the chicks becoming stronger
While the first two chicks kept on growing the second clutch hatched with two more chicks, of which one sadly died due to developmental problems whilst in the egg. The other chick developed well and soon a er joined the first two in the rearing area, learning
The feeding puppet simulates their mother
Queen’s visit to Salisbury by Suzy Smithson Despite rain, mud and a chilly wind the crowds turned out in force for the Queen’s Jubilee visit to Salisbury, and the Great Bustard Group was delighted to be invited to join in the celebraƟons in Salisbury’s historic Cathedral grounds. From the outset GBG caused quite a sƟr arriving in a 4 x 4 loaded with our latest team member, Big Fergus. Big Fergus is one of the larger than life sculptures (in the manner of the lions and pigs of Bath) of the Great Bustard, cast in glass fibre resin and decorated by local arƟsts. The brainchild of Lesley Fudge of Warminsters ‘Go Bustards’ Project. (www.gobustards2012.com) Fergus has found his home with the Great Bustard Group and made his first public appearance at the Jubilee event in Salisbury. The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those exhibiƟng nor did it deter the crowds, and as if by magic, moments before the Queen’s arrival in the city, the sun broke through the clouds and a magnificent aŌernoon saw in the Royal party. The GBG team was busy throughout the day answering quesƟons about Wiltshire’s bird and Big Fergus was a hit with visitors
Bustards at the Cathedral for the occasion
young and old alike!
Big Fergus gets a peck!
The sun shines as the Queen arrives
Bustard Brunches By Lenka Panackova
© Dave Kjaer
The GBG Keepers get to know the birds and oﬀer some of their favourite treats ‘Oh dear, what have I got myself into?’ I
and feed them whilst the other person would
our project every Sunday in May.
stand just outside delivering the talk. My
thought to myself, about an hour before I was meant to give my first Great Bustard Brunch
A few points were laid out for our guidance –
partner in crime for the first talk was Suzy
talk at the Hawk Conservancy in Hampshire.
the talk was to start at 3:10 PM las ng
Smithson, who was doing the feed and I
‘What if someone asks me a ques on that I
approximately 10 minutes, so as not to
would deliver the talk.
have no answer to..?’ Many people have told
overlap the barn owl show that was held
me not to worry about it as I will realise that I
directly a er. It was essen al to make it
Currently, inside the pen, there are three
know so much more than I thought when I
entertaining for the public in order to draw
birds: Freddie, Nelson and B.B. who have
begin speaking. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘what if
their a en on and most importantly, if you
been incredibly coopera ve with the whole
there is some clever so and so, who had
don’t know the answer to a ques on that
spent a life me studying the birds, has a PhD
someone asked, just explain that you are a
in Ornithology..? My colleagues laughed, it
volunteer and that you haven’t got the
was reassuring to know we all felt the same
answer there and then.
on our first talk. I was provided with a booklet about The Great Bustard that I have now admi edly, read twice around just to be sure.
Bustard Brunch every Sunday without fail throughout May and June, with great success
There were other things to remember. The
and thus it was decided to con nue deliver-
key for the bustard pen needed to be
ing throughout the summer months.
collected before the talk and then there was
So, how did all this come about?
Some me ago, a few of the Great Bustard
mealworms, cubes of cheese and iceberg
Group members came up with an idea to
le uce were kept in a small building that
hold a Great Bustard feed and talk at the
serves as a restaurant to all the birds living at
Hawk Conservancy where some of our
bustards are kept for the public to see. This
As a group we have managed to deliver this
As for organising this, a Google calendar has been set up, where volunteers can enter their name for any future talks, thus giving the whole group an idea of how many talks we are delivering, who is doing them and if there are any outstanding gaps that need filling.
As I learned very quickly, the bustards that
Volunteers who do not wish to do talks are
are kept at the Hawk Conservancy have a
also able to use this calendar to fill in days
passion for hand-picked dandelions and once
when they would like to be at the Hawk
you have oﬀered these to them, you stand
Conservancy caring for the birds and
A er a brief mee ng with Ashley Smith,
li le hope of them accep ng the iceberg
manning the Bustard Bothy. I have so far
Execu ve Life President of the Hawk Conser-
le uce. They sniﬀed at this second class meal
done two talks and feeds myself, thoroughly
vancy Trust and Penny Smout, Chief Execu-
and if they were able to turn their beaks
enjoying the whole experience of being able
ve Oﬃcer, who both oﬀered a great deal of
aside when the le uce was oﬀered to them,
to share my knowledge with what has proven
support to us all in order to pull this project
they surely would have done so. It seemed
oﬀ, it was agreed that we would run a trial of
like a good idea that the volunteers pair up,
oﬃce@greatbustard.org if you would like to
one would go inside the pen with the birds
would allow visitors to not only see the birds but also to ask ques ons about them and the group itself.
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Lynne Derry - GBG Visits Manager reports on the season’s visits so far Visits this year have again kept everyone busy. April was especially so with people booking to see Great Bustards displaying. The birds certainly didn’t let us down with all the males pu ng on displays. Some were be er than others, P5 being the best, but coming in a close second was P2. A bit of compe on next Spring I think. A er having a successful trial run last year hos ng a group of 34 people from Essex in one visit, we have had several large groups this year ranging from 12 to 30 people. The organisa on on paper is e a sy, it’s when the people ac-
tually arrive that things don’t always go exactly to plan!
Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Both females are s ll with the five males from three diﬀerent years of release. Although one or two visitors cancelled their visits due to some horrendously wet and windy weather, those that braved the downpours were treated to the sight of seven bustards stru ng around the enclosure.
Everything always works out and there have always been bustards at the site for the visitors to see with the added bonus of Stonecurlew, Cornbun ng, Harriers (Hen and Montague at diﬀerent mes), Stonechats and many When the rain stopped, the sun shone and the birds dried out, more. they cast quite a shadow as The big groups are s ll booking for visits several of them decided it was and the organisa on is ge ng easier. It me to stretch their wings and was exci ng when T5 arrived back at the fly oﬀ onto the downland.
site a er her travels to France, coming back via Devon and Somerset. The birds at the site are never normally heard but when P5 and Pk2 spo ed her they marched marc towards her grun ng and huﬃng huﬃ (Fergus style for any of you who have heard him!) When they got close however, ho they sat down and shut their eyes. T5 wandered into the group of five males and se led straight in.
But as the storm clouds gathered, they soon returned to the site. The bridge into Enford is now closed un l December making it more challenging for people to get to the village hall. Although there are diversions via Upavon, the visitors have got so far and followed their satnavs which takes them on a nice tour and brings them back to the bridge on the west side of the river! I haven’t completely lost anyone yet, but I think the moral is ‘don’t trust your satnav’.
Although displaying at the site was over, a er a couple of days Pk2 decided to try and There has been a lot of interest from impress her with a people wan ng to be visit guides. This is great news for me as I can step back a bit display. He tried his best, but she turned her h back and carried on feeding. I’m sure there was a smug grin on P5’s face. T5 now n is in the company of Bk17 who got wanderlust and was seen in
from hos ng the visits, although it’s the part of the job I love. I’m sure all the guides will love it as much as I do and make their enthusiasm rub oﬀ onto the visitors. If you’d like to join our team please email oﬃce@greatbustard.org.
ÂŠ GBG library