Page 1

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

Issue 41 C&O Tractors, Wilton 01722 742141


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GBG News

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

following summer.

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

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.


Fox Corner

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


h south

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

to AA1

through and the group were soon laughing (or hiding!) as


‘vic ms’ were chosen to dress up and have a go at the

for 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.


GBG News

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

Jodi Bates,




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

Big Fergus

GeneƟc Study

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.

GBG News

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


GBG News

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




conduc ng


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 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!

Fox Corner

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

issue we

gone by late autumn and early winter, many cubs

may contribute to the raising of next year’s

will look

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

With glossy

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

professionally printed.

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

by 2006.

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

prin ng,

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

duc on.

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

me of

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 o 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




a er




T5’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

Ɵons and


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 ‘Big Fergus’ 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 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!’




Henderson Bedfordshire

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? g

Have you seen a Great Bustard? We’d like to know.. Email your story to: or post to: Bustard Buddies, 1, Down Barn Close, Winterbourne Gunner, Wiltshire, SP4 6JP

GBG Abroad

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.


Eggs, chicks

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

of eggs.

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

misconcep ons

authori es










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

ba eries



regula ons

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

seabirds. By

precious cargo. The ‘Director






the me she






moment to reprimand me


h had decided to

for not le ng them know

spec specialise

pment as more fully about the shipment



conserv conserva on and went

it had caused her considerable


problems. Trying to sound cheerful I

volunte volunteer



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

Bustard project.

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

with us.

was likely that the second egg of this clutch

ny voice

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

Local GBG

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. ( 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


Local GBG

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

the conservancy.

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, if you would like to

one would go inside the pen with the birds

join us!

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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If you would like to contribute towards the continuation of this magazine please email: We offer extensive publicity to supporters both within Otis & on our website

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2 ?

CompeƟƟon Name Fergus’ 2nd lady! email names to : Prize is a free visit with the GBG team

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

Š GBG library

Otis Autumn 2012  

The Great Bustard Group's official magazine for Autumn 2012.

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