News archive

May 2015

Friday, 29 May 2015

Turtle dove

Turtle Dove Sightings

Friday, 29 May 2015

Alarm about ineffectiveness of some Montagu's harrier conservation measures

Alarm about ineffectiveness of some Montagu's harrier conservation measures

A citizen science program reveals the protection measures for the Montagu's harrier in the cereal crop season in France to be ineffective if nests are not protected to decrease predation after harvesting. A study has been published as a result of this voluntary fieldwork, with the participation of the Hunting Resources Research Institute, which proposes fencing off the nests as a way of mitigating the damage and optimizing conservation efforts in different areas.

Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the so-called citizen science programs, in which people (without a scientific background) voluntarily gather useful information for research programs.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, for which the scientist Beatriz Arroyo from the Hunting Resources Research Institute has collaborated with researchers from the University of Helsinki (Finland) and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) (France), presents an example of the use of citizen science to evaluate and optimize the effectiveness of conservation programs.

The scientists used data gathered over six years by a volunteer protection program of the Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) across France (more than 1,000 nests a year). This fair-sized bird of prey is linked to cereal crops (wheat and barley) and lives in large open and treeless spaces.

"An average of 500 people a year work as volunteers in France on this objective. They have to look for nests and once located, search for the owner of this land and convince them to put up a fence or protect the nest without a fence when the crop is being harvested (depending on what they decide), then monitor the nest and pass this information on (nest details, fledglings, etc.) to a regional coordinator," Arroyo explains.

The study shows that the productivity of the nests which are protected only during the crop harvest is strongly reduced by predation after the harvest, except where the nests are temporarily protected by a fence.

"The fence helps to decrease the predation post harvest, as uncut wheat in a 'sea' of stubble is easily detected by predators. Each fence costs between 10 and 15 euros, and can be reused for other nests the following year," notes the expert. This significant labour force is, in any case, limited and distributed irregularly given that it depends on the number of volunteers that there are in each area.

The scientists combined the information on the density of Montagu's harriers such as, for example, the proportion that would fail to thrive in the absence of conservation measures, and the availability of volunteers, to map the potential benefits for the species (estimate of chicks saved per km2) if the most effective measure was applied. According to the study, the areas of greatest potential benefit are not necessarily those where there are most volunteers.

"The areas which would benefit more from an increase in the conservation are in the north-eastern France, above all those in Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine and France-Comté. We chose France for the study because this citizen involvement has been in place there for years, but nobody had evaluated the implications of what is being done or if this effort could be optimized," says Arroyo.

An unsuitable solution for partridges or bustards

This specific example of how to protect nests in crops could be extrapolated to other harrier species in other areas. However, it could not be applied to other ground-nesting birds, such as partridges or bustards that also die during harvesting, because they would suffer stress from having a fenced-in nest.

"The main conclusion is that the impact of the conservation programs would increase exponentially if efforts were concentrated in areas where the imbalance between potential benefits and availability of volunteers is greater," stresses the researcher.

The study also highlights the importance of citizen science in obtaining large-scale data, which can be used to obtain management recommendations based on scientific evidence, in an adaptive management framework.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

AGM 28th May


Sunday, 17 May 2015

New Records for Butterflies

New Records for Butterflies

Despite variable weather so far this spring, all it takes is a few days of warm sunshine for butterfly numbers to rocket. The British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results show that this is exactly what happened at the beginning of April, with new records reached for some species.

The numbers and time of year that butterflies emerge from hibernation is dependent on the weather, and this spring was no exception. Unsettled weather throughout March meant that reports of butterflies were much lower than in previous years. However, when a spell of dry, warm weather happened at the beginning of April the butterflies took advantage of it and reports shot through the roof.

Both Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were reported from about a quarter of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens at the beginning of April 2014, but this year Small Tortoiseshell was seen in almost 40% of gardens, a record for April, and Brimstone was seen in a third of gardens - the highest proportion of gardens since recording started in 2003.

However Peacock was the biggest surprise seen in over half of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens compared to only a third in April 2014, and another record for butterfly reports in April. Sadly the good weather did not last, however, and reports of butterflies dropped off quickly.

Clare Simm from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team commented, "As you can see, the BTO Garden BirdWatch is not just about birds. Our volunteers provide us with vital information on other taxa too, helping us to understand how important gardens are as a habitat for all wildlife. If this unsettled weather continues, it may be bad news for butterflies so we need to keep an eye on how they fare over the rest of the year."

Was the short spell of sunshine in April enough for our butterflies, or will the unsettled weather affect their numbers this year? Help us find out!

To find out more about taking part in BTO Garden BirdWatch, including a free enquiry pack and magazine, please get in touch by emailing, telephoning 01842 750050, write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU or visit

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Two chicks! and then there were three....

Two chicks! and then there were three....

Hello everyone

I'm sure many of you are aware that we have some very good news...TWO CHICKS!

The first was hatch at 11pm on Saturday and the seconded on Sunday around 5am. I was hoping that by leaving this email till this evening i could report another hatching. However this has not happened, and we feel this is now unlikely the female is still incubating both eggs and most likely will for a while ( we will make an announcement via facebook on Tuesday just in case and i'm hoping we are wrong).

Both chicks are doing really well and getting regular feeds, the female has yet to let the male feed or do long periods of brooding but he dose sit on the chicks whilst she grabs food from the larder for example.

Many thanks


Lauren Culverwell (Terry)
Membership Development Officer

Late update : a third chick was seen at 5am Tuesday morning - keep watching via the link below

Monday, 11 May 2015

Two chicks hatched

Two chicks hatched

At the time of writing - monday morning - two of the four eggs have hatched - see the link below to the webcam to watch Mum and dad feeding their brood - and fingers crossed for the other two eggs to hatch.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Mr Neville Bate

The funeral with be on Friday 15th 3.30pm at Chichester Crematorium, and afterwards at the Goodwood Hotel. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ruth.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Still four eggs

Still four eggs

...will they be 'election day chicks?'