2016 Raptor monitoring in pictures

Although monitoring never ceases and there’s always data to collect and birds to observe the breeding season for 2016 has finished. This year has been an interesting one with the move back to Cheshire and so work in Gloucestershire with the GRMG has been trickier and also managing a business added its own hurdles but also opened up new doors like working on Golden Eagles in Scotland and  supporting the Highland Raptor Monitoring Group, working with the Welsh Raptor Study Group on Peregrines and monitoring Hobbies in Cheshire.

Ravens are usually some of the first broods we monitor. Although not a bird of prey they are often afforded an honorary status. This brood of five chicks are from a pair we have monitored for 4 years.

Ravens will nest in some pretty big trees as shown here – Raptor Aid has a good head for heights.

The parents are never far away, keeping an eye on proceeding. The largest of the U.K. Corvid family and spectacular fliers.

This is an example of a huge Raven cliff nest in North Wales – sites will often be used year after year. (Copyright Paul Roberts)

Golden Eagle also start early in the year with first checks starting in February/March for territorial birds – what about that for an office!! 

Even if the eagles aren’t present we check sites for activity – here another bird of prey a Barn owl has ended up on the Eagles menu.

The walks away from Eagle territories aren’t to bad either really.

Tawny owls are another early breeder but sadly we also have to monitor road casualties. This was a particularly bad day as we found two dead Tawny owls on seperate roads. Tawny owls will hunt from trees around roads and swooping down can be hit by traffic. 

The Tawny owl nest box scheme with the GRMG however has been very successful, from 28 boxes put up we had 8 breeding pairs from our patch. Here an adult is checked for a ring in order to monitor dispersal and survival.

These 3 Tawny owl chicks don’t have much to worry about with this cache of young rats ready for eating. You won’t be surprised to hear they all fledged and this particular wood had two breeding pairs producing 5 chicks in total.

Sadly though it’s not just Tawny owls we find dead. Here a poor Little owl has dropped into a cattle trough for a drink or bath and been unable to escape. Cattle troughs are a dangerous things for Barn owls and Little owls.

These two newly hatched Little owl chicks also have some food stored waiting for them.The two eggs hatched a few days later. This farm is great for Little owls having no less than 3 breeding pairs within 800 metres of each other! 

A brood of healthy kestrel chicks which we monitor every year at our base. The four eggs below were the beginning of 2016 for this year pair. This usually begins in May with the chicks fledging later in July.

The buzzards above are being monitored in Gloucestershire by members of the GRMG including Raptor Aid. Even the most common species need to be monitored and recorded. 

May and June is a busy month for us again working with GRMG and monitoring Goshawks. Big climbs and plenty of chicks meant we even had the rope in Teddy the dog to supervise.

Big climbs lead to big nest’s! Here a secret location filming Goshawks for a new programme on the species and a certain friend of Raptor Aid’s due out next year! Watch this space! 

We also have to go down to sites and this year saw us join a long standing study on Peregrines which we hope to continue for many years. Above shows a clutch of three Peregrine eggs.

The sites are remote and stunning. We will also record what prey is found on the ledge as this is often a big driving force in the chicks fledging successfully in such rural locations.

We had another slow year on Barn owls. Only one pair found breeding in our 26 boxes we monitor in Cheshire and North Wales. This pair of chicks were in a box within the roof of a stunning old dovecote.

Trust us that box is higher than it looks and those ladders pretty wobbly!!

One of the jewels in the Monitoring crown has to be finding a Hobby nest site. We have now started to try and map as many Hobby sites as we can for Cheshire, a species that is under recorded in our opinion despite some fantastic field workers monitoring them.

Long summer days across Cheshire farmland after many hours in the field can reap great rewards – it’s not just good for the birds but good for the heart and soul.

Next we must collate data for our tawny owls and Hobbies and spend the winter building and repairing boxes. It must be worth noting all of this is done on a voluntary basis under licences with all the data being fed into the British Trust for Ornithology and regional bird recorders. The knowledge also learnt can be shared and passed on with others to learn from and use, after all isn’t that what Raptor Aid is all about. 

Bring on 2017.