Great Bustards

Yesterday Richard Peters and I took a trip down to visit the Great Bustard Project in Wiltshire, armed with cameras and big lenses. We had been warned that our chances of seeing any Bustards this time round were limited and therefore we didn’t have high expectations. However this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm in the slightest, as wildlife photography is more often than not dictated by chance and dependence on some expert knowledge.

We were therefore delighted to meet our guide for the morning, the founder and director of GBG, David Waters. A visit to the project lasts for around 90 minutes at a time and caters for eight people at a time for the very reasonable fee of £7 each (the money is invested back into the project). David took us up to the hide in his Land Rover and on this occasion there was just the three of us which was very nice. David was a very knowledgable chap and it was clear that he had invested a lot of time and money in the project to achieve the goal they had set out for around 6 years ago. His enthusiasm is boundless and he was very keen to answer our questions about the Bustards, where they come from, how their populations are holding out in other parts of the World. The Bustard population in the UK now resides in Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire with a good number accounted for in the Severn Estuary area. Some have been spotted back on mainland Europe. This is all made possible by a tagging system that clearly identifies where each bird comes from. The hide features a gallery of photos where birds had been spotted in various places.

You may recall that I have visited the project in the past. The first time I visited we saw a number of the birds displaying very well. On this occasion we weren’t lucky and saw none at all. However if you are reading this and plan to visit, don’t let this article put you off, as they are still around the area in which the project is based. They have been spotted by local farmers and can still be seen. If you are a keen nature buff, then I am sure you’ll appreciat how difficult it can be at times. How many times have you trekked for miles to find something you have heard can be seen in a particular spot but not on the day you choose to visit?! If my experiences are anything to go by, more times than you’d care to think about.

Having said that we did instead see Stone Curlew from the hide using a scope. We weren’t anywhere near enough to photograph them and besides neither of us have a schedule one license to do so. We also saw Hare, Buzzards and some Partridge.

We came away with no sightings but we will go back as GBG are planning to introduce some more birds later in the year, sourced from Germany. Last of all Dave and his team have done an amazing job at successfully bringing Bustards back to our neck of the woods. It is very impressive to learn more about projects like this and to get involved, even if in just a small way by pledging your support

Other Links

Previous blog entry for my previous visit can be found at http://www.nicklewis.net/2008/10/19/great-bustards

Next up…..

On our way back I did get one of my best Rabbit photos I’ve taken and got down on my belly to shoot a Mute swan a little closer to home in the evening. A little later on in the week some macro photos hopefully of a Dicentra Spectabilis that has gone absolutely mad in our garden. Have fun.

PS…..

Richard – Your lens is just mad!

2 thoughts on “Great Bustards

  1. I know the feeling – not that I am the most patient of people. And I admire people who spend hours, days, weeks, waiting for a shot.

    One thing – where you said “We weren’t anywhere near enough to photograph them and besides neither of us have a schedule one license to do so.” Do you need a licence to photograph Stone Curlews? Or is it only from that place?

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  2. Stone Curlews are protected by Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation Regulations 1994. The act itself specifically applies to the birds whilst nesting and protects them from any form of disturbance, damage or destruction. The act doesn’t mention photography and some people I have spoken to say its a grey area. You can photograph them from a distance but if you wanted to capture some excellent close up shots you would need a) a license and b) be sure not to disturb the birds.

    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3614#download

    I am sure that many people will pick up on this discussion and set matters straight for us!

    Interestingly other birds covered under the Schedule 1 heading include Barn Owls, Avocets, Plover and many others. Namely threatened species which makes me feel very priviledged just to have seen all 4 of those species in my lifetime.

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