Soaring populations?

Mersea Island Wildlife Forum 
As regular readers of our blog are aware, not only do we like to keep you informed about what’s happening at home, we also aim to keep abreast of the wider raptor picture both locally and nationally.  Last week our General Manager Andy gave a talk about native birds of prey to the Mersea Island Wildlife Forum, which raised some interesting points of view.

As Andy’s talk was based on our native UK raptors, he took along Comet the Peregrine Falcon and Ash the Common Buzzard.  Along with the Sparrowhawk, these two species are good examples of raptors that are now more common in the UK than they have been at any time since bird-of-prey records began. 

The native populations of Peregrine Falcons & Common Buzzards in the wild
are generally doing well, but should the need ever arise, what steps might
be taken to prevent them becoming too prevalent?

Birds of prey are generally doing very well in Britain at the moment, so Andy posed the question ‘what happens if raptors become so well populated that they are then seen to be having a negative impact on the countryside?’  The most obvious answer would be some sort of cull, but there was a great deal of concern that an open season on certain birds of prey would result in them disappearing entirely from our shores: this has certainly happened before.  The consensus of the forum was that if it became necessary to control the population of the more prolific species, managing the number of eggs produced would seem to be a more humane way. 

After a short break for that imperative English tradition, the cup of tea, the forum was then open for a question and answer session.  The most popular topic for discussion was the re-introduction of the White Tailed Sea Eagle to our shores, a subject that you may remember we raised in our blog of 21.01.10.  There has certainly been a great deal of disagreement about this issue and one gentleman at the forum said that on a recent visit to Norfolk he had seen a vast number of anti Sea Eagle signs decorating the highways & byways. 

There is also some conjecture about how, if it were to happen, these raptors should be released.  Andy raised the concern that, if youngsters were released as many as 75% could die in the first year due to lack of parental support teaching the necessary flying and hunting skills.  The most prudent idea would seem to be to capture & re-release young passage birds, which would already have the ability to survive in the wild.  For now though, this is a subject that is still being hotly debated. 

Back at Base 

Back at home, the flying display season has now started and the display birds are enjoying showing off their incredible aerial skills, so we’re hoping for some really good flying weather over the Easter bank holiday.  Although spring has been rather shy about appearing so far this year, the signs are that it is finally here.  At long last the daffodils are out and some more of our resident birds are doing what comes naturally at this time of year.  Jem & Lock our Lanner Falcons are incubating four eggs, our Boobook female Tasmin has disappeared into her nesting box, so it’s highly likely that she’s laying and our Harris Hawks Nova & Larch are also incubating – possibly three eggs, although it hasn’t been ascertained for certain yet.  So things are looking positive on the baby front and hopefully we’ll have more good news for you in the near future. 

On a sad note 

The conservation of birds of prey is one of our primary functions here at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, but we are also passionate about all animal conservation, given that all animals have a vital role to play in the world’s various eco-systems.

Our red squirrels provide another of our important conservation projects and Head Falconer Matt is very keen to accelerate our breeding program which has in the past provided young reds for release back to the wild through one of the nationally-organised schemes. So it’s very sad news that the oldest of our small colony passed away last week. However, she had a good life and lived probably a good couple of years longer than the average life-span of a red squirrel.