Monday, July 22, 2019

Saving the Montagu's Harrier

Since 2017 the Andalucía Bird Society has adopted the Montagu's Harrier conservation project as it's main flagship conservation and preservation support programme. To date the Society has given considerable financial support and as importantly moral support too. It is a project the Society is extremely proud to be supporting and with an increasing membership we will be able to give even more financial support to conservation and preservation projects throughout the region of Andalucía. To join us click here.

We present here a summary of the work carried out so far and after the disappointing spring of 2018, we are delighted with this year's results to date.

1. Overview
Tumbabuey is a conservationist charity run by volunteers that work for the protection of birds and natural habitats in Cadiz province. Our members have got more than 30 years’ experience in the study and monitoring of avifauna.

Back in 2004 we started a Montagu’s harrier conservation project in the farmlands surrounding the former La Janda wetlands that aims to protect this globally threatened species.

In recent years, Montagu’s harrier breeding numbers have decreased dramatically worldwide and Andalucía is no exception, therefore the continuity of this project is vital to ensure the species doesn’t become extinct in Cadiz.

2. Breeding Birds Monitoring Programme
Every spring our volunteers survey the farmlands surrounding La Janda in order to identify possible breeding birds. When a nest area is located, we engage with local farmers so conservation measures can be taken to protect the birds and nest.

In 2019, 7 nests were found in the crop fields nearby Benalup, Tahivilla and Vejer de la Frontera villages. Of these only 5 nests were successful. A total of 15 eggs hatched this season and 12 of them were tagged with PVC colour-coded rings.

3. Release Programme
In 2016, Tumbabuey started a bird release programme to strengthen the Montagu’s harrier breeding population in La Janda area in collaboration with the regional government and its network of wildlife rescue centres.

A total of 30 fledgling birds were released between 2016 and 2017 with no birds being released in 2018. In 2019 the programme has received 15 young from different parts of the region, 11 of which have already been released.

Food is provided on a daily basis within the site facilities aiming to keep the birds in the area for as long as possible before they set off to Africa. Feeding tasks take up most of our volunteers’ time, these volunteers have to get to the facilities at dawn, provide food at the feeding station and leave by sundown.

4. Satellite Tracking Programme
This year we have gone a step further in our conservation project by launching a pioneer satellite-tracking programme in Cádiz. The species is going through a critical situation worldwide and this long-term project aims to tag some of the birds from our release programme and use the data generated by the satellite devices to support international conservation strategies.

This remarkable achievement would have not been possible without our tireless volunteers and the financial and moral support of the Andalucia Bird Society who have funded the acquisition of our first ever GPS transmitter. It’s only been a month since we tagged "Sacapuntas", our first Montagu’s harrier fitted with a GPS transmitter, and the information received to date has proven invaluable.

5. Innovation
We are using innovative techniques and new technologies to support our conservation programmes.

Camera trapping: Camera traps are used in both the breeding population monitoring programme and the bird release programme. These cameras allow us to read PVC colour-coded rings and identify birds individually. They also provide an insight on some of the predators that can be found around the release programme facilities.

Field data collection apps: For the first time in 2019, we have developed several field data collection apps for mobile devices. These apps use geospatial technologies and allow us to record the location and related information of our field surveys in a cloud-based database.

Microsoft Office 365: This year we joined Microsoft’s programme for non-profit organisations which give us access to Microsoft’s Office 365 services at no cost. Office 365 provides Tumbabuey with cloud-based storage for our data as well as Office apps and email that help our staff to create and share information in a secured environment within the organisation.

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