Update 2020

Apologies the site has been silent for a long time…… I love blogging but I suppose moving with the time (Or at least I think I am) social media is the main way of sharing news and what’s going on. Honestly though I don’t tend to have time for social media, its a necessary evil in many ways but I will endeavour to start blogging more and sharing it on social media. 

I thought for this blog I’d do an update on all things Raptor Aid during what has for everyone across the globe been a strange/scary and any other word you wish to use to describe the pandemic.

I should before I start reiterate who Raptor Aid is to those of you new to us and what the main aims are as a charity. Raptor Aid is essentially one person’s idea and dream to share the world of birds of prey and their conservation to as many people as possible, that person being me (Jimmi).  I am of course supported by two fantastic trustee’s and other people who play a non-official advisory role, all of whom I’m indebted to. It’s hard though as the running the charity has to fit in around my work and other commitments, the global pandemic has brought about a bit of perspective for Raptor Aid going forward though and maybe even highlighted an area I am strongest at. Above all else Raptor Aid is about education and the conservation of birds of prey – bridging the gap between humans and birds of prey.

Up a tree with Osprey chicks – nothing better really

In my previous career with captive birds of prey I had always enjoyed the educational side of things and working with kids, and other groups sharing my passion for birds of prey. When I set up Raptor Aid I naturally tried to continue this but without the use of captive birds of prey, that worked to some extent with the use of owl pellets and the Peregrine Watch Point but Covid put a stop to all of that this year. That cloud had a silver lining though because it made me take stock and realise that as one person I couldn’t possibly get around the amount of people needed to really make a difference and spread the word, also I’d come to the realisation that a lot of schools just don’t have the funding to even make a donation to Raptor Aid coming in to carry out class room sessions.

With that realisation I intend on developing online and downloadable items for schools and groups to utilise and if they can make a donation that’s a bonus. The lockdown has also lead me to learn a lot about using platforms such as Zoom so I will aim to use that as much as possible to engage different groups. The use of Zoom lead to one of my favourite ideas of lock down and possibly for Raptor Aid as a whole – virtual interviews! The idea came about because I love talking to people and I’m very lucky that I know some fascinating experts in the world of birds of prey.

I started the interviews during lockdown in the UK with my friend Iolo Williams, BBC Broadcaster and naturalist and followed it with Dr.Jayson Ibanez, also a good friend and head of conservation and research at the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Little did I know this would be the start of an incredible 24 one hour (some longer) interviews with a whole breadth of experts covering birds of prey and much more. One of my favourite questions to ask them was at the end of the interview was for one piece of advice and the replies are each individually fantastic. You can check out all the interviews on our Facebook page and very imminently they will all be on our YouTube page.

The 24th and final lockdown interview with Chris Packham

It didn’t and hasn’t stopped there though, I took a break after the 24 interviews but also managed to carry out an Earth Live Lesson for Lizzie Daly, A chat with Glaslyn Osprey Project on their Facebook page, two presentations for the Virtual Bird Fair 2020 one on Owl Pellets and the other interviewing Lester Hartmann of Peak Nest Boxes. I also felt very privileged to be invited to interview the directors of Wild Justice, Mark Avery, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery.

Chatting with the directors of Wild Justice

We have had some fantastic feedback since the interviews have aired and an idea sent to us by a follower which I have acted on. Last month I started the interviews again and chatted with one of the worlds leading ornithologists Prof. Ian Newton, I had hoped to get this out last month but I can announce that it will be released on October the 17th. The plan is to do one per month and possibly I may add in a short news version as we progress. The exciting news is that these will be developed as Podcast’s on Raptor Aid’s new channel on Pod Bean – Raptor Rambles, thanks to the follower who suggested the idea, it makes great sense as many interviews are at least 45 minutes long so it should make for easier consumption.

As mentioned earlier public engagement has been non existent since March and so unfortunately the Chester Peregrine Watch 2020 was postponed but that didn’t stop the Peregrines. This year they had 4 chicks and for the first time since monitoring them during fledging a couple of the chicks crash landed and needed our assistance. You can check back on our Social media feeds but both a male and female juvenile were successfully released onto the neighbouring hotel and managed to eventually find their wings. We also couldn’t carry out our Field Studies Council Identification Course at Malham Tarn and I assume the Wildlife Festival at Chester Zoo will not be going ahead this year. We will build for 2021.

Just before we release the juvenile female Peregrine onto the hotel roof

Two parts that play a role in the work we carry out is nest boxes and monitoring wild bird of prey populations. Nest boxes have been steadily selling and I’m currently in the process of sorting out a new EBay shop with new items including a traditional Barn owl box design and owl pellet dissection kits. As always though you don’t have to buy a box from Raptor Aid but we’re always there with free advice just get in touch. The monitoring season has been very random, unfortunately lockdown came when we should have been monitoring Peregrines and Goshawks so I only managed one day in Gloucestershire monitoring Goshawks and no days in North Wales on Peregrines this year. I did manage to help the Cheshire Barn owl groups with checking and ringing at Barn owl boxes, kestrels were missed and I recall only managing to find one brood of Little owls in my nest boxes, Tawny owls also fell into the lockdown period which was a real shame as it would have been our first season checking 25 new boxes put up in conjunction with Cheshire Raptor Monitoring Group and Chester University.

Ringing Barn owls in Cheshire with Joe and Bert the farmer – I love working with wildlife friendly farmers/landowners

The slight relaxation in lockdown measures did however mean I could make the trip North to Scotland and build a stronger alliance with the Highland Raptor Study Group. In the Highlands of Scotland I climbed tree’s and placed rings on Ospreys, traipsed through Heather to Hen Harrier nests to ring the chicks, visited two Golden eagle territories to check for nest success and ring some Barn owl chicks. I can’t do the trip justice in this blog so I’ll have to write another one on the Scotland trip. Back home and the excitement didn’t finish there as I managed to monitor one nest of my favourite species the Hobby and then got invited by my great friend Steve Roberts to help with his long running Honey Buzzard study. 

Monitoring and ringing Ospreys in the Scottish Highlands

So in hindsight there was some fantastic experiences in what was a topsy turvy season – I did miss seeing the Peregrines and Goshawks though. I should point out that all this work is carried out voluntarily, under licence, self funded with all the science going to organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology to help us better understand species and trends. Taking part in this work means I can translate it into digestible information for the general public, help people understand how these birds work and the roles they play, help the species themselves by better understanding their needs and just as importantly inspire people especially children to care and dream about birds of prey and the natural world.

As always I will endeavour to pick up blogging again but just to give an example so far I’ve spent 2 hours writing this blog alone (I must admit I’ve had this awesome Octopus film on Netflix on in the back ground). I should probably start the Scotland trip blog now! I will get better at updating our social media feeds, you can find us on Twitter @raptor_jimmi Facebook @raptoraiduk and Instagram @raptor_aid for all the latest news and info of what I’m up to with Raptor Aid!

 As always thanks for reading, give us a like or follow and if you think a friend would like this give it a share and spread the word.

Your’s in raptors!