Save the Montagu’s Harrier – Update Autumn 2019

From the environmental failure in the conservation of the Montagu’s Harrier to the successful crossing of the Sahara.

The current model of conservation for the Montagu’s Harrier in Andalucía entails a high number of failures during the breeding season.
A model based primarily on rescue actions rather than proactive and effective actions.
In many cases, the lack of prior location of a nest causes, in the worst-case scenario, the destruction of the nest by the harvesters, or at best, only partial destruction, without affecting the chicks or eggs.

It is on these occasions, that the activities for conservation by the Tumbabuey group begins to work with our project to strengthen the Andalucía population of the species through the release of rescued birds. After the transfer made by the Environment Agents to the corresponding recovery center in their province, where birds receive the necessary care to reach a minimum age of 15 days and to be able to feed themselves independently, the little ones are then taken to the liberation zone in the Tahivilla area (Cádiz). There they will spend the rest of the time until their release, they do it in one of the acclimatization pens from where they become familiar with the landscape of what will be their territory. With an approximate age of 35 days they are released, keeping their food in the vicinity until they leave the area.

The need to know exactly what happens with these birds has led to us making a greater effort. In the year 2019, for the first time, 10 grams gps-gsm emitters have been fitted to three of the birds released. Questions on how to know if these orphans are prepared to make the leap to Africa, the period of dependence they spend in the immediate vicinity of the release zone, the use of the territory, interactions with wild birds and migratory routes or their return as breeders are some of the questions we hope to solve.

Map: Area used by Sacapuntas and Botellín until migration begins
Map: Area used by Sacapuntas and Botellín during migration

The basic idea of ​​the study is to repeat these markings for five years and thus validate this conservation technique, the loose ones without monitoring can be totally useless, we need data that confirms that our effort is well directed.
For the hard and prolonged work that has resulted in the release of these birds, we have had the participation of more than 30 volunteers, who have visited the hacking daily before dawn from June 6 to September 17, the day we finished the season.

This year 17 young have been released from different areas of Andalucía (Jaén, Sevilla and Cádiz), a highly successful year for the project.

We will summarize the story of the three young birds marked with gps-gsm, thanks entirely to the sponsorship of the Andalucía Bird Society.

Photo (Pablo Ortega): Sacapuntas about to take food from one of the food stations in the area of ​​release.

Sacapuntas: This is a female rescued as a nestling of few days, on May 25 in the Port of Santamaría (Cádiz), she spent a short period in the CREA Dunas de San Antón until she was transferred to Tahivilla on June 6. She was released on the 19th of the same month and remained in the area until last August 21 when she went directly to her wintering quarters. During her period of dependence she made some exploratory excursions to the Jerezana countryside and south of Seville, coincidentally passing a few meters from the nest where she was born. Since last August 24 we have no signals from her transmitter. The lack of a good gsm network in the desert may be the cause, we hope that soon she will reach an area with better coverage and that will then continue giving us information about her stay in the Sahel.

Compás: The second marked chick was a male rescued as an egg in a nest in Úbeda (Jaén), born in CREA del Quebrajano on June 23 and incorporated into Hacking on July 12. He was released on August 1 and thanks to the transmitter he carried, he was found dead five days later hooked on a barbed wire fence. A tragic end, that informs us of a new cause of mortality for this species.

Photo: Botellín over one of the feeding stations where the food is supplied

Botellín: A male from an egg rescued from a nest in Linares (Jaén) was in CREA del Quebrajano until July 24 when he was incorporated into the acclimatization cages. Last August 10 he was one of the last birds to be released. Just a month later, on September 11 he made the jump to the African continent, where in just 10 stages he has traveled 2400km that have taken him to the Senegal river, border with Mauritania, this being his wintering area. During his stay around the hacking he did not make major explorations.

These three tagged birds are the only actual proof we have of work well done, obtaining quality information that will allow decisions in the future regarding the conservation of the species. Now we can only wait for his return and incorporation into a population more than just depleted for this species in Andalucía.

We would like to thank all the volunteers for the great work, staff of the CREAs of Andalucía, Zoo Botánico de Jerez, technicians of the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of the Junta de Andalucía in Cádiz, friends of the Savia Foundation and especially Miguel Pelayo for letting us use his farm for liberation. Without forgetting that all this would not have been possible without the unconditional support of the Andalucía Bird Society. Very special thanks to the Society and it’s members.

We will continue working so that these birds continue furrowing our skies.

Miguel González – Tumbabuey
ABS Member


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