Like many organisations, Small Groups and individuals, Field work in support of the BTO’s NRS Scheme has this season been massively impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. We were unable to conduct any early site visits in the first couple of months, other than those that remained within our daily local exercise limits. Restrictions have also impacted those in the group who have had to self isolate and protect themselves as a priority throughout this period and that is still impacting some right into June as we pen this short piece.
We have operated within the bounds of the BTO licensing advice and guidelines; so once a limited amount of travel was introduced within the local region, we were able to get some of the initial leg work and confirmation of activity at a number of sites done, albeit with a reduced fieldworking team.
We have tried to remain working in pairs, for most of our Peregrine Coastal work, any meetups have lead to the Social Distancing being observed and maintained throughout. But these occasions have been minimal, with most of the team operating with a family member when out ‘in pursuit of the peregrine’.
We had hoped to follow up on the trends we had been encountering over the past number of years (covered in the Paper ‘Significant decline in population of coastal Peregrine Falcons in north-west Cornwall‘ in an earlier blog this year and now Published in ‘British Birds’ June 2020). We thank Co-Authors, Richard Sale and Steve Watson for many hours of work putting this together.
We have made a number of changes; we have utilised social media a lot more to keep in regular touch with the team. We, like many have adopted online web conferencing to allow us to get together and discuss what little Survey work was accomplished, early on in this Lockdown. ‘Zoom’ the current tool of choice, proved a godsend and will likely be adopted more and more in the future as the New normal, for more regular group get-together’s, rather than just the annual meet up.
Data collection, saw us finally transition most of the group’s work from the NRS Card index system, to the BTO’s Demography Online, lets just say, this is one area where Covid-19 helped make this decision, this is now seen as a huge step forward for those that were a little out of date. I’m sure a few cards will continue as a backup.
We wonder if the reduced human traffic around the coastline has had any impact on bird breeding success rates. Personally, I have seen what appears, increased numbers in some of the seabird populations at certain sites I have visited; more Guillemots and Razor Bills than normal. Increased numbers of Fulmar, nesting and hugging the cliff tops as we search out Peregrine ledges. Skylarks and Rock Pipits. The senses have been heightened no doubt, the background noise (traffic and planes) has dropped, is it therefore just ‘Us’ noticing more?
It is sad to read that in some areas , this has been seen as a time to increase Raptor Persecution, hoping that the pandemic will aid as cover to their criminal activities, at least this was highlighted in the media at a prominent level, we hope justice can be served.
Nature in general has been a big comfort and I for one certainly hope that this has been a wake -up call for the Human Race, let’s hope that lessons have been learnt and changes that have been enforced, can now be acted upon to make the positive changes required. Will our Leaders Act?
By the time we visited some sites, many new ledges were being used on familiar territories. We found that where we had young , it was unlikely permission would be granted to ring from the landowners; from a number of enquiries they were uncomfortable allowing the climbing that would be necessary and this is understandable. So we decided to halt the groups ringing proceedings. At some sites, the birds were already past the ringing phase by the time we discovered them, this year.
We hope that 2021, under the ‘New Normal’, will see us back to a more productive Season, with one and all, out and about again. We thank all of the team who will be submitting records in this most extraordinary year, for their many hours of continued dedication and many miles of travel.
Large proportions of the South West are being covered and recorded by various groups and individuals.