Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey
Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group (formerly The South East Scotland Raptor Study Group) was formed in 1983 and currently has around 30 members. Most breeding raptor species are surveyed to a greater or lesser extent.
The area is particularly well monitored for peregrine and goshawk. Both species are monitored as part of long term breeding studies. The peregrine in particular has over the last thirty years become a more widespread and firmly established breeder. The goshawk does well in some forested areas of the Borders and has bred at least a few times in Lothian. Merlins have been monitored extensively in some grouse moorland areas for many years although complete annual coverage of all suitable habitat is not possible. Buzzards, rare breeders in this area when the group was formed, are now ubiquitous. The spread of this species has been quite well recorded and the group continues to monitor some sites although the numbers breeding are such that many are not regularly surveyed. A moorland kestrel monitoring area has now been established for some years and hopefully the fortunes of other breeding pairs will be recorded by group members in the future.
Surprisingly perhaps during the group's existence little has until recently been done in this area with sparrowhawks. The exception to this omission concerns the breeding population in the city of Edinburgh. A PhD study was carried out in the late 1980s and annual monitoring has been picked up and developed by current members of the group since 2009. This includes a video monitoring initiative which is supported by the RSPB and the Royal Botanical Gardens. Further information on the sparrowhawk monitoring programme in Edinburgh and how you can get involved in monitoring raptors in and around Edinburgh can be found at www.Edinburghhawkwatch.org.uk. In recent years monitoring of breeding owls, particularly tawny owls and barn owls has been increased substantially. Short-eared owls and long-eared owls are also recorded in a rather more ad-hoc way as and when encountered.
Rarer breeders including golden eagle and osprey are also monitored annually. The latter species will hopefully gradually spread now that several pairs are regularly breeding successfully within the group's study area. Red kites are being seen occasionally and it is hoped that this species will eventually settle to breed in our area.
Each monitored raptor species has a designated coordinator who gathers all of the available information from members and other sources and prepares an annual summary report. These are made available to appropriate bodies and the Raptor Monitoring Officer. Since 2003 the group has put these reports together in the form of an annual report.
As well as individual members monitoring particular species or particular geographical areas, the group regularly participates in national surveys of particular species. During such survey years efforts are made to cover less frequently monitored areas.
The group meets twice a year and invites the Raptor Monitoring Officer and on occasions other appropriate individuals to attend.
Chair: Alan Heavisides