Thank you for your interest in joining the Scottish Raptor Study Group. Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions, which may help you decide whether you wish to take the next step in becoming an SRSG member.
Who is the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG)?
The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) is a network of over 360 individuals who monitor and record the fortunes of various raptors (birds of prey) and Raven (an honorary raptor) throughout Scotland. We are organised into 12 regional branches covering all parts of the Scotland – 8 mainland branches and 4 island-based branches overseen by a branch Chair and supported by various ‘species champions’. Our members have varied backgrounds and are from many different professions but are united by their commitment to the protection and conservation of Scotland’s raptors. Our work has contributed to hundreds of scientific publications and is regularly used by conservation agencies to inform local, regional and national conservation plans and policies.
When you become a Scottish Raptor Study Group member, we also ask that you register to become a SRMS data contributor (https://raptormonitoring.org/getting-involved/registering-for-srms). When you become a SRMS data contributor, you will benefit from being able to use SRMS Online, an online data entry system to submit your data, for which full training and support are available. All SRMS data contributors also receive their own printed copy of the SRMS Annual Report.
What is the relationship with the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (SRMS)?
The Scottish Raptor Study Group is a key partner of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (SRMS) (https://raptormonitoring.org/) and our members supply the bulk of monitoring data each year to be used directly by the SRMS itself and to be shared with Scheme partners for a range of agreed conservation purposes.
NatureScot, (the government’s scientific advisor), currently offers SRSG members who have registered as SRMS data contributors a contribution towards the costs of travel whilst undertaking monitoring activity.
What does SRSG do?
During the breeding season we check over 6,000 known raptor territories for occupancy, and record the status, distribution, and breeding success of each species. During the non-breeding season activities include counts at communal winter roosts (e.g. Hen Harrier, Red Kite & Raven) and nest searches. Our work is undertaken on a voluntary basis and between us we contribute thousands of days to fieldwork and data collection every year. We also work with a number of bodies to ensure that birds of prey are afforded the highest level of legal protections and that these laws are rigorously enforced.
How and when do you meet?
Most branches meet twice a year, usually in Spring and Autumn. Meetings are usually face-to-face but some may be held virtually. When you become a member, you will automatically be eligible to attend the SRSG’s annual conference, usually held in Perth, where up to 160 raptor workers from across Scotland and further afield gather along with invited guests to hear talks, socialise and network. Some branches have other more informal means of keeping in touch such as ‘Whatsapp’ groups.
What does raptor monitoring entail?
The majority of the work takes place during the breeding season between March and July. All our members are encouraged to follow the survey techniques set out in Hardey et al. (https://raptormonitoring.org/need-advice-on-monitoring). This typically involves several visits to each individual territory, to first establish occupancy and then to monitor the breeding attempt at any active nests (https://raptormonitoring.org/getting-involved/raptor-monitoring). Nest visits are not always necessary, rather your understanding of what you have observed is as important. At the end of the season your data will be submitted to the SRMS. You should not be worried if you do not find occupied territories – provided that you are consistently checking the same area comprehensively from one year to the next, negative records can be as valuable as confirmed territories.
What personal attributes are required?
A good working knowledge of ornithology is desirable along with patience, tenacity, observation skills and the willingness to put up with variable weather conditions.
Do I need specialist equipment?
The only equipment required are a pair of binoculars and appropriate outdoor clothing.
How fit do I need to be?
A minimal level of fitness is required, however, this will vary depending on the species – monitoring owl nest boxes in a lowland setting, for example, would require a lower level of fitness than say monitoring Golden Eagle in a remote, mountainous area.
How much time do I have to commit?
We appreciate that some people are limited in the time and resources they have available, however, there is no maximum or minimum and all contributions are welcome, as they all count towards the overall results at the end of the season. The time taken can vary depending on several factors such as the species, the weather and the observed level of activity at each site visit. Checking nest boxes is usually quick and a high number can be visited in a day whereas monitoring remote montane areas can sometimes take all day. The level of input is down to you but from experience we find that as your knowledge deepens your level of input will probably increase.
Do I need to be a specialist in birds of prey?
No. While a good working knowledge of ornithology is desirable, if you are enthusiastic and keen to learn and are willing to put the effort and time in then this can sometimes be just as important. When you first join you may be partnered with a more seasoned member, but this may vary between individual branches dependent on resources. Partnering with a more experienced member can help to ensure the transfer of best practice and knowledge to help hone your detective skills (e.g to help you interpret field signs which might provide evidence of occupancy, such as feathers, prey items, droppings and pellets). Depending on the species that you monitor, or the branch geography, you may become attached to a ‘sub-group’ which is a great way to learn and to be supported. In time you may create your own study area or continue to contribute to an existing one.
Running in partnership with the SRSG is ‘RaptorPatch’ (https://raptormonitoring.org/getting-involved/raptor-patch), a SRMS initiative which is a supported programme to help newcomers take on the monitoring of commoner and often overlooked species within a defined geographic area (or “patch”). RaptorPatch is an area-based approach to monitoring and focuses on collecting data on four widespread species for which more information is required: Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Raven.
Do I need a special licence to undertake raptor monitoring?
All raptors are protected, so at all times it is important to ensure that every effort is taken to minimise disturbance. Some raptor species are rare, threatened or vulnerable and to be able to monitor these you may be advised to obtain a Schedule 1 disturbance licence. Should a licence be required this can be arranged through your branch and there is no cost involved.
What is the process to join SRSG?
New members are always welcome and usually serve a probationary period and if successfully endorsed they would be appointed as a full member at the next available meeting which is in either Spring or Autumn. This process can vary depending on individual circumstances and the availability of resources in some of the smaller branches. In any event, every effort will be made to accommodate new members.
How much will it cost to become a member?
There is a modest annual subscription to cover the administration costs of the Group, which is currently £20.00.
If I am interested what is the next step and how do you keep in touch?
Please complete the application form found below and return it by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Your application will then be forwarded to the appropriate regional branch for consideration. You should normally expect to hear back within two weeks, but during busy periods this may take a little longer.
Download the SRSG Membership Enquiry Form here: