Donald & Jeff Watson Raptor Award 2012 –

26 February 2012

The Donald & Jeff Watson Raptor Award is awarded annually by the Scottish Raptor Study Groups, in memory of two outstanding raptor ecologists.

The winner of the 2012 Watson Award is George Smith, from the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group. The following information was provided by Alan Heavisides and Mike McGrady of the Lothian & Borders RSG.

George Smith joined the Lothian & Borders Raptor Study Group twenty years ago, and at his very first meeting was appointed as buzzard records coordinator, documenting the population’s gradual recovery in this region. Very soon George was also working with the one and only late George Carse on peregrines, as they also expanded across the region. Over the next few years George became one of the key members of the group and is presently species coordinator for three key species peregrine, buzzard and raven. He also manages to fit in various other raptor monitoring activities along the way. It is difficult to exaggerate just how much time and effort George manages to put into this each season despite having a fulltime job, a wife and a family of three daughters.

George spends an enormous amount of time in the field each year, especially studying peregrines. His time is filled finding nests, searching for new sites, trapping, ringing and pit-tagging adults and chicks across the region as part of a long-term study. Despite the exceptionally busy schedule it seems that in every year he manages to search in new areas, find new nests and where necessary contribute to things like nest site monitoring at locations where persecution is suspected. While his main focus is on peregrines, he always has some other things going on with buzzards or owls etc. In the ‘off’ season he spends time gathering information on sites he might have missed, and modifying sites to make them more secure from the elements or from disturbance.

Although George has a strong suspicious streak fitting any raptor worker in Scotland, he has been successful in getting new workers involved in raptors, something critical to ensuring that raptor work extends past the current generation. Over the years he has been extremely generous with his time and data, and this is leading to a better understanding of peregrine demography and the level and effect of persecution on peregrines in our region.

George always promptly produces excellent summary data and accounts on the three species at the end of every season; co edits with Andrew Sandeman the LBRSG annual report, provides data on several other species and contributes to raptor conservation, LBRSG and SRSG in several other ways. George Smith is a very worthy recipient for the 2012 Donald and Jeff Watson Award.