New Forest Raven survey: early April update

Russ writes:

This is the second update on the New Forest 2020 Raven survey, which was described in detail in this blog post:

https://www.wildnewforest.co.uk/post/wild-new-forest-2020-raven-survey


We are very grateful to the many observers who have taken the time to submit their sightings in recent weeks - these are being mapped and compiled in a database, and are enabling us to start classifying territories as either confirmed breeding, probable breeding, or potential territory (note that all records will be supplied to Hampshire Ornithological Society at the end of the season). The current situation as of 07 April 2020 is outlined in the map below.

· Confirmed breeding records have come from six sites so far, including two nests on pylons in the north of the New Forest, three nests in tall conifers, and one location where display and nest-building was noted early in the season.


· Probable breeding records have come from eight sites where birds have been observed displaying and/or defending territory and entering likely nest trees on multiple dates, but the nest has not yet been located this year (these are mostly in prominent stands of tall conifers, including several ‘traditional’ sites where nesting has been confirmed in the past). Defensive action has been directed towards various raptor species, including Goshawk, Red Kite and Buzzard.


· Potential territories include two sites where groups of four presumed non-breeding birds have remained faithful to stands of tall conifers, and are often seen displaying and vigorously chasing each other; other occupied territories include traditional sites where one or a pair of birds have been seen on one date only, and where pairs of birds have been seen on multiple dates (including displaying) but there is no evidence of breeding – some of the latter are likely to be immature birds that are establishing new territories.


At one site (pictured below), a pair feeding chicks are having to cope with one of the adults having recently suffered a presumed broken leg, but for now both birds continue to attend (and vigorously defend) the nest; the injured bird has also been seen carrying food back to the nest from up to 3 km away, providing an indication of territory size.

As Ravens don’t breed until at least three or four years old, there will be a significant population of immature non-breeding birds that may occupy a defined territory and/or rove widely within and beyond the New Forest. Some of these roving birds (as well as some breeding birds from up to 3.5 km away) have been seen visiting areas with large cattle herds and attendant flocks of mixed corvids.


Taking the confirmed and probable breeding records above, and accounting for a couple of traditional sites that have received no or limited coverage, an initial population estimate of 15-20 pairs looks to be the most likely outcome. And with several groups and pairs of non-breeding birds apparently establishing new territories, it seems likely that this figure could exceed 20 pairs in the coming years.

We are keen to receive any further Raven records from within the New Forest National Park between 01 Jan and 30 June 2020, but stress that these should only be opportunistic sightings by observers who are able to access the New Forest on foot or by bike from their house as part of their local daily exercise, consistent with UK Government guidance on coronavirus restrictions. The original plan was for this to be a two-year survey, so we will have further opportunities next year to pin down some of the more remote nests.


All sightings can be emailed to info@wildnewforest.co.uk, and please provide as much detail about the time, location and behaviour as possible. Many thanks again to everyone who has contributed their sightings already.

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