Remember that Raptor Patch has been designed so that you can progressively develop your knowledge and skills – we do not expect you to be able to learn everything straightaway. With this in mind we suggest the following order of priority for establishing what breeding raptors are doing in your Raptor Patch:
- Establish the number of occupied territories.
- Establish the outcome of any breeding attempts in each occupied territory. This involves determining whether a pair successfully fledged young, failed at some point in the breeding cycle (for example, on eggs, with small young or with large young) or did not breed at all.
- Establish the number of fledged young from each breeding attempt.
- Detailed productivity monitoring. This will usually involve inspecting the nest at close quarters, for example, to obtain clutch size.
In your first year you should focus on working towards the first priority of establishing the number of occupied territories of your chosen species in your Raptor Patch. You almost certainly will not find all the occupied territories in this first year (if you do – well done!); however, all data that you are able to contribute on the locations of occupied territories will be new data that will be useful to the SRMS.
In subsequent years, you might then feel confident to work towards the next steps of establishing the outcomes of any breeding attempts and establishing the number of fledged young from each breeding attempt.
Depending on how quickly you develop your skills and your level of confidence you may ultimately be able to collect detailed productivity information. However, it is absolutely fine to record that a female was seen incubating an unknown number of eggs – this is still valuable information even if we do not know precisely how many eggs were actually laid. Some nests can be difficult to access, so for your own health and safety and importantly to minimise any risk to the birds through disturbance we would not recommend you move to this level of detailed monitoring (if at all) until you have built up the confidence and skills in the earlier stages.
There are many others like you taking part in Raptor Patch and we would like to encourage ways to connect you with other raptor monitoring volunteers (both new and old) that may be operating in the same part of Scotland so that you can share experiences, ask questions and learn together. If you have any ideas for how this could be best achieved then please contact Amy, the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Coordinator.
We are holding a Raptor Patch training day in March 2016 which will allow Raptor Patch participants to receive training on monitoring the Raptor Patch focal species. Depending on the success of this pilot event we will hope to roll out to more areas of Scotland in future years.