Marion Paviour Award 2022 winner announced!

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We are very excited to introduce our latest recipient of the Marion Paviour Award for 2022, Sopani Sichinga. Sopani is a BSc Forestry graduate from Mzuzu University in Malawi, and has been working with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) mainly in the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve in northern Malawi.

His research project for the award focuses on assessing the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) in and around Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. Currently, Martial Eagles here are reported as being resident although a comprehensive assessment of the population has not been carried out despite concerns about recent declines in population numbers.

The Marion Paviour Award is aimed at furthering research into the conservation of birds of prey and is intended to support early-career researchers. The award will help cover food, accommodation, field expenses and fuel costs for Sopani’s fieldwork.

“My current research study on assessing the Endangered Martial Eagle sparks from my enthusiasm to study raptors and other birds in Vwaza. The Martial Eagle is of particular interest because the species occurs there, but its conservation status remains unknown despite its reported continued declines which have contributed to the species being up-listed to Endangered by the IUCN in 2020.

“As a way to help in conserving this iconic species in Vwaza, I applied for the Marion Paviour Award with the Hawk Conservancy Trust. I feel very privileged and happy to have won the award which will significantly help to raise awareness regarding the status of the Martial Eagle in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, and lead to conservation action from the relevant organisations. My passion for conservation in general has continued to grow from when I was working in the field of conservation research and helping with a range of conservation projects in Malawi.

“The support of the Hawk Conservancy Trust is, therefore, highly appreciated as it will help with field resource mobilisation which remains a challenge when planning any research fieldwork.”

Sopani submitted a compelling application for the award, which highlighted the lack of detailed knowledge about Martial Eagles in his study area and how his project will fill an important gap by creating a vital baseline about a potentially important population of this Endangered species. Sopani began fieldwork in April and we look forward to sharing updates and pictures throughout the year on the project.

Owen climbs for conservation!

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This summer, Bird Team member Owen Lincoln is celebrating his birthday in style – by lacing up his hiking boots and taking on the Three Peaks challenge to raise funds for vulture conservation! With the tallest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales to conquer in just 24 hours, this is no mean feat. Owen is hoping to raise £8000 for our Pakistan Vulture Restoration Project (PVRP) – an important part of our work conserving Asian vultures.

Find out more about why Owen is so passionate about our work in Pakistan:

“Why am I taking on the 3 Peaks Challenge?

For me it’s a bit of a no-brainier! I have two passions in life, one is long treks and walking in the great outdoors, the other is (of course) birds – but more specifically vultures. So, what better way to combine the two than pushing myself to the absolute limit and testing my abilities whilse raising money for one of our conservation and research projects that I hold very dear to my heart?

If you have been to the Trust before I’m sure you have heard us speak passionately about the issues vultures face in Africa, but we also work intensively in Asia too. I am raising funds for our Pakistan Vulture Restoration Project to help with the ground-breaking work taking place to prevent the extinction of Asia’s threatened vulture species.

I am confident in my ability to complete the three highest peaks of England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours. That’s three countries and three mountains all in one day. Over the 24 hour time period, I’ll be hiking 44km and climbing over 3000 meters!

I can’t ask for help with my hike, but I am asking for your help to raise money for these beautiful and crucial birds before it is too late. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and together I know we can make a big difference.

Thank you all for your continued support and I’ll see you at the finish line!”

Owen is hoping to raise £8000 for our Pakistan Vulture Restoration Project (PVRP) – an important part of our work conserving Asian vultures. Since the mid-1990s, tens of millions of vultures in south Asia have died from ingesting a veterinary drug called diclofenac – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is highly toxic to vultures if they feed on the carcass of an animal that has been treated with it shortly before death.

This important project aims to create Vulture Safe Zones free of this and other dangerous drugs for wild vulture populations to thrive. The Trust also funds a breeding centre in Changa Manga, run by our partners WWF-Pakistan, for Asian White-backed Vultures to one day be released into these safe zones, helping to boost numbers of these birds in the wild.

Although Owen has previously completed each peak separately, the challenge of completing them all within 24 hours is a daunting task – and on his birthday no less! He will need your help and support to get him to the top of all three mountains, as well as helping him hit his goal to raise £8000 for this incredible project.

You can make a donation to Owen’s fundraising challenge here.

Bald is beautiful!

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Our birds have strong personalities, choosing who they work with amongst our members of the Bird Team. Our seasonal Bird Team member, Mark Ison, discovered this when he began work alongside our Bald Eagle, Orion! Keep on reading to find out the incredible dedication and care it takes for our Bird Team to earn our birds’ trust, and how truly special these bonds can be.

“Having a lifelong passion for the natural world and in particular, the conservation birds of prey and their habitats, means I have been visiting the Hawk Conservancy Trust for many years. Following a work experience placement as part of my Ecology and Conservation degree course, I was offered a seasonal position with the Bird Team in 2022. Now in my second season here as part of the team, I am pleased to share my experience with working with one of our most powerful birds.

“As my first season was drawing to a close, I had started to make my first steps in forming a working relationship with Orion, one of our Bald Eagles. As anyone who works with birds of prey will tell you, this is much easier said than done.

“Each bird is completely individual, and each have their own distinct personalities. It is the birds themselves who choose who they will allow to work with them, and huge amounts of time and patience is spent creating a bond. In some cases, a particular bird may decide that they just don’t like you from the outset, and this seemed to be Orion’s feeling towards me!

“Initially when I spent time with him,  things seemed to be going well as he flew to my glove. It soon became apparent that this was no match made in heaven, and Orion had decided he wasn’t so sure about me! I decided to give him some space over the winter months with the hopes of spring bringing a change in heart.

“After careful consideration, and support from my colleagues in the Bird Team, we decided in January of this year to give our friendship another go. I worked hard on the basic technical skills that enabled me to work safely and confidently with Orion, with his welfare being my paramount priority.

“We took things at Orion’s pace, and I dedicated time to let him fly to my glove when he wanted to, and spent lots of time together. With his trust earned, he became more relaxed with me. After several weeks, Orion was happy to let me weigh and feed him each day.

“The support and advice offered by my colleagues throughout is a hallmark of the expertise and experience of our team, and mine and Orion’s bond has continued to grow. Orion soon let me work with him in flying sessions, where he would fly between myself and another member of the team in preparation for our busy experience days later in the spring. This really built the foundations of our bond, and I now regularly fly Orion with our guests on our bird of prey experience days.

“We have a great bond now, and I have worked with Orion almost every day since then. Our relationship is going from strength to strength. I know I shouldn’t have favourites, but Orion is definitely a contender – I hope he feels the same about me!”

©2024 Hawk Conservancy Trust