About 13:45 on Sunday 8th April Derek Pickett, Jim and Emma Gunter, Mark Godwin and Peter and Marion Spencer met up with Lynne of the Great Bustard Group at Enford Village Hallf for a booked visit to the Great Bustard release site.
The Great Bustard features on the Wiltshire County flag and on the Wiltshire Coat of Arms. Note the dragon (based on the Wessex Wyvern?) in the canton of the shield.
The last Great Bustard was shot in England in 1832. David Waters, a retired Wiltshire Police Officer, set up a project to re-introduce the Great Bustard to Salisbury Plain. Details about the project including some short video clips can be found on the Great Bustard Group website at: http://greatbustard.org/.
Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau covering 300 square miles (780 km2) mostly in central and southern Wiltshire stretching into the neighbouring counties of Berkshire and Hampshire. Most of the Plain is military training area. There are a number of villages on the Plain including Enford and private owned farm land. The Great Bustard release site is on privately owned land. The wildlife on Salisbury Plain, including the Great Bustards, has adapted to their often noisy Army neighbours. Lynne did mention that the Great Bustards were not too keen on helicopters. Probably because they can fly very close to the ground and the down draft from the rotors stirs up the dust.
We climbed aboard a Land Rover and Lynne drove us out of Enford village and on to Salisbury Plain. In order to protect the release site I will not go into detail of which direction Lynne took. After a short, rather bumpy in places, drive we arrived at the viewing hide; a large wooden hut. Lynne had brought several pairs of binoculars for us to use, I had brought my own. Those who work in the acting profession will advise you never to work with children or animals because both can be very unpredictable.
The Great Bustards that David Waters and his team released on Salisbury Plain are completely free ranging. The birds, who are not advised about group visits such as ours ,decide if they will put in an appearance or not. We were fortunate that two male birds permitted us to view them through binoculars.
We climbed back aboard the Land Rover and Lynne drove us back to Enford and to the Great Bustard Group shop outside the village. The journey included a drive along a flooded track which Lynne informed us was Winterbourne. The shop had several items for sale with a Great Bustard theme. After we had made purchases and paid the £15 each for the tour, money well spent, Lynne drove us back to the Enford Village Hall where we said goodbye to her. We then adjourned to the village pub, the Swan Inn, for a drink.