We carry out and actively support bird-related projects in a number of areas. We participate in surveys on bird numbers at different times of the year co-ordinated by the SEO (Sociedad Española de Ornitología) - a similar organisation in Spain to BTO. We support DEMA - a local association which has been working very effectively to stem the decline in the population of Lesser Kestrel.
This support work is done for three reasons. The first is the direct support provided to birds. The second is for scientific purposes - to gather data and develop a clearer picture of the status of certain birds in the region. The outcomes of the work are of interest to ornithologists. The third and probably the most important one is to try to encourage local people to play a more active and supportive part in looking at and looking after the birds of the region. Birdwatching in Spain is by no means as established as it is in the UK and other northern European countries. It is very much still a minority interest - the SEO has only 12,000 members (the RSPB has well over 1 million). There is a need to generate interest amongst local people, particularly farmers and children. Despite the region's great richness in bird life, many species are vulnerable to changes in agricultural practice and development projects. At the moment there are few voices to speak in defence of birds and this can lead to direct loss of individual birds and habitat degradation or loss. An example of what from a bird perspective is a major retrograde step is the project to irrigate an area of around 20,000 hectares of agricultural land near Acedera. This is traditional habitat for Great Bustard during the winter. Apart from the disturbance during the intensive pipe-laying operations, the sources of food the birds depend on are going to reduce beyond a point of no return. Despite the protests of regional bird groups, this work is going ahead. Local agricultural interests quite reasonably see the increased profits this will lead to and are in favour. Only by trying to shape public opinion, albeit in a small way, can we hope to make people in the future consider what steps such as these mean for the priceless resource which the birds represent.