Aspira Fund Beneficiaries

The Aspira Fund was created by world renowned wildlife photographer Andy Rouse with Páramo to benefit small wildlife and habitat projects which often miss out on major funding initiatives, offering practical assistance to continue their work.

The Aspira Fund is an initiative that Andy Rouse is passionate about...
"As a professional wildlife photographer, I'm privileged to have been to some of the most exciting natural places in the world and to have witnessed some of the most miraculous wonders of nature. However, it's opened my eyes to the dangers the world's wildlife is facing and highlighted the determination of those in the conservation and environmental fields to do something about it. My work depends on the vital work of such organizations and it is my pleasure to work with Páramo to give a little back. The Aspira Fund does just that – it assists in the active, on-the-ground work of people dedicating their lives to ensuring that we all continue to enjoy the natural world in the ways we may currently take for granted."

A Spy in the Woodcock’s Nest


LITTLE OWL BOOK FOR ASPIRA FUND

European Woodcock (Scolpax rusticola) are not the easiest of birds to pin down as their beautiful camouflage and behaviour is perfectly adapted to avoid detection and allow for a secretive life in our woodlands. A group of volunteers, the New Forest Woodcock Group (Hampshire, UK), are conducting a wide ranging study on this enigmatic bird who doesn’t give up its secrets easily.

Through Aspira, the Group have been able to fund the equipment required for part of the Woodcock breeding study to investigate nesting behaviour. Miniature cameras feed nest video to a recorder positioned forty metres away to avoid disturbance when changing over the batteries that power the kit. Primarily to record nest predation and the culprit, these tiny cameras are triggered when movement was detected and therefore also record Woodcock behaviour which allows a unique insight into the female’s activity when incubating.

Aspira also funded tiny temperature data logger probes which are placed under the eggs in the nest lining. These self-contained probes are set to record the temperature every two minutes. The temperature in the nest falls when the female goes off the nest to feed, and rises again when she sits back on the eggs. Combining the information collected from the video and temperature probe, we can see how active nesting Woodcock really are.

None of the nests with tiny cameras have been predated, but the information gathered is showing just how little was actually known about Woodcock nesting activity. Early findings show they leave the nest on average five times a day and the length of those activity bouts were not necessarily weather dependent. Females were seen to head of to feed just as a rainstorm hit leaving the eggs open to the elements, only to return and incubate twenty minutes later. It’s a tough little bird, well adapted to the forces of nature.

This study will be ongoing over the coming nesting seasons and so the Aspira funded kit will continue to add to our knowledge on the enigmatic Woodcock.

Dr Manuel Hinge
Research coordinator
New Forest Woodcock Group

The Dyfi Osprey Project

The Dyfi Osprey Project became very high profile in 2011 when, for the first time in over 400 years, a pair of ospreys bred and successfully raised three juveniles at the Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve run by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT) on the Dyfi Estuary near Derwenlas in west Wales.

In order better to understand osprey breeding and migration behaviour, the Wildlife Trust have been monitoring and recording dietary data, and, as in 2011, the 2012 Osprey chicks will be fitted with GPS satellite tracking units to follow their migration to West Africa. The juveniles are expected to return to Dyfi in the future to search for nest sites and to breed.

The Aspira Fund has purchased one of the tracking units which will be fitted to the one remaining 2012 Osprey chick – one perished in the wild weather and floods which hit west Wales in June, soon after the two hatched. The tracking units are solar powered and have an operational life expectancy of around five years so spring and autumn migrations can be tracked with great accuracy. The progress of the Ospreys can be viewed here.

The Lammergeier in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco

Since 2002, Ornithology, Biology, Geography and Cartography experts have been involved in fieldwork to chart the presence of the Lammergeier, Gypaetus barbatus, in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. This project addresses the lack of information about breeding numbers in the Atlas especially with regard to the migrating populations bridging southern Spain and Morocco - a historic route for the bird and key to healthy population development.

During the June/July 2011 Expedition, the team of 5 encountered sightings of Lammergeiers in the Akka-n-Tazaght Canyon and evidence of nesting along the Taghia Valley, with four recently occupied nests found – but on this occasion, no nesting pairs.

The project also seeks to liaise with the local Berber populations, contributing to this impoverished region. Hopefully, locals might one day directly benefit from the presence of this extraordinary species.

Little Owls conservation project


LITTLE OWL BOOK FOR ASPIRA FUND

Emily Joachim is researching the Little Owl's decline in Britain as part of her PhD at Reading University. She is concerned that food has decreased as a result of agricultural intensification, affecting the bird's breeding biology and survival rates. The Aspira Fund has assisted the project from 2009 – 2011. Initially the fund's contribution helped to purchase data logger kits to be fitted to nestbox entrances to record the times and dates of Little Owl nest attendance, so that foraging behaviour and survival rates of the species can be monitored.

In 2010 nest box camera systems were installed at 3 nest sites in Wiltshire, and in 2011 at 3 sites in Oxfordshire. This technology along with pellet analysis and habitat surveys, has helped nurture understanding of the Little Owl's diet and feeding ecology, so helping to halt its decline.

The Little Owl project has featured on Springwatch and video footage from the nestboxes has attracted lots of views via BBC Wildlife's website. Video.

Andy Rouse’s beautiful book ‘Little Owls: Living on the Edge’ is now available online – and every purchase from this link will donate £5 to the Aspira Fund.

North Pennines Black Grouse Recovery Project

The recovery of black grouse Tetrao tetrix populations in northern England is limited by poor breeding productivity, less good here than in other regions of the UK with 1.3 chicks per hen, compared to 1.7 in Wales and the Scottish Highlands. Poor breeding is linked to high rainfall when the chicks hatch in June, to poor quality habitat with relatively few preferred insect foods, and to predation, probably by stoats and weasels.

Black grouse in northern England typically nest and rear their chicks in rough grassland on the fringes of heather moors. In many parts of Scotland, eared willow Salix aurita scrub is extensively used by breeding black grouse as it supports many moth caterpillars for chick food. This important food source is largely absent from moorland fringes in northern England, probably through sheep overgrazing. The project plan was to recreate areas of eared willow scrub at known breeding habitats here to investigate whether females will utilise them, and the effect on insect availability and black grouse productivity.

The Aspira fund contribution was used to identify suitable sites, draw up appropriate planting plans, cover actual physical planting costs and undertake baseline vegetation, invertebrate and black grouse abundance and breeding productivity surveys.

Encouraging Ospreys to return to Glaslyn for their 7th year

Returning every year since 2004 the Glaslyn ospreys are back at the nest in the beautiful Glaslyn valley near Pont Croesor in Porthmadog. The Aspira Fund contribution helped to secure the nesting site of the ospreys to allow their continued return.

The ospreys spend every winter in West Africa and travel thousands of miles to return to Glaslyn every year to breed and raise their chicks. The chicks from 2009 - named Glaslyn, Glesni and Gwenlli - will stay in Africa for the next few years, perfecting their amazing fishing skills.

The site has a live video link from the nest.

Water for Ranthambore Tigers

One large area of Ranthambore National Park in India is off limits to tourists but has a very dense population of tigers. However, this area is prone to water shortages and for the hottest three months of the year is dry. Tigers there are forced to roam outside the park for water, potentially putting them into fatal conflict with the local population. Andy Rouse's friend, Dicky Singh, a local conservationaist and wildlife photographer had already funded boreholes to create natural waterholes. The Aspira Fund provided a further permanent water source - digging the borehole and landscaping the waterhole area.

Andy reported back "Dicky and I switched on the first jet of water and that night a male tiger came to drink. It made us feel so good and showed that you don't need a large amount of money to make a difference, just a willingness to protect and conserve."

The Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation (rYico)

rYico is a charitable organisation founded in 2003 in response to the needs of young people in Rwanda. rYico works to support and empower vulnerable young people in Rwanda through Centre Marembo, a youth resource centre based in Kigali.

The young people who attend the centre include those orphaned, neglected or left in difficult conditions, particularly as a result of the 1994 genocide.

While tracking some of the 700 remaining mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda, Andy Rouse was impressed by the incredibly friendly people. 'Despite everything that's happened in Rwanda, I was awestruck by the resilience of the people who always wear a smile and I came away with a wish not only to try to protect the dwindling numbers of gorillas and their endangered habitat but to contribute to local community projects in this vulnerable area in order to help the people too.'

The Aspira Fund donated money to specific projects through rYico which not only benefitted the orphaned children but helped support the rural communities that they come from, and so focussed assistance where it was needed on the ground in Rwanda.

Clever cameras and Capercaillies

Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) manages biodiversity in Scotland's forests and one key species is the capercaillie – the largest grouse in the world! Huge efforts are being made to improve habitat for capercaillie across 35,000 hectares of the National Forest Estate. However, as FCS Ecologist Kenny Kortland, explains: ''It is important to ensure that this work for capercaillie benefits as many species as possible and isn't detrimental to other protected species. This can be difficult when we don't know if certain species are even present on a site!''

To help Kenny, the Aspira Fund provided a grant to purchase four camera traps to survey forests for shy mammals such as wildcats and badgers. ''If we know these species are present, we can include them in our habitat management plans for capercaillie,'' said Kenny. ''The cameras are placed in the forest and take a picture every time an animal walks through an infrared beam. They will hugely improve our knowledge of mammals in our capercaillie forests."

If you would like to apply for a contribution to a research or conservation project from the Aspira Fund, please initially fill in the contact form here. We will then contact you to obtain more details of your request.