It was a very bright and frosty morning today at Otmoor, and I was lucky to see a lot of activity. The birds all seem to be very hungry, and so upon arriving ~30 minutes after sunrise I saw a number of species! The fieldfare and redwing seemed practically endless, chacking and seeping away in the hedgerows, darting between paths and gobbling down various winter berries. Much more elusive than these, I spotted a few marsh harriers gliding low over the reed beds, looking for their morning meal of a small mammal or waterfowl. I was also particularly happy to spot both a snipe and a bittern – however they were very far away and so I wasn’t happy enough with any of my photos to post them here. However I am very keen to get back to Otmoor again soon to try and get some more successful snaps of them both!
It’s been a little while since I last posted on this blog as I’ve been busy settling into a new DPhil programme! I’ve started my PhD at the University of Oxford, joining the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology. This is an organisation which has a rich history of research into the biology of birds, and is especially well-known as being one of the birthplaces of behavioural ecology. My project is aiming to understand the consequences of age-structure on natural populations, i.e. do communities of old animals act differently to populations with mainly young individuals, and if they do, what social, ecological and evolutionary processes does this affect? For an overview of how my DPhil project will take place, feel free to have a look at my EGI profile!: http://egi.zoo.ox.ac.uk/members/joe-woodman/.
In order to answer my research questions on this theme, I am undertaking experiments and using long-term data on the wild bird population in Wytham Woods. The EGI are responsible for keeping track of the life-history of these birds, which requires a huge effort and has been happening since 1947 – making it the oldest continuously studied bird population in the world. In order to collect data on the life-histories (date of when birds hatch, fledge, breed and are found dead) and characteristics (such as sex, age and size), the birds must be individually identifiable from one-another. This is achieved through a process called ringing, where a metal ring (which is a tiny proportion of the bird’s body weight) that has a unique code engraved on it is placed on the leg. However, if you want to ring birds you have to get a license from the BTO – and so in the last few months I’ve been undertaking my training which will allow me to do this unsupervised! As well as being taught how to handle the birds safely and attach the ring, I have also been learning how to measure parts of the birds anatomy, and how to work out the age and sex of different species. I have added some photos of a few highlights from my ringing training so far!
A blog of my ideas, photography and research of the natural world.