As part of my PhD, I have been conducting research on how individuals within populations end up pairing with partners that are of a similar age to themselves. Here is a poster that summarises this research, which was due to be presented at the British Ecological Society's conference in Liverpool, which sadly I was unable to attend due to COVID. Find a link to a higher quality version of the poster here: http://tiny.cc/ghhmuz.
An absolute pleasure to see this pectoral sandpiper just 10 minutes from my front door in Oxford today. Seeing this species is a first for me, which is hardly surprising seeing as only a handful of them are in the UK each year. Broadly speaking, they breed around the Arctic circle, including northern Canada and Siberia, from which areas they tend to migrate to winter in South America. This means its a great rarity to see one blown off course in the UK!
As part of a summer outreach project with The Oxford for East England Outreach Consortium, I produced this short film of what life is like during the field season at Wytham Woods. The video sums up a lot of what I have been writing on my blog over the past few months (and has plenty of bird footage!).
It was another great year on Scilly, with a particular highlight of mine being able to see the large colony of grey and common seals in the Eastern Isles!
I really enjoyed producing this mini-episode on Conservation Optimism's "Good Natured Podcast". I talk about my experience of the introduction of red squirrels in the Isles of Scilly. Click the button below to listen to it on Spotify!
Although the pied wagtail in my garden is one of the most confident birds when it comes to getting close and taking photos, it is also one of the fastest moving. Its been really hard to get a shot of it up close and in focus as it darts around catching insects, barely ever staying still. I was pleased to finally get one I was happy with though!
Spotted flycatchers have declined by almost 90% between 1967-2012, making them fairly rare breeders in the UK. Although they're quite drab when it comes to plumage and song, it's hard not to be impressed by their patience as they perch on an exposed branch, eyes fixed on potential prey, before flitting off and catching insects in flight in an impressive aerobatic display. During an isolation stint at my home on the Bucks/Ox border, I was really happy to see three flycatcher fledglings in the yew tree! At first from a distance I thought they might be robin juveniles, but it quickly became apparent that I was wrong when the parents starting regularly visiting them with freshly-caught flies.
We've been treated to a huge amount of variation in species during recent ringing sessions, meaning lots of first-time-handles for me!
It's been an incredibly busy past couple of months, but I'm relieved to say that today I ringed my last brood of chicks of the field season. In total that makes just over 550 chicks of 4 different species!
Here in Wytham, we mark all chicks nesting in the boxes with a BTO metal ring, each of which has a unique number-letter code and is placed on their leg. They are extremely light so as not to cause any discomfort to the birds, comparable to the weight of a mobile phone in our pockets. The rings provide really useful information, allowing us to collect data and determine the birds' movement and survival when caught again in the future, both in Wytham and beyond. Additionally, we place a PIT tag onto the second leg of all great tit chicks. These are special rings (also extremely light) which allow a bird to be identified without even having to catch it. They are essentially small magnets that don't themselves actively emit any information, but when they pass through a specific signal they disrupt it in a uniquely identifiable way. This allows the birds to be identified without capture, for example, at specialist bird feeders and nest boxes, therefore making it possible to really accurately track the movements, habits and life histories of individuals.
I've really enjoyed this field season, and have learned much more about how the breeding phenology and habits of these four woodland birds operate. For now I'll take a break from fieldwork, returning to more of the analysis and writing-up of my DPhil project, but I'm looking forward to doing the season this time again next year!
A blog of my ideas, photography and research of the natural world.