The Harrier

Subtitle: The newsletter of Devon Birds

Plymouth Branch Annual General Meeting Monday, 13th November 2017

After the AGM Dr. Malcolm Burgess, RSBP Conservation Researcher and honorary research fellow at the University of Exeter gave a presentation onTracking Devon’s birds; Spotted & Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Whinchat.’

Malcolm specialises in spatial ecology, working on diagnosing causes of declines of long-distance migrants and woodland birds. He is ideally placed to describe the tracking of these birds here in Devon and to analysis the patterns that have emerged.

Why are certain migratory species declining? Malcolm is using ‘state of the art’  science and developing technology.  This has enabled tracking devices such as geolocators to be safely attached to birds as slight as Wood Warblers.

Data received is processed using computer modelling to ascertain facts such as time in flight, flightpaths and stopovers. Comparing the data with weather information and feather chemistry analysis has elicited much information from a relatively small sample that ringing alone could ever produce.

Some species have shown to fly continuously to their Wintering habitats in sub-Saharan Africa. Geo-locators can also measure the degree of connectivity of the birds with their British habitats upon their return from Africa and could gauge the response of birds to environmental conditions and change.

The developing technology of these devices will guide the future focus of research and even track juveniles to compare their ecology with adult birds. Continued data gathering will further unravel the mysteries of bird migration and our understanding of population change.

John Lloyd


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