European Roller Best Practice Workshop: Warsaw, 9-10 April 2014

Posted on Apr 12, 2014

Last week I spent 3 nights in Warsaw, Poland, attending the International European Roller Best Practice Workshop – a meeting of Roller conservation practitioners from across Europe. The event was organised and financed by OTOP, the Polish BirdLife partner, as part of their EU funded “Active forms of protection of the European Roller” project.

Old Warsaw

Old Warsaw

Wednesday was a full day of 15 minute talks from delegates from France, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and, of course, Poland. People shared the status of the Roller in their countries, as well as the good work that is being done to protect / study the species. There was also an interesting talk about a captive population of 14 Rollers in Warsaw zoo, and an announcement about the next Species Action Plan meeting planned for 2018 in Hungary.

I gave a general introduction to the decline of the Roller, and presented some of the ideas, plans and early results of my PhD. The buzz-phrase was (no surprises) ‘Evidence-based Conservation’.

There was a lot of bad news, including reports of huge losses in the Baltics, Belarus, Croatia, Austria and Poland, and extinctions in Slovakia, Slovenia & Estonia (in addition to earlier losses in Germany and the Czech Republic) – all this despite valiant attempts to save this charismatic species. Nevertheless, countries such as Hungary and Romania each support thousands of pairs, and the Roller appears to be doing well in Italy, France & Spain. The most exciting and optimistic news came from the Serbian autonomous province of  Vojvodina, where an ambitious nestbox scheme has increased the population from 17 pairs to 151 pairs in just 7 years.

It became clear that there were lots of good data out there on the distribution, population size and demographics of the Roller – even some behavioural and dietary studies. It would be really worthwhile combining all of this data (as well as local literature on the Roller) into a international database, although  it will be no small task. Still, lots of potential for e.g. some large-scale distribution modelling. Hopefully some of these small studies will be published, although the organisers have collected all of the presentations, which will be uploaded to this website over the next few weeks.

On Thursday we were taken on an excursion to the final stronghold of Polish Rollers, where the air was full of woodlark song, and the fields were brimming with yellowhammers. It was a little early in the year to see any Rollers, but we were taken on a tour of the nestboxes.

Twitching a...?

Twitching a…?

...nestbox!

…nestbox!

We were then taken to a traditional Polish restaurant, where we were fed soup and pierogi. Smashing!

Lunch

Lunch

So a huge thanks to the organisers (and the EU). And to the delegates: thanks for some great discussions, some weird liqueurs and I hope to see you all again soon.

Tomorrow I am flying out to France with 2 MSc students from UEA – Harriet & Claire – who will be working in Roussillon this season. I’ll spend a week showing them around the field site, and then back to the office for one last week before I head to Latvia for the season. Look out for another blog next week with some photos from France, and the plan for Latvia. Hopefully Harriet & Claire can do some guest blogs too.