It’s all kicking off

Posted on May 7, 2013

Greetings from sunny France! I’ve been here for 3 weeks now, so thought it was time for an update.

I saw the first Roller of the season for the field site on a very windy Friday 19th April – this was 2 weeks earlier than in 2012, and they’ve been building up in numbers ever since. Yesterday, I’m 95% sure that I found a bird with a geolocator (I couldn’t quite read the flag number unfortunately), but otherwise I’ve been unable to pin down any birds ringed in previous years. In total there are 6 geolocator birds at this site, which I’m very keen to catch up with! There are lots of Rollers about, and I think it’ll be just a week or two until the first eggs are found. They seem to be fairly shy at the moment, and this is the best photo I’ve got so far:

The best of a bad bunch of photos

The best of a bad bunch of photos

My days are mostly spent cycling around the ~3000ha field site – a drained marsh (Anciens Marais de Baux) now used for agriculture, bounded by the ‘Crau’ (a stony plain) to the south and ‘Les Alpilles’ (a small mountain range) to the north.

My valiant steed, and cumbersome telescope

My valiant steed, and cumbersome telescope

Part of the field site, looking towards Les Alpilles

Part of the field site, looking towards Les Alpilles

Some more of the field site

Some more of the field site

And some more...

And some more…

 

I’ve done the first round of habitat mapping, which was more difficult than I’d anticipated – many of my ‘cereal’ fields are now being grazed by sheep, so something went wrong somewhere… The grazing here is pretty intensive – the sheep can transform a field of 3ft grass into a bare wasteland in an afternoon. 

Stuck in traffic

Stuck in traffic

I’m still waiting for landowner permission before I can start surveying invertebrates (aka ‘prey’). I’ve not had much to do with invertebrates in the past, so I’m looking forward to getting into this. There is certainly a wealth of insect life in these parts.

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I think this is a blue tailed damselfly

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Some kind of Demoiselle? I need to check the dragonfly book

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Damselfly

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A White of some kind..

In terms of other wildlife, the garden is full of frogs (including some lovely tree frogs) and geckos, as well as hundreds and hundreds of butterflies (including swallowtails), moths (including a hummingbird hawk moth) and dragonflies. I’ve seen lots of good birds too, including Alpine Swift, Woodchat & Red Backed Shrike, Bonelli’s and Short-toed Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Bea-eater, Little Bustard (as the plane touched down at Nimes airport) and Stone Curlew.

Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

 Next, I need to; figure how the PIT tag readers work; monitor some nests; sample some insects; visit the other French site, near Perpignan; and get some rest!

Finally I though I’d share a photo of our swimming pool, which is very refreshing after a 30km cycle through the Mediterranean heat.

Wish you were here

Wish you were here