Roussillon Update 1

Posted on May 25, 2015

Hello! Here’s update #1 from Roussillon, where I’m spending the third and final field season of my PhD.

We arrived 2 weeks ago after the long drive south from Norwich, during which the scenery (and weather) gradually changed from British to Mediterranean (thanks to Jenn for making the voyage a bit more bearable). It was dark by the time we pulled into the campsite, and we came close to spending a night in the car (sorry Jenn…) but fortunately the campsite owner was around to let us into our accommodation – a fairly comfortable static caravan. After a day of recovery (and a swim in the Med) I dropped Jenn off at Carcassonne airport, and was ready for 87 days of fieldwork (the foreign-car-insurance-expiry-countdown ticking inexorably away).

Trusty vehicle

Trusty vehicle

A quick check of the 80ish nestboxes (and a few woodpecker holes) yielded no Roller nests, although there were quite a few adults about and many Jackdaw, Little Owl, Kestrel and Hoopoe nests. I was also quick to stumble upon some of the other local avian attractions, including Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Bee-eater Woodchat Shrike and Turtle Dove.

A Roller which, bizarrely, died with a beetle still in its beak. Cause unknown

A Roller which, bizarrely, died with a beetle still in its beak. Cause unknown


Alive Roller!

Next stop, another airport (this time Perpignan) to pick up Lourdes, an MSc student from UEA who’s studying the distribution of Rollers with respect to habitat type and distance from breeding sites.

The last few weeks have mostly been spent habitat mapping & nestbox checking (we now have 4 or 5 Rollers on eggs, which is about the same as this time last year – we’re hoping for 30-40 pairs in total). Lourdes has started her line transects and I’m doing some surveys of insect abundance in the different habitats. When the wind permits, we go out with the ladder to attach bits of technology in/on/around nestboxes. We’re using temperature loggers to look at thing like incubation behaviour, the insulative properties of nestboxes and timing of nest failure. I’ve also deployed some trail cams at a few nestboxes to record any interesting happenings. After trawling through 12000 photos from the first download, here a few which made the cut.

Little Owl in tree hole

Scops owl roosting in nestbox. It's now got a single egg

Scops owl roosting in nestbox. It’s now got a single egg

Photos By Trail Camera

A Roller checking out the Scops Owl box. It’s been a regular Roller nest site for years, so I guess the Rollers aren’t too happy with the Owl


Other avian observations from the field site include: masses of Honey Buzzards flying low against the north-westerly winds, 2 male Red-footed Falcons, a Black Stork and a Hobby.

Red-footed Falcon

Red-footed Falcon

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