Spring Update 2015

Posted on Apr 15, 2015

The website

You might have noticed (he said, hopefully) a couple of changes to the website – I’ve updated the ‘Roller‘ page a bit (including a sound recording from Xeno Canto) and added an ‘About Us’ page, which at the minute only contains a link to my CV (which is unrecognisable from the one I did 3 years ago – that’s Personal and Professional Development for you..) My next job is to update the ‘Project’ page, which was originally written in my first year. Since then my plans have changed substantially (no doubt they’ll change again before the end..).

The website has proved really valuable over the last couple of years, and has put me in touch with collaborators who would likely have been unaware of my existence otherwise. It’s also a handy way of disseminating information (IMPACT!) and it’s useful to be able to look back on posts from times past to remind myself of what went on. It wasn’t too painful to get up and running, and doesn’t take much effort to maintain. So, highly recommended.


I was hoping to have made some headway on a paper or two about stable isotopes by now (one on adult isotopes and migration, the other on chick isotopes and diet), but I’ve decided that another season’s worth of samples will be needed. As it’s already in the public domain (I presented at the BOU2015 conference a few weeks ago, then twitter happened), I can tell you that the Carbon isotope values of adult feathers (moulted in Africa) correlate quite nicely with the openness of the over-winter landscape (known for our geolocator birds), with high Carbon values associated with more open landscapes. This is a cool finding I think. The next step is to figure what story we can tell with it! Unfortunately, this means that labwork is not quite done with – next autumn I’ll be refamiliarising myself with the joys of static when it comes to washing, chopping and weighing out more feathers.  


Some progress has also been made by Katherine (MSc student) on the Roller genetics work – more on that soon when I know the specifics.

Field season 2015

The project has two field sites in France (and a third in Latvia) – the Vallée de Baux (where I spent most of the 2013 season) and the Plaine de Roussillon. The former is well monitored by volunteers and interns (led by Timothée Schwartz) at A Rocha France, but there is no permanent base at Roussillon, so the monitoring is a bit patchy. This provides a good opportunity for us to collect some data which would otherwise be lost. There are loads of Rollers here too, so it should be a pretty productive season. 

So, at the start of May I’ll be filling up my new car with field gear and driving 900 miles to Roussillon (I hope she makes it – just failed MOT!). The core jobs will be monitoring nests, updating the habitat maps and doing some more insect transects in different habitats. I’ll be joined by Lourdes (an MSc student) in May and June, who will be walking line transects to explore where Rollers choose to forage. I’ll also be doing radio telemetry to look into habitat selection and home range at the individual level. All of this information on foraging will be linked back to the resource value of different land parcels (determined from the insect transects), and should hopefully make for a tidy thesis chapter. We’ll also be deploying some temperature loggers in nestboxes to look at incubation behaviour, and hope to use RFID readers to measure provisioning rate. Lots to be getting on with!

Valiant steed

Valiant steed

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