Wish you were here

Posted on May 18, 2013

Well, the French weather has outdone itself this week. This was the view from my desk a few hours ago:

Wish you were here

Wish you were here

So, I’ve spent the last few days doing ‘indoor’ jobs. I’ve had fun going through the videos from the 2 nestbox cameras which were deployed last year, trying to identify prey and record provisioning rate – it’s very time consuming, but also quite interesting. Here is a Cicadidae (I’m also learning my insect families!) getting fed to a brood of 5 chicks.

Veloceraptidae

Veloceraptidae

I’ve also been testing the PIT tag readers, which are designed to measure provisioning rate with less effort (and less cost) than nestbox cameras. In theory…

Testing PIT tag readers

Testing PIT tag readers

It’s not all been bad – last weekend I took a day off and cycled 60km to the Camargue, a fantastic place. Here are a few photos:

White horse

White horse

Sand dunes

Sand dunes

Little egret

Little egret

And, of course, a flamingo

And, of course, flamingos

The garden has also yielded some nice wildlife, including hoards of Orthoptera exuviae and a Gecko behind my window shutter:

Exuvia, or a prop from a Ridley Scott film

Exuvia, or a prop from a Ridley Scott film

Gecko

Gecko

Back to the field site, here’s a lovely meadow and a wild boar:

Meadow

Meadow

Wild boar

Wild boar

I’ve also been taking some interest in the Ovines – partly because they smell deliciously of goat’s cheese, partly because I love the sound of their bells, partly because they provide such a good example of the ‘ideal free distribution‘ and partly because I think the pastures probably make for quite good Roller foraging grounds.

Sheep/Goats

Sheep/Goats

Finally, some Roller news. No eggs have been found yet, although many of the natural tree cavities are impossible to find until later in the season, and equally difficult to check up on. I’ve seen another bird with a leg flag (yellow ?8), on the territory of a geolocator bird. I got very excited thinking it was our geolocator bird returned, but it’s probably an offspring of the geolocator bird. Disappointing, but quite cool that it’s returned to its natal territory! 

I’ve been able to make a start at sampling invertebrates (aka prey) in different habitats. The original plan was to combine sweep netting and pitfall traps, but I think a more realistic relative index of prey availability will be gained by visually surveying invertebrates along walked line transects. This has the added advantage of being fairly quick, and non-lethal (so I can do it in the Marais d’Ilon nature reserve). Any thoughts / opinions on this method would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, tomorrow I am driving to Montpellier, then down towards Perpignan, where there is another Roller nestbox scheme. I’ve been told that the area hosts 90 occupied nestboxes, with 40-50 on the study site itself. I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Roller highway’, and maybe boosting my sample sizes a bit!!

A bientôt!