Friday, 21 February 2014

The floodplain has flooded.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog. As regular readers will be aware I am currently studying a BSc in Applied Zoology, and as the pressure of coursework has built up so my routine for writing these blogs has become more sporadic but still keeping to publishing on a monthly basis. With time once more limited I thought I'd give you an outline of my main dissertation which hopefully will of be of interest to you hope you enjoy the blog.

Reserve Guardian 

I love getting stuck into hard work for the benefit of nature and people and so while recently looking for voluntary opportunities in my local area, I came across the vacant position of reserve guardian on the nearby nature reserve which had been posted  by the RSPB. This was an opportunity I jumped at, and I was soon on the phone to their office arranging a meeting to discuss the role. I felt very welcome immediately and after signing the forms I was officially on board as a volunteer. Aside from helping with general upkeep of the marsh for example collecting rubbish, cutting back branches to close to the public footpath etc I'm also responsible for reporting any more serious issues which need to be resolved for example the damaging of information signs, or hazards to public safety which have recently appeared.  Earlier in the week I made my way onto the marsh only to have progress thwarted early on by the unsurprising flooding which has taken place due to the appalling weather Britain has experienced over the last month or so. I still however managed to collect some rubbish blown over by the storm so some good was still achieved,  and I look forward to being able to carry out my role properly in the future. I will keep you posted on this and my wildlife sightings during the course of my blogs. 

So how important is cover to birds?

My final year dissertation investigates the importance of cover for urban/suburban birds. It has been stated cover is beneficial to birds with reduced energy costs, and protection from the elements and predation. It has also been stated however that cover provides disadvantages for birds, with reduced viability aiding predation  attempts rather than deterring them. 
I have been attempting to observe the point where the fear of being predated upon is outweighed by the need to feed. To do this I have been manipulating the food available for birds in the study areas. Two feeders have been positioned away from cover and remained constantly full while two feeders have been positioned in cover however these have had the level of food present in them depleted. This has taken place over the course of four day cycles with  a quarter of the food in the feeder removed each day until just 25% remains at which point the feeders are then fully replenished. Initially this cycle was conducted eight times with surveys taking place in the morning for a period of one hour broken down into two half an hour spells, focusing on feeders in and out of cover respectively.  To account for factors influencing the study outside of the manipulated ones, I have repeated the experiment on a smaller scale in a separate study garden. Despite the variety of species not being as high as I had hoped and expected as a result of many hours of observation, interesting behavior is still being witnessed and I  will be writing my findings on this blog at a later date. 

I took this photo I while ago before this feeding station was moved to join the others in the back garden however Great Tits have still been a regular sight on the feeders. 

Latest news and curiosities 

Poor I.D skills
Surely this can't be good, British children finding it difficult to identify marine life such as penguins and turtles is worrying as these are the future generations trusted with protecting  wildlife and the  resources they depend on.  As the article says animal focused attractions such as the The National Sea Life Centre  are crucially important.

Blubber -Mouth Shark 
Who had heard of a Blubber - Mouth Shark ? I hadn't until reading a recent issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. Discovered of Hawai in 1976, the blubber-mouth shark is one of three plankton feeding sharks following its preys daily migration between surface layers and deep water.

British Butterflies 
Good news for our British Butterflies as species such as the brimstone, common blue, small copper, small skipper, large skipper and small tortoiseshell all made a recovery in 2013 having suffered one of the worst declines on record in 2012.

That's all for this time hope you enjoyed the blog I will be back to the British birds and extinct species section next time, now I have a dissertation to do !
Thanks for reading George.