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Otter-ly Brilliant!

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I must have spent so much time out in the Broads lately that Otters now think I am part of the landscape! Let me explain how, for a brief moment today, I became an Otter whisperer.

I was out with my new toy (a parabolic microphone) when I bumped, yes literally, bumped into an Otter mum with her three cubs! Here are some of the recordings and a few photos.

At first not really knowing whether to keep recording sound or take photos, I ended up doing both, sort of. I edited out where I dropped the microphone to the floor! It was all happening fast and I was trying not to be over excited, so some of the photos are a little blurry (the camera was on the wrong setting initially), and the microphone was not in an ideal position! Was I going to miss the moment?

I heard the whistles/squeaks/screams ahead of me, and I wasn't really sure what it was at first, then right in the middle of the path I could see brown shapes wriggling in the long grass. I couldn't believe my luck when they all st…

Fantastic Fledglings!

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I've counted lots of fledglings this summer, it feels like it has been a good year and the parent birds have done an amazing job, so here are some figures and photos (click on them to enlarge) to celebrate it.



Let's start in the garden: 
I always do regular bird counts in the garden and this year I decided to keep a tally of fledglings, as best I could! See the table below for peak counts of each species & estimates of total fledglings. 



As you can see Blackbirds were the real stars, working so hard with a peak count of eight. It wasn't all plain sailing, as a few had feather issues which hampered their progression, and they seemed particularly dependent on my garden for mealworms. One I named Rumpy as he lost so many feathers in that area, and there was another with a weird thing going on on its throat (see photo)! It was nice to see the early broods still visiting the garden as they turned 'black' later in the summer.

I'm pretty sure the Robins lost a parent …

Exploring wildlife through maps.

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I recently completed an online course from the University of Oxford's Continuing Education Department, introducing me to the joys of GIS (Geographic Information Science/Systems) - I've always liked browsing maps, so to be able to create my own is just brilliant!

I thought I'd share my first map(s) - all about Curlew (CU), Lapwing (L) and Snipe (SN) in East Norfolk, which happens to be where I have been surveying farmland for evidence of breeding of these declining waders for the RSPB. 

I gathered species presence data from BTO's BirdTrack records. BirdTrack is a citizen science project in which birders record lists of their sightings in 1km tetrads (fancy word for square) and upload them to the BirdTrack site, usually via the app, so that the clever bods at BTO can gain an insight into population trends and other details, such as the effect of climate change, important for their conservation. It's great at any time of the year to see what is going on in almost real t…

Determined Lapwing & A Wild Goose Chase!

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Peewit, Lapwing, Green Plover, Vanellus vanellus, whatever you call them, they're in big population decline here in the UK. I'm a scientist, so here's a graph showing the data from BTO that proves it (y axis is a smoothed population index & green indicates 85% confidence limits). 



Origins of the Lapwing name hail from Middle English lappewinke and lapwyngis, and back even earlier to the Old English hleapewince, all of which mean 'leap' and 'wince' or 'waver, move rapidly'. It's descriptive, as the Lapwing appear to make a big leap when they take to the air, and when on the ground they scuttle about quite rapidly. In that respect I'd hardly call them wavering, as I shall highlight below. However, when they're foraging they pause to listen, and patter on the mud using a foot, which increases their success rate in finding and catching invertebrates.


The distinctive calls of peewit, or kievit, if the Dutch birds (explains some of their oth…