Exploring wildlife through maps.

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!

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…

Gulls At Play

Let's Play Fetch (or as Herring Gulls call it, 'Drop-Retrieve')

Little did I know I was going to Herring Gull playschool when I popped down to Walcott a couple of weeks ago. I was intending to watch the migration flypast , but got a little distracted by the antics of a group of this year's young Herring Gulls, and most entertaining it was too!

The bell for start of playschool seemed to be an adult with a crab who was willing to give it up to the youngsters, it was like getting your mini bottle of milk to start off the session. Once the crab had been 'seen to' a group of a dozen or so young birds decided it was time for a game of drop-retrieve. Some picked up a favourite stone, others a bunch of seaweed, then proceeded to drop it from about a metre above the water and dive in after it. There was no attempt to catch it before it hit the water, that would be drop-catch, not drop-retrieve.

It all took place in the shallows and at first I thought is this training for f…

A #30DaysWild Ride Home

It took me almost an hour to get home yesterday, day 12 of #30DaysWild. I regularly cycle to work and normally it takes 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the wind direction. Yesterday it was almost an hour in only a light breeze. It wasn't a puncture, or the choice of a longer route that made me take much longer, no, it was all the wild distractions, so many brilliant encounters that are great for #30DaysWild which is an initiative for June being encouraged by The Wildlife Trusts .
So here is the story of 'My #30DaysWild ride Home'.

When I left work I started a list in my head of bird species I saw or heard on the journey; Woodpigeon, Herring Gull, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Jay, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Whitethroat, Wren, Jackdaw and I had barely gone 400m. I paused on the bridge over the river Yare to check out the fish (obviously inspired by the hero of this year's Springwatch, Spineless Si). There were lots of fry and some bigger fish too, guessing they m…

Fifty Shades of Grey, Cley Style!

There was a touch of Fifty Shades of Grey about Cley the other day, and not just in the sky. Despite the grey, murky weather the Cley wild things were gearing up for spring, the crossover, when briefly a bit of winter and summer collide. 

There are still plenty of geese about, Brents mainly and a few Greylag. It's as if every grey that was in their feathers had been picked from the sky's palette. 

The Wigeon are not thinking about heading East yet back to the breeding grounds, and are just focusing on looking and sounding gorgeous. They do pretty well on both counts.

This lot of Wigeon were set up by a cruising Marsh Harrier, who was looking to impress his girl with a nice juicy duck breast.

Pinging could be heard coming from the reed bed as the Bearded Tits flirt. I had hoped they might show out on the path to pick up grit but I had to make do with a pair of Reed Bunting instead. Still cute though, even the blurry female.

Oystercatchers were line dancing, I couldn't quite work…