PhD defence in Groningen

Dear all,

I write this post to invite you to the defence of my thesis “A golden life: Ecology of breeding waders in low Lapland” that will take place next 7th of September at 11h in the Academy building of Groningen (Broerstraat 5).

I am very happy to have arrived to this point and I would love to share it with you.

It will be a pleasure to see anyone interested on the topic there!

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New release on survival and growth of Golden plover chicks

Last february our last paper was published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

We want to share this work with you. In this paper we studied the growth of golden plover chicks by radio-tracking individuals from hatching till fledging and related variation in chick growth to food availability (as sampled by pitfall trapping) and weather conditions. Very interesting for as we found notable differences among years reflecting a higher importance of food availability than weather conditions on the growth of the chicks.

We invite you to discover all the details by reading the paper! You can find it here !

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Golden plover chick with radiotransmitter

New paper on ecology of Golden plover chicks

Machín et al. 2017

We are very happy to share with you the publication of our last paper: “Habitat selection, diet and food availability of European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria chicks in Swedish Lapland”. It has been a long way but it is finally here!! Click here!

This study shows the prey preferences of Golden plover chicks in the alpine tundra in northern Sweden, as well as their habitat use and food availability. Interestingly, a peak of bibios (Bibionidae, also known as marsh flies) at the end of the season in 2011, made the chicks change their diet to practically only feed on them, so we highlight the importance of this seasonal effects on the food availability, ergo diet, survival and growth of the chicks. We also show that plovers in Lapland do not have Tipulids (Crane Flies) as their favorite prey, as it happens to be in another population (UK), where chicks rely on them.

We are recently working on the second part of this story, analysing which factors influence the growth of the chicks. Hope to show it to you soon!

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Nice casual trapping

During a nest control, we surprised an adult incubating very still on the nest. Sometimes, since they trust so much in their cripticity, it is even possible to trap them directly on the nest. This was the case for this not common visitor in our study area.

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Broad-billed sandpipers (Limicola falcinellus) that breeds in Fennoscandinavia winter in east Africa, Pakistan and south India. They normally breed in lowlands zones, not been usual to find them up in the tundra (see here). There has been recorded some individuals breeding in our study area during recent years, but it is for sure not a common species.

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Broad-billed sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus) on the hand

After some days, we visit the nest again in order to ring the recently hatched chicks. They were been brooded by the adult when we arrived and right after we left we could observe the adult retuning inmediatly to continue given the warmth they need during their first days of life.

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Broad-billed Sandpiper chicks recently hatched

Ringing period

After having found a good number of nests in the area, we have started to try to retrieve lightloggers placed in 2011. Some of this trappings need to be performed during the night, since females mostly incubates at night time, while the male, as a “sentinel” check out for possible dangers.

ImageArea of study during night catching

We did not have many chances, since some nests which adults had a logger have been very soon predated. However, we manage to recapture 2 so far. They belong to a pair, one male and one female, that came back last year 2012 and again this year. We dont know for certain if they manage to breed in 2012, but this year they bred very close from 2011 nest (30m). One of the loggers contains 2 years data, so hopefully we will be able to see where they actually meet and if they indeed leave the area together.

ImageMoult pattern of female with logger trapped

Predators win

What can we say after seeing the picture of the mountains this last week?….predators win!

They predate 70% of the Golden plover nests we had located in the study area in just few days. Due to the long period with snow cover in the area, predators had more chances to find wader nests. It is also important to mention that last year was a peak of lemmings (our good friend that is missing now), which made breeding of predators succesful last seasson, increasing their numbers in the area.

Plovers are hanging around together, in flocks of up to 100 individuals, ready to departure southwards at any moment…there is nothing else to do in the mountains…lets try next year (they may think…). We also think the same, due to this odd season we don’t have nothing else to do here. It is pretty sad to see the tundra like this. In previous years, normal situation would be the ground plenty of chicks everywhere of different species…Although we will have some, it will have to wait at least one more week…

We will come back next year with full batteries to try to recover some more light-loggers and do monitoring of chicks.

Lemmings did’nt crash….yet!

On the 4th of June we went up to another study area, Bjorkfjället. Still with a pretty high snow cover, we found some interesting things, as two alive lemmings!  This is a good new, because if the tundra holds some rodent numbers, skuas and owls could eventually breed. Last year was a very high lemming peak year, so it was expected a big decrease on lemming abundance this spring.

Lemming running on a snow-free patch.

During the day in Bjorkfjället we could also observe 4 female Dotterel foraging and flying by, some Dunlins, 1 Red-necked Phalarope, around 6 Golden Plover pairs, some of them behaving as if they had a nest. Finally, few Long-tailed Skuas were observed but still without any territorial behaviour.