Small grants in 2014

We can only help support Wales’ birds if we understand where and how they live. Conservation work based on well-disseminated, good quality research work is crucial, and we are fortunate in the UK that such activities are undertaken by both professional organisations and expert, unpaid volunteers. In 2014, grants have been awarded to three projects that are working to help Wales’ birds. The results of these studies will appear in future issues of our journal, Birds in Wales.

In addition, WOS has made a £1000 donation to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales to enable the continuation of a 40-year study of guillemots on Skomer by Sheffield University, for which funding by Natural Resources Wales recently ended.

Project: Cardiff University Swift Project
Recipient: Cardiff University Ornithological Society and Cardiff University Estate department, via James Vafidis (£500)
During 2012, The Cardiff Swift Project (which aims to document nest sites of and promote the conservation of Swifts in Cardiff) approached Cardiff University’s Estates department as they were undertaking routine renovation on the roof of a residential building (during the winter) that supported up to eight nesting pairs of Swifts. After being informed of the nest sites, the work was amended so that the swift’s nest sites and access were protected and maintained.

Following this, the Cardiff Swift Project, students from the Cardiff University Ornithological Society (CUOS) and Cardiff University Estate department collaborated to start the Cardiff University Swift Project, and the WOS grant will contribute to their objectives for 2014:

  • Provide new Swift nesting habitat across the university campus (and other consenting institutions where appropriate)
  • Reduce and avoid loss of Swift nesting habitat across the university campus
  • Raise awareness about the declining Swifts population across the University and city of Cardiff and provide an evidence based approach to swift conservation for Local Authorities and public bodies
  • Monitor and study the use of nesting habitats by Swifts

Project: Reconciling wind energy production and wading bird conservation: Are wind farms contributing to curlew declines in Wales?
Recipient: Rosemary Sigger (£500)
Montgomeryshire and Hiraethog (North Wales) have been identified as key areas for Curlews. However, with current proposals to expand renewable energy production in Wales through the development of large-scale wind farms, further research is urgently needed to inform local and national species action plans for Curlew. For example, Montgomery has been identified in Welsh Government planning policy as a ‘Strategic Search Area’ for Wind Farms. Most known Curlew breeding areas in Montgomery are within or adjacent to proposed wind farms. Curlews were already in decline before any of these proposed developments have been consented to or built. It is therefore important to understand how the birds use this area.

Objective: the principal focus of this research project is to investigate whether global (agriculture/climate change) or local (wind farms/predation) factors are the most significant drivers of Curlew population decline in Wales. It will also involve analysis of faecal corticosterone metabolites (CM), as a non-invasive method to investigate whether there is a relationship between stress, and climatic- and landscape-level drivers of decline.

Project: Pilot project to assess the effectiveness of using thermal imaging to monitor Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Recipient: Chris Taylor (£500)
Objective: this project aims to access the effectiveness of thermal imaging to develop accurate monitoring methods for Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding on Skomer. Chris aims to record the nocturnal activity of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls; explore the use of thermal imaging in assessing temperature of nests to distinguish between breeders and non-breeders; carry out population counts to assess the effectiveness/limits of a thermal imaging camera; and finally to test run thermal imaging camera with a static kite for increased field of view – both during the day and night. After testing with a smaller camera, the thermal imaging camera will be attached to a mount on a static kite and flown up to 30m above the colony from a vantage point.