WTSWW research report 2013

Research
Report 2013
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www.welshwildlife.org
Compiled by:
Robert Jones Parry MSc MCIEEM and Dr Lizzie Wilberforce
Conservation Managers
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
The Nature Centre
Fountain Road
Tondu
Bridgend CF32 0EH
01656 724100
r.parry@welshwildlife.org / l.wilberforce@welshwildlife.org
Further details of any of the studies detailed in this report can be gained by
contacting the authors or the named contacts for individual projects.
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Contents
................................................................................................................................................................................................... 1
Amphibian and reptile distribution surveys .......................................................................................................................... 4
Woodland invertebrates ......................................................................................................................................................... 4
Marsh Fritillary habitat quality................................................................................................................................................ 4
Talley Lakes & Llyn Eiddwen aquatic plants survey ......................................................................................................... 5
Fungal ecology and WTSWW nature reserves ................................................................................................................... 5
Collembola communities at Cors Goch and Coed Wern Ddu nature reserves .............................................................. 5
Groundwater fauna on Skomer Island ................................................................................................................................. 6
Roadside nature reserves in Ceredigion ............................................................................................................................. 6
Pine Martens in Wales ........................................................................................................................................................... 6
Dormice in Ceredigion ............................................................................................................................................................ 7
Immune functions in wild mice .............................................................................................................................................. 7
Ecology and behaviour of the Common Guillemot on Skomer Island ............................................................................. 7
Thermal imaging techniques in the study of nocturnal seabirds ...................................................................................... 8
Adaptive significance of egg shape in Guillemots .............................................................................................................. 8
Pollen analysis in the study of historic vegetation patterns on Skomer .......................................................................... 8
Owl pellet study on Skomer ................................................................................................................................................... 9
The effects of climate change on wetland ecosystems ..................................................................................................... 9
Seed use by wild birds at Parc Slip nature reserve .......................................................................................................... 10
Wetlands of the Teifi Marsh- the implications of sea level rise for ecosystem conservation ...................................... 10
The role of volunteers in nature conservation. A comparative study between Wales and Austria ............................ 11
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) studies on Skomer Island .................................................................................... 11
Razorbill (Alca torda) studies on Skomer Island ............................................................................................................... 12
Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) studies on Skomer Island ......................................................................................... 12
Guillemot (Uria aalge) studies on Skomer Island ............................................................................................................. 13
Boat-based cetacean surveys in Cardigan Bay ................................................................................................................ 13
Land-based cetacean surveys in Cardigan Bay ............................................................................................................... 14
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus photo-identification in Cardigan Bay ............................................................... 14
Future Fisheries .................................................................................................................................................................... 14
Giant Lacewing ecology and distribution at Coed y Bedw nature reserve .................................................................... 15
Is a pre-baiting period necessary to achieve a high trapping success rate in small mammal trapping? .................. 15
Developing our understanding of Puffinosis disease in Manx Shearwaters ................................................................. 16
Manx Shearwater census on Skokholm Island in 2012 and 2013 ................................................................................. 16
Archaeology of Skomer Island ............................................................................................................................................ 17
Undergraduate projects taking place in partnership with WTSWW in 2013 ................................................................. 17
Recent Publications .............................................................................................................................................................. 17
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Introduction
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and the wider Wildlife Trusts movement have
always endeavoured both to support and encourage research into the natural environment
and also to base our own operational decisions upon such work, in order that our actions are
appropriate and effective, and defendable in light of the latest research available.
This report summarises all research work undertaken in partnership with or hosted by
WTSWW, primarily on its nature reserves, during 2013. These studies are delivered by a
huge range of individuals varying from university students and academics to interested
individuals and in some cases, contracted companies. The report does not cover routine
monitoring, but instead summarises original survey or research work that captures new
information. Some of these studies are directly relevant to the management of our own
estate and are site-specific. Others address hypotheses relevant to the wider movement and
include a number of PhD and university studies generating original research that is
published and of global significance.
In all cases we are indebted to the many partners and funders for their contribution of time,
skills and financial support.
Amphibian and reptile distribution surveys
County:
Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion
Researcher:
Mark Barber, Peter Hill
Partner organisation:
ARC
WTSWW contact:
Richard Brown, Giselle Eagle, Em Foot
Summary
This year ARC have supported a number of surveys on WTSWW sites. Skokholm has never
been comprehensively surveyed for reptiles. Refugia have been used on both islands but
have tended to be focussed around the central areas and islands’ buildings. Refugia were
placed around the island with financial and staff support from ARC to inform our
understanding of use of the islands habitats by reptiles. Refugia surveys were also
conducted at Coed Maidie B Goddard in Ceredigion.
Woodland invertebrates
County:
Researcher:
Partner organisation:
WTSWW contact:
Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire
Hannah Burton
Cardiff University
Em Foot, Lizzie Wilberforce
Summary
Assessment of invertebrate communities in woodland habitats, taking in Coed Penglanowen,
Coed Simdde Lwyd, Coed Maidie B Goddard, Castle Woods and Poor Mans Wood nature
reserves. Work is ongoing.
Marsh Fritillary habitat quality
County:
Ceredigion
Researcher:
Julia Pschera
Partner organisation:
Aberystwyth University
WTSWW contact:
Em Foot
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Summary
This is an MSc research project based on Rhos Pil Bach and Rhos Glyn yr Helyg nature
reserves, looking at habitat conservation and restoration. The final thesis will be an
assessment of habitat quality mapping for Marsh Fritillaries Euphydryas aurinea.
Talley Lakes & Llyn Eiddwen aquatic plants survey
County:
Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion
Researcher:
ENSIS Ltd
Partner organisation:
NRW
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce, Em Foot
Summary
ENSIS Ltd carried out aquatic plant surveys in a number of Welsh lakes during summer
2013. The purpose of these surveys is to assess the condition of protected sites (SSSIs and
SACs) and report on the status of water bodies for the Water Framework Directive via NRW.
Fungal ecology and WTSWW nature reserves
County:
Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire
Researcher:
Hannah Metcalfe
Partner organisation:
Aberystwyth University
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce
Summary
This KESS-funded MPhil studentship is a partnership between Aberystwyth University
(academic supervisor Dr Gareth Griffith) and WTSWW (SME supervisor Lizzie Wilberforce).
Hannah is working with us for a year researching a number of ecological topics including the
mycological associations of Devil’s Bit Scabious Succisa pratensis in relation to
establishment of the plant in different habitats with regard to marsh fritillary conservation, the
ecology of Willow Blister Cryptomyces maximus, a red data book fungus with a very limited
distribution (but several sites on WTSWW nature reserves) and the ecology of the fungal
communities on Skokholm Island. There are not currently any results to report as this project
is in its early stages and fieldwork will continue during 2014.
Collembola communities at Cors Goch and Coed Wern Ddu nature reserves
County:
Carmarthenshire
Researcher:
Robert Norledge
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce
Summary
Cors Goch was visited during the summer of 2013. 8 samples were taken. 5 of these were
put into tullgren funnels and the rest will be processed via flotation. Due to time constraints,
the samples were all taken near the south west corner. 5 samples were taken in the bog and
the remainder in the wood. The soil and litter in the wood was very moist (good for
Collembola).
Coed Wern Ddu was visited on the same day as Cors Goch. Seven samples were taken,
near the east end of the reserve. Again, the soil and litter in the wood was very moist and
there should definitely be some good samples. 5 of these samples have been put in tullgren
funnels, and the rest will be processed by flotation.
Results should be available during 2014.
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Groundwater fauna on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Lee Knight
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce, Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
There were only three locations on the island that provided potential habitat for groundwater
fauna. Site 1 was the small well that supplies the farm (SM7250 0954) net sweeps
collected: 1 Proasellus meridianus, 1 Nematoda, 6 Oligocheata, 13 Cyclopoida.
Site 2 was the small spring near the Pigstone (SM 7147 0925). Net seeps in the small pool
at the spring source colected: 145 Proasellous meridianus, 50 Oligochaeta, 3 Agabus larvea,
1 Agabus bipustulatus, 3 Agabus paludosus, 2 Hydroporus pubescens, 1 Hydroporus
tesselatus, 3 Hydroporus memnonius, 2 Dryops luridus, 9 Helophorus brevipalpis, 1
Microcara testacea, 3 Cyphon sp. (adults) and 10 Phagocata vitta.
The final site 3 was the small spring by The Wick. Net sweeps in the small pool at its source
collected: 1 Chironomidae, 4 Proasellus meridianus, 1 Agabus sp. (larva), 1 Helophorus
breviplapis and 1 Laccobius atratus.
None of the species above are particularly uncommon and are typical of small spring-fed
pools. The results of the survey will eventually be published as a paper in the near future
once a few other islands have been surveyed. The survey is part of an on-going survey
looking at the groundwater fauna of British offshore islands.
The aim of the project is to investigate if these islands have any stygobitic (species only
found in groundwater habitats and nowhere else) fauna on them and if so to come up with
possible ideas of colonization etc. Sampling involves investigating wells, boreholes and
springs using a combination of techniques ranging from specially designed nets lowered
down boreholes and wells on a cable, to using a long-handled pond net in shallower wells
and spring catchpits.
Roadside nature reserves in Ceredigion
County:
Ceredigion
Researcher:
Gary Hillier
WTSWW contact:
Em Foot
Summary
WTSWW has worked in partnership with Ceredigion County Council for many years to
maintain a suite of roadside verge nature reserves which are managed sympathetically by
the Highways department. Through this project all reserves were surveyed and compared
with control sites. The Council will be using some of these results to update their cutting
regime from 2014.
Pine Martens in Wales
County:
Researcher:
Partner organisation:
WTSWW contact:
Ceredigion
David Bavins
Vincent Wildlife Trust
Em Foot
Summary
Em Foot has worked on two candidate WTSWW reserves (Pant Da and Coed Simdde Lwyd
in the Rheidol valley) with VWT who have funded boxes, hair tubes and camera traps as part
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of their programme of works to establish the distribution of Pine Martens in Wales.
Monitoring is ongoing.
Dormice in Ceredigion
County:
Researcher:
Partner organisation:
WTSWW contact:
Ceredigion
Jenny MacPherson
Vincent Wildlife Trust, MISE project
Em Foot
Summary
Dormice have an extremely restricted distribution in Ceredigion. Em Foot worked with Jenny
to install Dormouse boxes at Cwm Clettwr, funded by the MISE project. During 2013
Dormice were recorded on the nature reserve for the first time. Monitoring is ongoing.
Immune functions in wild mice
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Steve Abolins
Partner organisation:
Bristol University
WTSWW contact:
Richard Brown, Giselle Eagle
Summary
The fieldwork for this study was undertaken on Skokholm during the season of 2013. A small
sample of the House Mouse population that lives on the island (around 30 mice) was
trapped. This was achieved using Longworth live capture traps, provisioned with hay, grain
and carrot.
The mice were then removed from the island and taken to the University of Bristol. The mice
will be used as part of a larger project investigating the determinants of immune function in
wild mice. Very little work has previously been done on how the immune system operates in
wild mammals and how it might be affected by the stressors and constraints of a wild
existence. The wild House Mouse is the same species as the laboratory mouse which is
used as the model species for the majority of immunological studies. This allows us to
compare and contrast any differences that may exist due to the different environments and
selection pressures that these mice experience. Further to this, the mice on Skokholm
island are unique within the UK as all populations of house mice on the mainland are
commensal; only surviving when associated with human habitation. Being able to sample
the mice from Skokholm provides invaluable data, which could not otherwise be collected.
Ecology and behaviour of the Common Guillemot on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Elspeth Kenny (PhD student)
Partner organisation:
Sheffield University (supervisor Prof. Tim Birkhead)
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce, Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
The main aim of this study is to establish the way colony social structure determines
breeding success in the Common Guillemot Uria aalge. The fieldwork will start in spring
2014 and the project comprises the following key components:
1. Measurement of the extent of site fidelity based on data from marked-individuals in the
long-term database, together with observations made during the PhD itself. This will
provide a detailed description of the social structure of breeding groups.
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2. Measurement of the incidence of allopreening within and between groups to test various
hypotheses to account for variation in allopreening and to test whether more
allopreening results in greater group cohesion. This part of the study is concerned with
the adaptive significance of allopreening.
3. The final part of the project is concerned with mechanisms and tests the hypothesis that
allopreening results is a reduction in stress, as measured by a reduction in heart rate
(measured non-invasively).
There has been a great deal of work on allogrooming in mammals, but remarkably little on
allopreening in birds, and none that tests specific hypotheses in such detail. This study is
based on a solid foundation of Tim Birkhead’s decades of previous observations on Skomer;
has clear achievable objectives, and is extremely novel. In addition, the student will
contribute to the routine monitoring, because she and the field assistant will ‘share’ birds and
information.
Thermal imaging techniques in the study of nocturnal seabirds
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Dr Matt Wood
Partner organisation:
University of Gloucestershire
WTSWW contact:
Richard Brown, Giselle Eagle
Summary
In late May 2013 Matt Wood from the University of Gloucestershire visited Skokholm to
assess the potential of thermal imaging to study the nocturnal activities of seabirds,
particularly Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters. The results from Storm Petrels were
remarkable, shining new light on previously unseen behaviour and proving very effective in
locating nest sites. Matt will visit Skokholm again in 2014 to develop this work. For more
information, see: Seeing stormies in the dark | The UGlos Bioscience Blog
http://uglosbioscience.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/seeing-stormies-in-the-dark/
Adaptive significance of egg shape in Guillemots
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Prof. Tim Birkhead and student/assistant
Partner organisation:
Sheffield University
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
In 2013 consents and licences were issued for the collection of a small number of Guillemot
eggs for this study, this will be continued in 2014. This study comprises two parts. The first is
to test a new hypothesis regarding the adaptive advantages of egg shape and to challenge
the received wisdom that it allows the egg to ‘spin on its axis’ preventing loss over the cliff,
which is incorrect. The second part is to test the hypothesis that egg shape optimises
incubation by the parent in the absence of a nest. This work is ongoing.
Pollen analysis in the study of historic vegetation patterns on Skomer
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Julia Webb, Julia McCarroll, Will Carpenter, Phil Toms, Matt
Wood & Frank Chambers
Partner organisation:
University of Gloucestershire
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
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Reconstruction of past vegetation using pollen analysis. A soil core collected from Skomer in
2012 has been analysed at the UoG's Centre for Quaternary Studies, preliminary results
suggesting fluctuating vegetation cover since the last glaciation 14,000 years ago. Skomer
appears to have had variable grassland and heathland cover, but no evidence of forest
cover was found. This work is ongoing, and aims to extend the study to Skokholm where the
peat-rich soil and boggy areas offer better conditions for pollen preservation that may shed
further light on the vegetation history of the islands. The University of Gloucestershire
continues to develop close research links with WTSWW, with researchers receiving a Staff
Excellence Award from the University for involving students in research on Skomer. Matt
Wood expresses his sincere thanks to the Trust for the invaluable support of wardens and
volunteers.
Owl pellet study on Skomer
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Elle Daley
Partner organisation:
University of Gloucestershire (supervisor Dr Matt Wood)
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
Owl pellets were collected on Skomer in 2012, later dissection revealing some changes in
the diet of Little Owls and Short-eared Owls since previous studies in the 1970s and 2003.
Small mammals predominate, with some surprises - Badger hair in a Short-eared Owl pellet
and a rat jaw in a suspected owl pellet that may have been a misidentified Buzzard pellet.
The ongoing results of these studies help inform island management decisions in terms of
quarantine policy.
The effects of climate change on wetland ecosystems
County:
Glamorgan
Researcher:
James Vafidis
Partner organisation:
Cardiff University
WTSWW contact:
Rob Parry
Summary
Year three of a PhD with KESS funding in partnership with WTSWW. Rob Parry is the
company supervisor.
Climate warming is predicted to advance the phenology, and to increase the abundance, of
arthropod prey for long-distance migrant birds breeding in Europe, but the consequences of
these changes for bird diet, breeding productivity, migration behaviour and survival are
unknown. This study tests a series of hypotheses linking climate, plant growth, arthropod
abundance and phenology, with energy regulation, fecundity and survival in migratory
wetland songbirds; Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus and Sedge Warbler A.
schoenobaenus. The first chapter of this report reviews the literature on climate-driven
influences on wetland ecosystems and sets out the hypotheses that lead the investigation.
The second chapter examines the plant and arthropod prey resources available to migrant
birds throughout their annual cycle and investigates the responses of plants and arthropods
to natural and simulated changes in temperature. I show that both plant growth-rate and
arthropod emergence can be strongly influenced by temperature manipulations within the
‘near future’ IPCC European temperature projections. The third chapter considers the
possible behavioural responses of Reed and Sedge Warblers to the climate-driven changes
in their food resources predicted in Chapter 2. These trans-Saharan migrants show large
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and strategic spatio-temporal variations in body mass across the annual cycle. I show
through observations and field-scale food supplementation experiments over two annual
cycles that these changes are influenced by food availability at energetically-demanding
stages of the annual cycle (e.g. migration and reproduction). Food-supplementation
experiments were also used to investigate the degree to which breeding success is food
limited, and hence to quantify the potential impacts of changes in food supply on breeding
productivity. These experimental manipulations therefore serve as empirical simulations of
climate-driven changes in food supply.
I show how the changes (increases) in food availability as may occur under projected climate
change are expected to increase the survival and fecundity of reedbed warblers across their
annual cycle. The food-dependent strategies of mass regulation at different points in the
annual cycle demonstrated in our study are likely to be a response to season-specific costs
and benefits of maintaining fat reserves. These results together imply that the impacts of a
climate-driven increase in food resources on mass regulation and annual breeding
productivity will have an initial positive net effect on lifetime fitness. These findings thus
reveal the likely mechanisms underlying the positive population growth observed in reed and
sedge warblers over recent decades, coinciding with climate warming. The same
mechanisms may explain the contrasting fortunes of other long-distance migrant birds
breeding in habitats (e.g. woodlands) where food availability at key periods may be
decreasing.
Seed use by wild birds at Parc Slip nature reserve
County:
Glamorgan
Researcher:
Lorna Baggett
Partner organisation:
Cardiff University
WTSWW contact:
Vaughn Matthews
Summary
Lorna is undertaking this project as part of her year out placement with WTSWW. The
project is set in an ex-sheep grazed grass field at Parc Slip nature reserve which has now
been planted with a crop of Sunflower and Millet, amongst some wildflower and arable
weeds such as Corn Marigold, Corn Cockle, and Poppies. It was hoped that the arable field
would provide a mix of high energy seeds for over-wintering birds. This is being tested by
mapping both the distribution of seed plants across the field, and the locations of where birds
are visiting the field at dawn and dusk. Hopefully this information will give us a better
understanding of what this type of habitat can support, and what the preferences of overwintering birds are. This may mean that similar fields in the future can be more tailored
towards specific species. Work is ongoing.
Wetlands of the Teifi Marsh- the implications of sea level rise for ecosystem
conservation
County:
Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion
Researcher:
SE Grenfell, RM Callaway, CM Bertelli, AF Mendzil & I Tew
Partner organisation:
Swansea University (SEACAMS)
WTSWW contact:
Lizzie Wilberforce, Nathan Walton
Summary
This project was funded by SEACAMS’ funding to support research partnerships with SMEs.
Fieldwork was undertaken over the 2012 field season. A draft report is now available and
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good publicity has resulted through the SEACAMS newsletter. The SEACAMS team
gathered data from over 50 points across the site and its two marsh systems. Core
samples were taken that allowed the SEACAMS team to examine the particle sizes and
organic content through the depth of the core. These data show the rates of change of
important variables that permit the development of predictive models and give an indication
of future trends. The results showed that in the long term, there will be an expansion of salt
tolerant marshes and tidal mudflats at the expense of tidal freshwater marsh. Newly created
salt marshes are unlikely to be sustainable in the long term due to a lack of sediment supply,
and they too will become inundated and convert to tidal mudflats. Ultimately, an increase in
sea level will result in a reduction in marsh biodiversity, with plant communities switching
toward less diverse and occasionally monospecific vegetation communities. While the loss of
tidal freshwater wetland is in line with global predictions, simulations suggest that in the Teifi
marshes the loss will be slower. It also suggested that at least for one ecosystem service,
carbon storage, there is potential for an increase in the future in the Teifi Marshes.
The role of volunteers in nature conservation. A comparative study between Wales
and Austria
County:
All WTSWW counties
Researcher:
Gabrielle Sloane
Partner organisation:
University of Vienna
WTSWW contact:
Nathan Walton
Summary
This study was completed as part of a Masters qualification in Landscape Design and
Conservation and assessed the contribution made by volunteers to the conservation
movement in each country.
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) studies on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Annette Fayet, Akiko Shoji
Partner organisation:
Oxford Navigation Group, Oxford University (Prof. Tim
Guilford)
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
Our long-term tracking project of Manx Shearwaters on Skomer Island was initiated in 2008
and has been continued until now. With excellent help from the wardens, the island’s staff
and many volunteers, we had a very successful season in 2013. This year Manx Shearwater
tracking projects, which require extensive night work to check burrows throughout the study
colony all night, included on-going incubation and chick-rearing GPS tracking to compare
foraging behaviour between breeding stages, which we also compare between years to
study responses to environmental variability. Some birds were also tracked with geolocators
(GLS) to continue the long-term tracking project of their wintering movements. Geolocators
are miniature archival light loggers (~2g) which record daily approximate position and
immersion data and are small enough to be deployed on shearwaters year-round.
In addition, we repeated an experiment started in 2012, carrying out the cross-fostering of
chicks of different ages to manipulate parental effort, to study how this may impact their
future migratory and breeding strategies – also called carry-over effects.
Projects newly started in 2013 were using GPS tracking to study the movement of immature
birds when they return to the colony, and displacement tracking by translocating incubating
adults at sea to study homing behaviour from a navigational view.
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These results should not only be invaluable for improving our scientific knowledge to
understand the behaviour and ecology of Manx Shearwaters, but also for developing
conservation and management plans on Skomer and elsewhere.
The two main researchers, PhD students Akiko Shoji and Annette Fayet, were funded by JASSO
(AS), BBSRC, Microsoft Research and a Mary Griffiths scholarship (AF). The research was supported
by the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, the RPSB, the American Ornithologists’
Union, the American Animal Behavior Society, the Wilson Ornithological Society, the Welsh
Ornithological Society and Vortex Optics.
Razorbill (Alca torda) studies on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Annette Fayet, Akiko Shoji
Partner organisation:
Oxford Navigation Group, Oxford University (Prof. Tim
Guilford)
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
2013 was a pleasurable year for Razorbill researchers on Skomer, after experiencing
extremely low breeding success in 2012, where many eggs and chicks were abandoned.
This year, we have successfully obtained GPS and TDR (time-depth-temperature recorders)
data from 6 incubating birds and 6 chick-rearing birds at the Basin colony, thanks to help
provided by Chris Perrins and Dave Boyle from the Edward Grey Institute (Oxford). We also
recovered 4 TDR and 2 GLS from breeding Razorbills at the Garland Stone Colony, where
we deployed the devices on adults in 2012, but failed to recover them due to nest
abandonment. Data were successfully downloaded.
A long-term monitoring project studying wintering movements in Razorbills started in 2009,
this year we have recovered four GLS from breeding adults. The data will be analysed to
study wintering movements in this species, which has seldom been investigated.
The two main researchers, PhD students Akiko Shoji and Annette Fayet, were funded by JASSO
(AS), BBSRC, Microsoft Research and a Mary Griffiths scholarship (AF). The research was supported
by the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, the RPSB, the American Ornithologists’
Union, the American Animal Behavior Society, the Wilson Ornithological Society, the Welsh
Ornithological Society and Vortex Optics.
Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) studies on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Annette Fayet, Akiko Shoji
Partner organisation:
Oxford Navigation Group, Oxford University (Prof. Tim
Guilford)
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
2013 was a busy season for Puffin researchers. The OxNav Group started of a long-term
tracking project of adult Puffins on Skomer in 2007, aiming to understand the migratory
strategies and destinations of puffins and potential variations over the years with changes in
environmental conditions. As a continuation and expansion of this project, with the help of
Dave Boyle (EGI), we deployed and/or replaced over 30 GLS on breeding Puffins. A total of
35 migrations routes were collected (one device contained more than 1,000 days of data!).
They will be analysed this winter to study the Puffins’ wintering behaviour. A second part of
the project consisted of deploying geolocators on 30 Puffin fledglings; some of which should
return to Skomer in the next 3-5 years, and the data stored on their device will inform us
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about the at-sea movements of juvenile and immature Puffins, which are currently
completely unknown.
In a second project aiming to elucidate the at-colony behaviour of Puffins, over 10 breeding
pairs were tagged with an RFID tag (Radio Frequency Identification - a tiny chip with a
unique barcode, <0.1g), and an antenna deployed on their burrow during the entire breeding
season recorded all their comings and goings 24/7. Such detailed data should help shed
light on their breeding behaviour.
Finally, we deployed time-depth recorders on 12 chick-rearing adults to study their foraging
behaviour. This project will help understand the foraging strategies of puffins, and will aim to
identify the time and energy budgets and linking diving profiles with prey items in this
species.
The two main researchers, PhD students Akiko Shoji and Annette Fayet, were funded by JASSO
(AS), BBSRC, Microsoft Research and a Mary Griffiths scholarship (AF). The research was supported
by the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, the RPSB, the American Ornithologists’
Union, the American Animal Behavior Society, the Wilson Ornithological Society, the Welsh
Ornithological Society and Vortex Optics.
Guillemot (Uria aalge) studies on Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Annette Fayet, Akiko Shoji
Partner organisation:
Oxford Navigation Group, Oxford University (Prof. Tim
Guilford), University of Sheffield (Prof. Tim Birkhead)
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
In a collaborative project started in 2010 between Prof. Tim Guilford (OxNav) and Prof. Tim
Birkhead (University of Sheffield), who has been studying Guillemots on Skomer since 1972,
Guillemots have been tracked year-round with miniature geolocators. In July 2013, an
expedition of 6 Oxford and Sheffield researchers and Skomer warden B. Büche visited a key
Skomer colony. We recaptured 6 adult Guillemots which had been fitted with a geolocator in
a previous year, downloaded the data from their device and replaced it with a new one.
These wintering tracks, collected over several years, will help us understand the wintering
behaviour and at-sea movements of Common Guillemots.
The two main researchers, PhD students Akiko Shoji and Annette Fayet, were funded by JASSO
(AS), BBSRC, Microsoft Research and a Mary Griffiths scholarship (AF). The research was supported
by the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford, the RPSB, the American Ornithologists’
Union, the American Animal Behavior Society, the Wilson Ornithological Society, the Welsh
Ornithological Society and Vortex Optics.
Boat-based cetacean surveys in Cardigan Bay
County:
Ceredigion
Researcher:
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
Partner organisation:
Dolphin Survey Boat Trips
WTSWW contact:
Laura Mears
Summary
Boat-based surveys are conducted from the Sulaire, which is used as the CBMWC research
vessel and leads all of their survey boat trips from New Quay harbour. Boat surveys usually
follow a set route within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC). A volunteer
researcher from CBMWC joins each boat trip and is responsible for systematically recording
effort (position and environmental information) and sightings data (of large marine animals)
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on a series of survey forms. These data contribute to our growing understanding of the
ecology of marine mammals in the Irish Sea.
Land-based cetacean surveys in Cardigan Bay
County:
Ceredigion
Researcher:
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
Partner organisation:
Ceredigion County Council
WTSWW contact:
Laura Mears
Summary
CBMWC volunteers assist Ceredigion County Council with their annual Dolphin Watch
survey that takes place from six coastal sites. Initiated by Ceredigion County Council in 1994
amidst fears that relatively high levels of boat activity were causing disturbance to Bottlenose
Dolphins Tursiops truncatus and other marine wildlife in the area, the Dolphin Watch project
has developed over the years and now aims to do the following:




To improve our understanding of Bottlenose Dolphins site use within the SAC
To monitor trends in dolphin occurrence and levels of boat traffic
To assess the effectiveness and need of management measures that aim to reduce
the risk of disturbance or injury to dolphins by boats
To increase public awareness and appreciation of the marine wildlife in Cardigan Bay
CBMWC volunteers are responsible for monitoring the New Quay harbour survey area and
these data contribute to various research outcomes and publications.
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus photo-identification in Cardigan Bay
County:
Ceredigion
Researcher:
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
Partner organisation:
Friends of Cardigan Bay, NRW
WTSWW contact:
Laura Mears
Summary
Photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins was first conducted in Cardigan Bay in the 1980s
and repeated in the early 1990s and in 2001. In 2005 CBMWC established their annual
Photo Identification Catalogue, in cooperation with other Welsh marine organisations. In
2005 139 individual dolphins were photographed and identified from our survey trips. They
have now identified over 250 individuals. This assists research into population size and
movement. This work is undertaken under licence from Natural Resources Wales.
Future Fisheries
County:
Researcher:
Partner organisation:
WTSWW contact:
All WTSWW counties
Sarah Perry (WTSWW)
CBMWC
Sarah Kessell
Summary
The aim of the WTSWW Future Fisheries project is to plan a sustainable future for the
traditional fishing industry and the marine environment. To do so, conservationists and
marine biologists need to work directly with fishermen, combining both strands of knowledge
and we need to engage the public in understanding and caring for the marine environment,
thereby working with the demand and supply side to foster positive changes. We aim to use
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existing knowledge and research rather than carrying out new research. Through analysis of
existing information, data gaps can also be identified. The project will collate and analyse all
existing relevant information with a view to understanding and planning what needs to be
done and with whom. Information will include seabed habitat maps, fish species information,
fishing quotas, landing information, intensity, gear, and commercially important fish stocks,
as well as information about demand for fish from retailer outlets, and information from
fishermen themselves. This work began in late 2013 funded by the Waterloo Foundation and
The Co-op partnership.
Giant Lacewing ecology and distribution at Coed y Bedw nature reserve
County:
Glamorgan
Researcher:
Daisy Maryon
Partner organisation:
University of South Wales
WTSWW contact:
Rob Parry
Summary
The unusual geology of Coed y Bedw promotes a wide variety of freshwater habitats within
the mixed deciduous woodland, which in turn supports a number of freshwater and terrestrial
invertebrates. The project will aim to ascertain the distribution of associated invertebrate
species with a particular focus on the Giant Lacewing, once recorded at the reserve.
Sampling of watercourses and wet flushes will provide insights into the ecology of the
species and other associated communities. There are not currently any results to report as
this project is in its early stages and field work will continue during 2014.
Is a pre-baiting period necessary to achieve a high trapping success rate in small
mammal trapping?
County:
Glamorgan
Researcher:
Paul Rodd (MSc)
Partner organisation:
University of Bristol
WTSWW contact:
Vaughn Matthews
Summary
As part of the live trapping procedures for small mammals, it is common for a pre baiting
period, usually consisting of a few days, to be used prior to the live trapping to maximise the
results from the live trapping period. The pre baiting period allows any animals in that area
time to adjust to the presence of the trapping apparatus and the bait within it, reducing the
risk of trap avoidance when the trapping period begins. However, the pre baiting period,
even for a few days, will have time and financial costs associated with it. This project aimed
to investigate whether the pre baiting period is indeed needed, or whether the traps/tunnels
can achieve a success rate (animals within the apparatus) without using a pre baiting period,
comparable to studies that have used a pre baiting period.
In this project, small mammal tracking tunnels were used, instead of traps, which show the
presence of an animal inside the tunnel by using a non -toxic ink pad at the entrances to
colour the animals’ tracks within the tunnel. The study was carried out over a period of two
nights in two sites. Ten tunnels were placed at site one for two nights and then moved to site
two for two nights. Additionally, three bait types were used in each tunnel to see if there was
a preference in bait type and whether multiple bait types were taken in the same night.
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This project found good first night tunnel success rates for both sites (60% in site one and
40% in site two) or 50% for site one and site two combined. This was followed by even better
second night tunnel success rates for both sites, (100% for site one and 50% for site two) or
75% for site one and site two combined. A good combined (site one and site two) mean
number of animals per tunnel was found. Night one had a combined mean of 0.95 animals
per tunnel, which increased by 74%, to a combined mean of 1.65 animals per tunnel on night
two. This could represent a trap success rate of 95% (with a mean of 0.95 animals per
tunnel) on night one and a 100% trap success rate (with a mean of 1.65 animals per tunnel)
on night two. This is a far greater trapping success rate than any paper found in the
literature.
Therefore, the tunnels success rates, combined with good animal numbers in those tunnels
over a two night period, found in this study, show that a pre baiting period was not needed to
achieve a high rate of tunnel success.
Developing our understanding of Puffinosis disease in Manx Shearwaters
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Professor Chris Perrins
Partner organisation:
University of Oxford
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
Puffinosis is a disease that affects Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus and causes
symptoms including obvious blistering to the feet. Puffinosis continues to be poorly
understood and we still do not even know what the causative agent is. A new study aided by
help from the Institute of Zoology (London Zoo) has been commenced. In 2013, the disease
was widespread in the normal places on Skomer, in the bracken-covered areas of the middle
of the island. This study aims to further our understanding of the causes of the disease and
is ongoing.
Manx Shearwater census on Skokholm Island in 2012 and 2013
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Professor Chris Perrins
Partner organisation:
University of Oxford, NRW
WTSWW contact:
Richard Brown, Giselle Eagle
Summary
In 1998 a census was made of the population of Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus nesting
on the three islands Skomer, Skokholm and Middleholm. Because these islands hold a
significant proportion of the world population of this species, it was felt important to have a
better knowledge of these populations and so a repeat census was made of the Manx
Shearwaters breeding on Skomer in 2011 and plans were made to census the birds on
Skokholm in 2012. Additional fieldwork was undertaken in 2013.
The estimate of the number of breeding pairs of Manx Shearwaters on Skokholm is a little
over 41,000, though the Confidence Intervals of the estimate are very wide. The estimate
from the 1997/98 census was 46,000, well within the Confidence Intervals of the 2012/13
survey. Indeed, they provide no evidence that there has been any change during that
intervening 15 years.
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Archaeology of Skomer Island
County:
Pembrokeshire
Researcher:
Toby Driver
Partner organisation:
RCAHMW
WTSWW contact:
Ed Stubbings, Bee Büche
Summary
In a project led by RCAHMW, both Pembrokeshire islands have recently been subject to
LiDAR surveys (see publications list below). This method uses a laser mounted on an
aircraft to create a highly detailed terrain model of the island’s ground surface. As a result,
RCAHMW identified “staggering new complexity to the field systems and clear phasing of
boundaries, particularly within the interior of the island”. This has subsequently been
followed up with field work on the island in 2012 and 2013.
Undergraduate projects taking place in partnership with WTSWW in 2013
1. Eloise Neighbour (Cardiff University, final year project BSc Ecology)- study of small
mammal behaviour during survey at Parc Slip
2. Dylan Foulkes (University of South Wales, project BSc Natural History)- Using
Photography as a Precise Method Of Population Monitoring” -Focusing on Slow
Worms (Anguis Fragillis) in Taf Fechan Nature Reserve
3. Gareth Morgan (University of South Wales, project BSc Natural History)- updated
Phase I map of Taf Fechan Nature Reserve
4. Kristie Holder (Swansea University)- Assessing presence of the tephra (volcanic ash)
signature from the Icelandic volcano in 2010 on two bogs in Scotland, using some
peat from Cors Goch to see whether the tephra are apparent in south Wales as well.
Recent Publications
Barker, L., Davis, O.P., Driver, T. and R. Johnston (2012). An interim report on the recent
work on Skomer Island and Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire, by the Royal Commission on
the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Archaeology in Wales 51, pp. 160-3
Barker, L., Davis, O., Driver, T. and B. Johnston (2013). Skomer Island, Marloes and St
Brides, Geophysical Survey. Archaeology in Wales 52, pp. 158-9.
Barker, L., Davis, O., Driver, T. and R. Johnston (2012). Puffins amidst prehistory: reinterpreting the complex landscape of Skomer Island, In: Britnell, W.J. and Silvester, R. J.
(eds.), Reflections on the Past, Essays in Honour of Frances Lynch. Cambrian
Archaeological Association. pp. 280-302
Dean, B., R. Freeman, H. Kirk, K. Leonard, R. Phillips, C. Perrins, and T. Guilford (2012).
Behavioural mapping of a pelagic seabird: combining multiple sensors and a hidden Markov
model reveals the distribution of at-sea behaviour. J R Soc Interface 10(78)
Fayet A., D. Boyle, R. Freeman, A. Shoji, C. Perrins, and T. Guilford (2013). Tracking the
migration of Atlantic puffins on Skomer Island. Birds in Wales 10(1)
Grenfell S.E., Callaway R.M., Bertelli C.M., Mendzil A.F., and I. Tew (2013). Research &
Development Report: Wetlands of the Teifi Marsh – the implications of sea level rise
for ecosystem conservation. Unpublished report to WTSWW.
Macdonald, M.A., Morris, A.J., Dodd, S., Johnstone, I., Beresford, A., Angell, R., Haysom,
K., Langton, S., Tordoff, G.M., Brereton, T., Hobson, R., Shellswell, C., Hutchinson, N.,
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Dines, T., Wilberforce, E.M., Parry, R., and V. Matthews (2012) Welsh Assembly
Government Contract 183/2007/08 to Undertake Agri-environment Monitoring and Services
Lot 2- Species Monitoring. Published report to Welsh Government.
Meade, J., Hatchwell, B. J., Blanchard, J. L. and Birkhead, T. R. (2013). The population
increase of common guillemots Uria aalge on Skomer Island is explained by intrinsic
demographic properties. Journal of Avian Biology (44) pp. 55–61
Perrins C.M., Wood M.J., Garroway C.J., Boyle D., Oakes N., Revera R., Collins P., and C.
Taylor (2012). A whole-island census of the Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus breeding
on Skomer Island in 2011. Seabird 25 pp.1–13
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