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A very particular “Big Brother”

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By Clara Álvarez Luna y Sara López Guzmán

The project

Covid19 has kept us at home, but the birds won’t stop, and neither will we! Thanks to the SEO/BirdLife cameras we can open a window to nature to see what our favourite birds are doing, without us and live.

Rather recently, the only way to follow the life of the birds was through hides near the nests, which often caused abandonment due to the discomfort of the observers or not all the data were obtained due to the human factor (visibility, times…). Now with webcams we can collect a great deal of information without disturbing the animals.

This is how the new LIFE Followers project for monitoring nests with webcam began, with the Peregrine Falcons in the spotlight, organising shifts between everyone to cover 14 hours a day and watch the first chicks hatch. As the Peregrine project progressed, as everything was going very well in the viewing and data collection, we dared to use a few more cameras, and started with the Cinereous Vulture, Lesser Kestrel and Booted Eagle all in Natura 2000 sites across Spain.

Booted eagle, with its first egg

Learning for followers.

Since the work in this project consists of direct and continuous observation, a great deal of knowledge about each species is quickly acquired. It allows us to look in great detail at the characteristics and morphology of each one, at identification by sex, at their behaviour: who is in charge of incubation, prey supply, bait and care of the chicks. We are also learning a lot about the typical diet of each species.

Apart from the large amount of quantitative data obtained on incubation, quantity and type of prey, etc., direct observations of the chicks are of great interest, i.e. how they interact among themselves and with their parents, how the baits are distributed among the hatchlings.

Finally, another rather curious result that we are able to learn from these observations is how the data vary with respect to different pairs of the same species  being able to know if there are any difference between the resources among location and the effectiveness of Natura 2000 preservation . In the case of Peregrines we have been able to study four different pairs, noting that behaviour varies quite a lot from one to another. We have also been able to note how the fact that one of the parents is a first-time user influences the behaviour. It is proving very interesting to be able to see how each pair behaves and how this affects (or not) the breeding.

Peregrine falcon chicks in the  nest

Results

Our objective: to extract as much data as possible from these species in order to analyse them later and draw conclusions. There are some aspects of the biology of these species that have been little studied so far and that, with the help of all the volunteers, we will be able to know and how Natura 2000 preservation affect them in terms of resources and disturbances.

It is a very grateful project in all senses, to learn, contribute and full of good moments. Right now we are in a very beautiful moment, since, on the one hand, we see the newborn falcon chicks with their bait and development, and on the other, we have the eagle, vulture and kestrel already with their eggs, all impatiently waiting to see them hatch. Seeing a chick hatch after hours of watching it incubate makes it you be a part of their family; although there are also moments of real frustration in which trying to identify prey you find 8 open guides, 20 internet pages and several Telegram groups of people giving their opinions; and others in which you panic because an egg has been broken but noooo! it was a stick giving that sensation of being broken, or moments of a falcon attacking the camera.

Couple of Cinereous vultures on the webcam in the Guadarrama National Park


GET INVOLVED!

Any follower and from anywhere can participate, no previous knowledge is required, and you will get a great learning experience and of course good times.

We need you!

Write a message via Telegram to 628266332 and we will give you all the information to get started.


Our protagonists:

   Clara Álvarez Luna                                                                          Sara López Guzmán

 

and remember…#FollowNature

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