Bird tracking and associated vegetation surveys


What we set out to do

Bird tracking helps us to understand how selective and mobile birds are, especially where they are using patchy habitats and where outside pressures like disturbance and tidal cycles affect their behaviour. The British Trust for Ornithology led the ECHOES project’s bird tracking activities, working closely with stakeholders in order to tag and track two species: the invertebrate-feeding Eurasian Curlew and the grazing Greenland White-fronted Goose (GWfG), in both Ireland and Wales.

Using this approach, we were able to minimise disturbance while keeping a close eye on what habitats the birds prefer, and, importantly, better understand their food supply within habitats like mudflats, saltmarsh and pastures. Informed by both the tag data and direct observations, the molecular biologists at Aberystwyth University collected goose droppings for analysis with DNA meta-barcoding to identify the plant species consumed by individual geese.

Field botanists from Aberystwyth University surveyed the occurrence of plants that feature in the GWfG diet and gathered evidence of particular plant parts consumed at foraged locations, guided by the tracking information and field observations of GWfG. The nutritional value of samples of each kind of plant material was being analysed using biochemical techniques. Invertebrates were surveyed in soil and mudflats to generate similar information for Curlew.

Information generated by the ECHOES project will be very useful for site managers and scientists in understanding the location, extent and contribution to diet of the different habitat patches. This will inform them as to how the vegetation might best be managed to help ensure healthy and viable populations of these wintering birds, and to mitigate impacts on key intertidal habitats that may be subject to projected sea level rise.

Lead: Aberystwyth University

Process and Results

See below for presentations from the Project Closure Conference held on 9 March 2023, along with research posters produced for conferences.

Below is a poster presented by Dr Katharine Bowgen at the International Wader Study Group Conference in Szeged, Hungary in 2022.

The presentation (slides only) below on Analysis of bird tracking data recorded in Ireland and Wales was given by Dr Callum Macgregor at the ECHOES Closure Conference.

The following talk on Field Ecology and Greenland White-fronted Goose diet was given by Dr Peter Dennis at the ECHOES Closure Conference.

The poster below was presented by Dr Peter Dennis at the British Ecological Society’s Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh, December 2022.

See Research Publications to view other posters showcasing ECHOES research.