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Harper Adams University student looks at lapwing nest success

Posted 21 July 2016

For my placement year, I went to RSPB Ynys-hir. While there, I conducted research into how successful lapwing’s nests were through using iButton data loggers.

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Final year student Rebekah Davies’s Honours Research Project (HRP) looked at the feasibility of using data loggers at an RSPB reserve to indicate lapwing nest success.

The number of lapwings, also known as peewits due to their distinctive call, is declining in the UK. 

The 22 year-old BSc (Hons) Countryside and Environmental Management student said: “For my placement year, I went to RSPB Ynys-hir. While there, I conducted research into how successful lapwing’s nests were through using iButton data loggers. 

“I would watch the birds’ behaviour from a vehicle and hides. When I could see they were starting to incubate the nest, I would place the iButton data logger, which was on a screw, in the nest.

“The iButton then recorded the nest temperature against the date and time.

“I monitored each nest every two to three days, and when the parents had not returned for a few days, I collected the iButton and downloaded the data and information they recorded.

“All of the information went onto a spreadsheet so I could identify each 20 minute recording and produce graphs which enabled easier analysis of the data.  

“I could see when the fledglings left the nest, or if the nest got predated (when an animal eats the eggs or hatchlings). When the fledglings left the nest, the temperature dropped over a couple of hours but if it was predated, there was a sudden drop in the temperature.

“Once I analysed the data, I was able to look at the wider reserve picture and provide recommendations for habitat management which could be carried out to try and improve the lapwings’ nest success rate. 

“From the study, I also concluded that the iButton data loggers were a feasible system for the reserve to continue using, because the methodology used caused little disturbance to the parent birds, the data was easy to interpret and does not require any high levels of expertise to carry out so I was able to carry out the project alongside volunteers and other interns. 

“My project was aimed to re-start a previous data logging study which had taken place on the reserve a number of years ago. I hope that the work I did will help it be re-established and help improve the nesting success of the lapwings.

“It was brilliant to have my own project while working there. During my placement, I wanted to do my HRP research, because I was there for 11 months, working five days a week, so it made sense to do the work then. I learnt so much while on placement, and received loads of support from everyone who works there, so it was nice to be able to work on a project which is of value to them. 

“Ever since first applying to Harper Adams, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to do my work placement at an RSPB reserve. Ynys-hir was a great place to go as it was beside the Dyfi estuary, and I loved being back near the sea as I’m from the Gower Peninsula in south Wales. My experience was also really diverse on the reserve because of the number of different habitats they have there.

“I’ve always loved being outdoors, and have been volunteering for the National Trust since I was 16 years-old.”

‘Making My Mark’ is a collection of articles looking at how Harper Adams University students are making a difference in our world. If you have a dissertation, or story, you wish to be included, please email press@harper-adams.ac.uk

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