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Baker Consultants support an active programme of research aimed at improving ecological survey and analysis techniques.  Working in collaboration with a Nottinghamshire based ringing group and using Wildlife Acoustics unattended acoustic recording devices (ARDs), Ecologist Steve Docker is researching male European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus bioacoustics. Read more

At Baker Consultants, we support an active programme of research aimed at improving ecological survey and analysis techniques. As part of this, our Ecologist Steve Docker is currently working in collaboration with a Nottinghamshire based ringing group undertaking research into European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) vocalisations using automated acoustic sampling.

When evaluating a site for European nightjar, which is a ‘red-listed’ species of conservation concern, an accurate measure of the number of breeding pairs is essential. The standard survey method is based upon counting the number of singing ‘churring’ males. However, this is only indicative of possible breeding and does not provide conclusive evidence that birds have paired.

Experienced field workers have noted that the structure of nightjar vocalisations appears to be modified when a male has paired with a female and this current research project is investigating whether this change in vocal structure can be detected by automated acoustic sampling, represented visually on a spectrogram. To our knowledge this is something that has not been attempted before for this, or any other, species.

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) and minor (low frequency) phrases

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) and minor (low frequency) phrases

Spectrograms are a visual means of representing sound and contain a great deal of information. This project involves recording male nightjar song and testing for a relationship between spectrogram variables and breeding status. It is hoped that this work will form the basis of an improved survey method for European nightjar.

Steve said: “As I have a long-term interest in birdsong, especially the concepts of ‘song types’ and ‘vocal individuality’, I am delighted to be working on this research project, which will form the basis of my MSc dissertation. It is particularly exciting that we are applying technology in such an innovative way and that we will hopefully be able to improve standard nightjar survey methods from the basis of our research”.

Last year, Baker Consultants working with Dr Mieke Zwart and Professor Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University showed how bioacoustics is a much better technique for surveying nightjar than the standard survey method.

We’re really proud that our ‘otter hero’, Ecologist Steve Docker, has been publicly recognised by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for his ten years of otter volunteering. Alongside three other volunteers, Steve has been responsible for over 1,800 otter records in Derbyshire.

Eurasian Otter by Steve Docker

Eurasian Otter by Steve Docker

Steve surveys for the presence of otters (field signs) along the Henmore Brook in Derbyshire, which flows through the town of Ashbourne before joining the River Dove. The brook is ideal otter habitat, being a series of shallows interspersed with deep pools.

Henmore Brook by Steve Docker

Henmore Brook by Steve Docker

Otters are something of a recent conservation success story, with otters now being present in all English counties, after all but disappearing from lowland rivers in the 1960s. Survey results such as Steve’s are important in tracking the changing fortunes of otters both across the UK and at a local level.

Steve is not our only volunteer, as many of our consultants use their professional skills for other wildlife projects.

The first dormouse tube checks of the season were done during April by Steve and Diana, in beautiful bluebell woods.

If you need a dormouse survey contact us at survey@bakerconsultants.co.uk

 

Steve checking dormouse tubes

Steve Docker joins the Baker Consultants ecology team this month from a career in engineering.

Steve has been freelancing for the last year but is originally a Chartered Engineer (CEng).  He decided he wanted a career change to become an Ecologist, so to help with his training he has completed over 100 ecology based courses covering a wide range of subjects and taxonomic groups, including the University Certificate in Biological Recording and Species Identification in Dec 2006, and he has volunteered for over 10 years in biological recording.  He has also been involved in a number of long-term monitoring projects.

Steve holds Class 1 licences covering all counties of England for bats, great-crested newt and hazel dormouse.

He is currently studying a three year part time MSc in Biological Recording with Manchester Metropolitan University focusing on species identification, taxonomy and survey techniques.  He is also an Associate Lecturer with the University of Derby delivering Mammal Survey Techniques material for 2nd year biology/zoology undergraduates.

To enquire about joining the Baker Consultants team please contact jobs@bakerconsultants.co.uk