28/7/2016

Camera traps allow glimpse into secret lives of grey partridge and pheasant broods

By Francis Buner, Senior Conservation Scientist

Talk to any gamebird enthusiast across the country – in fact anywhere in Europe – in mid-July, and you will notice that most are either exhibiting overwhelming optimism or a nervous breakdown.

How has the breeding season been, everybody will demand? Trouble is, as long as the crops are still unharvested this is almost impossible to answer accurately, as gamebird parents typically keep out of sight and for good reasons: young gamebirds are easy picking for a variety of predators, mammals and raptors alike.

At Rotherfied, this year is no different from any other in this respect. All we know for certain is that June was the wettest on record. One night alone we measured three inches of torrential rain. Certainly not ideal if you’re a bumble bee-sized partridge chick that has just hatched from its egg!

Has the wet June yet again affected our grey partridge and wild pheasant recovery? It’s still too early to say. I keep reminding everyone who can’t wait until early September when autumn counting usually starts and figures become clear.

Brood Of Greys

Having said that, for those amongst you readers who are impatient by nature, there might be a solution in the making. Put some feeders out during the breeding season, set a camera trap nearby following our Camera trap Guidelines, and hope for your luck to strike.

In our case, hard to come by breeding evidence was obtained when Dr Carlos Sanchez, GWCT’s feeder and camera trap expert, checked his cameras at Rotherfield as part of a new feeder experiment on July 25.

Brood Of Pheasants

Should you consider to copy Carlos’s approach for proof finding, never forget to control the rats nearby your feeders (in fact across your project area) as these notorious rodents pose a serious threat to any gamebird clutch and brood.

Photos courtsey Carlos Sanchez.

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