Unmanned Arial Vehicle technology has already made a splash in the front pages, often for projects that are years away from fruition – think Amazon and their mooted drone delivery service.
However, one way that it can have an immediate and tangible benefit is with the monitoring of nesting bird species, and the promotion of areas that would be of interest to tourists.
Dr. Paul Morrison, the Coquet Island site manager for the RSPB, said: “Helishoot conducted a trial filming on Coquet Island ahead of the season’s influx of nesting terns.
“The immediate impact of using this equipment was the obvious new dimension it offered the RSPB Coquet team to promote the reserve in a new innovative way,” he continued.
“There is huge potential for expanding this approach in the future as well as helping with monitoring of the nesting bird species on Coquet. In particular it would be very useful to help find large gull chicks that hide in the dense vegetation on the island, using an infra red camera. This would be easy to achieve as this work could be carried out towards the end of the season when there is minimal risk to disturbing sensitive or protected species such as roseate terns.”
For those worried about the impact a UAV would have on the nesting population of birds can put their fears to bed. “The interaction with puffins and large gulls, whilst in flight was nil, with gulls flying past the device at close quarters with no visual alarm discernible,” said Dr Morrison.
UAV technology could also be used to protect, as well as to monitor. “It would be interesting to see if a small loudspeaker could be attached to use as a scaring method for playing alarm calls to frighten large gulls from the island in spring and autumn,” Dr. Morrison concluded.
Drones are already being used in other parts of the country to keep track of cranes and corncrakes, which are being reintroduced to the British Isles following their disappearance from the land.
UAV tech is already being used in other areas of business, including in agriculture, where it has been used to monitor crops in much the same way that they have monitored the puffin population on Coquet Island.
Their uses could also include the conservation of old buildings, as well as the production of 3D maps to determine when and where repairs are needed.
Helishoot is a North East based film and survey company that has CAA Permissions to fly commercially and carry out this type of work.
Article contributed by Russell Hughes
Continued from Part 1
Common Human-Avian Conflict Mitigation Methods
Regardless of the individual circumstances that exist for each human-avian conflict event, many mitigation methods are available to address these situations. A successful mitigation program will most likely involve a combination of several different techniques that take into consideration the environmental conditions of the area, the funding that is available, the severity and nature of the conflict, and the level of community support that exists for the program. The goal of the program should be to use the most cost effective, least intrusive mitigation methods, leading to peaceful human/avian coexistence.
When developing a wildlife conflict resolution program, all stakeholders should have the opportunity to voice their concerns and to participate in the design of a mitigation program. A comprehensive education program should also be initiated to diffuse highly volatile situations, eliminate misconceptions, increase community support, and improve attitudes and tolerance levels (Baruch-Mordo et al, 2011). Educational programs may include public forums, school programs, solicitation of support from industry and governmental entities, distribution of educational materials and other methods (Baruch-Mordo et al, 2011).
Next, the habitat should be modified as much as possible to make it less attractive to the species causing the conflict. The habitat should be examined to see if there are things present that are attracting the birds such as food, water, nesting materials, and ground cover for rodents. Removal of these items, if possible, and cleaning around the area by mowing tall grasses and cutting down dead trees that harbor insects and provide nesting sites should decrease the attractiveness of the habitat (Mengak, 2013). If the problem persists, attractants can be separated from the birds with barriers. Bringing cows that are preparing to give birth into shelters, storing grain and hay inside barns and silos, and placing chickens in a secure coop can prevent access to attractants (Lowney, 1999). Another option is to move attractants to a safe location. The Kea Conservation Trust is utilizing diversionary areas filled with desirable enrichment items to lure birds away from dangerous car parks.
Thoughtful urban planning can also reduce wildlife conflict situations. Power companies can install rounded protection devices on utility poles to prevent monk parakeets from building nests on them, and can design electricity pylons that prevent the electrocution of raptors (Newman et al, 2008). Wind energy farms can implement bird-friendly technology and operation methods and be placed away from important bird migration routes (American Bird Conservancy, 2013). Wildlife crossings can be installed to allow animals to migrate across roadways (Metro, 2014).
Another approach to reducing human-avian wildlife conflict situations is to reduce the incentive for people to harm the birds. These methods are most effective when the avian species population involved is endangered or threatened. First, laws should be instituted to protect the species. Next, these laws must be strictly enforced (Cross et al, 2013). Then, if possible, incentive programs should be implemented to improve attitudes. These incentives should provide benefits to the people who are suffering losses but are not harming the birds. Types of incentives include reimbursing farmers for crop and livestock losses, replacing property that was damaged by the birds or providing people with the materials necessary to deter the birds at no cost (Decker et al, 2002).
If the above methods are ineffective, more intrusive deterrents may be necessary to harass the birds from congregating in the area. These can include audio deterrents, visual deterrents, tactile deterrents and chemical repellents (Mengak, 2013). Audio deterrents harass the birds by emitting scary or unappealing sounds. These can include loud booms, pyrotechnics or recordings of predator calls. Visual deterrents may include flashing lights, scarecrows, balloons, waving ribbons, a mounted owl figure or silhouette cutouts of predators attached to windows. Tactile deterrents may include motion-activated water sprinklers or spikes mounted on perching sites. Lastly, there are several chemical repellents available from commercial retailers that are safe and effective, but these preparations can be expensive and may require multiple applications (Stevens & Clark, 1998). Most harassment methods are only useful for a short time period because the birds become habituated to them. These methods are most effective for conflict situations that only last for a short duration, such as during migration season (Mengak, 2013).
If all other mitigation methods have failed, it may be necessary to relocate or cull offending animals. Relocations are usually reserved for protected species and must be well-planned, otherwise they may result in moving the same problem to another location or in the death of the animal. Most avian species have the ability to travel great distances and may have homing capabilities, so the relocation must be sufficiently far away and provide attractive habitat so the bird doesn’t return to the original area (Decker et al, 2002). Culling of offending individuals is a last resort and can result in unanticipated fallout. In protected species, the loss of the individual’s genetic variability may affect the overall health of the population. Behavior associated with human conflict may also be associated with subgroups of the population so culling may result in population skewing. Examples include culling females of a species who are more likely to aggressively defend nesting sites, removing the dominant bird in a family group, or removing individuals who possess greater exploratory behavior, a trait that has supported the species’ survival in the past (Orr-Walker et al, 2012).
Human-wildlife conflict situations can have a significant impact on the welfare of the people affected and on the wildlife species involved. These conflicts can significantly impair conservation initiatives as well. The types of conflict vary greatly. Each case must be evaluated individually and mitigation plans must be designed based on each situation’s specific needs. The goal should be to create a cost-efficient plan that uses the least intrusive methods necessary to effectively address the situation.
Local participation in policy-making and a comprehensive educational program are necessary first steps if mitigation programs are to succeed long-term. Attention to the complex social issues involved in the conflict is also important. Familiarity with the ecology of the avian species of concern and the mitigation strategies available will also assist in the creation of a successful mitigation program. Peaceful coexistence between the humans and the wildlife should be the primary goal.
References for this article can be found on the author’s bio page.
Article submitted by Jackie R. Bray, Graduate Student MA Biology – Project Dragonfly at Miami University Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – Cincinnati, Ohio