Upland Research Group

Durham, United Kingdom

Upland Research Group

Durham, United Kingdom
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White P.J.C.,Upland Research Group | White P.J.C.,Napier University | Stoate C.,Allerton Project | Szczur J.,Allerton Project | Norris K.,University of Reading
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2014

Predation pressure on many threatened species, including European farmland songbirds, may have increased over recent decades. Predator reduction to protect declining bird populations is a controversial but potentially important tool for managers. Its effects require measurement before its consideration in conservation. Game management typically combines sympathetic habitat management measures with reduction of nest predators. It has been proffered as additionally benefiting farmland songbirds, but little is known about the effects on their demography. We analyzed 11 years of nest data from 6 songbird species on 3 lowland farms. The different game management regimes on the farms enabled us to test the hypotheses that systematic predator reduction (mammals and corvids) and sporadic corvid reduction improve nest success in songbirds. We detected a positive effect of systematic predator reduction on common blackbird (Turdus merula), common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), dunnock (Prunella modularis), song thrush (T. philomelos), and yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) but not common whitethroat (Sylvia communis). For the 5 species that demonstrated an effect, systematic predator reduction improved the odds of nests surviving a day within the nest cycle by a factor of between 1.59 and 1.89. For common blackbird, the effect occurred at the egg (laying and incubation) stage of the nest cycle, whereas for other species it occurred across stages. Sporadic corvid reduction had a positive effect on nest survival only for common blackbird (at the nestling stage only) and a negative effect only for yellowhammer (across both stages). The extent to which predator reduction might influence populations may depend on mechanisms such as re-nesting compensation and overwinter mortality. Where habitat management is in place to assist threatened songbirds, intensive, systematic nest predator reduction may provide a useful conservation tool for improvement of nest success. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.

Baines D.,Upland Research Group | Taylor L.,Upland Research Group
Medical and Veterinary Entomology | Year: 2016

In parts of northern England, North Wales and the Scottish Highlands, increasing numbers of sheep ticks Ixodes ricinus (Ixodida: Ixodidae), and the louping ill virus they can carry, are considered to be important factors that reduce red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica productivity. The present study tested this hypothesis by fitting adult female grouse with leg bands impregnated with the acaricide cypermethrin to experimentally control ticks on their chicks on two managed grouse moors in northeast Scotland. The chicks of females fitted with acaricide leg bands showed reduced tick infestations and improved survival in one of the two study years, relative to chicks of control females. Acaricide leg bands constitute a potential management technique that may be adopted by grouse moor managers in circumstances of high tick infestations on grouse chicks. © 2016 The Royal Entomological Society

White P.J.C.,Upland Research Group | Warren P.,Upland Research Group | Baines D.,Upland Research Group
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2013

Increasing forest cover has been the policy of various countries in recent decades. The Scottish government aims to increase national forest cover from 18% to 25% by 2050. Mid-altitude upland areas above farmland and below the natural tree line will be targeted for planting, which could impact black grouse Tetrao tetrix, a species of conservation concern which is most abundant in this zone. We used lek counts, counts of black grouse shot on sporting estates and habitat data in the Tay region to investigate distributions of black grouse in relation to forest and non-forest habitat composition. Moorland was generally selected relative to forest habitats. Planting of new forests was linked to establishment of leks and maturing of forests was linked to lek extinctions. Between 1945 and 2010, including a previous period of incentivised forest expansion, shooting densities (birds shot per km2) were significantly correlated with the area of pre-thicket (<14years) forestry in the Tay study area, increasing as it was planted but decreasing as it matured to a closed-canopy structure. Across three Scottish regions (Argyll, Inverness and Galloway) habitat composition within 1km of leks was similar at 45-60% moorland and 10-15% young forest suggesting this habitat composition may provide a template for designing mosaics that can sustain viable populations in the face of forest expansion. Protection of moorland patches and provision of young forest over a smaller but more consistent area may benefit the species' conservation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Capsule Eurasian Nuthatches have experienced a northward range expansion in Britain. Younger, more isolated, populations have smaller song meme-pool size, diversity and individual repertoires. © 2012 British Trust for Ornithology.

White P.J.C.,Upland Research Group | White P.J.C.,Napier University | Warren P.,Upland Research Group | Baines D.,Upland Research Group
Bird Study | Year: 2015

Capsule Long-term conservation of Black Grouse in Scotland may rely upon the retention of sufficiently large and well-connected patches of moorland and a diversity of adjacent forest types. Aims To study Black Grouse habitat use within a moorland-forest mosaic and make recommendations for their conservation in more heavily forested future landscapes. Methods We carried out radio-telemetry on Black Grouse over three years to investigate individual habitat use. We used compositional analyses to investigate habitat selection in different seasons. We examined whether this matched previous population-level patterns and whether it differed between males and females. We used logistic regression to examine whether movements into large-scale commercial forests were restricted to the periphery relative to random locations. Results Males used seasonal ranges of >200 ha and females >70 ha. Birds selected strongly for moorland throughout the year, matching other population-level studies. Underlying this, however, males and females differed in their use of forests, with males associated with broadleaf woodland, while females preferred new native pinewoods in spring-summer or commercial conifer forests in autumn-winter. Use of commercial plantation forests was generally limited to their periphery, particularly to within <300 m of the forest edge. Conclusion When planning afforestation, moorland patches of at least 200 ha must be retained and their fragmentation should be minimized, particularly as young forests may provide breeding habitat over a limited duration. However, mature forests also form an important habitat component and, at a local scale, both coniferous and broadleaf forests should be made available to provide resources for both sexes. Some management decisions will therefore need to be made at the landscape-scale to balance broad national targets of afforestation with individual landowner/contractor decisions. © 2015 British Trust for Ornithology

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