What are the predators up to when the godwits are away?

Rienk Fokkema*, Hesamaddin Farhadi*, Stijn Basting#, Egbert van der Velde*, Marie Stessens*, Martijn Weterings# & Daan Bos#

*University of Groningen, #Van Hall University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden

The Black-tailed godwits are long gone from the Dutch meadows and at their wintering grounds in Iberia & West-Africa, but many of their predators stay year-round. We want to learn more about what mammalian predators such as the red fox, badger, polecat, beech marten, domestic cat and brown rat actually do in these times of the year. Are the areas that they visit different from spring, now that the meadow-breeding birds are not there? Are they active at different times? And how does their space use and activity relate to the abundance of an important alternative prey species: voles? We believe that by better understanding the annual ecology of predator species preying on the Black-tailed godwit we will also gain a better understanding of the whole food-web of which the godwits are part.

The success of the different predator species now in autumn and winter can feed-back to the variety and number of predators meadow-birds have to deal with in spring. To gain a better grip on these processes, at the start of October 2023, we placed out a camera grid of 58 camera traps across our study area at the same entrances to fields where we measured last spring. Predator species like to use these field entrances (Dutch: “dammetjes”) when moving through the meadow-landscape. Everytime something comes by, the movement sensor of the camera is triggered and takes 8 photos. We will leave these patient 24/7 observers in the field until December.

At the end of November, a large student course from Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden will start and in small groups the students will collect the first month of photos by the camera traps. The students will upload these photos to the Agouti photo processing platform (https://www.agouti.eu/) and identify the species on the photos. In this way the students get experience in field ecology and camera trap data processing and we are helped out with gaining a nice dataset on predator presence and ecology in autumn and winter. We hope to inform you on the first results of this endeavour in the upcoming year report of the Godwit Landscapes Project. 

Camera traps are strategically placed at field entrances and key landscape features.

Centre for global ecological change at the University of Groningen

Birdeyes is a science and creative centre that views the world - almost literally - through the eyes of birds. More and more birds are flying around with tiny transmitters, loggers and other high technology on their backs and legs. This generates an unimaginable amount of information. By cleverly combining such data with other sources of information, and by using new ways to tell stories and share the insights with, BirdEyes strives to open up a new knowledge network. The centre aims to be an innovative part of the University of Groningen and is linked to the Rudolph Agricola School for Sustainable Development. BirdEyes, with empirical and inspirational roots in the farthest corners of the world.

visit homepagina