Top spotters, early June 2020

16-06-2020

Here's the top 20 for the first half of June. Lots of turnover again, with poofinder claiming the top spot for the first time! Seven further spotters were within a handful of classifications of making it on to the table, so even a couple more classifications a day could be the difference between fame and obscurity ...

As always, thanks to all contributors!

Ranking Spotter
   
1 poofinder
2 Florian
3 sammykwild
4 marcos
5 Wild Outlander
6 nmtoken
7 PetaSams
8 Deacon
9 SouthGlosGirl
10 JPSpot
11 pekka
12 magdacygan
13 Rattus
14 AKStenhouse
15 redsquirrel1
16 Dee
17 Sprocket46
18 kathrynhp148
19 Gven
20 vivcoy

Identification of sex in image sequences on MammalWeb

16-06-2020 by Roland Ascroft

Many bird and mammal species may be classified as sexually dimorphic (i.e., males and females differ visibly in their appearance) like pheasants or deer, or monomorphic (i.e., the two sexes look alike) like dunnocks or hares. Obviously, terrestrial mammals in Europe are not truly monomorphic because of their external genitalia, but these are only sometimes visible on trail camera images. Secondary sexual characteristics such as antlers in deer or tusks in wild boar make it much easier to separate the sexes for much of the year, but many mammals are sexually dimorphic by size, and this also occurs in birds (particularly some birds of prey). So, for mammals and birds in the UK (merely because this is where we have sufficient data), how often do spotters separate the sexes?

 Percentage of identifications where the spotter gave the sex (for species with more than 100 classifications)

Not surprisingly, deer rank top in terms of sex-separation in mammals, and the top 5 bird species are also ones which are obviously dimorphic, in this case in their plumage. One might expect Pied Wagtail to be included there, but it comes in at number 16, below several sexually monomorphic species. For most species, most of the time, spotters cannot or do not attempt to identify the sex of a bird or mammal.

One of our most dimorphic mammals in terms of size is the stoat with males being much larger than females, and yet there were zero attempts to give its sex. This may be because of the difficulty of estimating size on a picture when only one individual is present. In case you think size does not matter when it comes to sex, most of these species breed seasonally, and the size of their testes changes with season, driven by a hormonal cycle. This has been measured in roe deer, for example (Short R.V. & Mann T. 1966. The sexual cycle of a seasonally breeding mammal, The Roebuck (Capreolus capreolus) J. Reprod. Fert. 12,337-351).

Top spotters, late May 2020

06-06-2020

Here's the top 20 for the second half of May. Lots of turnover, with 2nd and 3rd places going to Spotters not previously in the top-10! But who will come out top for the whole month? Subscribe to the newsletter to find out ...

As always, thanks to all contributors!

Ranking Spotter
   
1 Echo.Lawrence
2 Florian
3 nmtoken
4 Luko
5 redsquirrel1
6 Bob Philpott
7 Sprocket46
8 sdoug21
9 SouthGlosGirl
10 ShannonPasty
11 PetaSams
12 Wild Outlander
13 Wendy
14 marcos
15 sammykwild
16 dmasonwilliams
17 Magma
18 Deacon
19 annanicholls
20 EvieGarritt

Top spotters, early May 2020

16-05-2020

Here's the top 20 for the first 15 days of May. Many familiar names, with ShannonPasty and Luko retaining the top 2 spots but a few new ones too. An impressive jump from SouthGlosGirl, up 11 places from late April to reach number 3! Also impressive from jjameson, as a new entrant to the top-20, coming in at number 4!

As always, thanks to all contributors!

Ranking Spotter
   
1 ShannonPasty
2 Luko
3 SouthGlosGirl
4 jjameson
5 sammykwild
6 redsquirrel1
7 Bob Philpott
8 kathrynhp148
9 marcos
10 meggo22
11 nmtoken
12 Con_Car
13 Deacon
14 dmasonwilliams
15 PetaSams
16 Florian
17 Jessica Money
18 IzzyH
19 Wild Outlander
20 Green Fox

GAP camera trapping project

12-05-2020

Over the past year we have been working with staff and students at GAP in County Durham on an outreach project funded by the Royal Society Partnership Grant. In March this year students deployed camera traps around Gosforth Park, a nature reserve managed by the Natural History Society of Northumbria. The camera traps captured a whole range of wildlife, and these images have now been uploaded to the GAP camera trapping project on MammalWeb. The project is open to everyone to view and help classify the images, so feel free to take a look!

Lily Willis, a student at GAP, has written the article below which gives more information about the project, as well as her experiences of setting up the camera traps and analysing the images. We hope to bring you more updates in the future as the project progresses!


GAP (Group for Anxious Pupils) is a small group of Year 10 and 11 pupils, based in County Durham, who have come together in an educational setting because of experiences with anxiety and depression. We cannot attend a mainstream school and therefore receive our schooling at GAP with the support of mental health professionals.

We were delighted that the Royal Society awarded us a grant to fund a research project on wild mammals in the UK. Durham University are also working with us and assisting us with the project. Furthermore, MAC Security and Fire are providing expertise to help us develop skills in coding and to support us in building our own camera traps.

During the planning stages of our investigation, we carried out an initial lesson and discussion aided by our groups STEM partner, Sammy Mason from Durham University. Sammy visited us on numerous occasions between March and July 2019, however, due to Durham County Council relocating GAP this lesson didn’t take place until October 1st, 2019. Despite this, we were already familiar with Sammy as we had met her informally numerous times. This was very helpful as it gave us the opportunity to become acquainted and comfortable with Sammy, as she is approachable and friendly. During this brainstorming lesson, Sammy launched the project formally and between staff and students, we discussed our thoughts and ideas on how the project would run and be successful. The main outcomes from this lesson were that we would investigate:

  • What species do we share our habitat with?
  • Does temperature affect the species found in an area?
  • Do we find different species in urban environments, rivers/lakes, woods/forest?
  • Do predators and prey live close to each other?
  • Does time of day affect what animals you will see (will we see any Nocturnal animals during the day?)
  • Do you see more foxes early in the morning than during the day?
  • Do scavengers come out at different times of the day?
  • Does light pollution affect the number of mammals seen?
  • Do you find more rodents where there are humans?
  • Are there more deer near farmland than near public parks?

On the 3rd of March 2020, our class took a trip to Gosforth Nature Reserve, again accompanied by our STEM partner, Sammy, who was to help us set up the cameras, as well as pitching suitable locations to set up the cameras. When we arrived at the park, we were greeted by park volunteers, who showed our group around the reserve. They also shared some helpful insight into what locations may be best to capture images of the animals in the area and gather suitable data to answer the questions we had previously brain-stormed in our lesson with Sammy. 

I set up my camera viewing a deer trail, which resulted in capturing quite a few roe deer passing by through the woods. I thought that this would be a successful location as we had identified deer prints in the vicinity and in certain parts of the park, the forest debris had been scraped away by deer to make a clearing to sleep on.

As well as this, we placed another camera looking onto a decaying log, which the park staff advised us could be a good place to catch some badgers peeling away the bark and eating insects and larvae. There were some scratches on the bark already, giving a good indication that they might be back.  

The experience was fascinating and enjoyable; my favourite part being when we found a skull and I was able to identify that it had belonged to a fox. It was very interesting because it’s not a common occurrence and was proof foxes were living in this area. Another amazing experience was being able to see some roe deer ourselves at the park from afar, as they grazed in a field. After visiting the site, the group were feeling excited and anticipating what we would discover from the camera trap footage.

However, schools closed across the UK on Friday 20th of March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was only four days before we had planned to retrieve our cameras from the site, and we were unable to make our return trip to Gosforth. Nevertheless, Kathryn - one of our teachers - returned to the Nature reserve to collect the cameras, and uploaded the content to the MammalWeb site, enabling us to log in and classify the animals in the photographs as part of our remote learning. I was thrilled to discover that our camera placements were a success! So far, we have been able to classify around 1000 sequences from our camera traps, making us the 80th highest contributor in the country to MammalWeb, as of the time of writing.

A range of animals that we’ve classified include, roe deer, badgers, red foxes, rabbits and grey squirrels. We were even lucky enough to capture a clear photo of a sparrowhawk, perched on a log.