Monday, April 19

Nature’s ‘webcams’ turn citizens into scientific collaborators | Ecology | Climate and Environment


The walk of a lynx (born in freedom) and her three cubs was one of the stellar appearances collected by the webcams installed on a farm in Ciudad Real by the environmental organization WWF, which broadcasts for 24 hours to anyone who clicks on the link. It can also be observed, at this moment, how a pair of black vultures take turns to hatch a egg in its nest in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park through another chamber, this one from the ornithology NGO SEO / BirdLife. Images to which are added others of deer, foxes, genets, kites, goshawks, herons … that hook anonymous people who warn of everything that happens and thus become faithful collaborators of the researchers. “There are hundreds of eyes looking and there are people who keep diaries from the cameras. It’s citizen science”, Describes Carlos Hernáez, SEO / BirdLife biologist and webcam coordinator.

Antonio Pujales, a 51-year-old from Vigo, is one of these faithful. “It all started with confinement, I was locked up and I have always loved nature,” he explains. He became fond of the channel Lynx Territory of WWF that emits from Ciudad Real. “People from the organization participated, the forest ranger… and I started to intervene. It was very good vibes and someone asked if they could capture images and make montages and we started to make a group, “he adds. Now they are a “lot of people and we are friends: Leo, Antón, José María”, he lists. It would have been impossible for him to observe the behavior of a lynx in the wild without these cameras. “There are amateurs who review the night recordings and send the data to the organizations to which they belong. [se puede acceder fácilmente a un cuestionario]”, Explain. But it takes patience and luck, and there is coverage, because sometimes the connection is interrupted for that reason.

The WWF webcam was installed almost a year ago with the aim of capturing lynxes and, in fact, it has been achieved. The place is not chosen at random, in 2020 28 young of the feline were counted by the area and surroundings. “It is very difficult to observe the behavior of animals in their natural environment and in this way we achieve it, in addition to being a fabulous dissemination method,” explains Ramón Pérez de Ayala, head of the lynx program at WWF. The installation will be one year old in April and has had a great audience success: the maximum was 2,000 viewers last May. The organization collects the highlights and once a month they send a newsletter to the subscribers. All free.

The farm where the Lynx Territory chamber is located is classified as a wildlife refuge and there is no hunting. The owner of the 10 million square meter plot of land, Pedro Solís, is in love with biodiversity and with Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, to whom he owes his love for nature. He explains that the success of the installation is due, in addition to the lynx, to the large number of other animals that are immortalized: mongoose, genets, marten, mice, dormouse, deer, wild boar, different species of birds … “Wild life regulates itself, it is a lie that hunting is needed”, he maintains from his experience in this huge farm that he is preserving and rehabilitating. Solís, from a winery family, does so out of conviction and because: “All of us must give back to the earth something of what it has given us and in one way or another we can all”.

Black vultures in Guadarrama

The cameras installed by the ornithology NGO SEO / BirdLife, many of them in nests, make it possible to observe endangered species such as a pair of black vultures in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, which is currently hatching an egg. This colony of the species in the municipality of Rascafría is one of the largest in Spain, with 153 pairs. Two cameras (one outside and one in nest) They record the young of the lesser kestrel in the Cabañeros National Park (Castilla-La Mancha), in addition to a nest of owls. And in the dunghill (bird feeding point) de las Pichillas, in the Huesca municipality of Binaced, you can see red kites, buzzards, Egyptian vultures, hoopoe, swallows, starlings. Last year the NGO placed another webcam in the ornithological reserve of Laguna del Oso (Ávila), one of the main areas of migratory passage in winter for cranes and common geese. “For the first time it has been possible to record cranes with infrared at night,” explains Carlos Hernáez, biologist and coordinator of SEO / BirdLife Webcams.

“We are used to going out to study birds, but with the cameras you can see behaviors that are otherwise impossible. It has surprised me a lot ”, he explains. “For example,” he continues, “when a booted eagle lays an egg, it calls the male, who comes even though he is far away, and it is clearly seen that he teaches it, even how they communicate.” The constant control also served them to rescue in 2011 two imperial eagle chickens that were attacked by their older brother in an episode of cainism in Cabañeros.

Pablo Nava, coordinator of monitoring the cameras with SEO / BirdLife volunteers, explains that last year they began a study of the reproductive behavior of birds (copulations, spawning, parental care, prey, feeding …) in which 60 participated. people to report on. This year the campaign continues and a link is open for those interested to register. “It is necessary that they sign up because we follow a methodology to record the data,” he warns.

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