Searching For The Ghost of The Moor and Habitat Corridors for its Conservation
Diego Llusia, Manuel B. Morales & Juan Traba
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Spring is arriving at northern Spain and the research activities of our Wildlife Acoustics Scientific Product Grant have already begun. Let's get started on searching for the ghost of the moor and habitat corridors for its conservation. The Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti), a highly cryptic bird, is endemic of Mediterranean steppe habitats and currently one of the most endangered passerines in Europe. Mainly due to habitat loss, its distribution range is now strongly fragmented. To assist in conservation actions, the first stage of our project was devoted to identify potential corridors for the Dupont's Lark that can serve as bridges connecting isolated populations. These corridors have been defined based on available environmental data sets and well-established scientific knowledge about species' habitat selection, behavior and population dynamics. Then, the Wildlife Acoustics SM4 took action. Using the three automated recorders kindly granted by Wildlife Acoustics, pilot acoustic surveys have recently been conducted in several locations of the study area with known presence of the species in order to test diverse audio settings (gain, sample rate, etc.) and recording schedules. Deployed in hidden spots on Dupont's Lark habitats, these devices carried out continuous recordings during the first hours before sunrise. Thereby, we can establish optimal sampling protocols for future acoustic surveys, ensuring best detection probabilities. The next step of the project, now when spring starts, will be to confirm whether the ghost of the moor uses these potential corridors, where the species is usually extremely difficult to detect.
When nights are still cold and long, nocturnal choruses of the Dupont's Lark (Chersophilus duponti) begin to be heard in moors of the Iberian Peninsula. Males of this cryptic passerine exhibit their acoustic displays one or two hours before sunrise, by producing a metallic and high-pitched song while flying around their territories. Taking advantages of this phenomenon, Wildlife Acoustics SM4 were installed at potential corridors for the species during the last three months. These corridors were identified in a previous phase of the study. The large autonomy and programmable recording schemes of the SM4 enabled us to obtain 2-hours continuous recordings at dawn throughout the breeding season. Using this technology, we were also able to conduct the acoustic surveys at several sites simultaneously, while the efficient camouflage of these devices prevented changes on the behavior of the study species. Doing so, we aimed at recording the singing activity of the ghost of the moor and confirming whether it uses these corridors during mating and dispersal, which can be crucial information for the conservation plans of this endangered species. Sound files corresponding to hundreds of hours of environmental soundscapes were created during this sampling period. Next efforts will be focused on detecting the presence of the species in such a large acoustic data set.
Photo credits: Adrián Barrero