Bureau Waardenburg
Varkensmarkt 9
4101 CK Culemborg
the Netherlands
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Vogelonderzoek met satellietzenders

Research with satellite transmitters

Photo: Tom Kruisink

In recent years Bureau Waardenburg has undertaken research into the habitat use and feeding ecology of purple herons. This research has been carried out as part of the marsh birds protection plan (Beschermingsplan Moerasvogels). This has lead to further research using satellite transmitters on purple herons, bitterns and terns; this research is carried out on behalf of Vogelbescherming Nederland (the Dutch BirdLife partner).

Purple herons
In July 2007, work began to equip a number of purple herons with satellite transmitters. Since 2008, the project has received the support of Wetlands International. This led to a visit to Sierra Leone, where a number of the marked herons were wintering, as well as establishing local support for the protection of the herons. For further information visit the special purple heron page of Vogelbescherming.nl (in Dutch) and the 'Follow the Bird!' page of Wetlands International.

On the 17th April 2010 the first bitterns to be fitted with satellite transmitters in the Netherlands were marked. A total of three males were caught and marked in the first year of the project, with more in 2011. The progress of these birds and further information on this research can be found on the special bittern page of Vogelbescherming.nl (in Dutch)

Terns tracked by aeroplane
For the second consecutive year, we have followed terns in the Dutch Voordelta. This helps us better understand how these protected birds use the area.

Transmitters as a new technique

When our research first began there was very limited experience with the use of transmitters on herons. A few local studies had been carried out such as at Tour Du Valat in the Camargue, France, where an attempt was made to follow purple herons. Here the young birds we followed to North Africa.

The first stage of our research was to develop a harness system by which the transmitter could be safely attached to the herons. The harness, along with a dummy transmitter, was tested on captive little egrets and grey herons. Their behaviour, including walking, flying, preening and feeding was studied. This research led to improvements in the harness. Tests have also been carried out on young birds in order to develop a harness that grows along with bird. This research was facilitated by Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp) and the bird rescue centre De Bonte Piet.

Catching the birds
The adult purple herons were caught using clap nets positioned along ditches and at the nest using a walk-in trap. These techniques have been proven to work well in other countries and as a precaution birds are observed to ensure no changes in their behaviour.

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