13 september 2021

[EN] International telemetry research increasingly on our agenda: participation in the PARTRIDGE project

Regelink Ecologie & Landschap: committed to making telemetry research (with transmitters) possible throughout Europe. We are increasingly partnering up for projects across the border, in order to create a better living environment together. We are currently collaborating on an international pilot in Ramskapelle, Belgium. For the Partridge project, we are building masts to track partridges for research purposes.

The idea is to create better living conditions for partridges in Europe, to halt the decline of the species. And at the same time: increase biodiversity by 30%. The ‘PARTRIDGE’ project was set up for this purpose. Several organisations from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, England and Denmark are collaborating on the PARTRIDGE project. Pilots are being set up in ten demonstration sites.

One of these areas is Ramskapelle, in the coastal polders of West Flanders. It boasts a flat and open landscape with hedges, reed-lined ditches and waterways. The 499-hectare area is home to many farms. Together with the farmers, PARTRIDGE strives for a minimum of 7% high-quality habitat for partridges and other birds that regularly use agricultural land.

Efficient, animal and nature-friendly alternative

The focus is on solutions that guarantee food, shelter and breeding habitats year-round. This requires, first and foremost, insight into partridge behaviour. Thijs Bosch, researcher at Regelink Ecology & Landscape, explains: “We want to collect as much data as possible in a large, expansive area. Needless to say, we aim to do so as efficiently as possible. Moreover: while obtaining the research data, we want to avoid unnecessary disruption of nature, also because we would like to map out nesting locations. Repeatedly driving in and out of the area by car does not help. Masts that continuously and automatically track partridges are an efficient, nature and animal-friendly alternative.”

Building masts

Regelink Ecologie & Landschap was approached by the Flemish INBO (the Institute for Nature and Forest Research) to build the masts. Last May, INBO placed the masts, under the supervision of Regelink Ecologie & Landschap. Thijs says: “The masts run on solar power. In order to be able to track the partridges, they are chipped with a radio transmitter. We work together with RTEU to this end. This international team of specialists has set up an open-source project for a system to monitor the movements and location of small animals with radio tracking. It is perfect for this project.”

The partridges are not harmed by the transmitters. Thijs: “The transmitters are attached according to a strict protocol and can be read out remotely. The masts do not transmit any signals, but only receive the signals from the transmitters. In other words, they are not disruptive to nature and do not pose a health hazard.”

How do we achieve ‘the right signal’?

The masts are currently being tested, and Regelink Ecology & Landscape are assisting in optimising the system settings. Thijs explains: “To date, we have always built masts specifically for bats. Partridges have a different movement pattern. Bats always move around at altitude. Partridges are usually in the field, with their heads just above the grass. For this reason, a different type of antenna could work better to get the right data. This is why the INBO has made additional adjustments to the hardware.” If the masts prove to be working well, the intention is to place a permanent installation next year.

Curious?

If you would like to find out more about the pilot in Ramskapelle, please visit the Interreg North Sea Region website.

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Mischa van der Hout
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Annemarie van Leeuwen
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Annemieke Kolvoort
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