I have spent the last week in Holland with Erwin van Maanen who is an independent Scientist and active team member of the Anatolean Leopard Foundation and National Pine Marten research fraternity. Erwin also organised for me to spent time with red fox expert cum fauna specialist Jaap Mulder and fellow Pine Marten researchers Chris Achterberg, Fokko Bilijam and the members of the Pine Marten Project Group (Achtezhoel-Liemers) – probably spelled incorrectly, including members from the National Monument Service (the Dutch equivalent of a National Park Service). I gave two presentations to the Dutch crew and received some excellent feedback.
The Netherlands is a very flat and fragmented landscape with few spots inaccessible to humans. These forest patches are the target of surveys to determine presence and absence of Pine Marten, Badgers, Foxes, Weasels, Pole Cats and Stone Martens etc. Most of the surveys are being carried out by volunteers and by teams who are under-funded and subsequently they have to use cheaper equipment foe their presence/absence surveys. A range of camera traps have been used in Holland including Moultries, Scoutguards, Stealthcams and more recently Bushnells and Reconyx.
The locations of camera traps for Martens are mostly decided by searching for sign in the snow or for hollows and arboreal latrine sites on tree limbs. The teams are interested in searching for weasels but they are too small and quick for the cameras. I did not meet anyone who uses stills in Holland – everyone is using video footage. I watched quite a lot of Pine Marten video and one alarming reoccurring behaviour is the behaviour of the animals to the camera IR flash, they skirt the edges of the flash projection on the ground. Its as if they se the outline of the core of the flash and deliberately avoid that area of ground.
Data is stored in a variety of ways although Erwin is developing a passport system for each animal including a record of the markings on the neck which are distinctive to the individual. One of the challenges in photographing the neck of the martens is keeping the animals facing the camera long enough to get a clear image – after discussions Erwin is now going to try a few modifications to his active station to see if he can get better images.
Jaap Mulder the Dutch fox expert is also using camera traps for a variety of species surveys including foxes and badgers. He is currently radio collaring animals and using camera traps as a supplementary tool to gather behaviour data. Jaap is currently using Scoutguards but will soon be buying some Reconyx cameras for some badger research. He is also using cameras to evaluate the use of under-passes by wildlife. Another researchers, Chris Achterberg is also using camera traps to monitor badger sets and martens, he is also using video functions only. Chris has been using scoutgaurads but prefers Stealthcam for its clear video footage. He has noticed some animal behaviour responses to cameras, particularly with badgers but he believes they become accustomed to the IR flash after a short period.
Overall the issues in the Netherlands are similar to those facing us all, that is that no one camera trap model is perfect and cost is a limiting factor in selection of appropriate models. A variety of different software programs are being used to store and manage the data collected – Lightroom, VLC Media and Codec K-Lite.
This week has been very interesting seeing the challenges of camera trapping small mammals from Europe and I even had a chance to contribute some thoughts to the Dutch efforts to survey for an elusive wolf.
Thank you to everyone that I met in The Netherlands but especially Erwin van Maanen and his family Annemiek and Merle for looking after me in Deventer and being wonderful hosts.