Phenology in breeding birds

Phenology and climate change in breeding birds

Researchers: Nils Bunnefeld, Jeroen Minderman, Julia Kovacs, Penelope Damvelt, Heather Woodbridge, Ronny Rotbarth, Mark Wilson

Funder: University of Stirling

Environmental change is currently happening at an unprecedented rate and the disruption of timing of events species and organisms experience could potentially change ecosystem functioning and services. Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events such as first leaf on trees or the egg-laying dates of birds and has been studied in many ecosystems for a length of time. Long-term data sets of phenology have become most valuable to study environmental changes and the effects on species and populations.

As part of a larger network, we at the Stirling Conservation Science group have started a new nest box project with 50 nest boxes around the Stirling University campus in central Scotland. In this project we study the phenology of breeding birds (mainly great tits) and the habitat around nesting sites, such as the timing of first leaf and caterpillar peaks. The network of nest box studies encompasses the groups of Albert Phillimore (University of Edinburgh) and Owen Jones (University of Southern Denmark).

Contact Nils Bunnefeld or Jeroen Minderman if you would like to get involved. We are looking for volunteers and students interested in doing a BSc, MSc or PhD project. If you are interested in joining us as a research fellow, please get in touch with one of us.

Meet the team


Julia Kovacs. I’m a conservation biology student with an interest in ornithology. I’d like to work in bird conservation – and that’s the reason why I came to Scotland to get my second degree. I’m looking for interesting possibilites and projects I can participate in to broaden my knowledge of bird ecology and conservation management. I have almost 10 years experience with bird ringing and monitoring and I’m planning to get my ringing licence very soon. I’m particulary interested in nuthatches and I hope I will get the chance to learn about tropical birds too.

Penelope DamveltPenelope Damvelt. I am currently a Conservation Biology undergraduate student. I have taken the decision to start a career in conservation due to my interest in woodland and wildlife in general. Currently in my second semester, this project gives me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of birds, woodland and might assist me in taking a particular decision in which direction I would like to continue in the future. Besides, I go a long way with cake and coffee

1622606_10153920889670005_155799597_nHeather Woodbridge. I am currently an undergraduate, first year Ecology student at the University of Stirling. Besides playing music, skiing, kayaking and almost anything else that gives me the opportunity to be outdoors, wildlife and biological science interests me. I have some experience of bird ringing but have not had time to take it to the next stage and get a trainee permit – yet! During the summer I work at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory and this has given me many opportunities to pursue my interest in birds and other wildlife

10157413_10200935920759747_1074480073493824111_nRonny Rotbarth. I am a Stirling student in Environmental Science and Outdoor Education. My aim is to focus my studies on ecology and conservation issues. This is one of the reasons why I joined the bird phenology project. It will help me to gain some insights into local ecosystems and the impact on global climate change on wildlife. Besides, I love to play and work in the outdoors. I count climbing, hill walking, mountain biking and kayaking to my most favourite hobbies.

10441528_10152486941219420_7975112862577767180_nSuzanne Rex. I am a third year student studying Ecology at the University of Stirling. My main interest is conservation, especially in birds and mammals.  By helping out with the phenology project, together with working at the Fair Isle bird Observory this summer, I hope to continue to learn more about different species of birds and experience working with them. It should also help me decide what area of study I would most love to work in for the future!

Rachel Comrie
Rachel Comrie. I am currently an undergraduate in Environmental Science and haven’t fully decided on what direction I am going to take post-graduate. I joined the project due to an interest in all our adorable little nature friends, as well as to get a sampling of some of the tasks and responsibilities of a potential career avenue. When not checking on nest boxes I enjoy yoga, travelling, going to the cinema and sleeping 18 hours a day.

mark_wilson Mark Wilson. Since December 2013 I have been employed as a research ecologist at BTO Scotland, but I have been studying birds for most of the past 20 years. During this time I have worked on long term studies of Willow Warbler breeding biology, biodiversity of forested Irish landscapes, and ecology of Hen Harriers in relation to upland land use in Ireland. I am particularly interested in ecological survey design and in using spatial and statistical modelling to better understand those aspects of ecology that enable us to manage and conserve birds more effectively.

Past members

nuthatchBFMichael Christie. I am currently in my fourth and final year of studying Conservation Biology and Management at the University of Stirling. My fourth year dissertation is researching the importance of urban gardens on bat activity in the City of Edinburgh. My other interest is birds and I am currently a trainee bird ringer for the British Trust for Ornithology and also work part time at the RSPBs Loch Leven Reserve.



2014-02-06 11.52.152014-02-06 11.06.562014-03-28 14.14.07-12014-05-11 12.22.162014-05-01 18.03.36-1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s