Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Eric the Belgian crisp-loving gull gets mapped in CartodB

Peter Desmet's temporal map of Eric's movements

I'd already had a brief look at CartodB to make my Shiants seabird map and intend to explore it in more detail shortly, but in the meantime, here's some fabulous examples of its use by researchers in Belgium who've been looking into foraging patterns of gulls since last year. "Eric" the Lesser Black Backed Gull was fitted with a GPS tracker and his movements tracked during the breeding season. In this post Peter Desmet - one of the researchers from LifewatchINBO - experiments with the data collected from Eric's tracker.

The birds: Eric's movements indicate he changed his foraging behaviour as the breeding season progressed, with him spending the incubation period feeding inland on agricultural land as well as on "discarded potato chips unfit for human consumption" in a container in Moeskroen 65km away from his nest in Zeebrugge, and moving to foraging at sea when his chicks were needing to be fed a higher energy diet.

The project is continuing with many more Lesser Black Backed Gulls as well as Herring Gulls now being monitored. All their movements can be viewed now - and you can see how some individuals appear to favour foraging at sea whilst others far prefer to do all their foraging inland, with Moeskroen and its free reject crisps being a favourite hangout.

The maps: Peter Desmet has not only shown how he created 'routes' showing Eric's flight patterns, but he also made use of CartodB's temporal mapping functionality to show an animation of Eric's movement over a period of two months. I like the choice of background colour too to highlight the data being showcased rather than the map.

I didn't think I had any tracking data to play with but Peter's even kindly uploaded this data dedicated to the public domain, so no excuse! I do have some ideas of how I could try some temporal maps using data such as nesting dates for nest boxes, plus the cluster maps look pretty straightforward. I'm looking forward to trying out CartodB myself!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Shiant Islands Seabird Recovery map - using Mangomap
Given I've just spent the week before last assisting with the yearly seabird monitoring on the uninhabited Shiant Islands in the Hebrides, Scotland, I've made a start with the most recent batch of recovery data from the Shiants Auk Ringing Group. So here's my first offering - an interactive map showing recovery locations of seabirds originally ringed on the Shiant Islands, Scotland. A recovery is a record of a ringed bird that is found in a location other than where it was originally ringed, and could occur when it is recaptured alive and well at a ringing site somewhere else, or may come from a member of the public finding a dead ringed bird and reporting it to the BTO Ringing Scheme

The birds: During the winter storms of 2014 many seabirds perished and were washed up on shores along the coasts of Britain and France, and thanks to passers-by taking the time to check the dead birds for rings and reporting them, we now have data on the fate of these particular birds. I'm told the number of recoveries of dead birds was up compared with those received during previous winters so it made depressing reading - it would be interesting to add all the previous recoveries now. It wasn't all bad news though - look at the individual records for Oystercatcher and Storm Petrel on the map, which were both "intentionally taken"- retrapped somewhere other than the Shiants. The Storm Petrel was evidently keen on hanging out on small Scottish islands and had headed to bird observatory on Fair Isle, whereas the Oystercatcher headed down to north Wales to get canon netted by the SCAN ringing group. As for the auks, there is a clear difference between the dispersal of Puffins and Razorbills during the winter given where they washed up, with all the Puffins presumably meeting their maker whilst at sea in the Bay of Biscay. Razorbill M59034, found on a beach near Plymouth, was ringed as an adult back in 1985, which suggests it was at least 31 years old when it died. One Puffin EX49926 actually made it back this year to its breeding grounds on the Shiants but was found dead by an island visitor. I wonder what had happened to it?

The map: There's a variety of open source services offering the ability to host your own mapping online, all coming with different tools, background maps and payment plans aimed more at commercial use, with most offering entry level functionality with free access. For this first map I've had a play with Mangomap which has proven to be extremely easy to use, and I had my first map up and running within a few minutes. Looks like they have very good support too given the amount of friendly emails I've received since signing up! I simply uploaded a CSV containing all the recovery data plus decimal lat/lon coordinates for each recovery location; the only requirement for Mangomap to recognise the coordinates was for the column headers to be named lat and lon - no GIS required. The time is in getting all the data ready in your CSV first - eg links to photos etc. Admittedly the lines shown on the map required a bit more faffing prior to uploading, but were simple enough to create in shapefile format by converting WKT linestrings for each coordinate pair (ringing  location and finding location) using QGIS.

Mangomap takes several input formats including CSV, SHP and KML/KMZ and allows you to customise the features on the map, although with the free version there's no way to turn on/off individual layers - it's all your layers or nothing. The additional tools you get if you pay include print-to-pdf and the ability to edit the data once it's uploaded, which saves having to edit and re-upload your CSV every time you want to make a change. 

Only one free map though - so maybe this will be it for my Mangomap trials? For this sort of ad hoc personal use I'd be willing to pay a small fee perhaps based on storage or a small annual charge, something more like you'd get with Flickr, but at $29pcm minimum spend this 'hobby mapper' won't be tempted to sign up yet!