Wednesday 4 January 2012

New light-weight geolocator for Swifts from Migrate Technology

Although we still wait to see published results, geolocators have already proved their effectiveness in tracking Swifts all the way from Europe to Africa and back. Particularly pleasing is that return rates are no worse than from ringed birds, showing that they have negligible impact on survival.

Now, Migrate Technology Ltd has announced a new range of devices, the Intigeo-W65 and Intigeo-W55, weighing 0.65gm and 0.55gm respectively. Especially attractive is the low price of these devices at £95 ex VAT.

Swift with Integeo-W55B1J geolocator
© Lyndon Kearsley
Novel in many ways, the manufacturer claims that this extremely energy efficient yet powerful miniature device will be the smallest geolocator available in the world to record near full range light level for an entire annual cycle. The device may be particularly useful for wader (shorebird) researchers or those studying highly aerial birds such as swifts, martins and swallows.

These new devices record, not only light levels for the determination of dawn and dusk for location, but also temperature and conductivity. Could temperature give an indication of the altitude that Swifts fly, given that temperature drops about 6.5°C for every 1km increase in altitude? Conductivity is unlikely to be useful with Swifts, but it could tell what kind of wet habitat a shorebird or waterbird is occupying.

This technology is in the process of causing a revolution in our knowledge of where Swifts and other small migrants spend their time in Africa.

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