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First MOTUS station on the western seaboard of the British Isles goes live on the Calf of Man

24 October 2023

Manx Wildlife Trust (MWT) wardens on the Calf of Man, with the help of volunteers and funding from the Curraghs Wildlife Park Conservation Fund, have successfully commissioned the first Motus tracking station on the Calf of Man.

Owned and managed by Manx National Heritage, the Calf of Man is an important site for birds migrating through the Irish Sea. Around 8,000 birds are caught and ringed on the Calf every year by the wardens at the Bird Observatory there, which is managed by MWT. Now, new radio technology means that tagged birds, and even some larger insects like dragonflies and butterflies, could be recorded as they pass through the Calf, even if they don’t land. The resulting data will allow the in-depth study of Manx avifauna.

MWT are also grateful to Jenny and Andrew Moore, for supplying the scaffolding on which the station is mounted, and to volunteers, Mike Howland and Mike Prior, for their technical support in setting up and testing the equipment.

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organisations. It is hoped that this new site will encourage others to do the same and help grow the network across Britain and Europe

MWT plan to create up to eight Motus stations across the Isle of Man. Funding for another two stations has already been secured, thanks to a donation from local advocates, Corlett Bolton, and support from Manx Birdlife, and the search is underway for suitable sites across the Island.

Aron Sapsford, MWT’s Calf Ornithological Warden, said: “having an Motus tower at the Calf of Man Bird Observatory is an incredibly exciting development that will allow us to undertake innovative research to help understand some of the many mysteries of bird migration. Working as part of a collaborative network we will be able to use automated radio telemetry to track Manx wildlife, not only across our Island but within the wider context of the Irish Sea and beyond. We are extremely grateful to the Curraghs Wildlife Park Conservation Fund for funding this first station and I am really excited at the potential to now expand the Manx Motus project to establish an array of stations that will provide coverage across the whole of the Isle of Man”.