April Meeting

Wed 14 April 2021 07:30pm

Martin Gascoigne - Birds in Rosalie Gascoigne’s art
James Nicholls - DNA-based diet analysis of Blue Tits and the impacts of garden bird feeding.

The short presentation will be by COG member Martin Gascoigne on “Birds in Rosalie Gascoigne’s art”.

Rosalie Gascoigne was a Canberra-based assemblage artist who made works of art from materials she found, natural and manmade. She practiced between 1974 and 1999. Birds were the subject of many of her works and feathers were a key component in some her most memorable creations.  By the time she died in 1999 she was represented, many times over, in all major galleries in Australia and New Zealand as well as the Metropolitan Museum in New York and, more recently, the Tate London.  Two of her major pieces are currently display in the NGA.

The main speaker will be Dr James Nicholls from the Australian National Insect Collection CSIRO and is entitled “DNA-based diet analysis of Blue Tits and the impacts of garden bird feeding.”

Determining the diet of wild birds can be very difficult, but DNA-based analysis of faecal samples provides a relatively simple and non-destructive means of obtaining diet information at a fine taxonomic scale. James will talk about a study he was involved in that examined how the diet of Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) in Scotland changed over a 220km transect and through the breeding season.  He will provide a brief beginner’s guide to DNA analysis of faeces, then explore one of the more interesting aspects of the birds’ diet, namely the use of supplementary foods provided at garden bird feeders. They found that the use of garden feeders was widespread, even in the most remote rural parts of the transect.  Feeder usage also impacted breeding behaviour of Blue Tits, and preliminary analyses of long-term datasets of UK woodland birds show those species using feeders have growing population trends. This suggests that the impacts of supplementary feeding are larger and are more spatially extensive than previously appreciated and could be disrupting the natural interactions among species.

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