1st Iberian Symposium of Tracking Fauna (Bagà-2019)

Cartel I Simposio Ibérico de Rastreo de Fauna en Bagà

This post is the English (kind of) translation of this one.

It talks about my personal experience in the First Iberian Symposium of Tracking Fauna in 2019. Maybe is not very well-known yet, but some days after this event, the Iberian Tracking Society (SIRA- Sociedad Ibérica de Rastreo) was constituted!

So, let’s begin saying that this great event took place in Bagà (Barcelona) during the 25th, 26th and 27th of January.

Snow is so cool!

Friday 25

As a woman , I loved to see that there were lots of tracker girls.

In the morning there was an activity that wasn’t included in the Symposium but I went because it was an indoor tracking workshop!
It was organized by two well-known Spanish trackers: Luisa Abenza and Benjamín Sanz.

Luisa is an amazing tracker and has a blog named Genetta Rastreo where explains all the things that she does regarding the tracking and personal thoughts. Also she’s the author of the book Aves que dejan huella (Birds that leave tracks) that details the most common bird tracks. Also, if you love corvids, she’s your person!

Benjamín is an experienced 4×4 tracker that has the blog Muskari Rastros where you can find lots of information-pay attention to his discovers regarding the traces that can leave a wild board and also all the paw print molds that you can buy. He’s also one of the authors of the Guía de mamíferos terrestres. Península Ibérica y Baleares. It’s a guide of wild land mammals in the Iberian Peninsula (fyi: that means Spain+Portugal) and the Balearic Islands. Lots of information at your fingertips!

Benjamín Sanz explaining several methods that you can use for studying mammals.
Benjamín Sanz explaining several methods that you can use for studying mammals.

The workshop was split in two parts: one more academic and one more practical.
The academic part was the theory of what does it mean tracking animals and how to identify them and the practical part was a game structured in seven scenarios with several tracks marked in mood, feathers, skulls, fur and droppings. So the participants had to identify in each scenario what species where there.

This is the view of one of the scenarios: a table full of things to identify. Funny, huh?
This is the view of one of the scenarios: a table full of things to identify. Funny, huh?
Benjamín giving us the solutions of one of the trays
Benjamín giving us the solutions of one of the trays: griffon vulture skull (it seems that you can identify it because it has elongated nostrils -no idea!) , common genet skull (with a long snout), hedgehog dropping, stork pellet (I haven’t seen it before) and a stone marten footprint (with the two pads at the heel)

I had a great time and it was a nice way to know my colleagues for all the weekend.

In the afternoon, there was the official opening of the Symposium. I want to highlight the speech that did José Carlos de la Fuente.

He’s a great tracker, wild guide tourism in Ecowildlife and a great writer -you can find several reports in the Spanish magazine named Quercus (great publication that talks about environment, conservation, nature observation and nature defense). And apart from all these amazing things…he was the main “guilty” that I was there : “Thanks dude!” 😉

On the left, Jose Carlos and on the right Esteban San Román.
On the left, Jose Carlos and on the right Esteban San Román.

Also I want to highlight Daniel Fernández from GRENP that is the organization that did all the tough work of arranging everything (apart from the city hall and the Nature Tourism Office) I have just to say that he’s a very talented herpetologist!

After the opening, we begun directly with the first talk with José M. Galán.

He’s one of the most well-known Doñana’s National Park guides, a forest engineer, one of the coordinators and teachers of CyberTracker in Spain and a greeeat tracker!
As you can see, till now everybody is a great tracker, soooo, maybe I’m not very objective but…’cmon all they can recognize whatever you find in a path and can tell you what happened!!

José M. Galán talked about the Euroscout Project of the MITECO (that’s the Spanish Ministry of Environment) This project is included in the “Plan de Acción español contra el tráfico ilegal y el furtivismo internacional de especies silvestres” (Spanish action plan against the international illegal trade and the poaching of wild species)

The Euroscout Project by iself ,helps the rhino conservation in Africa teaching local rangers and offering them resources to attack the illegal trade of this magnificent animal in its origin.

Press release of MITECO-Euroscout project
Press release of MITECO-Euroscout project

After this talk, Benjamín Sanz presented his study about the marks that wild boars can leave on trees. You can read it here.

Spoiler alert: wild boars do more than marking teeth on wood.

This is the scenario after a wild boar bath: wood with mood on it. I took this picture in one of the courses of Benjamín ;)
This is the scenario after a wild boar bath: wood with mood on it. I took this picture in one of the courses of Benjamín 😉

Following this topic, it was the turn of Francisco José García of Grupo de Seguimiento de la Biodiversidad de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Biodiversity tracking group of the Complutenses’s University in Madrid)

He showed us how powerful is the process of tracking when you want to do any conservation project and also gave us the idea of how important is to think about a scientific design for analyzing the results.

I founded one radio station that interviewed him and he talked about the huge problem that exists currently with raccons in Madrid. Sorry is just in Spanish 😦

Francisco José García talking about raccoons in Madrid
Francisco José García talking about raccoons in Madrid

The last speaker of the day was Jordi Garcia Petit , the manager of the Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró (Cadí-Moixeró’s Natural Park) and he did a masterclass of what we could see in the park… wolf also included!

Black woodpecker : the iconic image of el Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró
Black woodpecker : the iconic image of el Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró

I realized that I’ve just visited the park a couple times before, so I received several suggestions from my colleagues for exploring it more. If you come to Bagà , you can visit the Information Office that is full of useful info.

Saturday

This new day began with Esteban San Román. He talked about how camera traps are a great tool for wildlife research whether is a general survey or is in a specific study.

He used this technology in several situations: for defeating rarities, for controlling the migration or even determinate the most active hour for a hide.

Thanks to his experience, he gave us a piece of advice of using the black light for shooting if we want a quicker answer of those de devices. Sincerely, have no idea, so I noted down just in case if someday I have to use it. Who knows?

Esteban San Roman finishing his talk with this amazing Great bustard. If you click here, you'll enjoy his work with photo tramps.
Esteban San Roman finishing his talk with this amazing Great bustard. If you click here, you’ll enjoy his work with camera traps.

After this topic, Luisa Abenza talked about one of the tough things that you can find in your field trips: bird tracks.

Luisa showing the different possible positions that ca has the hallux in a foot.
Luisa showing the different possible positions that ca has the hallux in a foot.

Following her, Manuel Sosa talked about how relevant is the tramp cam position for obtaining representative data for its analysis.

You can watch several videos of his work in the website of Victor Quero (Entre pinos y sembradosAmong pines and crop fields)

Manuel Sosa explaining how to locate the camera traps.
Manuel Sosa explaining how to locate the camera traps.
Manuel Sosa explaining how to locate the camera traps.

Following this speech, Santiago Palazón-Miñano, a fauna technician of Departament de Territori i Sostenibilidad DTES of the Generalitat de Cataluña (the Catalan Government) , explained us the tracking methods to do the surveys of bears in the Life’s Pyros Project.

The goal of this project is the reintroduction of the brown bear in the Pyrenees. Its website is in English so, it will be easier if you want to follow it up . I’m sorry to say that nowadays the alfa male named Pyros is considered deceased because the trackers don’t have any info about him since one year.

However, you can see lots of photos and videos of all the bear family. Maybe this bear-announcements will be helpful for you if contact them… bear-tricks and tips 😉

Santiago Palazón showing us which were the following methods used in the Pyros Project.
Santiago Palazón showing us which were the following methods used in the Pyros Project.

The next talk was done by Javier Vázquez (rastreo.eu) and he exposed the need of homogenize the terminology currently used by the tracker community. As an examples, he talked about the concepts of icnotype (graphic representation as a footprint detailed with the representative characters that defines it) and icnocenosis-group of different footprints present in a substrate)

I’m not a professional so I thought that there were more consensus about that…but…, it was funny when Javier asked to the assistants what a posterior pad was and there were more than one answer! OMG!

José Carlos hosting the Javier Vázquez's proposal to avoid misunderstanding about tracking nomenclature.
José Carlos hosting the Javier Vázquez’s proposal to avoid misunderstanding about tracking nomenclature.

After Javier, Eloïsa Matheu (Alosa Sonora) added the auditory part of the tracking concept.

She’s one of the most well known biologist that works in recording soundscape here in Spain.

This part of the tracking isn’t unusual if you think about whales seguimientos with eco records within a family between calfs and adults. But if you think about bird and amphibian records, there no much history but she’s working on it!

Eloïsa Matheu sharing her study in the Natural Reserve of Serra de Collserola in Barcelona. This study has been done since 30 years (WOW!) and shows the changes that she has recorded regarding the birds using this acoustic rastreo method.
Eloïsa Matheu sharing her study in the Natural Reserve of Serra de Collserola in Barcelona. This study has been done since 30 years (WOW!) and shows the changes that she has recorded regarding the birds using this acoustic tracking method.

She talked about the PAM (passive acoustic monitoring) that can record the soundscape automatically during hours. I found this article if this topic interests you.

In this slide, she showed two devices with two different prices and philosophies: one from the Wildlife Acoustics and one from the AudioMoth.
In this slide, she showed two devices with two different prices and philosophies: one from the Wildlife Acoustics and one from the AudioMoth.
That's how the Bioacustic index (BIO) is represented to characterized the soundscape.
That’s how the Bioacustic index (BIO) is represented to characterized the soundscape.

The following presentation was JM Galán. He came back to the scenario with a very subtile comment “Someone can dim the lights?” and then he teleported us to an ancient cave just to make us think about the origin of the symbolic thought. Cool!

JM Galán...to the right ;)
JM Galán...to the right 😉

Got back in the s. XXI, we went to the exposition room to hear the presentations of the posters of some colleagues:

POSTER 1. Diet analysis of the little owl with pellet analysis in Morocco.
POSTER 1: Diet analysis of the little owl using pellet analysis in Morocco. It was hosted by Cristian Luque (an incredible guy that can identify whatever you want and forms part of the Natural History Centre of la Conca de Barberà CHNCB) and Àlex Torres (another great guy that works in Biomas that organizes amazing stages in Africa and more-check the website for further info for the incoming events) Click on the picture to enlarge it.
POSTER 2. Josep García explained the amazing trip that did one Iberian linx named Litio from the south of Spain till Catalonia. Almost nothing! He's working in the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP ) inside the SULI group in IUCN organization and also in the Educational Department of the Barcelona's zoo.
POSTER 2. Josep García explained the amazing trip that did one Iberian linx named Litio from the south of Spain till Catalonia. Almost nothing! He’s working in the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP ) inside theSULI group in IUCN organization and also in the Educational Department of the Barcelona’s zoo.
POSTER 3. Roberto Saez showed us how thanks to the tracking of footprints, droppings and tramp photo
POSTER 3. Roberto Saez showed us how thanks to the tracking of footprints, droppings and tramp photo, he has been able to determine that there is European wildcat in the south-east of the Iberian península…and maybe a hybrid one! Click the photo to enlarge the poster.
POSTER 4. Cheat sheet to differentiate the European mink and the European polecat.
POSTER 4. Blowing mind with this poster! This is a huge cheat sheet of Guillermo Carmona to know how to differentiate the European mink and the European polecat. Click the photo to enlarge de poster.
POSTER 5. Àlex Torres showed us how useful is the photo tramp as a didactic tool for species identification in Kenia
POSTER 5. Àlex Torres showed us how useful is the photo tramp as a didactic tool for species identification in Kenia (Biomas, UB, Dept. de la Generalitat, Asociación Fotografía y Biodiversidad) Click in the photo to enlarge and see bigger the white spot of the flash in the poster! LoL

After all the expositions, we came back to the auditorium to listen to Iván Salgado (MNCN-CSIC) He explained that the use of marmoline is useful to calculate the usability of the fauna paths for the animals. In this case, he talked about the usability of the high speed train railway by the animals.

The thing that it liked me the most was that Ivan designed maps very detailed so he knew who/when/where an individual pass throw this lineal structure that is a railway. I realized that it was a very cheap and feasible method soooo, what are the administrations waiting for doing it ?

Iván Salgado showing how f..cked is the fauna when there's no wildlife crossings.
Iván Salgado showing how f..cked is the fauna when there’s no wildlife crossings.

After this talk, Ángel Javier España (Libro Carnívoros ibéricos de Castilla y León y 10 Áreas Naturales para descubrirlos ) insisted on how important is to be a good tracker for a correct animal identification.

For illustrating this, he took the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) as an example. A great example, btw!

Meanwhile Ángel Javier was talking about the wolf I was thinking
Meanwhile Ángel Javier was talking about the wolf I was thinking “How great it must be tracking this animal!”

He talked about several concepts and the truth is that it’s a huge work trying to standardize the nomenclature in this field (as did Javier Vázquez explained in a talk before)

In this case, he defined:

  • The integration of all traces as the union of different tracks and signs to ensure the identification of the animal. Of course, if you want a 100% reliable you can earn some money and take the samples and then do a DNA analyse 😉
  • The changeability of the traces due to atmospheric agent. For example, you can wrongly determined that one dropping is as an “old dropping” when in fact it’s a “recent dropping” because you found it on a hot day.
  • The connection of several traces can reinforce the behaviour that one animal can have, e.g. a wolf urines and scratches the ground to increase its presence against any competitor.

My personal experience: a “fresh dropping” in summer /in Spain/ is like a chocolate doughnut: crunchy outside and soft inside. This is what my dearests muses Judit and Marta told me years ago when they introduce me in this marvelous world of tracking!

After this talking about an animal typically Iberian we jumped to…Colombia!

José Fernando Navarro went up to the scenario and he gained my attention in just 30 sg! (Rastreo Colombia,Grupo de Investigación Medio Ambiente y Sociedad de la Universidad de Anioquia en Colombia, Manual de huellas de algunos mamíferos terrestres en Colombia)

He talked about the uses of the applied geometric morphometry when you’re tracking sp like the amazing jaguar. This method consisted of establishing linear paths with footprints stations to obtain the footprints of the animal. This system could be a cheap way to complement other methodologies as the photo tramp, that are usually more expensive.

I’m afraid I don’t know the exact number of jaguars, but I find this …so their population is not good.

Fernando shows a “little footprint” of a jaguar and shows some fur details of two individuals captured by photo tramp.
Fernando shows a “little footprint” of a jaguar and shows some fur details of two individuals captured by photo tramp.
Setting a linear path in the middle of the jungle it’s a tough thing, but thinking about how to build the footprint station and how to collect the mould ...that’s another league guys!
Setting a linear path in the middle of the jungle it’s a tough thing, but thinking about how to build the footprint station and how to collect the mould …that’s another league guys!

After José Fernando, it was the turn of José Carlos!

This talk was the last one, so he closed the Symposium with a masterclass of the different patterns of movements than a quadruped land mammal can do. He showed the gaits continuous (as the walk and the trot) and discontinuous (as the gallop)

José Carlos explained those gaits with several pictures as examples and in each one he was indicating where were the forefeet and hind feet.
José Carlos explained those gaits with several pictures as examples and in each one he was indicating where were the forefeet and hind feet.

It made me reflect on how important is to know how an animal moves. So, if you track one animal and you realize that there’s anything “different” in its pattern, you can theorize that it has stopped for smelling a predator, or detecting food …whatever!

Just for finishing the event, I want to show you how the outdoor was and also my first footprint of a squirrel!!

Rastreadores a rastrear!
Trackers tracking!
The auditorium.
The auditorium.
Squirrel in the snow.
Squirrel in the snow.

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