Expertise base

Rob Wheeldon built his career in ornithology and nature conservation in the UK before coming to Ireland. Through active participation in ecological-related employment and volunteering, described in detail below, he has gained a sound skills and experience base in the environmental sector that he now brings to EcoAudit. His desire to improve his knowledge and abilities continues in order to expand his repertoire in surveys and assessments.

Previous projects include:

  • Producing an appropriate assessment on behalf of NPWS in 2011 for the Sliabh an Iarainn Red Grouse Management Project.
  • Red-throated Diver nest monitoring
  • Baseline waterbird surveys within Irish coastal Special Protection Areas 2009/10 for BWI / NPWS
  • Bird surveys for the BTO / BWI Bird Atlas.

EcoAudit  Ecological Consultancy specialising in..

Consultancy... Nature Tourism...   Photography

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Bird Atlas 2007-11

I moved to Ireland to become involved in the Bird Atlas from its beginning in November 2007. The Atlas is largely a volunteer based project in the UK and Ireland but with birdwatchers far and few between here, surveying poorly covered areas and ‘filling in the gaps’  in the abundance and distribution maps for the country was essential. Employed by Birdwatch Ireland as a professional fieldworker, I worked in a team of three, completing five four-month contracts.

In April 2010 I began working on the atlas in the capacity of EcoAudit as a contractor to BirdWatch Ireland, surveying the North West until the end of the atlas in July 2011. During the 4 years of the project I surveyed large areas of the country from Donegal to Cork and from Mayo to Meath. I surveyed a total of 1109 timed tetrad visits in 644 tetrad locations.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust - assistant warden

From 2005 - 2007, I held the post of assistant warden at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserves Holme Dunes and Cley Marshes. Working with the two respective reserve managers, I performed a variety of tasks to maintain the sand dunes and salt and freshwater marsh habitats. We carried out species protection work for breeding Little Terns, Avocets, Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers, monitoring and wardening the nests alongside beach users. Daily bird counts were made at Holme Dunes, along with monthly WeBS counts and other breeding bird surveys.

Positioned on the North Norfolk coast, the area was well placed for migrating passerines and seabirds in spring and autumn. Natterjack Toads bred at Holme Dunes, surveying for spawn. I also carried out regular butterfly transects and moth trappings, giving displays of moths to visitors. Working with the public was a key task, educating visitors and children on the habitats and species with guided walks as well as policing the sites for damaging behaviour.

Ecuador rainforest volunteer work


From January - February 2007, I volunteered In Ecuador with the national conservation organisation Jatun Sacha. Living at the biological station Bilsa in Esmeraldas province, the 3300 hectare reserve was situated in the coastal lowland tropical ‘choco’ forest, 30km from the pacific coast. I primarily assisted with hardwood replanting and management for the regeneration of primary forest habitat in affected areas. I also brought my interests in bird surveys to my activities on personal project days, examining the use of certain fruiting trees by frugivorous species and conducting a study into antbird behaviour near army ant swarms. I was also fortunate to experience the lek of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, an amazing sight.

National Trust - Farne Islands

In 2004 I joined the Farne Island seasonal wardening team from April - September. Situated on the North East coast of England in Northumberland, the Farnes are comprised of 15 - 28 small islands, depending on the tide. Of these, Inner Farne and Staple Island are both open to visitors, attracting over 45,000 a year, while the wardens live permanently on Inner Farne and Brownsman Island. With no running water or electricity grid, life is basic but is more than compensated by the sheer number or breeding seabirds surrounding you, including Arctic Terns that relentlessly attack any intruders to their nest sites.

Our tasks involved the maintenance of infrastructure such as boardwalks, receiving visitor boats at the jetties, manning the visitor centre, giving guided walks and conducting the annual breeding bird census. As an island chain in the North Sea, rare migrants are always expected and recording these ‘falls’ was an exciting if not lengthy task. Seabird passage is also excellent from the islands. In autumn, Grey Seals give birth on the islands and the population size is counted.

WWT Slimbridge - volunteer warden


I became involved in nature reserve conservation in 2003 as a volunteer with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. I worked closely with the reserve management team for 8 months and learnt many skills on working in practical conservation. The wintering Bewick’s swans and European white-fronted geese on the reserve fields were counted daily and I performed commentated wild bird feeds to visitors, using a grain filled wheelbarrow in the rushy pen.

RSPB woodland bird surveys


This was a 2 year project by the RSPB looking at declines in woodland bird populations in Great Britain, I was based in the South West of England for 3 months in 2003 in the New Forest, Forest of Dean, Somerset and Devon. Each woodland selected had been previously studied in the 1980’s. Ten locations were randomly selected to survey bird richness using point counts. The woodland understorey was also measured at each point and evidence of deer grazing was assessed.

Mexico - montane forest disturbance study


For my masters thesis in 2002 I travelled to Mexico to study a forested montane valley on the edge of Mexico City. I studied the effect of habitat disturbance on avian species richness and foraging specialisation, using the intermediate disturbance hypotheses. Working with researchers from the national university, I spent 6 weeks conducting point counts at several sites in pine, fir and oak woodland at different elevations and in varying habitat quality. Some areas had been burned while others were used for agriculture. My study revealed that species richness declined overall with increasing disturbance. The bird species also changed with habitat quality. Foliage gleaners were more abundant in least disturbed habitats while ground insectivores became predominant in more disturbed areas. Nectivorous species also appeared in the latter with the appearance of pioneer plant species that offered nectar sources under an open canopy.

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