Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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A Stoat kills a Northern Royal Albatross chick at New Zealand’s Taiaroa Head

 Northern Royal Albatross Shary Weckwerth

A Northern Royal Albatross and its chick at Taiaroa Head, painting by Shary Page Weckwerth

An Endangered Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi chick has been killed by what most likely a non-native Stoat Mustela erminea within the albatross colony on Taiaroa Head, South Island, New Zealand  This the first such reported fatality since 1997 (click here).

Royal Albatross Centre manager Hoani Langsbury said the culprit would have climbed the fence, at the breeding colony on the Otago Peninsula.  “While the death was upsetting his team worked hard year round to keep predators out.  The Royal Albatross Centre relies heavily on traps and other predator management techniques to keep mustelid creatures like Stoats away from the birds, killing about 15 Stoats a year".

Taiaroa Head does not have a predator-exclusion fence that could keep out mustelids, as well as rodents and feral cats, as exist at some other albatross colonies.

There are 24 chicks at the colony at present, out of 36 eggs laid in the current 2019/20 breeding season.

Watch the live-streaming ‘Royal Cam’ at Taiaroa Head here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 March 2020

Mary Ingrum, mixed-media artist, creates "PLIGHT of the Albatross" for World Albatross Day

Albatrosses The Plight of the Albatross Mary B. Ingrum shrunk

‘PLIGHT of the Albatross’ by Mary Ingrum, final composition, mixed media, including trash

 For the first two months of the year ACAP has collaborated with ABUN (Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature) on its 30th Project in support of World Albatross Day that seeks to increase awareness of the conservation crisis that continues to be faced by the world’s 22 species of albatrosses.  The collaboration has been more successful than was ever expected with many artists creating exciting artwork for ACAP’s use.  One of the ABUN artists has created a compelling work out of “bits and pieces” that addresses the plight faced by albatrosses in an unnatural and polluted world.  ACAP Latest News reached out its creator, Mary Ingrum, to find out what motivates her artistically.  She has written back about herself.

“My name is Mary B. Ingrum and I am from Tennessee, USA.  My inner artist emerged around 2012 when my muse, my sister Ellyn, brought watercolours with her on a visit to Tennessee.  Now I’m hooked on watercolours, acrylics, collage, mixed media.  I love them all.  If you were to pin me down for a quote I would tell you “each of my pieces has my stink on it".  I believe that when you see my work you will know it's mine, because they are uniquely mine.

Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature adopted me in 2014.  I went to high school with Kitty Harvill, ABUN’s founder; we caught up on Facebook.  Now here we are creating together, with all our ABUN family for a cause, that of threatened species.

One of our most recent challenges and for our largest project so far was to paint the beautiful photographs of 22 species that came from ACAP.  I could only illustrate five of them, so I wanted each to have its own special touch.  I then added these five individual artworks to a single 16 x 20-inch canvas on which I had painted a backdrop of swirling shapes.  ‘PLIGHT of the Albatross’ was created with sequins, glitter, acrylics, Mod Podge craft glue, gift bag confetti, fabric scraps from a quilt I'm making, tulle, Halloween netting, cereal boxes, alcohol ink, YUPO paper and trash.

I am an artistic encourager, what I mean by this is that I like to believe that everyone has an artist inside them waiting to be tapped into, recognized and accepted.  Embracing my inner artist is what most makes my soul sing.”

With thanks to Mary Ingrum.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 March 2020

Here are the five individual art pieces along with the photographs that inspired them. Chatham Albatross and chick by Lorna Deppe; flying Northern Royal Albatross and sunset scene by Dimas Gianuca; Shy and Southern Royal Albatross on the sea by Laurie Smaglick Johnson - with thanks.

Northern Royal Albatross Dimas Gianuca Mary Bousman Ingrum

Photo 2

Albatrossn sunset Mary Bousman IngrumPhoto 5

Painting 4

Chatham Albatross Lorna Deppe

Painting 3Photo 3

Painting 1

Shy Albatross Laurie Johnson

The latest chick of Short-tailed Albatrosses George and Geraldine on Midway Atoll is growing apace

George chick 2 March 2020

"On March 2nd, George came to feed its youngster, and spent more time with it".  Photograph by J. Plissner

 The latest chick of  George and Geraldine on Midway Atoll is growing apace.  The latest news from the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA) is that the sole pair of globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus breeding on the Atoll’s Sand Island are doing well feeding their latest chick, which hatched out on 02 January, from an egg laid on 28 October.

“The two-month-old Short-tailed Albatross chick has tripled in size and is nearly the size of the nearby adult Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses”.

A remote camera has revealed that the chick is being fed by both parents, named affectionately George and Geraldine, but that the times between feeding visits vary considerably.  “Parents may alternate between long and short foraging trips to feed themselves and their youngster.  As the chick grows and is better able to protect itself from the hot, salty and windy conditions, the intervals between feeding become longer up until the time the chick can fly.”

Midway Short tail Chick BBA 2020

A Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes visits the Short-tailed Albatross chick

Access past posts about George and Geraldine here.

Midway Atoll 's other well-known albatross  pair, 69-something Wisdom and mate Akeakamai, the Laysan Albatrosses P. immutabilis, are taking a 'gap year', having not laid an egg this season (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 March 2020

New Zealand’s well-travelled World Albatross Day banner gets to the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands

Albatross banner white capped albatross Disappointment 078A2686med

Kalinka Rexer-Huber (left) and Graham Parker on misty Disappointment Island (see text)

New Zealand continues to lead on photographing World Albatross Day banners on albatross breeding islands.  Following displays on Bounty and Campbell Islands this austral summer, the intrepid team of Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber of the environmental consultancy Parker Conservation returned last month from the Auckland Islands, where they found time among their monitoring research to get their banner out on both Adams and Disappointment Islands in the group.

Kalinka and Graham have written to ACAP Latest News describing the circumstances of each banner photo they’ve taken at the Aucklands.

Albatross Banner Adams Gibsons albatross 078A2426med

“The World Albatross Day banner in the study area of the Gibson’s subspecies gibsoni of the globally Endangered Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis is being studied in turn by a chick close to fledging.  We were there for the annual visit to continue the mark-recapture study on Gibson's Albatrosses that Kath Walker and Graeme Elliott started almost 30 years ago.  We are in the Auckland Island group, on Adams Island, where the majority of the world's Gibson's breed.  The flank of Mount Dick, the tallest mountain in the New Zealand sub-Antarctic, is in the background.'

Albatross banner LMSA Adams

“Light-mantled Albatrosses Phoebetria palpebrata (Near Threatened) have a stronghold on Adams Island in the Auckland Islands.  The high southern cliffs of Adams Island, in the feature photo here, are the focus of our efforts to start understanding more of how Light-mantled Albatrosses are doing in our region."

Near Threatened White-capped Albatrosses Thalassarche steadi breed almost exclusively on Disappointment Island, a small 4-km² island off the western cliffs of the main Auckland Island.  Since 2015 we have been building a mark-recapture study to understand better the population's trajectory. The White-capped Albatross study colony is on the steep cliff-top edge of Castaways Bay, above us in the feature photo.”

And this is not to be the end of this now well-travelled WAD2020 banner!  It has recently been taken to the Three Kings Islands, breeding site of Near Threatened Buller's Albatrosses T. bulleri of the northern subspecies platei.  Soon it will be off with Paul Sagar to the Snares Islands where nominate Southern Buller’s Albatrosses breed.  ACAP Latest News will, of course, post on both these visits.

Graham and Kalinka flew into South Africa yesterday to sail for Gough Island later in the week to join the Gough Island Restoration Programme that aims to eradicate the island's House Mice later this year.  No need for to take a WAD2020 banner with them this time: Gough's been sorted already!

With thanks to Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber.  Research on Auckland Islands’ albatrosses is undertaken on behalf of the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 March 2020

Book review. North Atlantic Seabirds. Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels, by Bob Flood and Ashley Fisher

Flood Fisher Multimedia

Flood, B. & Fisher, A. 2016.  Multimedia Identification Guide to North Atlantic Seabirds. Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels.  [Isles of Scilly]: Pelagic Birds & Multimedia Identification Guides.  Illustrations by John Gale.  278 pp. + two CDs.  ISBN 978-0-9568867-2-9.  Hard cover, illustrated with paintings, photographs and maps.

A field guide and as described by the authors a “mini handbook” par excellence!  This book covers just 11 species in its 278 fact-filled and profusely illustrated pages.  At an average of 25 pages a bird this must be some sort of record for a guide.  The 11 species include five albatrosses (Atlantic Yellow-nosed, Black-browed, Grey-headed, Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed and Tristan), along with both giant petrels, the Northern or Arctic Fulmar (as two species) and the Pintado or Cape Petrel.  The geographical scope is stated to be the North Atlantic and Western Palaearctic.  Checking the accounts (and past posts on trans-equatorial albatrosses in ACAP Latest News) only three of the six albatrosses (Atlantic Yellow-nosed, Black-browed and - surprisingly to me - Tristan) have been so far recorded within the region.  The other three are included as “potential vagrant confusion species”, mainly due their presence in the South Atlantic.  The Northern Giant Petrel also falls into this category.  The single Tristan Albatross record regarded by the authors as substantiated is from Palermo, Sicily deep into the Mediterranean. As my favourite albatross and a record I’d not previously known about, I quickly turned to the 18 pages devoted to the bird to find out more.  Among the 11 large – all excellent - photos and the 19 equally excellent paintings, I read that the Palermo record is of an immature male taken in 1957 and preserved.  All the sight records (around 20) of great albatrosses Diomedea north of the Equator in the Atlantic that are covered in the book cannot with certainty be assigned to either Tristan or Wandering.  The same problem occurs with the closely related pairs of Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, and with Southern and Northern Giant Petrels.  In each case only the former of each pair has got across the Atlantic equator; the other two are in as “confusion” species.

So what do you get for your 11 species?  A lot!  Information on alternative names, population size and trends, distribution (with a map), a detailed description (size, soft parts, feather tracts in exhaustive detail, plumage succession by age, and tips for field identification on appearance and flight.  The captions for the sometimes near full-page photos are really paragraphs describing each bird depicted in detail, particularly helpful for the age classes of the Tristan Albatross.

But the book has more.  Seventeen pages in their own chapter describe the intricacies – and pitfalls - of identification and ageing, a section on “confusion pairs (why that albatross is not a gannet, with expletives deleted, is worth a second read), references, detailed acknowledgements, a list of what’s on the two DVDs and an “ID Jogger” described as “a complete bullet-point summary of essential facts” that’s nearly 40 pages long.  There’s really too much to cover in a single review.

The book is the third in a series of four, the first, Storm-petrels and Buller’s Petrel; the second, on Pterodroma Petrels, were both published in 2013 by the same two authors.  Their fourth and last, expected soon, will be on shearwaters and the White-chinned Petrel, along with an index to all four volumes.  With eight ACAP-listed albatrosses and giant petrels in the review book, and two to follow in the fourth (Balearic Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel), just under a third of the current 31 ACAP-listed species will get the Flood & Fisher treatment.  A few other species identified in the past as possible candidates for ACAP listing should also appear in the last book, notably the Yelkouan Shearwater of the Mediterranean.

Sturdily bound with stitching, so I’m not expecting loose pages anytime soon (field guides can get a hammering).  It’s a hard cover with glossy pages that do the paintings and photos service and should hopefully stand up to a little dampness.

One seeming idiosyncracy.  The publisher is UK-based.  Why then American spelling with “Gray-headed” and “program” (when not referring to a computer program)?  Just the authors’ preference or the publisher aiming for a lucrative market across the pond?

A final thought comes to mind.  In my study library I have a few valued seabird and island books that are a 100-years old or approaching that age.  Most are in good to fair condition and all are perfectly readable.  I also have stored in a cupboard three old laptops, none of which work properly – or at all - and are sadly destined to become e-waste one day.  My current laptop, like the one before it, has no built-in CD drive.  Instead I’m required to use an external drive to spin CDs.  Will some as-yet unborn marine ornithologist who comes across North Atlantic Seabirds Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels in a second-hand bookshop or university library have to hand a device that can read its two CDs?  Perhaps she might even be uncertain quite what they are?  Guess this is one reason why I like the certainty of the printed word, but then I do date back to a different millennium.

Robert Flood Wandering Albatross Grytviken shrunk

In the book!  Bob Flood with a mounted Wandering Albatross in the Grytviken Museum in the South Atlantic

The senior author tells me he is recently back from having been “at sea much of [the] last six weeks”.  More books to be expected?  A self-styled “lifetime birder” Bob Flood has written to ACAP Latest News in support of World Albatross Day come 19 June: “As a child, I dreamt of sailing the southern oceans in the company of the seemingly ever wandering giant albatrosses.  My dreams became reality and throughout my adult life I have garnered so much pleasure simply by observing the magnificent albatrosses.  Nowadays, that pleasure is tainted by a deep concern of mine that the children of today will live through the extinction of some albatross species, leaving nothing but their avian ghosts crying out in the howling winds of the stormy southern oceans.  Surely we cannot let this happen”.  Amen!

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 March 2020

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