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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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Manx Shearwaters breed successfully on a United Kingdom island freed of its rats

Following the successful eradication of Norway or Brown Rats Rattus norvegicus from the inhabited islands of St. Agnes and Gugh in the United Kingdom’s Isles of Scilly (click here) the news is in that Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus are about to fledge chicks on the two connected islands for the first time in living memory.  Although Manx shearwaters have bred on these two islands for decades, eggs and chicks were always eaten by rats while they were still in their burrows.

The latest issue (September 2014) of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project’s Rat on a Rat Update has the news:

“Yippee!  We are delighted to announce that Manx shearwater chicks have been spotted peeking out from their burrows and ‘wing-flapping’ on St Agnes and Gugh.  They are the first shearwater chicks to be recorded [outside their burrows] on either island in living memory.  Taking great care, Seabird Ecologist Dr Vickie Heaney, project volunteers and ourselves duly visited the burrows under cover of starlight on four separate evenings from August 29th to September 12th.  The result –10 healthy chicks.  Trail cameras have been set out to collect footage of the chicks’ nocturnal behaviour.”

 

Manx Shearwaters emerge from their burrows at night on the Isles of Scilly

Click here to view a video clip of one of the Manxie chicks emerging from its burrow at night.

Biosecurity activities on the islands until official confirmation of the rat eradication comes in early 2016 include discouraging and removing food sources by beach cleans, bin days and an ‘Apple Day’ when wind-fallen apples will be collected and juiced. Despite several false alarms no confirmed rat sightings (or of their droppings) have been made since the eradication exercise was completed.

The rat eradication project was undertaken from November 2013 to March 2014 using ground baiting by Elizabeth (Biz) Bell and colleagues of New Zealand’s Wildlife Management International Ltd (WMIL) (click here).

The Isles of Scilly project was recently visited by members of a team that aims to remove Black or Ship Rats R. rattus from Italy’s Tavolara Island off Sardinia to protect its large population of Yelkouan Shearwaters P. yelkouan (click here).  This Vulnerable species was identified as a potential candidate for ACAP listing last year at a meeting of ACAP's Advisory Committee (click here).

With thanks to Jaclyn Pearson, Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project Manager for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 September 2014

Work on Black-browed Albatross data from the South Atlantic: an employment opportunity in Portugal

An opportunity exists while based in Portugal to analyse data collected on Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.

“We are looking for a post-doctoral researcher to fill a 12 month position in our research group at ISPA – Instituto Universitário (Portugal) to work in a long-term research project involving black-browed albatrosses in the Falkland Islands.  The successful candidate should have very strong skills in GIS and data handling and processing, including spatial and activity data (from GLS trackers) and be able to successfully carry out advanced analyses of multiple and complex datasets in a largely autonomous way, including demographic, behavioural and oceanographic data.  Date of start pending on final approval by national (Portuguese) authorities, but likely before the end of 2014.  We are only able to consider candidates with a PhD certificate that has already been awarded.

The successful candidate will analyse existing datasets in order to relate individual quality, personality traits, diet and long-term behaviour at sea both during the breeding and non-breeding season. Fieldwork will be of limited duration or non-existent.

Closing date: 9 October 2014

Candidates should send an email with CV, references and motivation letter to Paulo Catry: Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser..”

A Black-browed Albatross breeds next to penguins on New Island, photograph by Ian Strange 

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 September 2014

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

From Hawaii to Oregon and California: two colour-banded Black-footed Albatrosses photographed at sea

A six-year old Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes bearing yellow band AJ03 was photographed at sea by Fabrice Schmitt during a pelagic birding trip out off Newport, Oregon, USA on 24 August this year.  The bird was banded as a chick on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals in the north-western Hawaiian islands on 21 May 2008.

 

Colour-banded Black-footed Albatross yellow AJ03 off Oregon, photographs by Fabrice Schmitt

Beth Flint of the US Fish & Wildlife Service while attending ACAP meetings in Uruguay earlier this month informed ACAP Latest News of another at-sea sighting whose reporting arose from on-line publicity around the Oregon record.  Vicki Miller photographed a Black-footed Albatross on 14 September this year off Fort Bragg, California.  The bird, which shows signs of moult in its wings, carried two bands, one of which was readable as yellow V254.  This record awaits checking for the site and date of banding.

Colour-banded Black-footed Albatross yellow V254 off California, photographs by Vicki Miller 

According to Beth Flint such “citizen science” observations are to be greatly welcomed as they add to knowledge of distribution at sea which ultimately aids in the species’ conservation.

Click here to obtain details on pelagic seabird-watching trips out of Oregon.

With thanks to the Friends of Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Beth Flint, Vicki Miller and Fabrice Schmitt for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 September 2014

Busy season: counting giant petrels in the Southern Ocean starts the round of summer censuses

On islands all around the Southern Ocean ornithological field researchers are starting the busy season as most of the seabird species return to breed.

Australia’s latest This week at Macquarie Island on-line newsletter reports from the southern Pacific:

“Our TASPAWS rangers, ranger in charge Chris and wildlife ranger Mike, are this week conducting a wildlife census of nesting northern giant petrels.  These giant petrels are present in considerable numbers on Macca, but like albatrosses, they are endangered on the wider front by destructive long line fishing practices.  As a partly scavenging feeder, the population was impacted to a small extent by secondary poisoning after eating the carcasses of poisoned rabbits during the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (MIPEP) three years ago, so keeping tabs on their recovering population numbers now is of considerable interest.

Station expeditioners, including supervising comms tech Scotty, field training officer Ian, and station leader Ivor, have been able to enjoy the opportunity to accompany Chris and Mike to get into some beautiful parts of the west coast and enjoy the wildlife experience.  The northern giant petrels breed on the ground in coastal tussock country and in the shelter of coastal rock stacks mostly along the beautiful west coast, and the census team have been counting the nesting birds along the coast from west beach near station, along the featherbed past Handspike Point, and down to Bauer Bay and past to Flat Creek, about one third of the way down the west coast.

The census includes counting the nesting birds and checking to confirm the presence of an egg, and checking also for a leg band on the adult bird.  These giant petrels are the first breeding birds on the island each spring, as they have a very large chick to rear to fledging before autumn, unlike the similarly sized wandering albatrosses which rear their chick through the coming winter to fledge the following year” (click here).

Northern Giant Petrel on Marion Island, photograph by Marienne de Villiers

On South Africa’s Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean field assistants have commenced a series of up to week-long round-island trips moving between eight coastal field huts with a complete census of incubating Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli the first on the agenda.

Meanwhile on Gough Island in the South Atlantic the annual relief expedition went ashore earlier this month and the annual island-wide censuses of Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena chicks and incubating Southern Giant Petrels M. giganteus are now complete.  The first egg has appeared in the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos study colony: rather early this year.

Farther south in the Atlantic on Bird Island, British Antarctic Survey personnel have been banding the over 600 Wandering Albatross D. exulans chicks, staking out Northern Giant Petrel study nests and getting ready for the return of Grey-headed T. chrysostoma and Black-browed T. melanophris Albatrosses (click here).

The French will also be busy on their sub-Antarctic islands so it is all go down south!

With thanks to Azwianewi Makhado, Richard Phillips and Peter Ryan for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 September 2014

Crossing the line: trans-equatorial migrations of the Short-tailed Shearwater shown by geolocators

Mark Carey (Department of Environmental Management and Ecology, La Trobe University,Australia) and colleagues have published “Online Early” in the journal Emu: Austral Ornithology on migration between two hemispheres of the Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus (=Ardenna) tenuirostris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Until recent decades, details of the migratory movements of seabirds remained largely unknown owing to the difficulties in following individuals at sea.  Subsequent advances in biologging technology have greatly increased our knowledge of seabird migration and distribution, particularly of highly pelagic species.  Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris) (~500 g) have been studied extensively during their breeding season but our understanding of their movements outside this period remains poor.  Here, we present the first tracks of the trans-equatorial migration of Short-tailed Shearwaters from a colony on Great Dog Island, Tasmania, Australia.  Data were obtained from global location sensors (GLS loggers or geolocators), which enable the estimation of location twice per day based on ambient light levels.  After breeding, tracked Shearwaters flew south of the Antarctic Polar Front to a previously unknown stopover site, where they remained for several weeks, before travelling rapidly northward through the western Pacific Ocean to coastal waters off Japan.  Short-tailed Shearwaters spent the bulk of the northern hemisphere summer, either in this region or further north in the Bering Sea, before returning south through the central Pacific to their breeding sites.  Our results, for the first time, describe in detail the complete migration of this long-lived seabird, reveal individual variation in timing and distribution, and describe the environmental characteristics of their key non-breeding habitats.”

With thanks to Richard Phillips for information.

 

Short-tailed Shearwater off New Zealand, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Reference:

Carey, M.J., Phillips, R.A., Silk, J.R.D. & Shaffer, S.A. 2014.  Trans-equatorial migration of Short-tailed Shearwaters revealed by geolocators.  Emu doi.org/10.1071/MU13115.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 September 2014

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