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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Masters student Jennifer Urmston produces a story map for the Wedge-tailed Shearwater on the Hawaiian island of Oahu

Jennifer Urmston

Jennifer Urmston in the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve on Oahu

Jennifer Urmston is currently a Masters student in marine science in David Hyrenbach’s Pelagicos Lab at the Hawai'i Pacific University on the island of Oahu.  Her thesis research examines fallout of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (WTSH) or ‘Ua‘u kani Ardenna pacifica after a change in highway lighting in south-east Oahu.  She plans to defend her thesis next month.

Jennifer was also a Directorate Fellow with the US Fish and Wildlife Service during the northern summer this year, when she worked on a project to document Wedge-tailed Shearwater colonies on Oahu.  She writes: “the ‘Ua‘u kani is one of the most abundant seabird species on the Hawaiian Islands.  Conservation measures including pest control, habitat restoration, and artificial nesting habitat have increased ‘Ua‘u kani populations at some well-managed colonies by up to 400%.  However, the urbanization of the islands poses a number of threats to these birds.”

Wedge tailed Shearwater habitat Jennifer Urmston 

A Wedge-tailed Shearwater flies over roped-off breeding habitat on Popoia Island, a State of Hawaii Division of Forestry & Wildlife Seabird Sanctuary off the east coast of Oahu

By collaborating with partners who monitor the island’s colonies, Jennifer updated the colony atlas for WTSH on Oahu with the most recent population counts and colony information.  She also created an ArcGIS web map to display the colonies and data layers of conservation concern.  The story map provides background on Oahu’s Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and introduces the interactive web map.  She hopes that the information about WTSH colonies in a web map can help prevent future disturbance to colonies.

 

"Blinded by the Light: Shearwater Attraction to Artificial Light along Kalanianaole Highway" – a lecture by Jennifer Urmston for the Hanauma Bay Education Program

As well being a budding marine ornithologist, Jennifer can bake a mean banana mango albicake.  She also has artistic skills, as witnessed by her collage of a Laysan Albatross constructed from marine debris.

 Kaena Point Jenn Urmston 1

“Kaena Point Cake” by Jennifer Urmston for the World Albatross Day Great Albicake Bake Off

Jenn Urmston AlbatrossCollage

Jennifer’s “Laysan Albatross – marine debris collage

With thanks to Jennifer Urmston for information and photographs.

References:

Urmston, J. 2020.  Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (‘Ua‘u kani) on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i,  Seabird Conservation on an Urbanized Tropical Island.  Story Map.

Urmston, J., Hyrenbach, K.D., Carstenn, S. & Swindle, K. 2020.  Quantifying environmental and anthropogenic drivers of Wedge-tailed Shearwater fallout on a coastal highway on east Oahu.  Pacific Seabird Group 47th Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon, 12 - 15 February 2020.  Book of Abstracts.  p. 84.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 September 2020

Cape Verde Shearwaters (and other seabirds): how are they doing on Cabo Verde?

Cape Verde Shearwater 

Cape Verde Shearwater

Gilson Semedo (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, University of Coimbra, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Bird Conservation International on the seabirds of the Cabo Verde Archipelago that are threatened by introduced predators, habitat alteration or destruction and residual human persecution.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Pelagic seabird populations have declined strongly worldwide. In the North Atlantic there was a huge reduction in seabird populations following the European colonization of the Azores, Madeira and Canary archipelagos but information on seabird status and distribution for the subtropical region of Cabo Verde is scarce, unavailable or dispersed in grey literature. We compiled and compared the historical and current distribution of all seabird species breeding in the Cabo Verde archipelago, updated their relative abundance, investigated their inland habitat preferences, and reviewed their threats.  Currently, the breeding seabird community in Cabo Verde is composed of Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, White-faced Storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina aedesorum, Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii, Cape Verde Storm-petrel Hydrobates jabejabe, Cape Verde Petrel Pterodroma feae, Boyd's Shearwater Puffinus lherminieri boydi, Brown Booby Sula leucogaster, and Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus.  One breeding species is currently extinct, the Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens.  The relative abundance of Cape Verde Shearwater, Boyd’s Shearwater, Cape Verde Petrel, and Cape Verde Storm-petrel was determined from counts of their nocturnal calls in Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, Branco, Raso and São Nicolau. Cape Verde Petrel occurred only on mountainous islands (Santo Antão, São Nicolau, Santiago, and Fogo) from mid-to high elevations. Larger species such as the Cape Verde Shearwater and Boyd’s Shearwater exhibited a wider distribution in the archipelago, occurring close to the coastline but at lower densities on populated islands. Small procellariforms such as the Cape Verde Storm-petrel occurred at high densities only on rat-free islets and in steep areas of main islands where introduced cats and rats are unlikely to occur. The main threats to seabird populations in Cabo Verde range from predation by introduced predators, habitat alteration or destruction, and some residual human persecution.”

Reference:

Semedo, G., Paiva, V.H., Militão, T., Rodrigues, I., Dinis, H.A., Pereira, J., Matos, D., Ceia, F.R., Almeida, N.M., Geraldes, P., Saldanha, S., Barbosa, N., Hernández-Montero, M., Fernandes, C., González-Sólis, J. & Ramos, J.A. 2020.  Distribution, abundance, and on-land threats to Cabo Verde seabirds.  Bird Conservation International  doi.org/10.1017/S0959270920000428.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 September 2020

Shore-based citizen science projects help define migration of ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwaters


Balearic PLOS One Citizen Science

 Spatial distribution of observations of Balearic Shearwaters. a) pre-breeding migration; b) post-breeding migration; Orange: breeding range, blue: non-breeding distribution

Beatriz Martín (Fundacio´n Migres, CIMA, Tarifa, Spain) and colleagues have published open access in the online journal PLoS ONE on studying migrating Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus from data gathered by citizen science projects.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Pelagic seabirds are elusive species which are difficult to observe, thus determining their spatial distribution during the migration period is a difficult task.  Here we undertook the first long-term study on the distribution of migrating shearwaters from data gathered within the framework of citizen science projects.  Specifically, we collected daily abundance (only abundance given presence) of Balearic shearwaters from 2005 to 2017 from the online databases Trektellen and eBird.  We applied machine-learning techniques, specifically Random Forest regression models, to predict shearwater abundance during migration using 15 environmental predictors.  We built separated models for pre-breeding and post-breeding migration.  When evaluated for the total data sample, the models explained more than 52% of the variation in shearwater abundance.  The models also showed good ability to predict shearwater distributions for both migration periods (correlation between observed and predicted abundance was about 70%).  However, relative variable importance and variation among the models built with different training data subsamples differed between migration periods.  Our results showed that data gathered in citizen science initiatives together with recently available high-resolution satellite imagery, can be successfully applied to describe the migratory spatio-temporal patterns of seabird species accurately.  We show that a predictive modelling approach may offer a powerful and cost-effective tool for the long-term monitoring of the migratory patterns in sensitive marine species, as well as to identify at sea areas relevant for their protection.  Modelling approaches can also be essential tools to detect the impacts of climate and other global changes in this and other species within the range of the training data.”

Balearic Shearwater at sea

Balearic Shearwater at sea

Reference:

Martín, B., Onrubia, A., González-Arias, J. & Vicente-Vírseda, J.A. 2020.  Citizen science for predicting spatio-temporal patterns in seabird abundance during migration.  PLoS ONE  15(8).  doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236631.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 September 2020

Next year’s annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group will be a virtual one

PSG meeting 2021 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are extending into 2021 - the Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) will be holding its 48th Annual Meeting next year ‘virtually’ online over 23-27 February for the first time after 47 meetings stretching back to 1974.

Scientific Program Chair Roberta Swift [Wildlife Biologist, Seabirds, US Fish & Wildlife Service] is working up another stellar scientific program, with worldwide representation of seabird research innovations, failures, surprises, and challenges across more than 20 countries.  Take flight with over 300 colleagues as we share our diverse voices and experiences in the study and conservation of Pacific seabirds.  The virtual format provides an exciting opportunity to welcome colleagues who may have been restricted by time and travel costs associated with in-person meetings.  We hope you will extend a wing around new colleagues and friends in the PSG flock.”

The PSG is a society of professional seabird researchers and managers dedicated to the study and conservation of seabirds.  It was formed in 1972 out of a need for increased communication among academic and government seabird researchers.  The group is now accepting proposals for Symposia, Special Paper Sessions, Workshops and Plenary Speakers centred on the theme “Apart Together for Seabirds”.

For more information or to submit a proposal by 18 September click here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 August 2020

A Wandering Albatross pair graces the wedding cake of two ornithologists

Alistair Ros Wedding 

Bride and groom cut the cake

Earlier this month Alastair Wilson and Ros Green were married on a farm in North Shropshire, UK.  The COVID-19 pandemic meant that only 20 immediate family members could attend; however, the ceremony was live streamed on Facebook for friends and family to watch.  Ros is a Research Ecologist with the Wetland and Marine Research Team at the British Trust for Ornithology and Alastair is an Environment Officer with Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru / Natural Resources Wales.

Previously Alastair spent two tours as a Zoological Field Assistant for the British Antarctic Survey at King Edward Point and on Bird Island in the South Atlantic where he worked with seals, penguins and petrels (and helped monitor albatrosses).  The couple met on Skomer Island off the coast of Wales in 2014 when they were both contract researchers monitoring the island’s Manx Shearwaters, European Storm Petrels and other seabirds.

Not really surprising then that their wedding cake features a pair of Wandering Albatrosses (that breed on Bird Island) displaying on Skomer.  Careful observers will spot the correctly coloured leg bands and the female’s veil!  The cake is also adorned with Black-legged Kittiwakes and a Razorbill, both Skomer breeders.  It was made by Alastair’s sister, Beverley Hopkins, who is a veterinary pathologist.  She tells ACAP Latest News that cake baking is only a hobby.

Skomer wedding cake
A close up of the wedding cake

Alastair is the great great nephew of ornithologist Dr Edward A. Wilson, who went to the Antarctic on the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions with Captain Scott at the beginning of the last century.  To mark this connection his wedding waistcoat and tie featured the Antarctic tartan (as did the bridesmaids’ bows).  Alastair’s father and an uncle were both ornithologists, and another uncle is an Antarctic historian: “It’s in the blood as they say!”  ACAP wishes the married couple all the very best for their future life together.

See more ‘albicakes’ baked to mark the inaugural World Albatross Day here.

With thanks to Ros Green, Beverley Hopkins and Alastair Wilson.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 August 2020