Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Marine Sciences learners at South Africa’s Protea Heights Academy celebrated the first World Albatross Day with individual creativity

PH Kara and Angelique 1

Masked and socially distanced.  Protea Heights Academy Learners Kara Robberts and Angelique Beck with their ACAP World Albatross Day poster prizes depicting Tristan Albatrosses

Back in March the ACAP Information Officer met with an old sub-Antarctic island colleague, Mariëtte Wheeler, to discuss plans to get school learners involved in marking World Albatross Day in South Africa.  Mariëtte gained her PhD at sub-Antarctic Marion Island studying the effects of human disturbance on its breeding seabirds, including albatrosses, and seals.  She is now the Life Sciences Educator at Protea Heights Academy - a Maths, Science and Technology senior school within the greater Cape Town area.  The academy is one of only six nodal schools in the Western Cape to have commenced teaching marine science as a subject in 2020, initiated by and with the collaboration of Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium; Mariëtte is the subject head.

Mariette Wheeler JC

Back to school before COVID-19!  ACAP’s Information Officer meets with Mariëtte Wheeler in her Life Sciences classroom at Protea Heights Academy

Photograph by Grade 12 learner Koketso Maruma

Unfortunately closure of all South African schools as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic brought their plans to get the almost 900 learners of the school involved with ‘WAD2021’ with lectures and demonstrations in the school hall to a halt.

Mariëtte was inspired by the Great Albicake Bake Off and Colouring-in competitions held by ACAP to help raise awareness of the need for albatross conservation. Because she was still teaching her classes online throughout lockdown, she decided to make her learners more aware of the need for conserving albatrosses through a creative class competition.  Learners were asked to bake, draw, paint or make something creative “as long as there was at least one albatross included”.  The 17 participating learners used what they had available at their homes and submitted images and photographs of their creativity online.  Marienne de Villiers (CapeNature and Mariette’s PhD promoter) and Ria Olivier (Antarctic Legacy of South Africa) along with the ACAP Information Officer acted as independent judges of the creations.  The learners were also asked to vote for their favourites.  Prizes were then awarded in each category.  ACAP sponsored World Albatross Day posters for the winners and the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa sponsored a book on the natural history of Gough Island for each learner who entered and a colour A5-print of the learner’s image.  In addition, Mariëtte printed certificates of participation for each learner.

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Some of the marine science learners from Protea Heights Academy with their artworks

PH Albatross Creative Class Competition Winners 2

Albatross Creative Class Competition winning artworks

The following were the winners in each category:

Crafts – Aaisha Ismail; Computer drawing – Antonio Burger; Class vote – Aviwe Hali; Pencil/colour-in drawing (two winners as the category with the most entries) – Kayla Labuschagne  & Kara Robberts; Baking – Penelope Mvinjelwa; Painting – Angelique Beck.

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Angelique Beck with her winning painting and a WAD2020 poster of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses on Gough Island, photographed and designed by Michelle Risi

PH Kara Robberts

Kara Robberts with her winning drawing next to a WAD2020 poster by Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature artist, Annie Shoemaker-Magdaleno

Mariëtte Wheeler, Protea Heights Academy, Cape Town, South Africa, 30 July 2020

Three Laysan Albatross chicks fledge from the new colony at Kahuku Point/Kalaeokaunaʻoa on Hawaii’s island of Oahu

2020 Hiʻipoi Plentovich 

Hiʻipoi with a parent

Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis are in the early stages of establishing a new breeding colony at Kahuku Point/Kalaeokaunaʻoa on the north coast of the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu.  After years of failed breeding attempts three chicks fledged from six eggs laid in the 2018/19 season, a success attributed to control of introduced mammalian predators and community outreach.  In the current 2019/20 season the breeding population increased to nine pairs, all which laid eggs.  Of these, five pairs abandoned their eggs, perhaps as a result of being disturbed.  One of these was a female-female pair which presumably laid infertile egg(s).  Of the remaining four eggs, one chick died while hatching and three hatched successfully.

The colony is looked after by the North Shore Community Land Trust with help from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pacific Islands Coastal Program.  The Trust has recently announced via its Facebook page that the three chicks all fledged this month. Before their departure the chicks were both metal and colour banded.  Children at the North Shore’s Hauʻula Elementary School have named the three fledglings Hiʻipoi ("to cherish and protect"), Kailani ("heavenly sea") and Pākaha ("Curious").

2020 Kailani Sheldon Plentovich


2020 Pākaha Sheldon Plentovich

Pākaha, photographs by Sheldon Plentovich

Read more about the Laysan Albatrosses at Kahuku Point/Kalaeokaunaʻoa here.

The North Shore Community Land Trust is a supporter of World Albatross Day.  With thanks to the Trust's Alice Terry and Sheldon Plentovich of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pacific Islands Coastal Program for information and use of photographs..

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 July 2020, updated 31 July 2020

Collaboration for Conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater – a webinar

LIFE Arcipelago Garnija

“A webinar on seabird conservation in the Mediterranean, with a special focus on the Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, was held on 9 and 10 July 2020 by the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija (LIFE14 NAT/MT/991) project.  This project closing webinar "Collaboration for the Conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater" was organised by the project partners BirdLife Malta, Transport Malta and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  It was a key opportunity to share the results of the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project as well as discuss the recent conservation issues and approaches to set the way forward for international collaborations in protecting our common seabird heritage in the Mediterranean.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, this webinar replaced the project-closing conference which was planned for the end of the project.  The two-day webinar was held on Zoom.  The webinar opened on Thursday 9 July with a keynote speech on the history of seabird conservation in Malta and challenges for seabird conservation in the Mediterranean and continued with the presentation of the project’s key results.  The presentations were followed by a session on knowledge-sharing and gap analysis for the entire Mediterranean region, identifying the actions needed to be taken to implement the international conservation action plan of the species.  On Friday 10 July, the second day of the webinar, online workshops on light pollution and current technologies to monitor seabird populations were held.”

Taken from LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija's Facebook page.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 July 2020

The judges have decided: overall and category winners in the Great Albicake Bake Off for World Albatross Day

Royal Albatross Centre 3 metre Cake Chris McCormack 

Overall Co-winner: ‘Three-metre Northern Royal Albatross Cake’ by the Royal Albatross Centre

A total of 72 entries was received for the Great Albicake Bake Off in aid of celebrating World Albatross Day last month.  Following the announcement last week of the five most-liked cakes by ACAP’s Facebook followers, here follow the five category and overall winners and runners up as decided by three independent judges.

Adam Naylor 2 

Winner, Best Presentation theme: ‘Gough in Miniature’ by Adam Naylor

Adam Naylor writes: “Adult Tristan Albatrosses [are] displaying on the summit of a chocolate sponge Gough Island.  On the cliffs below invasive mice and Sagina plants run rampant, showing the threats to this incredible place and the importance of restarting the Gough Island Restoration Programme.”

Runners Up: 2nd - Jean Purdon (Grey-headed Albatross Chick); equal 3rd - Amy King (‘Gough Island Restoration Cake’), Sheryl Hamilton & Al Wiltshire (‘Albatross Wedding Cakes from 1998’) & Michelle Risi (‘Sooty Vanillatross’).

Steffen Oppel 

Winner, Most Creative theme:  ‘Fruity Albatross Diomedea bananarama’ by Steffen Oppel

Steffen describes his cake: “The most sought-after albatross of any researcher who has spent a long time on remote albatross islands where there is no fresh fruit - ever.  Ingredients: banana, pear, peach, cherries, on a layer of fresh coconut sponge.”

Runners Up:  Equal 2nd - Liz Morgan (‘Grey heads amongst the Tussock’) & Nini van der Merwe (‘Gough Island Restoration Programme: Fingers Crossed for 2021!’).

 Steffen Oppel

Winner, Morphological Accuracy theme:  ‘Gough in Miniature’ by Adam Naylor

See description above.  Adam is a Veterinary Surgeon with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and is a team member of the Gough Island Restoration Programme.

Runner’s Up:  2nd - Melanie Wells (‘Light mantled Albatross’), equal 3rd - Coco & Tracey Faber (‘Sneezy and Snorky ‘), Sara Larcombe (‘Big Macca’) & Joe Naylor (aged 10, ‘Petey the Albatross’).

 Amy King 1

Winner, Eradicating Island Pests theme:  ‘Gough Island Restoration Cake’ by Amy King

Amy King (a team member this year of the Gough Island Restoration Programme) writes; “I’ve done an eradication theme cake, for Gough Island.  Hopefully having started the project this season, we get to go back out next year! Fingers crossed!  The cake has attempted to portray all three species of albatrosses breeding on the island, with a sooty chick (my favourites!), a helicopter ready to fly, and some of the mice and Sagina that are invasive.  “It was a rainbow sponge, but the colours didn’t come out so I haven’t cut it for a photo as my sister is having it tomorrow as a birthday cake!”

Runners Up:  2nd - Nini van der Merwe (“Gough Island Restoration Programme: Fingers Crossed for 2021!); 3rd - Janine Schoombie & Karen Versteegh (‘Grey-headed Albatross Ridge, Marion Island’).

Araks Onyhan Wisdom the Albatross 

Winner, Rainbow Theme:  ‘Wisdom the Albatross Cake’ by Araks Ohanyan

Araks Ohanyan’s ‘Wisdom the Albatross Cake’ wins this theme in honour of COVID-19 care givers and essential workers.  She writes: “My cake depicts Wisdom the albatross on a nest at Midway Atoll.  The cake is chocolate, and Wisdom herself is made from sculpted rice crispies and covered in fondant.  The decorations and the egg are made from fondant as well. 

I chose Wisdom as my subject because I think she's an amazing bird that has made a great contribution to the conservation of her species and brought some much-needed attention to the plight of albatrosses worldwide.”

Runners Up:  2nd - Christina Hagen (‘Laysan Rainbow Egg’); 3rd - Meagin van der Westhuizen (‘The Circle of Life Albicake’).

Adams Naylor Sooty chick Gough Island

Adam Naylor, Overall Co-winner, with a friend on Gough Island

Overall Winners:  ‘Gough in Miniature’ by Adam Naylor and ‘Three-metre Northern Royal Albatross Cake’ by the Royal Albatross Centre

The overall winners (both depicted above) are ‘Gough in Miniature’ by Adam Naylor and the life-sized ‘Three-metre Northern Royal Albatross Cake’, sent in by Chris McCormack, Operations Manager and baked by the team at the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura, New Zealand, the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Endangered Northern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea sanfordi.

Runner Up:  3rd - Amy King (‘Gough Island Restoration Cake’).

The runners up and all the other cakes may be viewed in an album on ACAP’s Facebook page.  The winners will receive World Albatross Day posters suitable for framing.

With thanks to judges Cleo Cunningham, Tatiana Neves and Keith Springer, competition organizers Melanie Wells and Michelle Risi and all the entrants who baked so many splendid cakes on behalf of albatross conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 July 2020

Sex-specific foraging behaviour in Scopoli’s Shearwaters

Scopolis Searwater John Borg 

Scopoli’s Shearwater at sea, photograph by John Borg

Federico De Pascalisa (Dipartimento di Scienze e Politiche Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy) and colleagues have published in the journal Animal Behaviour on GPS-tracking of chick-rearing Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Flexibility in foraging behaviour is a key individual trait, promoting adaptive responses to changing environmental conditions. Such flexibility can be especially pronounced in marine predators that forage in highly dynamic environments and pursue ephemeral and patchily distributed prey. Individual characteristics, social interactions and resource availability may all promote behavioural flexibility, which in turn may foster divergence in foraging tactics within populations. The adoption of specific foraging tactics by individuals from the same population could be driven by a complex mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We GPS-tracked chick-rearing parents of a sexually size dimorphic, avian, marine top predator, the Scopoli’s shearwater, Calonectris diomedea, across multiple foraging trips to investigate (1) intraindividual variation in foraging behaviour and (2) the effect of sex and wind conditions on the adoption of specific foraging tactics. Based on cluster analysis applied to GPS-derived behavioural patterns at the foraging trip scale, we identified variation in foraging trips, from fine- to coarse-scale foraging (FF and CF, respectively). FF trips were characterized by lower flight activity, shorter travel distances and more intensive prey-searching behaviour compared to CF trips. Individuals did not consistently perform FF or CF trips. Males were more prone to perform FF trips than females, but both sexes shifted towards CF trips with increasing wind intensity, probably to exploit the energetic advantages of dynamic soaring. We conclude that sex-specific foraging tactics reflect the interplay between sex-specific energetic optima, originating from differences in morphology and a reduction in the niche overlap between the sexes. By adopting flexible, sex-specific foraging tactics, shearwaters probably optimize their energy expenditure during the energy-demanding chick-rearing stage. Our study outlines the importance of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors in shaping interindividual variability in foraging behaviour.”


De Pascalisa, F., Imperio, S., Benvenuti, A., Catoni, C., Rubolini, D. & Cecere, J.G. 2020.  Sex-specific foraging behaviour is affected by wind conditions in a sexually size dimorphic seabird.  Animal Behaviour 166 207-218.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 July 2020