April is the month that South Africa conducts the annual relief at its weather/research station on sub-Antarctic Marion Island in the Prince Edward Island Group. This year three research groups are working with ACAP-listed species.
The University of Cape Town is continuing its long-term demographic studies of Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans, Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma and Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli. New remote-sensing loggers (known as "daily diaries") are being placed on Wanderers to learn more of their activities at sea. If any can be found, loggers will also be placed on the rare (for Marion) winter-breeding Grey Petrel Procellaria cinera.
Marine & Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism will continue with their annual whole-island counts of all the ACAP-listed surface-nesting species that breed on the island, including both species of sooty albatrosses Phoebetria. In addition, satellite trackers are being placed on both sooties, continuing deployments that commenced during a summer survey conducted at the island group last December.
Rhodes Univerity has commenced a study of the diets of Sooty and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, that requires some rope work to reach their cliff nests.
All of this research is conducted under the guidance and advice of the "Relief Conservation Officer", appointed by the Prince Edward Islands Management Committee, a position which this year, as for last year, has been filled by myself.
Regular visitors to this news section of the ACAP web site will thus know that the slowing down of news items this month is due to the ACAP Information Officer getting his "annual fix" with the albatrosses of Marion.
In a few day's time I will be leaving the station on a nine-day "round-island" hike, conducting environmental audits of the eight coastal field huts but also contributing to the first-ever (for Marion Island) survey of the distribution and numbers of burrows of the White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis. This ACAP-listed species is severely affected by long-lining and it is important to establish a population base line from which future trends at the island can be assessed.
Posted by John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 April 2009, updated 21 April 2009