Good British seabird news


This video from Britain says about itself:

7 June 2012

A documentary about Lundy Island. A place of peace and tranquillity, where a wealth of wildlife and stunning scenery attracts vistors from all around the world all year round……But with plans for a new offshore wind farm, named the Atlantic Array, the unique wildlife of Lundy could be in jeopardy.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lundy bird populations soar after rats eradicated

Findings will give encouragement to a similar project due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly

Steven Morris

Tuesday 30 July 2013

A project to eradicate rats from a rocky island off Devon has resulted in a tenfold increase in the population of an endangered burrowing seabird that nests there, conservationists have revealed.

Wildlife charities are delighted that the removal of rats from Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, has apparently led to a dramatic boost to the number of Manx shearwaters and other birds on the island.

A similar project costing £750,000 is due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly, St Agnes and Gugh, to wipe out the descendants of brown rats that swam to shore from shipwrecks.

Survey teams from the RSPB who returned to Lundy 10 years after the launch of the seabird recovery project found that the number of breeding pairs of Manx shearwaters had leapt from 300 to 3,000. Puffin numbers had increased from just five birds to 80, while razorbills and shags had also made substantial gains.

Helen Booker, RSPB senior conservation officer in the south-west of England, said: “This is such an exciting result, better than we expected, and the rate of increase is an indication of just how important rat-free islands like Lundy are as breeding site for seabirds.”

David Bullock, head of nature conservation for the National Trust, which owns Lundy, said “Once the rats had gone from Lundy, the number of pairs of shearwaters went from hundreds to thousands in matter of a few years.”

He said such a rapid recovery must have been aided by birds from other colonies, probably including those on islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, settling to breed on Lundy.

The results will provide encouragement for a similar project on St Agnes and Gugh, 28 miles off the south-west tip of mainland Britain. Here an estimated 3,100 brown rats are blamed for preying on Scilly shearwaters as well as storm petrels, terns and the Scilly shrew, a rodent found only on the archipelago.

From this autumn, poison bait will be laid for the rats as part of a 25-year Isles of Scilly seabird recovery project, which is being run with cash from the National Lottery, the EU’s Life fund and other sources.

It follows a 25% fall in bird numbers in recent years. The project is deemed feasible because the islands are surrounded by deep water, and so it is thought unlikely once the rats there are removed that others will be able to repopulate it.

It is deemed particularly important because St Agnes and Gugh are close to the uninhabited island of Annet, which has significant colonies of seabirds.

Jaclyn Pearson, project manager for the Isles of Scilly recovery project, said it had the backing of the 75 residents of St Agnes, though some of the children had taken some convincing.

She said the bait stations were designed to be accessible only to rats, and a stock of the antidote had been ferried across in case a cat or dog got to the poison.

See also here.

The world’s biggest rat-killing campaign underway on South Georgia Island: here.

Good black-browed albatross news


This video, recorded on South Georgia, is called Black-browed albatross chicks.

From BirdLife:

Black-browed Albatross shows population increase

Tue, July 24, 2012

A new report indicates a healthy increase in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). The report, submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government, indicated that recent and historical survey results show an increase in this threatened species.

Black-browed Albatross is currently classified as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Over two-thirds of the global population breed in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species.

Within the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) different methods have been used independently to census the Black-browed Albatross population. Ian, and more recently, Georgina Strange have conducted aerial photographic surveys of colonies in the Falkland Islands since 1964, with archipelago-wide surveys in 1986, 2005 and 2010. Members of Falklands Conservation have carried out ground and boat-based surveys of the Falklands population in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Up until and including the 2005 census results, these initiatives reported contrasting population trends. The aerial based surveys indicated an increase in the population between the mid 1980s and 2005 and the ground based surveys a decline between 1995 and 2005.

However, the aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 both reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. The positive trends from both of these surveys is further supported by favourable survival and breeding data from an ongoing study carried out by scientists at New Island (one of the twelve breeding sites in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season. The breeding population estimate obtained from the 2010 ground-based survey was larger than the estimate for 2000. Furthermore, the 2010 ground-based estimates for the two largest colonies in the Falklands (at Steeple Jason and Beauchêne islands) were similar to those derived from surveys carried out in the 1980s.
Dr Cleo Small from RSPB/BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme said: “When 17 out of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go – with the UK Overseas Territories other major population on South Georgia continuing to decline. But this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses. Bycatch in fisheries is their main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.”

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) officer for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and author of the report said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird bycatch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.” On the basis of the reported results, and the fact that the Falklands population comprises approximately 70% of the global total, the report recommends that consideration should be given to downlisting the species from Endangered. The report has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process. The report also recommends that efforts to further improve seabird bycatch mitigation should continue, both to buffer the local population against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species.

South Georgia to become rat-free


This video is called Wildlife at Bird Island, South Georgia.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Scientists prepare for mass rat cull on remote UK island

Eradication programme aims to save millions of seabirds from invasive rats on South Georgia

Lewis Smith

Thursday 24 February 2011 14.57 GMT

Testing for the biggest rat eradication programme in history is beginning on a remote UK island in the south Atlantic.

Scientists are preparing to drop poison in a limited area of South Georgia in a bid to save the world’s most southern songbird from extinction and restore tens of millions of seabirds to the island’s breeding grounds.

Millions of bird-eating and egg-eating rats are estimated to be living on the island, which Captain James Cook claimed for Britain in 1775. The clearance project is intended to kill all of them within five years.

Two helicopters have been transported to South Georgia to take part in the extermination programme and will from Tuesday begin dropping posion pellets on the island.

The first drops will take place in a limited area to test whether the techniques used by the extermination team work. They will return in 2013 and if the rats have disappeared from the test area, drops will take place over the rest of the island.

Researchers have calculated that they need to clear rats from 800 square kilometres (80,000 hectares) – making the project almost 10 times bigger than the previous biggest rat eradication programme on Australia’s Macquarie Island.

Prof Tony Martin, of the University of Dundee and the South Georgia habitat restoration project director, said: “Killing any rat on an island like South Georgia is a hell of a challenge. If you underestimate their ability to survive and stay away from danger you will fail. “The vast majority of birds that should be breeding on South Georgia have been displaced by the presence of rats. Rats have gone virtually everywhere except the very cold southern coast. We are looking to restore millions, possibly tens of millions of sea birds to the island.

“The exciting thing for me about this is there are few things you can do to revert the impact of human activity on the planet but what we are going to be doing will reverse two centuries of human impacts on the island.”

Brown rats reached the island 200 years ago on sealing and whaling ships and wreaked devastation on the bird population by eating countless eggs and the chicks and fledglings. The ground-nesting birds have little defence against rats seeking to eat the eggs or their young.

Once rats have been cleared from the the island, however, scientists hope tens of millions of seabirds will return to South Georgia each year.

Moreover, they are confident it will save the South Georgia pipit from the threat of extinction. The pipit is found nowhere else and is the world’s most southerly songbird. It has been driven from virtually all of South Georgia, surviving primarily on about 20 small offshore isles. Ten years ago it was estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 pairs were left but since then rats have invaded more of their territory.

Martin said: “The pipit is the flagship species. It’s probably the one which will respond the most quickly to the removal but it’s only one of about 18 species we estimate will be positively affected.”

Other birds that should benefit are the South Georgia pintail, a duck endemic to the island, Wilson’s storm petrel, the South Georgia petrel, the common petrel, and the white chin petrel which has “mostly gone” from the island despite it being its main breeding ground. Numbers of Wilson’s storm petrel have slumped by up to 95% because of rats.

First Recorded Loss of an Emperor Penguin Colony in the Recent Period of Antarctic Regional Warming: Implications for Other Colonies: here.

ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011) — The first comprehensive study of sea creatures around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia reveals a region that is richer in biodiversity than even many tropical sites, such as the Galapagos Islands. The study provides an important benchmark to monitor how these species will respond to future environmental change: here.

Lots of albatrosses and petrels: a South Atlantic island [South Georgia] gets a write-up as an Important Bird Area: here.

World’s largest rat extermination returns South Georgia to its bird life: here.

New storm petrel species discovered: here.

Birds Australia has identified Macquarie Island as an IBA. Measures to reduce the number of introduced mammals on the island are crucial for seabird conservation: here.

Pest eradication on Macquarie and Lord Howe Islands to help seabirds: here.

Find out about BirdLife’s ground-breaking programme with local communities to rid Pacific islands of invasive rats: here.

Palmyra, a remote tropical atoll known for its diverse and abundant seabird populations, may soon be free of invasive, non-native rats that have decimated birds and their habitats there: here.

Albatrosses breeding in Antarctic


This video from South Georgia in the sub-Antarctic says about itself:

Gentoo Penguins are endlessly entertaining. See them going up to their hilltop colonies where they display, build nests, mate and bicker. Spring snowmelt fills the streams and waterfalls.

Down on the beach, where ice from nearby glaciers fill the bays, the Elephant Seals are feeding their pups. King Penguins are in amongst the tussac grass moulting. Skuas stand on their lookout on cliffs where the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross fly in effortless fashion.

From the BBC:

2 September 2009

Albatrosses set breeding record

Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

A small group of light-mantled sooty albatrosses has set a new breeding record.

The birds have created a colony on King George Island, one of the South Shetland Islands located in Antarctica.

This new breeding colony is the southernmost breeding location of any albatross species ever recorded.

Researchers spotted two confirmed nests on the island, one containing eggs and the other nestlings, and three more possible nests.

The light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) is a medium-sized albatross that has a circumpolar distribution around the Southern Ocean.

It is the most abundant albatross in Antarctic waters and is known to range further south than other albatross species, often flying as far south as the border of the Antarctic pack ice during long-distance foraging trips.

However, it was only thought to nest on sub-Antarctic islands, lying at latitudes between 46 and 53 degrees South.

That was until Simeon Lisovski and Hans-Ulrich Peter of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, in Germany and colleagues Karel Weidinger and Vaclav Pavel of Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic discovered a new breeding colony of the birds at Fildes Peninsula on King George Island, at a latitude of 62 degrees and 12 minutes South.

In the summer season spanning 2008 and 2009, a research group led by Dr Peter saw light-mantled sooty albatrosses landing on a large 140m-high flat-topped rocky outcrop on the island.

“On Christmas day I got an unexpected call via the radio that two colleagues could observe some light-mantled sooty albatrosses landing on a very small jutty at the scarp of the rock,” says Lisovski.

So Lisovski, Weidinger and Pavel kept observing the birds, until in February this year they discovered adults at two nests. They also saw three more sitting adults, suggesting three further nests, though they couldn’t climb the rocky outcrop to confirm this.

The new breeding colony is some 1,520km away from the nearest known breeding colony of light-mantled sooty albatrosses, which is on the island of South Georgia, the team reports in the journal Polar Biology.

It is unclear why the birds are breeding so far south.

Climate change could be creating warmer and more benign conditions for the birds, the researchers speculate, though it is not yet clear whether this is the case.

Whatever the cause, the birds are likely to have a much smaller breeding window in the Antarctic.

Light-mantled sooty albatross chicks need 70 days to hatch and another 70 to become independent.

So even if they start nesting early in November, when there is no snow, the chicks will not be ready to fly until April, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather events.

I myself have seen those beautiful birds flying over the Antarctic ocean.

[Black-browed] Albatross Camera Reveals Fascinating Feeding Interaction With Killer Whale: here. And here.

Plastic, plastic everywhere, nor any bite to eat: Pacific albatrosses feast on garbage patch offerings: here.

The importance of fish in the diet of the South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki) at the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica: here.