South Georgia pipit comeback

This video says about itself:

Dreaming of the South Georgia Pipit

3 August 2011

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests on the search for the only songbird to live below the Antarctic convergence.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare pipits return following rat eradication on South Georgia

The world’s most southerly song bird, the South Georgia Pipit, is fighting back from extinction thanks to work carried out by an 18-strong international team to eradicate rats from its island home in Antarctica.

Just as the final phase of the world’s largest rodent eradication project was being undertaken by UK charity, the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), news came that a nest of five South Georgia Pipit chicks had been found in an area previously overrun by rats.

The South Georgia Pipit is only found on South Georgia and its numbers had been decimated by the invasive rat populations on the island. Its survival as a species was under threat before the eradication work began.

The discovery of the pipit nest was made at Schlieper Bay near the western end of the island by a former member of the rat eradication team, Sally Poncet, an expert on South Georgia’s wildlife and this year a recipient of the Polar Medal in recognition of service to the United Kingdom in the field of polar research.

Poncet was a member of what has been nicknamed Team Rat during its Phase 1 operations. She discovered the nest while on a Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris expedition (in collaboration with the Government of South Georgia) to survey Wandering Albatrosses.

Alison Neil, Chief Executive of South Georgia Heritage Trust says, “The discovery of pipit chicks is thrilling news and shows the rapid beneficial effect of the Habitat Restoration Project on this threatened species.

“People had spotted pipits exhibiting breeding behaviour following the baiting work, but this is the first firm proof that they are nesting in areas from which they were previously excluded by rodents.

“Pipits cannot breed when rats are present, so this discovery is confirmation that birds are quickly responding to their absence.

“We are confident that when South Georgia is once again free of rodents, it will regain its former status as home to the greatest concentration of seabirds in the world.”

South Georgia is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas and amongst the wildlife on the island are 90 per cent of the world’s Antarctic fur seals and half the world’s elephant seals.

Four species of penguin nest on the island, including King Penguins with around 400,000 breeding pairs. The island’s birdlife includes albatross, skuas and petrels, as well as the endemic South Georgia Pipit, and the South Georgia Pintail.

However, although the wildlife is impressive, it is a shadow of the numbers Captain Cook encountered when he discovered and named South Georgia in 1775.

Rats and mice, arriving in the ships of sealers and whalers, have spread over much of the island, predating on the eggs and chicks of many of the native birds.

The aim of SGHT’s project is to eradicate these invasive rodents and allow millions of birds to reclaim their ancestral home.

A successful trial phase in 2011 was followed by a second phase conducted in 2013. The results have been signs of rodents having been eliminated from almost two-thirds of South Georgia.

Phase 3 began on 18 January. The challenge is to complete the baiting of the entire island during the brief sub-Antarctic summer months and this will be followed by two further years of monitoring by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the South Georgia Government.

Assuming no signs of rodents have been discovered by 2017, South Georgia will be declared free of rodents for the first time since humans first came to the island.

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.

World’s largest rat poisoning project aims to rid South Georgia of its rodents: here.

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.

Mark Bolton (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of House Mice Mus musculus on storm petrels on Steeple Jason, an island in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* that supports a very large population of ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris as well as Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus: 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.

Follow Antarctic wandering albatrosses on the Internet

This video says about itself:

This video shows typical bird behavior of the albatrosses on Bird Island, off the coast of South Georgia in the Atlantic Ocean. The video includes footage of the birds flying around the island, grooming each other and caring for their young.

The video is about black-browed albatrosses.

Black-browed albatrosses nest on Bird Island in the South Atlantic but find food on 2,000-mile foraging flights: here.

From the BBC:

Follow a satellite tagged pair of wandering albatrosses, raising their chick on Bird Island, South Georgia. These birds travel across the wild Southern Ocean for days to find food. Meanwhile their chick, alone on the nest, waits for their return. Track the albatrosses on the map and get the latest news from BAS scientists on Bird Island.

Wandering albatrosses hold the record for the bird with the largest wingspan: here.

Years ago Bruce spent considerable time on Bird Island, South Georgia as a research assistant working with albatrosses and other seabirds where he developed a deep passion for these animals. When he realised that the same birds he ringed and studied 30 years ago are seriously threatened he decided to use his skills and experience to raise awareness about the issue and funds for the conservation of the seabirds. And so the ‘Troubled Waters’ project was born. The time Bruce spent with albatrosses in the southern ocean produced sufficient artwork but in order to tell the complete story of these birds Bruce had to experience the birds’ interactions with humans at the heart of the issue – fishermen: here.

Whales, Ice, Penguins, Albatrosses: 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.