Burrowing seabirds survey on Bird Island (Falkland Is.) 4-11th Jan 2018

Surveys of burrowing seabirds were carried out on Bird Island (Falkland Is.) by visiting researchers Dr Paulo Catry, University of Glasgow’s Dr Ewan Wakefield and student Allan Stokes, accompanied by SAERI’s Amy Guest, ornithologist Megan Boldenow, and University of Montana’s PhD student T.J Clark.

The trip began with a FIGAS flight to Weddell Island before the four-hour boat journey on The Golden Fleece, hugging the Port Stephens coastline until they reached Bird Island. Before long, the island was alive with the noise of dozens of chatty Fur Seals and thousands of nesting seabirds.

Camping amongst the thick tussac grass, they were treated to not only the best of Falkland’s weather, but also daily sightings of 20-30 bird species, as well as South American Fur Seals and Southern Sea Lions. By day three, there was even a lone and unassuming Southern Elephant Seal that decide to spend a few days resting not too far from Dr Catry’s tent!

The group had a successful week counting burrows of Thin-Billed Prions and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, and took measurements of birds in occupied nests. Evidence of the birds leaving and returning to their burrows was also captured using motion and heat sensing camera traps laid out by the team at the beginning of the week.

Making the most of the summer’s daylight hours, the team were also able to record additional information such as counting cliff-side nests of Dolphin Gulls, Brown Skuas, Rock and Imperial Shags, and also collected ticks from various seabird species to aid an ongoing multi-site study.

Special thanks go out to Brian, Monica and Andrew on Weddell Island and Jerome, Dave and Evie on the Golden Fleece for their hospitality and help in making the trip possible.

(Photos by T.J. Clark, A. Guest and P. Catry)

Amy Guest

 

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Falkland Islands student intern Amy Guest

The Gap Project

I started my placement year at SAERI in September 2017 as an assistant to the Gap Project, where my time has been primarily spent managing data and entering the metadata records to the IMS-GIS Database for scientific research undertaken in the islands over the past three decades. It certainly has proved interesting to see the different types of research carried out, from environmental surveys to GPS tagging of seabirds and marine mammals by academic researchers.

On the Water at Port Howard

November saw me escaping office duties for a week to head ‘out West’ to help with the surveying of Commerson’s Dolphins (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) as part of SAERI’s ‘Dolphins of the Kelp’ team. Despite chilly southerly winds most days, we had a successful week on the SMSG rib boat photographing, identifying and cataloguing hundreds of dolphins which included some of this year’s new born calves. The team also successfully retrieved anchored C-Pods that had been recording evidence of passing cetaceans throughout the winter months.

A Helping Hand in the Lab

Besides the office and field work, I was also able to assist SAERI PhD student Tom Busbridge with some of his research in the lab at the Fisheries Department. This included taking body measurements, weights, genetic samples and otoliths from Southern Blue Whiting (Micromesistius australis).

Coming up…

In the New Year I hope to begin collecting data for my undergraduate thesis which will look at microplastics in the Falklands marine environment.

I’m also especially excited to be heading out to Bird Island, a wildlife haven at the very south of West Falkland, to assist with Petrel surveys with researchers Dr Paulo Catry and Dr Ewan Wakefield. Rumour has it that it isn’t the easiest place to land a zodiac, so fingers crossed the weather allows for a smooth landing!

It certainly has been a busy first few months, with more and more opportunities appearing almost weekly. I have very much enjoyed these first few months and hope I’ve proved to be a useful addition to the very welcoming, wonderful SAERI team!

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