King shag, imperial cormorant, Falklands shag…it can be difficult to talk about a species when it goes by so many names. But this is my challenge for the next three and a half years, as I’ll be diving deep into the unknown aspects of their foraging behaviour to find out what they’re eating, where they go to feed, and why this differs between birds. This novel data will then be used to test ecological theory and inform marine management as part of my PhD.
In late 2022 I swapped the short and soggy days of a Scottish autumn for the long and breezy afternoons of the Falklands. This southern corner of the world is one I’ve wanted to visit for a number of years and not only was I coming to see the wildlife (which is a privilege in itself), I was going to be researching it. A real dream come true. And it didn’t disappoint.
The journey from 56 degrees north to 51 degrees south is long. After an eight-hour train ride, two-hour drive, 18-hour multi-stop flight, broken up with hours of waiting in between, I was finally in Stanley. But not for long. After a short delay due to the weather – as can often be expected with remote fieldwork – our small team hopped on a boat and travelled northwest from Carcass Island to Grand Jason, the first of my field sites. A slight swell in the sea and a fair breeze brought plenty of albatross, storm petrels, prions and shearwaters along for the ride. A wonderful introduction to the local birdlife!