Alix Kristiansen back for another season with the Steamer Ducks
Alix Kristiansen, Sébastien Dupray and Heather Mathews
Spring is on its way and so is the breeding season. I am back in the Falklands to study the Falkland Steamer Duck. I will not be alone this year, as two volunteers will help me throughout the field season. They will introduce themselves later. If you catch a glimpse of us working on the field, feel free to greet us. We are always happy to explain our research and chat about the ducks.
The last breeding period provided us with a first insight into the difficulties of working with these beautiful ducks. The preliminary results suggest that the individuals have restrained territories. They also highlighted the intimate relationship between kelp beds and the presence of ducks.
This time, in addition to the deployment of GPS, we intend to understand habitat quality and breeding success in Stanley and Bleaker Island. This relies on regular monitoring of the pairs. We will thus spot as many pairs as possible. From there, the idea is to assess the number of eggs and chicks per identified pair and determine the number of fledged individuals. This will therefore give an indication of this year’s breeding success.
Breeding success is closely related to habitat quality as the latter impacts both the parents and chicks. For example, the presence of silt on the beach has been described as detrimental to chicks. When in their downy plumage, they need to forage food on shore. If the sediment is too fine, they may not be able to sustain themselves properly. The food items needed by the chicks (e.g. amphipods) tend to avoid sediments such as silt. In a nutshell, describing the territory’s habitat is key to understanding what elements define its quality. This is not yet clear for the Falkland Steamer Duck. The presence of a type of vegetation such as Tussac for nesting or kelp forest for foraging could be indicative of a highly suitable habitat.
We look forward to sharing more updates with you all soon!
Hey, I am Sébastien, PhD student and Alix’s partner. I came to the Falklands after my fieldwork to give a hand to Alix and enjoy some cooler weather than what I experienced for the past two years in South Africa. I am doing my PhD in zoology there, looking at how big herbivores (mainly antelopes) choose their habitat depending on resources and predator threats. My fieldwork was based in a private wilderness reserve in the Limpopo province. I spent my days collecting soil and vegetation data, analysing camera trap images to document where herbivores roam, and most of all, following cheetahs and lions to understand their choice of prey and hunting habitat.
Alix came in South Africa at the beginning of my fieldwork. She helped me to implement my protocols and to collect the first data. It is now my turn to help and I am happily joining the steam team on the hunt for ducks! I am going to shoulder her for the coming month, and I hope to bring valuable help to her and her project.
Ciao I’m Heather and will be assisting Alix during her field work this year! I have just graduated from the International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources and was lucky enough to be based in Melbourne to research trace elements in Australian fur seals for my thesis (see cute photo below...). I am an avid photographer, (weather dependant) runner and enjoy a good bouldering session when I’m not dancing in the kitchen to a good tune and cooking.
I’m currently in the UK making the most of the warm weather which I hope to bring with me when I arrive mid-October. On the lookout for the next adventure, I can’t wait to get started with Alix and get to know these beautifully intriguing (and at times troublesome) ducks that I’m sure, will be keeping us on our toes.