Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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The Birdlife International Marine Programme seeks a new Head

Southern Royal Albatross Laurie Johnson Virginia Potter Lo qual

Vulnerable Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora: at risk to longlining

Watercolor and India Ink, 8.5" x12" by Virginia Potter for Albatrosses and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN); from a photograph by Laurie Smaglik Johnson

The United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) hosts the BirdLife International Marine Programme, with a particular emphasis on stopping albatross declines through implementing practical solutions to reduce bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries and protecting the most important sites for seabirds globally.

The RSPB is looking for a visionary and inspiring marine specialist to head up the Birdlife International Marine Programme, leading the RSPB Global Seas programme, overseeing the Marine Programme Regional Co-ordinators in BirdLife International Partners across the world and co-ordinating the marine policy and scientific work at the BirdLife International Secretariat.

The overall aims of the Marine Programme are to improve the conservation status of the world's seabirds through the adoption of bycatch mitigation measures in longline and trawl fisheries, to identify bycatch mitigation measures in gillnet fisheries; and to delineate and protect marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas

The successful candidate will have extensive experience of seabirds and marine issues and excellent skills in facilitation and the development and co-ordination of a dispersed team.

They will be willing to travel worldwide to make the case for improved conditions for birds at sea, through working with partners and persuading operators and policy makers to adopt new methods and also pushing for a high level of uptake of the measures.

Closing date: 16 March 2020.  Find more information here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 February 2020

Predation risk or foraging opportunity? Wedge-tailed Shearwaters avoid their colonies during full moon

Wedge tailed Shearwater Pacific Islands Avian Health  Disease Program 

A Wedge-tailed Shearwater pair, photograph from Pacific Islands Avian Health & Disease Program

Andreas Ravache (Aix-Marseille Université, Nouméa, New Caledonia, France) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology on why Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna pacifica decrease their activity at breeding  colonies around the time of the full moon.  The authors postulate decreased activity may be due to higher foraging efficiency of seabirds around during that period, rather than predator avoidance.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Lunar phase and illumination are known to affect nocturnal behavior of many organisms, particularly through predator-prey interactions.  Visual predators can benefit from higher light levels to increase their activity, while prey may decrease their activity to avoid predation. The lower number of nocturnal seabirds observed on colonies during full moon nights has been mostly interpreted as a predation avoidance strategy.  However, it is also possible that shearwaters take advantage of the moon's illumination to feed also at night, and stay at sea to forage during full moon nights.  We used miniaturized GPS-loggers to obtain 179 tracks from 99 wedge-tailed shearwaters breeding in New Caledonia, to investigate moonlight effects on individual behavior.  Lunar phase significantly predicted self-provisioning trip duration, with individuals performing longer trips around the full moon.  However, this relationship was not significant during chick-provisioning trips when adults have to frequently return to the colony.  Adults mostly returned to the colony during moonlit periods, refuting the predation avoidance theory.  Tracked individuals showed an unexpectedly high amount of nocturnal foraging activity (28% of total activity), positively influenced by the presence of the moon. δ15N stable isotope values were significantly related to the percentage of nocturnal foraging, but with a weak relationship, impeding our ability to confirm that wedge-tailed shearwaters fed on different prey when foraging at night.  This study suggests that reduced colony attendance around the full moon may be linked to greater at-sea foraging opportunities in distant oceanic areas than to increased predation risk on land.”

Reference:

Ravache, A., Bourgeois, K., Thibault, M., Dromzée, S., Weimerskirch, H., de Grissac, S., Prudord. A., Lorrain, A., Menkes, C., Allain, V., Bustamante, P., Letourneur, Y. & Vidal, E. 2020.  Flying to the moon: lunar cycle influences trip duration and nocturnal foraging behavior of the wedge-tailed shearwater Ardenna pacifica.  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 525.  doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2020.151322.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 February 2020

The United Kingdom’s Seabird Group will celebrate World Albatross Day with ACAP

Seabird Group

The Seabird Group, a registered charity based in the United Kingdom, was founded in 1966 to promote and help coordinate the study and conservation of seabirds.  Three years later, the Seabird Group initiated Operation Seafarer, the first attempt to survey all the UK’s breeding seabird colonies, which was largely delivered through volunteer effort.  It built on this success, working alongside the government agency, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, to undertake the Seabird Colony Register in 1985 and included Ireland for the first time.  The Group has since been heavily involved with successive censuses, Seabird 2000 and Seabirds Count.  These help us to understand the status of seabirds in the UK, for which it has international responsibilities.

The Group organises regular international conferences and actively supports the participation of early-career scientists.  Members receive regular newsletters and the annual colour journal Seabird, to which they are encouraged to submit material.  The Group actively encourages its members to become involved in surveys of seabirds and other research work Through its grant scheme, the Group has helped to fund seabird research worldwide, from remote islands in Scotland to Portugal and Alaska.  Examples of recent projects include banding studies and census work, at-sea seabird surveys, studies of the impact of light pollution on nocturnal shearwaters and of the migratory movements of terns, and the development of new thermal-imaging techniques to monitor ground-nesting seabirds.

ACAP Latest News reached out to the Seabird Group earlier this year to enlist its support in marking the inauguration of World Albatross Day (‘WAD2020’) on 19 June.  The group's Chair, Liz Humphreys (Senior Research Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology) and her Executive Committee colleagues have responded positively, adding the Seabird Group to a growing number of national and international environmental NGOs that will help ACAP celebrate the day, thereby drawing international attention to the conservation crisis facing the world's 22 species of albatrosses.

Liz Humphreys.1

Liz writes to ALN: “The pioneering research into the foraging behaviour of the Wandering Albatross using satellite technology really highlighted the extraordinary lives these birds lead and the risks they face as they travel around the vast areas of oceans that they roam.  World Albatross Day represents the culmination of many organization’s efforts across the globe, over a number of decades and the Seabird Group is delighted to support this exciting initiative”.

Liz Humphreys, Seabird Group Chair on the top of Beinn a’ Ghlò, Scotland

 

 

 

 

Annette Fayet

The Seabird Group’s Secretary, Annette Fayet (Junior Research Fellow in the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology) gives her view: “Albatrosses and other seabirds are wonderful and fascinating creatures, but they’re also some of the most endangered birds on Earth.  We must do everything we can to protect them from the multiple threats they face, from invasive species and marine plastic pollution to fisheries bycatch and climate change.  World Albatross Day will help raise awareness of these fantastic birds and their plight”.

Annette Fayet cradles an Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica on Grimsey Island, Iceland in 2018; photograph by David Silverman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danni Thompson

Danni Thompson, Membership Secretary and Seabird Ecologist at the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee writes: “With their sheer size, elegance and the ease at which they master the wild oceans, seeing an albatross will always take your breath away.  As top predators they play a fundamental part in the balance of the marine ecosystem, but this is under threat as many seabird populations are in decline due to a myriad of man-made pressures.  World Albatross Day is a great initiative to showcase the beauty and tenaciousness of our most majestic seabirds, and as much as their future depends on us, ours depends on them.”

 Danni Thompson banding seabirds on the Firth of Forth islands; photograph by Sophie Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine Booth Jones

Katherine Booth Jones, Editor of the Seabird Group Newsletter and Science Officer for Northern Ireland at the British Trust for Ornithology has her say: “Albatrosses are some of the most inspiring birds on the planet and sadly some of the most threatened. World Albatross Day is a fantastic initiative to celebrate these extraordinary masters of the oceans, and most importantly, raise awareness of their fight for survival with people all around the world.”

 Katherine Booth Jones releases a GLS-tagged Round Island Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana on Round Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saskia Wischnewski

Saskia Wischnewski, Seabird Group Executive Committee Member (Social Media) and Seabird Conservationist with the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Centre for Conservation Science  writes “There is nothing that beats observing these majestic birds in their element and I will never forget spotting my first Wandering Albatross at sea as it soared effortlessly between humongous waves.  Although I’ve never had the chance to work with albatrosses myself, the struggles they face are very similar to the ones that affect our local seabird community.  It’s great to be part of a campaign that celebrates these magnificent creatures while raising awareness of the threats albatrosses and other seabirds encounter all around the world.”

Saskia Wischnewski sets up a network to download data from seabirds equipped with miniature GPS tracking devices

 ACAP looks forward to working with the Seabird Group as the first World Albatross Day approaches.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 February 2020

 

 

 

Painting albatrosses, the extraordinarily evocative art of Lea Finke

Campbell Albatross Kirk Zufelt Lea Finke

Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida (Vulnerable) by Lea Finke, from a photograph by Kirk Zufelt

ACAP has been collaborating with Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN) , a group of wildlife artists around the world, both amateurs and professionals, who give of their time and creative talents in the service of conservation (click here).  ABUN’s latest project, due to finish at month end, has set the challenge to paint the world’s 22 albatross species to aid in increasing awareness of the first World Albatross Day on 19 June.  Artists are using photographs supplied by ACAP supporters for inspiration.  The outcome has been far greater than expected with over 150 paintings submitted so far.  High-resolution images are placed at the disposal of ACAP to further its work by illustrating website posts and booklets, creating posters and banners, and for uses not yet come to mind.  To introduce the artists to a wider world, and to pay homage to their often phenomenal talents, ACAP Latest News will over the course of the year feature individual artists with their artwork, giving an insight as to why they have been drawn to paint wildlife in the service of conservation.

Black browed Albatross Christian Suazo Lea Finke

 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris (Least Concern) by Lea Finke, from a photograph by Cristian Suazo

To start this occasional series we feature some of the evocative albatross portraits being produced by Lea Finke from Germany, who is well on her way to painting all 22 species.  Her birds look straight at the observer in a seemingly trusting mnner, and for anyone who has ever viewed albatrosses on their breeding islands at close quarters, they capture their very essence.  To accompany her work Lea writes of herself below.

Tristan Albatross Michelle Risi Lea Finke

Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena (Critically Endangered) by Lea Finke, from a photograph by Michelle Risi

“I am Lea Finke, 48 years old, and I live in Germany.  To be more precise in the Ruhr area in western Germany.  An industrial and former mining landscape, characterized by crises, transformation, and permanent need for redefinition in the last four decades.  The place where I was born was not designed to awaken a deep connection with nature.  And yet it was so.  Nature always seemed to me to be something vulnerable - and injured, something exposed, something in need of protection.  When Kitty Harvill of ABUN introduced us to the new World Albatross Day project, I was immediately thrilled.  These beautiful birds, which seem so majestic in the air, but so awkward and endangered during take offs and landings, appeal to me deeply.

I discovered my love for art very early on.  But my path initially led me in a completely different direction.  And yet, art was my salvation.  Being able to express myself through my art, not by depicting the upheavals and threats to my immediate present - but by reacting to their oscillations - has led me into a new life.  Art gave me back my voice.  Now it belongs to the albatrosses.

I chose the medium of watercolour for their portraits.  The light and flowing nature of this medium correspond to the air and the sea - the habitat of the albatross.  In addition to watercolour, I also like to work with charcoal, graphite and acrylic - experimenting with new media from time to time makes me happy.”

Wandering Albatross Michelle Risi Lea Finke

Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans (Vulnerable) by Lea Finke, from a photograph by Michelle Risi

All artworks are watercolours, 20 x 30 cm

With thanks to Lea Finke, wildlife artist.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2020

A Gonydale Companion - a poem to mark the start of the Gough Island Restoration Programme

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 9

Tristan Albatrosses on Gough Island, photograph by Michelle Risi

Over the austral summers of 2006/07 and 2007/08 I, with companions, lived on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, staying in the South African meteorological station just above the sea cliffs in Transvaal Bay. A major activity of our work on the island was to establish a long-term monitoring study of the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross or Gony Diomedea dabbenena.

As has become well known, this albatross, a near endemic to the island, is at risk of extinction from the “double whammy” of longline mortality of juveniles and adults at sea, and poor breeding success due to attacks on downy chicks by the island’s introduced House Mice Mus musculus on land.  Fortunately, the latter problem is soon to be addressed, with the sailing to Gough this week of the New Zealand-registered expedition yacht Evohe, carrying an advance team which will start preparations for the eradication effort intended to take place in June and July this year.

The nearest locality with a suitable population of Tristan Albatrosses to the station is in Gonydale, a valley nestled between hills and mountains on three sides and best accessible by a two-hour or so climb up a path alongside the Gony River that reaches the valley in an undulating area known as the Hummocks.  The lower slopes of Gough are well vegetated with grasses, sedges, bracken and ferns forming an unbroken carpet.  The ground as one climbs to Gonydale has many holes in the peat dug by burrowing petrels, mostly unseen among the verdant vegetation, which tends to make the narrow path worn by passing feet invisible as well - all leading to many tumbles.

We made the climb many times in the two summers, first hauling up camping equipment and marker poles made out of plastic electrical piping, and then visiting to metal and colour band the incubating adults, marking their nests and taking their photographs (along with bill measurements) to aid in assigning gender.  It was necessary to make repeated visits to band and photograph partners as nest changes occurred.  Setting up the study took two summers because the Tristan Albatross is primarily a biennial breeder and we needed to record members of both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ populations.

There was ample time on the climbs to Gonydale to think of the work being undertaken – and of many other things as well.  The poem below, in the loose form of a 14-line sonnet, illustrated by the photographs of biologist Michelle Risi who is currently on the island, was one outcome of my musings while climbing to help conserve the Tristan Albatross.

A Gonydale Companion

The path goes up with little trace
Half hidden by bracken’s green embrace
Bog ferns help us as we pass
Battling through the sedge and grass

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 4

Skirting skua and molly chicks as we rise
Our climb is watched by avian eyes
Below us petrels have dug their breeding holes
Traps for unwary boots and hiking poles

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 2

There is little talking on the way
Brow sweat our silent language of the day
We stop to drink, but then prevail
For gonies await us in their dale!

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 5

 At Hummocks the path opens to the view
We smile – and greet ourselves anew

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 6

With thanks to Michelle Risi (who has climbed to Gonydale many times) for her photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2020

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