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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First definite record of a House Mouse attacking an adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island

That House Mice Mus musculus have turned to attacking albatross chicks on Gough and Marion Islands has become well known – and has been regularly reported on in ACAP Latest News.  More recently, mice have been recorded attacking adult Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena on Gough and adult Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli on Marion (click here).  The observations published earlier this year in the journal Polar Biology gave only circumstantial evidence of mice attacking an adult of another albatross species on Gough, as stated in the paper’s abstract:  “In October 2018, an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos was found on Gough Island with a wound on its back suggestive of a mouse attack …”.

Adult tristan albatross with back wounds from mice 2018 Left Kate Lawrence Right Jaimie Cleeland

A wounded adult Tristan Albatross in March 2018 - the bird survived; photographs by Kate Lawrence (left) and Jaimie Cleeland (right)

Definite proof of an attack on an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (an Endangered species) on Gough now comes with a 40-s video clip showing a mouse clambering over and disappearing under the bird’s rump feathers over a period of several hours on the night of 3/4 November this year – to the bird’s obvious discomfort.

Chris Jones, field biologist of the Gough Island Restoration Programme and currently on the island, has written to ACAP Latest News:

“The bird in the video clip had a small wound on its rump and abandoned the nest the following night.  We have had trail cameras on 31[Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross] nests on the southern slopes of Richmond [Hill], collecting hundreds of hours of footage and have only captured the one mouse attack on an adult.”

AYNA mouse wound Alexis Osborne

The wounded rump of the incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross the following day, photograph by Dylan Seaton

With the intention to attempt to eradicate the mice on Gough next year, it is hoped that the island’s albatrosses – and other seabirds – will no longer have to face night-time attacks as videoed on the island last month.

With thanks to Chris Jones, Alexis Osborne, Michelle Risi and Dylan Seaton.  The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being led by the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, along with 12 partners.

Reference:

Jones, C.W., Risi, M.M., Cleeland, J. & Ryan, P.G. 2019. First evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on sub-Antarctic Marion and Gough Islands.  Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-02444-6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 December 2019

UPDATE. Wisdom the Laysan Albatross, and the world’s oldest known bird, is back on Midway Atoll

UPDATE:

Wisdom Ack Nov 2019

The pair on 9 November, photograph by Emily Jankowski / USFWS

Wisdom's current mate (Akeakamai; Red G00) was seen back on Midway on 9 November, next to Wisdom (Red Z33).  It is suggested it is a bit late for an egg this season, so they may take a (deserved) gap year.

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 Wisdom, a female Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis and the world's oldest known banded wild bird, has returned to the USA’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the northern Pacific.  She is now considered to be at least 69 years old – but could be older as she was originally banded in 1956 as an adult.

Wisdom was first sighted on 22 November this year.  “She has been preparing her nest in her usual location in anticipation her current mate [Akeakamai] will arrive soon”.

Wisdom Nov 2019

Wisdom in November 2019, photograph by William Kennerley/USFWS

“Wisdom is important not only because she is a part of a long-term study of [the] albatross population, but also because she is an individual that we can actually know and follow her personal history” according to Elizabeth (Beth) Flint, [USFWS] Supervisory Wildlife Biologist in a video clip.  “She has seen so much, and yet she is still doing what she evolved to do: surviving and raising young every year.  That makes her incredibly powerful as a symbol of why we do what we do.”

Beth Flint has been a regular member of the USA’s observer delegation to ACAP meetings over the years and is a member of the ACAP Population and Conservation Working Group.  She recently wrote on the subject of next year’s inaugural Word Albatross Day to ACAP Latest News: “While we share similar life spans and the spatial scales of our activities, ranging over vast areas of the globe, albatrosses have lived on earth in their current form tens of millions of years longer than Homo sapiens without disrupting or degrading their own habitats”.  She was probably thinking of Wisdom.

Beth Flint

Beth Flint wears Red Z333, the colour band of Wisdom

Read more here and access the many postings about Wisdom in ACAP Latest News.

Meanwhile, Midway’s other two famous birds, Geraldine and George the atoll’s only pair of breeding Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus, are already back for a new season and are incubating their new egg (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 November 2019, updated 10 & 11 December 2019

France’s BirdLife partner, LPO, with 55 000 members, writes about World Albatross Day

LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) is France’s BirdLife partner.  With a century of commitment with more than 55 000 members, 5000 active volunteers, 400 employees nationwide and a network of local associations active in more than 80 departments, LPO is the premier association protecting nature in France.  It works on a daily basis for the protection of species, the preservation of spaces and for education and awareness of the environment.

Three island groups in the southern Indian Ocean belong to France, a Party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.  These are the Crozets, Amsterdam and Saint Paul, and Kerguelen, all administered by the French Southern and Antarctic Territories (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises - TAAF) and protected as a national nature reserve with World Heritage status as of this year.  In total they support no less than 12 of the 22 ACAP-listed species of albatrosses and petrels.

ACAP Latest News has been in communication with LPO to solicit its support for ACAP’s initiation of an annual Word Albatross Day on 19 June, to be inaugurated next year.  Positive feedback has now been received from three members of its senior management team.

Yves Verilhac 2017.s 

Yves Vérilhac, Gironde Estuary, September 2017

Yves Vérilhac, LPO’s Chief Executive Officer, has written to ALN:

“ ‘The great wings of the giant baulk his gait’.  It is by this last line of Charles Baudelaire’s poem l’Albatros [from the translation by Roy Campbell] that the albatross was first familiar to me.  An ornithologist since ever, I have travelled a deal but never to these distant lands and seas furrowed by these ‘monarchs of the clouds’.  Here is a wish to answer, made difficult by the fact that I decided not to fly for pleasure.  Beyond these images, the French responsibility for the protection of albatrosses is great with eight species of breeding albatrosses within our territory, including the endemic and emblematic Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis.  Our involvement with the environmental bodies of TAAF leads us to support the actions that are carried out there.  World Albatross Day on 19 June next year will be an excellent opportunity to talk about these species so distant but so emblematic.”

“ ‘Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher’.  C’est par ce ver de Charles Baudelaire que l’albatros m’a d’abord été familier. Ornithologue depuis toujours, j’ai beaucoup voyagé, mais jamais dans ces terres et mers lointaines que sillonnent ces ‘princes des nuées’. Voici un souhait à exaucer, rendu difficile par le fait que j’ai décidé de ne plus prendre l’avion pour le plaisir... Au-delà de ces images, la responsabilité de la France envers la protection des albatros est forte avec huit espèces d’albatros qui s’y reproduisent, dont l’endémique et emblématique Albatros d’Amsterdam. Notre participation aux instances environnementales des Terres Australes et Antarctiques françaises nous conduit à soutenir les actions qui y sont menées et la journée mondiale des albatros, le 19 juin sera une excellente occasion de parler de ces espèces si lointaines mais si emblématiques.”

 Thierry Micol

Thierry Micol, Possession Island, Crozets, November 2002

Thierry Micol, LPO’s Biodiversity, Sustainable Development, International and Overseas Senior Officer writes:

“My first encounter with albatrosses was in January 1988 when I visited Amsterdam Island with the mission of eliminating the feral cattle that threatened the Amsterdam Albatross. Arriving in the morning after a trip on the fishing lobster vessel Austral, the ornithologists already on the spot took me that same afternoon to the Plateau des Tourbières where nest the last pairs of the endemic Amsterdam Albatross.  Thirty years later, they are still threatened by rats, cats and mice, and the plan to eradicate these species throughout TAAF is of crucial importance for this species, for which only a 100 pairs remain. As a member of the TAAF National Nature Reserve Advisory Committee I can only support World Albatross Day on 19 June.”

“Ma première rencontre avec les albatros date de janvier 1988 quand je me suis rendu sur l’île Amsterdam avec pour mission d’éliminer les bovins sauvages qui menaçaient les Albatros d’Amsterdam. Arrivé le matin après un trajet sur l’Austral, navire de pêche à la langouste, les ornithologistes déjà sur place m’ont amené l’après-midi même sur le plateau des Tourbières où nichent les derniers couples de l’endémique Albatros d’Amsterdam. Trente ans plus tard ils sont toujours menacés par les rats, les chats et les souris et le projet d’éradication de ces espèces par le territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises est d’une importance cruciale pour cette espèce dont il ne reste qu’une centaine de couples. En tant que membre du Comité consultatif de la Réserve naturelle national des Terres australes françaises, je ne peux que soutenir la journée mondiale des albatros, le 19 juin.”

 Yann Libessart.s

Yann Libessart gently cradles a Wandering Albatross D. exulans chick prior to banding, Kerguelen Islands in 2007, photograph by Eric Planel

Yann Libessart, LPO’s Communication Manager adds his own special memory:

“I participated in banding young albatrosses more than 10 years ago in the Kerguelen Islands.  The chicks were already impressive in size and two people were required to handle them safely. Black-browed Albatrosses shared a steep cliff with a colony of Macaroni Penguins to hide from feral cats, which were introduced by people decades ago. Despite the strong promiscuity between two bird species that look so different, both seemed to get along pretty well.  Sooty, Grey-headed and Wandering Albatrosses are also present in this remote archipelago, just like them subjected to the winds and the ocean. They were flying over us in silence.”

“J’ai participé au baguage de jeunes albatros lors de mon séjour aux îles Kerguelen, dans les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises, il y a plus de 10 ans. Les poussins ont déjà une taille impressionnante et deux personnes sont nécessaires pour les manipuler sans risque. Les Albatros à sourcils noirs partageaient une falaise abrupte avec une colonie de Gorfous macaronis afin d’échapper aux chats harets, introduits par l’homme quelques décennies plus tôt. Malgré la forte promiscuité entre les deux espèces d’oiseaux, tant opposées sur le plan morphologique, leur cohabitation semblait pacifique. Des Albatros fuligineux, à tête grise et hurleurs fréquentent également cet archipel perdu, comme eux livré aux vents et à l’océan. Ils nous survolaient en silence.”

ACAP will work with LPO – along with other BirdLife partners in ACAP countries – in the next half a year to help raise awareness of the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and Petrels as the first World Albatross Day approaches.  Meanwhile, ornithologists on Amsterdam, Kerguelen and on the Crozet’s Possession Island have all made and displayed their World Albatross Day banners in the field.  Merci beaucoup!

LPO

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 December 2019

Balearic Shearwaters and Marine Protected Areas: are the latter sufficient?

Gonzalo Arroyo (Instituto Universitario de Investigación Marina, Universidad de Cádiz, Puerto Real, Spain) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation on the need to expand the Marine Area of Gulf of Cádiz Special Protection Area for seabirds for the Critically Endangered and ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The expansion of marine protected areas in pelagic areas has been crucial to achieve sufficient protection of the oceans. However, there is still some controversy about whether these protected areas actually cover the vital areas for some species. We investigate the summer distribution of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and its overlap with the Special Protection Area for seabirds (SPA), using the Gulf of Cadiz as a case study. This area holds the SPA named Marine Area of Gulf of Cádiz, covering 2314.2 km2. A dataset of nine years of vessel-based surveys between 2006 and 2017 was analysed, using Kernel Density Estimation to generate the core area polygons for each year. The area located off the Bay of Cádiz, southeast of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, has revealed as a very consistent key area for this species during summer. This area, covering 1082 Km2, regularly hosted populations that exceeded the threshold for area of international importance (IBA criteria) for the species. The current SPA covers less than 40% of this new key area. The limitation in the number of years of monitoring and seasonal differences in the dataset used to establish the boundaries of the current protected area may be at the base of these discrepancies. This study emphasizes the importance of synthesizing and collecting long-term information to define marine protected areas and to assess their efficiency over the time. Furthermore, our study highlights the urgent need to expand this marine protected area to protect effectively this critically threatened species.”

Balearic Shearwater at sea

Balearic Shearwater at sea

Reference:

Arroyo, G.M., de la Cruz, A. & Delgado, D. 2019.  How adequately are the critically endangered Balearic Shearwaters protected by the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for seabirds? A case study in the Gulf of Cadiz.  Global Ecology and Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00861.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 December 2019

Award-winning illustrator, Owen Davey, creates a poster for World Albatross Day 2020

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Owen Davey is an award-winning illustrator based in Leicestershire, United Kingdom, producing posters, charts and picture books.  He has worked as a professional freelance illustrator since graduating from Falmouth University with a First Class BA (Hons) Degree in Illustration in 2007.

“I’ve always loved drawing since I was a kid.  As I grew up, I didn’t really want to do anything else.  When I was taught what an Illustrator was, I did everything I could to become one and make a living from it” (click here).

Owen DaveyWorld Penguin Day 2019 Owen Davey

Among the many posters to view on his website are those that depict groups of animals, created in his distinctive style.  This year he produced a penguin poster for April’s World Penguin Day.  This came to the attention of marine ornithologist, Michelle Risi, currently working on penguins, albatrosses and other seabirds on Gough Island in the South Atlantic.  Michelle is the person who first suggested a World Albatross Day to ACAP; she now serves on ACAP’s World Albatross Day Intersessional Group and has taken the lead on the ‘banner challenge’ which is helping increase awareness of the day and of the conservation crisis albatrosses are facing.

Michelle made contact with Owen Davey through his agent and obtained his agreement to produce an albatross poster for next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day without charge.  Supplied with a suggested list of species to illustrate, Owen went ahead, showing us drafts and then accepting our comments (such as adding protruding pink feet for the Laysan Albatross).  Owen decided he wanted to depict the birds in flight as they are known for their long-distance travel.

The final version, depicted here, includes representatives of all four albatross genera and examples from both hemispheres.  An attempt was made to include a suite of species so that no ACAP Party with breeding populations was left unrepresented, although we were constrained by selecting only eight of the 22 species for illustration.  The sizes of the birds relative to each other in the illustration is meant to be a realistic depiction of the real life-size differences between the eight species.

As well as designing a handsome pro bono poster for ACAP, Owen has written to ACAP Latest News in support of World Albatross Day:

“It is immensely important to preserve the diversity of animal life on our planet and minimise the impact we have on it.  Sadly, thousands of albatrosses have suffered as a direct result of humans and our unsustainable and short-sighted use of the planet's resources.  Conservation efforts often have to begin with education, increasing public awareness of key issues facing these creatures.  By informing people on how to make better choices as consumers and voters, we can begin to reduce our negative influence on their natural lifestyles.  I'm so the pleased that my poster design for World Albatross Day 2020 can be used to try to bring about positive change and highlight the need to protect these majestic birds.”

Information on how to obtain the poster will be posted to ACAP Latest News soon.

With grateful thanks to Owen Davey, his agent Kim Meech of the Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser. illustration agency, and Michele Risi, Gough Island Restoration Programme.

  John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 December 2019, updated 10 November 2019

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