Ascension : Ascension Island Conservation Department
Submitted by The Islander (Conservation Office) 10.01.2013 (Article Archived on 24.01.2013)
The Army Ornithological Society (AOS) visited the Island 26 November to 7 December to continue their surveying of the seabirds.
Ascension Island Conservation Department
Contributed by Mr Andrew Bray, Army Ornithological Society
Andrew Bray with AIG Conservation Staff
The Army Ornithological Society (AOS) visited the Island 26 November to 7 December to continue their surveying of the seabirds. They were joined by members of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and a representative from the University of Birmingham. The main emphasis was once again Sooty Terns especially now that we are attaching Geolocators to the birds to discover where they go in between breeding seasons. Since the initial set of 20 geolocators was fitted in April 2011 we have recovered 5 and fitted another 20 Geolocators on this visit. During our time on the Fairs we re-trapped 630 previously ringed birds and ringed another 2000 birds of which 800 were juveniles ready to fledge. We surveyed the area and worked on density of nests, egg survival and fledging success. We estimate that 289,000 birds were breeding between the two sites. A notable factor was that the colonies at Waterside were much further ahead in the breeding cycle than the birds at Mars Bay. Chicks were already flying at Waterside whilst birds were still laying eggs at Mars Bay. In addition we monitored the nests of returning Brown Noddies on the edge of the Sooty Tern colonies at Waterside though the season has yet to start in earnest.
We also visited the Masked Booby nests at Letterbox. This was part of our remit to train members of the Conservation Staff, especially the renewal of their licences to ring the seabirds. During our stay, besides working with Nathan and Derren we had the company of two ladies from St Helena, Annalea Beard and Leann Henry who were here for intensive training on all aspects of bird monitoring and ringing. By visiting Letterbox the Conservation Staff were able to re-new their licences by catching, handling and ringing Masked Boobies in addition to that already carried out on Sooty Terns. It was during our trip to Letterbox that we were able to find a nesting Ascension Frigatebird on the mainland with an egg. This is memorable time for the Island and a major landmark in conservation. We also spent time recording the numbers of White Terns on the Island though sadly we were unable to survey the birds on BBI. We also had other tasks to complete involving predators of Sooty Terns and their chicks though this season is looking particular successful for the birds.
We are very grateful to Stedson and his team at the Conservation Office and the Administrator and RAF for their continued support. The data we have collected is one of a few long term data sets that have been collected on British Overseas Territories. Sooty Terns are the most airborne bird and our challenge is to determine what goes on for 93% of their time which is spent flying over the sea. We understand a great deal of what happens whilst they breed though there are still many questions that we do not know the answer for. Working with the Conservation Office it is anticipated that eventually some more fundamentals about Sooty Terns will be known.
Please be advised that due to on-going field work the Conservation Office will open from 7.30am -10am during week days. We open as normal on Saturdays, 10am-12noon, signs will be posted on the door when the office is closed. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
Volunteers welcome. Please contact Natasha Williams or Jolene Sim. Ascension Island Conservation Department. Georgetown. Tel: 6359. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org