Barolo Shearwaters on the Canary Islands

At the end of December, I spent two weeks on the Canary Islands. The main reason for my visit was to help Marcel and the rest of the Universidad de la Laguna/Canarias con la Mar Project team with an expedition to put PTT (GPS) devices to up to four Barolo Shearwaters. As much as it may sound like a fun holiday in the sun, it was actually bloody hard work. The original plan was to head out to a colony on one of the northern islets but prolonged rough sea conditions meant we couldn't get out there. Multiple nights at several "mainland" colonies gave us some good data in the form of singing birds, and, with a thermal-imaging camera, we were able to watch some night-time behaviour for the very first time. However, we did not managed to catch any shearwaters (thought we did catch one Grant’s Storm-petrel). 

On Thursday 18th we finally managed to get onto the Montaña Clara islet, where a colony of Barolo Shearwater is (relatively!) easily accessed in the volcano crater. We had two nights before we had to leave again and four PTTs still in need of a home. Working on the islet is extremely tough: all water etc needs to be carried on, and the study site is a tough 90 minute hike up a ridge and down into the crater. 

On the first night, we heard several birds but again didn't manage to catch any. It looked like it would be the same story on the second night until, just a few hours before dawn, we caught one! The bird was ringed, measured, a genetic sample taken, and a PTT fitted.

The PTT transmits real-time data and, by the time we were back on the mainland later in the morning, we could already see that the bird had left the islet and headed northwest. After ten days of hard slog and frustration getting to that point, it was extremely satisfying to see that our hard work had paid off. 

Pre-ringing. The feet and legs were an amazing bubblegum-blue and black.

PTT fitted and ready to go.

You can view more information about the project and the tagged bird – including some of the PTT data – here. For anyone interested in hearing more about the ten-day expedition I was involved with, I will be giving a short talk to the RSPB Liverpool local group following their AGM on Monday 20th April 2015.