Welcome to Nelson's Island, home of four intrepid scientists for the last six days. This is Jacques, writing on behalf of the Bird and Turtle Teams based here for our respective research.
The Bird Team - Hannah and Malcolm - has had a very successful expedition so far. Although they counted fewer breeding birds than expected, they still managed to tag 31 adult red-footed boobies last week. Birds were tagged with small GPS loggers that record the birds' position during their long oceanic foraging trips. Tag recovery has begun today and loggers were recovered from two birds already. They will continue to recover tags as the birds return to their nests this week. In the meantime, they also started a study of the distribution of wedge-tailed shearwaters on the island. This population of ground-nesting birds has not previously been studied and adults are just starting their breeding season, so this is a fantastic opportunity to make an island-wide population survey.
Meanwhile Nicole and I have had great success flying the Turtle Team's drone over the reef flat to count juvenile turtles using this unique habitat. These new data will help assess how many turtles - and which species - use these waters as foraging grounds. We also completed plastic pollution surveys, which will help assess the impact marine debris has on this atoll. Sadly, we report here that all sorts of single-use and durable plastic items are littered across the island (e.g. plastic bottles, flip-flops, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, but also cooling boxes and fishing gear). One of our research aims is to better understand how this plastic debris might affect the incubation environment of turtle nests.
Finally, last night the Bird and Turtle teams joined forces - forming the unstoppable Birtle Team - for the nightly turtle survey. A couple of hours after sunset an adult female green sea turtle was spotted on the beach and we deployed a satellite tag on her. This is the first time a turtle was satellite-tagged on this northern outer island of the Chagos Archipelago. Where do you think this green sea turtle will go after her breeding season? Stay tuned to find out!
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