Off to a Flying Start on Danger Island

by ZSL on

Blog by Hannah Wood, Institute of Zoology, ZSL.

Hello from Danger Island in the Indian Ocean! I am writing this blog from our campsite by the beach, sitting amongst a grove of squat, leafy beach heliotrope full of small, white moths and unexpectedly arboreal hermit crabs. Today is thankfully overcast which gives us a break from the intense sunshine and lessens the sweltering heat. The sea is relatively calm at the moment, but the coral reef fringing the island means that there are always white-tipped breakers rolling and crashing into the shore.

2019 20 Jan. RFB struggling in the heat! Danger Island, BIOT. Hannah Wood.JPG
A red-footed booby that can't handle the heat either!

We arrived here six days ago with the aid of British military forces and a British patrol ship. With their help we unloaded camping gear, drinking water, food for two weeks and all our science equipment. It took us the rest of the day to set up our camp and the following morning we circumnavigated the island to assess potential tagging locations. That afternoon we began tagging red-footed boobies with tracking devices, and by the end of the second day we had tagged 33 nesting birds.

2019 20 Jan. Campsite on Danger Island, BIOT. Hannah Wood.JPG
The campsite on Danger Island

Once the red-footed booby tagging was complete we moved on to the brown boobies, which are slightly larger and nest on the ground under bushes rather than in the trees. We have now tagged 15 of these and hope to begin retrieving the tracking devices tomorrow! In addition to all the tagging we have been conducting twice daily monitoring of nest attendance at all of our 33 red footed booby study nests, and erected a long-term camera trap near a collection of booby nests.

2019 20 Jan. Hannah and Pete measure Brown Booby. Danger Island, BIOT. Malc Nicoll.JPG
Hannah and Pete measuring the wing of a brown booby

The tag recovery phase of this expedition has now begun; this morning we collected 6 of our devices from red footed boobies, hopefully full of interesting data! As the afternoon passes it should get cooler and we can head out to gather more tags, until then we are recharging our electronics with portable solar panels and recharging ourselves with powdered isotonic drink!

2019 20 Jan. Brown Booby flying. Danger Island, BIOT. Hannah Wood.JPG
Brown booby taking off

This research is kindly funded by the Bertarelli Foundation as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science.

For more updates from this and future expeditions, follow us on Twitter @BIOTscience.

Blogs from their previous expedition to Nelson's Island in BIOT can be found here:

 

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