With less than a week left on the island, Hannah Wood, Institute of Zoology, writes an update from the field on their first week of fieldwork on Nelson’s Island, British Indian Ocean Territory.
We have now been on Nelson's Island for 8 days and are over half way through the trip.
We have tagged 40 red footed boobies and have retrieved 31 tags back so far. When we recover the GPS loggers, we have also been collecting blood samples, which will contribute to a study on booby genetics across the Indian Ocean, as well as informing us of the sex of each of our tracked boobies.
In addition to the Red-footed Boobies, we have also tagged 6 Brown Boobies with GPS loggers, and today we got our first tag back. This will be the first ever data about where Brown Boobies forage in the British Indian Ocean Territory. We can't wait to download the tracks when we return to civilisation!
Life on the island is very basic but enjoyable. Our camp has mostly withstood the rainstorms and high winds, except for one of the tarpaulins which ripped open during the night and had to be replaced in the dark. We have brought out more than enough food to fuel our active days stomping around the island monitoring the boobies, and even have enough fresh water to treat ourselves to a (quick!) solar-warmed shower every evening.
A pleasant surprise to us has been the presence of many wedge-tailed shearwaters, which nest close to camp. These small seabirds arrive back on the island every evening and begin calling to each other with noises that have been described as sounding like ghosts, children and cats! They sleep in burrows overnight and in the morning they run through our camp toward the beach to take off for another day at sea. A few days ago we installed sound-recording devices at multiple locations, which we hope will help us to determine where and how many of these birds are on the island.
Another highlight of the trip, other than the beautiful scenery, is sharing the island with nesting green turtles, which we regularly see in the surf, and who leave long tracks on the shore during the night. The only downside to paradise has been the constant battle against ticks. Thankfully we have "tick sticks" and can rely on each other for help removing these undesirable friends!
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