Friday, June 30, 2006

Thank You Earthwatchers!

Now that this year's Portuguese fieldwork is over, its a chance to say a big Thank You to everyone who has taken part this year.

Firstly, to our fantastic Earthwatch volunteers - who enable the project to happen in the first place and who make it such a stimulating and sociable time. This year we welcomed 12 volunteers from around the world -here are a few photos.

Team I: Polly (Hong Kong), Walaa (Egypt) & Thomas (Switzerland & South Africa)

Team II (along with Anna & Renata): Angela (Hong Kong), Sougato (India), Jenny (England), Dilip (United Arab Emirates & India), Niall (Northern Ireland) & Bill (USA).

Team III: Tanith (England), Lynn (USA), Emily (Scotland)

Thanks too to this year's field staff -Anna Jolliffe, Nicola Marples, Mark Bolton & Colin Beale, who all worked very hard to ensure the smooth running of the project.

In addition, the project benefitted greatly from the ideas and insights of a number of visitng scientists, including Jaime Ramos, Paula Tavares, Alex Pollard, Manuela Nunes, Vitor Paiva, Ruben Huttel, Emma Rosenfeld & Victoria Beale.

Last but by no means least -our two storm petrelling postgrads: Renata Medeiros (PhD) & Sara Roda (MSc), who appeared never to sleep for the whole month. Well done everyone on a fantastic effort!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Meet Mr Squawky!

Back home in Cardiff, the newest member of the storm petrel research team is a baby gull named Squawky. He/she is a lesser black-backed or herring gull chick (not quite sure which yet) who fell off a school roof in Cardiff and was taken to a local vets. Rob happened to be at the vets and offered a home for the gull while it grows its wing and tail feathers enough to be able to fly. Rob's daughter Nia initially named him Flappy (he flaps his wings a lot) and then Squawky (he squawks a lot) .

He has taken up temporary residence at the Cardiff University aviaries, where his role in our project is to eat different species of fish and then poo a lot. By collecting Squawky's poo, we can test the method of prey DNA extraction from seabird faeces before we use the method on our precious storm petrel faeces samples!

Squawky takes a bath, wathched by Nia Thomas

Stormy petrel

In the teeth of the gale and the raging swell
She nests among the angry rollers
Her flight firm and sure as the falcon

Her wings she lends to the storm
When the lions of the sea roar in the caves
Above the abyss she roams, across the trackless ocean

She seeks not the rock, the cape, nor the harbour
In insecurity she finds her strength
And the risk of death nourishes her

And she, it seems to me, is a model
For those who can live and sing through life’s storms

Translated and adapted by Earthwatch Team III, 2006 from the Portuguese poem Procellaria by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen.

Photo by Lynn

Friday, June 23, 2006

Boat trip no. 3

Another fantastic boat trip -8km out from Lagos on a rather lumpy sea! Amazingly, the prize for the most seasick boat-tripper was not awarded (largely because certain people wisely decided to stay on dry land!). The award for most enthusiastic family had to go to Sara's long-suffering parents and boyfriend, who added 3 hours on a rocking boat to their earlier night under a soggy tarpaulin.

A large box of old fish was rapidly turned into fish soup courtesy of Rob's feet [please remind him to take a shower -Ed.], and before long the first stormies appeared beside the boat.

Here is a European stormie photographed by Mark Bolton on boat trip 2.

Photo copyright Mark Bolton

The new "frisbee net" (mark V -modelled on a net described in the ornithological literature) was deployed but not used, owing to the stormies keeping well out from the boat. This was perhaps due to the rougher conditions drifting the fish lure rapidly away from the stern. However, the usual trawls with the zooplankton and phytoplankton nets were quite productive.

Along with about 4 European stormies, we had great views of another Wilson's petrel from the southern hemisphere, along with 3 cracking adult Sabine's gulls, 3 roseate terns, 2 common terns, Cory's shearwater, gannets, great skua, pomarine skua and a probable arctic skua chasing a definite Mediterranean shearwater! Not a bad day's birding!

At the end of another classic trip, we turned and raced the storm clouds back in to harbour. The inevitable ice-creams and chicken piri-piri were an important part of the post-trip medication/celebrations.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The disastrous rainstorm

After 17 years with more or less no rain, it was a bit of a shock for the outdoor-living storm petrellers to be pelted with tropical rainstorm-style downpours on 2 successive nights!
Here is a photo by Lynn showing conditions deteriorating...

Before long, all nets were furled and all hands + 1 surprised bird were under a large tarpaulin. This felt fairly grim -as shown on the faces of (l-r) Sara, Colin & Tanith at about 3am!

After the rain had put an end to our sound system for the night and the bird had got away safely, we decamped back to the minibus. Sara's parents and Bruno, who had come out with us for a pleasent night on the cliffs, seemed none the worst for wear!

After this first drenching we came prepared, and for the following few nights pitched a tarpaulin tent. Inside the tent, conditions had never been more civilised! Teas and coffees were served on a floor of blankets. This is the life -living outside will never seem the same again!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Missing: one beach!

As a result of the recent stormy weather, our nice sandy beach at Ponta de Almadena has been washed away! If anyone has seen it, please contact Dr Rob Thomas, care of A Rocha Portugal. Its all very inconvenient, as it has turned our pleasent stroll across the beach into yet another epic struggle across large slippery boulders!




Thursday, June 15, 2006

Here they come!

At last, the stormies have arrived in force!!!

After the long hard slog of 1-8 birds per night, we have at last broken the double-figures barrier with 16 birds on Tuesday night (June 13th) and 33 birds on Wednesday night. In fact, we could have had a HUGE catch on Wednesday night as all 33 birds were caught by 1am, whereupon the heavens opened and torrential rain caused the minidisk players to give up in disgust! Unbelievable weather for the Algarve in June [I blame global warming -Ed]. We all got completely soaked and returned to Cruzinha to dry out ourselves and the electronics.

On the plus side, at least I won the Mars Bar (1st time this year!). Everything seems to be working OK this morning, so we are gearing up for another big catch tonight -weather permitting of course.

Despite these technical traumas, we have now ringed our 105th bird of the year. Here is a photo of Sara with the 100th stormie of 2006 -horay!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fairies being sick?

This just in from Niall, Team 3 2006:

Got home mid-afternoon (Tuesday) and, by a happy coincidence, Bill Oddie's Springwatch programme was on TV that evening and included a report from Simon King on the stormie breeders at Mousa Broch [Shetland Islands, UK].
He was saying how much he loved the "gentle cacophany" of their nesting calls and a local veteran birder told him that he thought it sounded like "fairies....uh........vomiting". You know, rrrretch, rrretch, rrretch, eugh, eugh !!!

Happy hunting -- Niall

The storm petrel nest site at Mousa Broch, Shetland

...and the stormies are here!

Monday, June 12, 2006

For the man (or woman) who has everything

Q: What do you get for the man who has everything?

A: Something to put it in
B: Penicillin
C: Their very own sponsored storm petrel!

To sponsor a storm petrel for the man or woman in your life who has everything -or to sponsor your own favourite stormie- just follow the link below

Sponsors receive a certificate of sponsorship, a glossy storm petrel poster, and information on any recaptures of your sponsored bird in Portugal or around the world.

Welcome to stormies-online!

Hello from sunny Portugal!

This Blog is to keep all you Earthwatch vetrans updated on current events on the cliffs of the Algarve, and on new results as they emerge. Do feel free to add your own comments, suggestions and questions, by clicking on the "comments" tab.

Just to get the blog started, heres a photo of a small bird on a big ocean -Wilson's storm petrel- photographed by Mark Bolton on our latest boat trip. I'm still feeling slightly queasy at the thought of it...

Photo copyright Mark Bolton