Thursday, December 17, 2009

Banding seabirds

Over the last 12 months or so I have become very involved in banding research conducted by the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association (SOSSA), based on the NSW south coast. SOSSA has a permit to trap and band birds on the open ocean during pelagic trips run from Wollongong and Ulladulla.

I have been learning how to handle seabirds through the tuition of Lindsay Smith and Peter Milburn. Theyhave a combined 50+ years of experience working with seabirds.

Below is a series of photos of seabirds being captured, banded and measured.

A Yellow-nosed Albatross is, rather unceremoniously, captured on the water using a long handled net. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The Yellow-nosed Albatross is quickly removed from the net, ensuring to secure the dangerous bit (the bill) first! (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The Yellow-nosed Albatross has a chance to relax before being processed. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Being held during processing, ready to have the bill measured. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Measuring the bird's wing length. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

One of the key species for study is the Wandering Albatross. We have retrapped birds from many places around the southern hemisphere. This wanderer patiently waits to be processed on board and enjoys a scratch on the back of the head. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

An important step in the processing of wanderers. We measure four different parts of the bill, which helps us determine which type of wanderer it is. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A reasonably patient and placid bird in the hand(s), despite its enormous size. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

I sit on the banding step holding a wanderer, waiting for a colleague to start processing. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Handling a Northern Giant-Petrel. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)
A close-up of the giant-petrel's bill. The tube is 3/5 the length of the bill. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The giant-petrel gets a shiny new band. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Measuring the mid-toe length. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Measuring the depth of the unguis or bill tip. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The most important bit; scribing the data correctly! (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A Brown Skua gets banded. Darryl is very careful in holding this bird as it is quite dangerous at both ends; a very sharp bill and some dagger-like claws. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A bit more detail on the Brown Skua. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

I measure the bill of a Shy Albatross. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Lindsay holds a Northern Royal Albatross, ready for banding. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Lindsay hauls aboard a Buller's Albatross. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

And finally, a couple of photos showing how we catch shearwaters! (Photos by Daniel Mantle)

Yet another banding project

Here is a brief blurb on a project I've been working on for the last couple of years.

Well known Australian ornithologist, Stephen Marchant, conducted a study on a block of forest near Moruya in NSW. Stephen examined nesting of all species on his property called Ballara between 1975 and 1984 inclusive. He published many papers and notes on his work, including a substantial volume summarising the work which was published by the Eurobodalla Natural History Society.

Stephen's daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Michael Guppy, are now repeating the study on the block. They have been finding and monitoring nests for the last three breeding seasons. I have been managing the banding aspect of the project, and training Michael as a bander. We have authority to colour band 19 species. Through the effort of the banding team, we have just about every bird colour banded!

Colour banding allows observers to identify individual birds in the field without the need to recapture the birds. You may have seen some pics in my previous post about colour banding Olive Whistlers at Monga NP. Here, Michael opens a split ring colour band using a small aluminium "spoon", so that the band can be placed on the fairy-wren's leg.

Our collection of colour bands of various sizes.

Below are a few of the birds that we banded on a recent trip.

Adult male Superb Fairy-wren.

Adult male Variegated Fairy-wren.

Bit more detail on the Variegated Fairy-wren.

Adult Eastern Yellow Robin.

Juvenile Eastern Yellow Robin. This bird had probably been out of the nest about two weeks. A couple of yellow feathers already poking through the speckled plumage.

Adult male Rufous Whistler.

Adult Black-faced Monarch.

Adult male Leaden Flycatcher.

Immature Olive-backed Oriole.

Immature Olive-backed Oriole. Not much olive on the back yet!

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.