Tern experts flock to Lancelin

Birds in the Northern Agricultural Region are on the move … and a group of passionate birders is hot on their tail.

The group – the Seabird Tracking Reference Group – recently met in Lancelin to discuss the latest results from the Seabird Tracking project.

Lancelin Island Tern Reference Group setting up tracking equipment

The Group, which comprises researchers from the Conservation Council of Western Australia, Murdoch and Curtin Universities, the University of Amsterdam, Department of Fisheries, Department of Parks and Wildlife, and local residents, has been collecting data rom the November/December breeding season, which will now be analysed.

All of this activity comes under a project coordinated by the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) which involves tracking Sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) on Rat Island, and Common noddy (Anous stolidus) on Lancelin Island, since October 2014 using GPS telemetry.

Correlating this information with remote sensing data indicates the link between seabird foraging and areas of ocean productivity. It also helps gain an understanding of seabird foraging distances.

Results from the data have shown big distances are being covered by these petite seabirds – with one Sooty tern clocking-up 2,739 kilometres in an 18-day period.

“Knowing when and where these birds are going is crucial to understanding the relationship between their behaviour and oceanic processes,” said Nic Dunlop from the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

“As we continue to face challenges associated with oceanic change, new bio-indicators are needed to guide fishery and biodiversity management.”

The Reference Group discussed the data collected by the projects, highlighting some interesting coincidences between tracking data and sea surface temperatures, and with sea chlorophyll concentrations.

Following the meeting, a short visit courtesy of the Lancelin Volunteer Marine Rescue Group was made to Lancelin Island to set up tracking equipment for the next round of data collection.

The Seabird Tracking Reference Group also considered an analysis strategy for data collected so far, and a publication on seabirds as marine indicators.

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