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Project news

Finding the fouquet

By Danielle van den Heever, 10th November 2016

D’Arros Island and Fouquet Island are teeming with life in the air, in the water and on land – and even more so at night when thousands of fouquets (wedge-tailed shearwaters) return to their nests. Just as the sun starts to set, you hear birds all around, crashing into the coconut palms. Sometimes they even fly straight into a tree trunk, take a few moments to recuperate and then continue on their way.

At first we planned to wait at night for one of a nesting pair to return so that we could simply catch the other bird as it was about to leave its burrow. However, this turned out to be a near-impossible mission, since all the shearwaters come out of their burrows at night and we couldn’t figure out which one belonged where.

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Jonathan Botha shoulder deep in a burrow on Fouquet Island, searching for a wedge-tailed shearwater to attach tracking devices to. Each time we stick our hands in a burrow, we hope it’s grabbed by a fouquet and not by a crab or centipede. As the photograph shows, there are plenty of burrows to choose from. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation

We then kicked into plan B and ‘saturated’ the area, trying to find incubating birds below a certain weight that we could attach tracking devices to. We have tagged nine birds on Fouquet Island and 17 on D’Arros so far. Hopefully, the birds are currently flying around the Seychelles (or who knows where) collecting data for us.
Catching these birds is definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. Many times the burrows are so deep that you can’t reach the bird. You also have to be extra careful to avoid stepping on any burrows. But it’s worth the effort. I can’t wait for the tagged birds to come back so that we can find out what they have been up to.
The research team based on D’Arros is absolutely amazing and I’m so lucky to have so many people helping me with this project!

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Attaching the GPS and Time Depth Recorder (TDR) to a wedge-tailed shearwater. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation

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Jonathan Botha (left) and Danielle van den Heever (right) preparing the wedge-tailed shearwater for deployment. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation.

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The wedge-tailed shearwater with its new backpack (GPS and TDR devices). Birds carrying these devices are marked on the head and breast feathers to identify them when they return to their nests. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation.

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Danielle and a tagged fouquet. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation

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