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National Trust rangers go to extreme lengths to monitor storm petrels

Alyson Goldman - Friday July 21, 2017 9:16
With [speakers] pumping into the early hours, this remote night spot has a very exclusive guest list: elusive sea birds only.
National Trust rangers are going to extreme lengths to monitor storm petrels, setting up high-powered speakers to lure them in at night.
A small team of passionate ornithologists at The Leas in South Tyneside will work into the early hours to coax the birds by transmitting their sound out to sea.
Storm petrels, which don’t usually come inland in the daytime as they’re easily predated by gulls, are caught in mist nets before being ringed, recorded and set free again.
The data is passed onto the British Trust for Ornithology and provides vital information in understanding the survival rates, population sizes and movement of storm petrels.
Dougie Holden, ranger for the National Trust on The Leas said:
“A small team of us regularly monitor storm petrels in July and August. We construct 120 foot of fine netting on the beach and begin playing the sound of the breeding colony as soon as it gets dark, usually around 10pm at this time of year. When the birds fly inland they are caught in the net and trained handlers ring the birds and record their data.”
“We prefer the weather conditions to be a little overcast as the nets are more visible to the birds on a clear moonlit night.”
“The information we gather through bird ringing and monitoring provides a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to understanding how a species lives and thrives. The National Trust is passionate about wildlife conservation. We work closely with volunteers and other like-minded organisations to care for our natural world.”
Storm petrels spend the winter months off the coast of South West Africa and begin their long journey back to their UK breeding grounds in spring. Birds over the age of four are usually paired up and sitting on single eggs by early June. It is thought that the birds ringed on The Leas are under the age of four and spend the summer moving up and down the east coast, feeding rather than breeding.
In 2015 National Trust Rangers and the Whitburn coastal conservation group carried out an intensive eight week survey of storm petrels. During that time they ringed 514 storm petrels and two rare Leach’s storm petrels.
The Whitburn coastal conservation group has been monitoring storm petrels on The Leas for 15 years. During that time they recorded a visit from a bird in 2015 that was originally ringed off the coast of Portugal in 2004. They also ringed a bird in 2009 that was recorded on The Faroe Islands in 2010.