LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija has officially finished its first field season.
From January to July BirdLife Malta’s seabird team has been working day and night, from land and sea during the Yelkouan Shearwater breeding season, focusing on the preparatory actions of the project.
This work has consisted of field surveys; mapping all Yelkouan Shearwater colonies, assessing their size and measuring reproductive outputs, and assessing and quantifying all relevant threats operating at all Yelkouan Shearwater colonies throughout the Maltese islands.
This multiple-method approach has allowed us to be flexible when monitoring the 13 locations where the project is focused, almost all of which are included in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. We are now also able to access the difficult areas which were not monitored before by using abseiling, climbing, a RIB, kayak, drone, a thermal imaging camera, sound recorders, and trail cameras.
Along the season we have monitored around 40 nests in three different Yelkouan colonies. This has led us to discover that the highest breeding success takes place at Rdum tal-Madonna, an area in the north of Malta where predator control has taken place for 10 years. We have also ringed more than 50 yelkouan chicks which we now hope will provide us with some valuable information about post-fledging dispersal and post-fledging survival rates in the future.
Another big development is that, for the first time, we have radio-tagged Yelkouan Shearwaters in order to understand the colony attendance to relate the gathered information with the impact of light pollution from bunkering boats, allowing us to assess the threat of light pollution at sea.
This work has only been possible with the support of LIFE, MSDEC, RSPB and Transport Malta – and of course the BirdLife Malta staff and volunteers who have helped make this season so successful.
Now, the team will be working on analysing all of the data collected from the season and beginning the preparations for the next breeding season!
We look forward to sharing another update with you soon!