On the night of 29 October, a Fiji petrel landed at Nawaikama village on Gau.
Petrels are known to have a problem with lights, on some occasions they become disoriented by them and as a result ground in villages or brightly lit places within proximity to their nesting grounds.
It has been nearly three years since a Fiji petrel last grounded on Gau.
This bird number was number 17 – confirmed record of this species ashore on Gau, since the 1855 type specimen was collected.
This was a very rare but special occasion for the Fiji petrel conservation project as every bit of information from grounded birds are valuable in determining their breeding season, which we have to know to concentrate the timing of our searches to locate the nesting burrows.
Eleazar O’Connor, Field Manager Fiji Petrel Project quickly responded when informed by villagers that a bird had grounded at Nawaikama.
There was a sigh of relief when he observed that the bird was well kept according to the standards taught to villagers in previous awareness campaigns.
A priority of the Fiji petrel project has been to ensure that all grounded Fiji petrels were well kept and released as soon as possible in good health.
The Petrel was retrieved and taken back to the project base at Nukuloa village where all necessary measurements and photographs were taken; and the first ever band (or ring) placed on the Fiji petrel’s leg, before it was successfully released on the 31st of October.
The bird sturdily flew South towards the open seas and disappeared into the distance.
The information gained is now being studied by the Fiji Petrel Project’s international advisers with the possibility that this was a very young bird just off the nest.
If this is what it proves to be it would be extremely valuable for the project. In fact it would confirm the October 1855 type specimen, also believed to be a fledgling.
NFMV would like to thank the Nawaikama villagers who carefully looked after the bird and immediately informed the project.