NFMV Officer Visits Cabbage Tree Island in Australia

Fiji Petrel Officer, Eleazar O’Connor, spent several weeks in Australia training with petrel expert, Nick Carlyle.

Eleazar O’Connor was very excited and full of enthusiasm to begin the 2012 programme for the Fiji Petrel project, thanks to his three week stint in Australia last month.

He spent several weeks with petrel expert, Nick Carlyle, and visited the petrel sanctuary on Cabbage Tree Island.

Some of valuable techniques he learned include petrel handling, nestling monitoring, nest box installation, and the collection of mensural data (scientifically significant measurements of a growing nestling).

He assisted Nick and David Priddell in carrying out the annual petrel transect survey, the results of which are used to monitor the population of petrels in the sanctuary.

Eleazar O'Connor banding a Gould's Petrel with a metal band.
Eleazar O’Connor banding a Gould’s Petrel with a metal band.

The lessons learnt from Eleazar’s trip to the sanctuary will prove invaluable for the 2012 programme of the Fiji Petrel, which is hoped will involve the successful establishment of a Collared petrel nest box site.

Call-back of the Collared Petrel calls will be broadcast by open-air speakers, to bring in nesting birds.

The area near the loudspeakers will have several artificial nest boxes, and grounded birds (through spotlighting or nocturnal broadcasting) will be placed within the nest boxes to encourage the adoption of the nest.

The experience of handling nestlings and monitoring the nest boxes will be a “surrogate” for the Fiji Petrel project, where the methods can be applied to active burrows with Fiji petrel chicks (when they are finally found by the NFMV detector dogs).

 Nest boxes on the Gould's Reserve, the petrel sanctuary on Cabbage Tree Island.

Nest boxes on the Gould’s Reserve, the petrel sanctuary on Cabbage Tree Island.

Eleazar, enjoyed his stay with Nick Carlile, especially the visit to Cabbage Tree Island, where he got to experience a successful bird sanctuary.

The species of petrel that inhabits the island is the Gould’s Petrel, Australia’s most threatened seabird. Like the Fiji Petrel, Gould’s petrel is largely threatened by human activities and habitat loss.

Eleazar O'Connor with Nicholas Carlile on the Gould's Reserve.
Eleazar O’Connor with Nicholas Carlile on the Gould’s Reserve.

Eleazar got to handling nestlings and take blood samples for DNA studies, and said “It was a fantastic experience for me to work with highly experienced sear bird biologists and to learn from them”.