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Observing shearwaters at night

Chris Surman, November 17, 2017

I am about to start a study involving observing fledgling shearwaters at a remote site at night. A long time ago we used cumbersome night vision monoculars. Has anyone any more useful tools and has anyone used camera traps successfully on petrels/shearwaters? Thanks Chris

Comments ( 6 )

George Divoky

Chris: No experience with petrels or shearwaters but I have used Reconyx cameras to monitor Black Guillemot nests and have obtained good images and video of nocturnal behavior of nestlings when they are out of their nest cavities at night. Have been able to record nocturnal feeds by parents and time of fledging. best, George

Anant Pande

Anant Pande

Hi Chris I have monitored Snow Petrels using automated motion sensing cameras which yielded thousands of images and videos. But then the species is a cavity nester. You may look for papers by Mark Mallory for his study on cliff nesting seabirds and use time lapse cameras or camera traps with videos (Reconyx Hyperfire) for recording nesting.

Justin Hart

Justin Hart

I've used Ltl Acorn trail cameras inside and outside the nesting cavities of Cory's shearwaters. The camera placed outside can be used to monitor phenology, feeding rates as well as fledging. The inside camera reveals some interesting behaviours but can also confirm laying, hatching and fledging. Choose your site well though as the inside camera memory card can fill quickly and needs fairly regular replacement you'll need to limit disturbance if possible. The advantage of Ltl Acorn cameras is that you can set the camera to switch on and off over two time periods per day. The lastest models also have wide angle which allows close focus... another advantage in the confines of a nest cavity.

You can watch some edited examples here:

All the best

Nuno Oliveira

Nuno Oliveira

Hi Chris,

We are using Bushnell trophy cameras to monitor Cory's shearwater, Band-rumped storm-petrel and European Shag. Depending on our question, cameras are set out or inside the nest. The IR and movement sensors are not super power, but work well in our case. So far we are evaluating predation by gulls and/or rats, and assessing the breeding behaviour of each species. Please include some more details on your research, mainly objectives, special constraints, etc.

Best regards, Nuno

Chris Surman

Chris Surman

Thanks everyone.

Nuno, our main objectives are to observe and record the proportion of fledglings impacted by lighting at a nearby facility - only 100m from rookery. Some fledglings are found during the day hiding under infrastructure - presumably these birds have fledged the night before and on their initial flight have been attracted to the lighting and collided with infrastructure.

Now the lighting is managed for sea turtles - so predominately sodium vapour lights - yellow - to reduce impacts on the nearby beach.

I would like to set up camera traps to cover specific areas know to have fledglings land, as well as try to somehow observe the behaviour of the young when they first depart the colony.

I suspect I will have to do direct observations within the colony to try and watch the flight path of the birds to see how many are actually being diverted.

We already have a light map, which we will also review.

I guess if I locate a camera (s) in a section of rookery, this may cover a small area of burrows and sky, so may pick up birds in flight.

Any suggestions on this would be appreciated.

Cheers Chris

Richard Podolsky

Richard Podolsky

I have used Flir Scout infrared scope for similar type of observations.