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Satellite transmitters were attached to eight adult spectacled petrels Procellaria conspicillata Gould captured during the early incubation period at their breeding grounds on Inaccessible Island, one of the Tristan da Cunha Islands in the central South Atlantic Ocean. Data on their at-sea distribution was obtained for up to six months. All birds remained within the South Atlantic from 24–44°S, with most between 25 and 40°S. Breeding birds mainly foraged in oceanic waters, but failed breeders or non-breeders concentrated their foraging activity over the Rio Grande Rise and the Walvis Ridge and along the shelf break off the east coast of South America. Little foraging occurred along the Benguela shelf break off southern Africa. Non-breeders favoured relatively warm water with low chlorophyll concentrations, reducing the risk of bycatch in fisheries. Tracked birds spent 16% of their time in areas with high levels of tuna longline fishing activity, with overlap greater for non-breeding birds (22%) than breeding birds (3%). Birds in this study foraged in shallower waters along the continental shelf edge off South America than spectacled petrels tracked in this area in winter, potentially increasing their risk of exposure to demersal longline fisheries in this area in summer.
Around 80% of the world population of Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi is found at Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, where populations appear to be declining. However, numbers of birds at Middle Island, a small satellite island of Nightingale Island at Tristan Cunha, have not been counted since 1973 when an estimated 100,000 pairs were recorded. Updated population counts were obtained for all four islands at Tristan da Cunha (Tristan, Inaccessible, Nightingale and Middle islands) in 2009 providing a census of the whole island group and the first repeat count of Middle Island. Estimated breeding numbers at these four islands were Tristan 6,700 pairs, Inaccessible 54,000 pairs, Nightingale 25,000 pairs and 83,000 pairs at Middle Island. These counts confirm that Tristan da Cunha is a vitally important site for this ?Endangered? species holding over 65% of the global population and that breeding number have been relatively stable over the last 30 years.
Until recently, the spectacled petrel Procellaria conspicillata Gould was listed as Critically Endangered due to its small population size and ongoing incidental mortality on fishing gear. Surveys at its sole breeding locality, Inaccessible Island in the central South Atlantic Ocean, indicated that the population increased from 1999–2004, resulting in the species being down-listed to Vulnerable. We repeated the census of breeding spectacled petrels during the early incubation period in October–November 2009. Numbers of burrows increased by 55% from 2004–09, with increases in all count zones, and the greatest changes in peripheral populations. Burrow occupancy estimates remained high, averaging 81% during one-off checks. Our best estimate of the population in 2009 was 14 400 pairs, continuing the c. 7% per year increase inferred since the 1930s following the disappearance of introduced pigs. This confirms the rapid recovery of this species despite ongoing mortality on fishing gear. Our results suggest that at least some procellariiforms are able to sustain strong growth rates in the face of fishing mortality when colony based threats are removed.
Few scientific observations have been made at Middle and Stoltenhoff Islands, small (ca 10 ha) islands off the north coast of Nightingale Island, Tristan da Cunha. We recorded vascular plants and numbers of breeding birds on both islands in December 2009. Despite being smaller and more isolated than Middle Island, Stoltenhoff supported more species of plants, including Cotula moseleyi, previously thought to be endemic to Nightingale Island. Only one alien plant was found, Sonchus oleraceus. Populations of two albatross species apparently have decreased by at least half over the last 40 years, presumably due to mortality at sea. Stoltenhoff probably has the least disturbed habitat in the Tristan group, and strict controls are needed to prevent accidental introductions by anyone going ashore.
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