Tristan da Cunha Conservation News
News and reports from the Tristan da Cunha Government's Conservation Department.

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Trip to Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands using new RIB

Report and photos from Sean Burns

On Saturday 3rd November Marina and I were fortunate enough to join Trevor Glass and the Conservation Department team as they went to Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands. The trip was made to drop off Leo Glass, George Swain and Julian Repetto. Tristan and Kieran Glass came along and the crew were Trevor, Justin and Matthew Green.

This was out first time out on the new Blue Belt funded RIB which has yet to be named. We were very impressed. It is a really important vessel for the conservation team to be able to conduct surveys around Tristan and the outer islands. 

The landing was smooth although a few of us did get wet disembarking from the dinghy! Once ashore we caught up with Ben Dilley and Peter Ryan. Peter has been there since the arrival of the Agulhas and Ben joined him when the Agulhas departed. He had been on Nightingale. They are doing important bird science and monitoring and the Tristan team will be with them for two weeks or so as they continue that work.

We also made a quick trip to The Waterfall where Peter wanted to make a survey of invasives. Early next year we have a team of three coming out who will be tackling the influx of flax. They will be camping at the Waterfall.

After returning Peter to Blenden Hall we then headed over to Nightingale where we met up with James Glass who was conducting some camera drops with Steve Swain and Connor Glass. Rob Mrowicki and Rodney Green were diving at the time.

The wind started to pick up so skipper Trevor decided it was time to head back.

A great day out to see the important work conservation and fisheries are doing.

Approaching Blenden Hall beach.
The Tristan Conservation Department hut in the centre was first constructed by the Denstone Expedition to Inaccessible Island in 1982. Blenden Hall offers the only safe path from the coast to the plateau above via the tussock covered slope behind.
Landing on Blenden Hall beach
with the RIB anchored offshore.

On Blenden Hall Beach:
Left to right - Peter Ryan, Ben Dilley, Julian Repetto, George Swain, Leo Glass, Marina Burns, Kieran Glass and Tristan Glass.

Kieran, Trevor, Tristan and Peter en route to The Waterfall. Matthew looking towards Waterfall Beach.
Kieran, Peter and Justin aboard a dinghy
about to set off for Waterfall Beach.
Head of Fisheries James Glass with colleagues Steve Swain and Connor Glass aboard the Fisheries RIB Jasus Tristani. Rob Mrowicki and Rodney Green were diving at the time.

Fieldwork on Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands

2018 monitoring of sea and land birds
Update of original report

Northern rockhopper penguins on Middle Island, with Nightingale Island behind

Antje Steinfurth's photo of Northern rockhopper penguins on Middle Island,
with Nightingale Island behind, was first published in the Tristan da Cunha Newsletter.

Five scientists travelled to Tristan da Cunha on the 2018 SA Agulhas II outward voyage and were then landed on Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands by the ship's helicopter in early September.

Nightingale Work

Team members Norman Ratcliffe and Richard Philips from the British Antarctic Survey, together with Ben Dilley, from the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, at the University of Cape Town were on Nightingale Island for the duration of the 2018 Agulhas trip.

Norman Ratcliffe studied Northern Rockhopper Penguins, Richard Phillips Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses and Ben Dilley has continued his previous studies of the Nightingale bunting species, particularly focussed on the Wilkins bunting.

Norman and Richard have returned to the UK and Norman has posted a preliminary report of the team's work on the BAS website:

Inaccessible Island

Photo from Maxime Le Maillot of Inaccessible Island in 2013

Inaccessible Studies

Peter Ryan, Director of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, at the University of Cape Town and his colleague Maelle Connan were transported by the Agulhas helicopter to Inaccessible Island. Maelle travelled back to South Africa aboard SA Agulhas II and Peter was joined by Ben Dilley, after his Nightingale work was complete.

Tristan Conservation Department members Julian Repetto, George Swain and Leo Glass will travel to Inaccessible when a safe sea journey by RIB can be made. Administrator Sean Burns and his wife Marina also plan to travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site island with the team.

We will aim to update this page later and hope to publish details of the field work in the February Tristan da Cunha Newsletter.

Two million seabirds killed annually by mice on Gough Island

Report by Dr Alex Bond,
Senior Curator in Charge, Bird Group, Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum.

Invasive non-native mice on Gough Island are devastating one of the world’s most important
seabird breeding sites, killing the equivalent of four birds a minute.
Without action, the iconic Tristan albatross and the Gough bunting face extinction.

On first look, Gough Island is an idyllic uninhabited British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, sup-porting breeding populations of 22 seabird and two land bird species. The unique flora and fauna of the island earned Gough the status of World Heritage Site in 1995.

But look closer and you’ll see a heart-breaking story unfold.

J Cleeland’s photo shows courting Tristan albatross on Gough Island.
The species has declined by 96% in three generations.

Mice were accidentally introduced to Gough Island in the 19th Century. Now, over 100 years later mice have colonised the entire island, evolving to be 50% larger than the average house mouse and have begun feasting on the eggs and chicks of the island’s once abundant birds.

A new study calculates the impact mice are having on 10 species of defenceless seabirds on Gough Island, and the results are greater than anyone had ever imagined.

The research, supported by the RSPB, found that mouse predation is causing a loss of two million chicks and eggs on Gough Island every year. It might be hard to believe that a 30-gram mouse could kill a 10 kilogram chick, but this environmental catastrophe is very real. These predatory mice are pushing albatross, buntings, petrels and other seabirds towards extinction.

Dr Alex Bond, author of this report said: “We knew there were large num-bers of chicks and eggs being eaten each year but the actual number being taken by the mice is just staggering. The seabirds of Gough Island desperately need our help.”

However, help is on the way. The RSPB and Tristan da Cunha government, together with international partners including Island Conservation from the USA and the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa, have developed The Gough Island Restoration Programme. Not letting the challenges of working on one of the world’s most remote islands get in the way, the Gough team are planning to eradicate mice from Gough Island in 2020 to stop this carnage once and for all.

If successful, this one action will save two million sea-birds each and every year afterwards.

John Kelly, Programme Manager of The Gough Island Restoration, said: “The RSPB and Tristan da Cunha Island Council have developed an ambitious plan to save the Tristan albatross and other species on Gough. The results of this study are a powerful reminder of why we’ve taken this challenge on, restoring the island to a more natural state will prevent the deaths of millions of sea-birds. But we cannot do this alone. We are asking all those with a love of nature to come together to save these precious species.”

Two million seabirds killed annually by invasive mice on British Island

Invasive non-native mice on Gough Island are devastating one of the world’s most important seabird breeding sites, killing the equivalent of four birds a minute. Without action, the iconic Tristan albatross and the Gough bunting face extinction.

Ben Dilley’s photo shows mice attacking a Tristan albatross chick.
Up to nine mice at a time have been observed predating on one chick.

Gough Island Tristan Albatross update

Another poor breeding season for Tristan Islands' iconic seabirds
Full story >>

Wave Dancer in UK for refurbishment

Tristan's Fisheries Patrol boat arrives in UK for Blue Belt funded repairs
Full story >>

Web Pages Launched for the Gough Island Restoration Programme

The RSPB recently launched a website outlining its role in the Gough Island Restoration Programme.
Full story >>

New Page: Tristan da Cunha Gough Restoration Programme

The Gough Restoration Programme aims to eradicate the invasive mice on Gough Island that are predating albatross and other wild bird chicks.
Full story >>

Gough Island Mice Eradication Project to take place in 2020

Tristan Government and RSPB agree a one year delay to properly organise major conservation project
Full story >>

Blue Belt Annual Update Published

2017/18 Programme Booklet available to download
Full story >>