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

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Great Egret sighted on Tristan

Report and photos from Rachel Green
with additional images from Caryn Green

Rachel Green's April 2022 photograph of a Great Egret in a Potato Patch
before digging for the next season's potatoes begins.
Normally these magnificent birds are seen poised above wetlands waiting to pounce on fish.
It is indeed extraordinary that this bird was instead hunting mice!

Recent interest in vagrant species discovered around the Tristan islands has prompted Rachel to send a photo
of a Great Egret she took over the 2022 Easter weekend together with other images taken of a Great Egret in 2021. These majestic birds breed in both South America and Africa. Peter Ryan thinks it much more likely that this bird flew eastwards from South America to Africa, calling at Tristan da Cunha for a feeding stop! This would entail a flight, in a straight line, of over 5000 kilometres. More common visitors to Tristan are Cattle Egrets, also called Tick Birds on the island and also astonishing migrants as they feed on the island on their inter-continental migration.

Rachel reports:

Last year a bird was spotted in May out at the Potato Patches. Many of the islanders thought it was a stork. I managed to see the bird and get a not so good photo, but with some research it was found to be a ‘Great Egret’. Surprising a few days ago the same species of bird was spotted out at the Potato Patches, eating mice from the potato patches walls. We normally have ‘Cattle Egrets’ but never ‘Great Egrets’. I thought it was quite interesting that they are only seen around this time of the year in April or May.

May 2021 Great Egret photos - from Caryn Green unless stated.

The Great Egret flying above a Patches camping hut with the slopes of Hillpiece behind

The Great Egret believed to be hunting mice in one of the potato patches,
fallow at this time of year during winter.

The Great Egret perched on a Patches wall (Photo: Rachel Green)

Another view of the Great Egret in flight

Tristan training after flax removal project

Report and photographs from Carmen Ferreira
With thanks to Tristan Government Environmental and Policy Officer Stephanie Martin

The Tristan da Cunha Government, through its Conservation Department, with the assistance of RSPB has secured funding for wildlife and conservation programmes on Tristan and surrounding islands. The multi-year project to clear invasive New Zealand flax plants from Inaccessible Island is one such partnership programme.

Two views taken on 15th January 2022 of roped climbs by the team on the cliff at the Waterfall to remove invasive New Zealand flax plants recognisable visible here by their sword-like waxy leaves and (in the upper photo) by the seed-head.

In the lower photo can be seen a sooty albatross chick on its pedestal nest. One of three albatross species that breed on Inaccessible Island, the sooties favour exposed cliff sites to breed.

Involvement of local resources

The Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department under the leadership of Trevor Glass plays a key role in the flax eradication programme. Conservation Department team members Julian Repetto, Wayne Swain and Christiaan Gerber (who was part of the flax removal team for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 field seasons as a Level 1 Rope Access Technician) play a vital role in logistical support during each flax clearing season on Inaccessible. Trevor and his team have been on standby as a first line of local support to the flax team through e.g., daily radio check-ins, have successfully completed two re-supply trips to Inaccessible and managed to safely transfer and extract the flax team and their extensive expedition cargo to and from Inaccessible Island. The conservation team’s hands-on and practical contributions to the project have proven to be a crucial element to the flax removal programme.

Members of the Tristan Conservation Department receive training in rope handling and climbing as show in these two photographs taken on 15th March 2022.

Raising awareness and building capacity within the local population

The present cycle of the flax eradication programme, funded by BEST / EU financial contributions under the stewardship of the European Commission’s department of International Partnerships, makes provisions to raise awareness and build capacity among Tristanians to build towards a sustainable long-term strategy for managing the invasive flax plants on the group of surrounding islands.

As a first capacity-building outcome upon its post-field season return to Tristan da Cunha, the flax team presented a basic rope work training session to members of the Tristan Conservation Department under the leadership and watchful eye of I-Rigging Solutions’ experienced IRATA Level 3 Rope Access Supervisor Carmen Ferreira. The session focused on introducing some of central components of flax eradication work, namely the technical rope skills of safely and correctly descending and ascending ropes, rope-based lifting- and lowering systems, knot work and rope access equipment familiarization. Future visits of the flax eradication team will see these initial skills being cemented within the Tristan Conservation Department in a controlled, supervised, and safe fashion.

In terms of raising awareness in relation to flax as an invasive species as well as the management thereof, a short visual presentation was delivered at St Mary’s school to introduce the children to the concept of biodiversity and provide a little insight into the work the flax eradication team has been doing on Inaccessible Island, as well as provide an idea of the team’s camp lives during the field season. The aim is to hold follow-on sessions, undertaken or coordinated by the flax removal team in conjunction with educators and the Tristan Conservation Department. Such sessions would include practical show-and-tell sessions for the children, but also involve the development of a practical lesson plan including elementary rope skills and field navigation training sessions in order to spark interest among the children and so strengthen initiatives to protect the pristine and unique diversity of Tristan da Cunha and its surrounding islands.

Carmen Ferreira,
I-Rigging Solutions Flax eradication team lead,
BEST technical project lead, IRATA Level 3 Rope Access Supervisor

Rare Black Ruff caught

Report and Photo from Rachel Green

One of three juvenile Black Ruff landed on Monday 24th January 2022

There was an interesting find on the fishing day held on Monday 24th January.

Leo Glass and Nathan Swain caught, what we think to be three juvenile Black Ruff (Centrolophus niger) fish. They were caught using a hook and lure, in approximately 45 - 50 m deep water off the Molly Gulch.  area during the day. One of the fish I have frozen in the freezer measures 34 cm long.

The last recorded one caught was by Eric McKenzie in 2017.

I did a bit of research on them and these fish appear to live in more tropical and temperate waters.

The species is not recorded in the definitive Tristan da Cunha 'Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island' edited by Peter Ryan, so it is an important record to add to our growing website wildlife section for a community always on the look-out for anything unusual.

Project to remove invasive flax from Inaccessible Island

Dangerous work on sheer cliffs using ropes
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Yacht SV Urchin brings the Inaccessible conservation team

The expedition yacht SV Urchin arrived from Cape Town on 6th December 2021 to drop off conservation personnel.
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Administrators visit Gough Island

Fiona Kilpatrick and Steve Townsend made their first visit to Gough during the MFV Edinburgh's 2021 voyage.
Full story >>

Tristan's key place at COP26

Stephanie Martin plays a leading role in the UK Overseas Territories' delegation at the climate change conference.
Full story >>

Community Braai to Celebrate the Tristan MPZ

The Chief Islander with the help of the RSPB held a celebratory braai for the community to mark the establishment of Tristan's Marine Protected Zone (MPZ).
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Milestone as Tristan publishes its Marine Management Plan

Milestone for ocean protection as Tristan da Cunha secures vast no-take Marine Protection Zone and publishes Marine Management Plan
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