Update on the Northern Rockhopper Project

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

They have now achieved a much better handle on the logistics and issues around the best ways to monitor the Northern Rockhopper population in the Tristan archipelago. Surveying trips to the colonies on Tristan involved local people, as well as the island administrator on one occasion.  Gaining more support from the community for this species is an important component of this project.

RSPB safely managed to collect blood and egg samples for chemical analysis. The eggs are currently waiting to be taken to a lab in France, since their transportation in cooled conditions requires special permits. So there will be a delay of some months before these can be analysed for their metal content in Europe.

As well as visiting colonies on Nightingale and Gough, they also managed to map the 8 colonies on Tristan, so that we now have accurate outlines for their protected areas, which apparently we have never had before.

Perhaps the most unexpected success of the trip was the fact that they managed to download a wealth of tracking data sitting on magnetic readers on Nightingale island. This data comes from Passive Integrated Transponders, or PIT tags, which were attached to Northern Rockhoppers in 2016, where data from the tags is now apparently delighting those at the British Antarctic Survey, because it’s providing a wealth of information e.g. for survival rates. This data may be crucial to building up a better picture of the overall population health of this lovely, but hard-to-reach penguin species.