By Tubbataha Management Office
Seabirds spend their entire life in the open ocean, using pelagic islands and islets as breeding sites and for raising their young. Although they have longer life spans, seabirds breed much slower and have fewer chicks than other birds. They are biological indicators of the health of the ocean.
The Tubbataha Management Office monitors seabird populations monthly and quarterly using various methods. An annual survey on the second week of May each year combines all survey methods to come up with a more accurate estimate of numbers. This year the survey was conducted from 9 to 14 May 2016. Here is what happened those four days…
A pre-departure briefing was held at TMO to review progress on recommendations fromt he year before, discuss the itinerary, tasks, and other last minute requirements. Seabird consultant, Arne Jensen, pulls out his 2015 record and takes TMO to task. © Rowell Alarcon
First stop: Jessie Beazley Reef. On 10 May, WWF research vessel, M/V Navorca, pauses to allow researchers to count seabirds roosting in a cay made up of broken corals. Over 500 seabirds were observed resting in this area. © JC Gonzalez
A briefing is held at the ranger station to inform marine park rangers of the mission and their role in it. © Rowell Alarcon
Marine park rangers erected the ‘Bird Islet Regency’, home of researchers for two and a half days. To the left is the ladies’ bathroom, first used by brown boobies (Sula leucogaster) to roost. © JC Gonzalez
Park ranger Segundo ‘Seconds’ Conales, Jr., tries to beat the sweltering heat with an umbrella donated by Shell. © JC Gonzalez
Seabird consultant, Arne Jensen, counts brown noddy adults, chicks, eggs and nests with TMO Research Officer, Retchie Pagliawan. The count continued until the next day. © Lisa Paguntalan
Dr. Teri Aquino, D.V.M. is assisted by park ranger, Narciso Cayao, in the necropsy of a red-footed booby that died due to entanglement in a fishing line. Twenty percent of the necropsies suggested that severe heat stroke was the cause of death. © Rowell Alarcon
Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) by the thousands lay eggs in colonies. On the upper right hand is a pair of Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula) tending their nest. On the foreground, lower left, is a brown bobby. © Godfrey Jakosalem
Done with research duties, at least for the first day. (From left) Dr. Teri Aquino, PASu Angelique Songco, Guilbert Umali, Jesson delos Santos. © JC Gonzalez
Panasonic solar lamps donated by Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., help researchers work through the night tallying their counts in preparation for the following day’s census. © Godfrey Jakosalem
Absent since 1995, alone Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra), believed to be male, made a surprise appearance early morning of 11 May at the Bird Islet. It is uncertain whether it will stay in the Islet or fly away once again. © Godfrey Jakosalem
Volunteer Amado Bajarias, Jr., of Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, peeks through a spotter’s scope. Arne Jensen, on ladder, scrutinizes the islet with his binoculars for any birds that might have escaped his eagle eyes. © Godfrey Jakosalem
It was a great effort to get the 2016 seabird research team together for a family picture as everyone had assignments to finish. When finally, a photo could be taken, an esteemed member of the team, ornithologist Dr. JC Gonzales, was nowhere to be found. Hence a second photo, below, had to be taken. © Godfrey Jakosalem
The 2016 seabird research team photographed in the noontime heat on 11 May. The Plaza, the brown patch in the center of the Islet, is almost empty of seabirds. During daytime, only about half of the seabird populations are present in the islet while the other half are off hunting. © Tet Lara
This year’s estimate exceeded 39,000 seabirds, slightly higher than 2015 counts. © JC Gonzalez
After two and a half days in the Bird Islet, everyone is looking forward to more fun. On 12 May, the much-anticipated volleyball match between M/V Navorca crew, headed by Captain Ronald de Roa, and its passengers, against marine park rangers is held. Eric Flores (PN) shows off his winning form. © Godfrey Jakosalem
Loss in a match is punishable by humiliation: crawling between the legs of the victors. Volunteer ornithologist Dr. JC Gonzales (kneeling, left) is not spared the disgrace. © Godfrey Jakosalem
On the way to South Islet, 13 May. Jeric Dejucos (in blue), Gerlie Gedoria, Godfrey Jakosalem, Rowell Alarcon and Jeffrey David try to deflect the heat with the help of Shell. Hidden behind are Noel Bundal and Amado Bajarias, Jr. © Retchie Pagliawan
Marine park rangers, (from left) Segundo Conales Jr.(TMO), Eric Flores (Navy), Lemuel Jesalva(Marines), Dennis Favila (Cagayancillo), and Crisencio Caranay Jr. (TMO) pose for ‘pogi points’. © Retchie Pagliawan
TMO rangers (from left) Jeffrey David and Noel Bundal with Research Assistant Rowell Alarcon model their birding outfits. © Godfrey Jakosalem
The exquisite eyes of the Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) can mesmerize. © Retchie Pagliawan
The once lush trees in the South Islet have mostly died due to overfertilization with guano from bird droppings. Nevertheless, almost 11,000 seabirds were found nesting in the islet. Volunteer ornithologist Lisa Paguntalan count black noddies, their nests, and chicks. © Retchie Pagliawan
When just five years ago this area in the South Islet was canopied, now it is exposed the sun. Some trees have fallen. Devoid of nesting materials, Black Noddies (Anous minutus worcestrii) are experiencing a shortage of materials with which to build their nests. © Amado Bajarias, Jr.
Dr. Teri Aquino, D.V.M., and M/V Navorca captain, Ronald de Roa, on a rare congenial moment. The two have been measuring the land area of both the South and North Islets for over a decade now but continue to fight over small things. © Godfrey Jakosalem
Early evening of 13 May, after completing the in-flight count of birds in the South Islet, unfolded one of the most beautiful sunsets to behold. © Amado Bajarias, Jr.
This year’s survey team: Arne Jensen (Avifauna consultant), PASu Angelique Songco (TMO), Retchie Pagliawan (TMO), Rowell Alarcon (TMO), Jeric Dejucos (TMO), Gerlie Gedoria (TMO), Teri Aquino (TMO consultant), Ronald de Roa (M/Y Navorca), Segundo Conales Jr. (TMO), Jeffrey David (TMO), Noel Bundal (TMO), Crisencio Caranay Jr. (TMO), Narciso Cayao (LGU Cagayancillo), Dennis Favila (LGU Cagayancillo), Guilbert Umali (PCG), Eric Flores (PN), Jesson delos Santos (PN M), Lemuel Jesalva, (PN M), Lisa Marie Paguntalan (PBCF Inc.), Philip Godfrey Jacosalem (PBCF Inc.), Juan Carlos Gonzalez (UP-Los Baños), and Amado Bajarias Jr. (WBCP).
Relevant news: http://tubbatahareef.org/news/1163