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Successful project tracking Arctic Terns seeks funding for 2017

29th November 2016

Arctic Tern, Farne Islands © Mike Reid

The Natural History Society of Northumbria is involved in a ground-breaking project to track and understand the migration of Arctic Terns which nest on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, and fly to Antarctica for our winter.

In the spring of 2015, in partnership with Newcastle University and the National Trust, the Society’s Bird Ringing Leader, Chris Redfern, fitted 28 breeding adult Arctic Terns with small, electronic geolocators attached to a plastic leg ring. The success of this project, was dependent on a number of factors: that the devices would not impede or hinder the birds, the devices would remain attached, would continue to function, and that sufficient numbers of the birds would return to the Farne Islands the following year and could be recaptured to recover the geolocators and download the data. The 2016 breeding season was therefore eagerly awaited to see if the geolocator birds would return.

The team need not have worried: some of the birds with geolocators were amongst the first to return to breed and 21 were eventually recaptured during the season. All birds appeared healthy, with no apparent detrimental effects. Data were recovered from all 21 geolocators: 17 were still recording when recovered, one had stopped working only a few days before, and three had recorded data until partway through the Antarctic summer. These data are now being analysed but are already showing fascinating insights into their migratory routes and winter feeding grounds. Information which can help us to better understand these amazing birds and to ensure their future conservation.

The team plan to repeat the study in 2017 by tagging the same birds with new devices but need your help. The initial research was funded by BBC Springwatch and Migrate Technology (who manufacture the geolocators and provided some free of charge) but we need to raise funds to carry on the work. Each geolocator costs £120 and in exchange for a donation of that amount we are offering the opportunity to sponsor your own tern – perhaps an ideal Christmas present for someone you know? You can find details about how to sponsor a tern on the donations page of our website or contact the Society Office.