Blog

2017

Published on 11 September 2017
Migration is out there!

In the end of august we shipped for the Seabird Census (ESAS) in the Berlengas’ SPA. The migration has already started which helped us to bear the rain, the cold and the hard sea conditions. We recorded 18 seabird species, some sunfishes jumping out of the water and several small groups of common dolphins. The major activity is always around Berlengas Archipelago and Serro Sudoeste.

It was in these areas that we recorded the Sabine’s gull, Manx shearwater, Sooty shearwater and Great shearwater, Pomarine and Arctic jeager. During the entire trip we saw the Northern gannets, Cory’s shearwaters and Storm-petrels, Wilson storm-petrel, European storm-petrel and Madeiran storm-petrel, in rafts or even in large groups foraging. On our way back to land a very curious Common tern and a small group of Red phalaropes come to say goodbye. When we put our feet on land we were tired and wet but these days were super exciting and we have hueg expectations for the next migration months.

Ana Santos - SPEA Fisheries Observer

Photo: Joana Ramirez

Published on 30 August 2017
Cory´s shearwater rescue in Berlengas Island

Once again a seabird was bycaught in a longline fishing gear. This time it was an adult Cory´s shearwater, potentially a breeder in Berlengas lslands. Given the depth of the hook in the digestive track, it was impossibe for us to remove it.

The bird was sent to CRAM (Marine Animals Rehabilitation Center) and we had the help from ICNF (Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests) and SEPNA (Protection Service of Nature and Environment) in the transport from Berlengas to Quiaios, which we appreciate very much. In the rehabilitation center, the Cory’s shearwater underwent surgery in order to remove the hook. It went all fine, but it isn´t free of danger yet. It’s very important that we keep the work with bycatch mitigation measures to mitigate these events. Species with vulnerable status such as Cory’s shearwaters are very susceptible and it is our responsibility to protect them.

Elisabete Silva - Fisheries oberver at SPEA

Photo credits: Elisabete Silva and CRAM

 

Published on 29 August 2017
And the Brown booby keeps nearby..

We think that the Brown booby really likes to be in the Berlengas archipelago. This juvenile was seen for the first time, in April 2017 and in August it was observed again. This species is very similar to the Northern Gannet in size and morphology, although it has a darker plumage and a bluer beak when it´s juvenile and yellow when it becomes adult.

This species breeds on smalls and isolated islands in tropical Atlantic Ocean, tropical Indic and tropical Pacific and probably got lost. We hope it founds his route soon and return to where it belongs. Otherwise, it can be very dangerous because the winters here are much more rigorous. Brown booby observations in Portugal are very rare: in 1994 in Ponta da Piedade; in 2010 in Cabo Raso; and in 2016 in Sesimbra. It’s very important to take a note of these rarities to know more about their migratory behavior.

Elisabete Silva - Fisheries oberver at SPEA

Photo credits: José Ângelo Gomes

 

 

 

Published on 19 July 2017
DONAs back to Cape Carvoeiro!

The activities to observe seabirds called DONAs (An Eye on Birds) returned to Cape Carvoeiro! On July 15, SPEA and Life Berlengas returned to Peniche to show to all interested the Shags that were resting on “Nau dos Corvos” and the yellow-legged gulls that were taking care of their chicks.

As is common in Peniche, the morning started grey and with the Berlengas hidden in the fog, but a little while later the sun appeared and exposed the birds and the island.

Just like last year, we had the opportunity to get in touch with numerous people of different ages and nationalities and publicise the Life Berlengas project. It was gratifying to see the interest and surprise of all who tried the binoculars and watched with the telescope and wanted to know a little more about the birds observed, the SPEA and the Berlengas.

Once again we returned home satisfied with the success of this seabird watching activity.

We will return to Cape Carvoeiro in August and September! Be aware of the dates and do not miss the opportunity to join us.

Published on 11 July 2017
Life Berlengas Internships - Karolina Mikslová

When I first visited Berlengas in the summer 2016 as a tourist and read about the Life+Berlengas project, I didn’t really believe I will be so lucky to come back one year after again as an Erasmus + intern. But the communication with SPEA people was very fast and clear so I had a wonderful experience as a student but also as a person completely in love with sea-life and nature.

It was a great opportunity to take action in the Berlenga Island and protect nature directly by taking out all the chorão and monitoring European Shags as well as experience working in the office in Lisbon and monitor fishing boats activities in the reserve trough historical data. SPEA helped me to live my discovery channel dream for two months, especially moments that I spent at sea counting and watching beautiful Northern Gannets and their amazing diving skills will always be one of my favourite memories! The only thing that went wrong is time cause it runs too fast!  I am very glad for this opportunity and would love to say thanks for everyone in SPEA and team in Peniche!

P.S. Since I came home from this internship, I never go walking my dog without binoculars! :-)
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Published on 25 May 2017
Running for Natura 2000 Conservation

Ramón Soto Madrid is a Spanish young men running around the Iberian Peninsula. This idea arose from his concern about the threats affecting the spaces of the Natura 2000. He believes the first step towards reducing threats to the Natura 2000 is to increase the environmental awareness of citizens.

If the social majority is on the side of improving the protection and management of these spaces, it will be possible to have policies aimed at this and not at the continuation of policies that promote uncontrolled urbanization, intensification of homogeneous cropland and over-exploitation of aquifers, among others.It is for this cause that he will run around the Iberian Peninsula clockwise, starting at Cabo de Palos, to return to the same place 6 months after having travelled more than 4000 km. He hopes that with the help of experts, ecologists, organizations, etc. and the people he meets along the way, he can achieve this. In his way through Peniche he met the Life Berlengas team who explained him the project, its objectives and main actions. For us it was a pleasure and we wish him a good run!

Here you can follow Ramon Sóto Madrid Facebook page. And here, you can see a video on seabirds and fisheries interactions by Ana Santos from SPEA.

 

Published on 23 May 2017
Building artificial nests with Reynaers

Cory’s Shearwater that breed on Berlenga Island count on new 14 artificial nests built by the collaborators of the Reynaers Aluminium, S.A. During the last May 20, 62 collaborators and their families were building those artificial nests in a new site on Berlenga Island, expected to be soon occupied.

Besides the presence of 2 known nests in this site, the short availability of natural cavities has been a limitation for the establishment of new breeding pairs here, once the natural burrows collapse very easy. By building these artificial nests we guarantee long time safe cavities, as expected for this species. 

Published on 03 May 2017
European Commission visits Life Berlengas Project

On April 26th and 27th, Life Berlengas Project, which is about to complete its third year of implementation, received a very important visit from the LIFE Unit, along with the external monitoring team.

The EC team met with some of Life Berlengas partners at SPEA headquarters on the 26th to discuss the different actions that are being implemented, as well as, to verify methodologies of financial management. These visits are always an added value inasmuch they do not only monitor project implementation, but they are also a great opportunity to open debate and knowledge sharing, improving and optimizing procedures. On the 27th, the visit continued in the Berlenga island, with the presence of all project partners, so that the EC team could see the implementation of some of the project actions on the field, namely the areas of Hottentog fig (Carpobrotus edulis) removal, gulls exclusion zones, artificial nests for Cory´s shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) and Band-rumped Storm-petrels (Hydrobates castro), black rat (Rattus rattus)  monitoring stations, the Interpretation Centre and the new signage on the trails. The trip was on board of the new vessel acquired by the project (a Zodiac called “Berlengensis”) and on another vessel, owned by a local touristic company. It was possible to watch two of the species that breed on Berlengas archipelago, namely, the Cory´s shearwater and the shag, among other seabird species. At arrival, it was possible to observe the areas where the Hottentog fig was removed on the nearest slopes, as well as the first signs of colonization by native vegetation. Here, we took the opportunity to see the locations where the coconut blanket was installed in order to minimize the impact of hottentog fig removal on steeper slopes. The visit continued on the Visitor´s Centre located in the Fisherman´s neighborhood, where we can find information on the natural treasures of Berlengas through informative panels, images, illustrations and a touch screen, in which visitors can choose which videos they want to see. The team continued along the Ilha Velha, from Melreu until the lighthouse plateau, walking along the coastline and passing by the new information panels. The yellow-legged-gull (Larus michahellis), always present, accompanied us along the island with its shrill calls. At this time of the year, the island is full of color since many of the vegetation species are blooming. On its the way to the lighthouse, the team appreciated one of the endemic plant species, the Berlengas thrift (Armeria berlengensis), among others like the campion (Silene scabriflora) and the gwiberlys llac (Echium rosulatum). The team had a deserved break at the lighthouse, gently provided by the National Maritime Authority, and afterwards the visit continued along Cova do Som bay, at the other end of the island. Along the way, there was opportunity to check the gull’s exclusion zones, where it is visible the growth of innumerous Berlengas thrifts. Being a slow growing plant, it is very important to have areas on the island where the disturbance is minimal. On the way down to S. João Baptista fortress, the team was excited to see the spot where the camera is, which has been transmitting livestream the daily life of a couple of shags and their chicks. When the young leave the nest, the camera will be placed next to a Cory´s shearwater nest in order to follow the day-to-day life of this seabird species until the end of the breeding season, by mid-October. The day ended with a small intervention by the deputy director of the EC Life Unit, Mr Christian Strasser, who once again took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of communicating the project as well as to share experiences among other Life projects. In the year which the Life Program celebrates 25 years of existence, it is important to highlight the valuable contributions it has made to nature conservation and Rede Natura 2000 network. On May 21st the Life Berlengas project will join the celebrations organizing a visit to the island and revealing the rich heritage of this unique archipelago, and presenting how Life Berlengas is contributing to safeguard these values. Learn more at http://www.berlengas.eu/en/events and sign up here: http://www.spea.pt/calendario/?year=2017&month=05&id=1681

 

 

Published on 02 May 2017
Marine litter: a big problem

In the last couple of months, I have seen large amounts of litter in Peniche fishing port, mostly from fishing boats operating from this port. This litter stays during days floating in the water until, under the effect of the wind and the sea, it sinks or leaves the port, ending in the nearby beaches or floating in the ocean.

In the fishing port we can find all kinds of litter (bottles, shoes, glasses, fishing gears, different plastics, papers, wood, cigarettes, etc) and this is just the visible material since there are also spills of bleach and detergents. All these marine debris contaminates our waters, causing the loss and death of fish, seabirds, corals and other living beings that inhabit these waters so productive in marine life. In our day-to-day work with the fishermen, we try to raise awareness and explain the problem of marine litter and the consequences it has on the marine environment. Many of them don't even realize the impact of this litter on the sea, because when they throw away something, they don't see it again, but it actually doesn't disappear, some of it stays in the bottom of the sea during decades, others during hundreds, and others like some plastics never disappear, breaking up into very small pieces -microplastics- that can be consumed by various marine animals that later are consumed by people. It´s our duty to reverse this situation and contribute for a cleaner sea!

Iván Gutiérrez - SPEA Bycatch observer 

 

Published on 19 April 2017
Welcoming the new baby shags at Berlengas
Nas Berlengas, os ovos foram postos a 12 de março e estiveram a ser incubados pelos progenitores, tendo as crias de galheta, a nossa Ave do Ano 2017, eclodido no sábado passado, dia 15 de abril e na terça-feira, dia 18 de abril!
Nas Berlengas, os ovos foram postos a 12 de março e estiveram a ser incubados pelos progenitores, tendo as crias de galheta, a nossa Ave do Ano 2017, eclodido no sábado passado, dia 15 de abril e na terça-feira, dia 18 de abril! Estes são 2 dos 3 ovos postos no ninho que a nossa equipa do Life Berlengas está a seguir. Por volta das 11 horas de dia 15 passámos a ver a primeira cria e, a meia da tarde de dia 18 passamos a ver as duas crias em interação com o progenitor. Nos próximos dias será possível observar os progenitores a revezarem-se nas suas tarefas de cuidado "domésticas". Durante o dia, a alimentação, os cuidados de higiene e os curtos descansos são algumas das atividades que podemos assistir. As crias serão alimentada até junho, altura em que, habitualmente, os juvenis começam a abandonar os ninhos, ficando ainda dependentes dos pais e juntando-se em pequenos grupos no mar, não muito longe dos seus ninhos. A equipa do Life Berlengas disponibiliza, aqui, um vídeo das primeiras horas da primeira galheta da ilha da Berlenga e as reações dos recém-pais.
Muito em breve e se tudo correr bem, podem ver as novas cria e os seus pais a prepararem-se para receberem mais um membro da família em: www.berlengas.eu/ninho-ao-vivo.
 
The couple of European Shags, the Bird of the Year 2017, followed by the SPEA received the first two chicks. There is one more egg in the nest that shall hatch soon. The eggs were layed on March 12 and were being incubated by their parents, being that the first hatched last Saturday, April 15th and the second on Tuesday, 18th! These are 2 of the 3 eggs layed in the nest that our Life Berlengas team is monitoring.  Around eleven o'clock on April 15, we saw the first chick, and at mid-afternoon on April 18 we saw the two chicks interacting with theirs parents. In the coming days, we will be able to observe parents in their daily care tasks. During the day, food, hygiene care and short breaks are some of the activities we can watch. The offspring will be fed until June, when juveniles usually begin to abandon the nests, remaining dependent on their parents but joining in small groups in the sea, not far from their nests. And, if all goes well, we'll be able to see the two chicks and their parents getting ready to welcome the remaining family member on: www.berlengas.eu/ninho-ao-vivo.
 
Published on 18 April 2017
Interviewing fisheries masters

As a fisheries observer I have other tasks besides going on board, and one of them is to interview fishermen. The questions are mainly about fishing areas, gear techical details and bycatch of birds, mammals and other marine organisms such as turtles. These questionnaires are focused on boats operating inside Berlengas SPA  since this is our study area.

With this information we want to know the most important areas for fisheries, which gears have more impact on marine organisms and identify vulnerabilities between different species and seasons. The fishers  are generally very nice and willing to share precious information with us. Apparently the most dangerous gears for seabirds and marine mammals are longline and gillnets. Seabirds such as northern gannet, razorbill and great cormorant are more vulnerable to bycatch due to their feeding behavior. The close colaboration between biologists and fisheries professionals is essential for a common goal: marine ecosystem conservation.

Elisabete Silva – Fisheries observer at SPEA

 

Published on 17 April 2017
ESAS in the mist!

During April 12th and 13th Seabird census at sea (ESAS) took place in Berlengas SPA and once we were at the sea we sailed along the rocky shores to carry on the first visit of the National Census of European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. The first day was extremely foggy and we were unable to carry on the European shag census and we couldn’t finished the first transect.

During April 12th and 13th Seabird census at sea (ESAS) took place in Berlengas SPA and once we were at the sea we sailed along the rocky shores to carry on the first visit of the National Census of European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. The first day was extremely foggy and we were unable to carry on the European shag census and we couldn’t finished the first transect. Despite the bad weather previsions, we left this work for the second day. The second day of census was foggy as well but not so much as the first day allowing us to make the European Shag census, finishing the first transect and doing all the second transect. It lasted 14 hours at the sea, initially in very foggy and cold conditions but during the middle of the afternoon sun made us a shy visit which helped us a little to deal with the cold wind. The migration to the breeding sites is still going on and we registered a lot of Sandwich terns, Northern gannets and Razorbills flying north. We also registered Cory’s shearwaters foraging and in rafts, Yellow-legged gulls and the biggest surprise was a Black tern foraging. The ESAS continue in May for two more days at sea, hoping for better weather in those days.

Ana Santos- Fisheries observer at SPEA

 

 

Published on 12 April 2017
We can all be a Berlenga’s seabird!

During Easter break, LIFE Berlngas’s partner - Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Turismo do Mar (ESTM) dedicated a day to the children of the ones who work in the institution. It was a day full of activities in different areas. SPEA joined the initiative to show some of the natural values of Berlengas, which we were able to see from the window, so close.

About 30 children from 3 to 14 years old participated in our activities. We watched a small movie about the biodiversity on the island and the work we are doing there to restore the natural values. In the end we transformed ourselves in seabirds by making some masks of the seabirds that breed in Berlenga’s island, the Cory’s shearwater, the Yellow-legged-gull and the European shag. It was an activity full of fun and the children loved the masks keeping the on during the day. Knowing that the children have fun while learning it’s the best feedback we can have.

Ana Santos, collaborator in SPEA

 

 

Published on 12 April 2017
Fisheries observation in purse seiners is officially open!

Since the first days of march that purse seiners are back to the ocean! The purse seiners are specialized in the fishing of pelagic fish schools. One of the symbols of Portugal is fished with this gear, the famous sardine, so this type of fishing is very important in our country.

But as the fishing targeting the sardines is not open yet, fishers are now focused in other species such as chub mackerel, horse mackerel, atlantic bonito and others. This type of fishing is highly intense and the adrenalin levels are huge because the fishers try to catch a school of fishes in movement and the tiniest mistake may result in the loss of the school fish. Purse seiners are highly specific to fish small pelagic fishes which attract a lot of seabirds as this species are the ones seabirds usually prefer to feed on. From previous studies, seabird bycatch does not occur frequently in purse seiners but when it happens the numbers of seabirds are high. And that makes this monitoring even more important as the most vulnerable seabird to bycatch was the critically endangered Balearic shearwater. In our first trips in the purse seiners, we were very close to Berlengas’ archipelago and we have been registering many seabird interactions, mainly concerning iYellow-legged-gull and Cory’s shearwater, but with no risk of bycatch. Let’s see how the interactions change when they will start to fish mainly sardines as the fishers say that the numbers of seabirds interacting with the purse seiners are much higher than now.

Ana Santos - Fisheries observer at SPEA

 

Published on 07 April 2017
Volunteers in Berlengas - Carlos Tejada-Baena

I did an internship in SPEA for six months between December 2015 and May 2016, working mainly for the Berlengas LIFE conservation project. I felt very comfortable with the SPEA team both at the office and in the field. At the office, I inserted and analysed the data from the fieldwork, producing digital maps using ArcGIS.

At the island, we were working closely as a team not just for the several project tasks I had the chance to be more or less involved (removal of the invasive plant species Hottentot fig, mapping vegetation, monitoring other invasive species such as rats and rabbits, seabirds monitoring, construction of artificial nests for Cory’s shearwaters and ringing seagulls and Cory’s shearwaters, among others) but also for several other tasks such as cooking and eating together (delicious food!).

I learned a lot from all the team and enjoyed especially the time shared together, ranging from interesting and funny talks in the kitchen to common silences walking along the island or looking together to the horizon. I even voluntarily decided to get over my fear of heights while removing Hottentot fig in the cliffs, thanks to the support of the whole team. We worked hard often in cold and windy conditions, however, I enjoyed that harsh environment as a reminder of how powerful and vivacious this island is. And, anyway, everyone who is motivated can deal with it, especially if can appreciate the uniqueness of the place, full of astonishing views and surprises. An unforgettable and magic experience which has changed the way I see islands, all of them.

Published on 06 April 2017
Nova sinalética nas Berlengas

Since 17 March, the Berlenga Island has a new face with the new interpretive tables and the new signage created on the scope of LIFE Berlengas.
By simply walking along the tracks, the visitors now have access to detailed information about the fauna, flora, geology, human occupation and archaeology of the archipelago. And all the information is in Portuguese and English.

Since 17 March, the Berlenga Island has a new face with the new interpretive tables and the new signage created on the scope of LIFE Berlengas.
By simply walking along the tracks, the visitors now have access to detailed information about the fauna, flora, geology, human occupation and archaeology of the archipelago. And all the information is in Portuguese and English.
In addition, there is also another new!
For those who want more information, you can go directly to the LIFE Berlengas website and all the information available here, using the QR code present on all the tables!
Enjoy your visit!

Published on 03 April 2017
RAM Census with Berlenga in sight!

It was on the 1st of April that we restarted the RAM census in Cabo Carvoeiro (Peniche). It was a very nice restart with the prenuptial migration taking place: large numbers of Northern Gannets, flocks of Razorbills, Common Scoters and Sandwich Terns. While this species was flying north, European Shags were flying around us in the rocks below our point of observation.

We also sighted some Cory’s Shearwaters flying south, possibly some of them are now starting the breeding period in Berlengas, leaving the island to feed.

RAM (Portuguese acronym for Seabird and Marine Mammal Monitoring Network) Iberian census occurs usually on the first Saturday of each month in several different points of Portugal. This methodology includes the counting of seabirds and characterization of their behavior.

This data collection will allow us to understand the abundance, distribution, and behavior of seabirds throughout the year.

If you want to get involved and help us count seabirds at Cabo Carvoeiro, just bring binoculars or telescope with you!

For more information about RAM census go to http://www.spea.pt/pt/estudo-e-conservacao/censos/dias-ram/ or if you want to participate, to know the places and when the census take place, send an e-mail to isabel.fagundes@spea.pt

Ana Santos e Elisabete Silva, Fisheries Observers in SPEA

 

Published on 27 March 2017
ESAS counting in the end of winter

In the beginning of March we went out to sea to count seabirds in Berlengas SPA.

After some hours we had a great list of species:  yellow legged gull Larus michahellis, northern gannet Morus bassanus, Common scoter Melanitta nigra, great skua Stercorarius skua, razorbill Alca torda, Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus and Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea. Cory’s shearwaters just started their breeding cycle and we had the opportunity to watch then near the archipelago. Berlengas Natural Reserve has many species of seabirds with vulnerable status. As we protect their habitat, we safeguard their survival.

Elisabete Silva – SPEA Bycatch observer

Picture -  Karolina Mikslova

Published on 22 March 2017
Testing mitigation measures still going on…

The contrast panels have been well received by fishermen, who call them different names such as “rags” or “flags”. After 10 trips on board of “Meu Regresso” it was possible to verify that the panels do not hinder or delay fisherman´s work. For us, this is an important result since we don´t want to interfere with fisheries dynamic. This video shows the hauling of the modified gillnets, with our mitigation measures attached.

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

 

 

 

 

Published on 21 March 2017
What goes to the sea, it comes around

When low tide arrives it’s easy to see our “footprint” on the sea shores. Plastic and fisheries gear are still a big component of marine litter. Traps are the gear more frequently found in the shore since they are light and disposable. It’s urgent to gain awareness of our impact. A lot of this litter causes the death of innumerous animals including seabirds that eat and/or get entangled.

There are also consequences for us that became more evident in the last years.  We produce more and more litter everyday and this is very dangerous to the planet. So we urgently need to give an adequate end to all of this waste, surely not the Ocean…

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 16 March 2017
Hottentot Fig in Berlengas and the effort to remove it

One of the actions foreseen on the Life Berlengas project is the removal of the Hottentot Fig. This species is one of the 100 worst invasive species in the world and it was introduced in the Berlengas in the 1950s.

This plant, originally from South Africa, was introduced in Berlenga to contain the movement of the deposits resulting from the construction of the restaurant. However, the impressive propagation capacity led the Hottentot Fig to quickly colonise other slopes of the island.

With its very dense leaves and strong roots, the Hottentot Fig is an important threat to the conservation of native plants, especially of the three endemic species (Berlengas Thrift, Berlengas Rupturewort, and Berlengas Fleabane). The Hottentot Fig also poses a threat to seabirds, as the dense carpet it forms reduces the number of cavities available for nesting.

When Life Berlengas began in June 2014, the Hottentot Fig in Berlenga occupied a total area of 38533 m2. Since then, SPEA in collaboration with its partners and numerous volunteers has been removing it from the island.

After 2 and half years of work, we already removed around 15000 m2, which represent about 40% of the total area of the island. This is equivalent to one and a half football fields.

We are very thankful to the Berlengas Nature Reserve wardens and to all the volunteers for all the effort done in the removal of this invasive alien species. Thank you all!

Published on 08 March 2017
Volunteers at Berlengas - Monika Jadwiga Szynaka

I decided to volunteer on the Island of Berlenga for SPEA as a practical for my Master’s program. I was informed prior to of the work that was conducted on the island but, I had never worked on a conservation project so I was in for a treat.

The island is like nothing I have ever seen. Riding towards it on the boat I was in complete awe of the beautiful greenery, the etched out ledges, the colors of the rock, and the birds flying overhead. The island felt so vast and the weather was perfect even though it was December.

As a Floridian I had quite the work out walking up and down the hills and edges of the island. The accommodations provided are in the old village near the lighthouse and it was cozy and warm. The rangers cooked for us primarily and it was always creative but, delicious foods and very necessary as the work on the island requires quite a bit of energy. In the mornings we would rip and roll the hottentot fig and the afternoons were for bird surveying as well as surveying for rodents, both of which are very interesting. We also set up artificial nests in the afternoons.

In our spare time we were free to do as we pleased and one afternoon we received a tour of the lighthouse which was exciting. The views during all hours of the day were gorgeous and the hard work was worth the education and being outside breathing in the very fresh, salty air. Overall, the experience was a challenge in some aspects but, worth every moment. I would strongly recommend this volunteering opportunity to everyone especially if you are an avid bird watcher.

Published on 07 March 2017
Volunteers in Berlengas – Brigita Šimunac from Croatia

My visit to Portugal and Berlengas  occured from November 2016 till January 2017 under Erasmus + traineeship programme. As always in life, the most amazing experiences are hard to describe with words, but I'm gonna try. From the first misty sight on Berlengas, between big waves I knew this archipelago is something special.

 After getting off the boat  first  I noticed  a calmness and ease which I could feel all around and also in the people I met.  At that time of the year the island is  inhabited by only a few scientists, volunteers, the two rangers and lighthouse keepers.

Although not so distant  from the mainland, Berlengas offers all the charm of the island's tranquility and isolation. The house where we stayed, despite its simplicity and modesty completely satisfied our needs. One of the things I learned by living in it was that we can live happily even without everyday luxury, on which we are dependent. I must stress that the meals were rather luxury than modest.

I never thought about myself to be a “people person“, but the company of these beautiful people tore down all my walls and I truly connect with them. I enjoyed the specificities of each of them and I can say that I have experienced true diversity of character, but again I noticed how similar we all are. All the field work we have done together and jointly, with no task too hard to handle. We all shared great  appreciation for the amazing nature which we were part of. 

I find Berlengas archipelago as a true treasure worth of conservation and I'm very grateful that I was part of it.

Published on 07 March 2017
February, a month with a strong personality!

The first half of February was characterized by extremely rough seas demanding the maximum respect of the ones depending on it to work. Therefore, most of the boats stayed at the harbor during this time.

Once these hard days passed, the calmer seas allowed the fishermen to go out again and of course we had to join them. We continue the seabird bycatch monitoring in fishing gears.

The first half of February was characterized by extremely rough seas demanding the maximum respect of the ones depending on it to work. Therefore, most of the boats stayed at the harbor during this time.

Once these hard days passed, the calmer seas allowed the fishermen to go out again and of course we had to join them. We continue the seabird bycatch monitoring in fishing gears.

But we have some news! We were able to attach the high-contrast panels to scare away the seabirds from gillnets. During two days, the panels were attached in the gillnets of a new boat while the fishermen were fishing. Attaching the panels on the boat and while they were working was a crazy and difficult decision but everything went well.

And after some fishing trips, the panels are still attached and everything is going fine. The panels don’t make the fishing activities harder for the fishermen which is very important.

During the next months we will continue testing these mitigation measures and soon we will have some more news.

 

Ana Santos, Seabird bycatch observer at SPEA

 

 

Published on 06 March 2017
And the Bird of the Year 2017 is ... the Shag!

With this campaign SPEA wants you to discover more about this seabird, easily identified by its dark plumage with greenish reflections, its green eyes, and its long neck and beak.


The main breeding colony in Portugal is located at Berlengas archipelago, with a population estimated at 75 couples. UNfortunately the population trend shows a slight decrease in the short and long term (data from 2015).
The breeding period runs from January to July. Between February and April the eggs, up to 6, are laid and the incubation is carried out by both parents for up to 33 days. After 2 months, the chicks begin to leave the nests, although they are still dependent on the parents. They frequently join in small groups in the sea, not far from their nests.
Their feathers are permeable to water, leaving the birds wet to their skin after the fishing dives. Therefore, to warm and dry, it is common to see them in the sun, with the wings open for long periods of time. Learn more about this species here.
If you are curious about this species, now you can follow the daily life of a couple and their future chicks, live from the island of Berlenga, through a web stream camera installed near one of the nests. Look here.

 

Published on 14 February 2017
Workshop "Management of SPA Berlengas Islands: Planning, Implementing, Accomplish"

On the 26th of January, a Workshop on the Management Plan for the SPA of the Berlengas Islands was held in Peniche. The event was attended by numerous stakeholders from the region to discuss the actions proposed in the Plan, identify their level of priority and challenges to their implementation.

The objective is to update the document prepared in 2011 (Basis for the management plan) through a participatory model that will contribute to the future adoption of the Management Plan.

SPEA was present at this event that was organized under the Life Berlengas and presented some of the results achieved so far in the various actions of the Project.

 

Published on 14 February 2017
Reducing bycatch of seabirds in an atypical winter

After the first preliminary tests with contrasting panels in May last year, since the autumn everything is ready to implement this mitigation measure in gillnets of a cloth.

In October we put these panels in the nets of a fishing boat, but we had to wait until the end of November so that these modified nets could finally be used, because the high temperatures and clearness of the water resulting from the lack of rainfall made it unfavorable to use this Fishing gear that requires more turbulent and turbid water to make the net "invisible". The first shipments went well and there were no major differences in catches of fish between control and panel nets. There was no accidental capture of seabirds on these shipments. In the early days of the year, the sea state was very agitated and the control and modified nets had to be removed from the boat for repair, as some of them were broken and many of the panels were released. Due to the few panels that remained in the nets and the impossibility of putting new panels, we had to leave the evaluation in this boat. At the same time, we began to implement this measure on another fishing vessel, which had not yet started using gillnets because of unfavorable conditions already mentioned. In a hunt with 40 nets in total, 122 panels were placed in 20 nets to have a control with the same dimension. The panels were fastened in the center of the net every 6 meters with a stronger nylon thread than the one used previously, since one of the main problems for the panels to be released in the other boat was precisely the material used. The fishermen accepted the challenge with all good will and even assisted us in putting up the panels. The collaboration of vessels is essential if we are to have reliable results and the possibility of implementing measures that may indeed make a difference. The nets with the panels were in the water and again, the loss of some panels was noticed. It is important to continue to test the different materials to attach these panels to the nets to find one that resists sea busting. Soon the panels will go permanently to the water but before that the warm weather and the little rain of this atypical winter has to change. However, we continue to monitor seabirds on each shipment by increasing knowledge of their diversity, abundance and feeding areas. These tests of mitigation measures are carried out in Portugal for the first time and hopefully they will contribute to a new stage in the conservation of seabirds!

Published on 14 February 2017
Coastal inspections to detect beached birds

When winter arrives some seabirds don’t resist due to very hard weather conditions. Besides hard weather, fisheries gear, abandoned or active, remains a big cause of mortality of seabirds. In January, we conducted beached bird surveys in Baleal-Peniche area after some very cold days with strong winds.

In total, we found 8 dead seabirds: 2 yellow-legged gulls Larus michahellis, 2 northern gannets Morus bassanus, 1 lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus, 1 common Scoter Melanitta nigra, 1 razorbill Alca torda and 1 great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. The cormorant had a ring and showed some traces of blood in the beak indicating an eventual entanglement in a hook.  

It is very important to report this information to better understand seabird´s threats, migratory routes and longevity.

Anyone can do a beached bird survey and share its results through here:

http://www.spea.pt/pt/estudo-e-conservacao/censos/arrojamentos/.

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

 

Published on 19 January 2017
Octopus fishery

The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is a  very appreciated species in Portuguese gastronomy being its price highly valued. Besides its commercial interest, there is also a biological interest given their complexity.

The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is a  very appreciated species in Portuguese gastronomy being its price highly valued. Besides its commercial interest, there is also a biological interest given their complexity.  In the boat where I´m going on board dozens of octopus are caught every day. With the good good weather that we had recently in Peniche, set nets don´t work very well since the water is very clear and the fishes can spot the nets. Alternatively fisherman are using other gears such as traps for octopus. Before setting them in the water, the traps are baited with fish remains, usually horse mackerel or chub mackerel. When the octopus eat the bait the trap is closed and they get caught. Usually, traps are hauled a few hours after being set at night. 

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 09 January 2017
Partners on board…

Part of my job as observer is counting and identifying seabirds. Gulls, and in particular the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), are always present in in my list. They are always there, waiting for an easy meal.

Part of my job as observer is counting and identifying seabirds. Gulls, and in particular the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), are always present in in my list. They are always there, waiting for an easy meal.

Gulls are birds with high capacity of adaption and reproduction, few predators and generalist diet. The high food availability from landfills and fishing ports has contributed for the drastic increase of the population. This “superpopulation” of gulls in Peniche has been a problem for the other animal and vegetal species and even promotes conflicts with humans. One of the actions from “Life Berlengas” project is to test new methods of yellow-legged gull population control, trying to return the balance to Berlengas archipelago ecosystem. We can also contribute being more aware and conscious in the managing of our resources.

 

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

2016

Published on 22 December 2016
Marine census with the new application!

 

In the 12th and 13th of December we were back onboard for two days of marine census using ESAS (European Seabirds at Sea) methodology in Ilhas Berlengas SPA. This time we left the paper at home and we successfully tested the new data application.

Like in the census in November, we had an amazing first day, the sun was shining and the sea was calm. During the second day the wind was blowing stronger, no sun and the sea was a bit rough which even made us leave the observation point due to the waves that left us completely wet.

We registered about nine different seabird species and the northern gannet completely “dominate” the census.

In January will get back onboard for two more days of census covering the entire ZPE.

 

Ana Santos – Fisheries observer at SPEA

 

Published on 14 December 2016
Berlenga's oldest seagull is over 20 years old!

Ringed in August of 1996, this bird was recently observed in Sesimbra and by its colored ring with the letters BLD it is concluded that it is already twenty years and four months, being thus the oldest Seagull born in this Natural Reserve.

It should be noted that this is not only the oldest seagull in Berlenga but also the seagull with the longest life reported to the Euring (European Ringing Center).

The marking of birds with rings allows us to identify each individual throughout his life and allows us to know his habits and his age. Seagulls can live for more than 30 years.

In wild birds, metal rings with a single code are usually used, and this record is sent to the national ringing center binder that coordinates these data. Sometimes, as in the case of the BLD gull, colored plastic rings are used, which allows the "reading" of the number from a distance, without being necessary to disturb the bird.

Under the LIFE Berlengas project (www.berlengas.eu), dozens of seagulls in the Berlengas are being marked with colored rings (three black letters in a yellow ring). By sending the observations of these animals it is possible to know their movements and feeding places, which allows to manage their populations and possible threats. This project intends to know where they feed, so that adequate measures can be taken to avoid imbalances of the population.

If you observe some of these birds send the observation to nuno.oliveira@spea.pt or to cempa@icnf.pt.

Published on 05 December 2016
The rain is needed…also in fisheries!

With the high temperatures and dry weather that were felt until the end of November, many fishermen continue with 'summer fishing gear' waiting for the first rains to come to stir the water.

During the summer and fall, I went out on a boat that has as target species john dory and hake. John dory is caught with trammel nets and hake with gillnets. The nets are set during the night and hauled during the day, with the trammel nets being set first, followed by gillnets. The hauling of the trammel nets began at dawn, and I expected to find quite a few more birds than the ones I registered,0 since it would be a period of seabird greater activity. However, most seabirds were recorded during the hauling of gillnets, which occurred during the afternoon. In fact, gillnets, whose target species is hake, catch large quantities of horse mackerel and chub mackerel which attract more birds to the boat. I didn´t make that many trips to get a solid conclusion, being the sample too small but it was interesting to realize the influence of the fishing gears and target species in seabird interactions with fishing boats.

Now winter is coming and the gear switch to trammel nets for flat fish are expected in this boat…many adventures are still to come with the opportunity to go onboard in a new smaller boat!

Ana Santos – SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 05 December 2016
Life Berlengas goes to school…the new school year has started…

Peniche is celebrating November as the month dedicated to the sea, so in the 23rd we went to the shool - Escola Básica 2,3 D. Luis Ataíde, to talk about the Life Berlengas project to about 80 students with around 10 years old.

They were a very energetic and curious group of children. This first session was very important for them because this year’s theme for their annual project, Animal Project, is about animals that inhabit in Berlengas SPA.  First, we did a presentation about the general objectives of the project, talked about the target species and the work we have been doing in Berlengas. For some of the students we were no strangers, most of them still remembered the names of the species we talked last year and they were very interested in learning more and more. To finish we did a game to raise awareness about fishing gears and seabird bycatch. This was the student´s favourite part since they could run and have some fun.

This kind of activities is essential to motivate young people to respect and preserve all living beings and the habitats they depend on.

 

Ana Santos e Elisabete Magalhães – SPEA Collaborators 

Published on 02 December 2016
Marine Census

On the 28th of November, seabird counts were conducted at Berlengas Islands SPA (Special Protection Area) using ESAS methodology (European Seabirds At Sea). We navigated since 8:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m. It was a sunny day with calm sea which helped the observations.

It was possible to see species such as razorbil (Alca torda), Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), Manx-shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) and great skua (Stercorarius skua). Also, we had a group of common-dolphins (Delphinus delphinus) following us during big part of the way. This monitoring is very important since it allows the production of distribution and abundance maps and probability of occurrence of seabirds.

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 16 November 2016
Band-rumped Storm petrel: the bird chosen to celebrate the Day of the Sea

If there are any animal species that can symbolise the Portuguese territory and the connection of the Portuguese to the sea, it may well be the Band-rumped Storm-petrel. It is one of the few seabirds that naturally nests throughout our territory, including the islands.

Being the only bird that nests in the fall and winter, it is approximately from the 16th of November, Sea Day, that you can usually watch the birth of the first calves.

In Continental Portugal, the small Band-rumped Storm-petrel nests only in the Berlengas archipelago, more precisely in the Farilhões. Although there have been a number of attempts to occupy the main island of Berlenga over the last few years, the presence of introduced predators such as the black mouse has made it impossible to establish itself. At only 20 cm in length, being even smaller than a blackbird, it manages to make incredible trips. One of the best examples we have is that of an adult individual, marked with a small tracking device, who made a round trip between Farilhão Grande and the coast of Morocco in just 5 days. Coincidentally or not, this bird was marked in full Sea Day, on November 16, 2011, by the team of the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA).

Like the shearwaters, also the Band-rumped Storm-petrel comes to earth only to nest, spending most of its life on the high seas. At present, it only nests on islands where no terrestrial mammals have been introduced, namely rats, cats and ferrets. And so, its distribution is reduced to small islanders or uninhabited islands.

For all these reasons, we consider the Band-rumped Storm-petrel the right symbol for the celebration of the Sea Day, since the state of its populations is indicative of the "health" of the marine ecosystems and our sea.

Band-rumped Storm-petrel is one of the target species of Life Berlengas, a project coordinated by SPEA, in partnership with the Institute for Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), Peniche City Hall, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Of the New University of Lisbon, and ESTM of the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria as observer.

The project, which started on June 1, 2014, will be implemented by September 30, 2018, and has a total budgeted investment of about 1.4 million euros with the co - financing of the LIFE + Program of the European Union and Biodiversity Fund.

Published on 14 November 2016
Implementing mitigation measures to save seabirds

Autumn is here and the wintering birds begin to arrive to Portugal.

As planned for this time of the year, we started to implement mitigation measures in the gillnets to avoid seabirds bycatch, namely of Common guillemot and Razorbill that spend the autumn and winter in Portugal. In October, we deployed high-contrast panels on the gillnets of Olimpico´s boat and in the next weeks we will attach these panels in other 3 boats operating in Ilhas Berlengas SPA. This boat hasn’t started yet using the modified nets in the sea since they are waiting for the most appropriate conditions of sea state for this kind of fishing gear. Meanwhile, we continue to monitor seabird interactions with fishing boats and to collect information of fish catches abord. In one of my recent trips, I was able to watch up to 10 different species of gulls interacting with the fishing boat during fishing events, which really highlights the importance of this SPA for seabirds. 

Let us hope that these measures will help conserve seabird biodiversity in Portuguese waters! 

Iván Gutiérrez - SPEA Bycatch observer 

 

 

 

Published on 13 November 2016
Live to the world, departure to the sea!

After a little more than 3 months of growing in the nest, the shearwater that we were able to follow live from the island of Berlenga, since its birth on July 19, finally abandoned the nest on the night of October 25.

During this period, the small shearwater and its parents were accompanied by about 17 thousand spectators from 97 countries, who marvelled and discovered the secretive habits of this species of seabird.

Having completed its growth, it has become able to fly and will join other young shearwaters at sea and head to the southern hemisphere, thus initiating their first migration. And it is at sea that she will spend the next 6 to 9 years of life until she becomes a reproducer, at which point she will return to the place where she was born and then arrange a pair and nest for the first time.

We are waiting for the return of the shearwaters to Berlenga next spring so that we can once again follow the daily lives of a couple in the nest. But the good news does not stop here, since in early 2017, before the arrival of the shearwaters, we will put the camera online to monitor a nest of European shags in the island of Berlenga and thus accompany the reproduction of another of the emblematic species of Berlengas.

Published on 09 November 2016
Visit to the Farilhões

Last week the team of LIFE Berlengas visited the Farilhões to monitor the Band-rumped Storm-petrel colony. This visit allowed the marking of 10 individuals with small remote tracking devices, GLS. See here the landing of the team at the Farilhão Grande (Berlengas archipelago).

Last week the team of LIFE Berlengas visited the Farilhões to monitor the Band-rumped Storm-petrel colony. This visit allowed the marking of 10 individuals with small remote tracking devices, GLS. See here the landing of the team at the Farilhão Grande (Berlengas archipelago).

Published on 04 November 2016
When your office is outside…

Since September, I started working as a fisheries observer at SPEA and I am having such a wonderful experience. My job on board is to assess seabird bycatch, to evaluate fishing events and to monitor seabirds. I always had an interest in the bycatch theme and I feel very proud to be part of this team.

The fishing crew of “Meu Regresso” is made of calm, nice and hard working man. When going on the boat, I can see how challenging their life is. They are always dependent on the state of sea and on its recourses.

In such a short period, I already learnt a lot about fish and crustacean species and about the dynamics of the different fishing gear such as traps, gillnet and trammel nets. However, the biggest highlights for me are the animal observations. I already added a new species of seabirds to my personal list, the European Storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus). I saw big groups of northern gannets (Morus bassanus), and even a jumping sunfish (Mola mola). I was surprised with a group of dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) very close to the boat and contemplated a shinning and golden sunrise close to Berlenga island. For all of this, it’s easy to wake up at 2 am in the morning and I have to say: I wouldn´t change my office for nothing! 

Elisabete Silva - SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 19 October 2016
From the misty islands to the "living archipelago"

More than 1500 kilometres of ocean crossed by the elements of the SPEA Azores to reach the archipelago of Berlengas. Among Cagarros (in good Azorean) Calonectris borealis and Band-rumped Storm-petrel Hydrobates castro that chanted all night the team felt at home. Were we not well acquainted with these seabirds, and with life on the islands.

An unforgettable week where we collaborate in the removal of introduced mammals, we know and share experiences with the LiFE Berlengas team and where the presence of the Phalacrocorax aristotelis European shag was common. On the return, the good moments spent between the seabirds are remembered, but above all the gratification for having collaborated in the excellent work that is being done there to recover this archipelago with life and restore its status as a sanctuary for seabirds, Where fluttering flights of farewell from Nothern gannets Morus bassanus, European shags, Cory's shearwater and Balearic shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus opened smiles on these inhabitants of the misty islands.

 T.Pipa - SPEA Azores

Published on 03 October 2016
New fisheries observers join SPEA team

 With the approach of the season of a greater abundance of wintering birds in the Berlengas Islands SPA, it is necessary to intensify the bycatch monitoring effort on a board of commercial fishing vessels. To this end, two new fisheries observers have recently joined the team: André Ferreira and Elisabete Silva.

They have already had their baptism on a board of the "Mãe Purissima" and "My return". Welcome to the team and wishes of good winds and sea tides!

Published on 12 September 2016
Volunteers at Berlengas_Claudia Pich

If I have to describe my experience at Berlenga in one word I would say "spectacular". It was a very important period for me since I was able to have my first contact with seabirds. The Berlengas shearwaters became the protagonists of my master's thesis and I had the opportunity to learn a lot about these incredible animals.

In addition to working with the shearwaters, my internship at SPEA went well from the beginning, the whole team made me feel part of it and my adaptation was quick. I also had the opportunity to collaborate in the control of the white-bellied seedeater and monitoring of rats and rabbits - important conservation tasks that SPEA is developing in this project, for the improvement of the Berlengas archipelago - very good work and always with a smile!! Thank you also for all the good times with the volunteers and the staff of the island. I hope I have the opportunity to return!!!

Published on 02 September 2016
António Costa visits the Berlengas

Today Berlengas Island was visited by Prime Minister António Costa, Environment Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes and more people related to the environment and nature conservation in Portugal.

This visit took place in the framework of the signing of the Cooperation Agreement of the Network National Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO, where it was used to show what has been done in the intervention zone of the project Life Berlengas.

Published on 02 September 2016
An old yellow-legged-gull

Last June, while montoring seabird bycatch onboard a commercial vessel, I saw a group of yellow legged gulls following the boat. One of them had a colored ring on the leg and when landed on the boat fora rest, I managed to read the ring code.

I sent the data to the coordinating organization for European bird ringing (EURING) and a few weeks later they replied with the information about the bird. I was a gull ringed in Berlengas Island in 1997! This was the first time that this particular bird was resighted since it was ringed, 19 years ago!

If you ever watch a gull or any other bird with a ring, please do try to read the code and send us the data, in order to learn more about the life of these amazing birds.

Iván Gutiérrez - SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 02 September 2016
Volunteers in Berlengas - Tânia Nascimento

My participation in this project began in October 2015 under a traineeship aimed to study the population of black rats on the island of Berlenga.

Nine months after the adventure ended, but with it remained moments and people that I will keep forever with special affection and that I will truly miss. During this time I saw a lot of people come and go, very different people, from various locations in the world, with unique experiences they wanted to share, but all had a feeling in common, the desire to return.

From the first moment it was noticeable the good and unique environment of mutual aid and friendship created not only from Spea team, but from the Reserve rangers, lighthouse keepers and, in general, all those who pass through the island. This good welcome in which people are received and the constant care made the stay on the island and the works a lot easier.

The realization of so many activities in several areas led not only to professional, but above all, personal growth. Direct contact with so many forms of life allowed the perception of the real wealth of fauna and flora existing in the archipelago, and the constant challenge to its preservation.

We cannot change the world, but with each step we are closer to making it better. This unique experience is not only good for those who are connected to this area, but for all who want to have the opportunity to help in the realization of this essential project for the good management and conservation of all the values that make this archipelago so special.

See you soon Berlenga,

Published on 04 August 2016
The Visitor Support Center Has opened

Inaugurated in July 2015, the Interpretive and Visitor Support Center of Berlenga Island, reopened last month for another holiday season. This space aims to be a point of complementary information for those who visit the island, where it is possible to learn more about the wealth of this archipelago and the Project Life Berlengas.

Located in the Fisherman's Quarter, the Center counts this year with a corner dedicated to children. Do not miss the opportunity to take a break, and show the little ones the Berlengas seabirds!

Published on 29 July 2016
Summer in Ilhas Berlengas SPA

We continue to collect information on board small fishing vessels operating in this SPA. Summer is characterized by small amount of fish caught, for which reason, many skippers take advantage of this time of the year to repair the vessel and go in holidays for a few days.

In the last two fishing trips, there were three bycatch events in surface longline, this time 3 Northern gannets were trapped in the hooks. Gannets dive and catch the bait or the fish that is caught in the hook, which is low depth of surface. The three gannets were released alive but with the hook in its beaks, giving the complexity of removing the hook of the beak from these birds.

In the next days I will start to work on a vessel which operates with bottom and surface longline in the Berlengas area. This will give us more information about the interaction of seabirds with longline and will be useful in the characterization of this type of fishing gear.  

Iván Gutiérrez - SPEA Bycatch observer

 

Published on 27 July 2016
Cory’s Shearwater chicks are already born in Berlenga!

Last July 19 was born the Cory’s Shearwater chick that is being followed in streaming from the Berlenga Island! In the first days, the chick was always accompanied by one of the parents but now, during the day the chick is alone in the nest. But during the night you can see more movement in the nest when the parents take shifts to bring food to their chick.

Due to ocean circulation and upwelling phenomena, the waters of the Berlengas are very rich in food, especially fish such as sardines, horse mackerel and mackerel. Thus, most of the Berlengas Cory’s Shearwaters forage near the colony, up to about 50 km away - although some individuals travel up to 270 km!

This chick and its companions will now remain in the care of their parents at least until late October, a time when already large and with the feathers all formed they travel to the South Atlantic, although some individuals can stay in the North Atlantic.

Accompany the life of the chick through our online camera

Do not miss the opportunity to watch the video of one of the first moments of parents feeding the chick! See here

Published on 15 July 2016
Seabirds on Cabo Carvoeiro

On July 9, SPEA and Life Berlengas returned to Cabo Carvoeiro to show all visitors at that place the seabirds that pass by. As in June, meteorological conditions were not the most adequate and the low visibility did not allow the observation of a larger number of birds as well as the Berlengas.

Again, the Great cormorants that rested on the Nau dos Corvos were a great attraction but this time they were also accompanied by a couple of yellow-legged gulls who took care of their chick. It was also possible to observe Gannets and Sandwich terns.

Once again, we had the opportunity to contact numerous people and publicise the Life Berlengas project and return home satisfied with the success of another seabird watch activity.

On the coming days of August 20 and September 10, we will be back to Cabo Carvoeiro!

Published on 23 June 2016
Recruitment - Fishing Observer

SPEA is looking for a collaborator to work as an observer for incidental catches of seabirds in mainland Portugal under the Life Berlengas project, working in the Department of Marine Conservation.

The main functions of the collaborator will be to monitor the interactions and incidental capture of seabirds as well as to participate in the testing of mitigation measures on board of several types of fishing vessels. Shipments will be made from the fishing port of Peniche. It is intended that the collaborator takes an active role in establishing contacts with masters of fishing vessels and associations.

For more information see the job listing HERE

Published on 22 June 2016
Volunteers in Berlengas - Isabelle Bellier

I left France to discover Portugal, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I came to SPEA to do an internship in 2015, under the Life Berlengas project, where I saw this spectacular place that everyone has to know - the island of Berlenga.

I learned a lot of things about plants, about seabirds (I was lucky enough to gather and handle the shearwaters), the field work and all this in a very cosy environment. This whole experience was very gratifying for me, so gratifying that I returned to SPEA for a second internship. Now to track the European shags on the island of Berlenga. It was an extraordinary experience again. I learned many new things and especially I was fortunate to be very close to the animals. This second experience was different because I could see the progress of the project after a year and do new tasks.

Thanks to these two internships, I know what I want for my professional project. I would like to have a job with tasks like those that take place in the Life Berlengas project. That is, work with birds, in the countryside and with a very cosy atmosphere, similar to what I found in SPEA and Berlenga.

I want to thank the SPEA team that allowed me to find my professional path. I also want to thank the Berlengas rangers I've been with on the island and all the other trainees and volunteers who participated in the work with me.

Published on 21 June 2016
Shag Nest on the internet

Follow the final stage of growth of a shag whose nest is located on the island of Berlenga. In the scope of Life Berlengas actions, a webcam was placed near the nest, allowing to divulge the behavioural habits of this seabird and the parental care of the adults with their chicks.

The Shag occurs exclusively along the continental coast, in particular along the western rocky coast of Cabo Carvoeiro to the south. In Portugal, it is a rare species, and its population was estimated in 2002, in about 100 to 150 nesting couples. Most of the national population is concentrated in the Berlengas archipelago, particularly in the island of Berlenga.

See here

Published on 08 June 2016
One morning at Cape Carvoeiro

On June 5, World Environment Day, SPEA and Life Berlengas promoted a seabird observation activity in Cabo Carvoeiro.

The morning started grey and with reduced visibility, which could have compromised the possibility of observing the birds at sea but fortunately, the clouds flew to other destinations and the Berlenga that was hidden was finally observed by all who came to Cabo Carvoeiro.

This viewpoint is very visited by people of different ages and nationalities, which allowed us to make known the seabirds, especially the cormorants that rested on the rock known as Nau dos Corvos, to a very heterogeneous group of young, elders, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish and even Italian people.

It was gratifying to see the interest and surprise of all those who tried the binoculars and watched with the telescope and wanted to know a little more about the birds observed, the SPEA and the Life Berlengas project.

This was still a good opportunity to explain the reason for doing some actions in the Berlengas such as the removal of the Hottentot Fig and the removal of introduced mammals.

In the coming days July 9, August 20 and September 10 we will be back to Cabo Carvoeiro to stay De Olho nas Aves!

Published on 07 June 2016
Life Berlengas and geology

By invitation of the Portuguese Association of Geologists (APG), SPEA participated in the training course "The Peniche region as a laboratory for the study of geosciences", which took place on June 3-4 in Peniche and Berlenga. With the aim to publicise the Life Berlengas project and to show some of the results already obtained.

This event, which was attended by about 24 people, mostly professors from the area of biology and geology, allowed us to discover the geological secrets of the coast of Baleal and Berlenga, as well as seabirds and endemic flora.

Among other discoveries, participants were able to verify the recovery of native vegetation in the areas where the Hottentot Fig was removed and understood the importance to remove this invasive plant, as well as the importance of removing introduced mammals.

This partnership between SPEA and APG was a success and we believe that in the near future there will be new opportunities for joint activities.

SPEA and Life Berlengas would like to thank APG and all the participants for the pleasant days spent in Peniche.

 

Published on 18 May 2016
The Berlengas birds by the students of the JI do Filtro

In May, environmental education activities continued with the school public in Peniche. This time we visited the Jardim de infância do Filtro where we were very well received by the students and Educator Patrícia Gago. In preparation for the day on the Berlengas Life Project, the students paid a visit to the beach where they collected materials to draw the Berlenga Island.

During our visit, we talked about the seabirds that exist in the archipelago, how they live, what they eat and what dangers they face. There was still time for a game where children could feel on their skin what it's like to be a seabird in search of food in the ocean. The day after our visit, we had a beautiful surprise: the island of Berlenga was now filled with life and colour with the Berlengas birds! Thank you, JI do Filtro for your work!

Published on 18 May 2016
Wishing for the good weather to come...

As we all know, the winters in the Ilhas Berlengas SPA are hard and this year in particular was very difficult for our work at the sea, the sea was rough which did not give us the opportunity to ship in the fishing boats as much as we would like. Although shy, good weather begins to appear and in the past weeks we have managed to make some fishing trips.

Spring months are not the most exciting season for observation as the abundance of species is lower, but that does not mean that it is not important to go on board as seabird bycatch may still occur as well. The species that outstands in our interaction board sheets is the Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), many of them are most likely to be nesting in the archipelago of Berlengas now. In the midst of the yellow-legged gull we can find the Lesser-black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) and occasionally a Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis) or a Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) fly near but show little interest in the boat.

In these last few fishing trips we didn’t have much action around the boat but we need to emphasized the fact of not having registered any seabird bycatch event.

Hopefully after these days of rain the good weather will come to stay ...

Ana Santos – SPEA Bycatch observer

 

Published on 09 May 2016
Volunteers in Berlengas - Marta Proietti Mancini

I’m Marta, an Italian girl. My internship in the project LIFE Berlenga started in the end of October 2015, just in time to see and help in the monitoring of the chicks, not so young anymore, Cory’s shearwater before they left the island for their migration.

It was a totally new experience for me, I had never taken part of a nature conservation project and I had never seen a chick or an adult Cory’s shearwater.

During this six month I joined the SPEA team we did a lot of different field activities indispensable for the conservation of the vegetation and fauna, in particular seabirds.

We worked very hard, doing several shifts per day, often also at night: we trapped rats and rabbits; removed a big part of the invasive plant “hottentot fig” also on the cliffs with the help of safety ropes; we did a lot of transects to study the endemic and exotic plants; we did a radio tracking to find the position and movements of some rats previously marked with a radio device; built artificial nests for Cory’s shearwater; and several others tasks.

The rangers of the ICNF Paulo, Mourato and Antonio were almost every moment with us to give their support in big part of the work and with the preparation of amazing Portuguese food too.

In those six months in Berlenga I met only very motivated and friendly people, many of them also volunteers, and we lived together in a small house sharing food, bedrooms and a lot of laughs.

Despite the winter, the rain and the wind in the island were real obstacles I really think that together we did something very important for the future of the species living in the archipelago.

Finally at the end of my internship, in April, I had the satisfaction to see the Cory’s shearwater coming back to the island after their long migration in the south hemisphere and looking for a rocky cavity to make their nest.

I felt very lucky to take part of this important project even only for a short period of time and I enjoyed so much the time spent there. The SPEA team and the rangers of the ICNF will continue to work hard for the conservation of the natural reserve.

Now I really want to say a huge THANK YOU to all the wonderful people I met during my internship and I hope to have in the feature another possibility to come back and give my contribution.

Published on 04 May 2016
Environmental Education in Peniche

Continuing the LIFE Berlengas awareness program, two more sessions took place yesterday at the Jardins de Infância do Alemão and Prageira, both in Peniche. In Peniche, because it is the closest town to the Berlengas, where almost all the kids have heard about this archipelago. The activities went very well and the dissemination objectives of the project were achieved.

Now the children will never forget the Berlengas seabirds, and how important it is to preserve them.

During the activities, the spot about the LIFE Berlengas Project was screened, then each species of seabird in the archipelago was presented to the students. The children also received a colouring book and in the end played a game where they represented the seabirds in search for food in a sea full of dangers.

With these activities of awareness in the schools we can always see that the children already have an environmental conscience and above all a surprising curiosity:

 "Why does the gull have a red spot on its beak? "Was the question of the day, in which the Anas were very happy to answer.

 

Isabelle Bellier - Trainee at SPEA

 

See here some of the photos of this activity

 

Published on 05 April 2016
Winter days on board

I’m still trying to figure out how can I manage myself aboard the fishing boat Mãe Purríssima in order to record all information about the gillnet fisheries. This boat is large and comfortable but very closed which make it hard to check all interactions and captures.

I’m still trying to figure out how can I manage myself aboard the fishing boat Mãe Purríssima in order to record all information about the gillnet fisheries. This boat is large and comfortable but very closed which make it hard to check all interactions and captures.

February was awesome! Near 20 Balearic shearwaters were less than 20m from the boat, large numbers of Northern gannets, Razorbills and even a Sooty shearwater interacting with the fishing gear. Also an individual was bycaught, this time a Northern gannet was found dead. During the gillnet setting, lots of small fishes remained from the former fishing event usually attract seabirds to dive towards the gillnet, being entangled and drawn.

Let’s see what the next fishing trips within Ilhas Berlengas SPA will bring…

Ana Santos – SPEA Bycatch observer

Published on 29 March 2016
Sea census along the Portuguese coast

In March one of our marine observers participated in the IPMA campaign “National Program for Biological Sampling for horse-mackerel, sardines and other pelagic fishes” aboard the research vessel “NORUEGA” to censuses of seabirds and cetaceans along the Portuguese coast.

This campaign was particularly important to collect data on seabird distribution within the Berlengas SPA, where were observed the first Cory’s shearwaters, that are coming back to our waters to nest, Balearic shearwaters, Great skuas and huge numbers of Common dolphins.

Published on 28 March 2016
Berlengas Rupturewort found in the Berlengas!

The Berlengas Rupturewort is an endemic species of the Berlengas and one of the most difficult plants to find on the island. It can often go unnoticed by being small and growing close to the soil and cracks in the rocks.

Since the beginning of Life Berlengas, the project team has been struggling to find the Berlengas Rupturewort. Fortunately, in the first fortnight of March was found a specimen that already had some flowers.

This discovery gave new impetus to all involved in the project because of this small plant, whose leaves are succulent to ensure protection against the high salinity of the islands, currently has a conservation status Vulnerable. This classification is due to the fact that it has a limited distribution, a reduced population and because it is threatened by the expansion of the Hottentot Fig.

The Berlengas Rupturewort inventory works, and other vegetation will continue in the coming months in the hope that more specimens of this unique species will be found.

Published on 23 March 2016
Nature conservation gains with invasive mammals eradication projects

Continued investment in invasive mammal eradications on islands offers a highly effective opportunity to stem the loss of our world’s biodiversity. So concludes a 30-member team of scientists conducting the first ever global study quantifying benefits of this conservation intervention.

The study, titled “Invasive-mammal eradication on islands results in substantial conservation gains,” examined how native species responded to projects that eradicated invasive mammals from islands. The researchers found 596 populations of 236 native species on 181 islands benefitted from these eradications.

According to one of the authors, Holly Jones, twenty one billion dollars (US) are spent globally each year on nature conservation. A small fraction of this goes to eradication of invasive species, yet this relatively simple, cost-effective conservation intervention is benefitting hundreds of native animals and endangered species. This is fantastic news in the race to prevent extinctions.

Nick Holmes, director of science for Island Conservation says these island restoration projects are a proverbial silver bullet for biodiversity conservation. For any conservation intervention, it is rare to find a body of global evidence measuring the outcomes for native species. These results are a testament to the value of these types of projects.

With a large-scale literature and database review the researchers documented positive responses, including population increases, recolonization and successful reintroductions.

Once introduced to islands, invasive mammals—primarily rodents, feral goats and feral cats—represent key threats to native species through predation, competition and habitat loss. Humans have introduced non-native, invasive mammals (accidentally or intentionally) to 90% of the world's island archipelagos. These mammals have devastating consequences for ecosystems because island species evolved in isolation without these mammalian predators. They have little or no defense against invasive mammals.”

Islands with invasive species pose a unique biodiversity conservation challenge and opportunity. Islands occupy less than 6% of Earth’s land area, yet are home to 15% of terrestrial species. Islands represent 61% of recorded extinctions with invasive species implicated in the majority of those. 37% of all Critically Endangered Species on the IUCN Red List are found on islands.

In recent decades, eradication programs have gained traction even on more populated islands. More than 1,100 attempts at eradication of invasive mammal populations have occurred. Holly Jones hopes the study’s results will help conservation practitioners see where they can make further strides to curb extinctions and protect native species. “While we can't bring back the species that have gone extinct, our analysis shows that removing invasive mammals can help us undo some of the damage we've caused”.

 

In BirdLife International

Published on 01 March 2016
Eradication project on Scilly Isles is a success

Bird population on Scilly Isles recovers after islands are declared 'rat-free'. Project to eradicate non-native brown rats that feed on eggs and chicks on St Agnes and Gugg is declared a success

A project to protect breeding seabirds from invasive rats on the Scilly Isles has been a success with the two islands declared "rat-free".

Bird population on Scilly Isles recovers after islands are declared 'rat-free'. Project to eradicate non-native brown rats that feed on eggs and chicks on St Agnes and Gugg is declared a success

A project to protect breeding seabirds from invasive rats on the Scilly Isles has been a success with the two islands declared "rat-free".

Bird populations on St Agnes and Gugh, linked by a sand bar, are starting to recover after a quarter century of year-on-year declines following work to eradicate the non-native brown rats which were feeding on eggs and chicks.

They are thought to have first colonised the islands in the 18th century following several shipwrecks and grew to a population that was harmful to birds such as European storm-petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus), which have been in decline since the 1980s.

Local volunteers and conservationists began work in 2013 on a project to monitor rat activity on the island, followed by an intensive programme of baiting and poisoning for a month in the winter. No rats have been spotted since November 2013, and after a thorough month-long inspection at the beginning of this year the islands have been declared officially "rat-free".

Since the removal of the rats, both Manx shearwaters and European storm-petrels are successfully breeding on the islands for the first time in living memory, with more than 40 chicks recorded on the islands in the last two years.

 

In The Guardian 13/02/2016

Published on 19 February 2016
The Hottentog fig is as beautiful as it is harmful

The hottentog fig is native to South Africa, and has been introduced in several countries for medicinal and ornamental purposes, and to control soil erosion. However, its impressive propagation and seed production rates led to the quick colonization of vast areas, becoming an invasive species in Portugal. It is currently considered one of the 100 worst invasive species on the planet.

By growing uncontrollably, the hottentog fig dominates the ground completely, forming dense vegetation carpets that are practically impenetrable to native plants.  The soil covered by this plant suffers chemical alterations which in turn affect the germination, survival, growth and reproduction of the native vegetation.

The history of the hottentog fig on the Berlengas goes back to the 1950s. At first, it was planted in the fishermen's neighbourhood. However, without any restraints to its propagation, it rapidly spread throughout the island. In addition to the optimal environmental conditions that allow it to thrive, the presence of the Black rat, Common rabbit, and Yellow-legged gull in the island contribute to seed dispersion.

Since the beginning of the LIFE Berlengas project, SPEA with the help of its partners and many volunteers has been removing this invasive species from Berlenga Island, especially in the slopes of the “Carreiro do Mosteiro”, the camping area and in the Flandres area. This removal, which is done manually, is carried out along the contour lines. The removed plants are rolled up and left to dry on top of the hottentog fig carpets directly below. The effort of the LIFE Berlengas teams to remove this invasive species from the island has been intense, and groups can vary from between 1 and 8 people, which have already dedicated around 730 hours of work to this removal process.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the 40 volunteers and ICNF technicians that have put their energy in the fight against this exotic invasive plant. In 2016, we will continue to remove the hottentog fig in the hope of one day seeing the slopes of the island of Berlenga adorned with its native vegetation.

2015

Published on 05 June 2015
Red List: 1 in 8 species at risk of extinction in Europe

The Red List of Birds, published this week by Birdlife International and the IUCN and funded by the European Commission reveals worrisome figures on the conservation of species in Europe. In Portugal there are many endangered species, especially the painho-of-Monteiro, the Vulture and Imperial Eagle.

About 13% of 533 species in Europe are under threat value rises to about 18% if we consider the 27 EU countries (to the baseline date to Croatia was not yet a Member State). Of these, 11 are Critically Endangered.

In Portugal, the situation is also critical being identified 22 species that are under threat in the Union, highlighting the pardela-Balearic (endangered Critically), the Zino's Petrel, the Vulture and the Priolo (in danger) . There are other species in Portugal who are under clear threat. The Turtle Dove, the ferruginous duck, the Eurasian Wigeon, the pintail, the Fieldfare and Redwing, all game species capable of being fighters in Portugal.

To Luís Costa, Executive Director of SPEA, "is shocking case of species that were common but have come back sharply several years ago, continues to be ignored by policy makers" and launches appeal for there to be a suspension "urgent of their hunting in Portugal, "he concludes.

Conservation in Portugal has also been successful with the recovery of species such as the great bustard and the kestrel which have been recognized, awarded by the European Union, not threatened.

The official also believes that "the recovery of these species is a direct result of carried out conservation efforts, the application of the Birds and Habitats directives and the implementation of the LIFE program of the European Commission".