An intrepid BirdLife International team are back from their voyage to discover the nesting grounds of Beck's Petrel, a small seabird facing an uncertain future.
With over 200 kg of chum specially designed to lure the Critically Endangered Beck’s Petrel Pseudobulweria becki, a couple of gas operated net canons for harmless capture and a keen crew of four from BirdLife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the PNG Explorer motored out of Kavieng, bound for Cape St George at the southern end of remote New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Even without “spontaneous chumming” thanks to calm seas, curious Red-footed Boobies Sula sula, Black Noddies Anous minutus and other pantropical seabirds were soon escorting the ship on its 400 km trek south.
The first Beck’s Petrels were soon sighted. Quietly, but with excitement and nervous anticipation, the team set a chum slick, but a few casual swoops and a shake of a tail feather later, the birds’ inspection of this marine buffet was done. Nevertheless, fears that the strong El Niño conditions affecting the Pacific may have caused the petrels to move elsewhere were allayed; and with greater numbers known to be in the vicinity of the Cape, this subdued start was merely a teaser.