How not to do it: returning from the Azores amidst a pandemic

As the breeding season of the Madeiran Storm-petrels came to an end and the last handful of chicks neared fledging, it was time for us to leave our volcanic islet home. When we began planning our return from the Azores many weeks ago, we thought getting off the islet itself would be the most challenging [...]

‘The weather is boss’

March 18th 2020 I write this update from the comfort of a bed (an actual bed!!!), in a house with mains electricity and running water, with dogs occasionally barking from a nearby dwelling and with street lights illuminating the road running through the quiet town of Luz (on the southern side of Graciosa Island). It’s [...]

Drawing to a end – final days on Praia

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last update here (apologies!) and time really has flown by. We’re now in our last few days on the islet, as we wait on the unpredictable weather conditions to dictate when we’re able to have a boat and take us back to the ‘mainland’. The weather forecasts [...]

Islet Diaries: week 5

Darkness has fallen over the islet. The stuttering cries of Little Shearwaters punctuate the air over the volcanic cliffs, where the occasional wailing call of returning Cory's Shearwaters erupts as birds glide in to inspect their burrows, after many months voyaging in the southern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. From among a row of nest [...]

Islet Diaries: week four

The most noteworthy news to report since my last blog post is that we’re still here!(perhaps one of our biggest achievements considering the conditions over the last seven days): our tents did not blow away (safely secured with 20 litre water containers), we managed to avoid being blown off the cliffs, and the islet itself [...]

Week three on the islet

February 6th, 2020 It’s dusk. A blackbird begins singing its liquid melody from the nearby tamarisk trees. The sound is almost drowned out by a thundering swell; swell that not even two hours previously did not exist. These 3-4 metre breakers have advanced from far to the north of us, from an immense storm system [...]

Wind, rain, sun and sea spray: week 2 on the islet

1am, 28th January 2020 atop the cliffs of Praia. It’s the early hours of morning and I’m surrounded by the beautiful, eerie wailing cries of little shearwaters as birds wheel around past the volcanic cliffs on Praia’s eastern flanks. I’m sat on the cliff edge looking down at a boiling mass of white foam; even [...]

Sleepless nights

Week 1 back on the islet has been characterised primarily by a lack of sleep. The main culprit for this has been the need to retrieve GPS loggers from some of the adult storm-petrels, which we’ve been tracking for the last few weeks thanks to Verónica Neves (an Azores’s post-doc also studying the petrels). She [...]

The Return

Waiting. Waiting. And a bit more waiting. The problem with researching seabirds which nest on remote offshore islands is that your every move is dictated by the weather. And wintertime in the middle of the Atlantic isn't renowned for it's stillness of seas. The last week has thus been spent patiently waiting for the wave [...]