2016 saw the HAGRG return to Nasaruvaalik Island to continue ongoing monitoring of ground-nesting seabirds. The focus of our visit this summer was to trap arctic terns for a mark-recapture study in order to determine the annual survival and lifespan of terns breeding in the High Arctic. We know that arctic terns can live to be over 40 years old, but several years of data are needed to refine anecdotal records into a robust and meaningful baseline.
We also took advantage of our time on the island to continue tagging both adult and chick Sabine's gulls. HAGRG member Shanti Davis has collected hundreds of hours of behavioural observations which have revealed a complex and fascinating relationship between related birds. This project was initiated in 2007 by Kelly and Josh Boadway, and to date hundreds of individuals have been banded with unique colour-coded band combinations. Currently, well over 90% of the breeding adults on the island are banded, and in the last few years birds banded as chicks only a few days old in 2011 and 2012 are returning to breed for the first time!
Basic mark-recapture and mark-resight studies like these are a low-tech way of collecting a lot of important information on the biology and ecology of nesting populations. It's a lot of work trapping the birds the first time around, even more work trying to see them afterwards, but in the end, the reward is a unique insight into the relationships between individuals within a colony. Plus, it's a lot of fun :)