Azores: Horta awaits

Expeditions always involve journeys of one sort or another. So after three days, three flights and four airports my annual migration to the Azores is complete. I even landed in Horta early, which is a first! Now the interesting part of the expedition can begin….

On the way to Horta

Today and tomorrow, Jim and Claudia (our hosts), and I will be preparing the expedition base for your imminent arrival.

It has been great to re-orientate myself with Horta, meet up with our hosts and catch up with Lisa (our scientist) to hear about all the recent sightings! We can share more detail on that once you’ve arrived… We now just hope that the weather and whales (and other target species!) are on our side and we can look forward to some great fieldwork (and data collection) over the next few days.

So safe travels to those of you still en route, and we look forward to meeting group 1 tomorrow.

Azores: First entry 2019

Hello Azores expeditioners

It’s time for the initial introductions. I am Craig Turner and I’ll be your expedition leader in the Azores this year.

Craig Turner

It is great to be going back to the Azores again, making my annual migration from the north of Scotland to enjoy the marvels of this mid-Atlantic location. And escape a pre-Brexit Britain!

I am currently organising and packing my kit, checking that I have all I need for the next month – so don’t forget to check the project dossier. It will be great to meet up with friends and colleagues from previous years, not least, our scientist Lisa Steiner.

Lisa Steiner

If you want to find cetaceans in the Azores, then she is the person to find them. I hope you have read the latest expedition report and Lisa’s publications on sperm whales, humpback whales, photo ID, marine predators and long-distance movement of sperm whales 1, 2 and 3 ,then you’ll know, not what to expect, but what we hope to record. Last year, you’ll note we had a variety of records – so you never can be too sure what ‘data’ we will collect. With Lisa already reporting sightings of humpbacks and sperm whales, not to mention the odd turtle, we could be lucky again.

As you can read in the 2018 report, this is what we’ll do

• continue the photo ID work on the various species

• continue matching fin whales to confirm if the fin whales visit in multiple years and send to other catalogues around the Atlantic

• start matching Sei whales to confirm if they are visiting repeatedly, as well as sending images to other catalogues around the Atlantic

• put more effort into the trash survey, as part of the POPA programme, which began in 2016. Marine litter is already a huge problem, with micro plastics finding their way into the fish we eat. Maybe even have a dedicated beach clean during the expedition

I arrive on Wednesday morning, a couple of days before the expedition starts, in order to set up. I’ll send around another message once I am on the ground in Horta and confirm my local contact details.

This reminds me to mention communications on the island. There’s cell/mobile reception on Faial in addition to internet via public hotpots and free WiFi in most cafes, but remember the golden rule of no cell phone communications while we’re at sea. Hopefully, you can resist the need for frequent international comms, and why not go off-grid for the expedition, and soak up the experience of Atlantic island isolation.

I hope you’ve all been eagerly reading your expedition materials and know to bring many layers of clothing. The weather can be a bit like four seasons in one day, so prepare for warm, cold, wet and dry – usually on the same day. Just like the weather in Scotland! Don’t forget your waterproof trousers – you’ll thank me when you are stationed on the bow of the boat as a lookout and the weather is choppy (so also bring your motion sickness pills/patches – if you know you need them!).

With the local team in place, whale sightings already logged by Lisa, all we are missing is you. It will be great to meet you all. Safe travels and here’s to another month working in the EU!

Craig
Expedition leader

Kenya: Data to send Rebekah over the moon

Apologies for the delay, but I was busy packing up and getting back to Europe.

Team 2 left Enonkishu last Friday morning. A month of expedition and data collection at Enonkishu conservancy is over. After this year’s final vehicle transects on Thursday morning and data input, Rebekah presented a summary of our work effort.

Group 2 completed 14 vehicle and 6 walking transects, 3 point count observations from Kileleoni hill and 20 four hour shifts of waterhole observation. During the vehicle transects, 619 observations were recorded in 43.5 hours on the activity (218 person hours) and a total number of 4,541 animals from 28 different species were counted. 23.5 hours were spent on the walking transects (141 person hours), where 59 observations were recorded and 293 animals from 21 species were counted. In 3 hours (18 person hours) of point count observations, a total number of 99 animals of 9 species in 20 observations was recorded. The team spent 78 hours observing the Memusi dam waterhole (179 person hours), counting 413 animals of 11 species over 246  observations.

I know, the above long list of numbers may be difficult to digest, especially for those who haven’t been involved in the activities on the ground. But the overall results speak for themselves: During four expedition weeks 1,682 observations were recorded, each a line completed on a datasheet and transferred into the computer. The teams spent 265 hours on activities making it a field effort of 940.5 hours by person – excluding preparation & travel time. A total number of 9.663 animals were counted.

In addion team 1 set up ten camera traps in different locations throughout Enonskishu and the SD cards were then changed every week. Expeditioners spent many hours sorting a total number of 8,829 photos/videos and picking out predators and nocturnal species such as lion, leopard, hippo, etc.

All in all our efforts look like this:

Also, the inventory species list we started on expedition day one has grown almost every single day including rare sightings such as aardvark, caracal, green mamba, leopard, honey badger and nile crocodile. 106 different bird species were spotted and identified – thank you Rebecca and Peter!

But enough of numbers & figures for now. Rebekah is over the moon with having a huge set of data to analyse and work with. And you will all be informed once the expedition report is published. Speaking for myself, I am still overwhelmed by the beauty and richness of the Mara and Enonkishu conservancy. Thank you to everyone involved in making this project a success. Thank you Albanus for making us feel welcome and comfortable at Mara Training Centre, Musa for sharing your knowledge and working with us, Joseph & Bernard for feeding us well. A special thanks goes to the Enonkishu rangers for keeping us safe and sharing their knowledge. And last but not least, thank you so much teams 1 & 2 for everything you have put into the project and coping with long days, night shifts, pouring rain, flat tyres and watching videos of moving grass for hours. Without you this project would not have happened. I hope you all take some good memories of Africa back home and I hope to see some of you again some day.

You may already have seen Chris Taylor’s blog and stunning photography, as well as Valery Collins’ blog. There’s also a flurry of posts on Rose Palmer’s website and Instagram.

Our “own” photos, courtesy of many of you (thank you), are below. Do not forget to share the rest of yours via the Pictureshare site please!

Best wishes,

Malika