Camera set up at Lihou to record local seabird activity

A WILDLIFE camera has been set up on an islet off Lihou to help capture shots of a colony of shags.

It was set up to coincide with World Wildlife Day, in the hopes of gaining insight into Guernsey seabird populations.

The camera, which will capture time-lapse photographs, has been installed at Lihoumel – the western most islet by Lihou – to observe a colony of shags.

It will remain in place to capture images for the spring and summer. These images will then be analysed using artificial intelligence software to identify the birds, plus a little help from the public.

This is part of an initiative called Seabirdwatch – a project led by Oxford University and with research partners from all cross the north Atlantic.

Taking part in this initiative forms part of the Strategy for Nature’s data gathering work stream and also links with the development of the Ramsar management plan.

A Ramsar site is an area classified as internationally important wetland and, due in part to significance of the island’s bird breeding sites and the colony of shags that live there, Lihou and the surrounding area acquired this designation in 2006.

Emily Coule of Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services said this sort of research was valuable as it did not disturb birds at this crucial time.

‘As in other years, the public are asked to stay away from Lihou shingle bank and Lihoumel during the bird breeding season between January and August,’ she said.

‘Ropes have already been placed to warn the public of these areas.’

By analysing images of seabird colonies, ACLMS can start to understand more about breeding success, chick survival, timing of breeding and more.

It is important to monitor local seabird populations, as they are one of the most threatened bird groups globally. Whilst feeding at sea they are vulnerable to increasingly frequent storms, pollution and pressure on their food sources. Their nest sites on land can be impacted by invasive predators, habitat destruction and human disturbance. Unfortunately, there is anecdotal evidence that the local populations have been decreasing, reflecting the global trend. Shags play an important role in our local ecosystem and can indicate the condition of the wider environment.

Biodiversity Officer Julia Henney said the information they gathered would help them understand how local seabirds were faring and even indicate the health of the oceans.

‘This is the first time information of this detail has been gathered from our local seabirds and we are very excited to find out much more about these internationally important birds and how we can help conserve their populations,’ she said.

‘The camera photos will be made available in around a year’s time when they will enter the citizen’s science phase and invite islanders to head online and help us identify images of birds and their chicks. Humans are very good at this and the information we input helps to improve the ability of AI technology to identify birds in the images.

‘The citizen’s science phase of the project aligns with the objectives of the Strategy for Nature for increasing awareness and accessibility to nature. Shags are an important species of seabird which play an important role in our local ecosystem and it is hoped the project will open up the world of wildlife and science to the public in a way that it is easy to get involved with and make a real difference.

Top Stories

More From The Guernsey Press

UK & International News