01 March 2008

Radio Expedition Occurs During Breeding Season at Ducie Island

James Ed. Ducey

The recently completed VP6DX radio expedition at Ducie Island occurred during the breeding season of the resident birds. Based on pictures given at the expedition website at least two species of fledgling birds were present.

Although there was no written information given in the expedition logs about the local residents, two pictures show fledgling birds ...

[Fledgling bird at Ducie Island][Tern fledgling at Ducie Island]
Images from the DX expedition webpage.

In order to communicate on the various radio wavelengths, a number of antenna were installed on Acadia island, the largest of the atolls at Ducie. An image at the website depicts the placement of the radio arrays.

The influence of the antenna and guy wires on the fledgling and adults birds is not known. Certainly the wire could have been a hazard for birds learning to fly, which can be difficult for a bird to learn safely despite any additional dangers.

The departure log for the expedition does indicate that trash was removed from the including, including some which apparently was present before the groups arrival. So expedition members did assist in improving the natural-scape of the atoll. A suggestion to conduct trash removal had been suggested to the expedition prior to its departure to the island.

When future expeditions visit Ducie Island, the timing should be considered to ensure that the activities of any visitors will not pose any threats what-so-ever to the large numbers of birds which use this important Pacific island nesting site. There is no indication of any problems to the birds during this radio expedition.

According to the administrator of Ducie Island, "Visitors to any of the outlying islands require a permit to land." This administrator, plus the regional administrator, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office did not respond to email requests inquiring if a permit had been issued.

The permit process could be an important tool to evaluate pending visitors and ensure they are conducted in a manner that will 1) not disturb the local avifauna, 2) make certain rats do not get re-introduced, 3) make certain visitors follow particular protocols to avoid any impacts to the island habitat; and, 4) allow decisions to be made that are best for the island, not for any periodic visitors.

The atolls at Ducie Island are a bird haven, and the place should be actively managed first and foremast in a manner conducive to this use.

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