FAME Orkney seabird tracking
FAME (Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment) is an EU-wide project focusing on seabird movements and habitat use in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. From 2010 to 2011, I was part of a two-person crew working with the UK FAME partner, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) on Scotland's Orkney Islands, deploying GPS units on nesting Razorbills, Common Guillemots (murres), Eurpoean Shags, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and Northern Fulmars. During our two years on the project, we deployed over 200 GPS units and retrieved 150, representing more than 400 individual foraging tracks; the longest track we retrieved was from a Northern Fulmar who traveled to the coast of Norway to forage. In total, FAME RSPB staff deployed and retrieved close to 600 units during this two-year period, representing an unparallelled set of data on seabird foraging movements throughout the United Kingdom. Maps containing these tracks are available online through the FAME data portal.
The GPS tags we used (pictured at left) were designed for photographers, and had to be reconstructed and encased in waterproof plastic for use on birds. Since these units can't transmit data remotely, we had to re-capture each tagged bird, retrieve the GPS unit, and download track data.
Our three colony sites in Orkney (Copinsay, Muckle Skerry, and Swona) were all on uninhabited islands. Swona (pictured at right) has an abandoned village and a herd of feral cattle.