Friday, December 3, 2010

Science club: oil and paper recycling

Our team aims to make several fun activities with children, encouraging their respect for nature and getting a social awareness to these issues, which are highly important in our actual society.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cory's shearwater S.O.S

Less than 100 years ago was common hunting hundreds of Cory's Shearwater for different uses in Corvo Island.
At such hard time, hunger forced people to seek alternative food, for example, "Erva do Calhau" (an algae) and "Saramago" (an herb), because they could not cultivate the land during the winter due heavy storms.
The Cory's shearwater were also a food supplement for some people who were forced to learn some biological aspects of this species, such as hatching dates, that allowed to pick up eggs, and the period in which chicks had less fat and more meat. They also learned how to extract the oil from these birds to spread after their tools. Even serving as bait in the local fishery.


1 more ... equals 8

At the end of last week and with the colaboration with Environmental Office of Flores and Corvo was collected approximately 3kg of fruit of the Azorean Holly.

The Holly is an endemic species and its population is small and need some efforts to recover the species.
The fruits that was collected will be treated and sown in the greenhouse. Now it is 8, the species that we intend to produce.
At the time we are producing the following species:
- Morella faya
- Piconnia azorica
- Heather
- Azorean Cedar
- Azorina vidalii
- Frangula azorica
- Azorean blueberry
Hopefully we will have soon good news from the number of plants we are producing.
Here is one of the pictures Frangula azorica we seeded this year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two British experts visit Corvo Island

Kevin and Ruth Standring are experts in drafting and designing touristic trails and routes for hikers.
Their mission is to analyze the feasibility of installing four hiking trails for the tourist who visit the island.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A birdwatching day

Last week, despite the gray sky with a promise of a rainy day, we decided to enjoy the recreation that attracts many tourists from northern and central Europe to Corvo Island, the Birdwatching.
Telescope, 3 binoculars, bird guide and a backpack full of good mood is the material needed to spend a relaxed evening in Caldeirão, the ex libris of Corvo.

We took our visit to count birds for the National Waterfowl Wintering Program conducted by the 2nd consecutive year here on Corvo. By late morning our list was:
2 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea1 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 
29 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 
40 Yellow Legged Gull Larus cachinnans 
1 American Black Duck Anas rubripes 

1 hybrid of Mallard x American Black Duck

Despite the rain and gray sky, was a morning well spent.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Cory's shearwater activity: dataloggers

Logger work is not knew for SPEA and in the scope of the Marine IBA Life project we have used several troughout the islands of Azores, Madeira and in the Mainland. SPEA is currently working with Coimbra University in yet another project to identify with more detail the foraging areas of Cory's shearwaters and what may influence them. In these videos we can witness the deployment of small GPS devices that can last longer than 15 days and that will be essential for Filipe Ceia to know these seabird movements at sea for his Phd thesis.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Biological reserves creation

The project's goal is to create two reserves with optimal conditions for seabirds nesting. Our aims are to restore their natural ecosystem and we pretend to remove all the exotic species, and create the first endemic forest.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Science club in the school!

The project team is actively working with "Mouzinho da Silveira" School conducting activities in Ecology and nature areas. From previous school year, the students work with the Science Club and last week began with transplantation activities of one of the endemic plants: the Azorean Heather.

The children's club were divided into age groups and once again they showed their enthusiasm for this type of action.

The greenhouse is installed in the schoolyard, giving every student the opportunity to accompany the daily growth of the small plants planted.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Haunted House

As leisure, the team members participated in an initiative of the Corvo Young Association and helped to create an "Horror House" to celebrate Halloween.
It a was great fun and huge success!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monitoring activities in Vila Franca islet

Corvo seen by its visitors

Three SPEA members visited us during September. They participated in the project activities and were kind enough to leave their view of the experience in the form of a poem (in Portugue only.

Read poem

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Testing eradication of exotic rodents

Two different methods for the eradication of exotic rodents were being tested on Corvo Island.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Official Project Website has a new design

Is now available a new version of the official Project's website on Where about you may find the description of our project and the environmental outlook of Corvo Island and Vila Franca Islet.

Also you can have a look or download from "Documents" all publicity materials and reports we have produced. The "Gallery" for images and movies will be available soon.
Keep following us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The first Cory's shearwater chick leaves the nest!!

Last week we started to ring, to weight and to collect samples of Cory's shearwater chicks that are almost ready to leave the nests.

Most chicks are fully grown and almost fledging, and last Thursday night we rescued the first in Corvo Village, that was released at sea the next morning.
SOS Cagarro campaign is starting to have some busy periods and the volunteers should be ready in the next few days because the peak of the fledging season is about to occur, now that the chicks are getting ready to go to the sea.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Regional Government of Azores visited Corvo island

The Regional Government of Azores realized the annually visit to occidental group.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cory's shearwater breeding success

To understand how the Cory's Shearwater population of Corvo is evolving over the years, we are monitoring six different sub-colonies aiming to estimate their breeding success.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Corvo receives lots of visitors...

Last week the Scientific comission visited Corvo Islands and evaluated the project actions. During the meeting it was discussed in what way the methods used can be improved and how we should proceed to the data treatment.

The visits were very profitable and resulted in various valuable sugestions and ideas to improve the project actions. We managed to visit all the project intervention areas, although the winter days are coming. In between rain and strong winds we were lucky enough to catch some sunny moments to visit the altitude reserve and show the "Caldeirão" to the Comission.

Beside the project team, the meeting counted with the presence of Jaime Ramos (University of Coimbra), Manuel Nogales (CSIC), Steffen Oppel (RSPB), Raquel Ferreira (SRAM) and Joaquim Teodósio (SPEA).

On Monday the strong wind forecast made us fear the worst, but finally the plane managed to land and all our visitors departed. We hope that they manage to come back soon enough and to help us again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Abundance estimate of rodents on Cory's shearwater colonies

Every month the team sets up a trap grid for rats and mice at the Cory's shearwater colonies. trough this capture/recapture method we can monitor the population of rodents and know their densities and home ranges.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wild cats detection with surveillance cameras

The project has 17 surveillance cameras that are used to analyze the variation in the abundance of wild cats among different colonies.
Every two weeks a technician visits the colonies to check and move each camera to a new capture point.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cat census in Corvo island

The project team monthly conducted a series of activities to monitor the cat population on the island.
This summer, with the cooperation of the Corvo inhabitants, we made a campaign consisted on the neutering of all the domestic cats inthe village and to tag them with a small identification microchip.
This campaign is necessary to prevent the increase of the feral cat population in the near future.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First seabirds sound recordings in the project!!

We have the first seabirds sounds recordings obtained using a recorder placed in the cliffs on the west side of the island. The second phase is the construction of sonogramas through the program "Song Scope", which will allow us to identify the vocalizations of different species.
We will change the recorder to a cliff on the east side, where in the night census were recorded Petrels, between July and August.

We will continue to give more news about this issue!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

European Commission visits our project!

Last week, three representatives of the European Commission came to Corvo to check the progress and the work done on all the areas on the scope of the LIFE project.
The visit went smoothly and the commission was pleases with the progress of the actions.
Several people attended this formal visit and related meetings, nominately the SPEA team and representatives from all the partner institutions: Frederico Cardigos (Regional Director of Environment), Jorge Cardoso (Island Nature Park Director), Manuel Rita (Mayor of Corvo), Luis Costa (SPEA Executive Director), Iván Ramírez (European Marine Program Coordinator), José Pedro Tavares (RSPB), Pedro Luis Geraldes, Sandra Hervias, Nuno Oliveira and Carlos Silva (project team).
Last night the third project public meeting took place in the Santa Casa da Misericórdia opened to the general public. The session was opened by the Regional Director of Environment and the Executive Director of SPEA, and was we had the nice surprise to see that we had an audience of around 80 persons.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My first day as biologist!!

On Tuesday evening we enjoyed a spectacular opportunity among the citizens of Corvo. SPEA held third public meeting about our project where were announced the actions had been carried out in collaboration with farmers to test rodents eradication procedures. Early results showed the effectiveness of the methodology, however, must be administered by specialized operators. Taking advantage of this event, we gave back to Corvo's children their field books and show them a video of the activity carried out last saturday. We could easily note the great joy of the young guys. The meeting was also attended by the European Commission which had been visiting the village and the project over the last days.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The peddy paper was a great success!!

One week ago, we organize a Peddy paper with the youth of Corvo. We show them how is the daily work of the team.
Children and technicians enjoyed the activities in each point, such as: using GPS to recover wax blocks used to track rodents, identification of endemic, native and exotic plants that are growing on Corvo, and visit a Cory's shearwater colony, among other things...
This week we will post a little video with such activities.
Don't miss it!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We found the first Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)

Manx shearwater is one of seabird breeding in Corvo Island and, as happens with the Cory's shearwater, when inexperienced chicks leave the nest some of them fall down on streets due desorientation by public lighting.

Two weeks ago, we found the first Manx in "Vila do Corvo". In the morning, we ringed and weighed it, measured the length of the wing and collected a blood sample for genetic study. Later, we released it in the Biological Reserve of Corvo, into a Manx artificial nest to meet a new potential area for nesting. After a few minutes the bird left the nest and took his way to sea.

Hope it returns to artificial nest area for his first nesting season!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Finally, we found Azorean Blueberry!!!

Today, Julia, the volunteer of the project went to Corvo Crater to seek for the Azorean Blueberry.
The Azorean Blueberry is an endemic plant almost extinct in Corvo. Many other plants that aren't from the island, such as Hortensia (very present throughout the archipelago), are decreasing the area of distribution of endemic species that needs especific characteristics to growth.

It was surprise!! Inside small streams we found several plants. Many of them with mature fruits and many others almost mature, which will be caught in mid September.

Collecting the fruit of this plant, characteristic for it's sweet and a dark Blueberry, will be a great help to increase the diversity in the biological reserve of the project. In this reserve will be planted Azorean Blueberry, Heather, Azorean Ceader, the Hollytree and Buckthorn bush.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ear tags for wild cats

To distinguish sterilized cats in recaptures, all of the wildcats captured must be marked before being released to avoid the psychological and physical stress suffered when are subjected to further surgery.

We have selected an international system for tagging feral cats, ear section of the apical part of the left pinna. This cartilage area is very little irrigated and does not suffer bleeding and, therefore, very difficult to infection.

In the photo you can see a female sterilized last week sunbathing on a rooftop in the village of Corvo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We are Jannes and Jakob and decided to use our free time between our biologic studies to help in the SPEA project on Corvo Island. Me, Jannes, I am 23 years and currently studying Biologie in Kiel, Germany. And me Jakob, I am 21 years old and going to start studying Biologie in Bremen, Germany.
After school we both volunteered in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, became best friends and developed same interest like Marine Biologie as well as bird watching.

We arrived on Corvo on friday 23rd of july and are going to stay for almost two months.
Our main task in the project will be focused on nest-investigation of Cory´s Shearwater and we will give a hand in any situation where it could be useful.
We already took all the kind people and of course the funny sounding Cagarros to our heart and we are looking forward to some wonderful weeks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Biologia no Verão" - Discover the activities on Corvo island at this Summer!

Between June 15 and September 7, the SPEA, in partnership with Ciência Viva, has a variety activities related to biodiversity of Corvo Island. Entries are FREE and must be made through the website of Ciência Viva -

On 10 and August 24, and September 7 will be held the activity "Discovering the Azores laurel." Participants will have the opportunity to meet the remaining natural flora on Corvo, while they learn with simple gestures can help in their conservation.

During the mornings of 20-22 August, participants can see up close, and feel in their hands, small birds that come every day or hear from far, in parks and gardens. The activity will take place is "Discovering Birds around us" which aims to feature some aspects of conservation and take interested parties to participate in a technique long used by experts worldwide for the study of birds - capture using miss-nets.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trying to get further help!

As mentioned previously, we are monitoring cat activity around the colonies of Cory's shearwater using automatic cameras with infra-red sensor. This work results in lots of pictures that need to be processed. This is where you can be really helpful. It is a great help even if you can spend just a couple of hours per week.

The processing can be done from your home and you just need an internet connection and the Microsoft Excel program. Below is an example of one of the cat pictures recorded last week.

If you are interested, get in touch to receive more information.
Just comment on this post or send an email to


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Spotlight

Last night we went around the island to count cats. The survey took place between eleven p.m. and one a.m.
We were able to find five cats during the survey with the spotlight; one of wich was eating the remains of a dead Cory's found dead next to the road.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cory's shearwater peaked at posture a few days ago!

The same six Cory's shearwater colonies monitored last year by Ana Henriques, whose results are ready to be discussed on her Master thesis, began to be visited this year after Cory´s arrival in mid-March. 99% of the occupied nests last year were also occupied this year.

In Corvo, peak egg laying occurred on June 11 while last year it was on June 4. A week of difference compared to last year. Weather conditions could be the main cause, as we have seen in other places. However, it is too early to have concrete data on how it will be the breeding success of Shearwater this year.

It seems that some couples have trouble finding a hole to nest as you can see from the picture.

A few days after the peak of egg, some depredations have been detected.

We will keep the blog up-to-date on the current breeding season of Corvo Cory's!

A sound recorder arrives at the project!!

At the end of last week, we put on a cliff an automatic sound recorder for the birds in the Corvo island. The recorder was placed on the cliff near the Pingas area, which tends to listen Estapagados frequently.

This method can show what kind of seabirds use that area, and by comparison with the vocal activity recorded in other more accesible colonies, it can help to determine the size of the colonies in Corvo. If this method gives satisfactory results, in the future can be used recorders like this for the detection and quantification of the seabirds colonies.

Radar continued...

As you observed the June 8, the effect of radar exceeded all our expectations, so here are more pictures of this action on the blog.

These are images that me and Pedro, the project coordinator, saw in the monitors. They collected the amount of cagarros who were in the areas covered by the radar. The yellow dots mark the number of birds, and the blue dots the speed of flying.

The radar was placed at different locations into the island. On land we choose points on the cliffs, to capture better the nocturnal movement entering and leaving the nests, to understand the possible differences in habits. Finally, we put the radar on a boat sailing around the island, and we get better and more accurate measurement of cagarros residing in Corvo island.

The result was an entire success, the radar technicians and Pedro Geraldes were satisfied with the hard work at night.

The location of birds, plus the complexity of them, brings to
these events a very important step. We must consider that it is the first time that is performed this type of seabirds monitoring in Portugal.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Seabirds detected with radar!

National and International experts visit Corvo Island to test innovative systems for monitoring of seabird behaviour

This week a group of specialists is in Corvo island to test innovative techniques to detect seabirds using radar systems.

The study of seabirds has many technical difficulties to researchers, which are often difficult to overcome. Its nocturnal behaviour, together with the breeding habit of building their nests in burrows in the ground, often in inaccessible cliffs, makes it impossible to determine the size of some populations.

SPEA teamed up with Portuguese and foreign experts, to use radar detection techniques to study these birds for the first time in Portugal. The detection and study of birds using radar had been used for monitoring of wind farms and in studies of the New Lisbon Airport, although the detection of flying seabirds, due to their habits and places of occurrence, present other challenges and increased difficulties for their study. "For the first time we may know how many birds use the cliffs, which areas they prefer and whether it is possible to ID different species at long distances and without actually seeing the birds." says Pedro Geraldes, the project manager.

The results will determine the future operations of the project and might be an important milestone that opens new doors to the study of such birds in the archipelago."If we get good results with the use of radar, new possibilities for the study of seabirds in the Azores and elsewhere in the Atlantic will open up and will allow us to know details of the life of these birds that until now were impossible to determine" affirms Pedro Geraldes.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

La Paparazza arrived

On Friday morning arrived one more element to our project team.

Maria Vazquez is from Sarria, Lugo Province, and born in 1984, graduated from the University of Granada in Audiovisual Communication, having previously completed her studies in Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Valladolid. She conducted several courses related to photographic and video editing.

Her work will consist in performing audiovisual and photographic reports on the different activities of the project that are currently underway, that will be used for the dissemination of the project.

Over the next six months we will have full coverage of entire project, as well of flora and fauna of Corvo Island. She will be something like a second shadow of project staff people.

Hopefully well be given to Mary around here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking for cats and who look at them!

As mentioned previously, last month we began monitoring the activities of cats around the colonies of Cory's shearwater. For this we use automatic cameras with infra-red sensor. This work results in a few thousand pictures every 2 weeks that need to be processed. This is where you can be really helpful.

The processing can be done from your home and is just needed an internet connection and Microsoft Excel program. Below is an example of one of the cat pictures recorded last week.

If you are interested, get in touch to send you more information.
Just comment on this post or else send an email to


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Technical visit from New Zealand to Biological Reserve of Corvo

Although the tests to the anti-predator fence have been successful with regard to mice, the same was not true regarding rats and cats. In view of these difficulties, we found ourselves in need of resorting to Xcluder, a New Zealand expert team in erradications and anti-predator fences.

It was with this objective that during this weekend a technique of Xcluder, Jo Ritchie, visited Corvo Island. Meanwhile we were walking around the boundaries of Raven Biological Reserve where we want to build the anti-predator fence, Jo was indicating possible problems and consequent solutions due topographical features and the typical hard weather conditions of Corvo Island.

Jo, Pedro e Sandra

The concluding remarks we got from Jo were very exciting and hopefully we have the Biological Reserve of Corvo fenced and free of predators before the end of this year.

Greetings from Corvo.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hello, we are Jamon and Cecina!

We arrived in Corvo nearly one month ago, but the time has passed very quickly! The island is especially precious and we feel very comfortable.

Our work here involve different ways to search invasive plants on the island, to locate it and, if necessary, remove it to avoid the displacement of native species such as Urze Erika azorica and Cedro-do-mato Juniperus brevifolia.

To do it we use maps of the island divided into grids of 200 x 200 meters where we record patches of exotic vegetation.

Yesterday we got more than 200 Faia-da-terra Myrica faia were placed in a grid of transplants in the greenhouse.

The fieldwork is always rewarding, but also the time spent with a project team and the population of Corvo, who have been lovely since day one!

Julia Herrera e Javier Roma

Friday, April 23, 2010

Welcome Javier and Julia

The last two ribs of our team came directly from Spain, more specifically from Madrid. Javier and Julia, or Jamon e Cecina (their nicknames in Corvo), are students of Forestry who came to complete their practical course with us. However they have been very helpful in other activities of the project. Their sympathy has led them to integrate easily in the team and have been very well accepted by everyone in Corvo.

Project is news in «Público» - a Portuguese newspaper

Ecosphere came out today in a news story about various actions that have been unfolding in Safe Islands for Seabirds project. Also underlines the new artificial colonies created and the plan to make Corvo Island a predator free island.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tests to anti-predator fence follow the right track!

As we wrote before, in early March had put a couple of wild mice Mus musculus into the area to test the anti-predators fence. Action that proved the effectiveness of our fence as a barrier to this species. Not so good results we had at the end of March to test the fence in relation to trasposability by cats.

fig. 1 - Ship rat Rattus rattus

Last Saturday we started testing whether the fence would work as an effective barrier to another species of predator introduced in Corvo Island - the Ship rat Rattus rattus (fig. 1). Once again the fence has proven effective. And our new tenant appears to be quite relaxed in their new home. Today we left another ship rat into the area to demonstrate the true effectiveness of the fence (fig. 2).

fig. 2 - Ship rat Rattus rattus

Meanwhile we have started improving our fence to test whether it can effectively contain cats as well.

Regards to all.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Building a Model of the Cliffs of Corvo Island

As already mentioned above we want to built a model of the cliffs of Corvo to establish Cory's Shearwater habitats on the cliffs. To do that we will drive around the island by boat and take pictures of the cliff which will then be digitalized in a Geo Information System.

Left: 3D figure of Corvo Island
Right: 2 merged photos in a Geo Information System

Wednesday we finally had only little wind, waves, clouds and a boat with skipper available so that we could get our first pictures. We started on the Westside and did a row of 25 pictures from a distance of 300m but tested as well distances of 100, 200 and 400 meter. We shot the pictures with two different cameras in two different formats. The cameras are: the new waterproof Fijnpix Z33 WP and a Canon Power Shoot A610. And now lets just hope for a row of nice days next week.

(The correct form is «Até logo», but it's how sounds like to our Volunteer Eva Immler and means "See you later" in Portuguese, Portuguese language is not an easy language at all)

Eva Immler

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cooking science

Hi everyone!

With Cory's shearwater already around Corvo Island and taking into account the results we had last year on the predation of eggs and juveniles, for this year we are trying a new approach to study the impact of rodents in the reproduction of Shearwater.

Why cooking science??
Because that is what we got up to yesterday afternoon, as you can see from the photos. If we wrote an article about the scientific activity of yesterday, the keywords would be made paraffin, chocolate, bath, pan and cuvettes for making ice.

In order to understand the activity of the rodent community around the Cory's colonies of Corvo, we will make grids of wax blocks. Just as a little note, we will build any wax wall around the Cory's colonies. In recent years this technique has been increasingly used to study the activity of rodents. On one hand the results have been very useful and this approach has been revealing to estimate accurate abundances of rodents, the other is a low-cost technique.

In practice this technique consist in put on field small pieces of wax (with attractive for rodents - in our case was chocolate) as a pre-defined grid. After a few days all the cubes are removed and examined in order to account for the marks left by rodent bites. As each species of rodent has a characteristic dentition structure, it is still possible to know which species occur around the study areas.

Looking forward to overcome some limitations that arose last year in this part of the project.

Keep tuned!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring has just arrived to Vila Franca do Campo Islet


First Cory's Shearwater picture for the Islet in 2010

March, spring has arrived, with many vestiges of the cold winter though. And with it also the swallows arrive, in the case of Azores, mean Cory's Shearwater arrived (Calonetris diomedea borealis) for one more breeding season.

Between January and March 2010 were installed on the island 150 artificial nests for Little Shearwater (Puffinus assimilis), for Madeiran Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma castro) and for Cory's Shearwater (Calonetris diomedea borealis).

Artificial nest for Cory's

It was made one night monitoring the nests and already can hear the call of Cory's that invade the island and they do fill life with profiles in night flight there is demand for their nests. The last monitoring took place last weekend when we found 44% of 199 Cory's nests already with some signs of occupation. In which, one of the couples already looked at one of the new "costs controlled houses" - name suggested by the volunteers who helped count the nests on the island.

During this month we started the control of exotic vegetation, releasing the space occupied by it for Cory's nesting to later be replanted for endemic plants. But due to bad weather and rough sea has not been possible to advance the work of eradication. At the same time, native plants are being grown in nurseries SPEA through LIFE + project "Laurissilva Sustentável". Already germinated about 2500 plants to restore the endemic vegetation of Vila Franca do Campo Islet.

Some information campaigns took place in Vila Franca do Campo region for the first school students of 4 different schools. We aimed to demystify the infamous "hairstyle of the islet" and talk a bit about marine birds that occurring there. A total of 68 students participated in these activities, and did show big interest for our project. These actions were organized by the Municipality of Vila Franca do Campo.

Information campaign in Vila Franca do Campo (foto: Ana Borges)