ESC volunteers on Lastovo crouched and crawled to discover all seabirds nests

  • 16.04.2024.

Two adventurous ESC volunteers (Zulfu and Paula) in the first week of April embarked on an exciting journey to the Lastovo Archipelago, one of the islands farthest from the Croatian mainland, as part of their fieldwork for the LIFE TETIDE project. Along with Dries Engelen from BIOM’s Bird Conservation Team and the cheerful local volunteer Mate Srsen from Split, our dynamic duo rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Their mission? To check in on the adorable Yelkouan Shearwaters, and to guarantee safe breeding conditions for this species on their colonies.

“Our journey started off with a bit of excitement from day one. Upon arriving in Split, we learned that bad weather had canceled the ferry to Lastovo, forcing us to spend the night in the city and wait for another ferry the following day. The week promised to be quite interesting right from the start”, Paula shared her first impressions.

Throughout the week, they carried out various fieldwork tasks in collaboration with the staff of the Nature Park, navigating from island to island in a boat. “Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and the sea breeze, we monitored over 100 nests spread across the different islands, implemented crucial biosecurity measures, and established data collection points to assist us in the coming months”, says Paula. Zulfu witnessed some interesting moments: “During one of the nights we also went on one of the islands by kayak to ring some Yelkouan shearwaters, and of course we enjoyed listening to their notorious eerie calls, which inspired myths associated with damned souls from ancient Greek to Spain.”

“Despite the challenging physical nature of the work, involving constant efforts to navigate rocks, move through vegetation, climb, crouch, and crawl to discover all the nests on each island, we cherished every moment spent in Lastovo. There’s something special about conducting fieldwork outdoors, in direct contact with nature”, revealed Paula. Zulfu added: “And let’s not forget about the wildlife! Birdwatching became a favorite pastime, spotting Scopoli’s Shearwaters, Audouin’s Gulls, Shags, Sardinian Warblers, and Eastern Subalpine Warblers or trying to find mysterious owls at night after the sunset.”

Besides the hard work, there was plenty of fun to be had and our team had free time to explore Lastovo’s most special corners. From visiting the stunning lighthouse in Lastovo with its postcard-worthy views to hiking through lush trails and stumbling upon mysterious abandoned bunkers. Every day was an adventure. “One night, we decided to stargaze from one of the island’s highest points. With little light pollution, we could clearly observe the constellations. It was an almost magical moment; seeing a sky full of stars is something that unfortunately is rarely experienced. So it was one of the many special moments we shared with Lastovo”, told Paula.

In early summer, BIOM will return to Lastovo to check up on the Yelkouan shearwater nests once again to determine how successful the breeding season was. By that time, Scopoli’s shearwater will be on their nests as well, and an additional 100 nests will need to be monitored. In the meantime the park will continue to control rat populations on important seabird colonies, and we hope that the installed biosecurity measures will prevent new invasions of predators to the islands. “I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this project in Lastovo, not only for contributing to its implementation but also for discovering how special this place and the people who inhabit it are”, concludes Paula. Zulfu agrees: “In the end it was a trip filled with discovery, both of the incredible wildlife and the rich culture of Croatia, and I returned home with a heart full of memories and a newfound appreciation for the beauty of the Lastovo Archipelago.”