First research results from Antarctica

In December 2021 and January 2022, Waardenburg Ecology conducted field research into the flight behaviour of Antarctic South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Cormorants in Antarctica. The first results are in.

Background of the research

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) operates the research station 'Rothera' on Adelaide Island in Antarctica. This station is located in the Important Bird Area of Ryder Bay, which is designated for the large numbers of breeding pairs of the Antarctic South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Cormorant.
BAS has the obligation to keep its impact on the ecosystem as low as possible. One way of doing this is to use solar panels and medium-sized wind turbines to generate sustainable energy. An earlier study by Waardenburg Ecology showed that significant negative consequences from the wind turbines on local bird life could not be ruled out. Waardenburg Ecology is now conducting field research to gather basic knowledge for a proper assessment of the effects of these structures on birds.


After a long period of preparation, training and inspections, and a long Covid quarantine, we started the research in December 2021. The focus of the research is on the distribution, flight behaviour and demography of Antarctic South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Cormorants in Ryder Bay. For this purpose, a bird radar from Waardenburg Ecology is being used to map the flight intensity on a local scale. The bird radar is located along the coast of this beautiful penninsula. One morning a Southern Elephant Seal was found to have snuggled up against the legs of the tripod for a nap!
A laser rangefinder, a pair of binoculars that can be used to measure distances and elevations, gives us an accurate measurement of birds' flight height. We use this to determine the flight intensity at rotor height.
Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctica

We have fitted GPS loggers to individual skuas and cormorants, which record in great detail the flight paths of the birds around the nest site and foraging trips at sea. It was therefore necessary to catch birds at the nest; not always an easy job. In addition to the GPS loggers, all birds have also been given a geolocator that keeps track of when it is day and night. A rough position in the world can be obtained from the daylength and the time of sunrise and sunset relative to a know position, so that insights of birds' movements outside the breeding season can be obtained. These data provide a lot of information about the migration of both species.

Next steps

All these data on flight behaviour will provide a clear picture of the collision risks for both species. These risks are then combined with the demographic findings of a long-term study on survival and reproduction to estimate the population-level effects of the proposed wind turbines. All data will be analysed and reported in the coming years and, based on the results, an assessment will be made as to whether or not to actually construct and commission these wind turbines.
Aalscholver in Antarctica
Ruben Fijn