Camera attached to a gannet captures bird's eye view

Video footage "sheds light" on rarely seen gannet behaviour

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Miniature video cameras have revealed life from a gannet's perspective.

The lightweight cameras were fitted to the birds by scientists from the University of Exeter and the RSPB.

Footage was recorded as part of an ongoing monitoring programme on Grassholm island off the Pembrokeshire coast.

Conservationists believe the results could help to inform the protection of marine species in Wales.

"Seabirds spend most of their time at sea away from their nesting sites making them difficult to study," explained Dr Steve Votier from the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute.

Gannets in focus

Gannet in flight

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See Steve Backshall as he marvels at Grassholm's gannets

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"This camera really helps shed light on their behaviour away from the colony, for example it allows us to more accurately investigate their reliance on discards from trawlers and how they interact with other birds while far from land."

Dr Votier has spent the last eight years monitoring the birds on the RSPB reserve of Grassholm Island which is home to the fourth largest colony in the world with just under 40,000 pairs.

Earlier this year, he published his results using bird-borne stills cameras that showed how gannets interact with fishing trawlers.

The study, published in the journal PLoS One, suggested a ban on discards by fishing trawlers could impact on scavenging male birds.

Following this work, he was approached by RSPB conservation scientist Dr Mark Bolton to trial combined video camera and GPS tags.

The study was undertaken over the summer to log more detailed information about the Grassholm gannets' movements.

"The lightweight camera works alongside a GPS unit that allows us to accurately track birds' flight patterns and measure how long they are flying, feeding or resting," explained Dr Bolton.

The team were able to tag a number of birds and footage revealed them flying over the busy colony as well as taking their notorious high-speed dives to catch fish.

Conservationists believe a greater awareness of the birds' activities could help to improve protection for them at sea.

"This information can answer both scientific and conservation questions and could contribute to the designation of marine conservation zones in Wales," said Dr Bolton.

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