A Tale of No Captures

Curt and I spent last weekend in Ventura.  As nice as Ventura is, it was not simply a weekend getaway that we were after.  Our purpose was to try to re-capture a Brown Pelican carrying one of our satellite transmitters.  This is one of the birds that we captured two years ago as part of our control group to be able to compare with pelicans that were affected by the Refugio oil spill, cleaned, rehabilitated, and released.

Because the data are uploaded to satellites rather than stored on the device itself, it is not essential to recover the instrument to get the data.  Rather, we wanted to try to remove this tracker because we don’t want to add any extra burden to this bird (even though it looks healthy and the tag and harness don’t seem to be slipping or causing injury).  Also, these nifty gadgets are quite expensive, so being able to remove it means we could potentially re-use it for a future study.


N12, with a view of the harness that helps hold the satellite tag to its back. Picture by Deborah Jaques.

Capturing an animal the first time is usually not a big deal.  Capturing that same animal again can be quite challenging, and on this occasion we were reminded of just that.  Curt and I, along with Deborah Jaques (who is one of the researchers in this study) and Andrew Yamagiwa (from CIES) used a boat to search for this bird along the breakwater and at the bait stations.  We spotted the bird (also known as N12 after her color band which it has since managed to lose), and even tried to lure her in with some tasty fish.  But in the end, and after many hours of attempted capture, we cried “uncle” and admitted defeat.

We will continue to monitor this devious bird for any signs of discomfort that the satellite tag may be causing, and we will try our luck again in a month or so, this time with a few more tricks up our sleeves.

A huge thank you to CIES (California Institute of Environmental Studies) for the use of their zodiac and for their assistance.


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