News - August 18, 2011

As long as you get your work done

Who? Fleur Kelder (Coast and Marine Management)
What? Research on the foraging route of the Cory's sheerwater, a seabird
Where? Faial, in the Azores
Why? ‘I was enormously attracted to the Azores.'

‘The Azores are a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which belong to Portugal. Because I grew up in Portugal I felt at home there straightaway. The language was no problem either. Faial, the small island that I went to for my internship, is an extraordinary place. The port is famous for the paintings on the quaysides. The tradition is that the crew of every new sailing shop that docks there leaves behind a painting on the boulevard.
The inhabitants of Faial are extremely neat. I was scared to even drop a cigarette butt on the ground, because all the streets are spick and span. The working day is different from in the Netherlands as well. I was supposed to show up at the research institute at nine o'clock. But after waiting outside the door for an hour a couple of times, I took it a bit easier in the mornings. And indeed, I was told, ‘Fleur, it doesn't matter what time you come in the morning, as long as you get your work done.'
As for my research, I focused mainly on the Cory's sheerwater, a species of bird that is not known in the Netherlands. They are big seabirds and I think they are very beautiful. If you sail alongside them when they are sitting on the water, they will all walk over the water for a while before taking off. That's an impressive sight. On Faial I tracked the foraging route of fourteen pairs of birds during nesting time. I mapped out the route using GIS. That may sound very simple, but it's amazing how much time it takes to make those maps! I compared the patterns of the routes. I also helped with the annual count of the various species of birds, in order to get an idea of the population growth rate. It was a very special experience to spend five months on a small island like that. Always surrounded by the sea. I was drawn to the freedom and the unspoiled nature. Wonderful, all those bird calls around me. The last house I stayed in was practically on the beach. There I could swim by moonlight in the evenings. Much more beautiful than any postcard.'