Grey-tailed tattler satellite tracking 2017

During the NWA 2017 Expedition, in February 2017, recently released 2g transmitters, developed by Microwave Telemetry Inc. (MTI), were deployed on five Grey-tailed Tattler at 80 Mile Beach.

However by April, all five of the satellite transmitters had already ceased sending transmissions! This is a disastrous outcome for an outlay of $25,000 on these new super light-weight (2g) units. These units differ in a number of ways from the 5g units. In particular, the aerial doubles-up as the harness system to attach the transmitter to the bird via wing-loops and a neck-loop. The harnesses superficially appear very light-weight and potentially vulnerable to damage. The fact that this is probably the cause of the premature failures is supported by the fact that one of the Tattlers was sighted and photographed in the field at 80 Mile Beach.

Grey-tailed Tattler taking off after deployment of 2g transmitter (photo by Robert Bush)

All five tattlers were captured at the section of beach 40km south of the Anna Plain Station entrance of the beach and released the day after at the Anna Plain entrance (0km).

HYC, HYV, HVD and HYP were released on 14 February. HYC lingered at the release site for three days and then signals indicated the bird flew inland, which was unusual for a Tattler. The transmitter once stopped working on 25 February but then come back to send lower quality signals on 7 March until today. It is looking likely that the bird might be predated and the transmitter carried to an inland location by the predator, where the transmitter still occasionally receive solar energy for transmitting.

Movement of HYC from 14 to 25 February

Since then, it looked like HYV, HVD and HYP moved southward along the beach as a group. Seven days after they were released, they were back to where they were first caught at 40 km south of the Anna Plain Station entrance. HYV stayed at 40km until mid-March and then moved to the beach section between 15km and 20km in late March. We lost the signal from HVD on 11 March, HYP on 9 March and HVD on 21 March. HVD was sighted on 7-8 April, still carrying its transmitter but with a part of the harness damaged and all of the aerial missing.

Tracks of HYV (blue), HVD (green) and HYP (white) along Eighty Mile Beach

Captured and released a day later, the fifth Tattler HVT behaved a bit different to the others. Upon releasing on 15 February, it first spent three days north of the 0km Anna Plain Station entrance, and then spent 3 days moving southward to where it was first caught at 40 km. HVT has been staying around that area since then until the last signal receive on 30 March.

Tracks of HVT moving along Eighty Mile Beach

Regardless of the early failure of these transmitters on the Tattlers, it is still very interesting to see the high site fidelity of these individuals to certain section of 80 Mile Beach.