The West African coast is a very important breeding and feeding area for large numbers of colonial breeding seabirds. It is crucial to know the numbers and distribution and reproduction success of these birds to be able to provide adequate protection. It is, however, difficult to obtain accurate counts without disturbing the colony. The purpose of this project was to develop methodology and test the use of drone photography for estimating colony sizes of colony breeding birds in general and Royal terns (Thalasseus maximus) specifically. The project took place in collaboration with BirdLife on Ansoukala island in the Saloum delta in Senegal.
Use a drone to map the colony while avoiding disturbance as much as possible. Particularly, to obtain high-quality imagery and to determine flight parameters such as elevation, speed, take-off and landing distances from the colony.
Establish target area, fly data collection missions, determine the level of disturbance by scoring behaviour of birds, produce maps of the collected images.
We determined the optimal flight elevation which provided sufficient detailed imagery while the disturbance was kept at a minimum. The flight was performed at an altitude of 20m above ground at a speed of 2 m/sec. These parameters provided good results.
Above Royal tern colony at Ansoukala island in the Saloum delta in Senegal. The entire colony is reconstructed by stitching of individual pictures taken with our UAV.