An exciting expedition to Dominica began in February 2023, using a sniffer dog for the first time, to try to discover nesting Black-capped Petrels, which so far have only been found to nest on Hispaniola. Historical documents, and offshore and airborn petrel sightings, all indicate the possibility that nesting activity is taking place. Over the last ten years, EPIC has been involved in several efforts to discover the nesting grounds including the use of marine radar and using song meters. The diverse team of partners hopes that this expedition will finally result in solid knowledge of a nesting colony which is important so that the management of threats such as predators, can be implemented. This expedition is unique because the team is using a trained detection dog for locating burrows by scent. A technique that is becoming more common in the search for cavity-nesting birds.
The Black-capped Petrel, known as the Diablotin bird, is an endangered seabird that comes to land only at night, to nest in burrows located on high mountain peaks. This bird is intricately linked to Dominica's culture, with mountains bearing its name (Morne Diablotin, Morne Aux Diables) and traditional songs mentioning it. This bird has long been of great interest to conservationists on Dominica and worldwide, with a long history of searches and sightings on the island. Yet, nests have yet to be located. Confirming that Diablotins are nesting would also bolster Dominica’s reputation as the “Nature Isle,” a safe haven for unique wildlife.