Either a bird went on vacation or scientists need a tourist to bring back their equipment

A bird-tracking device is being hunted that, rather than recording the bird’s movements, probably tracks the travels of an unwitting tourist. Researchers are asking for the public’s help in finding the tracker so it can be used again to study birds.

An oystercatcher, a black and white bird with a long, red-orange bill for breaking through shellfish, initially took the tracker from Dublin, Ireland, to Orkney, an archipelago of islands north of Scotland.

The bird appeared to have lost the tracker on the beach of one of the islands, Sanday, on April 7. It stayed there until late May, when the device began tracking unusual movements for a bird.

“It’s been a bit of a Tiki tour,” said Steph Trapp, a PhD student at the University of Exeter who led the research project deploying the trackers, in a statement. BBC video† It made its way to a campsite and stayed overnight before visiting a pizza place. Finally, the tracker took a flight from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London, England. Now, researchers believe the tracker may have found a house on a residential street in Ealing, west London.

The GPS device, which looks like a flash drive with a small solar panel attached, broadcasts signals about its location every few hours. This allowed researchers to map the journey they think they took with a tourist from Orkney back to London.

“We’re assuming someone has been on holiday in the Orkneys and came across this tag on a beach without really knowing what it was, picked it up, maybe put it in a bag and forgot about it,” Trapp told the BBC. “I’m sure they don’t realize we’ve been able to track where they’ve been for most of their vacation and almost to the exact house we think it must be located.”

Trapp and her colleagues hope the person will realize what they picked up and send it back to them. They offer a reward of £100 for his return, BBC reports† The tracker is said to cost around £1,000. The tracker’s new host can Contact the University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Studies to return the device. And there are no hard feelings – Trapp tells BBC she probably would have done the same had she come across a similar device on the beach.

The researchers placed the trackers on several species of birds that typically wade through shallow waters off northern Dublin, ITV reports. The birds migrate further inland to places such as public parks when high tides overwhelm the places where they normally forage. While many of Dublin Bay’s typical coastal bird habitats are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites biosphere, that protection does not necessarily extend to more inland urban areas. Trapp is working with the County of Dublin to find out which urban areas are most important for the birds in a attempt to better protect themaccording to ITV.

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