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Newsletter March 2013

The 2012/2013 hawksbill breeding season has been the best so far, since the project started way back in 1995. We have on record to date 313 recorded nests.

During the last years, we’ve noticed a slow shift in breeding habitats. There have been increase movements of nesting on the beach area facing the open sea and a reduction on the lagoon area. Comparing the last two seasons, there has been a 50 percent drop of nesting on the lagoon side.

We presume that the effect of erosion and the driftwood littering the beach could be the cause of diminished nesting in that area.

The threat of crabs invading the nests this season was one of the worse we’ve experienced so far on the island since year 2000 when we carried out a culling program to reduce their numbers. We are seriously thinking of a similar program for later on during the course of the year.

Earlier this year, we started of crab monitoring program with the backing and guidance from Dr Jeanne Mortimer. The program is to assess the destruction caused by the crabs once they’ve enter the nests.

In our last newsletter, we mentioned about the removal of eggs and incubating in polystyrene boxes. After our discussion with Dr Mortimer, it was decided that only the nests invaded by crabs should be removed to safety, only after the second half of the incubation period. It is believed at this stage, the sex of the embryo has already been determined.

Green Turtles: In our last newsletter ending in December, 108 nests recorded from the beginning of the season, July 2012. Only 5 more nests have been added with a total of 113 so far. Most nests were concentrated on the north and west coast of the island. With that many nests in a period of 8 months, Bird Island must be an important breeding ground in the inner islands for the green turtles.

Our small population of juvenile green turtles seems to have made the lagoon at Passe Coco their permanent home.

Most of them are now tolerant to the presence of humans around them. They have become quite an attraction for the marine life enthusiasts.

You can see their little heads popping up for air from the beach from time to time.

I can remember their arrival in the lagoon around 1999/2000. There were only two of them initially. They were so cautious about our presence at the time and impossible to approach them at close range.

Sooty Terns: A couple of hundred birds were seen flying low over their colony early during the month of December They did not stay very long. Since then they’ve been no signs of them until around the third week of March. Robbie, our inhouse conservation officer reckons it’s the first time in nine years that the birds have turned up relatively late.

Lesser Noddies: Their presence and numbers on the island in the last three month were inconspicuous. There were hardly any birds at all in the “Chemin Bois de Rose” area, a popular roosting and breeding habitat and in the casuarinas on the west coast.

At this time in March last year, there were hundreds of birds around compared to what it is this year.

Common Noddy: The “December flock” did very poorly this year. There were much fewer birds besting than in previous years. The breeding was unsuccessful. Most of the chicks perished during the early stage of fledging, probably due to lack of food. At the time of writing this report, only few chicks remained.

The mynah birds are also to blame, as they were often seen attacking nesting birds to steal the eggs.

As a matter of fact, their numbers have reached an alarming proportion where they have now become a real pest as an egg predator. We are seriously thinking of culling them this year.

Fairy Terns: Ten couples were recorded nesting during the first quarter. Seven of them have successfully hatched and rearing their chick.

Tropics Birds: 25 breeding pairs recorded during the last three months. Their chicks are doing well within the confines of their well protected nests against the ghost crabs.

They have become quite an attraction as most of the nests are to be found around the lodge perimeter.

Sunbirds: They have adapted well. Their numbers are up.

Blue Pigeon: 4 fledglings identified in the last quarter

Fregates: January-March – around 400 individuals.

Brown boobies: around 2 individuals
Red footed usually not seen during period. An exception with 8/6 birds.

Migrants: Quite a number of turnstones and plovers already changed into their breeding plumage getting for their long flight to Northern Europe.( I wish I could warn them to delay their migration a bit as it’s still freezing cold up there!!!!!!!).

Weather Data January – March 2013

  • January; 727mm
  • February: 120.8mm
  • March: 17:1mm

Janaury 2013, the wettest in 4 years
March 2013, the driest in 4 years.