Newsletter May 2012

Hello readers and friends.

The hawksbill turtle breeding season dominated the first quarter of the year. By the end of the season, 210 nests were recorded from a total of 275 emergences. We experienced a lot of trouble this season with the crabs infiltrating the nests at different stages during the incubation period of 60days. Scores of eggs and hatchlings were killed and eaten by them.

We spent many hours removing the crabs from the nests to protect the nests the hatchlings. Somehow, they were always ahead of us. Some nests were totally destroyed and in others many young turtles were killed before they had the chance to make it to the surface.

Those who managed to come out of nest had to confront the crabs on the way down to the sea. Many were taken alive before they could even reach there. The danger is not yet over even when they reach the sea. They have many predators there too. I can imagine why they choose to go down at night time, less chance of being eaten by fish.

The surviving few will swim out to the deeper waters, living in patches of floating seaweeds that will provide them protection and food. The very, very lucky ones might make it back to Bird Island one day, that is, in the next 35 years.

The laying pattern was concentrated mostly on the open sea facing beach. The lagoon side was littered with drift wood, making it rather difficult for the turtles to reach the nesting areas above the high water mark.

At the end of the breeding season, 13 new turtles were tagged and 37 were returnees , making a total of 50 turtles only. With 210 nests, it means an average of 4 nests per turtle, which is quite a high average.

For this very reason we try very hard to save as many young turtles as possible, with the hope that their numbers will get better one day.

The history of one turtle was spectacular. Tagged in 1997, she has been identified 16 times and recorded every other year without failure. The sad thing about her when she was last seen, she had lost a rear flipper probably chopped off by a shark.

Our first turtle tagged in 1995 was also recorded.

The number for the green turtles since the beginning of the season in July last year does not look promising so far. Only 2 nests recorded by March 31st . Last year’s season was one of the highest for many years.


Lesser Noddies: Hundreds of birds arrived late March. Nesting activities already in full motion.
Usual breeding habitats, pisonia, cordia, casuarinas.

Common Noddies: huge arrivals around the same time as the lessers. Breeding preparations have also started.

Sooties are here too. One can observe huge concentrations of birds flying over the northern point of the island around sunset. They are even landing at night time. No signs of breeding yet.

The fregates are now roosting permanently in casuarinas inside the sooty terns nesting colony since they lost one of the two roosting habitats last year. Soon the adults will make their way down south soon to breed on the southern islands.

MIGRANTS: Some of them have already left for their long journey up north. By early March, the pacific golden plovers and the turnstones had already molted into their summer plumage getting ready for their long journey.


Rainfall for the last 4 months: Dec11: 253mm, Jan: 220mm, Feb:40.8mm, Mar:37.7mm. The rains we had during November last year until January left the island very green and even the farm did very well. We even ended up with surpluses. The situation at the moment is not looking that green at all. The last time we saw rain was 28th March, where we had a mere 5mm of it.

The nurse sharks were back as usual to give birth at the end of the lagoon. Those who plucked up the courage did go out to the reef to see them.

Another attraction is a few juvenile hawskbill and green turtles feeding around the mooring.

Best wishes from the Bird Island Team.

May 31, 2012 12:00 am

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