Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean

by Environmental Protection in the Caribbean
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Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
The long tail plume of tropicbirds is distinctive.
The long tail plume of tropicbirds is distinctive.

This is the time when seabirds that breed throughout the year can be found nesting in the Caribbean, including birds like boobies and tropicbirds. 


Thanks to your support, our citizen scientists have been recording the number of Red-billed Tropicbirds, which can be tricky. This species nests in rocky crevices and at times are difficult to find; sometimes you can be surprised when hearing the shrill, piercing call of alarm leaving no doubt that a tropicbird nest is nearby. Or you might spot their long, white tail plume sticking out of a crevice.

Tropicbirds raise only one chick per year, making each nest very important for the population.
In addition to searching for nests, surveyors also conduct counts of all the tropicbirds flying in the afternoon, when they tend to congregate and call while displaying their splendid tail feathers during a somewhat ungainly flight.

The often-raucous nature of seabird nesting colonies is one of the aspects that keeps citizen scientists going back to these remote islands. The abundance of life at these sites is thrilling to behold and offers hope for a future with healthy and rebounding seabird populations.

Your contribution helps us to continue this monitoring work as well as upcoming research placing temporary tracking devices on boobies. These devices show where birds are foraging and which areas are important. This type of data informs management plans and protected area designations that ensure these seabird parents have enough food for their young.

We sincerely appreciate your support of this valuable work and hope you too can experience the wonders of seabird nesting colonies yourself if you have not already.


In Gratitude,
Natalia

Red-billed Tropicbird with chick. K. Lowrie
Red-billed Tropicbird with chick. K. Lowrie

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Members of the Coast Guard learn to fly a drone.
Members of the Coast Guard learn to fly a drone.

It’s now hurricane season and many seabirds have adapted to avoid nesting during this sometimes-destructive time of year. With less nests to monitor, it’s a great time to build new skills and knowledge!

Protecting and studying wildlife is challenging in remote or difficult to reach seabird nesting colonies. Yet it’s critical we protect these globally and regionally important populations. To support local law enforcement and conservation organizations, we hosted a training on the use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Drones provide a cost-effective method for ensuring that nesting areas are properly monitored and protected. Staff from enforcement agencies spent five days in the classroom and in the field learning about UAV safety, maintenance, privacy issues, data analysis, and avoiding wildlife disturbance. Check out the TV news story.

The Grenadines archipelago includes more than 80 islands and cays. Deciding which sites are most important for restoration takes a community effort. This was the focus of a recent meeting of the Grenadines Seabird Conservation Plan Working Group. The diverse group of local stakeholders shared personal site-specific knowledge focusing on managing non-native mammals like rats and goats.

These introduced animals damage island biodiversity in many ways such as by eating the eggs and chicks of seabirds and destroying vegetation. The knowledge and experience of Working Group members are crucial for making informed decisions.

Whether it’s stakeholders, trainees, or supporters like you, it’s the community that makes this project successful. We thank you for your support and hope you’ll consider donating to ensure these research, education, and conservation activities continue to protect and restore vital wildlife populations.

Drone training participants and trainers.
Drone training participants and trainers.

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Audubon's Shearwater nesting (K. Lowrie)
Audubon's Shearwater nesting (K. Lowrie)

This time of year, seabird colonies in the Caribbean are raucous, busy places, with hungry chicks being fed by parents returning with precious food to feed the next generation. The Grenadine Seabird Guardians group of citizen scientists has been busy keeping an eye on islands which harbor tens of thousands of nests, continuing a record-breaking number of surveys for the year. 

The discovery of Audubon's Shearwaters nesting on an island where they hadn't been seen before was a rare and important find! This small black and white seabird returns at night to nest in rock crevices and holes, which makes them very hard to find. It's difficult to even estimate their population in the region because they are so secretive, making each discovery important.  

Unfortunately, Guardians also recorded evidence of poaching of seabird eggs, which was reported to law enforcement. They also informed individuals who were camping or had loose dogs near nesting areas how their actions could harm wildlife. 

In April, before nesting started, a team placed motion-activated cameras on six islands to find out what types of introduced mammals could be harming native wildlife. As you can see in this video, rats, mice, opossum, goats, and sheep were recorded. In addition, the volunteers took photos of reptiles and insects, some of which are only found in this region, to be identified by experts. This information is the first step in prioritizing conservation actions to protect wildlife from the negative effects of non-native mammals, such as eating or trampling eggs and chicks. We are also pleased to have co-authored a publication with graduate student Wayne Smart of Grenada about this issue as well as presentation by Juliana Coffey at the virtual Citizen Science Association conference.

To help get the word out about protecting seabirds, we aired a Public Service Announcement on six radio stations at the start of nesting season. The short audio and video versions explore the many threats these declining populations of seabirds are facing.

Building public awareness is one of the priorities identified by the Grenadines Seabird Conservation Working Group, a broad cross-section of stakeholders representing government, non-profit, fisherfolk and tourism sectors. This group met virtually in April to explore the issue of illegal seabird harvest and prioritize actions to reduce this major threat.

So much of our work would not be possible without your generous support, thank you! In order for the Grenadines Seabird Guardians to continue to be watchdogs of these precious wildlife refuges, we need to replenish our funds used to reimburse them for fuel costs to get to these often-remote islands. Please consider donating so we can empower citizen scientists to care for their natural and cultural heritage.

In Gratitude,

Natalia

Grenadine Guardians collect data (V. Thomas)
Grenadine Guardians collect data (V. Thomas)

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Sculpture of life cycle of Magnificent Frigatebird
Sculpture of life cycle of Magnificent Frigatebird

During this week's Little By Little matching campaign, donations up to $50 are matched at 50%. This is a great way to turn a litle into a lot! We hope you'll take this opportunity to donate before the campaign ends on Friday, March 12.

Speaking of transforming a little into a lot, we recently announced winners of our Waste to Art competition held under the theme “Amazing Seabirds: Our Birds, Our Islands, Our Future.” Participants from islands throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada turned trash into beautiful sculptures of seabirds in order to raise awareness about the plight of these birds and the threat that plastic and other litter poses for wildlife. Learn more.

The citizen scientists of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians have been busy conducting surveys as well, including using remote cameras and other devices to search for invasive predators like rats on uninhabited islands. The field work was successful, allowing us to update maps showing where non-native mammals are found, and they also managed to clean up a lot of litter, making the island safer for birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife that can get entangled in or eat plastics and other waste. It's good timing because the migratory gulls and terns have just returned to start their nesting season!

The Working Group that oversees the Grenadines Seabird Conservation Plan has met online to discuss the issues of invasive mammals and seabird harvesting. The group is made up of diverse stakeholders, including government, non-profits, and fisherfolk, who advise on the best strategies to address crucial conservation concerns while making sure different perspectives are included.

I am really proud of our teams, those working remotely and in the field, who continue to make progress in protecting these regionally and globally important nesting sites for seabirds despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic. I hope you will show your support for their perserverance by contributing what you can during this matching campaign. Thank you!

Photos: 1. Rowena Kind Desouza (artist) 2. Annique Patterson (artist) 3 & 4. Kate Charles. All use by permission.

Artwork showing threat of ingesting plastic
Artwork showing threat of ingesting plastic
A field lesson in using remote wildlife cameras
A field lesson in using remote wildlife cameras
A creative solution for removing litter!
A creative solution for removing litter!

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Removing a fish trap. Photo: Davon Baker
Removing a fish trap. Photo: Davon Baker

As storm clouds gathered on the horizon and the winds whipped up the seas of remote White Island in the Grenadines, volunteers hurried to pull a large fish trap from the sand. White Island was one of several islands our team and partners cleaned as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. This is also hurricane season and many seabirds do not nest during this time, which means we did not disturb them when visiting the islands they call home.  

Marine litter, especially plastic, is a threat to wildlife, including the seabirds and sea turtles that nest on these uninhabited islands. They can get tangled in litter or mistake it for food and get sick or die from eating it.  Sadly, ocean currents carry litter to the most remote places in the world, which are also often the last refuges from human development and disturbance for wildlife. 

Over 600 pounds of litter was collected during September and October, including more than 2,000 plastic bottles as well as hundreds of shoes and pieces of styrofoam! The litter was loaded onto a wooden fishing boat and disposed of at the waste facility on the main island.

Cleaning up litter is not enough, though. Our outreach programs and school curriculum include lessons on the importance of reducing plastic use and properly disposing of waste. Since this was the first time these islands have ever been cleaned, our hope is that there will be much less litter during future cleanups as citizens and companies around the world start acting responsibly to reduce marine litter.

Your contribution makes these important programs possible. Over the years, our team has trained dozens of members of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians, who serve as citizen-scientists, environmental advocates, and now litter fighters. On behalf of these volunteers, I'd like to express our sincere gratitude for your support and empowering individuals to take action in protecting these crucial nesting sites.

Weighing and recording litter. Photo: Keone Drew
Weighing and recording litter. Photo: Keone Drew

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Organization Information

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean

Location: Green Cove Springs, FL - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @EPICislands
Project Leader:
Natalia Collier
Green Cove Springs, FL United States
$37,621 raised of $45,000 goal
 
247 donations
$7,379 to go
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