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
Light green dots show birds nesting. (J. Coffey)
Light green dots show birds nesting. (J. Coffey)

How do you see birds in the dark? With thermal imaging cameras, researchers can detect the heat of mammals and birds. Those light green dots on the screen in the photo are Brown noddies at their nest sites in the Grenadines. Night is the best time to “see” them because it’s cooler, contrasting more with the animal’s heat.

Over the past week, EPIC collaborated with researchers at Archipelagics and ConservationDrones to test using thermal imaging cameras on drones for surveying seabirds as well as non-native mammals that can negatively impact native wildlife. The venture was successful, documenting numerous seabird colonies and, unfortunately, rats.

With seabird populations rapidly declining around the world, we need more tools for monitoring their status and the threats they face to inform our ongoing efforts to protect the remaining colonies.

This work was supported by donors to our Protect Baby Seabirds campaign. Today only, your donation of $100 or more to this project  will be matched by GlobalGiving! Matching funds are limited so donating early is best.

Our multi-faceted conservation approach includes cutting-edge research, citizen-science, education, and restoration to help protect some of the last remaining refuges for nesting seabirds. All of these efforts would not be possible without donors like you, please donate today!

Thank you,

Using a thermal imaging drone. (Davon Baker)
Using a thermal imaging drone. (Davon Baker)

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At-sea training with law enforcement
At-sea training with law enforcement

A seabird identification workshop in the remote islands of the Grenadines archipelago helped to increase the capacity of law enforcement to protect regionally and globally important seabird populations. The two-day training enabled the six participants to identify species in the field and learn about the unique characteristics and adaptations of seabirds to this often-harsh marine environment. They were also familiarized with local conservation threats, particularly aspects they may encounter in their work, such as poaching.

This training is a follow-up from our earlier Drone Training Course in St. Vincent and the Grenadines facilitated by Conservation Drones. During that training course, participants recognized that, in order to effectively monitor and protect seabirds and other wildlife, they needed a working knowledge of seabirds. A seabird training workshop was therefore proposed, where trainees would be given the opportunity to learn about and observe, first hand, seabirds of the Grenadines.

Day one of the workshop featured presentations and discussions on the local seabirds and focused on the key field marks used to identify them. While most participants had seen the more common seabirds such as the Laughing Gull and Brown Booby, they were amazed at the variety found locally and the subtle differences used to tell several apart. They also learned how to use data entry forms and in the afternoon went to a coastal area to test their skills in real life.

The second day found the team in a fishing vessel heading out to remote islands where seabirds nest. They were treated to hundreds of boobies surrounding their boat as well as frigatebirds and many other species.  One Coast Guard Officer, being surprised at the number of different seabirds, commented “I often saw all these seabirds while at sea and thought they were all the same.  I never realized that there were so many different species.”

Participants left with a greater appreciation of the unique adaptations and diversity of our local seabirds, opening up a new way to see these remarkable masters of sea and sky, and a better understanding of the conservation threats they may encounter.

You can help support work like this during the upcoming Bonus Day on July 20. During this special event, donations of $100 USD and up will be matched and the higher the donation, the higher the match! We'll be sending out reminders so you can be sure to take part. Thank you for your support!

Hundreds of boobies surrounded the boat
Hundreds of boobies surrounded the boat

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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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Organization Information

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean

Location: Green Cove Springs, FL - USA
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Twitter: @EPICislands
Project Leader:
Natalia Collier
Green Cove Springs, FL United States
$40,938 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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