Cousine Island – Seychelles http://www.cousineisland.com Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:34:57 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Seychelles Magpie Robin “twins” http://www.cousineisland.com/seychelles-magpie-robin-twins/ http://www.cousineisland.com/seychelles-magpie-robin-twins/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:13:26 +0000 http://www.cousineisland.com/?p=6713 Did you know, Cousine Island had the first ever recorded pair of Seychelles Magpie Robin twins? These endangered birds normally lay only one egg, but in 2001 it was discovered that a female had actually laid two eggs, both of which went on to successfully hatch. Since then, only two more pairs of twins have […]

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Did you know, Cousine Island had the first ever recorded pair of Seychelles Magpie Robin twins? These endangered birds normally lay only one egg, but in 2001 it was discovered that a female had actually laid two eggs, both of which went on to successfully hatch. Since then, only two more pairs of twins have been recorded, and only one pair hatched successfully. This month, we were amazed to discover two newly fledged chicks in the same territory. Both chicks have since been caught for ringing and blood sampling; this will allow us to confirm whether they are indeed from the same egg clutch – watch this space for the results!

Original content source: Cousine Island

Original author: Michelle Pretorius

Original image source: Cousine Island

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Conservation News October 2017 http://www.cousineisland.com/conservation-news-october-2017/ http://www.cousineisland.com/conservation-news-october-2017/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:03:13 +0000 http://www.cousineisland.com/?p=6707 We are now coming to the end of seabird nesting season in the Seychelles, so first an update on how the season went. Since you last heard from us, we have finally got round to crunching the numbers from our annual seabird census, carried out in July; this year we had an estimated total of […]

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We are now coming to the end of seabird nesting season in the Seychelles, so first an update on how the season went. Since you last heard from us, we have finally got round to crunching the numbers from our annual seabird census, carried out in July; this year we had an estimated total of 55,000 breeding pairs of lesser noddys, 1,986 pairs of brown noddys, 1,011 pairs of white-tailed tropicbirds and 812 pairs of fairy/white terns.

Our lesser noddy (Anous tenuirostris) nest monitoring continued throughout the months of August and September and is drawing to a close for this year. A total of 154 nests were monitored over a period of 3 and half months. Overall, breeding success is estimated at between 78-89%. Most of our chicks are still dependant on their parents for food, but are otherwise all grown up and are regularly taking to the skies. They can be seen gathering on Cousine’s sandy beach in large numbers to test out their flying skills.

Lesser Noddy fledglings practising their flying skills on the beach

Our sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) numbers were a bit lower this year compared with last year, but the colony is still producing chicks and this year’s cohort are now proudly sporting their juvenile plumage, having lost their hedgehog-like fluffy down and grown their impressive black feathers and forked tails. Many have already fledged from the colony site, and there are plenty of adults and juveniles filling the sky above the island. A flush count conducted in July while the adults were still sitting on their eggs produced an estimate of 80-125 nests in total, and of these, 76 chicks were ringed with unique metal ID rings once they’d reached the appropriate age in August. Despite these lower numbers, this season we also have a major success story to report!

The sooty tern fledglings hanging out on the rocks at the South colony

As well as the established colony in the south of the island, attempts have been made for the past few years to attract birds to another equally suitable site in the North. At this north site, the vegetation has been managed to replicate that of the existing colony; following this, decoy birds and a solar-powered caller are installed. We are excited to say that our first successful sooty tern chick has fledged from the site!

Ringing the sooty tern chick at the North site

Whilst the noddy and sooty tern fledglings are finding their wings, the breeding season for the bridled terns (Onychoprion anaethetus), and tropical and wedgetailed shearwaters (Puffinus bailloni and Puffinus pacificus) is only just getting started. All three species are now sitting on eggs, the shearwaters in their burrows on the hill sides and the bridled terns in amongst the rock crevices along the south ridge.

Bridled tern egg in amongst the rock crevices on the South Ridge

Things are never quiet here on Cousine – as many of our seasonal seabirds now start to leave the island for the first time, the Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) will start to arrive to lay their eggs on our beach. Surprisingly there hasn’t been any emergences yet, but elsewhere in the Inner Islands the nesting has already begun. This year, some changes have been made to the sea turtle programme; construction of a hatchery, designed to protect some of our nests from crab predation, is underway. We’ll update you on that next time around!

Original content source: Cousine Island

Original authors: James McClelland and Becky Hodgkiss

Original image source: Cousine Island

 

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Conservation News July 2017 http://www.cousineisland.com/conservation-news-july-2017/ http://www.cousineisland.com/conservation-news-july-2017/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 06:04:12 +0000 http://www.cousineisland.com/?p=6700 The wind has swung round to the South East, the seas have become rough and we’re all enjoying the cooling breeze that blows across the island most days. That’s right, its officially the time of the South-East Trade Winds, and together with relief from the heat of April, that means the seabirds are back, including […]

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The wind has swung round to the South East, the seas have become rough and we’re all enjoying the cooling breeze that blows across the island most days. That’s right, its officially the time of the South-East Trade Winds, and together with relief from the heat of April, that means the seabirds are back, including the extremely vocal wedge-tailed shearwaters.

Here on Cousine, the lesser noddys have finished nest building. Most have laid eggs and in fact this week the first chicks were spotted during our weekly nest monitoring. A total of 150 nests (divided into 15 different ‘plots’ of ten nests) have been chosen around the island; each week, armed with binoculars and a nifty mirror-on-a-pole, two of our team make the rounds and record how each nest is getting on. Because the chicks are still small, it’s still tricky to figure out what the adults are sitting on – egg or a ball of fluff! Monitoring these nests will allow us to calculate the breeding success rate of the lesser noddys nesting on Cousine Island, and to identify which stage eggs or chicks are failing at. Many of the brown noddys, which nest in coconut trees and on rocks on the ridge, also now have chicks.

Lesser Noddy in a nest

Since the last edition of Wildlife News, we have re-established our White-tailed tropicbird nest monitoring which will run year-round as their breeding is not restricted to the South-East Trade Winds. This year the methodology has changed a little, in line with methodology used on other islands including Aldabra Atoll; rather than checking a fixed number of nests, we are now monitoring fixed demarcated areas. This allows us to detect changes not only in success rates but also in the density and number of nests, across the different seasons and years.

One of our monitored white-tailed tropicbird nests

At the beginning of June, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Mark Brown from Nature’s Valley Trust to the island. The purpose of his visit was to train the conservation staff in bird ringing. A very fun two weeks was spent catching, measuring and ringing a total of 835 birds of many different species – from tiny sunbirds, warblers and fodys, to much bigger tropicbirds, shearwaters and sooty terns. We even managed to catch some of our Seychelles magpie robins, including a new fledgling and the only un-ringed adult on the island. Becky, James, Chloe and Paul are now all licensed bird ringers with the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING). This will really open up the research and monitoring possibilities for the island; we can now ring the tropicbirds whose nests we monitor weekly, and gain valuable information about breeding cycles and site fidelity.

The conservation team with Dr Mark Brown
The team receiving training in bird ringing and measurements

And last but not least, a quick update on our annual seabird census carried out each year in the first two weeks of July. At the end of the first week, we have counted lesser noddys, brown noddys, fairy terns and white-tailed tropicbirds in 31 out of our 48 plots around the island. By the end of next week, we will have an estimation of how many pairs of each species we have breeding on the island but so far, the numbers are looking good.

Original content source: Cousine Island

Original authors: James McClelland and Becky Hodgkiss

Original image: Cousien Island

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Cousine Island http://www.cousineisland.com/cousine-island/ http://www.cousineisland.com/cousine-island/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 05:20:49 +0000 http://www.cousineisland.com/?p=6694 Cousine Island has welcomed a number of exciting developments over the recent months including a visit from ‘Squeaker’ an orphaned fruit bat, who was hand raised by previous conservation officers. We spotted him high in the branches of a nearby Soursop tree, enjoying the tasty fruit it had to offer. He is very friendly and […]

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Cousine Island has welcomed a number of exciting developments over the recent months including a visit from ‘Squeaker’ an orphaned fruit bat, who was hand raised by previous conservation officers. We spotted him high in the branches of a nearby Soursop tree, enjoying the tasty fruit it had to offer. He is very friendly and didn’t mind us saying hello, although it seems he is more interested in the female staff than the men! We hope to see him on the Island again soon.

As we near the end of the Hawksbill turtle nesting season, we find ourselves wondering which nest will be our last. This season was our busiest to date, with a total of 164 nests! The previous highest record was 127 nests in 2011-2012. We have released a staggering 17,402 hatchlings so far, an increase of 5,195 from the previous season, where a total of 12,207 made it to the sea. And we still have more to go! Overall, a very productive year for Hawksbill’s on Cousine.

We were also very excited to see a tiny juvenile Hawksbill taking refuge and having a bite to eat on the South reef, just off the island. It was very hard to estimate his/her age but it is exciting to see a young turtle using the reef and to question the possibility that it was returning to Cousine, a number of years after hatching here.

If you look to the trees across the island, it’s hard to miss the Lesser Noddys (and their droppings), as these elegant seabirds return to the island in large numbers to nest. We often spot them chatting away in groups and meticulously choosing fallen Pisonia leaves for their new nests. In addition, the Brown Noddys have arrived too, zipping towards our heads and squawking in an attempt to defend their nesting spots along the beach dune crest and among the many palms. In other bird news we have been working hard throughout March, clearing a dense cover of morning glory in the hope that we may encourage the establishment of an additional Sooty tern colony on the North of the island.

Over the past month we have been working on a number of studies relating to the Seychelles Magpie Robin populations. As part of a multi-island invertebrate study set up by Green Islands Foundation we have installed 40 pitfall traps around Cousine to assess SMR food availability. Alongside this, Cousine Island welcomed Dr. Licia Calabrese from Aride, to commence a study aimed at better understanding ecosystem functioning of similar islands hosting the endangered SMR. We look forward to further assisting with these studies.

The marine monitoring program is well under way, with our first reef resilience assessments of 2017 being carried out at the beginning of April. This will continue throughout the month as we plan to survey four independent monitoring sites around the island, examining the coral, fish and invertebrate population dynamics. Each site was chosen to represent the variable reef habitats found around Cousine, ranging from dramatic granitic outcrops, fringing reef banks and patchy rubble and sand flats. Last year saw a dramatic decline in live coral cover after the effects of the El Nino, particularly felt by the fast growing Acropora branching and tabular species. Thankfully however, we are already seeing a rapid recovery out on the reef with tons of small recruits and new growth visible. This is a thrilling new project that the whole conservation team is involved with and we look forward to providing further updates on its success over the coming months.

Original content source: Cousine Island
Original author: Paul Anstey (Marine Ecologist) & Chloe Shute (Conservation Officer)
Original image: Cousine Island

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