St Helena Online

Tag: seabirds

Frigatebird chick is island’s first for a century

With the feral cats away, the frigatebird chick can play on mainland Ascension. Picture: Kenickie Simon Andrews
With the feral cats away, this very special chick can play. Picture: Kenickie Simon Andrews

A frigatebird chick is being raised on Ascension Island for the first time in more than a century – and here it is, basking its downy feathers in the sun in this picture by Kenickie Simon Andrews.

Its arrival in the world came nine years after the island was declared free of feral cats, which had restricted most birds to breeding on tiny Boatswainbird Island.

A message on the Ascension Island Conservation page on Facebook says:

“At the end of last year, we observed the first two pairs of our endemic frigatebirds nesting on the mainland in over 100 years.

“Ascension was declared free from feral cats in 2004 and since then many of the masked and brown boobies have returned to the mainland to breed, but it was not until very recently that we observed the first of the returning frigatebirds.

“Unfortunately only one of the eggs hatched successfully, but as you can see the chick is doing very well.”

St Helena’s booby boomers

Masked boobies have created a seabird city around Lot's Wife. Picture: Environmental Management Directorate
Masked boobies have created a seabird city around Lot’s Wife. Picture: Environmental Management Directorate

A thriving colony of masked boobies has changed the landscape on southern St Helena – by turning the ridges white around Lot’s Wife rock.

Here's looking at you, booby... and your babies. Picture: Environmental Management Directorate
Here’s looking at you, booby… and your babies. Picture: Environmental Management Directorate

Annalea Beard, of the environment directorate, said: “Amazingly this species has re-established itself even though introduced predators such as feral cats and rats are also known to occupy the area.”

The colony was of global interest as a result, she said.

A few birds were observed nesting below Lot’s Wife, on the barren southern coast of the island, in 2009. A recent count showed 203 adults in the colony, which has turned the ridges white with guano.

“The reasons behind their re-colonisation and their ability to succeed remain
unclear,” said Annalea. “Monitoring is essential to make sure the colony continues to be successful.”

Armageddon for island’s rats: but not on St Helena

Twenty five men and women are spending months camping out on ice-covered South Georgia on what’s been called “the world’s biggest rat cull”.

It is being led by zoologist Anthony Martin, dubbed the Pied Piper, who hopes to poison millions of the rats that have been killing seabirds for 200 years on St Helena’s sister territory in the Southern Ocean.

“If we remove 99.9% of them, we’ve failed,” Professor Martin tells the Wall Street Journal. “We have to get every single animal.”

Sadly, his technique of dumping 200 tons of poison from helicopters cannot be used on St Helena, where some pest controllers were made redundant in 2012 despite complaints of increasing rat sightings.

On South Georgia, it is feared the poison may harm birds that feed  on the ground – just as St Helena’s endangered wirebirds do.

Read the full article here.

Decline that led to wirebird breeding failures
‘I survived rat fever. It’s serious’ – Henry’s story