‘MEN AT WORK’: CLEANING UP MAN’S DEBRIS IN THE OCEAN
I keep an eye on the websiteSCUBAZOO. As ever, the alert ABACO SCIENTIST (highly recommended to follow) has beaten me to this latest post from Jason Isley, diver / photographer and creative thinker. He demonstrates the wonders and (human) blunders of the deep with wit and style. In the gallery below, he tackles the issue of man’s pollution of pristine waters. In a simple way, he manages to use humour to get across a message that can easily become obscured by lengthy sermonising. See what you think.
The legendaryCONCH SALAD TVis a great resource for Bahamas wildlife and way-of-life enlightenment. Their instructive videos are very well put together, and cover Nature, Marine, Art, Science, Music, Culture, Cooking, and broader Bahamas issues. The video below is 9 minutes of Bottlenose Dolphin action, and is recommended for relaxation, gentle instruction, and Kalik-swigging accompaniment…
It time to catch up with last month’s Cetacean sightings around Abaco. The Manatee reports are of Georgie in the Cherokee area – alas no longer resident on Abaco but safely at Atlantis where she is being cared for. To know more about the Blainville’s beaked whale on Abaco, click HERE
GEORGIE THE ABACO MANATEE: FAREWELL CHEROKEE, HELLO ATLANTIS
Many people have shown an interest in the adventures of Georgie the Manatee over the last 18 months or so, and the work of the BMMRO in monitoring her movements and welfare. She has travelled a great many miles in that time, to and around Abaco; settled down eventually in Cherokee; successfully shed her satellite tag; gone awol a couple of times; and happily reappeared at Cherokee each time. Recently there have been increasing concerns about her wellbeing, and a joint venture has overseen her capture & return to the Atlantis Marine Mammal Rescue Center for observations and health evaluation. The full story published in the Bahamas Weekly [click logo below] with photos by Tim Aylen is set out below. I have also included some very good pictures of Georgie and the preparations for her journey, taken by Cindy James Pinder (with thanks for permission to use them). So Abaco – and Cherokee in particular – has sadly lost its only (briefly) resident manatee. I can’t make out when the last resident manatee was recorded on Abaco, but not very recently I think. Fingers crossed for Georgie’s future – I will continue to post updates on how she gets on.
UPDATE 1 FROM BMMRO“On January 26th, Georgie was captured in Casaurina canal and transported to Dolphin Cay-Atlantis. Videos taken by BMMRO on January 15th highlighted areas of concern in regards to Georgie’s current body condition. Those videos were then circulated amongst a group of manatee researches abroad and their opinions and advice were taken into consideration by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Georgie had lost a considerable amount of weight since her arrival to Abaco (September 2012) and need medical attention. DMR gave Dolphin Cay permission to capture Georgie and transport her to their marine mammal rehabilitation facility until she was healthy enough to return to the wild. Health assessments were conducted the day of capture (prior to transporting her to Nassau) and on January 27th. BMMRO’s Manatee Lady (and Educational Officer), Kendria Ferguson, visited Georgie on January 29th and is happy to report that Georgie is doing well. She is currently on a meal plan that will assist her with getting the necessary nutrients she needs to get healthy. BMMRO will continue to monitor Georgie’s progress and will provide updates here on our FB page. Thank you for all your support, please help us to continue to monitor manatees in The Bahamas by making a donation on our website www.bahamaswhales.org.”
ATLANTIS RESCUES ENDANGERED MANATEE & RELOCATES HER TO DOLPHIN CAY
By Atlantis, Paradise Island and One&Only Ocean Club Jan 31, 2013 6:22:53 PM
Photo: Tim Aylen
PARADISE ISLAND, THE BAHAMASThe Atlantis Animal Rescue Team, under the direction of the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources (BDMR) and with assistance from The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization (BMMRO), successfully rescued Georgie, a West Indian manatee and relocated her to the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center. Dolphin Cay is home to the only live marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center in The Bahamas and is a member of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Manatees in addition to all marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 2005 and only authorized facilities are able to respond such requests from Government.
Georgie was first sighted in Spanish Wells in June 2010 where she was born to Rita, a known Florida Manatee. In October of 2011 both Rita and Georgie appeared in the busy Nassau Harbor and at the request of the Bahamas Government, the Dolphin Cay Team rescued them and brought them to a safe environment at the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center where health assessments and evaluations could be conducted. With the assistance of the BDMR, BMMRO, United States Geological Survey, and Save the Manatee Club, the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team released both Rita and Georgie in April of 2012, equipped with tags to monitor their movements for several months. In October of 2012, it was observed that Rita and Georgie had split up and Georgie made a dramatic move from the Berry Islands release site to Cherokee in Abaco, The Bahamas. The Dolphin Cay team made several trips to Abaco, meeting up with BMMRO to try to get a good look at Georgie’s overall body condition. Concern was raised by BMMRO recently about her general appearance and the decision was made by the Department of Marine Resources for the Dolphin Cay team to conduct a field health assessment and relocate her to the Atlantis Marine Mammal Rescue Center.
Photo: Tim Aylen
Georgie will undergo a series of general health evaluations. Once she is healthy, the teams will pull together once again and relocate her back to Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands with the hope that she rejoins with the resident group of manatees in that area. At this time, Georgie is under observation at Dolphin Cay and doing well in her new environment.
Atlantis is the home of world’s largest open-air marine habitat with over 50,000 marine animals in lagoons and displays as well as Dolphin Cay, the state-of-the-art dolphin interaction and education center. Dolphin Cay and Atlantis are accredited members of both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Both the marine habitat and Dolphin Cay were created with the goal of enlightening visitors about the wonders of these remarkable ocean inhabitants. Dolphin Cay is also the residence of the Katrina Dolphins and Sea Lions some of whom were swept to sea during Hurricane Katrina.
Time to write some more about Abaco’s most famous bird, the unique ground-nesting Amazon / Cuban parrot sub-species that makes Abaco its home, and breeds in the pine forests of the Abaco National Park in the south of the island. You’ll find lots of information and photos on the dedicated page ABACO PARROTS.
This post covers the 2012 breeding season, and highlights the success of scientist Caroline Stahala and her team in helping to secure the future of these rare endangered birds. The population had shrunk to around 2500 (or fewer) some years ago. More recently it had risen to 3000. An intensive conservation program, including anti-predation measures, has proved effective; and a systematic ringing program has enabled the team to keep a close eye on recovering parrot numbers. Caroline says that the population is now in the region of 4000, confirming an encouraging reversal of a dismal decline towards extinction for these beautiful birds.
ABACO PARROTS IN THE PINE FOREST
The parrots breed only in the pine forest, where they nest in quite deep holes in the limestone rock. This makes the nests and the areas round them vulnerable to predation from feral cats and rodents etc; but conversely it offers protection from the forest fires that would destroy tree nests.
The holes are often well concealed in the undergrowth and take some searching for…
Both parents are involved in the nesting and later chick care. The female lays 2 – 4 eggs.
The chicks hatch after an incubation period of around 26 days
Some of the nest holes are remarkably deep: the parent parrots clamber up and down the sides
The chicks grow the beginnings of feathers, remaining quite unattractive except to their parents
By coincidence, as I was producing the post above, Craig Layman at THE ABACO SCIENTIST was also ruminating on the topic of Abaco parrot breeding. He posted the comments below, which raise the very interesting question whether the Abaco parrots, with their increased population, may be starting to breed outside the National park. Caroline can probably answer this (see COMMENTS), but does anyone have any direct evidence to suggest a wider breeding habitat? I guess there would need to be a suitably pitted rock structure for the nests, and an absence of the usual cat- and rat-type predators that one might find nearer human populations. Answers welcomed via the comment box…
(Sort of) A Bahama Parrot Study
Posted by laymanc 26 Nov 2012
It isn’t really much of a study, but the only “science” I have been able to do over the last week with the continued turbidity of nearshore waters.
The Bahama parrot (more informationHERE andHERE)is one of the iconic Bahamas animals, and the main factor behind the establishment of theABACO NATIONAL PARKin southern Abaco. But my study has been conducted instead from my desk in Little Harbour. My main finding is simple: the range of the parrot has clearly expanded; it has now been a full calendar in which parrots have been in the area. Just a few days ago two dozen were squawking around the harbour. The key will be whether they begin nesting here as well – I havent heard reports of that yet. But if they do, the expanding nesting range will substantially increase long term viability of the parrot on Abaco. That ends my first ever Bahama parrot study (I really need more time in the water when I come back).
Not the feeblest punning title on this blog, but going hard for the avian-related booby prize. As it were. Many months ago I did a short post about these tiny plovers, and had begun to update it. Then I found that both the BNTand theABACO SCIENTIST are onto them too. Thanks to them, I have some excellent added material further down the page… But first, here’s a quick cut out ‘n’ keep summary
SIZECharadrius melodusis a Very Small Shorebird
HABITAT Rocky shores / sandy beaches; nesting in higher, drier areas of the shoreline where there is cover
RANGE From Canada (summer) down to the Gulf of Mexico (winter). They head south in August and return in March
Credit: Xeno-Canto / Google
CALLA thin whistled peep peeping, whether standing or flying, and a two-note alarm call [There are surprisingly few Piping Plover call samples online. Many sites - Audubon, eNature, Birdwatchers Digest - all seem to have the same one. So I'll credit them all and the originator Lang Elliot and hope I've covered my back...]
BREEDING The male digs out several scrapes on the high shoreline. The female contemplates these efforts, and (if any meet her ideal domestic criteria) chooses her preferred one, which she then decorates (grass, weed, shells etc). Meanwhile, Mr Peep tries to impress her by chucking pebbles around, dive-bombing her, and strutting around her importantly and “fluffed up” [none of these tactics work in human courtship, in my experience]. If Mrs Peep (a) likes the home she has chosen and furnished and (b) has recovered from her fit of the giggles at all that performance, she permits mating to proceed
NESTING First nests normally have 4 eggs; later ones fewer. Both share incubation and subsequent parental ‘brooding’ duties
DEFENCE Plovers have a defensive “broken wing display” used to distract predators and draw attention away from the nest
THREATS Larger birds, cats, raccoons etc. Human disturbance. Plovers and chicks are vulnerable to storms & abnormal high tides
ZOOM…! Capable of running at astonishing speed over short distances. When they stop, they often snap the head back and forward.
STATUS Depending on area, treated either as Threatened or Endangered; IUCN listing NT
CONSERVATION Historically PP feathers were used as decoration in wealthy women’s hats – no longer a problem. Shoreline development and alterations to natural coastline are now the leading cause of population decline. This has been reversed through field and legislative protection programs, especially at nesting sites; public education; anti-predation measures; and restricting human access in vulnerable areas – including off-roading…
STOP PRESS Nov 18Sean has just posted a professional / scientific article about piping plovers, with some very useful information specific to Abaco and some helpful links, over at theABACO SCIENTIST. Clicking through is highly recommended if you want to know more about these little birds
This is the characteristic ‘pigeon-toed’ stance – they run that way too…
RICARDO JOHNSON’S 6 MINUTE VIDEO ‘PIPING PLOVERS’
Ricky is a well-known, infectiously enthusiastic, and compendiously knowledgeable Abaco nature guide (this guy gets way too much free publicity in this blog…). As I wrote when I originally posted it “In this video he focusses his binoculars on piping plovers, a threatened species of tiny plover which annually makes a long migration to the Bahamas, including Abaco – and then heads all the way north again.”
If this video doesn’t make you smile at some stage, I suspect a SOH bypass and / or your ‘anti-cute’ setting is jammed on. Even so you’ll see the differences between the piping plover and the more familiar Wilson’s plover.
The BNT / ABSCI material originates from the Audubon Society. If you want to know about the annual journeys of these little birds and where they are in each season, it’s all here. The item was made in conjunction with theESRI mapping project. I’ve put a screenshot below to give a general idea of what’s involved [click to enlarge] and you can reach the interactive Audubon page if you CLICKPIPING PLOVER
Credits:Wiki (images), Audubon Soc, Xeno-Canto, Lang Elliot & partners, Ricky Johnson
Conchs are among the most familiar of all shells. On Abaco they are everywhere: in the sea, on the beach, used ornamentally in gardens, piled up wherever conch is on the menu… (basically, anywhere serving food)
Conchs have other uses besides being a staple food. They provide sought-after pink pearls. Only about 1 conch in 10,000 has a pearl, so bear in mind that if you miss one during your search, you may have another 10,000 to wade through… Conchs can produce music, of a sort (such as when used enthusiastically by the famous ‘conch-blower’ home-team supporter during cricket Test Matches in the West Indies). They are undeniably decorative on a porch or on a shelf.
Conchs have featured in literature and film. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies the conch represents power and order. A conch is blown to call meetings of the marooned boys. Its power is symbolised by the rule that you have to be holding it to speak at the meeting (an idea that many – all? – Parliaments could benefit from…)
Ian Fleming mentions conchs in several of the Bond books, all such references being totally eclipsed by the memory of the appearance, in the film Dr No, of Honeychile Rider emerging from the sea, conch in hand. Oh, I see. That’s just men is it? Or (good grief) just me? Anyway, may we all agree amicably that Ursula Andress was a most decorative conch carrier?
The supply of conchs is not infinite. Overfish them, take them before maturity or pollute their habitat and this valuable marine resource depletes – and conchs, as with so many marine species, will become threatened. Fortunately there is a Bahamas-wide conservation organisation with a website packed with interest.
COMMUNITY CONCH is “a nonprofit organization that aims to protect queen conchs in the Bahamas, a species of mollusk threatened by aggressive over-fishing. We promote sustainable harvest of queen conch through research, education and community-based conservation”
“Helping to sustain a way of life in the Bahamas”
Much of the research has been carried out in Berry Is, Andros and Exuma Cays. However the team has recently been based at Sandy point, Abaco. To see some of their work on AbacoCLICK LINK===>>ABACO EXPEDITION
In many past posts I have listed ’10 Essential Facts’ about the topic discussed. In that spirit I have borrowed and slightly edited CC’s conch facts; and added a CC video of a conch’s stately ‘full speed ahead’ progress. NB No zoom…
12 CONCH FACTS
The queen conch is a large edible sea snail native to the coasts of the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Conchs are herbivores – they eat algae and other tiny marine plants
Main predators include nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles, other snail species, blue crabs, eagle rays, spiny lobsters, and other crustaceans
Mating aggregations may contain hundreds or even thousands of individual male and female conchs
Female conchs lay hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs in a sandy egg mass. The larvae emerge after 5 days and may drift on ocean currents for a month before settling in suitable habitat on the sea floor
In their first year conchs live under the sand during the day & come out to feed on the surface at night
A queen conch may take 5 years to reach maturity and can reproduce
They live an average of 7 years, but are known to live as long as 20 – 30 years
Conchs produce natural pearls that come in a range of hues, including white, brown, orange & pink
The conch is listed byCITESas a species which may become threatened with extinction if trade is not tightly controlled
It is now illegal to take queen conchs in the state of Florida due to severe overfishing
80% of legal internationally traded conch is consumed in the United States. The smuggling of conch meat into the U.S. is a significant challenge to conch management in The Bahamas
Queen conch are vulnerable to overfishing because they are (1) relatively slow to grow (2) late to mature (3) aggregate to mate (4) easily harvested in shallow waters
A SPEEDY CONCH
(Conch photos taken by RH / Mrs RH at Sandy Point, Abaco)
The BMMRO’s brilliant newcharting the progress of mother Rita and calf Georgie after their release (and showing wonderful pictures) is becoming addictive. How far have they ventured this week? Are there any more out there?
Here, Rita and Georgie are wearing their tags. I really recommend a visit to thefor the full reports, but here’s a quick review of the highlights of weeks 2 and 3 since their release:
Rita & Georgie are beginning to attract a bit of a following
During the week their confidence grew and they undertook a longer expedition (see map below)
During their travels they were joined by 2 other manatees, first a juvenile male, then an adult male
Rita’s tag became disconnected. It was retrieved, the data downloaded, and it was successfully reattached
Audio recordings were made of underwater manatee communication
At one stage there were six manatees seen together, with manatees Gina and JJ joining the 4 others
Rita nurses Georgie
WEEK 2 ADVENTURES
A far more complicated pattern than the simple explorations in WEEK 1
Continued careful monitoring of more complex (= braver) exploration
A great deal of local interest generated.
A ’Save the Manatee’ campaign started
Presentations for groups of school students, including involving them in actual monitoring.
The juvenile male has stayed with Rita and Georgie.
Rita examines the camera. Meanwhile Georgie checks out the bottom of the BMMRO boat…
A tender moment between calf and mother
WEEK 3 EXPEDITIONS
Confidence growing, and more interest in investigating to the south