Monday, 1 August 2016

Conservation Updates: Denis Private Island

Denis Private Island: The Drive to Bring Back the Brown Noddy Birds

Article by Brea Boda, CLICK HERE

The end of May marked the arrival of the sooty terns in the Seychelles. Hundreds of thousands individuals are currently breeding on nearby Bird Island and there are many sooties flying around Denis. 

Preparing the field around South Point for the arrival of the sooty terns began as early as February: sooty terns require an open field to breed, and therefore we cleared rocks, pulled weeds and allowed the cows to graze before putting the plastic model birds and speakers in place.

These are placed in the field to attract sooty terns that are flying over, possibly in search for a breeding spot. After 4 months of preparations it was great to see the birds arriving on the island.  Over a couple days in early June, close to 100 birds landed amongst the plastic models on the field. One individual even attempted to mate with a model bird, and one of our hotel guests managed to take a photo! Sadly this is the closest we have come this season to having a breeding population on Denis, as no birds actually laid eggs.

It is very possible we are now past the timing to start a colony and we will have to wait till next year, given eggs are already being laid on Bird Island. We will continue to carry out observations at the sooty tern site; we can still see many flying over or circling the cleared area.

June marked the start of the south-east winds breeding season for the Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus). In around early May we could see these seabirds in much higher abundance than usual, all flying around the beach, looking for seaweed to use for building their nests. Brown noddies tend to nest in coconut palm trees and very occasionally in coastal casuarina trees. We saw them in high abundance around the hotel where palm trees line the entrance to the hotel reception. In mid-June, Nick and Tommy carried out the Brown Noddy census together with Jennifer Appoo from the Green Islands Foundation.

The previous census conducted in February/March during the North-west monsoon season counted close to 350 nesting pairs. This time, we calculated roughly 361 breeding pairs on the island, but with many individuals roosting as well, the overall population on the island is much larger. The number of breeding pairs was similar to the North-West monsoon season despite these being most probably a separate breeding population.

It is encouraging to see that Denis Island is gradually becoming a seabird breeding hotspot after the eradication of invasive predators like cats (eradicated in 2000) and rats (2002) and myna birds (2015).

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