New Website Launched For Nonsuch Island

May 27, 2014

After several years in the making, Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve now has its own website

In the longterm this website, developed by LookBermuda, will showcase all of the environmental and historical features of this unique nature reserve.

“The website will give an online window into how Bermuda would have looked pre-settlement,” said Look Bermuda’s Jean-Pierre Rouja. “It will also highlight the groundbreaking Conservation efforts that continue to be developed there.”

The 54-year restoration project, started by Dr. David Wingate and continued by Jeremy Madeiros since 2000 under the auspices of the Department of Conservation Services, has recently been given a boost by Ascendant Group Limited’s 10-year commitment to help fund further restoration with the donation of volunteer time and $50,000 annually.

To date, Ascendant Group funding has enabled Conservation Services to refurbish buildings and educational displays, purchase a new boat, install solar panels to provide power to the island and support the development of the CahowCams.

It is these ground breaking CahowCams and the archives of the footage that they are capturing that are the primarily feature of the first phase of development for the website.

The CahowCam project is being developed and produced by LookBermuda in conjunction with the Department of Conservation Services. Solar energy needed to power the camera is generated through solar panels on the island which have been provided by Ascendant Group, while the wireless internet access needed to stream a live video feed of the inside of the Cahow burrows via the web to the new web portal and beyond is being provided by Logic.

Andrew Dobson, President, Bermuda Audubon Society said, “The website is going to provide a great opportunity for interested persons around the world to follow the success of the Cahow recovery progam. They will also learn about the extraordinary restoration project of Nonsuch Island itself.”

Jeremy Madeiros, Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer, who has managed the Cahow Recovery Project and the Nonsuch Island Restoration for the last 14 years said, “The infrared ‘CahowCam’ has enabled both the researchers managing the recovery of the Cahow and the general public to look into the private life of one of the rarest seabirds on Earth for the first time ever, and follow the development of a chick in its deep, pitch-dark nest burrow.

“This has given us a fresh understanding of various aspects of behavior by the chick as it develops, as well as allowing us to watch the interaction between the chick and adult Cahows during the brief feeding visits by adults after long, multi-thousand mile foraging trips to gather squid, small fish and shrimp-like organisms for the hungry, growing chick.”

The following are a few of the things that the “CahowCam” has revealed:

  • [1] Cahow chicks from a young age seem to spend much time building up and re-arranging the nest material under themselves, showing that nest-building is an innate or instinctual behavior.
  • [2] When not sleeping, Cahow chicks spend much of their time preening their down and feathers, especially around the growing wings. They also frequently spread, stretch and briefly exercise their wings in the nest chamber, especially as they get older. It was previously thought that their wingspan was too long for them to open their wings fully in the nest chamber, but as the wings lengthen, they often spread them out one wing at a time to fit in the restricted space of the burrow.
  • [3] When the adult Cahows carry out a feeding visit to the chick, it usually lasts only an hour or two before the adult flies back out to sea. The chick is often so frantic and hungry when the adult first arrives that it swarms over and pecks at the adult bird. The adult has to preen the chick around its face and head for about 10 minutes, which seems to calm down the chick enough so that successful feeding can take place.
  • [4] The chick inserts its bill crosswise into the bill of the parent bird, which regurgitates the food in a series of 16 to 25 very brief feeding periods, each lasting only 3 to 5 seconds, over a 10-minute period. Once the feeding is completed, the adult will then intensively preen the head and body of the chick, followed by a rest period where the adult sleeps next to the chick for up to an hour or more. The chick is often restless during this period, and the adult will often preen the chick for a brief period to calm it down before returning to sleep.
  • [5] The adult after an hour or two will wake up, and sometimes completely pull apart the nest, throwing grass and leaves over the chick [which does not appear to be alarmed by this strange behavior]. The adult may then feed the chick 1 or 2 more times before leaving the nest and flying back out to sea to begin another foraging trip. The chick then spends a couple of hours pulling the scattered nest material back together and rebuilding the nest. This behavior may represent “turning over the bedsheets”, aerating the nest material and preventing it from decomposing or building up insect or parasite loads.

“The Infrared burrow-cam has already proved its worth, both in revealing previously unknown behavior and in allowing the public to follow the development of the chick at the same time it is seen by the researchers,” said Mr. Madeiros. “It has revealed the private life of Bermuda’s critically endangered national bird to anyone, anywhere over the internet.

“We are looking forward already to the final stage of development of this current Cahow chick and its departure out to sea, and are especially looking forward to November when the adults Cahows return to the burrow to start their courtship, mating and nest-building period at the start of another nesting season. We are sure that we will see many more previously unknown aspects of behavior at that time!”

Once the Cahows have fledged for the season, the cameras will be moved to the Nonsuch Longtail burrows to give a view into their nesting habits as well.

As an extension of this project LookBermuda is conducting Biodiversity Photography Expeditions on Nonsuch Island – the results of which will be found on the portal and become part of its soon to be launched Airport Art Project installations.

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