North Island - December 2011

Jan 12, 2012 North Island
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A three-month report: October - December

We had a slow start to the nesting season, with few emerging hawksbill turtles, but from November onwards it became clear that this season will also be a record, just like the previous one, when numbers were substantially higher than those of the years before. Over the last three months, we have confirmed a total of 55 nesting sites, 53 of those being hawksbill nests!

The regular beach patrols have paid off and all the nests are now clearly marked. These patrols have become an important part of turtle conservation on the island as many nests needed to be moved as to avoid being washed away - as they were too low below the high water mark. The researchers either relocated the nests to a higher spot or the eggs were taken back to the Research Centre, where they placed in an incubator in a sand box, resulting in a very good hatch rate. The hatchlings were then released into the ocean. This has really raised the awareness amongst our guests, as well as all the levels of camp staff. Amongst the latter, several local staff members enthusiastically told us that, although they have lived their entire lives on Mahe, they have never had an opportunity to witness such a memorable event, and we now have several dedicated volunteers to help with next releases!

On the terrestrial side of things, we have spotted a couple of mating pairs of tortoise. This is quite interesting to watch as the male has to run at 'full speed' after the female, who often plays hard to get - it can be a very audible experience as well! A number of females were also seen digging their nesting sites and we were extremely happy when we found a minuscule hatchling in December which only weighed in at a tiny 40g. The hatchling was taken back to the research centre's baby tortoise pen, where it joined another five hatchlings. The hatchlings are then cared for until they are a little bigger whereby they are released and stand a better chance of survival in the wild.

Another highly anticipated natural process which blessed us towards the year was the arrival of the summer rains. The rain which we received effectively replenished our underground aquifer, putting an end to the dusty roads and turning the vegetation green, thereby producing food and nesting material for our wildlife.

Birding has been productive, but to date, fewer migrants have arrived on North in comparison with last year. Common Sandpipers as well as Grey, Sand and Crab Plovers have been arriving along the beach in moderate numbers. A large raptor was spotted in mid-November which we identified as a Honey Buzzard. We have been hearing a number of cuckoo species calling around the island. We also had a handful of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sightings for a couple of days. In terms of bird research, Seychelles White-eye monitoring and ringing was resumed at the end of December, thanks to funding provided via the Protected Areas Project.

Another highlight for all of us on North Island was the return of the Children in the Wilderness programme (CITW) for the fourth time. The entire island was closed off to guests from 11 - 14 December to host local children from the surrounding communities. This year the camp was run in collaboration with the National Council for Children (NCC). The main aim of the CITW camp was to increase the children's awareness of conservation and the history of the island. At the same time, the project aids in building life skills and developing self-esteem. And a good time was had by all - both children and staff!

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