We are monitoring the approach of Hurricane Humberto from our LIVE camera on Nonsuch Island in Translocation Colony A and will continue to update this page as long as conditions permit.
For the second time in 3 years, Stormy defends the now empty CahowCam 2 burrow from an invading Land Crab.
In a rematch from his first battle in 2017 “Stormy” a very lost, lonely Storm Petrel promptly evicted the Land Crab which was most likely scavenging for food in what it expected to be an empty burrow.
Historically as has now been proven by the Live Streaming CahowCams, Land Crabs will wait until the chicks have fledged and the nest is empty before coming in to scavenge for anything edible, including left over food, failed eggs and detritus, effectively cleaning out the burrow.
Stormy also used to wait for the nest to be empty before moving in, however this year much to the confusion of the Cahow pair, their extremely patient chick and 10’s of thousands of viewers from around the World he showed up several weeks early and refused to leave.
The chick fledged several weeks ago and he is now back to nest building and calling out all night long to attract a mate.
Good Luck Stormy!
Bermuda seems to be a favorite destination for lost and vagrant seabirds, which is not surprising when you consider its solitary location as the only oceanic island in the Northwest Atlantic between the Caribbean and Nova Scotia. The nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, located almost 600 miles to the west-northwest. Recently, Roseate Terns have started to re-nest on Bermuda for the first time since the 1830s, and we have been watching with interest for several years the attempts of “Stormy”, a Leaches Storm-petrel, to attract a mate to at least 2 separate nest burrows at the recently re-established Cahow nesting colony on the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve. This is despite the fact that the nearest nesting colonies of Leaches Storm-petrel are 800 miles away on islands off the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia.
An even more improbable record has now occurred, with a dark-morph Trindade Petrel (Pterodroma arminjoniana), which is in the same genus as Bermuda’s own endemic Bermuda Petrel or Cahow (Pterodroma cahow) was found on the ground by Mr. Robert Cabral in a Nature Reserve area on the South Shore of Bermuda. This bird looks very similar to our Cahow, except it is all dark grey, with a larger wingspan. It occurs in both a light morph, with much lighter plumage in the belly and wings, and the dark morph. It appeared to be prospecting for a nest site under some hurricane-deposited boulders, only a few feet from a heavily used public trail, and called loudly when approached.
This trail is heavily used by the public for walking their dogs, which are often illegally let off their leashes, and there are a number of feral cats wandering in the Reserve, associated with a nearby cat feeding station. These cats have been photographed in this Reserve several times killing water birds as large as Coots and Moorhens (Gallinules), and so pose a serious threat to any ground-nesting seabirds, and to top it off there is a large population of rats living in the area.
Unlike Nonsuch Island and other offshore islands, from which mammal predators can be more easily eradicated or kept off, introduced mammal predators cannot be completely eliminated from sites on the main island of Bermuda. This situation is compounded by regular “dumping” of unwanted cats from other locations on the island, and the presence of feral cat feeding stations by well-meaning but misguided members of the public, despite the fact that these are illegal in National Parks and Nature Reserves on Bermuda.
Due to these factors, it was felt that its presence in a easily accessible ground nest placed this bird in imminent danger of predation (unlike White-tailed Tropicbirds, which nest near this area in cavities in vertical coastal cliffs not usually accessible by Cats and Dogs), and the decision was made to remove the bird and take it to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
After a brief examination and morphometric measurements by Mr. Paul Watson and myself, the bird was fitted with an identification ring (band), which will enable the bird to be positively identified should it be recaptured anywhere. The bird was found to be in good physical condition and at a good weight, and based of the feather moult sequence and the amount of filoplumes (small, hair-like structures) on the bird’s head, Mr. Watson felt that this was a relatively young bird, perhaps prospecting for a potential nest for the first time.
The decision was made to take the bird out to Nonsuch Island, where all mammal predators have been removed and where there are two breeding colonies of the related Bermuda petrel, since I felt that it best for the bird to recover in and perhaps acclimatize to a new, safer and more suitable potential nesting area. The Trindade petrel was placed into the failed “CahowCam 1” nest burrow, where the resident Cahows had departed since early April after the failure of their egg, but which still contained nest material and the distinctive musky “petrel” smell. The burrow entrance was blocked for 24 hours to enable the bird to fully recover, during which time it could be monitored with the livestream camera and its reactions noted, and it was unblocked the following day at about 3pm.
Much to my surprise, the petrel appeared to settle down immediately inside the burrow and preened itself, gave an occasional loud cry of the type that is uttered inside a nest burrow to attract mates, and created a nest scrape and re-arranged nest material. After I unblocked the entrance of the burrow the next day, the bird did not try to leave immediately as thought and stayed for the next 24 hours, continuing to act as though it was settling down inside the burrow and staying firmly inside.
It was not until Saturday afternoon, after two full days in the burrow, that the Trindade Petrel left the nest chamber after a last look back and leaving excreta to “mark” the burrow, and walked outside, where it spent several minutes looking around and getting its bearings. Finally, after spreading its wings a few times on top of the entrance to the adjacent “CahowCam 2” R832 nest burrow, the bird took off strongly straight out to sea, departing at 3.23 pm. This is in marked contrast to the cahow, which never leave their nest burrows during the light of day, being completely nocturnal on the breeding grounds. My impression was that the bird behaved similarly to how Cahow fledglings do when they imprint at night before departing to the open ocean.
What makes this all even more interesting is that this is now the third time a Trindade Petrel has been recorded near, over or on Bermuda in the last few years; a light-morph Trindade was seen several miles off the east end of Bermuda flying with Cahows by a pelagic birding group in November 2016; and only in January and February of 2019, another light-morph bird was seen flying & calling repeatedly over a residence in central Devonshire Parish, near the center of the main island of Bermuda, returning repeatedly during the afternoon over several weeks.
The Trindade Petrel only nests in the Southern Hemisphere on Trindade Island and the Martin Vaz Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) east of the coast of Brazil, which it constitutes a part of. Trindade has a total area of 10.1 square kilometers (3.9 square miles), while the tiny Martin Vaz islets have an area of only 0.3 Square kilometers (30.0 hectares). The islands are volcanic in origin, and have rocky, mountainous terrain. The population is only 32 Brazilian Navy personnel at a Coast Guard and Research station. 85% of the island was formally covered with forest until goats were released in 1700 by Sir Edmund Halley from HMS Paramore. Other invasive alien mammals were also introduced at different times, including pigs, cats and mice, which collectively had a catastrophic effect on the island’s flora and fauna, much of which was unique to the island.
The Goats in particular massively increased in number and destroyed the forest cover, eating all foliage and stripping the bark off vegetation. The island’s trees were almost entirely eliminated, causing massive erosion of soil. Things are looking much more hopeful for the island at the present time, with pigs being eradicated from Trindade by the 1950s, the last goats by 2005, and cats by 2009. Efforts are still underway to remove the last mice, and these measures are beginning to enable restoration of the island, enabling the remaining native flora & fauna, including the Trindade Petrel, to be preserved, and enabling areas which still have some soil cover to be reforested.
It is probable that these invasive mammals have had a serious impact on the Trindade Petrel population and other seabirds nesting there, as they have on many other oceanic islands, including Bermuda. Following extensive research, the estimated population of Trindade Petrel was recently revised to 1,130 breeding pairs (compared to a total population of 131 pairs of Cahows on Bermuda). There are also several hundred pairs of Trindade Petrel nesting on Round Island in the Indian Ocean, near Mauritius.
We have no idea what the ultimate outcome of this extraordinary record will be or why these birds seem to be taking an interest in Bermuda, which is over 5,000 miles from its breeding colony, which even lies in a different hemisphere. Natural History is rarely dull, but this record is definitely one for the history books, and we will wait with great interest to see if this bird returns to possibly try and establish a foothold for the species on Bermuda, or if it is indeed a once-in a lifetime record.
Jeremy Madeiros | Principle Scientist – Terrestrial Conservation, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, Bermuda
Watch a LIVE view of the CahowCam 1 burrow to see if it returns.
The 2019 Nonsuch Expeditions “Longtail-Cam” White-tailed Tropicbird chick, fledged and departed out to sea at 8.29am on Monday, the 1st of July, 2019.
“Pig-Pens” parents returned unusually early to Bermuda for this year’s breeding season, first being seen in the beginning of February in the artificial “Igloo” nest # 387 that is installed along the stairway running up from the main dock on Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve where the latest Nonsuch Expeditions Tropicbird Cam was installed this Season.
This nest was installed by a school group as a class project during 2006, and was colonized by a pair of Tropicbirds (Longtails) during the same summer. It produced its first successfully fledging chick in the summer of 2007 since which it has had a very successful record of breeding success, producing successfully fledging chicks in 10 of the last 12 years, with failed breeding only in 2009 and 2016.
This nest, along with over 80 others on Nonsuch Island and a total of nearly 300 nests, at ten study locations around Bermuda, have been monitored and their breeding success recorded every year since 2006 by the Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer as part of a long-term study of Tropicbird breeding biology and population dynamics on Bermuda.
Over 1500 Tropicbirds have been fitted with identification bands as part of this study, including all 10 chicks that have so far fledged from “Pig-Pens” nest.
For the 2019 breeding season, the adult Tropicbirds from nest # 387 laid their single egg around the 6th of March, one of the earliest records of Tropicbird egg-laying that has been recorded during the study. This egg was incubated by both parents for 48 days, with the chick hatching on Tuesday the 23rd of April. The chick grew rapidly, increasing from 45 grams in weight on the 26th of April, when the first growth check was carried out on the 3-day old chick, to its maximum recorded weight of 560 grams on the 12th of June, when it was fitted with i.d. band no. C1521. This band will enable positive identification for the rest of its breeding lifespan.
“Pig-Pen” was given its last growth check on the 29th of June, 2019, by which time its weight had dropped to 427 grams, and wing chord (outer wing) length had increased to 259 mm. Our Tropicbird chick fledged out to sea 69 days after hatching on the first day of July, 2019, and likely will not return back to the Castle Harbour Islands on Bermuda for several years. Recaptures of Tropicbirds banded as chicks indicate that they first return to choose nest sites and mates at 3 to 4 years of age, and that they generally return if not to the same nesting island, then to one in close proximity. The bill length of “Pig-Pen” seems to indicate that it is a male bird, so we will be looking out for its return to Nonsuch or a neighboring island around 2022-2023.
Jeremy Madeiros | Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer, Bermuda Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources
For the third year in a row, a very lost and lonely Storm-petrel has been building a nest and trying to attract a mate to the Cahow Colony on Nonsuch Island.
As far as we know, this is the first time a Storm-petrel has attempted this, as although they are found offshore of the island in deeper waters, they have never been known to nest or even land on Bermuda, with their closest nesting colonies being 800 miles away on islands off the coast of Maine and Nova Scotia.
The last 2 seasons he was filmed arriving into the recently vacated CahowCam burrow a few days after the resident Cahow chick had fledged and would spend the next few weeks building a nest and calling out at night for a mate, ultimately in vain.
This year however, he arrived 2 months early and moved into the still occupied CahowCam 2 burrow which he decided to cohabitate with a very patient Cahow chick.
Much to the bewilderment of scientists and the worldwide CahowCam followers, he turned his amorous attentions to the Cahow chick despite it eventually growing to almost 10 times his weight. However the adult Cahows, when encountering the Storm-petrel in the nest during their feeding visits, did not seem to consider him as a threat to their chick and tolerated his presence.
The Nonsuch Team kept a close eye on this to be sure that the Cahow chick that was doing its best to ignore him wasn’t being negatively affected and even tried re-homing him to an empty Cahow burrow after he was caught and banded, as seen in the following video.
Despite this attempt he returned to the CahowCam 2 burrow the following night where he remained through to the Cahow chick fledging a few weeks ago.
J-P Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader: “There was even some talk amongst our followers to start a Go Fund Me Campaign to buy Stormy a plane ticket back to where he should be nesting. But as Jeremy pointed out, even if it had been logistically possible, the most that it would probably prove would be how fast he could actually fly back here once released.”
Ultimately his rather annoying persistence did not seem to affect the chick which put on weight faster and grew larger than most others in the colony, though this may have been in part due to the parents more frequent visits to keep an eye on Stormy.
Now back on his own, he has reverted to his old routine of nest building and calling our for a mate of his own and viewers who log on to the CahowCam around 1 AM (or scroll back in the video timeline in the AM) can watch him LIVE.
Whilst an over abundance of Sargassum reaching the coastline can be seen as a nuisance and even a problem, its importance as a nursery in the open ocean can not be understated.
Beyond the numerous unique species that make it their home, including Crabs, Shrimp, Nudibranchs and the diminutive yet almighty Sargasso Fish, many larger pelagic species rely on it to carry their eggs and/or protect their young including Flying Fish and Mahi-mahi a juvenile of which can be seen here:
The fauna that the mattes contain then also serves as a very important source of food for these and other pelagic species.
Jean-Pierre Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader, Photographer & Sargasso Sea Commission Ambassador:
“The waves of Sargassum that reached Bermuda in April were full of this fauna early in their life-cycles as documented in this series of photos.
The photo above has a gravid Sargassum Swimming Crab (of which there were numerous in those collection efforts led by Chris Flook) holding her eggs, along with strands of Flying Fish eggs that had been wrapped around the Sargasso weed (Sargassum natans) and were just about to hatch.
In this next photo a juvenile Sargassum Fish (Histrio histrio) can also be seen which whilst I was shooting was ingesting the flying fish as soon as they hatched.
At this time of year we routinely find very small Sargassum fish, often at a rate of 1 per clump of weed, however rarely do we find more than 1 per clump as invariably they will eat each other until only 1 is left…”
1:32 am June 7th 2019, our star CahowCam chick fledged out to sea with followers around the world watching in realtime. If all goes well she will return in 3 to 5 years, often times landing within yards of her original nesting burrow.
She is one of five that have fledged thus far this season from Nonsuch Colony A, with another 8 or 9 remaining. This rate is similar to the rest of the Colony where about a third have fledged, keeping us on track to a projected record number of 73 chicks that may fledge this year!
Watch Cedar, exercising, imprinting and the fledging:
Jeremy Madeiros | Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer, The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources:
“We are relieved to be able to see her fledge which is a satisfying conclusion to the 7 month process which started when her parents returned to Nonsuch to nest build and court last November. Whilst Cedar may have fledged, our work is not over, as there are at least two chicks that needed to be rescued due to insufficient feeding by their parents and the remainder of the chicks throughout the Colony which need to be monitored and managed until they fledge, not to mention all of the Tropicbird chicks, that have been hatching early this year… “
Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Walter H. Roban:
"Following World Environment Day and in advance of World Ocean Day, I find the progress made by the Nonsuch Expeditions in collaboration with our Department of the Environment and Natural Resources Team very encouraging. As you know, our Bermuda environment is very important to me, and the preservation and protection of our island and its indigenous species remains a top priority for the Ministry of Home Affairs. We should be very proud of the efforts that have brought our cahows back from near extinction and the efforts to share this project with the World."
Jean-Pierre Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader:
“The LIVE viewing of last nights activities was made possible by the installation of a brand new “Above Ground” infrared capable PTZ Camera that we have just launched in conjunction with the DENR and the Cornell Lab Of Ornithology Bird Cam Team. This is now our 4th Cam, adding to CahowCams 1&2 and a new “Longtail” TropicbirdCam which is proving to be very popular.
This is a perfect example of adapting and developing technology to assist with Conservation and Educational Outreach.”
Please keep watching the LIVE CahowCam to see how Stormy, Cedar’s ever persistent roommate reacts to her departure.
Jean-Pierre Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader “As part of our efforts to produce Media and develop Technology for Conservation, we have partnered with Holographic Video producers Looking Glass Factory to help develop and test their prototype cameras in Bermuda with a goal of, for the first time ever, Livestreaming Holographic wildlife footage to the World!”
Alex Hornstein | Looking Glass Factory: “I first met JP Rouja, a Conservationist, Filmmaker and Tech Developer who runs the Nonsuch Expeditions, an organization that works to document and spread awareness of Bermuda’s unique biodiversity including the Cahows, at a show last year where I was showing off an underwater holographic camera that I had built, and was using to film large underwater animals. I’m one of the co-founders of a holographic display company called Looking Glass, and for the past nine months, I’ve been working on a number of techniques to capture digital holographic images and video of the natural world, that we can play back in our displays. Holograms present the illusion that something is there in front of you when in fact it’s not — it could be a recording, or a live scene being streamed from another part of the world. Over several months, JP and I worked out a plan to stream holographic footage of Cahows from their natural habitat on Nonsuch out into the world, where they could be viewed, life-sized, in our displays…” Read full Article on Medium…
On World Environment Day a 4th LIVE Cam has been launched on Nonsuch Island as a partnership between the Nonsuch Expeditions, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.
This new camera is located in Nonsuch Translocation Colony A, and unlike the existing nest Cams is above ground giving a view of the Island and coastline during the day and an infrared view of the Colony at night allowing scientists, students and followers from around the world to observe the Cahow chicks as they explore, exercise and imprint on their surroundings in the few nights before they fledge out to sea.
If activity in the LIVE video below has ended, you may scroll back up to 12 hours in the Timeline…
Charles Eldermire | Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
“Watching the Cahow nestling navigate the darkness and stretch its wings on the new cam shows a whole new side to Cedar, one that reinforces how close she is to heading out to sea! Plus, the daytime views of Nonsuch Island are spectacular and I can imagine lots of viewers tuning in just to bask in the beauty and to watch the longtails fly past on the wind.”
Jeremy Madeiros | Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer, The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources:
“I project that Cedar, based on her weight and wing length from her most recent health check will fledge out to sea somewhere between the 4th and 8th of June, so the launch of this new Cam allowing us to witness this process is quite timely. When watching at night you will see her exercising and flapping her wings, however there are no test flights, so the first time she actually flies she will head out to sea, not to return, if all goes well, for 3 to 5 years...”
Jean-Pierre Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader:
“This new camera follows our original CahowCam that we first launched 8 years ago in Cahow burrow #831. Unfortunately the egg in this nest failed this year, however this gave the parents a much needed break as they had successfully raised a chick for the past 5 years, well above the average Cahow nesting success rate.
CahowCam 2 was launched this Spring in burrow #832, in which viewers have been following the Cahow chick, recently named “Cedar” and an increasingly persistent, annoying and never before documented Storm Petrel nest-mate.
We have also recently launched a “Longtail” TropicbirdCam in which the chick hatched a month earlier than expected and is doing very well.”
The LIVE feeds and archival recordings from the Cams have resulted in over 20 million minutes of video being watched over the past 3 seasons which will only increase over the next few years with all of these new viewing options…
The Cahows are nocturnal when approaching land and nesting, therefore the majority of activity occurs at night, usually starting around 1am, however viewers of the LIVE video feeds can scroll back as far back as 12 hours in the timeline allowing them to observe all of the prior nights nocturnal activities when checking in the morning.
“We also have a number of Cornell volunteers and other followers across a multitude of timezones ensuring that the live feeds are always monitored in realtime and that post regular updates to our Twitter feeds. The crowd sourcing of citizen scientists to monitor 24/7 live feeds is relatively new but much welcomed phenomenon and has already helped our Team identify significant activities that we would otherwise have missed.”
For the third year a very lost, lonely, Leach’s Storm Petrel has returned to Nonsuch Island, this time to the still occupied CahowCam2 burrow where he has been interacting with the Cahow chick and its parents to the bewilderment of scientists and viewers around the World.
In past seasons he has returned in June to the empty CahowCam burrow (see Stormy versus Land Crabs) just after the Cahow chick has fledged and spent weeks building a nest and calling out in vain at night for a mate, hence his nickname. However this year, not only is he early, but he does not seem to be deterred by the current occupants that are several times his size.
Leachs’s Storm Petrels normally nest hundreds to thousands of miles away from Norway to the Maritimes and are the size of a starling averaging just under 50 grams versus the much larger Cahows that range from 300 to 450 grams.
His antics over the past few nights have seemed at times aggressive, however the Cahow chick upon examination by Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer Jeremy Madeiros seems to be doing fine. The one concern is that the presence of this interloper may be deterring the Cahow parents from feeding the chick properly, so its weight and the night time feeding visits will be watched closely.
Should “Stormy” still be around over the next few nights, efforts will be made to catch, band and hopefully introduce him to a different unoccupied burrow.
Bermuda Petrel Biomonitoring 2019
“The 2019 Cahow breeding season has been extremely eventful, and has included two separate projects involving fitting adult Cahows with advanced GPS tags to monitor their movements at sea.
The Bermuda petrel biomonitoring project is being carried out by researchers Letizia Campioni of MARE and Monica Silva of cE3c, in partnership with the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources and the Nonsuch Expeditions. The GPS tags were deployed during the egg incubation period in January/February, and again during the chick rearing period in March/April.
Monica and Letizia have already recovered many of these tags, with the first GPS tag with track data during chick-rearing recovered on the 4thApril.
This tag was deployed on a male Cahow (band number E0171) from nest # R836 on Nonsuch Island. This particular bird is a rather special one for several reasons. I monitored him as he hatched on 6th March 2005 in the Green Island # 4 nest, and translocated him to nest no. R833 on Nonsuch Island on 27th May 2005, as part of the project to re-establish nesting Cahows on Nonsuch, where they had not nested since the 1620s. Not only was I able to watch this bird fledge successfully to sea on the night on June 6th, 2005, but it was also one of the first translocated Cahows to return to Nonsuch as an adult, three years later in 2008. It was in fact the first translocated Cahow to stay for the day in a nest burrow on Nonsuch on 19th March, 2008.
By 2011, this bird had settled in the R836 nest, and attracted a new mate (a non-translocated female fitted with band number E0401). This pair has remained together ever since, and has raised 8 chicks in 8 straight years – clearly, he is doing an awesome job as a parent!
The data from the recovered tag revealed that he flew approx. 1200 Km (700 miles) north to feed over the North American continental shelf, in the highly productive waters of Georges Bank, in the Gulf of Maine. It took him 7 days to fly to this area, gather food, and return to feed the chick. During the outbound journey, he was travelling at a speed of approx. 35Km/h, which doubled during the return trip to 70 Km/h (about 44 mph). This is typical of the multi-thousand-mile weekly feeding trips that the adults carry out over a 3-month period to provision the growing chick. A number of additional tags have been recovered since then and are starting to give a very detailed picture of Cahow foraging areas and movements at sea during their breeding season.”
Jeremy Madeiros, Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, BERMUDA
The results of this and future tracking exercises will be incorporated into the curriculum that we are developing. Educators should contact us or sign up to our Newsletter selecting the educator option.
A very rare Cabit chick (a Cahow / Rabbit hybrid) has been photographed on Nonsuch Island!
When animals come close to extinction, as in the case of the Cahow, there is always the possibility of cross species heterozygous offspring.
Rabbits from nearby Hen Island must have swum over to Nonsuch Island at some point in the past, prior to the Cahows' rediscovery in 1951 when they were down to the last few pairs and were forced to resort to hybridization to ensure their survival. The gene for the ears seems to be recessive, only appearing every few generations (with the offspring named a "Cabit"), however all chicks in the colony still hatch with soft grey rabbit type fur instead of feathers, which they then molt prior to fledging. The Cahows have also retained the habit of nesting in deep underground burrows which they spend several seasons excavating with their mate.
As explained by Wikipedia:
In general usage, hybrid is synonymous with heterozygous: any offspring resulting from the breeding of two genetically distinct individuals.
Jean-Pierre Rouja, Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader:
Back in the 1970's when I was a cub-scout we used to go camping on Hen Island in St. Georges which was still overrun with rabbits. Prior to the Airport being built in the 1940's it would have been a relatively easy swim for them to reach Nonsuch. We spent today trying to catch one so that we could take a DNA sample, however they are just too fast. Fortunatley the CahowCam photographed one early this morning so we have further proof of their existence.
A group of Conservation Travel writers visiting Bermuda with the Bermuda Tourism Authority joined Jeremy Madeiros and the Nonsuch Expeditions Team for a Tour of Nonsuch Island and met the latest chicks from Cahow Colony A.
Jeremy explains how the failure of the CahowCam 1 egg provides a much needed break for the parents that have raised a chick each of the past 5 years.
So far, the 2019 Cahow nesting season looks like it is a fairly successful one, with over 60 chicks now confirmed as having hatched, with the final number waiting for the current high winds and rain to abate so further nest checks can take place on the smaller nesting islets.
On Nonsuch Island, it looks like a total of 12 chicks have now hatched, including the first 2 chicks ever at the new, 2nd translocation colony site. With the CahowCam nests, the recently installed "CahowCam 2" camera recorded the successful hatching of its chick on the night of 9th March. This chick seems to be getting regular feeding visits by the parent birds and is gaining weight steadily.
However, at the "CahowCam1" nest, as the hatching window passed it became clear that the egg had failed and was not going to hatch. This pair has been unusually successful, raising chicks for 5 consecutive years in a row, whereas Cahow pairs are usually only successful every other year or at best 2 years out of 3. Usually, when an egg fails, the parents will faithfully continue to try and incubate it for at least another 2 or 3 weeks, which has been the case with this pair. Typically, once a pair finally accepts that an egg will not hatch, they often will kick the egg out of the nest or, alternatively, will partly or completely bury it with nest material. This is what has happened last night (20/21 March), when the adult brought large amount of additional nest material in, ultimately completely burying the egg. This is the first time we have observed this on the CahowCam, due to the pair being successful every previous year since the camera was installed! This points to the value of these burrow cams, that even when failure inevitably occurs, that we can still gain previously unknown insights and observations that were not possible before. The adults may continue to visit the failed nest on & off until around the beginning of April, then will depart for their mid-Atlantic summer habitat, where they will feed, regain their strength, and prepare for the start of the next breeding season in November.
All the best, Jeremy
Jeremy Madeiros Senior Conservation Officer (Terrestrial) Dept. of Environment and Natural Resource
On the final day of the Next Steps for Strengthening Stewardship of the Sargasso Sea workshop held at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, thirty of the participants, including representatives from the Sargasso Sea Commission’s Signatories, Commissioners, and partners had the opportunity to take part in an excursion to Nonsuch Island with Nonsuch Expeditions. These participants had the rare opportunity to observe a scheduled nest check for two of the new Cahow chicks, as well as observe some of the species living in Sargassum.
At approximately 10:30pm on Saturday night, viewers from around the world watched as the Cahow egg in Burrow #832 began to hatch. Watch CahowCam LIVE Now
Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader and CahowCam developer Jean-Pierre Rouja."The first hint that something was going on was a broken egg shell. Then, around 11:30pm, the chick’s head first appeared from under its parent. Progressively, throughout the night, more and more of it was revealed."
Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer Jeremy Madeiros: “We were very happy to see the chick hatching in the 2ndCahowCam nest, and a bit surprised as I was not really expecting hatching to occur for several days yet. When I returned to my records, I could see the adult had returned during a stormy period in January when I had not been able to visit Nonsuch, so the egg was laid at the beginning of this period, not the end as thought. This brings the number of Cahow chicks so far confirmed as hatching on Nonsuch to 9, with adults in 4 nests still incubating eggs. The total number of chicks confirmed on all nesting islands now is over 45, with more nest checks scheduled over the next week, weather permitting.”
The CahowCam Project is now in its seventh season broadcasting LIVE from Nonsuch Island, and the third season in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (with whom over 15 million minutes of CahowCam video were watched over the past two years).
The new CahowCam 2 had just been installed in Burrow #832 only a few days prior to the hatching. It's one of several that the team is installing this season to give researchers, students, and viewers around the world fascinating insights into the nesting activities of the second rarest seabird on the planet. It is located alongside burrow #831 from which the current CahowCam continues to stream as it has for the past five years. Historically, Burrow #832 hosted the Camera for the first two CahowCam seasons (2013-2014) during which the same pair successfully reared chicks named “Backson” and “Lightning”.
The Minister of Home Affairs the Hon. Walter Roban: "I am so pleased to hear of another successful hatching at Nonsuch Island. I want to give a huge congratulations to the staff of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who work tirelessly - sacrificing their weekends and evenings - to help bring our national bird back from the brink of extinction. Thank you also to Nonsuch Expeditions for enabling these incredible moments to be captured on camera and shared with a worldwide audience."
"Going forward we plan to be LIVE streaming both cameras in parallel to allow researchers and our followers to observe the similarities and differences in behaviors between the two pairs' nesting seasons," said J-P Rouja. “As we were going LIVE with this new camera during the most sensitive part of the nesting season (egg incubation), it was important to install the camera in the least disruptive way possible. Accordingly, we have custom-built new infrared lights to work with our new HD camera to fit in the pre-existing four-inch PVC pipe that remained in place from the original CahowCam setup in this same nest in 2013/14. This also brings us back to the traditional Top Down view that we used for first few CahowCam seasons, giving us an alternate wider view of the entire nest chamber from above. “
Jeremy Madeiros: “This Season we are working with international researchers to track the Cahow’s foraging expeditions using new nano-gps tags to shed light on where they are finding their food in the Sargasso Sea and beyond. In addition, there is concern that new proposals to carry out oil and gas exploration on the Continental Shelves may present a potential threat to the Cahow and many other seabirds, as previous geolocator tagging indicated that Cahows visit these areas regularly for foraging.… In parallel we are doing blood work to identify contaminants that may be exposed to through their food, all of which will assist with the ongoing management of the species.”
JP Rouja: “We archive each season in HD in its entirety, recording 24/7 for 7 months which we will combine with the maps generated by the Geo tags and the LIVE footage for the STEAM curriculum that we are developing with Cornell. This will be used Internationally in K-12 through University, and adapted locally for public and private schools where it is perfect for localizing and creating cross-curricular lessons that will better engage our students.”
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams Project Leader Charles Eldermire: "I continue to be amazed at how close these rare petrels are to the technology and infrastructure that enables us to share their lives with the world. It's really a testimony to both the ongoing efforts of Jeremy and the Bermuda Government as well as the investment from Nonsuch Expeditions that our far-flung audience can now observe two sets of petrels."
David Freestone, Executive Secretary, Sargasso Sea Commission:“The Sargasso Sea Commission is convening a workshop this week in Bermuda and one of the issues being looked at is the connectivity between the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda and the wider Atlantic ocean system. The cahow, is an iconic creature that symbolizes the connectivity between Bermuda and the open ocean - particularly the Sargasso Sea and now this research will provide data to back this up. Its recovery is a great tribute to the dedicated conservation work of Bermudians which is being showcased to the world…”
John W. Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is thrilled to partner with Nonsuch Expeditions in helping share with the world the intimate biology of these extraordinarily rare petrels, and the conservation success story they represent. We join hundreds of thousands of viewers in hoping that this new chick survives to fledging, and eventually returns to breed on Nonsuch Island.”
A second CahowCam has been launched with a projected hatching window of the 10th - 17th of March.
Now in the 7th season broadcasting LIVE from Nonsuch Island, and the 3rd in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (with whom over 15 million minutes of CahowCam video were watched over the past 2 years) our Team has begun installing several new cameras this season giving researchers, students, and viewers around the world alternate views into the nesting activities of the second rarest seabird on the planet.
This new camera is located in burrow #832 right alongside burrow #831 from which the current CahowCam continues to stream as it has for the past 5 years. Historically, this “new” burrow #832 hosted the Cam for the first two CahowCam seasons (2013-2014) during which the same pair successfully reared chicks named “Backson” and “Lightning”. This season the #832 pair are once again incubating what looks to be a viable egg which is projected to hatch between the 10th and 17th of March.
Going forward we plan to be LIVE streaming both cameras in parallel allowing researchers and our followers to observe the similarities and differences in behaviors between the two pairs' nesting seasons.
Charles Eldermire | Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams Project Leader: "I continue to be amazed at how close these rare petrels are to the technology and infrastructure that enables us to share their lives with the world. It's really a testimony to both the ongoing efforts of Jeremy and the Bermuda government as well as the investment from JP at Nonsuch Expeditions that our far-flung audience gets to now observe two sets of petrels."
Jean-Pierre Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader and CahowCam developer: “As we are going LIVE with this new camera during the most sensitive, egg incubation part of the nesting Season it was important to install the camera in the least disruptive way possible. Accordingly we have custom built new infrared lights to work with our new HD camera to fit in the pre-existing 4 inch PVC pipe that remained in place from the original CahowCam setup in this same nest in 2013/14. This also brings us back to the traditional Top Down view that we used for first few CahowCam seasons, giving a wider view of the entire nest chamber from above.”
As chicks start hatching throughout the Colony, keep watching the CahowCam and NEW CahowCam2 nests LIVE for the opportunity to witness an egg hatching
The egg in the original CahowCam nest is projected to hatch this week and then the egg in the New CahowCam 2 nest is projected to hatch in about 10 days…
Join Jeremy Madeiros as he inspects the nesting burrows in Nonsuch Island Translocation Colony A, and meets a few new chicks.