The final benchmark for deeming the Nonsuch Island Cahow Translocation Project a success has been reached!
At the start of the 2017 Cahow nesting season, during the courtship activities in November, a new pair was observed building a nest and courting on Nonsuch Island by Jeremey Madeiros, Head Terrestrial Conservation Officer.
The pair consisted of two newly returned fledglings, the male born on Nonsuch Island from parents who had been translocated there during the translocation process which started in 2001 and the female remarkably from one of the original nesting islands. In this instance not only has a second generation Nonsuch Cahow returned, it has also attracted a female from a nearby island, reducing the risk of in-breeding that could otherwise occur in site specific nesting clusters.
Fledgling Cahows normally return to nest on the island and location from which they fledged, often within a few feet of their original nest, which could easily result in in-breeding with a species that has so few members and is so close to extinction.
This is a very significant milestone. However Jeremey points out that with a total world population of just over 300 birds (which nest only in Bermuda) and with the majority of them still nesting on the smaller outlying islands that have been steadily, increasingly, eroding over the past decades, we are still a very long way from ensuring the survival of the species.
Nonsuch in the longterm, with its higher topography than the original islands, will be able to naturally sustain thousands of natural nests extending well beyond translocation Colony A and the new Colony B, however even then, an ongoing, species management program will be necessary to protect them. Rats for example have recently started swimming over from Coopers island and if let unabated would very quickly decimate the entire colony.
Another encouraging fact is that during the annual Pelagic Bird Watching Trips this past season documented a marked increase in the Cahows being observed, this year with groups of 20 and as many as 30 being observed during their aerial courtship exercises.