Ascension Explorers – Bishops Path
Contributed by Natasha Williams, photos by Miss Robyn Sim
Well, second week into our Explorers programme, and it was a wet one indeed. But that did not get the children down!
The children were collected and transported to the Red Lion, Green Mountain where we waited for the showers to ease off a bit. They then set off for Bishops with Jo, Toni and Robyn. Originally we were going to drop below the Bishops path and do some drawings of Ascension, but unfortunately due to the weather, we were not able to do this. The Explorers were split into their groups and made notes about Bishops path and what they had learnt about what was seen. Back at the Red Lion they came running in with Jo like aeroplanes, where they had a little break and snacks, before continuing with drawings. The task was to draw four things that they had seen on the walk. Very good drawings were produced by all - the children had learnt about the bracket fungus growing on one of the overhanging trees on the path, the stinging nettles, as well as many more of Ascension’s flora and fauna.
I’d like to say thank you to Jolene Sim for taking this activity forward with the Explorers, and thanks to Toni Bendall, Robyn Sim, Ebony Stevens and parents for helping with the outing. See you all on our next outing this week at the Pines - digging for victory.
Final outing: Exploring the coast and swimming at Georgetown Pool.
The Conservation Office in Georgetown is open from 7:30am – 10am on week days but due to fieldwork commitments, staff will only sporadically be in the office throughout the rest of the day. We also open on Saturdays 10am -12noon. Please come in and see us if you are interested in finding out more about conservation work on Ascension or if you would like to purchase something from our shop!
Volunteers welcome - please contact us at the Ascension Island Conservation Centre. Georgetown. Tel: 6359. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frigatebird Success Story
Contributed by Kenickie Andrews
Mainland Frigatebird chicks take to the skies for the second time
In December last year, we witnessed the delightful return of our endemic seabird to the mainland to nest. Once again, the Ascension Island Frigatebird(Fregataaquila) has gone from strength to strength, by not only returning to nest for the second year in a row, but also successfully raising five new mainland fledglings for 2014 (compared to one in 2013).
At the beginning of the nesting period, we found 12 frigates nesting in various locations on Letterbox peninsula; this involved walking the entire area, hoping to find something out there for us to see. Starting from late last year, the returning frigatebirds kept the AIG Conservation Seabird Team on their toes.
Once the birds were discovered, the location of each new nest was taken and recorded into our bird database. Every nest was then “camera trapped”;this method documented activity (over a two week period) when we weren’t there to see it ourselves. Each nest was also monitored with a bi-weekly visit to make a note of what stage the nesting was at (e.g. egg or chick), what was in the area surrounding the nest (e.g. rat damage, other birds etc.), and to change the camera batteries and memory cards to record activity for the following two weeks.
Through our visits and imagery collected by the remote cameras, we witnessed the hatching, growth and fledging of ‘our’ chicks. This was a great accomplishment –both for the birds and for us, as we had the opportunity to observe and understand frigatebirdbehaviour without having the trouble of accessing Boatswain Bird Island – our recently officially designated bird sanctuary. Although we initially started with 12 frigates nesting (Christmas, Frosty, Zulu, Marie, Kelsey, Claire, Gracie, Angel, Gabriel, Robin, Turtle and Dove), these birds generally have a low success rate (even on BBI) and so the final number of chicks that reached fledgling stage was just five (Robin, Zulu, Turtle, Dove and Little Gracie).
This year’s mainland-nesting frigatebirds has caused quite a stir from ornithologists visiting these ‘famous’ birds, to the growing number of volunteers and visitors hopingto catch a glimpse. Not only have the fledglings caused excitement but they also star in our new conservation documentary video (www.ascension-island.gov.ac/government/conservation/).
Now that all of the chicks have ‘flown the nest’, the whole process will hopefully start all over again in the coming months as we search for our new ‘stars’ for 2014-2015- the work involved can be demanding, but it is worth it. With this year’s number of fledglings, we are hoping for another five… or possibly even more (fingers crossedJ). The endemic Ascension Island frigatebird is a beautiful, graceful, yet malevolent predator within our seabird world - and is definitely on my list as one of my favourites!
Personal thanks to all of you who helped in any way, big or small during our frigatebird mainland adventures,whether it was helping to carry equipment or just keeping us company – THANKYOU!
Ascension Island Frigatebird (Fregata aquila)
ICUN Red list Status: VULNERABLE
Description: A large dark bird, with long, narrow wings and a deeply forked tail. The bill is long and pale, which is hooked at the tip. Adult males are entirely black, with a greenish gloss and have a red throat pouch (which is more prominent during the breeding seasons). Adult females are predominantly black, but have a brownish tint. Juveniles have white heads until adulthood.
Feeding/Behaviour: All prey is taken in flight, from land or on the sea surface. Frigatebirds also pursue other seabirds and forces them to drop their own catch. They can be seen taking turtle hatchlings off beaches and raiding sooty tern (Onychoprionfuscatus) colonies.
Nesting: Breeds throughout the year, but nesting peak season is between October and November. During courtship, males inflate their throat sacs and vibrate their wings to attract females flying overhead. A single egg is laid and its 45 day incubation is shared by both parents. The chick will be dependent on its parents for its first year, even after fledging.
Recommended Sites: Boatswain Bird Island (BBI), Letterbox, Long Beach (Georgetown), Mars Bay.