After reading about so much bad news, this announcement is heartening! Gemma Handy (BBC) reports on the comeback of Barbuda’s national bird—the frigatebird—after Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Irma did not just wipe out homes, infrastructure and livelihoods when it tore through the Caribbean island of Barbuda last September. The category five storm also wreaked havoc on the habitat of the tiny island’s world-famous frigatebird colony. Codrington Lagoon is said to be the second-largest nesting area outside the Galapagos and has attracted tourists for decades. But most of the erstwhile 10,000-strong frigatebird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the disaster when the catastrophic winds destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.
The aptly named magnificent frigatebirds are famed for their colossal 7ft (2.1m) wingspan and the males’ spectacular show of flirting by puffing out their throats into a bright red balloon during mating season.
[. . .] Happily, the birds have started to return and even build nests in the fragile, decaying stumps of the once luscious trees. Numbers are now set to rise further thanks to an imminent mangrove restoration project being funded by a team of four transatlantic rowers who are also ardent local environmentalists.
In January, Team Antigua completed the gruelling 3,000-mile (4,800km) Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race from the Canary Islands to Antigua in just 30 days, taking second place.
John Watt, Scott Potter, Nico Psihoyos and Eli Fuller raised more than $150,000 (£112,000) towards their goal of creating a marine park in Antigua. “We decided to give a third of the money to Barbuda and we were keen for it to be an environmental project,” Mr Fuller explains. “The bird sanctuary is critically important for Codrington economically. And ecologically, you won’t find many places as crucial as Barbuda. It’s not just birds – it’s a vital nesting ground for critically endangered hawksbill turtles too.”
The sanctuary has long been a significant source of revenue for Barbudans, several of whom earn a living as tour guides. “Some people do as many as three trips a day in high season,” says part-time guide Devon Warner.
Seeing the area stripped of vegetation and devoid of birds in the first days after the storm was “horrifying”, park manager Kelly Burton tells the BBC. “The first thing going through my mind was, would they ever come back?” Mr Burton recalls. “Seeing the birds return and nest was a great relief. Many have chicks right now so they will be here at least another year or two. The restoration will be a huge help.”
Many of the birds live year round in Barbuda. Others travel between the Caribbean and the Galapagos and there are a handful of other known nesting sites in the region, Mr Burton says. [. . .]
For full article, see https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44547090
[Photo above: SHAYNA BRODY, WAITT INSTITUTE.]