For the past three weeks Sophie Prendergast, Nina Moore, and I have been working with Professor Andrea Murray to track down where the many birds of South Caicos are breeding, feeding, and nesting. We used reports from previous students and professors to predict what birds are feeding and nesting and where during April and May, and we have been visiting the sites early in the morning to observe what bird species are present and what types of nests we find. We have to get up before the sun to observe as many birds as possible (early bird gets the worm!), and we have to remind ourselves at this early hour that we love and care about what we are researching! The breathtaking sunrises are often enough to motivate us to start three or four hours of work in the field that involve a lot of kayaking, climbing, and bushwhacking.
Many heron, pelican, and tropicbird species that breed in South Caicos depend on mangrove forests or on very particular rocky bluff formations to provide appropriate cover for their nests. Our research and desire to explore these habitats have led us to many parts of South Caicos like the surrounding cays (small islands, pronounced “keys”) that we otherwise would never have visited because they are difficult to access and require driving on poorly paved roads and then kayaking out to the area. The cays host many bird species as well as iguanas, which often will run out of bushes when we are least expecting it. The scenery often distracts us from what we are supposed to be doing, and we thoroughly enjoy it. Today we got sidetracked when we found a message in a bottle on Plandon Cay!
Kayaking to Iguana Cay in Bell Sound Nature Reserve
Observing a sunrise on the rocky bluffs of Long Cay
A nesting White-tailed Tropicbird in the rocky bluffs of the Sailrock development