Environment

First cahow egg for season laid

  • A cahow heads by night back to Nonsuch Island in a picture painstakingly caught by conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros (File photograph)

The CahowCam on Nonsuch Island came alive with activity yesterday morning as one of the critically endangered birds returned to the island to lay its egg for the season.

The event was broadcast live internationally through CahowCam, which is run by LookBermuda with the Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology in New York State.

Jeremy Madeiros, chief terrestrial conservation officer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the egg was one of six on Nonsuch Island as of yesterday.

Mr Madeiros said: “I was happy to see the return of our CahowCam female last night just before midnight.

“She flew in during the 35 to 40-knot gale, just ahead of the cold front that came through, effectively using the winds as a fast lane to bring her back from her feeding grounds to the north.

“For the following two hours, whilst I watched her preparing the nest and laying her egg, I could hear other cahows calling in the background, so it is clear that others came in with the same front.”

He said there were birds in nine of the 18 nests in Translocation Colony A yesterday — six being females with eggs and the other three males waiting for their mates’ return.

Jean-Pierre Rouja, Nonsuch Expeditions team leader said: “We had been watching for her return for the past few days and had alerted our followers to expect her over the next few nights, so it was amazing to see her show up exactly on schedule.

“As luck would have it, her first activity was to rearrange the nest and, in doing so, she kicked some dried grass in front of the lens.

“Nonetheless, our team and other late-night viewers were able to watch her lay her single egg just after 1am, as Jeremy had predicted, within an hour of her return.”

Charles Eldermire, Bird Cams Project leader at Cornell Lab of Ornithology said: “There’s nothing quite like the happy relief I felt watching the female cahow amble into the nest burrow from the stormy darkness outside.

“I was also glad that, despite her frenzied nest excavations, we were able to see her calm, determined focus as she laid a single egg.

“Everyone here is excited to see what the cahows teach us this season, and we’re looking forward to sharing their journey with viewers across the world.”

Cahows, endemic seabirds also known as Bermuda Petrel, were believed to have been wiped out by early colonists by the 1620s. The species was rediscovered in 1951 when 18 nesting pairs were discovered on rocky islets on Castle Harbour.

The birds spend most of their lives at sea, but return to the islands of Castle Harbour during their breeding season to find a mate and lay their eggs.

Each pair can only lay one egg a year, and the egg is then incubated for about 53 days.

For the first few days the male of the pair will watch the nest while the female goes back out to sea to feed. Once the female returns, the pair will take shifts on the egg until it hatches, likely in early March.

Last year’s breeding season set several records — including 124 established breeding pairs, 71 fledged chicks and 15 new cahow pairs.

Members of the public can watch the chick hatch and grow through the infrared CahowCam, which was hidden in an underground burrow by researchers.

To view the live stream, visit www.nonsuchisland.com