Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bird Watching on Cousin Island, Seychelles

Cousin Island is a nature reserve. Once used as a coconut plantation, protection and restoration efforts on the island have been underway since the 1960s and today the islands are home to thousands of seabirds. 
 Visitors are brought ashore on the reserve’s surf boats, which are driven up onto the sand at high speeds. It makes for a thrilling entrance!

Once ashore, however, the action slows considerably. Not that there isn’t plenty going on: Lane immediately spots a green gecko as I am trying (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of a tropic bird in flight. 
Many of the island’s birds appear to have little fear of humans (although it is NOT like walking in the Galapagos, where the critters are totally fearless and you literally have to watch where you step to avoid crushing one).  There is not a huge variety of birds here at this time of year, but there are a lot of birds and the sky above us is filled with nests. 
Most of those nests belong to either a Common Noddy (which has a lighter colored head) or a Lesser Noddy  (which are solid colored). We see lots of Noddies. (Common Noddies are also the birds we’ve seen feeding out on the water.)  
There are also lots of the lovely White-tailed Tropic Birds that caught my attention when we first came ashore. Unlike the first one I saw, most of the ones we see as we walk around the island are huddled in their nests on the ground – this is true for the adults as well as most of their wonderful, fuzzy chicks, although there are a few brave teenagers out exploring the world on their own. 
There are also pure white Fairy Terns. They lay their eggs directly on tree branches, without building a nest, and chicks are hard to find. 
Our guide scratches the ground and calls to the Seychelles Magpie Robins, who respond by coming over to see what he might have turned up. Although an exceedingly rare bird (the population was once below 20 individuals), a successful protection program means they are easy to spot here. 
Our guide also points out more elusive birds, including well-hidden Shearwaters and their chicks. 
Our guide also does a little bird rescue along the way. The island has Pisonia Grandis (Bwa Mapou) trees that produce sticky seeds. Birds get these seeds in their feathers, which can lead to the bird’s death. Along the way he rescues a tropic bird and a very ungrateful-looking Seychelles warbler, among others.
The island isn’t just home to birds though. While various types of crabs make their presence known without introduction, our guide makes sure we get a good look at tortoises and giant millipedes as well!
While much of the area we visit is low and flat, we also climb a rocky hillside to take in the view and enjoy the breeze. 
It is an interesting little island.

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