Caribbean seabird field work is rarely without its challenges: rough seas, foul weather, impenetrable thickets of thorny bushes, and brutal heat. Now we can add festivals to our list! During July, researcher Wayne Smart of Grenada led a census of seabird colonies in the Grenadines archipelago. In order to reach the remote islands in this region, Wayne and his team hired out local boats. However, between a sailing festival and Carnival celebration, finding willing captains wasn’t always easy. Fortunately, Wayne overcame this and other challenges to complete surveys of 17 islands, recording 15 species.
Getting accurate counts of seabird colonies is important for monitoring populations and being aware of declines. Seabird populations have declined dramatically in recent decades due to threats like non-native mammals, poaching, pollution, overfishing, and land development. The main threat observed during these surveys was goats, which can trample nests and cause erosion.
We do this vital work because we care about seabirds and want to ensure they are here for generations to come. Being among thousands of nesting birds is thrilling and a reminder of the abundance of wildlife that our earth once held. Seabirds are indicators of the health of our oceans. They also contribute to reef health, because their guano increases growth of nearshore corals.