11th Hour Racing Visits Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve Bermuda
Bermuda Notes from the Field
11th Hour Racing Communications Manager, Alessandra Ghezzi, was able to attend a private visit of Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve in Bermuda, together with Jean-Pierre Rouja of Look Bermuda from the Nonsuch Expeditions Team, and Chief Terrestrial Conservation Officer Jeremy Madeiros.
With the 35th America’s Cup taking place in Bermuda in June 2017, Alessandra is now living on the island, learning about its unique environment, and engaging with the local organizations and communities.
Besides pristine beaches, crystal clear turquoise water, stunning rock formations and lush vegetation, Nonsuch Island is a gem of bio-diversity and a true living museum. Nonsuch Island is a part of the Castle Harbour Islands Nature Reserve, located at the eastern end of Bermuda. Nonsuch Island is now home to many of the island’s rarest and most endangered plant, animal and bird species, and is Bermuda’s single most important Nature Reserve.
Alessandra was also able to see and feed a young longtail – the iconic yellow billed, white-tailed tropic bird and a national symbol of Bermuda. Up to about 1978, at least 3,000 nesting pairs used to breed along most of the coastline but numbers have declined steadily due to various factors including coastline development, increased disturbance from an expanding population, predation, oil pollution at sea, global warming and higher sea levels that flood lower nest sites. To try to solve the issue, longtail igloos were invented in 1997 as an emergency measure to provide alternative nesting sites. Thirty-five longtail igloos are now in place on Nonsuch Island.
Nonsuch Island is one of the earliest examples of Ecological Restoration to be found anywhere, where a project to restore an entire ecosystem, with all of its associated plant and animal communities in their appropriate habitats, has been underway for more than 50 years. It is an attempt to restore a small section of Bermuda to what the island would have looked like, in terms of the flora and fauna, before it was discovered and settled by humans.
Examples of native or endemic birds, animals or marine organisms that had been lost on Nonsuch due to man’s activities or the impact of introduced invasive species, and have now been successfully re-introduced include: Yellow-crowned Night Heron, West Indian Top Shell Snail, Land Hermit Crab and Bermuda petrel or Cahow (Pterodroma cahow).
The Cahow, the endemic Bermuda petrel, is the 2nd rarest seabird on the planet – the total number of Cahows now existing in the world is approximately 350. Bermuda, specifically Nonsuch Island and the surrounding rocks, is the only location on the planet where the Cahows come to breed. There were only 17 – 18 breeding pairs in 1960 when the Cahow Recovery Program was started, and under Jeremy Madeiros’ stewardship the breeding population doubled to 120 breeding pairs in 2016. Cahow chicks spend 3 to 6 years alone at sea before they mature and return to the breeding islands in Bermuda, to find a mate and nest burrow. Throughout the nesting season Jeremey conducts conservatively 2,000+ health checks, on average, checking every chick in the colony every 2 days, often under very challenging weather conditions. To view the live cam from the cahow nests on Nonsuch Island, click here.
Here you can view samples of images taken by David Liittschwager as part of LookBermuda’s Biodiversity Survey Photography Expeditions of the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve and its surrounding waters, in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Rouja.