Well hello Owl
One of the things I like about working in conservation is taking pictures of wildlife. As challenging as it can be, it is an absolute delight to see the results when a good picture is taken. In Seychelles and on Cousin Island Special Reserve especially there are great opportunities for taking bird pictures. The birds make it easy on the Reserve because they are so unafraid of people and do not move away when approached. Cousin is predator free, so the birds have hardly anything to fear. We have in our database now hundreds of pictures taken by staff, volunteers and visitors. We have shared some of them and I love it when I get a good reaction to a picture.
But although its relatively easy to get pictures of the bird life, sometimes its near impossible to get pictures of some birds. The Seychelles Scops Owl (Syer, Otus insularis) comes to mind. This is a nocturnal bird restricted to forests at mid and high altitudes of Mahe, the main island of Seychelles. The population is fewer than 360 birds so it is still on the endangered list. It is a rarely seen bird and in fact it was not until 1999 that a nest was found. But a few people know its whereabouts and can help in locating it. Camille Hoareau is one of these people.
Last year we had French photographers Herve Chelle and Jean Phillipe Vantighem helping us add to our photographic database. JP and Herve work for the NGO Le Sternes, which provides photography expertise to protected areas on a voluntary basis. During their time on Mahe we asked them to help us get pictures of the Scops owl and the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat another elusive species. We called on Camille who lives up in the hills for his help. Using the Scops Owl call, a double frog-like croak that resembles a saw – thus its Creole name meaning sawyer, Camille was able to attract a pair for Herve to take pictures of at dusk (see above). In between, we stood there awed for over an hour just watching them, feeling lucky.
This week we had the privilege of the brief company of two seabirds at our office – a wedge-tailed Shearwater, Fouke in Creole, and Wilson’s storm petrel. Both Birds had been found and rescued by members of the public.
The storm petrel before its release
The Wilson’s storm petrel was found by a fishing boat around Denis Island and was brought in to us on the afternoon of Friday 23 by Captain J P Grancourt. Upon identifying the tiny bird as Wilson’s storm petrel, we sent out an email to the bird committee to ask for advice on its feeding and release. It had no apparent injury and seemed to be just stressed, so it was put in a box to rest. It was fed, although with some difficulty as its beak is very tiny. Petrels feed on tiny shrimps, small squids, very small fish and planktonic crustaceans. We heard back from Adrian Skerret of the Bird Committee who advised its immediate release because of the difficulties in feeding. He also said that very few records exist in Seychelles of Wilson’s storm petrel; it has only once been photographed in Seychelles. On Saturday morning the bird was released on Mahe.
The shearwater brought to our office. Inset: shearwater nesting on Cousin
The shearwater was found at Pointe Larue near the agro-processing plant. Wedge tailed shearwaters are found on rat free islands in the Seychelles such as Cousin, Cousine, and Aride where they burrow on the ground to nest. Adults leave their burrows before dawn to fly out to feeding grounds at sea and return in the cover of darkness. They are rarely found on Mahe. The Shearwater was confused but otherwise healthy with no injuries. It is being fed and will be released in a coastal area later today.
Wedge tailed shearwaters are also known as the moaning bird because of the eerie calls they make. In the past the call was associated with ghosts. They are even said to have caused a warden on Cousin to leave the island in haste! Listen to it here and tell us what you think.
Here is a presentation on Seychelles’ amphibians. The Seychelles has twelve species, out of which eleven are endemic.
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PHOTO CREDITS: Sooglossid frogs © Naomi Doak, Seychelles Tree frogs by John Dale, Caecilians on Cousin Island – Unknown photographer