The arrival: hot, heavy work, scurrying crabs and freshly cooked curry

Tuesday April 30, 2013

The latest blog from wildlife filmmaker Nick Hayward as he joins a team from BirdLife and Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife in the Cook Islands) eradicating rats from Suwarrow – a seabird mecca in the South Pacific. Today they land on Suwarrow and are welcomed by swarms of seabirds, sharks and crabs…

As we counted down the distance to our destination, everybody was on deck searching for the first sight of Suwarrow. First peering above the horizon was the treeline of Motu Oneone, one of the eastern-most islands in the reef system.

As we approached we spied Lesser Frigatebirds swarming like bees. The colony of these thieving raptor-like seabirds is of global importance. A flock of Black Noddies steamed in low over the water and the frigatebirds pounced, pirating their food.

A huge tropical downpour briefly obscured the view, a good omen for a successful expedition.

As we lined up with “the entrance”, a deep passage through unforgiving fringing reef, the rain cleared revealing a magnificent sky over our new home - Anchorage Island.

Our vessel the Southern Cross doesn’t have a dinghy so the bravest team members swam ashore to retrieve the island caretaker’s boat. Shortly afterwards a patrol of Black-tipped Reef-sharks circled the yacht. Luckily they are not man eaters!

Early next morning everybody helped to unload the stores, fuel and bait. It was hot and heavy work loading the dinghy, then carefully stowing all the equipment ashore.

The hard work didn’t finish there. After lunch we began preparing the tracks for rat bait. The vegetation on Anchorage is thicker than expected so it’s hard work, slowly cutting through dense coconut and scrub thickets.

Suwarrow, apart from being a bird paradise, is also a land of crabs. Everywhere you look these creatures are scurrying. All sorts of crabs from small hermit crabs carrying shell on their back, to enormous, bright blue coconut crabs, with their massive crushing claws. One coconut crab quietly watched over Ben as he started to cut the tracks.

Thanks to the skills of the native fishermen (and Ian) all the hard work was worthwhile when we were treated to the most magnificent fresh fish and coconut curry after our first full day ashore.

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About BirdLife

BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. They're the World's largest partnership of conservation organisations.

The BirdLife Pacific Partnership comprises a network of six national conservation organisations as follows: BirdLife Australia – Australia; Te Ipukerea Society – Cook Islands; Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie Manu – French Polynesia; Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie – New Caledonia; Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Inc – New Zealand, and; Palau Conservation Society – Palau. Together they are tackling the biggest threats to the region's threatened wildlife such as invasive species, habitat loss and climate change.


Acknowledgements: The expedition to remove rats from Suwarrow National Park is a joint project between BirdLife International, Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife Partner in the Cook Islands) and the Cook Island National Environment Service. The project is being kindly supported by the European Community, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, SPREP, GEF and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and forms part of the BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme which is tackling this greatest of threats to wildlife around the world. BirdLife wishes to thank the efforts of many who are supporting the programme including Pacific Invasive Initiative, Pacific Invasive Learning Network, New Zealand Department of Conservation the University of the South Pacific, Landcare Research New Zealand, Island Conservation, Wildiaries and Nick Hayward. The BirdLife Invasive Alien Species Programme urgently needs your support to tackle more sites and save more species. To support our work and make a donation today, please go to www.justgiving.com/BirdLife-invasive-species. Thank you.