The results of the 2018 Caribbean Waterbird Census are in, and the reports from some islands were discouraging, there were also a few bright spots:
Every year, intrepid BirdsCaribbean partners and volunteer citizen scientists put on their water boots and go out to count those birds that frequent our rivers, coastlines and wetlands. 2018 marked the 9th annual Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC), the region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring program. The CWC forms part of the International Waterbird Census (IWC) – the largest volunteer waterbird count in the world, organized by Wetlands International and now in its 52nd year. This year’s three-week counting period began on January 14 and ended on February 3 – including World Wetlands Day, February 2. The collected data is recorded on the newly designed eBird Caribbean online platform.
The results of the 2018 CWC have not been altogether encouraging. We might have expected this in light of the devastating hurricanes that tore through numerous islands last year, damaging fragile wetland habitats already threatened in recent years by human activities. For example, the island of St. Eustatius (Statia) reported a “very poor count,” with a small number of tropicbirds, one Osprey and one Belted Kingfisher noted. Our friends on the Turks and Caicos Islands, which were impacted by Hurricane Irma, also counted fewer shorebirds in general; numbers of Piping Plovers were notably lower than in previous years, according to a survey supported by BirdsCaribbean’s Hurricane Relief Funds.
However, the picture was not all “gloom and doom.” There was no cause for disappointment in Bermuda. Unusually, three goose species were counted (Snow Goose, Brant Goose, and Canada Goose). Amongst 17 duck species, the highlights were the White-winged Scoter (only the sixth record for Bermuda), Black Scoter and Common Merganser. However, the headlines were stolen by the first ever record of a Northern Fulmar on 8th Jan and the arrival of about 1,000 Killdeer in the first week of January, as a result of Storm Grayson in the northeast US.
Since 2010, the CWC has provided critical insights into waterbirds’ stopover and wintering sites – large, small and sometimes unexpected – helping us to build a picture that informs conservation efforts and planning for future programs. We hope that counts later in the year and into 2019 can provide us with more fascinating discoveries that will help us to understand our changing habitats and the behavior of our endlessly intriguing waterbirds.
Previous on Green Antilles: BirdsCaribbean 9th Annual Caribbean Waterbird Census.
[Image: Sipke Stapert via BirdsCaribbean]