Friday, 13 July 2012

Ascension Island

I didn't get round to this when I got back, so here are some photos from the four days we had on Ascension Island (just south of the equator in the middle of the Atlantic) at the end of April. The flight back from the Falklands stops on Ascension, hence the opportunity. See this post for my previous visit.

Early morning Green Turtle. The beach is a few minutes from the hotel and there are very few people there. There are visitors to the island for various reasons, but very few tourists.

 Turtle track

Immature Ascension Frigatebird

 Ascension Frigatebird. Endemic to the island. They patrol the beach at dawn looking for late hatching baby turtles.

 The geology of the island is from relatively recent volcanism.

White-tailed Tropicbird.
 The breeding seabirds are mostly confined to offshore stacks. Until 2001 there were feral cats on the island and there are still rats, though the sparse vegetation in many areas reduces their presence.

 Green Mountain. 800m high and a cloud forest (now). When Darwin arrived on the Beagle towards the end of his famous voyage he recognised the potential to increase the vegetation (older islands in the Galapagos are more vegetated than the more recent ones). He asked a friend who ran Kew gardens to send various species with each supply ship until vegetation was established. This had the feedback effects of capturing cloud vapour and creating thicker soil that could hold more water from the occasional heavy rain. This increased the water supply on the island, which until then had been a limiting factor to habitation. See
 Massive contrast to the low ground.

 Fairy Tern
 Rats are common in the well vegetated areas

 Lowlands, with an old lava flow still clear

The main beach by Georgetown

 The colonisation continues, almost entirely by non-native species.

Green Turtle on Ascension
 A tardy turtle just starting to go back to the sea

 The way looks clear but is blocked by rocks exposed by the falling tide. In the end we had to steer it back to the sea.
 Sooty Tern.
By breeding synchronously and in large numbers they managed to keep breeding on the mainland despite the cats. They are doing better now the cats are gone. There are ongoing measures to control rats locally to the colonies, known as Wideawake Fairs after the local onomatopoeic name for Sooty Terns

Brown Noddies are now breeding amongst the Sooty Terns.

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