I am a physical oceanographer working for the British Antarctic Survey. Also very keen on wildlife.
Friday, 13 July 2012
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.
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.
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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11137903
Massive contrast to the low ground.
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.
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.
A physical oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey. Also have a strong sideline in wildlife, especially birds and cetaceans. This blog is in a personal capacity so will feature considerably more wildlife than physics.