Bird Island, a paradise for the Fairy Tern

Pair of Fairy TernsJust two days ago we landed after several hours of flights over Addis Ababa on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles. Supposedly the territory of Seychelles comprises 100 well more or less large islands, which together form an area of ​​443 km ². How strewn lie the islands of the western Indian Ocean, spread over an ocean area of ​​over 400,000 km “. The climate in the Seychelles is tropical with an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. The weather here is influenced by the monsoon, with a hot and humid season from November to March. The “cool” dry season lasts from May to October. We are now – at the end of October – just in the transitional phase there and hope not to be trampled in the rainy season.

For the flight to Bird Island we were picked up by a taxi from our resort in the south of Mahe and brought to the small airport of Mahe. The formalities were completed quickly. But there is still a problem with the luggage. They are allowed a maximum of 10kg per passenger. Ok, go for the luggage storage. In the waiting room we could already see our small plane on the runway. When we are finally released from the waiting room to the aircraft, we find that it is already hot and humid out there on the tarmac. But on the plane the temperature is even higher by a few degrees. Finally, we sit in the narrow leather seats, tighten the seat belt and wait for the things that are coming. Finally, the folding doors of the twin-engine aircraft is closed. Immediately, the temperature in the cabin starts to rise further. Only a minute later, the shirt is wet, thick beads of sweat forming on the forehead and run down his eyebrows. “Hopefully the plane will start soon”, which at the moment is my only wish. Through the open cabin I can see the two pilots at the start. At the front a small table fan rotates. “They will know why they put up this utensil in the cockpit”, this is what I am thinking. Much too slowly the pilots are dropping the headphones. Then the pilot turns to his passengers, friendly smiles at us and raises his thumb.

Finally, the plane takes off from the runway. You can feel the sigh of passengers formally, now just sit back and relax. We quickly leave the main island of Mahe behind us. Some uninhabited rocky islands lie off the main island, we only see the deep blue open sea before us. The two engines roar loudly and evenly in the air.

Bird Island is our goal. This tiny island is located about 100 kilometers north of Mahe and can be reached in the aircraft in 45 minutes. Bird Island is a flat coral island overgrown with palm trees. In former times the island was used for a plantation. Besides Denis Iceland is the only coral island in the Seychelles, which is inhabited. The Bird Island is famous for its many seabirds that breed here. The beautiful Fairy Tern (Gygis alba) is one of our target birds because we are traveling to this remote coral island. Moreover, migration seasons is on. Maybe we can see the one or the other migratory bird far from the migration routs along the East African coast. That we were very successful with this, I can prove with photos in the gallery very well. If you interested in more details pls. see the blog!

Suddenly, the yellow scoreboard flashes for landing. Before us an island emerges from the sea in a blue haze. Dazzling white sand fringed the green palm island, and from the turquoise sea roll silvery crests on the beach. Magical and out of nowhere the island is rapidly approaching. The pilot quickly rotate for a curve so that he can land into the wind, then he is already ready to land on the bumpy grass runway. We are finally at our destination! After the formalities we get our quarters assigned. The houses are plain covered with reed mats rotunda outwardly, but inside they turn out to be veritable bungalow. Our house is located right next to some old trees. The sandy beach is just 100 meters away.

To the sound of the surf waves, the cries of thousands of seabirds sail through the azure sky. Some birds sit on our porch or on the leaves of palm trees. Without any fear Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus) are sitting on the broken stump of a palm tree. We can almost touch them with your hands. Everywhere we meet this chocolate brown terns. They are sitting also on the long leaves of the coconut trees or dozing in large groups on the sandy beach in the midday heat. Some have retreated to the shadows on our porch. However, the most intrusive birds are small Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) and the red-breasted males of the Madagascar Red Fody (Foudia madagascariensis), because they sit every morning at our breakfast table and pick the remains of the toast from the bread basket or off the table.

The graceful Fairy Tern is certainly one of the stars of the bird species. With shiny black eyes and a black beak, which is blue at the start, the tern lives throughout the year on Bird Island. Their particular nature is that they lay only a single egg, which she sets without a base in a forked branch. Males and females incubate the egg together. They go about it with special care and are standing on the clutch as they incubate it. Sometimes they like to nest communally in several pairs on the trees. Once a White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) approaches the Fairy Terns nesting too close, then it is chased away with shrill cries by the whole colony.

As unusual as their breeding behavior is their hunting behavior in the open sea for small fish, too. During our stay on Bird Island we did not see any hunting for small fish. It is said that the terns go out for fishing in the middle of the night. Is the young finally hatched, it keeps up very skilled on the branch with its little claws and the beak.

The breeding places of the Fairy Tern are applied very differently. Sometimes there is a notch in the trunk of a palm tree, in which the bird may just sit. Then again, there is a shadow-free dry tree on the beach which moves back and forth in the moaning of the wind. There, the offspring is sitting all the time in the sun until it can fly itself. Sometimes a tern spends the night on the clothesline under the roof of our porch. In front of our hut you can often observe several European Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) searching for food. The Zebra Dove is happy to accept the birdbath from us. And the Madagascar Red Fody came uninvited one day to our bungalow and became so enraged from his reflection in the mirror that he defecates on the keyboard of the laptop. The word “photo distance” seems to be not appropriate for birds on Bird Island.

With stunning aerial artistry White-tailed Tropicbirds  scircling the palm trees before they settle down for a rest in it. In large schools Sooty Terns (Sterna fuscota) sail the skies over the island. Now at the end of October, the breeding period of the Sooty Terns  is virtually over and the youngs are everywhere to be seen. With deafening cries day and night they draw their circles over the clearing of the palm forest. There are also close relatives breeding here. This is the Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus). But they are not found nearly as often and are much more common on the granite islands of the Seychelles. Every afternoon, when the sun is not so hot any more beautifully colred geckos crack out of the wood of our accommodation. You see them on the walls inside the cabin to catch insects. Another special feature on Bird Island are three stately Giant Tortoise (Testudo gigantea). Among them is “Esmeralda”, a male specimen. The turtle got its name before it was realized that “she” was a male. It is said that he is the oldest and largest tortoise in the world. His age is estimated to be at least 150 years. You can feel free to tickle the throat and occasionally feed them with bananas and bread.

During a tour along the island which is only two kilometers long and one kilometer wide you can make some more interesting wildlife viewing. Every evening we meet on our tour of the island a group Great Crested-Tern (Sterna bergii) on the northern end of the beach. They use to rest here on the sand of the headland. They are usually seen in the company of a small flocks of Saunders’s Terns (Sterna saundersi). But on 2 evenings we were lucky to see the unique Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), too. When it gets dark, ghost crabs (Ocypode sp.) appear from the sand caves on the river bank and populate the beach. As ghostly shadows they run along the surf. The sun is rapidly sinking over the edge of the sea. The coconut trees standing as a backdrop against the red sky. However, for most birds on Bird Island even now is not a break. Their shrill calls and the begging cries of the young for food mix with the roaring of the waves to a heavenly symphony. What an experience.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places like the Macin Mountains in Romania or to tourist spots like the Seychelles (also) to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

Other successful shootings you can see under: www.bird-lens.com

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