Hold your nose: Viv dreams of seabird cities on Ascension

black silhouette of seabird against an Ascension sky

Seabirds rule the skies over Ascension Island once more

Seabirds are colonising Ascension Island once again after a campaign to kill off wild cats on the island. And for visiting expert Vivienne Booth, it offers an exciting prospect.

Just as long as people who have to live on the island can stand the smell of guano.

A tern flies just out of frame on Ascension

You have to be wide awake to snap Ascension’s bird life

Vivienne is an ecologist who has been sent out to the island for a month by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to help St Helenian Nathan Fowler monitor the seabird populations.

Their numbers are growing as a result of eradication of feral cats from 2001, after more than a century of predation.

In the first of a series of internet diaries Viv will be writing during her visit, she describes being given a tour of the island by Stedson Stroud and Jolene Sim of the conservation department:

“We stop at the side of the road, looking out across a landscape of volcanic rubble, and Stedson points out that one side of every miniature pinnacle is white with guano.

“At one time seabirds occupied this whole lava field. It’s like looking at a seabird ghost town. A ghost city. The numbers of birds that once bred here must have been staggering, and the noise (and the smell) overwhelming.

“Hopefully one day the seabird cities of Ascension Island will live again. The signs are promising, but it will take a long time and a lot of work. I can’t think of a more worthwhile project.”

Read Viv’s blog here.

About Simon Pipe

I teach journalism and media law part-time at university and spend the rest of the time, fell-running, dancing, creating. "Creating" can be taken many ways. I was a senior broadcast journalist at the BBC and a reporter, sub-editor and feature writer on newspapers before that. For five years I ran St Helena Online, a news website about the remote British island in the South Atlantic, at www.sthelenaonline.org.
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