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December 2014

Magnificent Frigatebirds

Frigatebirds Nesting

Magnificent Frigatebirds
Deliver a Modern Day Message-in-a-Bottle

Story and photos by Susan Zaluski

The sun is setting as we slowly trudge up an inhospitable hillside on the westernmost end of the BVI on Great Tobago Island, which is not the kind of place where humans typically want to go. My long trousers are quickly covered with "jumping cactus", which have an effective, yet painful, reproductive strategy. The plants' barbs are designed to bury into whatever they touch – flesh or material – making it seem as if the landscape is reaching out to bite you. Each step requires careful contemplation so as to avoid cactus or slipping on loose rocks. After a long hike, we are met by the acrid scent of bird guano. The slope ahead of us appears like a moonscape, land that has been over-grazed by feral goats brought to the islands by early sailors and settlers as an emergency food source hundreds of years ago. Unfettered, the goats have eaten nearly everything in sight and reproduce wantonly, causing landslides that wipe out the trees where seabirds nest, while dumping piles of dirt with the ferocity of a bulldozer into the sea, smothering and killing once pristine adjacent coral reefs. ...Read More

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