Showing posts from 2019

12 Birds of Tobago

Faraaz Abdool brings you twelve of Tobago’s birds. Enjoy these stunning photos of island residents in their common habitats. All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool; Trinidad Motmot by Joanne Husain

Tobago boasts some of the bird world’s most incredible representatives – a mixture of South America and the Caribbean with seasonal migrants from as far as the Arctic Circle. Coincidental confluences of southward migration and the Atlantic hurricane season bring to Tobago some Europeans as well. Exciting rarities aside, let’s look at some of the island’s most familiar inhabitants. 

Although Red-billed Tropicbirds don’t quite look like grizzled seafarers, they spend most of their life at sea. Dainty and delicate, they touch land only to breed, preferring uninhabited and often inhospitable offshore islands for protection from predators.. Lacking sharp talons or even an aggressive personality, Red-billed Tropicbirds are extremely vulnerable to human activity on their nesting grounds such as Little To…

Beaches of Tobago

Dr Anjani Ganase checks the health of beaches around Tobago. We are fortunate, she believes, that significant areas of the edge between land and sea remain undisturbed. But we also need to be mindful of how buildings and other structures can alter beach habitats. (All photos courtesy Anjani Ganase)

Beaches are areas of dynamic interaction between the ocean and the land. Ocean current, wind and waves erode rock and coral skeletons to produce sand that washes ashore. Not all beaches are sandy. Sometimes, beaches are pebbly or composed of coral rubble. We can tell a lot about our beaches and their surroundings from the sand. The colour of the particles and the sizes tell us about the marine habitats as well as the type of rock our islands are made from. Black sand beaches are formed from the erosion of volcanic rock, while white sand beaches come from the breakdown of corals, but there are green and pink sand beaches as well.
Beaches are important unique ecosystems with a lot of marine cr…

Consider Cruise Ships

Dr Anjani Ganase asks us to reflect on what is gained or lost when cruise ships come ashore to our islands.
Do cruise ships add or take away from the Caribbean? The cruise ship industry has boomed in the Caribbean over the last fifty years, transporting 500,000 passengers annually in the 1970s to over 20 million today. The increase in passengers corresponds to investments in engineering for bigger ships with better features and services. Over the years, cruise ships have increased in size at a rate of 90 feet every five years with the largest cruise ships today carrying over 6000 passengers. Cruise ships come with cinemas, sky diving simulators, rock climbing walls, wave riders and biking facilities along with the 24-hour all you can eat buffets on top of dining halls, bars and restaurants. It is more about the journey than the destinations! The majority of visitors come from the USA and Europe, and the most popular destinations are the Bahamas, Mexico and St Maarten. There is no doubt …

The Science of Sound for Reef Regeneration

Dr Anjani Ganase reviews a recent study where healthy reef sounds promote recovery and regeneration on degraded reefs
In a previous story, we discussed how noisy a coral reef is. (See The clicks and snaps of shrimp and crabs, and the grunts and the sighs of the many fish on the reef, may sound like white noise to us, but is easily deciphered by reef residents. Imagine walking through a city and hearing all the different sounds. The same way we differentiate sirens, street signals, chatter, construction, the fish can distinguish the noises on the reef.
Being able to hear these reef sounds is important for visitors navigating the reef; and very important for the recruitment of new coral and fish life to replenish stocks. Fish and coral larvae are attracted to the sounds that resemble a healthy bustling underwater reef city. Other areas that are more degraded with fewer reef residents will have limited sound cues …

Adventure in Bioluminescence

Duane Kenny is a Tobago adventure guide. Travel with him around Tobago from Pigeon Point to Charlotteville. Learn to “stand up paddle” (SUP) off Pigeon Point. Windsurf with his brother Brett at Radical Sports. In this adventure, Duane takes a small group to see the “lights in the lagoon” one moonless night. (This was first published in Newsday Tobago, November 28, 2019)

Take a night when moon is on the wane and endless rain has been falling on the mangroves.
Take four or five persons – the recommended minimum for a tour – who may not know each other too well: an artist, a practical do-it-fix-it man, a writer, a person helping humans with horses, and a non-swimmer. Put them together with an experienced guide.
We arrive at the Pigeon Point base of the Radical Sports Limited Tobago, where our tour guide for the evening is Duane Kenny. His briefing is casual but direct. We will all wear life jackets. We will all paddle; on no account should anyone just let the paddle go in the water. We are …

Wildfires and Climate Change

Our islands may have been paying closer attention to wildfires in recent dry seasons with precautions to eliminate them. However, fires raging across Australia, California and Brazil have been so numerous and extensive as to attract international attention. Dr Anjani Ganase looks at what might be affecting these.
In recent years, there has been a record number of wildfires occurring around the world, cycling through the northern and southern hemispheres to match the seasons of hot and dry conditions. For this year, Brazil lost over a million acres of rainforest to wildfire in August, while three million hectares of land burned in the Siberian wildfires affecting the air quality and health of numerous Russian cities. In October, parts of central and southern Africa were also ablaze along with over 6000 fires burning across California over 250,000 acres of land.Today, parts of Australia continue to burn as a result of over a hundred fires and over 300,000 acres being burned along the sou…

Leave me the birds and the bees ... please!

Like Joni Mitchell in her song “Big Yellow Taxi,” Faraaz Abdool pleads for his beloved birds: not many will survive the onslaught of toxic chemicals used to rid backyard gardens and agri-holdings of pests. What should we be doing to protect the crops? All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool Let’s not debate what makes a pest a pest. Instead, let’s figure out how we decide what is fit to be freely dispensed into the environment. There is a wide selection of bottles and cans available in your local plant or agro-shop – herbicides and pesticides and insecticides – which do the jobs of getting rid of weeds, “pests” and insects. First of all, do we take the time to read the labels? The sad truth is that most of us don’t, taking for granted that a sense of responsibility is the characteristic of the manufacturing industry; they wouldn’t produce anything to harm a living thing, would they? Almost immediately after my neighbour cracks a container of insecticide or kerosene, the nauseating odors over…