Showing posts from August, 2019

Where Atlantic meets Caribbean

Here at the confluence of wild Atlantic and calm Caribbean, photographer-birder Faraaz Abdool finds a frenzy of feeding birds. Here, the St Giles group of islets and rocks off the north coast of Tobago are sanctuaries for these sea-faring residents. We departed Charlotteville under the blazing midafternoon sun, heading due north around the spit of land that marked the end of the world-famous Pirate’s Bay, also our point of departure from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The waves kicked up a bit and the water darkened substantially as we powered our twin-engine vessel “Fish Machine” over swells that seemed to become more and more well fed the further we got from mainland Tobago.   Well into the rollicking Atlantic Ocean, even the air itself smelled different. My good friend, fellow guide and self-described old sea-dog Zolani (of Frank’s Tours) advised that we relocate ourselves from the bow to the stern, given the new conditions. He didn’t need to

Coral Bleaching: Threats for Tobago and the Lesser Antilles

Ocean temperatures are reaching dangerous levels for coral reefs in the Caribbean, and international agencies have issued warnings. Dr Anjani Ganase, coral reef specialist, explains what these warnings mean for Tobago. What is coral bleaching? Corals form the foundation of our reef ecosystems by providing homes for an array of marine life. Corals are capable of building massive underwater structures because they form a special relationship with the microalgae that live inside the tissues of the coral. This is why corals are found in shallow well-lit tropical waters; the algae can photosynthesise using the sunlight and produce enough energy to supply both themselves and their coral host. In return, the coral provides the algae with a safe haven, storing the essential nutrients and removing the algae’s waste. The presence of the algae in the coral’s tissue makes coral reefs colourful and not transparent like their jellyfish cousins.  The breakdown of this relationship i

Knock! Knock!

Who’s there? Woody. Woody who? Would you like to know about these noisy birds that are sooner heard than seen? Faraaz Abdool considers Tobago’s avian jackhammers. See more from Faraaz at   Mention the word “woodpecker” and many of us recall a single image of a large black bird with a conspicuous red head. In fact, this general description has made certain species of woodpecker instantly recognizable and one of the easiest birds to identify in the world. We owe this to the popularity of the cartoon character “Woody Woodpecker”, an endearing animated version of the Pileated Woodpecker – a large and conspicuous resident of North America’s forested areas – that entertained generations since the 1940’s.  Woodpeckers are dramatic characters; much of their day is spent pounding their heads against the trunks and branches of trees in search of food items that can range from spiders to insect larvae. A hole is made in the bark, and the bird’s long, sticky and barbed t

Sea Level Rise and Small Islands

  As the earth warms, ice caps and glaciers melt, sea level rise is inevitable. Dr Anjani Ganase, marine scientist, wonders what is the monitoring and management plan for our islands’ coasts; urgently needed especially for low-lying communities around Tobago Although the impact of sea level rise as a result of global warming is less obvious to us on island ecosystems in the tropics, temperature rises in the polar regions result in very visible changes to the landscape and environment. For years, we have seen images of the lone polar bear on an isolated iceberg adrift. More recently, images of waterfalls cascading off the glacial cliffs and huskies wading through ice melt on a balmy 22 degree day remind us that the changes are accelerating. Ninety percent of sea level rise recorded in the last 40 years resulted from a combination of melting glacial ice from the poles, rapidly melting ice sheets from Greenland (just under 2 million km 2 of it) plus the expansion

Crab Eggs and Acid Seas

Shaueel Persadee writes ocean parables for our times. These inhabitants of an undersea community are under threat from the world over which they have no control. Persadee is an education officer at the Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. He also writes a creative blog Claude and Pinchino scuttled across the reef, their spiked legs gripping and pulling them across corals and through the sand. Both were carrying gifts, small tokens held carefully between their pincers, for their friend who was expecting. Shelly’s eggs were supposed to hatch today and her two best friends, who were also crabs, were now hurrying toward her home in order to give her gifts. Claude carried a shiny trinket in the shape of an “S” that had fallen into the ocean from a human invention called a car, and Pinchino carried a seaweed blanket. By the time they arrived at the home, underneath a large staghorn coral, both were blowing bubbles while regaining their br