National Trust to create North Side bird sanctuary

| 05/05/2019
CNS Local Life
Flamingo at Malportas Pond, which is an important feeding site for resident and migratory birds

(CNS Local Life): The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is planning a new gated bird sanctuary overlooking Malportas Pond in North Side that will provide public access for viewing a range of resident and migratory birds, which depend on the area for feeding. Nadia Hardie, Trust executive director, estimates the project will cost about $55,000 and take a year to complete once funding is in place.

The area for the sanctuary was secured after the purchase of 5.17 acres of shoreland bordering the pond, one of a series of landlocked saline lagoons throughout the Cayman Islands, which are vitally important feeding sites for a range of resident and migratory herons, egrets, waders, ducks and other water birds.

The migratory path for the birds begins in Tierra del Fuego, off the southern tip of South America, with a stop in Cayman to feed and revitalise before continuing on their journey to the Arctic.

“If this site wasn’t protected, there would be severe ramifications for these very important migratory birds,” Hardie told CNS.

The pond is owned by the crown and forms part of the Central Mangrove Wetland, an internationally-recognised Important Bird Area. It is considered by birders to be a hotspot for shore birds, herons and ducks in the Cayman Islands.

“Our vision is to create a gated bird sanctuary, complete with a bird hide, interpretive signage and telescopes for use by the public,” said Hardie. “We hope to create a flagship attraction for the enjoyment of both visitors and locals.”

CNS Local Life
Young least tern at Malportas Pond

To begin with, the Trust will undertake some relatively inexpensive and easy first steps. “We will start by installing chain-link fencing to secure the perimeter and prevent people from fly tipping,” Hardie said. “We also have to clean up the trash that has already been dumped there, which is heartbreaking to see.” The Trust will also be putting in a marl parking area for visitors.

“There are two areas that are prime locations for the bird hides, with beautiful angles to view the pond,” she said, adding that the Trust will be contacting the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for advice on what type of hide to put in, which she hopes to build at a good height for observing the birds.

The plan also includes benches for visitors. “We want it to be an oasis; it is such a peaceful spot,” Hardie said. The Trust may also install solar lighting.

Peter Davey, chairman of the Trust’s Environmental Advisory Committee and a founding member of the organisation, was instrumental in identifying the site as a place of environmental importance and in acquiring the site.

“In recent years, the pond’s importance has escalated for Grand Cayman’s population of the endangered West Indian whistling duck, which breeds in the fringing mangroves. Snowy egrets also utilise the mangrove island in the pond as an overnight roost,” Davey said. “The shores of the pond are important breeding grounds for least terns, whose numbers in the Cayman Islands are reported to be declining due to habitat loss and predators.”

Migratory visitors have included flamingos, roseate spoonbills and, just a few weeks ago, six avocets. The section of environmentally-sensitive land acquired by the National Trust is also known to be frequented annually by some 500 white-rumped sandpipers which visit during their 9,000-mile migration from southern South America to northern Canada.

Since the site is such an important area for birds, the Trust will look to apply for grants to help pay for the sanctuary, Hardie said, adding they will also seek corporate sponsors and donations from some of the “very keen birders in Cayman” who would then be able to put their name on the project.

The land and future bird sanctuary will forever be protected from development under the National Trust Law (1997 Revision). The total land protected under the National Trust’s environmental programme is 3,531 acres.

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Category: Environment

Comments (3)

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  1. Kman says:

    Positive news and so long overdue and hope this a precedent for more similar reserves/sanctuaries to be created in Cayman. With the UN report that 1million spieces are on the brink of extinction we in Cayman need to address this issue urgently and effectively.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Time for the establishment of a Green Party in Cayman. Too many Kurt Tibbetts types in the Cayman political system, who don’t give a damn about the environment. Caymanians need to wake up.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have fixed feelings about this project. Malportas Pond was protected in the 1980s and was meant to have a buffer of 300ft around it from the beginning. But that buffer was taken away by former MLA Kurt Tibbetts among others in 2007ish. It means that the National Trust has had to give money from their charity to private landowners to buy land that was protected but that protection was removed by our politicians and their greed. It is amazing that the National Trust has stepped up to buy that land but sad that they had to do it in the first place, and sadder still when looking at what our politicians want to do to the NCL.