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Cahow chick hatches live on camera

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Viewers around the world were again able to watch a rare cahow hatch on Nonsuch Island over the weekend through the CahowCam project.

Jean-Pierre Rouja, the Nonsuch Expeditions team leader and CahowCam developer, said the chick began to hatch at about 10.30pm on Saturday.

He said: “The first hint that something was going on was a broken eggshell.

“Then, around 11.30pm, the chick’s head first appeared from under its parent. Progressively, throughout the night, more and more of it was revealed.”

The hatching was recorded live through a small hidden camera in the bird’s burrow and live-streamed to researchers and curious members of the public around the world as part of the CahowCam project, now in its seventh year.

Jeremy Madeiros, the senior terrestrial conservation officer, said the hatching came slightly early than expected.

Mr Madeiros said: “I could see the adult had returned during a stormy period in January when I had not been able to visit Nonsuch, so the egg was laid at the beginning of this period, not the end as thought.

“This brings the number of cahow chicks so far confirmed as hatching on Nonsuch to nine, with adults in four nests still incubating eggs.

“The total number of chicks confirmed on all nesting islands now is over 45, with more nest checks scheduled over the next week, weather permitting.”

He said that this year, researchers had embarked on a new initiative to track the cahows with nano-GPS devices to help learn where they are finding their food.

Mr Madeiros added: “In addition, there is concern that new proposals to carry out oil and gas exploration on the Continental Shelves may present a potential threat to the cahow and many other seabirds, as previous geolocator tagging indicated that cahows visit these areas regularly for foraging.

“In parallel, we are doing blood work to identify contaminants that they may be exposed to through their food, all of which will assist with the ongoing management of the species.”

Charles Eldermire, of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who partnered with Nonsuch Expeditions on the CahowCam project, is amazed by the project’s success.

He said: “It’s really a testimony to both the ongoing efforts of Jeremy and the Bermuda Government as well as the investment from Nonsuch Expeditions that our far-flung audience can now observe two sets of petrels.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, also celebrated the news yesterday.

He said: “I am so pleased to hear of another successful hatching at Nonsuch Island.

“I want to give a huge congratulations to the staff of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who work tirelessly — sacrificing their weekends and evenings — to help bring our national bird back from the brink of extinction.

“Thank you also to Nonsuch Expeditions for enabling these incredible moments to be captured on camera and shared with a worldwide audience.”

Cahows, endemic seabirds also known as the Bermuda petrel, were believed to have been wiped out by early colonists by the 1620s.

The species was rediscovered in 1951 when 18 nesting pairs were discovered on rocky islets on Castle Harbour.

Since then, the population has grown thanks to an “intensive management programme”.

Last year’s breeding season set several records, including 124 established breeding pairs, 71 fledged chicks and 15 new cahow pairs.

For more information, visit nonsuchisland.com