April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

The first book from Les Fruits de Mer is available on Saint Martin and via mail order. For more info, visit The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin in the guides section of this site.



April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Yesterday afternoon I went on a quick expedition to the lagoon area off the north beach of Pinel with Pauline from the Réserve Naturelle. Our goal was to check the elkhorn corals to see if there were broken pieces suitable for transplanting. Elkhorn corals are both prone to breakage and often do well when transplanted.

At the large elkhorn we located we found a very interesting scene. The main colony was large and healthy. There were a couple pieces I had wedged into the dead coral substrate on an earlier visit as well as a number of other pieces on the sea floor. While a few of these were loose, many of them had managed to affix themselves and were growing in the areas down-current from the main colony. Most surprising was one particularly large branch that had affixed itself upside-down with the broken part at the top.

It was encouraging to see how well the coral was colonizing naturally with the broken pieces, but we also planned to visit the site regularly. Even though many pieces had successfully reattached, it is unclear what the percentage of successful reattachment is. It is possible that the dozen successes are just a small subset of the total number of broken pieces. A bit more ominous was the presence of a fair amount of algae in the lagoon, perhaps indicating an excess of nutrients that could be problematic for corals. More news to come!

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Little Key is a small islet that lies more or less along the ferry route to Pinel. Underwater, it has a nice, shallow reef on the side that faces away from St. Martin, making it worth the swim from Pinel for a little snorkeling as long as you’re careful about watching for boat traffic. Right now, the islet is also a roosting area for dozens of brown pelicans, the largest group I’ve seen on the island. Apparently this flock has been going back and forth between Little Key and Étang Chevrise near Orient Bay. I took a few photos while I was out there, but unfortunately didn’t notice a drop of water on my lens.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

After a few weeks of not being able to head out with the hiking club on Sunday morning, I was more than ready to get back into the swing of things. Luckily, this hike did not disappoint. Although the first part, through the Dawn Beach and Guana Bay areas, was too developed for my liking, the Geneve Bay and Back Bay area is probably the best part of the entire Dutch side. It’s a long strip of coastline with two large bays that is almost entirely undeveloped (depending on where you are, there are at most one or two houses visible on the hills in the distance). This walk also took us past the lovely natural pool at Back Bay.

Finishing up near Pointe Blanche, there is unfortunately a large, presumably illegal, dumping area. I guess in some ways it is representative, a beautiful coastline stretches out behind a pile of rusty metal and tires…welcome to Saint Martin!

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

After a few weeks of very limited island excursions, I took a quick walk down the airport road to see what was new. I found a few birds by the salt pond, including a green heron that seemed to still have a few downy tufts on its head. There was also a dead brown pelican. I checked to see if there were plastics in the body cavity, but didn’t find any. Investigations further down the road turned up a number of spiders and insects.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Many, perhaps most, of the recent acquisitions at the zoo have been donated or rescued animals. Currently, there are three baby raccoons that were captured near the port at Pointe Blanche in the southeast part of the Dutch side. The mother was found dead, and some workers brought the babies over to the zoo. They were somewhat sickly and malnourished, but after a vet checkup and deworming they seem to be doing quite well.

The origin of raccoons on the island is a bit of a mystery. They may have originally come as pets from Guadeloupe, or perhaps were brought over even earlier by Amerindians. The first official sighting was in 1957. Sightings in the wild have traditionally been rare, but seem to be increasingly common.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

We made our first trip to survey for turtle tracks a few days ago at the beaches of Grandes Cayes and Petites Cayes. There were no turtle tracks, but it was still a lovely morning. It was strange to see many tents on the beach at Grandes Cayes, but later we learned that although camping is not permitted, it is such a tradition on the island to do so over Easter weekend that it is not necessarily stopped over the holiday.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Here are a few critters I found at Hope Estate while Jenn was doing some shopping. In addition to the insects and spider photographed below, I also saw what I think were some house sparrows, which would be the first time I’ve noticed them anywhere but the Airport on the Dutch side. Also, note the crab spider in the photo of the cassius blue, which I didn’t notice until I was reviewing my photos after the fact.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

After investigating the burned hillside around Cul-de-Sac, I spent a little time on the forested boulder field that is at top of Red Rock. To be more specific, I believe it was the peak just a few hundred meters south of Red Rock. The view was lovely, and it was quite convenient to investigate the insects in the tree tops because many of the boulders were tall enough to reach the canopy.

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April 25th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Last month I posted about a large fire that burned much of the hillside in Cul-de-Sac near the dump. Other obligations kept me from visiting the area as much as I would have liked after the fire, but I have been able to make a few visits to take photos of how the area has progressed after the fire.

The first set of photos is from late March, nineteen days after the fire. Very little regrowth had happened so far, although a few grasses had begun to sprout, probably from roots that survived the fire.

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Forty-three days after the fire, in the lower areas of the hills, grasses were growing more and some of the shrubs that were not killed by the fire, like the apple of Sodom in the photos below, were growing new leaves and flowers.

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The next day, I took a little more time to explore, taking advantage of the burned area to head towards the top of the peak just to the south of Red Rock. Higher on the slope, there was knee-high grass in abundance, although the walk was still much easier than it will be in a month when the grass is much higher. Most of the grasses were clearly growing from roots that survived the fire, with burned stalks amidst the new growth. Forested pockets remained in some ravine areas, particularly where boulders formed a barrier to the fire. Presumably these pockets make it much easier for animals to recolonize the burned areas. At the very top of the hill, the burned area ends, presumably stopped again by the large boulders.

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