Tucked away off Shamrock Road just east of George Town, a small bird sanctuary provides a toehold of serenity for local and visiting birds.
The Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary, known locally as Governor’s Pond, at just 2.25 acres is not large in size, but does have a significant impact in its role as nesting grounds and home to a variety of bird species including moorhens, herons and egrets, grebes, ducks, rails, plovers, sandpipers, terns, pigeons and doves, kingfishers, woodpeckers, kingbirds and flycatchers, vireos, warblers and grassquits.
The reserve, a National Trust property, is named in honor of Cayman’s governor from 1992 to 1995, who had a demonstrated commitment to conservation.
In an information sheet on the site, the Trust notes Governor Gore, who was an enthusiastic and expert wildlife photographer, was the Trust’s first patron, and established the Governor’s Fund for Nature, which had by the end of his tenure raised more than US$250,000, complementing the Trust’s own Land Reserve Fund dedicated to preserving the unique habitats of local plants and animals.
Members of the Cayman Islands Bird Club initially brought to light the astonishing variety of bird life that visited the small pond, with over 60 species – representing a quarter of all the bird species native to the Cayman Islands – observed there at one time or another.
“The Pond’s popularity with the birds is seasonal, with greatest activity during the dry season when this may be the only substantial body of fresh water for some distance,” the information sheet notes, highlighting the impact of surrounding land development on Cayman’s birds.
“The area around the Sanctuary was a seasonally flooded grassland maintained for grazing, with fresh water ponds scattered throughout. Residential development led to the filling of many of the wet and flooded areas, causing the waterbird population of a previously wide range to gather at the Governor’s Pond.”
Home to many birds, the site also attracts butterflies, hickatees, which are Cayman’s native freshwater turtle, and is populated with freshwater fish.
Hurricane Ivan totally destroyed the site, but its far-reaching fame may have helped in it being successfully revived thanks to funds from the Cayman Islands government, overseas grants and the private sector and individual donors.
“The Department of Tourism, BNP-Paribas Private Bank, a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Mrs. Patricia Bradley and the family of the late Mr. Arthur Biggs all contributed to the project,” the Trust notes.
Currently the site features a small boardwalk, viewing area, and an interpretive sign. It has become a popular stopover for bird enthusiasts, school groups, curious locals and visitors alike.
For more information on this and other National Trust properties please visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky