National Trust to open bird sanctuary

A flamboyance of flamingos wades in Malportas Pond in November 2014. The nine birds took up residence temporarily in North Side after being blown off course during a storm. - Photos: Gerardo Ochoa Vargas.

Birdwatchers and nature lovers may soon be able to get a little closer to the winged inhabitants and visitors of a North Side lagoon after the National Trust purchased land bordering Malportas Pond.

The trust, which bought 5.17 acres of shoreland at the site, plans to open a new gated bird sanctuary overlooking the pond.

According to the Trust, Malportas Pond is 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 pond is owned by the Crown and forms part of the Central Mangrove Wetland, an internationally recognised ‘Important Bird Area’. It is considered by bird-watchers to be a hot spot 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 Nadia Hardie, executive director of the National Trust in a press release. “We hope to create a flagship attraction for the enjoyment of both visitors and locals.”

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

“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,” Davey said. “Snowy egrets also utilise the mangrove island in the pond as an overnight roost. 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.”

The red lines show the 5.17 acre of land beside Malportas Pond which the National Trust has bought. – Map: Courtesy of the National Trust

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 journey from southern South America to northern Canada.

The land and future bird sanctuary is protected in perpetuity from development under the National Trust Law.

The total land protected under the National Trust’s environmental programme is 3,531 acres.

– Photos: Gerardo Ochoa Vargas.

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