Photos and text by Emma Croes

 

“In Galisbay one day, I was observing, that dissident giant twisting and turning. Getting ready to make a dive, to snap up something to eat.” This is a quote from the poem “The Fall of the Pelican” written by Serge Tuder and translated into English by D. Jeffrey Razafindrainibe and published in 1978.

 

In Simpson Bay, just recently, I was observing the same thing. A lone pelican was flying back and forth along the beach, carried by the ocean breeze. I was struck by its beauty and I tried to capture its image in pixels with my camera.

 

After my photo session, I realized that I actually didn’t know much about the Brown Pelican or Pelicanus occidentalis. Yes, I knew that it was St. Maarten’s national bird, that it ate fish and that it was supposed to be brown- coloured. But that was about all.

 

So I did some research on this magnificent creature. I visited Philipsburg Jubilee Library, I looked online, I watched a documentary named “Pelican Dreams” by Judy Irving (2014), and I asked Nature Foundation a few questions based on their St. Maarten Pelican Project Report (2011).

 

What I found out is that you can tell a young pelican apart from an older pelican by its colour. Young pelicans are fully brown. When they get older, their heads become kind of spotted with white feathers. Grown-ups have a white head, neck and throat with yellow highlights, their amazing wingspan of up to 7.5 feet in length still showcases the tell-tale brown feathers associated with its name. They should weigh more than 3.5 kilograms and, like all pelicans, they have very long bills. (For those of you who do not know what bill means, it’s another word for beak.)

 

The Brown Pelican’s dive is very unique in the way they seem to plummet down from startling heights into the water. The hunt starts by making a circle until the pelican spots its prey. Then it starts to bank and turn, and when the dive is fully initiated, the wings are folded in closer to the body with a tucked in neck. The chest of the pelican protects it from the hard impact on the water; it works kind of like an airbag. The impact stuns the fish, making it possible for the pelican to scope it up and swallow it whole. All in all, an efficient method of fishing.

 

According to Nature Foundation’s Pelican Report, the Brown Pelican is not doing so well. Its numbers have decreased steadily since the 1960s and 70s. This coincides with the increase in seafront development that started around that time, resulting in habitat destruction. However, this is not the only reason for the Brown Pelican’s predicament. Other reasons are the decline in the number of fish in the sea, as well as garbage and discarded fishing material that can be found in the waters, endangering the pelican’s habitat.

 

A few important habitats, including the pelican nesting grounds, have remained intact on St. Maarten are thus far. These include Divi Little Bay, Great Bay, Molley Beday and near islets, and the Pelican-Simpson Bay area. Molley Beday is one of the little islands of the eastern shore that, together with Pelican Rock and Hens & Chicks, provides favoured nesting grounds for the Brown Pelican. These tiny islets have been allocated as Important Breeding Areas (IBA).

 

In 2011, Nature Foundation organized a pelican count to determine its numbers. They counted a total of 339 that included eight chicks and 35 sub adults. The breeding season of the Brown Pelican on St. Maarten starts at the beginning of June and runs through to the end of August, with a peak at the end of July. Both parents take care of the chicks that are totally dependent on them. This requires a lot of fishing by both parents to keep the chicks, as well as themselves, fed. The decline in the fish population has made this very difficult for the grown-ups, and as such the number of chicks becoming sub adults has decreased as well.

 

However, there is hope for the Brown Pelican. Nature Foundation states that the imposed fishing restrictions at Man of War Shoal Marine Park seem to have resulted in an increased number of fish. They are currently monitoring the reefs, including the Marine Park, and their results will be published hopefully at the beginning of next year.

 

Nature Foundation also spoke in their 2011 report of initiating a fishing-line recycling program, in order to keep fishermen from discarding their fishing materials. In an invited comment, Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern, Project Officer at the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, stated that Nature Foundation “always promotes recycling and reusing; however, the government needs to set up proper recycling as we cannot do this. Whenever we find fishing equipment, we take it off the reefs and dive schools do the same for us.”

 

This year, Nature Foundation has been very active with their “Save the Sharks” project. I was curious how this project would benefit the Brown Pelican. Melanie told me that sharks are keeping the fish population healthy and they are very important for our reefs. “If we do not have sharks, we do not have a healthy ocean or coral reefs, and we would also lose many fish. By keeping a healthy fish population, we help pelicans [by protecting] their main food source. No fish, no pelicans.”

 

Each year, Nature Foundation is called to rescue Brown Pelicans in apparent distress. The total number of rescues differs per year, but it involves a few each year nonetheless. When people see a pelican in trouble, they can always call Nature Foundation. Sometimes, however, the cause is a natural one, like old age. Nature Foundation hopes to conduct another St. Maarten Pelican project to establish new numbers and to require new insights in the near future. Nevertheless, we can all do our best to prevent further habitat destruction in the immediate future by being more aware of all that lives on land and sea.

 

My name is Emma Croes and I am 11 years old. I got interested in photography when I was eight. For the last year, I have been able to practice my skill at Player Development as the team photographer. I am particularly interested in sports and nature photography.

Participation in the IACA Archaeology Congress, St. Croix, USVI

An article compiled by students of SIMARC (St. Maarten) and SABARC (Saba)

 

Sint Maarten Archaeological Center SIMARC is a community-based, non-profit group of local high school students, founded and directed by Dr. Jay Haviser since 2005. Saba Archaeological Center SABARC is also a community-based, non-profit group whose director is Dr. Ryan Espersen. Since 2012, SIMARC has been the official depository for archaeological artefacts collected during fieldwork that has been carried out in St. Maarten. It is also where we do our lab work and have heritage educational lectures for students and the broader community. Established in 2012, SABARC has its office in the Saba Heritage Center, complete with an artefact laboratory, artefact storage area, and educational display cases.

 

IACA is the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. It is the largest gathering of professional and amateur archaeologists from the Caribbean and overseas, who work and have an interest in the archaeology of the Caribbean region. The Congress of the IACA is hosted in a different Caribbean country every two years – in 2015, it was on St. Maarten; and from July 24 to 29 this year, it was held at Divi Carina Bay Resort in St Croix.

 

Two students from SIMARC, Soma Persaud and Tisiana Hart, along with two students from SABARC, Hylke Van Der Velde and Donald Hassell, were selected to participate in the IACA congress as representatives of the two organizations. They began preparations a month prior to the conference by gathering information about current research and findings on the islands of St. Maarten and Saba.

 

The preparation for this IACA presentation allowed them to show their understanding of the scientific methods required for heritage research, review what work they have done over the last two years, while the conference participation also allowed for a great crossover exposure and experience with professional experts in the field.

 

The students not only attended the congress, but also made a joint SIMARC-SABARC presentation to the assembled archaeologists. They got the opportunity to attend receptions and fieldtrips. These experiences helped them to learn about the history of the island of St. Croix. They visited many historical sites as well as the botanical garden.

During this IACA participation, they also got the opportunity to exchange knowledge and information with fellow archaeologists and local St. Croix high-school students attending the congress. “We hope that from this new youth networking, we can maybe someday have a youth exchange with students from St. Croix,” they expressed.

 

Over the last year, SIMARC has taken a creative approach with a re-enactment video which was used to fulfil our goal of saving our heritage and historical sites of St. Maarten. “By using our voices as youths to speak up through video [we hope to achieve our] overall goal to educate and provide the community with insight on what SIMARC is, and what we do to help protect and educate about our island heritage.”

 

What do SIMARC/SABARC groups do for their communities?

“We create bonds between the local high-school students and the island communities, with a development of knowledge and pride in our heritage. We also help improve economic growth through heritage tourism, as we document and sometimes repair damaged historic sites, we plant trees and, as with this IACA trip, we travel abroad, spreading the word of our pride in heritage. By setting future goals, purpose and value are added to our time and efforts. We focus not only on present projects, but also on what we would like to see to develop for the betterment of our organization.

 

“The first and foremost future goal we wish to achieve is positive recognition. Not just recognition on a local level, not even on a regional level – the aspiration is to have an international presence in the global community. To achieve this goal, we wish to increase our collaboration on projects with interested organizations. We also find it necessary to have our image spread on the Internet; hence, it is our goal to start being active on social media.

 

“Additionally, some other future goals are as follows: Making signs for important sites of heritage information, compare historic grave headstones between St. Maarten and Saba, interview elders around the island about our culture, and continue developing our networks around the Caribbean and abroad. Lastly, we hope to diversify the student population in our group, and just be role models for other youths.”

 

In order to participate in this important IACA travel, SIMARC and SABARC greatly appreciate the direct sponsorship from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (Caribbean region), Be The Change Foundation, AirStMaarten, and indirectly from the governments of Saba and St. Maarten through annual operational subsidies.

Are you or someone you know caring for a loved one with health challenges? If so, you probably need information, encouragement and support. Luckily, this is coming your way soon.

Care for You Professional Nursing & Consultancy Company is offering a series of low-cost workshops starting on Monday, September 4. The workshops will be held at the White and Yellow Cross Building in St. John’s Estate and each session will run from 5:30 to 8:00pm.

The first workshop addresses the basics of caring for a sick or elderly person. These basic care essentials include how to bathe a bedridden person, including washing their hair in bed, helping them to take a shower and ensuring proper oral care and hygiene. In addition, professional nurses will instruct the workshop attendees on how to make home remedies for a painful mouth.

The following workshop, two days later on Wednesday, September 6, will focus on the chronic problem of pressure wounds and bedsores. There will be information about how to dress and care for such wounds, as well as how to prevent pressure wounds. Workshop attendees will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of bedsores.

The third workshop with a nutrition theme will be held on September 11. Attendees will hear about what kinds of nutrition is best for health and maintenance of the body’s systems.

September 13 will be the final session in this round of workshops. It’s dedicated to the positive mental and psycho-social health of both the patient and the caregiver.

Each workshop is priced at US $25. The Care for You professionals will offer the attendees of all four workshops a free, at-home demonstration on transfer techniques. This demo will be done by a local physical therapist.

Workshops have limited space, so register early by calling +1 (721) 581-5925 or 527-3445.

Sun rises at 5:58am

Sun sets at 6:27pm

Moon phase: second quarter, waxing to full

Moon sets at 3:16am, Saturday

Moon rises at 4:44pm, Sunday

 

Evening

This weekend we are blessed with an almost full moon; it will be truly full on Tuesday night. Look to the eastern sky after sunset. This will be the third and final full moon of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere. And in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s the opposite season, this September full moon counts as the third and final full moon of winter. Ah, symmetry!

 

Frequently, the September full moon is named the Harvest Moon, because the September full moon is – more often than not – the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. But in 2017, the October full moon actually occurs closer to the autumn equinox, so it’s this year’s Harvest Moon. When the September full moon is not the Harvest Moon, we commonly call it the Corn Moon.

 

When you’ve had your fill of the moon, turn your back on her and look westward. That brilliant “star” you see is actually Jupiter. Close by to our solar system’s largest planet, from our perspective, will be a couple of brilliant true stars: Spica (in Virgo), just below Jupiter, and Arcturus (in Bootes) above and to the right.

 

To the left or south of the Spica-Jupiter pair, about the same altitude as Arcturus, you can find Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Just above Arcturus and to the left is Saturn. Saturn, encircled by lovely rings of ice and rock, also has many moons. These have been visited by the spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2, and more recently the Cassini Probe. Cassini is there still, sending us photos and data about the moons, the rings and Saturn herself. NASA just announced they will send Cassini into the atmosphere of Saturn where she will burn up, as her power source is dying and they don’t want her to become space junk. The Voyager probes, on the other hand, flew past Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, and have left the Solar System, yet they still continue to send signals back, tiny postcards from humanity’s most distant traveller.

 

Early morn

Our friend Orion, the Hunter, is back. Orion is often the only constellation non-stargazers know, because the three stars in a row (his belt) are so easy to spot. The constellation of Orion graces the predawn sky every year in late July. By early September, Orion is rising in the wee hours and is well up in the southeast an hour before dawn. Orion will soon be up by midnight, then by 10:00pm… and by December, you’ll find it rising in early evening.

 

There’s nothing unusual about Orion’s shift from the predawn to the evening sky. This constellation is simply doing what all the stars do throughout the year – shifting westward. This is caused by Earth’s orbit around the sun. As we orbit the sun, our night sky points toward an ever-changing panorama of the Milky Way galaxy. It’s our orbit around the sun that causes all the stars to rise about four minutes earlier each night.

 

You can use Orion’s Belt to find Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog. Sirius is the brightest true star in the night-time sky. The familiar three-star belt points you directly to Sirius. Imagine a line extending from the belt’s three stars. Follow it to a very bright star, and that is Sirius. Canis Major rises above the eastern horizon just after Orion does, about 2:45am.

 

Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email lisa@thedailyherald.com

Sun rises at 5:56am

Sun sets at 6:30pm

Moon phase: first quarter, waxing crescent

Moon sets at 10:06pm, Saturday

Moon rises at 11:07am, Sunday

 

Well, we certainly did have a great experience with the partial solar eclipse last Monday (check the composite photo taken by Emma Croes at the Little League Field in Philipsburg). I know a lot of folks unfortunately didn’t get the protective glasses as the island did run out rather quickly – apparently so did the U.S. Remind me to buy stock in the Optical Paper Company before the next eclipse! Now let’s look forward to tonight’s starry sky, graced by the dim light of the new moon, and now that the pesky eclipse is over, we can break out the binoculars again and study the sky and its features.

 

Look to the west after sunset to see the moon in its skinny stage, a thin crescent which will wax, or get fatter, each night until it’s full on August 7. Nearby to the moon this weekend are Jupiter and the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo (Jupiter is on the right). Farther to the right is the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes.

 

Shift your gaze to the right, or north, and admire the Big Dipper and above and to the right is the Little Dipper with Polaris, the North Star, situated at the end of the dipper’s handle. The Big Dipper will set early in the night, about 8:30 to 9:30pm.

Shift your gaze to the left, or south, of the moon and up, you should be able to find the planet Saturn close to the bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Scorpius. Saturn is almost directly above Arcturus.

 

Here’s a bit of mental gymnastics for you 3-dimensional thinkers out there. When the moon is a waxing crescent as it is this weekend, what would someone on the moon see when looking at the earth? Hint: it’s the opposite phase. Answer? If the earthbound sky gazers see the moon in a waxing crescent phase, the moon’s theoretical inhabitants would find the earth to be in a waning gibbous phase.

 

While this admittedly points to 11 on the geekometer, it does help us understand why the unlit portions of the new moon sometimes seem to glow darkly. The sun’s light is being reflected off the bright earth and is illuminating that dark side of the moon. Just as we on earth bask in the gentle light of the full or gibbous moon on occasion, we get moonshine (not the liquor made by my ancestors) and the moon gets earthshine. Don’t forget, binoculars are back on the eyes for such sights. Enjoy with family and friends.

 

Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email lisa@thedailyherald.com

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