I have just returned to Shetland after my sabbatical on the uninhabited desert islands of Santa Luzia and Raso in Cape Verde. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to help the Cape Verde NGO Biosfera 1 in their conservation work (check out the saving species blog).
The archipelagoes are thousands of miles apart, but in many ways closer than you may think. I've been home a week now and am reminded of similarities between Shetland (60N) and Cape Verde (16N).
Generally, it is pretty windy at Sumburgh Head...
and constantly windy at Santa Luzia (albeit somewhat warmer!).
There can be threats from marine industries.
Fortunately, the cargo ship which came ashore on Santa Luzia did not cause any oil pollution,
unlike the Braer in 1993, a couple of miles from Sumburgh Head.
Long-term monitoring of seabird productivity and collection of biometrics is very important to help understand the health of species and the marine ecosystem.
Like on Mousa - where it's pretty nippy and if the sun pays a visit it's a welcome treat...
... or on Raso, where you need to get the work done by 11am to avoid the sun!
Seabird chicks are adorable!!
Proved by the storm petrel on Mousa
and this Cape Verde shearwater on Raso.
There's any number of other similarities - the importance of islands for migrating birds like turnstones, sanderlings and whimbrels; striking the balance for managing our seas for nature and economics; biosecurity (all land mammals are introduced both Shetland and Cape Verde); friendly people, passionate about wildlife; the constant problem of marine pollution from litter (it drives me crazy!!); the effects of climate change and more. I've been reminded that the day-to-day choices we make in our lives have global impacts.
I'll leave you with a small world story, connecting the work of the RSPB and nature reserves of Mousa with Santa Luzia by an invisible line.
One evening towards the end of our time on Santa Luzia, Juan and I were standing in our camp, pictured below with yachts in the distance, having a couple of biscuits.
The only people we ever saw on Santa Luzia were the fishermen that used the island. So we were surprised when a friendly looking couple approached the camp. Once they were close, the woman looked at me and became rather animated and excited. Both Juan and I thought "it must be the bisuits" so I offered her the packet and she declined say "Do you remember?! Do you remember?!" Then, the penny dropped - it was lovely people who I had met on Mousa in 2010 for an educational nature documentary!! What are the chances of that! You can visit the blog of the Pakea Bizkaia team to see their reaction to the coincidence and find out more about their work. There's photographs from Mousa and Cape Verde, as well as many other shores and seas.
Unfortunately, my camera batteries ran out so I couldn't get more than a couple of photos. I was ridiculously excited and delighted to meet with Andrea, Unai, Gonzalo again and to meet their new team. It is a memory that will stay with me forever and I wish them all the very best with their unique and ambitous environmental adventure.
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