Category: Wildlife

My Favourite Bahama Blogs

Last week, a Little House by the Ferry reader wrote to ask what Bahamas-related blogs or websites I follow. It was a great question, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites…

Out Island Boy: my cousin Evan Lowe’s blog, memorializing our Bahamian family history. (If your roots are in Abaco, it’s likely your family history, too.)

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Spotted Dolphins (Photo: Rolling Harbour)

Rolling Harbour: Though its primary focus is the abundant wildlife and bird populations around Abaco’s Delphi Club, this fascinating and colourful blog features a wide range of Abaco-related topics.

GTC 101: Playing Here (Part Three: Land and Water Sports)

This is the seventh installment in the series, Green Turtle Cay 101: A Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here, Dining Here and Playing Here.

Beyond boating and fishing, sunbathing and sandcastle building, visitors to Green Turtle Cay enjoy access to a variety of land and water sports.

WATER SPORTS

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Tom snorkels with young sharks during a day trip with Lincoln Jones.

The Pig Whisperer of Green Turtle Cay

z IMG_9137 222You won’t find it on any map, but Piggyville is fast becoming a favourite day-trip destination for Abaco visitors. Named for the feral pigs set loose there in recent years, Piggyville is located on tiny No Name Cay, just south of Green Turtle Cay.

Though wild hogs certainly exist on the Abaco mainland, they’re far less common on the cays. So how did these pigs get to No Name Cay? I’ve heard several theories around Green Turtle, but nobody knows (or will admit to knowing) for sure.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, no name cay, pigs

Craig and Jan Russell

A couple of years ago, Green Turtle Cay resident and long-time animal lover Craig Russell began hearing stories about pigs on No Name Cay. About a year ago, he went to see them for himself. Recognizing that the animals had limited access to food and fresh water, Craig (often accompanied by his wife, Jan) began making twice-weekly trips to No Name to care for them.

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Earlier this month, Craig and Jan invited me to come along on one of their trips. Watching Craig interact with the pigs, its easy to understand why some Green Turtle Cay locals refer to him as the Pig Whisperer. He has organized the beach where the pigs congregate, creating separate areas (and providing containers for) for food and fresh water, and posting signs for visitors.

As soon as we arrived at the beach, Craig sought out each of the six pigs — a sow and five piglets — to ensure all were healthy and accounted for. Several times during our visit, I watched him seek out the runt to be sure she got her share of food and water, and to treat her to an extra apple or corn cob.

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A new Piggyville sign, made for Craig and the pigs by local children.

Perhaps due to the popularity of their swimming cousins in Exuma, the pigs on No Name Cay have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. In the hour or so we were there, at least seven different boatloads of visitors pulled up to visit with, feed and photograph the pigs!

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Though looking after the pigs costs Craig in terms of fuel and boat maintenance — not to mention his time — he says the only help he really needs is contributions of food and water.

Here’s how you can help care for the pigs of No Name Cay:

  • Bring food and fresh water directly to Piggyville. According to a Berryman Institute report I found online, feral pigs are “opportunistic omnivores.” They’ll eat virtually anything – vegetation, meat, eggs, insects, etc. Craig says the No Name Cay pigs don’t eat onions or meat with bones (boneless is fine), and they’re not terribly fond of citrus fruit. However, they love bananas, apples, grapes, corn and carrots. (For obvious reasons, be sure all food is relatively fresh and water is clean.)z IMG_9071 222
  • Plan your Piggyville visit during off-peak times. At this time of year, fewer people visit No Name Cay mid-week than on weekends, and hardly anyone visits during the fall and winter. These are the times when Craig and the pigs could most use a little help.
  • While we were on No Name Cay, I noticed that though most people who came to see the pigs brought food, few if any brought fresh water. Please consider bringing along a gallon or two when you visit. Containers for fresh water are located perhaps 30 feet or so left (south) of the food area.

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  • Food, water or cash donations can be dropped off at Craig’s home on Green Turtle Cay (second house north of Abaco Yacht Services, the same side of the street as the boat yard, with a white picket fence.)
  • If you own or work for a restaurant or food store on the Abaco mainland or the cays, please consider donating over-ripe produce, leftover meat, baked goods or other food scraps to the pigs.
  • Forward a link to this story to anyone you think might be able to help, and encourage them to lend a hand.

To assist in other ways (corporate support, anyone…?), or to learn more about the No Name Cay pigs, drop me an email and I’ll forward Craig’s contact info to you.

One final but important note. Similar to the sharks, rays and barracudas we encounter in Abaco, the No Name pigs are wild creatures. Though unlikely to bite or attack without provocation, they’re certainly capable of doing so. As such, they should be approached with caution and common sense.

Related: The Pig Whisperer Needs Your Help, No Name Pigs Need Water

The Best Laid Plans…

Well over a year ago, I spotted this bird feeder in a store in Pasadena and had to have it. Pineapples are a traditional Loyalist symbol of hospitality, and I thought this one would look great in the garden at Fish Hooks.bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, birds, bird feeder, pineappleI bought the feeder, wrapped it in a mountain of tissue paper and piles of packing popcorn, and shipped it all the way from L.A. to Green Turtle Cay. Once I arrived and had settled in, I took the ferry from the cay to the Abaco mainland and drove 30 minutes each way to Marsh Harbour to buy a hook from which to hang the feeder, and seeds with which to fill it.

This past Saturday afternoon, I walked around the garden, looking for just the perfect place to hang it. I finally decided on a spot not too close to the house (my Mom says birdseed can attract vermin) and yet within view of the kitchen. 

I poured in the birdseed, placed the feeder on the hook and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Three days later, a grand total of ZERO birds have shown interest.

Ungrateful wretches.

Please Help Save Nunki

bahamas, abaco, wild horses, nunki, barbs, spanish colonial

Nunki, the last remaining Abaco Barb. (Photo courtesy of Arkwild/Wild Horses of Abaco Preservation Society.)

Nunki is a horse. Not just any horse, but the world’s only remaining Abaco Barb. And she desperately needs help.

Nunki’s ancestors — Spanish Barbs (aka Spanish Colonial horses) originally brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus six centuries ago — were transported by logging companies from Cuba to Abaco in the late 19th century.

For decades, these Abaco Barbs roamed free, and their population grew to 200 or more. In recent years however, hurricanes, fires and development have destroyed their habitat and all but eradicated the breed.

Since 1992, through her organizations Arkwild (a registered U.S. 501C charity) and the Wild Horses of Abaco Preservation Society (a Bahamian non-profit organization, also known as WHOA), Milanne Rehor has tirelessly worked to protect the few remaining Abaco Barbs.

Sadly, in the last several years, two mares and a stallion have died, leaving Nunki alone. Since there are very few Spanish Barbs remaining in the New World (or even in Spain), Nunki is literally one of the last horses on the planet with this genetic lineage.

To save the breed, a critical project is underway to harvest Nunki’s eggs and fertilize them with sperm from a DNA-compatible stallion. Resulting embryos will be implanted in surrogate mares, who’ll deliver their foals on Abaco soil, where in time, they will hopefully bring Abaco Barbs back from the brink of extinction. This project shows great promise and experts say Nunki is an excellent candidate for egg harvest.

Unfortunately, Nunki has recently taken ill. The good news is that her condition is highly treatable, and there are top equine vets prepared to donate their time and expertise to help. The bad news? Arkwild and WHOA must raise funds to cover the vets’ travel, accommodation and on-island transportation.

Please, please help save Nunki and her desperately endangered breed. Here’s how:

  • DONATE TODAY via the Arkwild website. Every single dollar helps. (And it’s tax deductible if you’re in the U.S.)
  • Spread the word by sharing this page with anyone who might be able to make a financial donation or offer travel and accommodations for the veterinarians.
  • Contact Arkwild/WHOA immediately at 242.577.4573 or info@abacohorses.com if you can supply travel or accommodations for the vets.

And for updates on Nunki, visit Arkwild/WHOA’s Facebook page.

bahamas, abaco, wild horses, barbs, spanish colonial

Nunki (Photo courtesy of Arkwild/Wild Horses of Abaco Preservation Society.)

Green Turtle Gulls

As a challenge to myself, on each trip to Green Turtle Cay, I choose a different subject to photograph. In the past, I’ve focused on flowers, beaches, sunrises and sunsets. During our latest visit, I chose seagulls.

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Compared with the fat, dirty-grey seagulls we see on the west coast, the gulls in Green Turtle Cay, with their bright white bodies and jet-black heads and tails, are the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, seagull, bird

Photographing birds presented a special challenge, since our dog, Wrigley, loves to chase them. I’d bring a bag of stale bread to the dock, toss bits of it at my feet and into the water, and race to get in a few good shots before Wrigley interfered.bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, seagull, bird

Yes, I know. I could have left him inside. But much as I enjoyed photographing the gulls, it was equally entertaining to watch Wrigley barreling down the dock, shooing the birds away and, just for spite, swiping their bread.

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Here — no thanks to Wrigley — are a few of my favourite shots.

Swimming With Whale Sharks

First, let me concede that the link between Green Turtle Cay and the video below is tenuous at best. Cancun and the Bahamas both skirt the Gulf of Mexico. And there are whale sharks in both regions. That’s all I’ve got. Still, this video is too cool not to share.

Earlier this month, our friends Winston and Jen took their daughters to Cancun, where they had the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. Afterward, their oldest daughter, 9-year-old Rebecca, used Winston’s GoPro footage to create this amazing five-minute video about her experience.

This video impresses me for several reasons, not the least is how calm Winston remains while watching his 55-pound daughter swim within arm’s reach of a 45,000-pound whale shark. I love how fearless Winston and Jen’s girls are, and what a terrific job Rebecca does at both documenting her experience and educating us about whale sharks. (I must admit, I didn’t know much about them before this video.)

Winston says Rebecca wants lots of kids to see this video, so please do share it with the young (and young-at-heart) folks in your life.

Congratulations, Rebecca, on a job well done!

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