May 3, 2019

National Trust Plans to Open North Side Bird Sanctuary

The National Trust has plans to open a new gated bird sanctuary overlooking Malportas Pond, a large shallow lake located in North Side, after purchasing 5.17 acres of shoreland bordering the pond. 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 itself is owned by the Crown and forms part of the Central Mangrove Wetland, an internationally-recognised Important Bird Area. It is considered by birders to be a hotspot for shorebirds, 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. “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. He added: “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. 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.”

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 will forever be protected from development under the National Trust Law (1997 Revision). The total land protected under the National Trust’s environmental programme is 3,531 acres.