Author: Mark Yokoyama

Rebirth: Emma Croes (Age 11)

Player Development took a hard hit. Almost nothing was left of its clubhouse and facilities at the Little League Field in Philipsburg. This picture was taken when a group of kids and the coaches tried to salvage as much as possible from one of the over turned containers that used to be part of the clubhouse. This particular container housed all the books and most of the equipment used by the players and afternoon kids on a daily basis. Everything inside was tumbled and looked one big mess. It was a miracle that the kids found books in good condition among all the mess, but they did and they spontaneously started to read. Player Development found new ways to make a difference in children’s lives.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: Emma Croes (Age 11)

This is a picture of the new shoots of a macca pruimen tree (plum tree) in my yard. The tree is old and scarred and it was completely stripped of all its leaves by Hurricane Irma. Nevertheless, it showed its strength by quickly sprouting new leaves all over its tree trunk. A rebirth of life.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Welcome Back: Delta Petroleum

We’re excited to have Delta Petroleum as a returning sponsor of the Migratory Bird Festival! It makes us feel great that even during difficult times, they still feel this is an important event to support. Delta has been up and running since just after the storm, providing the fuel to help us rebuild.

You can join us for the festival on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the festival is free for all. Come learn about the birds that travel thousands of miles to come here each year and the habitats that they depend on. There will be fun activities for people of all ages. Get all the info on our website or on the Facebook event page. Invite your friends and family!

About Delta Petroleum
Founded in 1985, Delta serves the Caribbean with superior performance diesel, gasoline and LPG meeting U.S. and European standards. Delta is a proud and growing member of the communities from the Virgin Islands to Martinique. Delta Petroleum was a sponsor of many of our events.
http://deltapetroleum.com

Rebirth: Beverly Bonney

Ah yoo! No more Burger King. The people who hate to cook, go find your pot now. Irma can’t take this no more, boy! The girl was wicked bad.

To Burger King lovers, Come on down to their location on the Bush Road, they have reopened to serve you after that brutal attack by hurricane Irma. Hey! She can’t keep the tasty burgers, french fries with that vanilla smoothie down, no way! Irma not easy boy.

St. Maarten/ St. Marten strong

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: Emma Croes (Age 11)

These pictures were taken after Hurricane Irma when birds and animals had a hard time finding food and shelter within their natural habitat. I caught this little Suikerdiefje (yellow breast) longingly looking at the downed papaya tree which started to sprout some new leaves, but they were still too small to provide any kind of shelter.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: Emma Croes (Age 11)

When I see a rainbow it tells me the following things: that there is water, sunlight, colors and hope. This is all needed to sustain life. A rainbow is therefore a wonderful thing. Often people just admire its colors, but I see it different. Every time I see a rainbow I dream of a new life. Like Kermit the Frog sings: “The rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me”.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Welcome Back: Tri-Sport

We’re excited to have Tri-sport as a returning sponsor of the Migratory Bird Festival! It makes us feel great that even during difficult times, they still feel this is an important event to support. Tri-sport’s Simpson Bay location is currently open for all your biking and running needs.

You can join us for the festival on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the festival is free for all. Come learn about the birds that travel thousands of miles to come here each year and the habitats that they depend on. There will be fun activities for people of all ages. Get all the info on our website or on the Facebook event page. Invite your friends and family!

About Tri-Sport
Tri-Sport is the go-to shop for the active community of St. Maarten/St. Martin and the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Saba, Statia, and St. Barths. They run ecologically-friendly tours that get people out and moving – kayaking, bicycling, hiking, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. Tri-Sport’s retail shops carry all the necessities for triathlons with an emphasis on bicycles.
http://trisportsxm.com

Rebirth: F. Croes-de Vries

This picture is a reminder that all life is reborn through its offspring. The young follow in the footsteps of their elders and they follow their lead. Like the little turtle on the back of its parent moving its legs in exactly the same manner as its mother.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: F. Croes-de Vries

I have always loved grass, but it got even dearer to my heart after the passing of Hurricane Irma. Right after the storm, nature looked like I imagine it might look if St. Maarten knew winter. Everything was bare, no leaves on the trees and the hills were brown and stilted. Grass brought back life to the hills within the shortest amount of time, providing me with hope that all was not lost. To me grass and the color green now symbolize new life.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Still Hanging On

Extinction has always been a part of island life. Why are smaller islands home to fewer species? In part, because of extinction. Small islands have less habitat, so they have smaller populations of plants and animals. If something bad happens—a severe drought or terrible storm—these small populations are at risk.

On a continent, if a habitat is temporarily unlivable animals can move to a nearby place that is still okay. Once the habitat recovers, they can move back in. On an island, the sea blocks this kind of movement. If a species gets wiped out, it may be gone for good.

These natural extinctions are a key part of Caribbean ecology, but they are also rare. Without humans, extinctions and new colonizations of plants and animals balance each other out. Both happen rarely, and the mix of animals and plants on an island changes very slowly.

The Spotted Woodslave is found only on St. Martin.

Humans brought extinction with them when they arrived in the Caribbean. The first wave came as Amerindian people colonized the region. Evidence suggests that many prehistoric animals, like the giant sloth, Jamaican monkey and some large rodents died out during this time. The extinction of large animals after prehistoric hunters arrive in a new land is a pattern seen all over the world.

European colonization brought a second wave of extinction. The victims included smaller mammals, birds and reptiles. The introduction of foreign species—like rats and mongoose—led to many extinctions. The widespread clearing of land to grow sugarcane and other crops was also a key cause.

Today, the threat of extinction continues, with a new twist. On Dominica, the passing of Hurricane Maria set off a desperate search for the Sisserou, a parrot that lives only on that island. Before the hurricane, the population was estimated at just a few hundred. Scientists made an expedition to check on another rare bird, the Barbuda Warbler, after that island was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Animals native to the Caribbean have survived hurricanes for millions of years before people arrived. But things have changed. Many Caribbean animals are barely hanging on. A hurricane that might be a hardship to a healthy population could be the end of the line for a species already on the edge.

On St. Martin, it has been a relief to see the two lizards that live nowhere else in the world. The Bearded Anole is common and seems to be doing just fine. The Spotted Woodslave is more mysterious. It hides during the day, often under the peeling bark of a large tamarind tree. It survived, but many large tamarind trees were knocked down by Irma. This species should be watched more carefully, and the habitat it requires should be protected.

Will climate change bring a third wave of extinction to the Caribbean? Stronger and more frequent hurricanes will put many species at risk. Our best defense is to preserve habitat and boost populations of rare species between storms. The time to start that is now.

Welcome Back: Caribbean Paddling

We’re excited to have Caribbean Paddling as a returning sponsor of the Migratory Bird Festival! It makes us feel great that even during difficult times, they still feel this is an important event to support. Caribbean Paddling has reopened after Irma and is currently renting from Orient Bay.

You can join us for the festival on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the festival is free for all. Come learn about the birds that travel thousands of miles to come here each year and the habitats that they depend on. There will be fun activities for people of all ages. Get all the info on our website or on the Facebook event page. Invite your friends and family!

About Caribbean Paddling
As everyone on St. Martin knows, a trip to Pinel Island is the perfect way to spend the day. Renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Caribbean Paddling is the perfect way to get to get there. They even have a giant paddleboard for up to six people. Visit their website to see everything they have to offer.
https://caribbeanpaddling.com

Rebirth: F. Croes-de Vries

This picture was taken after Hurricane Irma when most surviving trees and scrubs were still trying to get their leaves back. I found this little cluster of plants with its little yellow flowers looking like a horizontal tree in full bloom, promising the return of life.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: Beverly Bonney

This is a quenip tree, it’s a local fruit on the island of st. Maarten/ st. Martin, a few hours after hurricane Irma devastated the island. With all the leaves gone and broken limbs, leaving it in such a horrible state. There was absolutely no mercy from Irma when she approached this once beautiful fruit tree which sheltered families and friends whenever they played dominoes.

Here’s the quenip tree now, three months after hurricane Irma, once again showing off her beautiful green leaves in style, although few of her limbs were broken by crazy Irma, she stand up tall and unbeatable” Irma, you were wicked and mean but I and stronger, a fighter, a survivor, determine to live”. I am St. Maarten/ St. Marten strong.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Rebirth: F. Croes-de Vries

When I hear the song Rise Up by Andra Day, this picture is what I visualize when she sings:

And I’ll rise up

I’ll rise like the day

I’ll rise up

I’ll rise unafraid

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times
And I’ll rise up

High like the waves

I’ll rise up

In spite of the ache

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again

For you

For you

For you

For you

We are born again each day, with each new sunrise, even when our lives seem to be filled with darkness and heartache, the sun will rise and shine its light on the promise of a new day, a new beginning.

This is an entry in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Our theme this year is Rebirth. View all the entries in the online gallery, learn more and find out how to enter here.

Welcome Back: Lagoonies Bistro & Bar

We’re excited to have Lagoonies Bistro and Bar as a returning sponsor of the Migratory Bird Festival! It makes us feel great that even during difficult times, they still feel this is an important event to support.

You can join us for the festival on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the festival is free for all. Come learn about the birds that travel thousands of miles to come here each year and the habitats that they depend on. There will be fun activities for people of all ages. Get all the info on our website or on the Facebook event page. Invite your friends and family!

About Lagoonies Bistro and Bar
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar serves food that is crazy good for breakfast, lunch and dinner and hosts some of the hottest live music on the island several nights a week. Located at Lagoon Marina in Cole Bay, they are easily accessible by land or sea.
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar

Welcome Back: BZSE

We’re excited to have BZSE as a returning sponsor of the Migratory Bird Festival! It makes us feel great that even during difficult times, they still feel this is an important event to support.

You can join us for the festival on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors the festival is free for all. Come learn about the birds that travel thousands of miles to come here each year and the habitats that they depend on. There will be fun activities for people of all ages. Get all the info on our website or on the Facebook event page. Invite your friends and family!

About BZSE Attorneys at Law
Quality, continuity and stability are the foundations of the personalized approach by BZSE. In both the civil law as well as in the tax practice, the attorneys and tax lawyers have many years of outstanding service in Sint Maarten. BZSE has grown into the largest law firm in Sint Maarten.
http://www.bzselaw.com

Pond Life Ebook Offers Preview of Migratory Bird Festival Stars

Download the new ebook Pond Life: Reflections for free.

Each year, the Les Fruits de Mer association hosts the Migratory Bird Festival on St. Martin. The stars of this festival are the birds that travel so far to come here each year, and the wild places and creatures they depend on. This lively cast of characters—birds, crabs, mangroves and the ponds themselves—is featured in the new ebook Pond Life: Reflections. The book is available for free download at lesfruitsdemer.com.

“Migratory pond birds—like wading birds and ducks—are common and easy to see on St. Martin,” explained author Mark Yokoyama. “Ponds are also some of the most important places on the island, ecologically and historically. So it makes sense to showcase ponds at this festival, and the new book also does that.”

Pond Life: Reflections has eight chapters that explore St. Martin’s ponds from different angles. It takes the reader across the island from the cemetery pond in Grand Case to the ruins of the Foga pumphouse at the Great Salt Pond. It marks the passing of time, from the change of the seasons to the turn of a century.

The book was created as a companion piece to the upcoming 2017 Migratory Bird Festival. This year’s location is Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay, located just beside Guichard Pond. Many of the island’s ponds are inaccessible due to hurricane debris, but this spot offers great viewing of the pond, its birds and other wetland life. Festival guests will have a chance to see and learn about its post-storm recovery.

“Our theme for the festival this year is ‘Welcome back!’ to the birds, and also to the habitats that are recovering from Hurricane Irma,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “The island’s ponds have been through a lot, just like the people. As we recover together, this book is a great reminder that people and ponds have been connected since the beginning.”

The 2017 Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. The festival is brought to you by Les Fruits de Mer, and the 2017 edition is made possible thanks to our sponsors: Caribbean Paddling, Delta Petroleum, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Tri-sport and Van Dorp. It is a free event and people of all ages are invited to attend. Pond Life: Reflections can be downloaded for free at: http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/resources/books/

2017 Heritage Photo Contest Focuses on Rebirth

People of all ages are invited to showcase St. Martin heritage, and their talent, in the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest, now officially open for entries. The annual Heritage Photo Contest and Exhibition was developed by the Les Fruits de Mer Association as an opportunity for people to celebrate art created here on the island, and to engage residents—especially kids—in thinking about their heritage.

The theme of this year’s contest is Rebirth. It was chosen to inspire entrants to explore the nature, culture and people of this unique island through the lens of recovery and reinvention.

“St. Martin is an island that has been reborn many times throughout history,” explains Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “In the wake of Hurricane Irma, St. Martin is rising again. We believe that capturing this transformation through photography will be a powerful way to show and share this hope and strength.”

Organizers designed the contest to include everyone, and to empower children and youth to enter with a special Under 18 award category, and other initiatives. “We’d love this to be an opportunity for young people to get into photography,” says Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “For kids and teens who are already exploring photography, this initiative creates a showcase for what they’re doing.”

The contest is free and open to every age, and everyone is welcome to enter as many times as they like. People who want to enter should submit their entries to info@lesfruitsdemer.org by December 15, 2017. Each entry should include an original photo taken on St. Martin/St. Maarten by the person entering, a brief statement explaining why the photo was chosen, the entrant’s full name, and age if under 18.

All qualifying entries will go on display in the online Heritage Gallery, and selected entries will be featured in the Heritage Photo Exhibition, which will be held this winter. Awards will be given for the winning entries in three categories: Adult, Under 18 and People’s Choice.

For more information about the Heritage Photo Contest and Exhibition, including the full rules and a sample entry, visit: http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/category/rebirth/

Sample Entry

(This is a sample entry for the 2017 Heritage Photo Contest. Your entry should include an image taken by you on St. Martin/St. Maarten, your name, and a short statement about how the image represents this year’s theme, Rebirth.)

Sugar Birds cluster around a feeder. Birds that feed on nectar are some of the hardest hit by hurricanes—almost every flower on the island is gone after a storm. After surviving the winds of the storm, finding food can be an even bigger challenge. Those that do survive will begin the process of repopulating the island.

2017 Heritage Photo Contest and Exhibition

(Pour la traduction française, cliquez sur “Read more…” et faire défiler vers le bas.)

The Heritage Photo Contest and Exhibition is an opportunity to showcase St. Martin/St. Maarten’s unique natural, cultural and historic heritage. The theme of this year’s contest and exhibition is REBIRTH.

St. Martin is an island that has been reborn many times throughout history. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, St. Martin is rising again. Submit a photo that showcases the rebirth of St. Martin in some way, and a short statement that explains how your photo reflects this theme.

Entries for this year’s theme will include a photo and a statement by the photographer explaining how the photo represents the theme of rebirth. Entries must be submitted from November 9th to December 15th, although you can enter photos taken at any time. The photos and statement must be the work of the entrant. Qualifying entries will be displayed online in the Heritage Gallery, and an exhibition will be held featuring selected entries. There will be awards for the winning entries in three categories: Adult, Under 18 and People’s Choice. Prizes will be announced during the entry period.

This contest and exhibition initiative is created and managed by the Les Fruits de Mer Association.

For full rules and instructions: Read more

The Path of Succession

After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.

Grasses are often first to bounce back.

For the people of St. Martin, rebuilding after Irma will involve many plans and decisions. For nature, the path to recovery flows from the interactions between plants and animals. How an ecosystem changes over time is called succession.

When a new island rises from the sea, or a lava flow destroys an area completely, the process of colonizing this new land is called primary succession. It is a long process from the first pioneers to a rich community of life, and happens rarely. Secondary succession is more common. It happens when a disturbance disrupts an ecosystem, and it is happening right here, right now.

The hurricane had a huge impact on St. Martin’s nature. Leaves were ripped from plants, trees were broken and uprooted and animals perished. Yet amidst this chaos, nature began to recover in an orderly fashion.

The process usually starts small. Grasses and other fast-growing plants sprout up quickly. In places once shaded by trees and shrubs, they drink in the sunlight. Their speedy recovery helps hold soil that could be washed away, and provides food for animals that survived.

In turn, each species takes advantage of the opportunities offered by disruption. On Pic Paradis, seedlings are racing towards the light. They will compete to replace fallen trees until the canopy above the forest floor is full again.

The recovery of surviving trees is part of succession.

After a hurricane, although the destruction can seem devastating, it is rarely complete. The regrowth of surviving trees and plants is often a part of the succession process. The species that survive may dominate the landscape for a time, until new seedlings of other species mature.

Although the process is quick to begin, it can take years to complete. Some plants may be particularly hard-hit by hurricanes, like bromeliads that grow on tree limbs. Some, like ferns may depend on shady, moist habitats that take time to develop after a storm. Species that are slow to grow, like hardwood trees, may take decades to recover.

Birds and bats bring seeds to areas cleared by hurricanes.

The path of succession also depends on the state of landscape before the disruption. Are there rich communities of native plants ready to colonize the land? Are there healthy populations of birds and bats to spread seeds? As nature takes her path to recovery, we have an opportunity to influence the future. We can plant native trees and protect natural spaces or we could destroy them. How we participate in the process is up to us.

Fruits Drop New Album: Fruits Around the World

Download Fruits Around the World for free at marcaumarc.com.

The new album by Marc AuMarc—Fruits Around the World—lives up to its name. From the opening blast of horns to the closing sighs of a church organ, it’s a globetrotting journey of sounds and styles. Over the course of twelve songs, it reshapes the ever-fruitful Les Fruits de Mer theme song in surprising new directions. This latest release is available for free download at http://marcaumarc.com.

Fruits Around the World was composed and recorded over the last year in a wide variety of extraordinary places, from 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean to the mountains of Cuba. Working with mobile technology, Marc AuMarc was able to create many of the songs on location.

“Drawing inspiration from different cultures and musical traditions keeps the music fresh,” explained Marc AuMarc. “This is the second full-length album based on a theme song that’s less than a minute long, and I think it’s even better than the first one.”

Many of the new tracks are upbeat. Latin rhythms brush up against Scandinavian techno, driving neo-disco and Chinese electro-funk. A few more contemplative takes on the theme balance out the tracklist.

“The variety of moods on this album is key to the listening experience,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We also use different takes on our theme as the soundtrack to most of our documentary filmmaking, so this gives us a range of moods and styles to work with as we produce new films.”

An ever-expanding universe based on a single idea, a simple melody reflecting itself across the globe, and a fun time for all, Fruits Around the World is a lot like Les Fruits de Mer. Download it for free at http://marcaumarc.com and make it the soundtrack for your next expedition.

Bend or Break

After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.

Gaïac trees may survive countless countless storms in a lifetime.

The majority of plants and animals on St. Martin never experience a major hurricane. Consider the many insects with lifespans measured in months, not years. Many plants die in the dry season leaving seeds to sprout when the summer brings new rain. Most small birds will pass several generations between serious storms.

The lifetime of a tree, on the other hand, may span many hurricanes. Without being cut short by the axe, the life of a Gaïac tree can be more than 500 years. All of the large trees that survive in the Caribbean—whether native or introduced—have proven their ability to withstand storms.

The Beach Almond loses branches to save itself.

The Beach Almond has brittle branches that snap off, leaving the tree in place to regrow. Spread far and wide by humans, it is hard to know where it evolved this talent. Perhaps it was in Asia, where tropical cyclones haunt coastlines as hurricanes do here.

The big, round leaves of the Sea Grape are lost to the wind, but this beach specialist has roots that are wide and deep. Today, Sea Grape trees still stand where the wind stole roofs and the storm surge toppled concrete buildings.

Palm trees are masters at hurricane survival.

Palm trees have many adaptations to survive storms. They have flexible trunks that bend with the wind, and they have no branches. The a palm frond can fold together like a paper fan to offer less resistance, and the palm can still survive if it is torn off. A wide network of roots anchors a palm in the soil, even on a sandy beach.

Some palms won’t be growing back, a testament to Irma’s strength.

Of course, Irma was no ordinary storm. Many palms were snapped in half, and will not recover. Tamarind trees have survived enough hurricanes on St. Martin to grow to great sizes, but many were felled in this storm. Unlike the Beach Almond, their huge canopies have flexible branches and high winds tore them from the earth despite their massive roots.

Even mighty Tamarinds have fallen.

As we look around the island today, the shape of each tree gives us clues to how it survived the storm. New growth sprouts from a tilted palm. The vast network of roots sent out by the Sea Grape is exposed where Irma tore the sand from the beach. The stubby network of branches reveals what the Beach Almond gave up in order to survive. It is a rare chance to see these wonders of adaptation all around us, a lesson in evolution delivered in the brilliant green of new growth.

Bird Feeders Are a Big Hit in Grand Case

Sky’s the Limit restaurant hosted the bird feeder giveaway in Grand Case.

At lunchtime on Thursday, people were lining up at Sky’s the Limit restaurant in Grand Case. But unlike most days, these people hadn’t just come to eat local barbecue. They came to get bird feeders so they could take care of the birds around their homes. In less than an hour, the Les Fruits de Mer association gave away over 80 bird feeders.

“We were surprised and delighted at the response,” exclaimed Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It shows that people care about birds, and know that it’s an important time for the island’s nature to restore itself.”

After reading about the giveaway online and in the local newspapers, people came from all parts of the island to get their bird feeders. The Les Fruits de Mer team explained in French and English how to fill and clean the feeders, and provided sugar, hanging rope and instructions.

Recipients learned how to fill and clean their feeders.

“The birds on St. Martin today are the strong and lucky ones that survived the storm. By giving them a boost now, we can help the island get back to normal faster,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “Keeping a bird feeder helps birds, but it also brings them into our life and makes our connection to nature closer. Many visitors to the giveaway asked questions and shared stories about local birds, which was great to see.”

Due to the massive demand, all the feeders were given away before the end of the event. The Les Fruits de Mer association is hoping to get another shipment of feeders so they can do more giveaways in the future. The feeders were provided by BirdsCaribbean, which has sent over 2,000 bird feeders to ten Caribbean islands that were impacted by hurricanes this year. To find out more and learn about future giveaways, visit lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

The bird feeder giveaway brought a big crowd.

Free Bird Feeder Giveaway Thursday in Grand Case

Get a free bird feeder at Sky’s the Limit in Grand Case this Thursday.

Pick up a free bird feeder this Thursday and help the island’s birds recover from the hurricane! The Les Fruits de Mer association will be giving out bird feeders for free at Sky’s the Limit restaurant in Grand Case this Thursday from noon to 3pm.

Just like people, St. Martin’s birds are having a hard time after Irma. Putting out bird feeders like these helps local birds like the Sugar Bird and the two kind of hummingbirds that live on St. Martin, the Antillean Crested Hummingbird and the Green-throated Carib.

“The birds that managed to survive the hurricane still need help, because it takes time for new flowers to bloom. Feeding them also helps them feed new chicks so the bird population can come back sooner,” explains island wildlife expert and Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama.

“We’re excited to give away these free bird feeders at Sky’s the Limit because it’s a place for everybody, and helping our local birds is something everybody can do,” says Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “People still talk about how there were no hummingbirds on the island for five years after Luis. Anybody, young or old, can be part of making sure that doesn’t happen to our birds this time, just by putting out a feeder.” She adds, “Plus, it’s amazing to watch these birds at your feeder–it just puts a smile on your face every day, and we could all use that right now!”

Bird feeders were provided by BirdsCaribbean.

The bird feeders were sent by BirdsCaribbean as part of a special post-hurricane initiative and will be distributed locally by the Les Fruits de Mer association. Everyone is invited to pick up a free feeder this Thursday, October 26th from noon to 3pm at Sky’s the Limit lolo, located on the Boulevard de Grand Case in the heart of Grand Case.

The Survivors Flourish

After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.

Today’s young Sugar Bird will soon have chicks of its own.

For the animals that survived Hurricane Irma, what happens now? For many, the time of hardship will be followed by a time of plenty. To the survivors go the spoils, and the task of rebuilding the local ecosystem.

As luck would have it, the peak of hurricane season comes as the island ramps up to its rainiest months. After the destruction and defoliation, rains have brought a burst of fertility to the island. The hills are already lush and green again.

This timing is important. In the Caribbean, many native animals can breed year-round due to the warm weather. However, most do this less in the spring dry season. During the wet season, animals may bear young more frequently, or raise more offspring at once. With an abundance of food available, more newborn animals survive to adulthood.

As plants and trees regrow, they will begin to provide in abundance for our hurricane survivors. Flowers and fruits and leaves will feed insects, insects will feed lizards, lizards will feed birds. For a time, the survivors of Irma will face less competition for these riches. Their offspring will rise to keep the island buzzing and singing with life.

Recovery after a major disaster is built into the very nature of the ecosystem here. Species that were not adapted to this task would have disappeared long ago. Our native species are not only island specialists, but recovery specialists. Adaptations that help them bounce back from the dry season each year also help them prosper at times like this.

We have the unique opportunity to see an island spring back to life.

All around us, we have an amazing window into the self-healing capabilities of nature. It is on display here at a scale and pace that is easy to watch and appreciate. We can see the way the barren stumps around us begin to regrow. Have you seen a butterfly since the Irma? If not, surely you will soon.

Of course, it will take time to make a full recovery. Giant trees have fallen that will take hundreds of years to replace. Many kinds of bird may take years to get back to the numbers that lived here before Irma. Perhaps some things will never be quite the same. Though the ending is distant and uncertain, this story is ours to witness and enjoy.

Flies Like Us

After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.

After hanging a few days, there’s barely space left on the flypaper.

It took a few weeks for the flies to build from occasional guest to pest to plague, but by the one-month anniversary of Irma, they were everywhere. What caused this outbreak, and when will it end?

In nature, sudden changes in the population of a plant or animal are often linked to unusual conditions. Usually it’s a bad sign. Deer populations get too high when there are no wolves to hunt them. Seaweed grows out of control if there are too many nutrients in the water.

Flies begin their lives as larvae—often called maggots. Like caterpillars, they are eating machines. Young flies eat all sorts of things, depending on the species. There are poop-eaters, garbage-eaters and carrion-eaters. Common Housefly larvae eat all three, so it’s not surprising they are perhaps the most plentiful right now.

Clean-up takes all kinds of flies.

After Irma, the island was covered in fly food. When we think about the fly life cycle, the surge of flies a few weeks after the hurricane makes a lot of sense. For about two weeks, the larvae were eating and growing. Then they spent a week as pupae, transforming into adult flies.

The sudden creation of all this fly food at once was like a ticking time bomb. Looking back to the days just after Irma, each adult female fly was probably laying hundreds of eggs. Millions of flies were growing for weeks, hidden in the piles of trash. We only realized their full numbers when they emerged as flying adults.

Though they may be annoying, the flies actually serve a very important purpose. They have been consuming garbage, poop and dead animals at an incredible pace. By doing so, they help return nutrients to the soil while also making our grossest garbage disappear. They may seem like a plague in the kitchen, but they are also our saviors in the trash pile.

And they won’t be here forever. As they do their part in the island’s recovery, they prepare for their own decline. After exploding in numbers to eat a year’s worth of garbage in weeks, their population will ebb as soon as the problem is fixed. Of all the aid workers on the island in the past few weeks, flies have done some of the dirtiest work. For this I give thanks, while also looking forward to when things get back to normal.

Helpers at heart.

Closer to Nature

After a major hurricane, it can take years for an island to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, how the island recovers and how it impacts us.

A sphinx moth was one of countless house guests.

Even in this modern world, living in the Caribbean means being close to nature. We spend time outdoors in the wind and sun. The beach is our backyard and our summer never ends.

A hurricane brings us closer to nature in many ways, both big and small. The storm itself was the immense power of nature brought to life. It taught us how small we are, and how vulnerable.

The aftermath brought nature to us and us into nature. Windows that were shut for years to keep in the air conditioning were flung open. Insects and other animals crossed freely between their homes and ours. Moths, beetles and bees were everywhere, perhaps as disoriented as we were.

The storm pushed us into nature. We headed out to clear zinc and branches, to prune trees and shrubs. Once hidden, the animals around us were suddenly out in the open. Birds and iguanas perched on bare branches and headless palm trunks.

As days turned into weeks, the dull brown hills began to explode into green. Grasses were quick to sprout again from their roots. Battered skeleton trees began to sprout new leaves. Flowers began to bloom. Day by day, in the colors of life are returning.

Watching nature recover as hills turn green again.

Though we are busy rebuilding homes, businesses and lives, we have an eye on nature and it gives us strength. To watch the color of the hills and the sea return to normal reminds us that life on St. Martin will go on. All of the island’s native plants and animals are hurricane survivors. If they weren’t, they would have been gone long ago. And if nature can find a way to grow again, so can we.

Still Humming

After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.

An exhausted hummingbird rests on a railing after the storm.

Are there any Irma survivors more amazing than our hummingbirds? For starters, these tiny birds survived the strongest storm winds in Caribbean history. They managed to hang on—unprotected against the elements—while giant tamarind trees were uprooted.

When Irma’s winds died down, the hummingbirds that remained were far from safe. Across the island, every flower had been torn from every plant. Although trees and plants would bounce back quickly, the clock was ticking for our hummingbirds. With a high metabolism, they need to eat frequently to survive. For them, starvation looms in a matter of hours, not days or weeks.

One of our first goals after the storm was to provide food for these birds. We had prepared feeders and sugar water to be ready as soon as it was safe to go outside. I had heard many stories from people who didn’t see hummingbirds for years after Hurricane Luis in 1995.

This time, it would be different. As soon as the feeders were out, they were swarmed by hungry birds. Our two hummingbirds—the Antillean Crested Hummingbird and Green-throated Carib—were there in large numbers. Sugar Birds arrived by the dozen and soon there were more than 100. They perched on every tree around the feeder, screeching to each other.

The frenzy at the feeders was a delight during difficult times.

We even had a rare visitor to the feeders, the Purple-throated Carib. Found on many nearby islands, it prefers altitudes higher than what St. Martin has to offer and it is seldom seen here.

A Purple-throated Carib.

Often protective of nectar sources, the multitude of hummingbirds seemed to make peace at the feeders. Especially during the first two weeks, the feeders were busy and magical, with a dozen hungry hummers hovering around a each feeder in the morning.

Three weeks after Irma, the feeders are still busy, but flowers have started blooming again. We helped our hummingbirds bridge a gap that few would have survived on their own. The extra food we provide now gives these survivors a boost as they start new families. With a little luck, no one will talk about the years after Irma when they didn’t see a hummingbird.

Rapid Assessment

Get an inside look at science as it happens in the Caribbean. This week we document biodiversity in St. Martin.

A mysterious Squash Bug.

I recently did a rapid assessment of biodiversity at two sites on St. Martin. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) is restoring habitat there—planting native trees to make the sites better for local plants and animals. I was there to record all the lizards, insects, spiders, snails and other small animals I could find.

Many truths about Caribbean field biology are seen in this little project. For starters, it was a little project. I studied each location for just a day. I started in the afternoon and finished in the dark with the animals that come out at night. With an infinite budget, I could have spent weeks, months or years studying these sites. I could have set traps and dug into the soil. The longer you look, the more you can find.

There’s never enough time, but we make the most of the time we have. I found over 70 species at each site. Field research is science, but there can be an art to it as well. One needs knowledge of the area, familiarity with local wildlife and perhaps a bit of luck to be successful.

There’s no rule book for this work. There are established methods for finding, counting and identifying animals in the field, but each project is different. Different techniques are used for insects or lizards or birds. Different tasks might be needed depending on the end goal.

For this project, there were multiple goals. One was to know what animals lived in each location. This tells us which species can benefit from the habitat restoration. For this, it is often important to focus on key species, like ones that only live on St. Martin. Improving habitat for these species may be more valuable than improving habitat for common species.

For a habitat restoration project, it would also be ideal to compare data from before and after the project. After a successful restoration, more species might be living in the same area. This is a big challenge for a rapid study. It usually takes a lot of time to have enough data to make these comparisons.

This project also has educational and citizen science components. With this in mind, I took photos to document the species I found. These photos can be used in school presentations, or in a tool for citizen scientists surveying the area.

One other way that this little survey captured the essence of field research was in the moments of discovery. Amidst all the familiar critters, there are always new surprises. Coming across a group of squash bugs I had never seen before was a real treat. It is this—perhaps more than anything else—that keeps us going out into the field.