It would be difficult to write a better review of this book than the exuberant and well-deserved words of BirdLife International's David Wege in the foreword (p. xi). This atlas is an excellent supplement to the previous work by Bradley and Norton (2009), reviewed previously in The Auk (Schaffner 2010), and the prior descriptions of the seabird populations of the Caribbean (van Halewijn and Norton 1984, Schreiber and Lee 2000). This work, however, has a very specific focus on the Lesser Antilles, beyond the Puerto Rico Bank (excluding the U.S. and British Virgin Islands), in the region we often call “down island,” from Anguilla in the north, southward to Grenada.
This book is a contribution of EPIC (Environmental Protection in the Caribbean; www.epicislands.org/home), and the field studies were led by Katherine and David Lowrie based from their sailboat, the Lista Light ( www.listalight.co.uk), which itself is operated as a nongovernmental organization. Natalia Collier collaborated in all aspects of the planning and field protocols, and in data analysis and final writing of the manuscript.
Land- and water-based surveys for all breeding seabirds and invasive predators were conducted in areas where there were gaps in the recent literature. Surveys were conducted for over two years, with one survey in winter and one in spring—summer for each site to account for varied breeding seasons. Local media, technical training, and presentations were used to raise awareness of seabird and marine conservation issues, and volunteers were incorporated in the field work. Local partnerships were an essential component to the success of this effort, and the results were provided to participating island governments and nonprofit agencies as well as regional bodies. All islands were surveyed directly, except for the French-speaking islands, in which case the authors relied on government information and the literature. The authors surveyed more than 200 islands and cays and actually landed on at least 150 of them.
By systematically documenting the breeding seabirds of the rapidly developing Lesser Antilles, the authors created the first comprehensive regional perspective on seabird populations using a consistent methodology during a discrete period. The authors used the “K-values” and the “peak time multiplier” concepts of Chardine (2002) to standardize their results for some situations, particularly in cliff-nesting Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus mesonauta; table 7), and established a basis for comparison with future “rapid” survey techniques that include consideration of season, times of daily peak activity, and the ratio between the numbers of active nests and of flying birds. The authors discovered previously unknown nesting colonies of Audubon's Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri lherminieri), and they describe significant conservation issues such as the continuing culture of egging and seabird hunting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and “egg farming” of Sooty Terns (Onychprion fuscatus fuscatus) on Canouan (St. Vincent).
This atlas provides a unique view of the region and a framework for integration of future studies and may be essential for any effective regional preservation program like the Caribbean Waterbirds Conservation Plan of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) and BirdLife International's Important Bird Areas (IBAs) program, and to address conservation issues identified for priority sites. The next project for the Lowries and the Lista Light will be an ambitious survey of the Caribbean coast and islands of South America.
The book is self-published and has a few format or structural peculiarities. For example, pages are numbered “i”through “xxxiv,” then “35” through “220,” and to reach the book's nominal 224 pages, one must include blank pages and the front and back covers. For readers not familiar with each island of the archipelago, the unlabeled colony location maps can be very confusing, but this is easily remedied by photocopying page “xxv,” which contains a well-labeled map (fig. 2), folding it length-wise down the middle, and using it as a bookmark.
Overall, I found the book and the project highly inspiring. It provides new, surprisingly detailed baseline data for a region that has been previously very poorly documented, will be useful to anyone interested in research and conservation of Caribbean seabirds, and should be part of every university and museum library. It can be purchased through CreateSpace as well as through Amazon and Kindle. Purchases through CreateSpace ( www.createspace.com/3565696) and Kindle return a greater percentage of royalties back to EPIC to help cover costs incurred during field work and publication. The Atlas data (but not the story) also are available online at regional and global databases: OBIS SEAMAP (seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/418), WICBIRDS ( www.wicbirds.net/), and BirdLife's Data Zone ( www.birdlife.org/datazone/home).
This book is a “must buy” for anyone, scientist or amateur, interested in the conservation of seabirds in the Caribbean or interested in seabirds in general, and for anyone interested in general conservation and environmental issues in the Caribbean, and especially “down island” in the Lesser Antilles.