Grand Etang is a large saline pond located in the gated Lowlands subdivision of St. Martin. It is approximately 50 hectares in size. Due to its high salinity (>100 parts per thousand), the pond has little vegetation. At the west end, a small pond is separated from the larger pond by a narrow strip of land. Electric wires on poles cross the pond at this point. The surrounding land is low hills of scrub habitat interspersed with roads and homes on large estates. A dirt road runs directly next to the shore along one side. An exclusive resort borders the road.
Least Terns nest on a sandy spit located in the smaller pond of Grand Etang. Wilson's Plover nests at the same location and in surrounding areas. In the summer of 2004, nesting success of both species was monitored by EPIC. During that time, a high count of 180 Least Tern nests and 82 breeding pairs was recorded. Ten pairs of Wilson's Plover were recorded. Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus also breeds at Grand Etang (25 nests).Regionally limited species found at this site include Green-throated Carib Eulampis holosericeus,Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus, Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus, and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla noctis.
Non-bird biodiversity: Not applicable.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The primary threat to nesting birds at Grand Etang is flooding. Ten percent of Least Tern nests (n=130) were recorded as submerged after heavy rains raised the water level of the pond. Many others may have been flooded as well, but this could not be confirmed because the chicks may have hatched and moved away from the waterline between checks. Introduced predators are also a major concern for nesting birds. During Least Tern nest monitoring, predation was confirmed at 5% of all nests. Wilson's Plovers experienced a 30% predation rate (n=10) at Grand Etang. The actual percentages are likely much higher. Rats and dogs are the primary culprits. Fresh dog tracks were present at almost every weekly check. A fence should be constructed around the nesting area to keep dogs out. Another possibility is to dredge around the nesting site, creating an island, which would make the area less accessible to predators.Bird are periodically found dead under the powerlines which cross Grand Etang with signs of blunt trauma such as broken necks and wings. The lines may be difficult for the birds to see, especially migratory birds arriving at night. The lines should be rerouted away from the pond or markers should be placed on the lines to make them more obvious.Yard debris from surrounding residences is dumped into the pond and often burned along the shore of Grand Etang. The resort which borders the pond periodically empties its septic system by allowing the sewage and associated debris to flow across the road and into the pond. Funding for the existing sewage treatment plant for this area is not available.An individual with a shotgun was seen once walking around the border of Grand Etang but it is not clear if he was hunting.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Weekly or monthly population counts have been conducted every winter since 2001 by Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC). In 2004, a census was conducted during the spring and summer months as well. Least Tern nests have been monitored. Free educational bird walks, sponsored by EPIC, take place at Grand Etang about once a year. The government periodically hires avian researchers to survey the island, usually Gilles LeBlond.
Grand Etang is afforded some legal protections as a recognized natural area.
Habitat and land use
Vegetation begins about 5 meters from the waterline and is thorn scrub composed primarily of Acacia. In some areas, the pond borders the yards of upscale homes. The area is residential
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Grand Etang. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 30/09/2020.