Friday, 18 March 2016

Denis Island – Part Two

Week 3 – Fairy Terns and hatchlings

The inquisitive Fairy Terns following me on my patrol
Jennifer from GIF, has flown in to assist with a Fairy Tern survey.  In a 200 sq m area we count nests, eggs, chicks, single birds, pairs of birds and also note the vegetation. We repeat this over 70 different GPS representative points across the island to establish a guide to the breeding population.  Apart from a stiff neck and a hairy caterpillar rash we finish in just over 3 days and then I input the data for later analysis.

White ‘Fairy’ Tern egg
These delightful birds don’t build a nest, they lay an egg on a branch and the chick has to hang on for dear life for about 12 weeks before they can fly.  On the last day of the survey and on a Banyan tree we find a chick that has fallen from a branch and is hanging by his neck from an aerial root.  Quick thinking Martin takes off his shirt and we use it as a blanket style trampoline so when Janske dislodges the chick it falls from the heavens into the safety of our T shirt blanket.  Safely replaced into the tree another successful conservation rescue takes place – never a dull day.

Hawksbill turtle hatchling
It's Wednesday and its first light and Jennifer, calls me to the front of the house, we have another rescue mission on our hands – she has found a couple of baby Hawksbill hatchlings. They must have become lost in the night and were probably attracted by an outside light.  At first we find 10 and take them to the beach.  We look a little further and find at least another 100.  We collect them and release them on mass from the burn for the start of baby turtle `grand national` dash for the sea.  It’s a special sight and my first Hawksbill hatchlings so a great start to the day.  

Worth getting up for
I'm so addicted to the sunrise now that I'm starting at 5am and getting around to the East side of the island right on cue for the sun to say good morning.  It’s a different world seeing the water in the dark and I see Stingrays and fish close to the water line.  Using my new GIF shark skills I also spot two lemon sharks and a Blacktip Reef Shark waiting for a fish or a baby turtle breakfast.  I also see half a dozen green turtles swimming in the shallow waters every morning.  What a way to start the day. 

Week 4 – “Its just nature”

Lady Giant Tortoise inspecting the tyre we used
 for `holding` them whilst chipping
I get to chip my first Tortoises today and feel really part of the program. Quick, turtle on the beach, on my bike to the back of the farm and there she is just `closing` the nest.  Wow she is a big girl a huge Hawksbill but with a difference, she has a blonde carapace and quite stunning – blondes have more fun and she attracts quite an audience, even the staff turn out.  We do the gps and the tape measure honours and find she has a tag from 13 years ago on Denis, we give her a new tag and see her safely off the beach with the paparazzi tucked in behind her.  Nice to see. 

Nesting Hawksbill turtle
Well I moved house today – from Bois Blanc to the Banyan Tree area.  The nice Indian guy that helped me move said his 2 year contract was up and he was leaving the island soon. I have a new task – to monitor and report on the condition of all the Magpie Robin nest-boxes. I find most are unused because of the damp, however 3 are with nests and one has a chick.  I document all the boxes take photographs and report on their condition with a few recommendations of my own for the design of future boxes,  it is clear that the oversize hole required for the boxes is letting in the rain – when it rains here it RAINS!  A larger lid or even a slightly downward facing front panel would also help.  I note that the box with the chick is on a tree that is leaning forward and the box is protected from the rain – makes sense to emulate this as it is a successful nest site. 

Magpie Robin chick about 12 days old
More turtle track counts and more sunrises to start each day – super nice. Nearly time to leave and the new volunteers have arrived – I am happy to show them the island, pull a few weeds together and settle the guys in.  We enjoy a sundowner together and I am jealous that they will be here for the next few months. 

Martjin at the top of a Casuarina tree after a `
tropicbird chick had falle from the nest.
Just when you think the action is over a lost Tropicbird chick is sitting on the office steps – it takes 3 days to track down the finder and with a team of highly trained `conservation detectives` we eventually find the nest – a new nest, right under our noses at the side of the main track.  It’s a high one and we have to tie two ladders together for Martjin to make the high climb to pop him safely back home.

I am into my last few days here on Denis now and its been a truly magnificent time. I have found when I am close to nature time stands still.  I haven’t aged a day and I feel invigorated.  Leaving Denis Island concludes 3 months of a volunteering delight and Denis has just been the icing on the cake.  

Thank you to Arjan at GIF for making it happen and thank you to Martijn and Janske for coming into my life and making me feel part of the team.  I have had a wonderful time and would highly recommend Denis Island and all she has to offer.  This is the place for people who are looking for something truly special.  Its not luxury living but it is living a dream.  Embrace the experience and take it forward into your life.  This adventure will stay with me forever, thank you.

 PS – When the plane left the grass strip I actually shed a tear of emotion – I didn't see that coming, the island can do that to you – it was the only single drop of rain to fall from the sky in 7 days.

Jeremy from England

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful posts Jeremy. You manage to capture exactly what is important on the island. We all miss you a lot here, hopefully we will meet again.