Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Farewell from Maxine

Bird handling is not always easy
Seven months later, eight hundred birds down, and a healthy tan to boot - my time on this project is coming to an end and I think it is safe to say I’ve made the most of it! Since my first blogpost, the myna eradication work has seen great success as we navigated our way through the ups and downs of island life.

View on top of Spa Hill
Change is constant on North - in the last six months we have gone from days so dry the bats drop from the trees, to unending torrential rain that brings out hundreds of invasive giant African land snails. The sand on the beaches has moved around the island, stretching out on some sides and exposing bare rock on others. Boats can no longer arrive on East Beach, instead anchoring at Petit Anse which has become a calm oasis, perfect for snorkelling with the local nurse sharks. We have suffered through seemingly endless clouds of mosquitos only to now be plagued by tiny little flies that cover every surface. 

Ready for dissection and biometrics

Driving around the island in the tired old gator, there are no longer hundreds of mynas strutting on the plateau - proof of our success. We are currently mopping up the results of the recent breeding season, catching many young mynas. These days, an adult myna is a true prize as the few that are left are the most clever and wary of our cages. I could be getting paranoid, but it seems the birds recognize us and the gator, and call out an alarm when we go past. 

Baby Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Aside from the eradication work, I have been fortunate enough to help out on other projects on the island, climbing the steep rock-face of Spa Hill to ring seabirds and their chicks, and assisting GIF with the annual marine survey. Perhaps one of the best things to happen has been the hatching of four Aldabra tortoises, a week before Christmas. These tiny old souls have become the babies of the environment team, doted upon and protected fiercely! It definitely doesn't get much cuter than a baby giant tortoise face-deep in a mango. I find it incredible to think that they will easily outlive me and grow upwards of 250 kilos!

Maxine enjoying the sunset on North Island

Over the last seven months I have had so many great experiences and met some wonderful people and I count myself lucky to have been part of this project. I hope that the new recruits will be as passionate about the project and the island as we have been. It is a nice thought that we have contributed in our way to North Island becoming a true ark for many endemic species. 

Maxine Little

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