Up close with seabirds

Out of all the incredible wildlife on Cousin Island Special Reserve, I was most excited to see the huge diversity of birds that live here. Only two weeks into my stay as a Nature Seychelles volunteer, I have had so many amazing experiences studying these animals close up.

lesser-noddy
Lesser noddy

I arrived at the very beginning of the annual seabird census and work began straight away to estimate the number of seabirds breeding on Cousin. This involved locating plots within the forest and counting the number of breeding pairs, from lesser noddys to white tailed tropicbirds. Then at night, we would return to these same plots to look for tropical shearwaters. With the help of a pre-recorded call, we would patiently wait to hear their response. All of this information will then be added to a larger database to help monitor the seabirds. This is a very useful way to track any major fluctuations in population sizes over time.

sunset
Sunset

We also monitor the breeding success of our lesser noddys and brown noddys to help build a better picture of the seabird population. For the lesser noddys, this involves the use of a mirror and a very tall stick to see into the nests up above. For the brown noddys, only confidence and a bit of determination are required to count the chicks whilst simultaneously being dive-bombed by the parents.

ringed-magpie-robin
Ringed magpie robin

Besides the seabirds, Nature Seychelles staff and volunteers also carry out a lot of work with the Seychelles magpie robin. We also keep a particularly close eye on the young fledglings to check when they are ready to be ringed. Ringing is an important tool in helping us to recognize individual birds from a distance. On my first week, I was lucky enough to observe the ringing of one of the fledglings, whilst also recording important information such as weight and wing length and taking a blood sample. Over time, some of our adult birds also lose their rings so we have an exciting few weeks ahead to try and fix these rings.
by Jodie Henderson

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