Swabbing a mountain chicken
Swabbing a mountain chicken on the belly, legs and feet. ©Gerardo Garcia

Driving through Brades at about 6.30pm we could already see Montserratians gearing up for a night of revelry for Valentine’s day, many dressed to impress in red. We on the other hand (in scruffy field clothes) were gearing up for our own action-packed evening at the release site…

Tonight was the night to start swabbing all radio tracked frogs. This is so we can monitor their chytrid status over the coming months and keep a close eye on their general health following the release. We’ve had a few frogs that have moved quite far from their original release sites, making finding them extremely difficult given the range of their tiny transmitters. Nonetheless we have the majority of the frogs easily accessible to us and our swabs!

'Cupid' the mountain chicken
'Cupid' the mountain chicken, note the heart-shaped mark to the right of her head. ©Gerardo Garcia

For our evening of swabbing we’d decided to split the team into two groups of two, one searching the ghaut and lower banks and the other team going on a hunt up the hills to try and find our far away frogs. But we did decide to do the first couple of frogs all together just to make absolutely sure everybody was happy with what they needed to do.

So on went the receivers for the first frog frequencies normally found near the bottom of the ghaut. Lo and behold the first signal picked up by Izzy was from the aptly named ‘Cupid’! Cupid is a large female with a perfect love heart ‘beauty spot’ on the side of her head, so it’s always a joy to see her let alone having her as the first frog found on Valentine’s day.

'Cupid' the mountain chicken
Close-up of 'Cupid' the mountain chicken. ©Gerardo Garcia

On that happy note, Sarah-Louise and Payana tracked frogs in the ghaut, whilst Blacka and Izzy went on a search for the high-up frogs. Unbeknown to us girls, Blacka was about to make our Valentine’s frog hunt even better having spent his afternoon cutting new trails into what had been difficult tracking terrain, due to dense vegetation. Thanks to him it is now possible to search even further afield without getting the radio antennae tangled in vines and tree branches: it’s amazing what a difference it makes when you’re not fighting to move through the forest, and can concentrate fully on listening to the faintest of signals.

'Hope' the Swedish frog
'Hope' our Swedish frog. ©Sarah-Louise Smith

Another bonus Valentine’s treat was catching up with ‘Hope’ our Swedish frog. She’s been hiding out for a couple of days but last night she was merrily occupying her favourite pool, now named ‘Hope’s Pool’, which she shares with a couple of other radio-tracked frogs.

All in all the four of us successfully swabbed over half of the radio tracked frogs, and will aim to complete swabbing tomorrow night.

– Isabel Jones

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