The past four months have been epic beyond compare for the team in Montserrat: laughing, crying and sweating their way from January to May.

Mountain chickens arrive in January 2011
Captive-bred mountain chickens return to Montserrat in January 2011. ©Gerardo Garcia

January saw the captive-bred critically endangered mountain chicken return to Montserrat. The release of these precious animals happened over several days, and with great success. After the release the team spent six nights a week, every week, in the release site radio-tracking frogs and doing general searches for the ones without transmitters implanted.

Frogs have been regularly swabbed, some frogs lost and found again, and others have dispersed to places we haven’t been able to follow. We’ve had a couple of fatalities in the field (frogs not volunteers!) which was inevitable having released over 60 frogs into the wild. These were post mortemed to get as much information about them as possible.

Radio-tracking released mountain chickens
Lloydie radio-tracks the released mountain chickens

We’ve tried searching for frogs at all times of day and night to get a 24 hour picture of their movements, and we’ve done huge sweeps of the ghaut and the banks far into the forest to try and discover frogs with failed transmitters.

Not only have we been radio-tracking but we’ve been regularly searching selected ghauts for surviving mountain chickens – each ghaut where we think there are, or find, surviving mountain chickens gets walked every two weeks. And in amongst all of these things we do four hour tree frog and cane toad surveys in the release site ghaut and three others, to get an idea of chytrid levels in these chytrid carrier species.

When not in the field we’ve been doing data entry, writing protocols for the release, writing Darwin reports, and of course blogging (which we hope you’ve enjoyed so far!).

'Hope' the mountain chicken
'Hope' the mountain chicken, one of the stars of the show... ©Sarah-Louise Smith

So now it’s the end of April it’s time for volunteers Izzy and Payana to sign off, so good bye from us (although we might pop up again here and there)… and now it’s time for us all to celebrate the success of this first release with the forestry guys and everybody on island who has supported the mountain chicken project along the way – CHEERS!

Isabel Jones

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