One evening Blacka and I were heading off to one of the original survey sites looking for surviving mountain chickens. Fairy Walk is one of the sites that has been regularly monitored for mountain chickens since 1998, since well before the deadly chytrid fungus arrived on the Island.
We walk a route, a transect, which generally follows the ghaut. Between the start and the finish of the transect we intensively look for eye-shine or calling. It’s quite fun hopping from boulder to boulder along the ghauts, there’s quite a lot of life in the water too.
Would you believe our luck that as we began the transect we immediately spotted a wild live mountain chicken. What a site! What an incredible and wonderful sight. My first wild chicken! I’ve worked with them in captivity prior to this. There is something beyond amazing to see them in their home environment and surviving even with everything that has been thrown at them that has given rise to it being given the status critically endangered.
It was a female we had come across, she was a lot bigger than our release frogs, she looked huge compared to them. Blacka just let me know that she really wasn’t that big as female mountain chickens go! Oh, well, I was still happy. We caught her up and took some details, checked to see if she was micro-chipped (exactly the same type you might have implanted in your pets at home) the number being a unique identifier to that frog in particular. We took a weight, a snout-vent length (body length) and leg length, finally two swabs to be use for chytrid tests. It was incredible to see this mountain chicken looking so healthy after living so long with chytrid in the environment. Then it was time to say bye and let her go back where we found her. She was the only chicken we found for that night. It was still amazing. Especially when we checked the records when we got back home to find out that this individual was first tagged in August 2009 as a juvenile. It is such a privilage to follow these frogs over so many years and watch them grow.
She might not have been a big as mountain chickens go, Blacka mantra for the night was always ‘you aint seen nothing yet’, whether it was the frog, or the trees (and there were some big trees) or some of the other things we saw along the way, nothing is going to be bigger than seeing my first wild mountain chicken, hugely memorable and will not be forgotten.
– by Nadine Wohl, Volunteer