We are all back into the forest to check on the newly released frogs, another big team effort. Gerardo and Javier were downloading data from the Songmeters, hoping for the recording of the mountain chickens calls, then checking out the ghaut visually for frogs. Blacka, Jenny, Ben and I were radio-tracking the frogs, our aim for tonight was to find the location of all the released frogs. We started at the bottom of the ghaut, just below the first release site, nothing! Next stop, release site 1! Ben called the frequencies for each of us to turn to, a frequency unique to each frog. What do you know, the first frequency I got – beep, beep, it was there. Don’t you just love it when that happens, if only it was that easy for the rest! We moved up the ghaut stopping every 20m or so and running through the list of the frog frequencies, then moved down a parallel transect about 20m above the gut, then up one of the forks of the ghaut higher up. We found most of the mountain chickens around the release sites, Sarah-Louise hadn’t expected them to have moved far from them yet. Once it was dark some of the frogs had started to venture out of the daytime refuges. It was quite a sight, mountain chickens back where they belong, a sight that 3 years ago anyone going into the forests of Montserrat would not have thought twice about. Gerardo and Blacka were telling stories of when they had been out surveying for mountain chickens and would find hundreds a night! Seeing just one reminds me of all the hard work and effort that has gone into this project to make it happen, from everyone, from the team here in Montserrat and back home in the UK.
It was wonderful seeing the frogs out and about, some were moving down the slopes towards the ghaut. When you find them on the forest floor they are so well camouflaged without the eye-shine reflecting back form the head-torches they would be next to impossible to spot. We found a lot of the frogs in the ghauts, some were clustered onto small groups tucked in between the boulders of dry ghaut and around the remaining pools. At the end of the evening we found 24 of the 32 we were looking for! That meant that the next morning Sarah-Louise, Jenny and I were back in looking for the missing eight frogs. With just the three of us it was so quiet, the forest felt like a different place, the forest animals seemed more relaxed, lizards could be heard scuttling across the dried leaves of the forest floor and saw so many more birds. Six of the frogs were found relatively quickly, the last two eluded us for quite a while, then when we got back to release point one and caught the faint beeps of the tell-tale signs that one was there! Then switched to the last frequency and there it was too! Where were they when we passed on the way up? But still, mission accomplished the eight missing frogs found, all 32 accounted for in the last 24 hours.
–Nadine Wohl, Volunteer