Jenny and Steffon swabbing a mountain chicken ©SL Smith

Catching the mountain chickens to swab them is not as easy as it sounds; finding them for one, even with the radio transmitters it isn’t always a given that the frogs are moving more and further distances we have our work cut out for us! Even when we do find them they might be underground in burrows or under the rocks and completely inaccessible! It is important to catch the frogs and swab them once a week to monitor the levels of the chytrid fungus on the skin of the frogs.

Sarah-Louise attacks the evening session with a plan; she and Jenny were going to check all the frog locations and swab all frogs at the last two release sites, while Black and I were designated the ‘Missing Frog’ team. We set out with a radioreceiver each and our list of frequencies for the 3 missing frogs that had bounded off during the week. It’s was going to be a long night, systematically searching through the forest either side of the Ghuat and to check higher up the ghaut where it forks into two.

Froggy Rock ©SL Smith

We climbed the eastern fork of the ghaut higher and higher, then miracle of all miracles Blacka picked up a faint beep on his radioreceiver. Incredible! And low and behold all three frogs were hanging out together! We identified where the frogs were, buried deep in the leaf litter, only seeing eye-shine if we were looking at them head on, if you weren’t then they just disappeared into the leaf litter, invisible. All three of our missing frogs had found one another and travelled about 500m up the slope and away from the ghaut and the original release sites, what a feat. Sarah-Louise was excited to hear the news and headed straight up to meet us with the kit bag so we could check them out and swab them. All three were males and the all looked great, it was such a great relief to find them and well. It’s a fantastic feeling to walk away from the release site at the end of the night knowing they are all accounted for.

Nadine Wohl, Volunteer

Tuesday evening was to be something different again, we were splitting up again. Sarah-Louise and Jenny were heading off to the release site, Blacka and I were of to Collins Ghaut to do a tree frog survey and Alistair was joining us to help out. We have additional ghauts that we check for background levels of the Chytrid fungus, the tree frog is numerous throughout the Island and so we catch and swab them to monitor the Chytrid levels. We did a three frog survey at the release site before the Mountain Chickens were released. There were tree frogs everywhere, we aim to take about 60 swabs, split between two or three locations along the ghaut. We had been done in no time, there were so many frogs you had to watch where you put your feet, they were bouncing out of the way in all direction and the air was noisy with their calls! Tonight though silence, that’s not a good start! It had rained a lot throughout the day, the tree frogs just didn’t seem to be around. We had to work really hard through the leaf litter to find them, Blacka is the master frog catcher and even he was struggling. I should mention that they are also really small, a good adult sized frog is about 2-3cm, snout to vent, but many are smaller than that! At the first stop we got 20 swabbed in 1 hour, at the second we did a bit better with 20 in 50 minutes. The next site we found 10 in about 40 minutes and decide to move to another spot to get the last 10, again taking about 40 minutes. It had been a long night, much tougher that I had expected it to be. It was time to head home and catch up with Sarah-Louise and Jenny and see how they got on.


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