A report from Nature Seychelles’ International Volunteer Program
Volunteering with Nature Seychelles on Cousin Island Special Reserve has provided me the unique opportunity to get involved in the monitoring work of endangered species found on the island. Being able to ring a Magpie Robin chick is a special experience, unique to the Seychelles, and one that I will never forget.
Cousin Island Special Reserve is home to many different species of land birds and seabirds, with a few of these being endemic to the Seychelles. The Seychelles Magpie Robin (SMR) is one of the endemic birds which can be found on Cousin.
Previously listed as Critically Endangered, the species could only be found on Frégate Island between the 1950s and 1990s. In 1990 a recovery program was put in place by RSPB and Nature Seychelles, which manages this nature reserve, leading to the eventual translocation of several birds to Cousin, Cousine, and Aride islands. Due to the conservation efforts by Nature Seychelles and its island partners over the years, the birds have now been down listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of endangered species.
One of our main tasks as volunteers is daily monitoring of the SMR. Each Magpie Robin on Cousin Island has two different colored rings on its left leg and every bird has a different color combination so that individuals can easily be identified. Every morning a group of us will go into the forest to look for the SMRs. We will record which birds are found in different territories around the island and watch for any different behaviour changes.
I was lucky enough to witness two hatched eggs and to welcome two new Magpie-Robin chicks on Cousin. After 10 days the chicks were developed enough for us to be able ring them. Ringing the birds is a very important aspect of the conservation work as it allows for accurate monitoring and data collection.
Together with other volunteers on Cousin, we assisted in the ringing of the Magpie Robin chicks guided by Nature Seychelles’ science coordinator. Ideally, ringing occurs when the birds are still in their nests, before they have fledged. The birds are given a metal ring (with unique number and letter combinations) and a red plastic ring (indicating it is originally from Cousin Island) on their right leg. They are then ringed with their unique two ring color combination on the left leg. Blood and measurements are taken before the bird is returned to the nest.
Apart from the SMR, volunteering on Cousin has also provided me the opportunity to be part of monitoring work of many other species including various seabird species. Having arrived during turtle nesting season, I also had the chance to observe Hawksbill turtles emerging from the sea, laying their eggs and returning back to the sea. Volunteering on Cousin Island has been an amazing experience which I highly recommend to anyone who is considering visiting the Seychelles.