15
October
2015

Immersed in a wild world

Report from Nature Seychelles’ International Volunteer Program

 Lesser Noddy and chick

As the bottom of the boat scrapes the sandy beach, you instantly realise you are not alone. In a big city you feel like one out of thousands and here on Cousin Island Special Reserve it is the same. The only difference is that here, you are surrounded by thousands of wild animals which is proof that conservation leadership really works. There are countless birds flying around everywhere, nesting everywhere; you can hear them and smell them.

It is fascinating to see the chicks getting bigger every day when you go past and it is hilarious how they try to look dangerous when you get close, but in fact they are looking even more adorable than before.

 This white tern chick will soon become fairy-white

I do not have the worldly comforts that I am accustomed to back home but it is absolute paradise. You wake up with the sound of waves lapping on the beach and a cacophony of birdsongs. You can take breakfast next to the sea, joined by some foddys which try to steal your food. If you are lucky, you can see some dolphins or turtles while staring at the ocean. The island life makes you feel really calm.

The only time you can’t hear any birds is when it is raining as it has been in the past several weeks. You only hear the raindrops falling on the roof, not a bad alternative. It is spectacular to see the rain coming. When you look over to Praslin, bit by bit the cloud cover increases so that eventually, Praslin is completely out of view.

 This baby Aldabra tortoise could one day grow to be a giant of over 150 years old

We found two really tiny Aldabra tortoises in the last two weeks. They still had their caruncle, which they use to get out of their egg. I was absolutely fascinated! It is currently turtle nesting season and all the staff and volunteers are excited about turtles coming to the beach to lay their eggs. Here on Cousin they also lay their eggs during the day, and we therefore have to patrol the beach throughout the day.

After ten days of rain it is sunny again. We are really thankful for it as are the little chicks. The water needs some time to soak into the ground and for the little chicks it was hard to survive with all the water coming down, as many nests are in danger of getting washed away.

 No matter which way you look, what weather prevails, it is a magical world

Each morning, Nature Seychelles staff and volunteers are out looking for the beautiful magpie robins. At first, when I stepped into the forest I did not see them immediately. But day by day, I learnt which areas they preferred and amazing facts about their behaviour, such as shadowing tortoises and foraging in areas where they have exposed the invertebrates these birds feed on.

While on the beach, with my back to the sea, I enjoyed watching the noddys and white-tailed tropicbirds all over the sky as well as the fairy terns which fly around in pairs; they stay together their whole life. Right before sunset, the scenery is magical as the shearwaters come out of their holes to catch fish. I am going to miss Cousin Island and all the nice people I have met here, the many birds, the sunsets, the colour of the sea and the lush vegetation. In the last weeks it began to feel like home and I was not quite ready to leave. Being on Cousin is like being immersed in a wild world and I loved it.

By Sophia Ulmer

Categories: Living on a nature reserve, Conservation, Birds, Volunteering, Nature People, Wildlife, Marine