Lost for words

In early November I was lucky enough to spend 12 days in Mauritius. I’m not sure I’m eloquent enough to explain how much I loved it there, or the impact it had on me, but I’ll have a go.

I spent nine of the days on Ile Aux Aigrettes, a tiny islet off Mauritius where the majority of the world’s Mauritius Fodies live. The field team working there at the moment were incredibly welcoming, and made me feel part of the team right from the start, although it took me a few days to get my head around the routine. But I got there, and spent the rest of the time helping out with all of the fieldwork (they work really hard), and taking thousands of photographs.

My PhD is based on the long-term individual-based Mauritius Fody dataset; so I wasn’t in Mauritius to collect data but as a site visit, to get to know the system and increase my background knowledge. I think the most valuable aspect of it was the beautifully stark reminder that, though I spend my days in front of Excel and R, this project is really about a bird. A small, obscure, but incredibly charismatic and interesting one, that I was thrilled to be able to photograph at my leisure. They make the job of photography easy, really, because they are familiar, and there is such a high population density on IAA.

Male Mauritius Fody

This shot of a male fluffing himself out is one of my favourites. I got most of these photos while helping record Fody attendance at the aviaries in which they are fed; there are as many as 30 or 35 around at once, and this provides great photo opportunities as they fly in and out. I had a moment of awe when I realised that this is 10-15% of all the Fodies in the world, surrounding me!

Sunlight on feathers

There is one male called Amarula, whose territory is very close to the field station, and he’s even more tame than others; he hops around on the field station table and flies in and out of the kitchen, helping himself to whatever he can find to eat, even if it’s food set aside for the Mauritius Olive White-eye, another species reintroduced to IAA and currently more endangered than the fody.

The males get a lot of attention and camera time because they are so bright, but the females are also subtly beautiful.

Feather maintenance

I will post again about the work I did, the benefits to my study, and the other species on IAA later. For now, this post is late enough so I need to post it!

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