RSPB volunteer on Antipodes

Written by Bea Ayling

I was over the moon when I found out that I had a volunteer place on the post-eradication monitoring trip to Antipodes. I’d first heard about Million Dollar Mouse at the International Island Invasives Conference in July 2017 in Dundee, Scotland, which I was attending as part of my ‘real-life’ role as Conservation Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (RSPB) Scotland.

I am based in the Orkney Islands, and stoats were seen for the first time there in 2010. Being outside their native range, we are worried about the impacts stoats will have on Orkney’s native wildlife, as seen in New Zealand. We have an endemic subspecies of vole (the Orkney vole) and most of our breeding birds nest on the ground and are susceptible to stoat predation. We are now in the process of setting up an eradication project, and I am currently on sabbatical with DOC and MDM to learn more about eradications to ensure we have success in Orkney.

Bea checking monitoring tunnels at Perpendicular Head, Antipodes Island

On Antipodes I am helping with placing and checking the monitoring tunnels for any signs of mice to hopefully confirm their absence as well as monitoring the native birds: Antipodes parakeet, Reischek’s parakeet, Antipodes pipit and Antipodes snipe, to help understand how these species are doing post-eradication. In Orkney, I am designing the monitoring programme so this experience is invaluable to me.

RSPB are also involved in a number of other eradication projects including a mouse eradication at Gough Island in the south Atlantic, which is a very similar project to MDM in Antipodes, but the island is more than 4 times as big. Like Antipodes, mice were introduced by sailors, but unlike Antipodes, the mice have evolved to be larger and have discovered the taste of Tristan albatross chick flesh. My job on Antipodes is to gather as much information for the Gough Island team as possible to help inform the project.

Bea at work in Orkney, surveying geese

We are now nearing the end of the post-eradication trip to Antipodes and it has been a rollercoaster experience I will never forget, from the exhaustion of fighting through 6ft tall impenetrable vegetation to the sounds of island birds at night and getting to know the team.

Thanks to everyone who has made this possible!

 

Antipodes at night. Photo by F. Cox