Packed and ready to go! In November this year, Luis Ortiz-Catedral will lead the team conducting the 2014-2015 annual survey of Floreana Mockingbirds on Champion and Gardner Islets. These counts provide the best information about population trends and overall population status of the iconic Floreana Mockingbird, officially, the mockingbird with the most restricted distribution in the world. Besides the annual counts, Luis and his team (which includes a Mexican and an Ecuadorian volunteer) will set up 6 motion-sensitive cameras to monitor active nests and document the breeding cycle of the species. These gadgets are small (about the size of a carton of milk) and camouflaged, thus enabling a non-invasive alternative to monitor nesting outcomes. These cameras will help the understanding of what are the most critical periods of survival for nests (i.e. incubation, chick-rearing or fledgling) and will also document potential native or exotic predators of eggs and chicks.
Luis is excited that they will get to see the presentation of a school play "A very special island". This play will be performed by kids of the Tomas de Berlanga School in Santa Cruz as part of their drama classes, under the skilled supervision of Jill Peters and Jo Browne, two very enthusiastic expat teachers from Australia and the UK respectively. "A very special island" is an interactive theatre piece that will show the audience the challenges of being a mockingbird chick, living on an isolated islet. The cast includes a family of mockingbirds, three rats, one cat, one snake and an owl! Photos of the costumes and a short clip of the play will be available online (FOGNZ will provide links when available).
Lastly, a brief training workshop for rangers of the Galapagos National Park will be conducted to strengthen their skills for handling mockingbirds, applying metal bands, keeping records of banded individuals etc. Support for research in the field and the school activities has been generously provided by Massey University, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (in kind support) and The Galapagos Conservation Trust.