Some prettier pictures from Redonda

Alright, yesterday’s pictures were a bit gross, I apologize. Today’s will be a little nicer. Here’s just a quick photo dump and some captions of a few more scenes around the island, plus lizards!

RedondaHelicopterLanding.jpgHere’s the helicopter coming in for a landing. Notice all the beautiful grass!

A.Nubilus.M.TreePerch.jpgHere’s a male on a perch checking out this fellow (below) who was on the next branch over and sending some pretty strong “get outta here” signals.

A.Nubilus.M.DewlapSide.jpgAnd here’s a female. Not the one the two guys above were fighting over but another, that I spotted not too far away.

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Here’s a shot from up on Redonda of Geoff taking a picture in the evening sun.

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And here’s one showing the rocks up top and the path along the spine of the island.

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And, finally, here’s another pretty picture from the Helicopter because I just can’t get over how fun and pretty it is riding up front!

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We’re back from Redonda!

The trip to Redonda was a huge success and even more importantly, the restoration project is going tremendously well! Last year, Redonda was dusty and dry, overrun with goats and rats that were mowing through the vegetation and hurting the islands’ unique mix of plants and animals, including three endemic lizards.

This year, the island is now rat- and goat-free and the lizards and birds are flourishing. It seemed like there were birds nests everywhere you stepped, and every time we rounded a corner, new birds were squawking their heads off — even the little fluff-ball babies got into the racket.

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The lizard populations have increased tremendously. I’ll save lizard details for the next post though so stay tuned. The rest of this week has been focused on analyzing the data and jump starting some science communication and outreach while I’m in-country. I gave a talk to about 60 very enthusiastic people, including a lot of school kids and biology majors at the local university. The questions were terrific – everyone was incredibly attentive – and I even got a cheer when I posted my preliminary bar graphs. That’s a first!

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I even got to do a live TV interview on Antigua and Barbuda Today, the morning show for the country. The anticipation was nerve-racking but getting to talk with the host about the important work happening on Redonda was really exciting. I’ll post the video as soon as I have some decent internet – I’ve had to start this post multiple times because the internet has disappeared on me. I’m leaving for Miami in a few hours where I’ll present some of these results in a symposium about current work in Anole ecology and Evolution. I’ll be in Miami for 48 hours before flying back to Paris. I’ll try to sneak in some more picture uploads tomorrow on fast internet and will be writing longer stories next week from France. Stay tuned!

 

Helicoptering to Redonda

I’ve decided to break up the Redonda posts thematically. There’s a bit of a beginning, middle, and end to the trip, but the experience day-by-day makes less sense than talking about big things that we were working on in Redonda that often spanned several days. First up, getting to Redonda!

Helicopter

As I’d mentioned previously, the best way to get to Redonda, and really the only way to get quite a lot of gear to Redonda, is via helicopter. And we had a lot of gear.

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Photo: Geoffrey Giller

This was my first helicopter ride and I was so excited. Caribbean Helicopters did the flying and they were terrific. After a safety briefing and some very stylish waist belt life jackets, we were waiting on the veranda for our ride! The anticipation was tremendous, particularly watching the group before us head out for a tour to see Montserrat and come back wide-eyed with huge smiles on their faces.

Finally, it was our turn. Lifting off straight up from a standstill was such a surprising and awesome feeling. Our pilot was really fun and did a great job showing us around. For some reason he wouldn’t let me push any buttons up front or help with the foot pedals though…

Here’s one of our first views as we left the ground. This is beautiful sunny Antigua. Antigua from the air

It was a short ride to Redonda – about 20 minutes – so it wasn’t long after we left the Antiguan coast behind us that we got our first good look at our destination. While Geoff and I had managed to get a glimpse from the airplane on our flight in, seeing the massive cliffs rising out of the ocean, getting ever larger, really set the stage for our next week.

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This is the “pleasant” side for hiking on Redonda.

Here’s the other side, somewhat less pleasant for walking around. Those steep cliffs dropped over 1000 feet down to the ocean.

Redonda from the air

By far one of my favorite parts of the ride, and probably the best thing about helicoptering, was being able to look straight down through the glass bubble in the nose and watch the ground go by beneath your feet. Here’s a view of the approach to the helipad on Redonda (see that grassy area with slightly fewer rocks – yeah, that’s the helipad).

Helicopter inside

The landing was perfect and we all scurried out to unload the helicopter pronto so the pilot could get back to Antigua.

Taking off

Our ride home was every bit as exciting. Here’s a selfie from the back seat with Anthony.

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Next up, what happened to get us from clean and neat in picture two to so outrageously scruffy looking by the trip home.