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From the Field: Recording Birdsong in Mauritius

By Jon Erickson
Jon Erickson records birdsong in Mauritius Macaulay library
Jon Erickson records birdsong in Mauritius.

At the age of eight, I managed to catch a cottonmouth in the pond behind my house with a piece of cheese and a rope.  I remember watching the writhing creature with fascination until my horrified mother pulled me away from an untimely death. Apparently her protection fostered love rather than fear for wildlife, and my interest continues to this day.

So when my wife won a Fulbright to study in Mauritius for a year, I thought about all the remarkable wildlife I might find on this small island. Apart from Mauritius being the famous home of the Dodo, I realized I didn’t know much about the country’s wildlife, and I wondered about how to share what I would be learning.

After some inquiries, I was contacted by Greg Budney, audio curator of the Macaulay Library, who asked if I’d be interested in recording wildlife sounds for the library while on the island.  This meshed well with another of my life’s interests; I am also a musician and have an extensive background in sound recording. After a trip to Ithaca to meet Greg and the wonderful staff at the library, the project was born.

So now, here I am in Mauritius with a bag of loaned recording equipment, some field guides, a map, and a book entitled Speak Mauritian Kreol in Seven Easy Lessons.  I hope that in the nine months my wife and I are here I’ll be able to make an extensive set of recordings for the library. I’m aiming for around half of the island’s 81 species, especially 10 endemics (most are highly endangered): Pink Pigeon, Mauritius Kestrel, Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike,  Mascarene White-eye, Mauritius White-eye, Mauritius Parakeet, Mauritius Fody, Herald Petrel, Rodrigues Fody, and Rodrigues Brush-Warbler.

But for now I have to get settled. So goodbye—or as they say in Mauritius, orevwar!

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library