Volunteering with Ebony Forest: journal notes by Nikki Hulse

6 February 2023

Nikki volunteered with us for one month at the start of 2020. Besides bringing her bubbly personality and energy, Nikki assisted our conservation team in their daily activities. Nikki kept a brief journal of some of her activities.




Monday morning and we’re still feeling the after effects of the cyclone with a bit of wind and a lot of showers! Time to get the aviaries back up and running for the Echo Parakeets. Start off by opening the hatches and getting them tied up so the birds can access the fruit and hoppers (feeders) inside, then get the orange and apple fruit skewers placed to hopefully attract them instead of the exotic species like the Red-whiskered Bulbul!

I spent a lot of time at the Pink Pigeon aviaries at Ebony Forest doing watches or providing supplementary food.

Next it’s time for cleaning the hoppers and getting fresh parrot food out. Feeders can be a breeding ground for germs and a perfect spot to pass bacteria between individuals so it’s extremely important to keep them clean! I put the used hoppers to soak in a solution for 20mins, in the meantime I get the pre-cleaned ones set up, put in place and filled with the tempting, colourful parrot food.

Echo Parakeet are given parrot pellets in specially designed feeding stations, which only they are clever enough to open.

Once the used ones are soaked and scrubbed I give them a good rinse and leave them to dry before putting them away for the next hopper rotation. I was hoping to do a bit of practice with my Pink Pigeon identification and monitoring but none are to be seen, probably sensibly hiding from the rain!


Aim High!

So, I’ve been here a few weeks now, but I still haven’t got around to going right to the top to Piton Canot, beyond Sublime Point. Today’s the day! After putting the fruit skewers out for the Echos, I set off on the climb. Following the Ridgeline trail to Sublime Point I came across a couple of groups of Pic pics who will still only let me get a photo of their fluffy bums due to not sitting still for more than 2 seconds! Also, on the lookout for the Flycatchers but it just seems to be Red-whiskered bulbuls pretending to sound like them and tricking me every few 100m or so.

The Mauritius Bulbul and the Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher frequently came to say hello during my time at Ebony Forest

Once I reach Sublime Point I carry on up and through the gate on the Piton Canot trail to the summit. Not more than 5m along the path and I spot a familiar looking seed. On closer inspection I realise it’s the same seeds and tree we found a couple of days ago but then lost again! Smelly tree as it is called, when translated literally – bois puant! Bingo! This time there is no mistaking where it is so even though I don’t have a GPS on me and my phone Map app seems to think I’m in the ocean, there’s no loosing it this time!

This distinctive seed is Foetidia mauritiana or more commonly known as bois puant.

I then struggle on up the short but fairly difficult climb to the top and it’s worth every effort, the view is amazing. A complete, stunning 360 degree view. Le Morne looks stunning, you can see the Ebony Forest buildings, the aviaries and the restoration site where I planted my first tree (which I called Grace after my niece)! There are Martins, dragonflies, bees all busy swooping and flying around but there is a very big black cloud headed my way so although I could’ve stayed there all day it was time to head back, and I only fell over once!!

My efforts were rewarded with a breath-taking view from Piton Canot of Le Morne Brabant, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Small acts

of Kindness can
go a long way