Wednesday 12 February 2020

Gambia Training Project February totals - February 2020

Sessions in February were held mainly at Tanji bird reserve SE and the surrounding area. The first of the month was our first session at Batokunku Farm where five nets captured over 80 birds.

Total - 379

African Thrush - 6
Beautiful Sunbird - 16
Black-billed Wood dove - 12
Blackcap - 1
Black-headed Weaver - 6
Black-necked Weaver - 7
Black Scimitarbill - 1
Black-winged Bishop - 3
Bronze Mannikin - 4
Brown Babbler - 6
Bush Petronia - 2
Common Bulbul - 4
Common Nightingale - 4
Common Whitethroat - 12
Eurasian Reed Warbler - 7
European Hoopoe - 1
Grey-backed Camaroptera - 6
Grey Woodpecker - 1
Laughing Dove - 2
Lavendar Waxbill - 1
Lesser Honeyguide - 1
Little Weaver - 6
Long-tailed Nightjar - 1
Long-tailed Starling - 1
Melodious Warbler - 4
Northern Crombec - 6
Northern Red Bishop - 127
Northern Grey-headed Sparrow - 4
Northern Puffback - 1
Red-billed Quelea - 21
Red-billed Firefinch - 15
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu - 8
Red-winged Pytilia - 1
Senegal Coucal - 2
Tawny-flanked Prinia - 2
Tree Pipit - 1
Variable Sunbird - 6
Village Indigobird - 1
Village Weaver - 47
Western Olivaceous Warbler - 7
Western Subalpine Warbler - 3
Yellow-crowned Gonolek - 6
Yellow-fronted Canary - 2
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird - 1
Yellow-mantled Widowbird - 1
Zitting Cisticola - 1

Gambia Training Project - Commencement of the Gambian Ringing Scheme part 5 - February 2020

Day 24.

Just over a week of the basic training left to go now and as well as completing skills check feedback on each trainee, there will also be a written test. This is all to help those in authority at the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and West African Bird Studies Association select the right two candidates to travel to APLORI, Nigeria for a further two weeks of training. The test is now set, so we can get on with the practical training.

The trainees arrived 20 minutes late today so it was already lighter than we would have wanted when we arrived at Batokunku Farm. Added to that, we arrived to find the gate locked  and had to enter via the other entrance. It seemed likely we'd miss the best of the day.  The trainees put up an 18m and 12m in the area of reeds and we sited a further two 12m nets.

Catching was progressing slowly when FC asked to put up another net, so he took the 9m and went off with AS. It wasn't long before the net intercepted a mixed flock of bishops and quelea, leading to a total of 83 birds ringed today.

Day 25.

A return to Batokunku Farm. An unusual site in that the numbers of birds caught tends to increase rather than drop off after 10am. There were more Northern Red Bishops coming to drink in the late morning and new birds for the project too, with European Hoopoe, Village Indigobird, Long-tailed Starling, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-winged Bishop, Yellow-fronted Canary and Black Scimitarbill captured among the 90 new birds.

Black Scimitarbill

Black-winged Bishop

Yellow-fronted Canary immature female

Northern Grey-headed Sparrow (Immature)

Senegal Coucal immature (note barring on retained juvenile feathers)

Long-tailed Starling

 Day 26.

Osprey at the pool by Darwin Field Station

Green Vervet Monkey

Snowy-crowned Robin-chat

Water Monitor lizard

A change of pace today as we met the trainees at Abuko Reserve. After a walk round, during which time we finally managed to get good views of Green Turaco, we delivered an introductory session about recording data on access sheets for SAFRING. It was slow going as each trainee tried their hand at inputting and calling data.

Day 27.

Another early start with nets at the lagoon but there was no reward of terns, gulls or waders this time. The landside nets still did well with new species Lavendar Waxbill, Zitting Cisticola and Grey Woodpecker.

Lavendar Waxbill

Grey Woodpecker

Zitting Cisticola

Day 28.

Batokunku Farm produced 88 birds and only 2 of these were retraps. We still encounter new species on an almost daily basis, today adding Bush Petronia and Red-winged Pytilia to the Gambian Ringing Scheme list.

Bush Petronia

Immature Red-winged Pytilia

After dark CL & DKL set off along the beach in search of any birds that might be dazzled and captured. We didn't get close enough to anything. However, it was not a complete waste of time as the Long-tailed Nightjar that frequents the quarry below the eco-lodge was captured on our way to the beach.

Adult male Long-tailed Nightjar

While we were on the beach, we became aware of large numbers of White butterflies coming in off the sea. It was most odd, all these butterflies flying in and settling on the beach in the dark save for our torch light. There were still some around, at Batokunku farm the next morning.

Caper White - one of the few migrant butterflies attracted to lights at night.

Day 29.

Plans to revisit Tanji Reserve (SE) were set aside on account of a late start due to the late arrival of the lodge manageress that in turn led to the late preparation of our takeaway breakfast. As a result we returned to Batokunku Farm (also one person short) and put up five nets, avoiding the reed-bed. It became obvious that the birds are becoming too accustomed to our nets, and avoid them.The wind soon got up and there were also stray dogs wandering the site so on just 18 birds, the nets came down just before mid-day.

AS talks to local youngsters about what we are doing and takes the opportunity
to ask them to preserve the vegetation.

Today was AJ's last day out with us and that's the reason for having brought the written test, yes written test, especially requested by one of the senior people forward to the 6th. It is unfortunate that two other people were unexpectedly unavailable - perhaps I'll catch up with them later.

Day 30.
The penultimate ringing day was spent at a different area of Batokunku farm. The area, separated from the sea by only a narrow beach and very high wall, provided some challenging sunbirds, a few migrant warblers and the ever present weavers. The total of 56 was a good number for the three trainees present to share amongst themselves. Some even started scoring fat in addition to scoring primary moult.

Sun, sea, sand and a shady spot for our base.

AS & MS compare two individuals of the same species.

Grey-backed Camaroptera adult on the left, immature on the right

Day 31.

This was to be the last ringing day - but it didn't turn out that way. We read a message late on the Friday telling us that one of the Gambians that rings at Kartong would be joining us in the morning. Also that the 1pm lunch booked for the trainees, ourselves and a senior DPWM official (who had been particularly helpful solving the problem about extending our visas) would also be attended by two additional people, with a journalist and photographer. So, this posed two issues, firstly that we didn't know whether the ringer was training under the British scheme, in which case he should not join us without the permission of his trainer. Then, there was the lunch that seemed to be getting expanded beyond the money we had available to pay for it. The lodge manageress would not be aware of the changes either. We spent an unsettled night.

Next morning there was only one of the three expected trainees in the car. The one attendee didn't know anything about the changes that were being made to our plans and we opted for a chat and a drink and the kit didn't even make it on to the 4x4. It was soon getting really windy, then the ringer that we'd been told about arrived. He and I have been Facebook friends for quite a long time. We also knew some of the ringers that he met while in the UK and he quite understood that the ringers in charge should be asked rather than told if someone else wants to attend a session. Then the journalist arrived at 11am. We were quite bemused, not having been let in on the planning. Later people started arriving for the lunch - and the chef was off so Haddy was trying to manage on her own, not being sure exactly how many people would be eating. Eventually Lamin from WABSA arrived. Apparently the T-shirts (that should have been ready from the start of the project) would be brought by FC, along with certificates for an award ceremony. We were unimpressed that such plans had not been communicated to us. Lunch was very late, and by 4pm people started to leave as FC and the T-shirts had still not turned up. So, the final day was rather a let down for all.

Day 32.
A day to complete reports, tidy up and spend some time at Pirang fish farm. This was a little reconnaissance with another trip in mind. On arriving there after an hour's drive we found that the birds tended to congregate on the raised areas with shallow water to cross if nets were to be placed there. The mud looked deep and it was incredibly windy, it being such an open area. The area was also vast, so plenty of other areas for the birds if put off by mist nets. There could be some hope if nets were set in the dark, but then there will be an awful lot of bats over the water and along the bunds. I doubt this site will be on any agenda soon.

So, we have done what we came to achieve. The first birds have been ringed with rings issued in Africa. We've completed the introductory training for the Gambian Ringing Scheme with six trainees. Since the first African Thrush that was ringed to the last Village Weaver, we have ringed 800+ birds. Best wishes to those selected to continue training with APLORI. We hope you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity at some stage in the future and continue working towards becoming fully qualified ringers able to operate your own ringing scheme.