A bird ringing training was organised on Aride Island by the Island Biodiversity & Conservation (IBC) centre of the University of Seychelles between 16th and 20th October 2017. This five-day training was hosted by the Island Conservation Society (ICS) with the support of the Southern African bird ringing scheme SAFRING, and was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The course involved a dozen of participants from ICS (staff and volunteers from Aride and Alphonse), the Seychelles National Park Authority and the Conservation section of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.
Aride nature reserve hosts one of the most spectacular breeding sites for seabird species and five species of land birds endemic (hence only found) in Seychelles. Conducting the training in this unique setting offered participants the opportunity to handle and ring different bird species and contribute in the conservation of endangered species as well as the preservation of habitats.
The objective of the five-day ringing training was first of all to introduce participants to the science of bird ringing, especially for those who were beginners, as well as to provide first-hand experience on the different techniques used to study birds through ringing. For the more experienced, the training was designed to offer the possibility to progress through the SAFRING bird ringing scheme and cultivate the skills necessary to acquire a ringing license.
The training sessions began by setting up the ‘mist-nets’ at different locations along the coast as well as in the denser woodlands of the island. These special nets were of different mesh sizes that depend on the birds to be caught. These varied from tiny passerines such as Seychelles Sunbirds (Kolibri) to larger Madagascar Turtle-doves (Tourtrel dezil), and for seabirds from Lesser Noddies (Kelek) to White-tailed Tropicbirds (Payenke lake blan). The birds caught in mist-nets were carefully removed, put into a cloth bag, and brought to the ringing tables and fitted with a metallic ring to one of their legs. A variety of morphological measurements were taken such as wing and tail lengths, sex, mass and more complicated measurements such as the ‘tarsus’. After these measurements, the birds were released again close to where they were caught initially. The mist-nets were opened early in the morning and closed before11am; then re-opened during mid-afternoon and then closed just before dark. The reason for the opening and closing intervals is simply because it is during these periods that birds are most active during the day and are more likely to be caught. Dr. Dieter Oschadleus (SAFRING) and Dr. Gerard Rocamora (IBC-UniSey), both licensed ringers and trainers with many years of experience, were the supervisors of the course. Early afternoon, theory sessions were conducted through a series of presentations as well as guide-materials to bird ringing. Another important part of the training was the ringing of ‘Shearwater’ species (Fouke ek Riga). This activity consisted of catching by hand the birds at night using torches. Though quite challenging and risky at times due to the wounds that these birds can inflict by their sharp beaks, this was one yet an interesting part of the training as expressed by the participants.
However, bird ringing is not an activity conducted just for the pleasure of doing it. These metallic rings are like ID cards to the birds and it is aimed at providing information such as their movements (migration), population dynamics (such as longevity), their ecology and ethology (behaviour) and many other indications. These different aspects do not just give us a picture about the birds themselves but also an indication of the quality of the environment, both terrestrial as well as marine, that we as humans are using.
The different morphological measurements taken during bird ringing are entered into a database (like the one managed by SAFRING). These may then be accessed by different organisations and schemes around the world who are concerned with conservation, and even by mere interested bird lovers. In a nutshell, ringing is vital for establishing strategies and aiding conservation efforts, for monitoring as well as to sustain our environment and feed our passion for nature. Such trainings should be done more often and should hopefully be made available for more environment enthusiasts and conservationists in Seychelles through the University of Seychelles in future.
During the course, a total of 345 birds from 13 different species were captured and ringed (see table), and 30 more birds recaptured including 19 ringed on Aride (up to 7 years ago for a Brown Noddy).
As a way to pursue training for those involved in the bird ringing training on Aride (and for others that may want to join), the IBC will be organising a ringing expedition on Conception that will focus on ringing the rare endemic Seychelles White-eye, currently an vulnerable species that still requires additional conservation efforts for its future to be secured both on its traditional grounds of Mahé and on several small islands where new populations are being established.
Abel Sorry (Biologist Project Officer)
Island Biodiversity & Conservation centre, University of Seychelles
|English name||Nom kreol||Numbers ringed|
|White-tailed Tropicbird||Payanke lake blan||8|
|Fairy Tern||Golan blan||21|
|Madagascar Fody||Srin, Kardinal||1|
|Seychelles Magpie-robin||Pi santez||1|
|Madagascar turtle-dove (hybrid)||Tourtrel dezil||38|