Written by Peter Long, University of Oxford & Solohery Rasamison, University of Antananarivo
Photos Courtesy of Deena Wilmott
Since 2010 we have been monitoring forest birds in Mariarano, western Madagascar, by conducting point counts at 150 locations across the forest on multiple occasions each year. Starting this year, we have extended this study by using mist-netting to study the forest-dependent passerine birds in Mariarano. Every morning 100m of nets are opened from 0600-1000 and checked regularly to remove captured birds. This project is being led by Solohery Rasamison, a first year PhD student at the University of Antananarivo who has been a member of the bird team since 2011. The main reason to sample birds with mist nets is to be able to ring individuals and enable blood samples to be collected. We are doing this in order to permit genetic monitoring of forest-dependent passerines both in Mariarano and in other forest sites across Madagascar. We are also using this opportunity to put unique combinations of colour rings on four abundant species to allow individuals to be recognised when resighted in future. This will allow us to fit demographic models for these species and monitor demographic parameters. Morphometric measurements are also being taken from all individuals before they are released. This new project is allowing the school students and research assistants to learn how to set mist-nets, correctly extract and handle birds, and how to take measurements. In a typical morning perhaps 20 individuals will be caught and processed.