Wintering grounds of threatened Aquatic warbler found in Senegal


Aquatic warbler

From BirdLife:

Expedition solves Aquatic Warbler mystery

22-02-2007

After five years of investigations, an expedition team has tracked down the wintering grounds of Europe’s most threatened migratory songbird – the Aquatic Warbler – in Senegal.

“…knowing where they are in winter now provides a starting point to mirror the successful European conservation efforts in Africa.” said Lars Lachmann of RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) who co-organised the expedition to West Africa.

The expedition discovered good numbers of aquatic warblers in an area of about 100 square kilometres within the Djoudj National Park, an Important Bird Area (IBA) in north-west Senegal.

Preliminary estimates range from 5-10,000 birds at this single site.

Researchers from BirdLife International and RSPB combined state-of-the-art scientific analysis with traditional fieldwork to unravel the mystery surrounding the warblers’ unknown wintering sites.

The research team analysed feathers from Aquatic Warblers caught in Europe to help narrow their search. Knowing that the feathers would have been grown on African wintering grounds, the researchers looked for patterns of isotopes and compared these alongside isotope maps of West Africa. …

Aquatic Warbler has declined dramatically in Europe over the last century, and its global population is now down to 15,000 pairs – largely because of drainage of its wetland nesting sites. An estimated 95% of habitat has been lost in the last century.

Future work in the field and with satellite maps will help identify other potential sites in southern Mauritania and elsewhere in western Africa.

See also here.

British warblers’ migration to Senegal: here.

9 thoughts on “Wintering grounds of threatened Aquatic warbler found in Senegal

  1. Greetings from Mali in West Africa, I hope you’ll excuse my little rant, but I am a birder living in Africa.
    This story also appears in AFROL News under the title Mystery bird found in Senegal park (http://www.afrol.com/articles/24441). The strange thing about it – and the cause of the tongue in cheek Afrol news article is that there was so little collaboration between African and European ornithologists. Even the article from RSPB, who took part in the ‘expedition’ to Senegal, (http://www.rspb.org.uk/international/solved.asp) blows the trumpet for science in ‘discovering’ the bird’s winter habitat, and does not mention that African ornithologists could have told the team the information they needed – at very little cost, and it also omits the name of the Senegalese ornithologist, Mr Indega Binda who showed the ‘expedition’ where to make their ‘discovery’. The bird population of this popular birding venue in Senegal has been very well documented and it is regarded as one of Africa’s most well known bird sanctuaries. African ornithologists have been very active in Senegal, for example, even 20 years ago when I was working in The Gambia, we used the Senegalese birding list produced by them. Yet our Eurocentric explorers have to say “Knowing where they are in winter now provides a starting point to mirror the successful European conservation efforts in Africa,” (Lars Lachmann of BirdLife UK). Perhaps, since the African park has long had it’s own ornithologist and protection plan – it may be better to say that African conservation efforts can be mirrored in Europe! I’m sad to see that despite their current findings the team still insists on spending large amounts of money on ’scientific analysis’ to find other winter habitats of the birds – instead of simply asking ornithologists in neighbouring bird sanctuaries in Senegal and Mauretania. It almost reads like an Agatha Christie novel – Why didn’t they ask Mr Binda?

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