Entries in #staffblog (2)

Tuesday
Mar072017

Staff Profile - Tali Nachoom

I’m a recently qualified Commercial Diver. I love being underwater so much I’m on my way to make it my full time job

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Tuesday
Dec302014

The rare birds of Madagascar

Madagascar is home to 258 species of birds in total, over 100 of which are known to be endemic. In comparison to other large land masses this is a relatively low species diversity, however many of the avian fauna are regionally endemic to the Indian Ocean Islands. Nosy-Be and the satellite islands are home to 53 bird species, including some if the rarest and most endangered species in the world, such as the Madagascar Fish Eagle.

As with many of the endemic species found in this part of the world, the threats leading to species endangerment are ever increasing. Whilst birds are seen to inhabit the skies, many are highly dependent upon the forest and coastal regions for nesting sites and food acquisition. Wide spread deforestation, logging, agricultural practices and slash and burn is leading to a diminishing habitat for both the avian fauna and the prey items on which they rely. It is thought that twice as many birds inhabit wooded regions than open savannah lands therefore conservation of ecosystems such as the Nosy-be Sambirano Forest and mangrove systems contribute to the longevity of avian species survival.

Within the avian fauna found here, there are three categories in which they can be broken down into; sea and coastal birds, birds of prey and forest birds. Whilst some birds are adapted to thrive within multiple habitats others occupy a specific ecological niche. Amongst these three categories there are some stand out species which are either rare and a privilege to see if one is lucky enough to do so or some fairly common species which become favourites amongst both staff and volunteers.

Coastal and sea birds include the likes of Great Crested Terns, several species of Egret and Herons and a favourite amongst many; the electric blue Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher. Many of these birds can be seen whilst out at sea, in the mangrove ecosystem and utilising the intertidal zone upon the mudflats. Whilst all the said species are fairly commonly seen, from time to time, Frontier Madagascar is graced with the presence of an unseen species such as the recently seen juvenile Humblot’s Heron.

Birds of prey are spectacular to be seen in all parts of the world and there are four species known to be found here in Nosy-Be. The more common species being the Madagascar Kestrel and Madagascar Buzzard; the less common Frances’ Sparrowhawk and finally the Madagascar Fish Eagle, which is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union of Conservation for Nature) and has not been sighted in almost 6 months.

The forest birds here are those subject to most of the surveying conducted by Frontier Madagascar, therefore becoming familiar with all species identification and many of the calls is an essential part of the role of all forest team members. The forest is home to an array of species, differing in size with large Madagascar Coucals to small Souimanga Sunbirds, colourful Paradise Fly-catchers to modest Brush Warblers, vocal abilities of Madagascar Bulbuls to the mimicking Crested Drongo’s and season migrators. As the seasons have changed from Austral winter to summer, it has taken with it the likes of the Madagascar Bee-eater and brought in the Broad-billed Roller; breeding season has seen plumage changes from the dull browns to bright reds in the likes of the Red Fody and the increased sightings of nocturnal dwellers such as the Scops Owl.

Whether you have never been bird watching before or are a keen ‘twitcher’, the exciting array of species found flying or roosting in and around Nosy-Be will be sure to encourage you to pick up your binoculars, try to snap a photo and find a favourite amongst the species.

By Sham Mulji, Forest Assistant Research Officer

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