Bird monitoring in Barbuda

BarbudanGO in action
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by barbudanGO

Barbuda is known for the Codrington Lagoon bird sanctuary that is home to the magnificent frigate bird and many others. In fact, in the world of ornithology (that is the bird watchers’ world), it is said that Barbuda is a great place to observe more than 120 different species of birds. 

It is therefore not surprising to witness birders trekking across our dry wood lands adding finds to their list. But there is a particular species that is found nowhere else but Barbuda.   

In 2017, a few weeks after the passage of Hurricane Irma, one lone Caucasian male could be seen trekking around Barbuda. When asked about his purpose on the island, especially during a time when many Barbudans had limited access to their home, his reply was astonishing. He said, “I am here looking for the Barbudan warbler.” 

In the moments when we attempted to piece our lives together, not many Barbudans had this chippy little individual that has a combination of blue-gray underparts, sunflower yellow upperparts, two white wing bars, a distinctive facial pattern and an unmistakable sweet song, in the forefront of our minds.

It is fair to say that the presence of this non-Barbudan on the island, searching desperately for a species that can be found only in Barbuda, planted the seed for barbudanGO’s 2023 Action for Habitat project which is funded by the GEF Small Grant Programme, the Barbuda Council and the Waitt Institute.  

Action for Habitat seeks to raise the level of consciousness that the average Barbudan has regarding its local wildlife. Our aim is to cultivate a community that intentionally contributes to the balance of nature.

To accomplish this, two conservation sites will be established. One site will function as a mangrove nursery while the other will safeguard against habitat loss for the endemic Barbuda warbler.

However, establishing a conservation site is not enough to cultivate its desired society where citizen science thrives. One solution is to establish a volunteer core that avidly seeks to engage in wildlife monitoring, and the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) has come onboard to begin this process.

Shanna Challenger and Joshel Wilson, representatives of the EAG, spent a week in Barbuda. While here, they conducted a one-week bird monitoring workshop that highlighted the importance of birds to the ecosystem and the need to monitor their population and trends. 

Workshop participants learnt keys to identify species accurately and strategies to conduct effective counts. They were trained to use equipment, data capture apps and protocols. They also engaged in practical field experience.

While in the field, the barbudanGO wildlife volunteer core observed 14 different bird species to include the endemic Barbuda warbler.

BarbudanGO is grateful to the EAG and the core sponsor of the workshop, Birds Caribbean, for the investment made to build the local capacity to engage in regular observation and data capture.

Action for Habitat impresses that the wellbeing of the endemic Barbuda warbler’s population cannot fall victim to habitat loss.

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