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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

Raising awareness & promoting sustainable use of natural resources

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The EAG took part in the first Caribbean Waterbird Census, an initiative of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.


The CWC Project


The EAG had an informal bird monitoring programme run by volunteers. The Caribbean Water Bird Census (CWC) formalised this programme.


The census focused on wetlands and associated water birds. Water birds are those primarily associated with water habitats such as swamps, ponds, marshes etc.


Examples of water birds include black-necked stilts, various plovers, sandpipers, ducks of various species, egrets and herons.


Goals of the CWC in Antigua and Barbuda


• to increase support for waterbird and wetland conservation in Antigua and Barbuda by promoting monitoring as means to improve science-based conservation planning and adaptive management of birds.

• To contribute the effective and sustainable conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the wider Caribbean


Objectives of the Programme

• To determine which species of resident or migrant water birds are present and their distribution and relative abundance throughout the year

• To measure population sizes and trends—changes in numbers and density over time in water bird populations in response to changes in the environment (e.g., management, variation in site conditions, site-based threats)

• Justify conservation action in important wetland habitats

• Assess the need for specific management or conservation measures to improve the site for water birds

• Assess the effectiveness of management or conservation measures in improving the site for water birds

• Engage the local community in citizen science and wetland conservation

• Assess the potential for nature-based tourism


Wetlands to be Surveyed Initially

• McKinnon’s

• Flashes

• Fitches Creek

Caribbean Water Bird Census (CWC)

GENERAL INFORMATION ON THE CWC

The CWC is a region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring program of the SCSCB. The goal of the program is to promote the conservation and management of resident and migratory waterbirds and their wetland habitats through monitoring.

How to Count Water Birds

Lisa G. Sorenson, Ph.D.

President, Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds


Do you know of a pond, mangrove swamp, or marsh nearby with waterbirds on it? If yes, we invite you to participate in our first region-wide survey of Caribbean waterbirds, the Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC), and help us to save waterbirds and their habitats.

The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) is starting a new region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring program called the Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC). The goal of this program is to learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean to improve our conservation planning and management of these beautiful birds and their habitats. The SCSCB has been holding training workshops on how to count waterbirds, and the first ever region-wide count will be held during a 3-week period from January 14th to February 3rd, 2011. These dates include World Wetlands Day on February 2nd, so that you can carry out the count as part of your celebration if you wish. 

The CWC offers 2 options for your count: Point Count and Area Search. Here are some tips on these 2 count methods:

Point Count -

Preparing for your Point Counts: First, visit your pond and decide on the best vantage point (“count station”) to conduct your “point count.” Choose an area that is unobstructed and gives you a good view of birds on the pond. If possible, draw your count area on a map or aerial photo of the site (including both the water and wetland fringe that you are including in the count); Google Earth is a great resource for aerial photos.

If your wetland is small to medium-sized (e.g., less than 50 ha), you may be able to count all the waterbirds on it from one or two count stations. If your wetland is large or has lots of vegetation, you may need to carry out counts at a number of stations to cover as much of the site as possible. Place your count stations at least 400 m apart to try to avoid double counting (counting the same birds at two stations).

Timing: Birds are most active and visible in the morning so do your count between sunrise and about 10 or 11 a.m. Aim to conduct your count during a 3-week period from January 14th to February 3rd, 2011, when many others in the region will also be doing surveys.

What to do: Arrive at your site quietly and have your binoculars, field guide, notebook and pencil ready. Stand at your count station, record your start time, and count the number of each species that you see on the pond. The recommended duration for the count is 6 to 12 minutes (choose 6, 9 or 12 minutes as your count time). If you need more time to identify and count all the birds, that’s fine, just be sure to record the amount of time you spend counting birds. Try to keep your count time to a maximum of 20 minutes.

Area Search

Preparing for your Area Search: If your wetland has a trail, boardwalk or dike running through it, or you want to count a stretch of shoreline, you may choose to do an Area Search. This involves counting birds while traveling through the wetland (or along the beach) on a set route and counting all birds within your defined area. You should plan the route in advance, based on your knowledge of the wetland, a map or aerial photograph or a preparatory field visit.  Determine the exact area you’ll be covering and make sure that you’ll be able to count all the birds in that area.  Finally, determine how large the defined area is, http://www.acme.com/planimeter/ is a good online resource for measuring areas.

What to do: Walk along your route counting all the birds you see in your predefined area. Twenty minutes is typical but your count can be shorter or longer depending on the size of the site and the number of birds. Take care to avoid double counting by keeping track of movements of individual birds and flocks. Draw your count area on a map or aerial photo and be sure to count birds only within this area.

Time of day: For both kinds of counts, conduct them in the early morning, sunrise to 10 a.m.  Late afternoon is also a good time for counts but avoid the mid-day when most birds go into hiding.

Repeating the same survey over multiple days during the CWC 3-week period will begin to show how variable the birdlife is during this 3-week period and more importantly, will allow for us to also measure detectability (bias) which is extremely important in assessing populations and population changes. Also please remember to repeat these counts every year, following the same methods, during the CWC regional count; if you can also conduct the count during fall and spring migration periods and during summer this will provide more valuable data on the importance of the site for migratory and resident species.

Entering your data: Finally, visit eBird Caribbean (http://ebird.org/content/caribbean), an online site where you can enter your bird count data for any country in the Caribbean. Enter your data by choosing either Caribbean Waterbird Census Point Count or Caribbean Waterbird Census Area Search on the “Submit observations” page. On this website, you can enter, save and explore your bird observations in graphs and on maps as well as compare your site with other sites around the Caribbean. This database is an invaluable tool for birders, scientists, natural resource managers and conservationists. Help us to learn more about the distribution and numbers of Caribbean waterbirds, identify critical stopover and wintering sites for migratory waterbirds, and raise awareness about their importance and the need for conserving them by participating in the CWC and using eBird Caribbean!

Thanks in advance for your participation and support! 

Lisa

Additional Notes:

Help and assistance: If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact Andrea Otto (andreasheres@gmail.com) or Contact the EAG.

Data forms: Forms for recording your count data and more detailed instructions for conducting the count are attached to this email.

More on the CWC: The CWC was established by the SCSCB to promote conservation and monitoring of resident and migrant waterbirds and their wetland habitats in the insular Caribbean (including Bermuda and Trinidad and Tobago). Its objectives are to:

·      - Promote inventories, surveys and censuses of waterbirds and their habitats in all Caribbean countries,

·      - Monitor changes in waterbird numbers and distribution,

·     -  Improve knowledge of little-known waterbird species and wetland sites,

·     -  Encourage broad-based participation in waterbird counts including NGOs, governmental agencies, institutions, communities and volunteers,

·      - Ensure that as many internationally and nationally important sites as possible are conserved and monitored, and

·     -  Increase awareness of conservation issues related to waterbirds and their wetland habitats at local, national and international levels, and what can be done to address these issues.

The CWC offers a hierarchical and flexible approach to monitoring (employing levels of monitoring) that enables the user to choose the protocol and extent of participation in the program that is best suited to their objectives, available resources and capacity. The basic CWC counts described here (Level 1 counts, area search and point count) are recommended for basic counts and site inventories. CWC Level 2 protocols are similar to Level 1 but include measures of detection probability, which are essential for accounting for bias in monitoring.

Through this program, the Caribbean region will join Wetland International’s global program of wetland bird monitoring, with data from the Caribbean filling a major gap in the coverage of the International/Neotropical Waterbird Census. It can be used to promote site conservation, assess impacts of climate change and other threats on waterbirds and wetlands, and design programs to protect, manage and restore wetlands.

For more information on the CWC visit www.scscb.org

The complete CWC Manual and other resources are available at: http://conserveonline.org/workspaces/cwc

___________________

Lisa G. Sorenson, Ph.D.

President, Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds

Project Coordinator, West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands Conservation Project

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Dept. of Biology, 5 Cummington St.

Boston University, Boston, MA 02215

(508) 655-1940 (home office)

(617) 353-6340 (fax)

email: lsoren@bu.edu

www.whistlingduck.org

www.scscb.org



These are already known to have concentrations of a large variety of shorebirds and have much potential as nature tourism areas.


It is hoped that the number of wetlands will be expanded as the programme continues.

The implications of the CWC in Antigua include the fact that it provides opportunities for obtaining sound scientific data which can be used for more informed decision making in terms of conservation, land usage, nature tourism among others. It also allows for greater fulfilment of the terms of international agreements such as the RAMSAR convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat).