Long Term Bird Monitoring Initiated at the UWICE Research Preserve

News | Posted on 2013-08-26

The UWICE has begun the long term bird monitoring program on the 22nd August, 2013. Three mist-net lines were laid in the UWICE Research Preserve, covering three habitats- blue pine forest, stream ravine and wetland. Mist netting exercise shall be conducted third week of every month. This would be one of the best ways to learn and teach birds.

Through this mist-netting exercise, we will learn and document; bird diversity and change with season, bird community and composition, breeding biology, and age structure. Body mass and morphometric data of every captured bird are recorded and a database is being managed at the institute. Monitoring of birds using mist nets will be performed in selected localities in the country in collaboration with relevant agencies and institutions. School going children in the Chamkhar Valley will be invited for this activity and gradually expand to other schools through our out-reach program for bird education.

The trainees are engaged in this activity. In the campus, this mist netting activity will become a section of the Wildlife Management Curriculum of the Certificate Course offered at the Institute.


Preparation: It was 22nd August 2013, trainees gathered at the courtyard of the UWICE Office complex upon the lead call made by Mr. Rinchen Singye. Rinchen got trained in the United States for three months to use mist net to monitor birds, organized by PBRO, in 2011. He snow-balled the session with introductory notes on mist net and mist netting. The trainees carefully listened to him as he was charting through the presentation to orient for the new activity that UWICE has envisaged to initiate the long term monitoring of birds in Bhutan.

The journey of bird monitoring began by breaking the trainees into two groups. From the courtyard of the office complex, Rinchen led the first group and Sherub led the second group to two different netting sites. Rinchen’s group fixed the net line in the blue pine habitat, on the saddle along the ridgeline, north of the office complex. Sherub herald away the second group to the second stream in the south of the dzong. He has mist netting expertise from the ornithologists at The Field Museum, Chicago, USA. Trainees were dispersed to collect 8 feet tall poles, others were asked to clear the ground, where mist net line was to be laid.

Sherub’s team stalled a mist net line across the stream targeting to capture and release riverine dependent birds. This mist net line was kept closed to avoid catching birds or any flying objects at night, and the team moved to the wetland habitat in the west of the office complex.

Rinchen’s team was definitely busy fixing up three mist nets in one net line.

The team on the wetland habitat cleared a meter wide 36 meters long transact for the third net line. Later, Rinchen’s team joined and completed the installation of mist nets on the wetland habitat. Again, all the mist net trap lines were kept closed. Then, UWICE was set to begin her longterm bird monitoring in Bhutan.

Mist-netting: The time had entered 4am, 23rd August 2013. Rinchen and Sherub wiggled out of the beds. With flash lights grasped with fingers against their palms, they ventured behind their residence through the blue pine forest, crossed a small ravine to the fresh excavated football field. They whispered at each other as their legs fumbled over small rocks and clods of mud, and at the other end of the football field, they jumped over a drainage designed to keep football field dry. And walking through another patch of blue pine, they arrived at the mist net line in the wetland. They unfurled three mist nets and walked to the trainees’ hostel to find their trainee volunteers wait for them at 430am.

They divided into two groups, one was again led by Rinchen to the blue pine net line and the other was led by Sherub to the srteam net line. It was still pre-dawn. The net lines were opened by 5am. We left the net lines and gathered at the office complex, so that nature takes its morning course.

The time struck 545am, two groups again dispersed to monitor net lines. Excited at the activity, trainees entered into bet amongst each other. The first bird to be mist-netted at the stream net line was a sub adult Myophonus caeruleus (Blue Whistling Thrush). The blue pine mist net has a female Turdus albocinctus(White-collared Blackbird). We were competing with the fleeting time between monitoring net line and processing data of captured birds. We had to be fast on our legs. At the stream net line, we had a Enicurus maculatus (Spotted Forktail). The wetland and blue pine net lines did not have any capture. We kept mist nets open till 10am. The mist netting of birds was carried out for three consecutive mornings (23-26thAugust 2013). On the 24th August, we had two Streptopelia orientalis (Oriental Turtle Dove) from the blue pine net line, and on 25th August, the mist nets missed birds. The captured birds were assigned individual identity using locally available materials. Plastic color bands were made from electric and television cables. Trainees were taught and trained to taking out birds from mist net using bander's grip.

Bit on BirdsBlue Whistling Thrush-The specimen could not be sexed morphologically-no sexual dimorphism. It weighed 200 grams; other morphometric measurement- wing chord 16cm, tail length 12cm, tarsus 5cm, and bill 3.8cm. This individual was aged, a sub adult based on its molting stage and cranial ossification. The fledgling or this year’s juvenile does not molt, and adult will have completely ossified cranial bones. It was not breeding as it did not have prominent brood patch. It had lost most of its body feathers on tibia, and flight feathers were getting replaced with new quills. White-collared Blackbird- A female bird captured in the blue pine net line. It weighed 122grams; other morphometric measurement- wing chord 13.5cm, tail length 9.5 tarsus 3cm, and bill 2.6cm. It was an adult breeding bird. It had very prominent brood patch- it could either be incubating or chicks are at very early stage. It did not have any body or feather molt as its energy has to be on raising broods. Spotted Forktail-It came from the stream net line. Its sex identity could not be confirmed from its external plumage. It weighed 62.5grams; other morphometric measurement- wing chord 9cm, tarsus 3cm, and bill 2.5cm. The bird was in its post breeding phase; it had its body and flight feathers in molt. The feathers were worn out; there were just three tail feathers, and most wing feathers getting replaced with new. The crown feathers were all in quill sheet, and brood patch almost not visible. Its feet were just as clean as it remains in water. Oriental Turtle Dove- Two doves were in the blue pine net line in the blue pine habitat. They weighed from 250 and 262grams; other morphometric measurement- wing chord 18.9 and 20.5cm, tail length 12 and 13cm, tarsus 2.3 and 2.5cm, and bill 1.5 and 1.8cm, respectively.

Photographs: Sangay Wangchuk