Friday, January 22, 2016

Kumbira Fieldwork 2014

In 2014 two field trips were done to Kumbira.

The first trip was carried out between May31st to June 29th, in which Hugo Pereira and Ana Leite participated, both of whom work at the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos (CIBIO). Hugo is a research assistant and Ana is a MSc student at CIBIO and is doing a thesis project entitled: “Can REED (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) initiatives be used to conserve the unique Angolan Scarp forests?”

The second trip took place between August 2nd and August 31st, and I was joined by Henrique Costa and Ursula Franke. Henrique is a MSc student at the Science Faculty of the University of Porto and also happens to be my husband. Ursula is a German psychologist and bird ringer who had accompanied Michael Mills on other trips.

During these two field trips we did the following work:

Radio-tracking study for Gabela Akalat
A more extensive study was done to assess the home-range size and habitat preferences of Gabela Akalat. For this, mist netting was used to capture the birds, with the help of Michael Mills and Ursula Franke. To increase the species capture probability we used playback. Captured individuals were weighed, measured, tail feathers samples taken for DNA sexing and tagged using transmitters manufactured by Biotrack. Transmitters (PicoPip Ag 379) did not exceed 5% of the bird’s body weight and were attached with eyelash glue to the mantle feathers (Figure 1a & Figure 1b).
Figure 1a. Hugo Pereira and Aimy Cáceres ringing and tagging a Gabela Akalat
Figure 1b. Gabela Akalat with tramsitter
 Tagged birds were followed during five days with the help of Hugo Pereira (CIBIO, first trip) and Henrique Costa (University of Porto, second trip). Bearings for the birds were registered every hour (from 7:00h to 17:00h, with a recess at 13:00h) using a TR-100 telemetry receiver and a Yagi antenna, giving a total of 50 locations per each individual (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Henrique Costa following a tagged Gabela Akalat
Individuals were captured in four different sectors that were defined according to the forest characteristics as:
1. Invasive forest understorey and canopy is dominated by the invasive Inga vera, original from South America.
2. Natural best old-growth forest in the study area
3. Mixed forest with presence of a non-dominant Inga vera and other species
4. Coffee abandoned shaded-coffee plantations that are being transformed to agricultural plots.

A total of 16 Gabela Akalats were captured and radio-tracked. Only one bird's tag stopped functioning after 1.5 days of radio-tracking. I am not sure what happened with the tag, but as this tag was the one used in the experiments it is possible that there was some problem with the battery.

Bird point counts to register endemic species
Bird point counts were done in the “Alto Minho” area of Kumbira. The objective was to survey areas where no bird censuses were performed in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Bird point counts were done in the early morning, from sunrise (c. 6:15h) until the end of morning activity (c. 10:00h).  Point counts were done after playing a track of 30-second snippets of vocalizations of each of the threatened endemic species: Monteiro Bush-shrike, Pulitzer Longbill, Gabela Akalat and Gabela Bush-shrike. During five minutes after the playback all of the endemic species heard or seen in a 50m radius were registered, including Red-crested Turaco (Figure 3).
Figure 4. Aimy Cáceres doing a bird point count in the Alto Minho area
Repetitions were performed during the afternoon (c. 15:30 – 18:00h) only for the sample points that did not present any endemic. Sample points were separated at least 200m from each other in order to avoid double counting. A total of 83 bird point counts were performed. Gabela Akalat, Pulitzer Longbill and Red-crested Turaco were registered at some of the points. Even though Gabela Bush-shrike was not registered during point counts, Ursula captured one individual near the campsite confirming the presence of this species in the “Alto Minho” area.

Assess biomass capacity of Kumbira Forest
Ana Leite, with the help of Michael Mills, performed the vegetation surveys in selected sampling points. At each point a 10m x 10m plot was assessed for canopy cover using a densitometer and canopy height using a range finder. Tree height and diameter at breast height (DBH) for every tree with DBH> 5cm was measured within the plot. 54 plots were assessed and Ana will use this data to estimate carbon stocks from tree biomass for her master thesis project.
Figure 5. Ana Leite on her way to do vegetation surveys  

Other interesting things
Ursula spent some time teaching Sergio Fasz, a person from the local village, how to set nets capture and ring birds (Figure 6). Sergido is a person eager to learn and I hope he continues collaborating with us.
Figure 6. Ursula Franke teaching Sergio Fasz to measure birds
Visitors in the camp
Juliette Mills (Luanda International School), Nito Rocha and Rui Marcão joined us for the first days of the trip in June.
Kelse Alexandre, Anabela and Dennis (from the Angola Field Group) visited our campsite in mid-June (Figure 7). Kelse has been a great help with logistics in Luanda.
Figure 7. From left to right: Dennis, Kelse and Anabela together with the research team

Presentation in Huambo
I was invited by the Instituto Superior das Ciências da Educação de Huambo (ISCED-Huambo) to give a presentation about the Mount Moco project (Figure 8). A group of teachers of ISCED-Huambo are interested in developing an education project in Mount Moco. We hope this initiative comes through as it will benefit the local population.
Figure 8. Aimy Cáceres giving a presentation in ISCED-Huambo

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