US Ambassador Beatrice Welters and students from Bishop Anstey East High School and Trinity College East, Trincity experienced the diversity and importance of T&T’s bird population when naturalist Carl Fitz James invited them to participate in his bird banding exercise at Brasso Seco. The visit to Brasso Seco was in commemoration of International Migratory Bird Day, traditionally observed on the second Saturday of May but celebrated year round. James has been conducting research on the local bird population for several years, as part of his tracking project in the Brasso Seco forest on the outskirts of Arima. He explained that the tagging exercise will provide valuable data on bird migratory patterns, the environmental health of Trinidad, and the extent that human behaviour may affect the bird population.
A release from the US embassy said the 30 students, many of whom are members of the environment club or are pursuing studies in environmental science, were quite interested in learning about the bird-tracking process. Student Varisha Branker, 17, was excited to try her hand at bird tagging, stating that she “never knew about bird banding (before coming to Brasso Seco.) This is something new.”
Science teachers Neisha Hutton and Marina Berahzer, who accompanied the students to Brasso Seco, said that the outing “exposed (the students) to birds that they wouldn’t see anywhere else,” and presented an opportunity for academic, research-based careers in the environmental sciences, rather than the industrial field which has traditionally been more popular for job-seekers. Ambassador Welters, an avid hiker and nature lover said, “When I first arrived in Trinidad and Tobago I was told the country is a bird watcher’s paradise, and my trip to Brasso Seco confirmed that.
“The bird-tracking programme is a wonderful, hands-on way to attract students to a career in the rapidly advancing scientific field. The students were very excited to participate in the process of netting and banding the birds and it clearly develops valuable analytical skills that will contribute to their future success. “Perhaps some of these students will discover a new passion for bird watching and environmental conservation in Trinidad.” Mist netting is an important tool for monitoring bird species’ population, which includes assessing species’ composition, population size, and abundance. In order to band and track wild birds, people trained in the field capture the birds in nylon mist nets, record scientific data including wing measurements and physical characteristics, and band the bird’s leg before releasing it back to the wild.