Osprey Survey in The Gambia

Over the past three years we have been working with schools in The Gambia in an effort to help the students to learn more about Ospreys and the rest of the amazing wildlife that they have on their doorstep. We hope that the work, which is being coordinated by Junkung Jadama as part of the Osprey Flyways Project, will raise awareness of conservation and encourage the students to take more of an interest in the natural world; and maybe even think about a career in the environment.

Junkung visits all of the schools regularly to give the students talks and also takes groups out on fieldtrips. This gives the young people an opportunity that they simply wouldn’t get given the limited resources of each of the schools. This year we have embarked on another exciting new venture for the project – a survey of wintering Ospreys in coastal Gambia. The survey is being led by Junkung along with Clive Barlow, author of the Birds of Gambia and Senegal and Lamin Sanyang from the Gambian Department of Parks and Wildlife Management. Not only is this helping to provide valuable information on the wintering population of Ospreys in the region, but it is also providing fieldwork experience for students who have shown a real interest during previous fieldtrips. The winter-long survey began in late October and four of the students from St Martin’s Basic Cycle School in Kartong who joined the team have written about their experiences:

Junkung Jadama and Clive Barlow with students during one of the survey days

Junkung Jadama (second left) and Clive Barlow (seated) with students during one of the survey days

25th and 26th October

Being members of the Osprey Flyways Project the school privileged us to attend a birdwatching survey. It gave us great pleasure to be selected and take part in this survey. After having successfully conducted the survey, we intend to write these few words to express the experience we have gained in the course of the survey.

It was a two day trip (25th and 26th October 2014) lead by junking Jadama and Clive Barlow. We have always been hearing about Clive (the writer of a book on Gambian and Senegal birds) but we’ve never met him in person. This trip gave us the opportunity to meet him and interact with him. It also gave us the opportunity to see places we’ve never been to e.g. Bato Kunku, Tanji and Brufut Beaches.

During our survey we focussed on birds that are completely new to us. It was very interesting for us to see and identify European birds like the Osprey. We also learnt and observed their mode of feeding through fishing. We were amazed to find out that some of these Ospreys were ringed with different colours and marks/numbers.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the whole thing is our opportunity to use binoculars and telescopes. These are things we learnt in science but never saw them, not to talk of using them. Today we are proud that our knowledge on these gadgets is above the rest of our classmates because we saw them and used them freely; an opportunity our friends did not have. Because of the fact that everything was enjoyable and interesting, we did not even feel the long distance walked during the survey.

On a final note, we want to reaffirm our delightedness and gratefulness to Junkung and the Osprey Flyways Project for the interesting lessons taught to us. We strongly promise to continue our membership.

Farnara Jatta and Fatoy Secka

Three of the students from St Martin's Basic Cycle School who have helped out with the Osprey survey

Three of the students from St Martin’s Basic Cycle School who have helped out with the Osprey survey

29th and 30th November

We are members of the Osprey Flyways Project of St Martin’s Basic Cycle School, Kartong. We were selected to go for a birdwatching survey which took place on the 29th and 30th November 2014 and are happy to write about a few of the many things that we have experienced.
In the first place, we were exposed to places we never knew before, e.g. Tanji Marsh, Tanji Bird Reserve, Madiana and Bijoli Island. We really enjoyed our first ever boat trip into the Atlantic Ocean to Bijoli Island.

Secondly, our opportunity to see and learn the names of birds of different species and origin was a great achievement. It was interesting for us to know that some birds migrate all the way from Europe; including Osprey, Northern Gannet and many others. We saw some Ospreys that were ringed in Europe in different colours and numbers.

Our friends who preceded us in the birdwatching spoke to us about binoculars and telescopes which we were eager to see. Our participation in this trip gave us the opportunity to see and use them.

For us it is impossible to over-emphasise the experience gained, these among others are great achievements. We want to thank our coordinator (Mr Jallow) and Junkung for the exposure. We are happy to be members of the Osprey Flyways Project and we will encourage our friends to join the club so that they can also gain benefits.

Ebrima Bojang and Kaddy Darboe

Count the Ospreys! 8 Ospreys on Bijoli Island during the survey (photo by Olly Fox)

Count the Ospreys! 8 Ospreys on Bijoli Island during the survey (photo by Olly Fox)

All of the work carried out by the Osprey Flyways Project is funded by donations and our own fund-raising activities. Much of the funding for the Osprey survey has kindly been donated by IEPUK from Uppingham. This not-for-profit education and training organisation has become a valuable supporter of the project and earlier this month all of the IEPUK team took part in the annual Santa Fun Run in Stamford to help raise more funds for the project. They raised almost £300. A huge thank you to IEPUK for their ongoing support and for everyone who sponsored the team. If you would like to make a contribution to help the project, you can still do so here.

The IEPUK team at the Santa Fun Run (you might recognise a guest member of the team, second left)

The IEPUK team at the Santa Fun Run (you might recognise a guest member of the team, second left)