Windsor Research Centre
- Summer 2002-
Windsor has been a centre for biological research for nearly 150 years, so this Newsletter is just one small step in the "journey". From Harold Anthony's visit in 1920 (he discovered the first evidence of native monkeys on Jamaica right here!) through (Dame) Miriam Rothschild's ownership of the Great House in the 1950's (it was here that she conducted seminal research on mammalian ectoparasites in Windsor Cave) through Mike's purchase of the Great House in 1986 (Biologist Rudi Diesel was in residence), Windsor seems to have been destined as a Centre for research and is indeed seen as such by the Windsor and Sherwood Communities.
We first realized the need for a formal institution able to talk with authority on local biodiversity in about 1995 after a meeting on the Verandah between the Windsor Community, the now-defunct JADCO (Jamaica Attractions Development Company) and political representatives. JADCO proposed 26 tour buses a day...; "We'll build a village on the hillside". We have subsequently been involved with Cockpit Country Conservation, starting with the BirdLifeJamaica-sponsored Cockpit Country Workshop in spring, 1998 and continuing with the World Bank/GEF project (1999-2000) and now with the TNC "Parks-in-Peril" (PiP) Project. Though operating informally upto the late 1990's when we started operating as a "firm", we have now taken the plunge, with other founding members, to institutionalise our framework so that we can grow into our role in Cockpit Country conservation by contributing science-based knowledge, promoting research in the Natural Sciences and disseminating information to ensure the best-possible protection and management of Cockpit Country.
We are able to announce that finally Windsor Research Centre was incorporated, as a limited company, on 25th April, 2002 registered as Company No 65522. The Memorandum and Articles of Association can be consulted on our proto website 'http://wrc.cockpitcountry.com'.
The next news is that this newsletter will be published four times per year to ensure that our members and colleagues can participate in ongoing activities. It is intended to be brief and succinct but will have internet links so that any subject that particularly interests you can be explored in depth.
We held our first meeting of the Board of Directors on 8th June (see Minutes): key decisions were that Susan Koenig was nominated Director of Research and Michael Schwartz was nominated as Manager. Another key decision was to set the membership fee at J$1,000 or US$20. We hope this newsletter may encourage some of you to join WRC and participate in the development of our mission.
- May 1st-17th: a Bird-banding Workshop (see slide show) was held as part of a BirdStudies Canada (BSC)/BirdLife Jamaica (BLJ) project to generate a core group of Jamaican conservation leaders which is equipped to promote sustainable, effective, long-term programs to conserve resident and Neotropical migrant birds in Jamaica. BSC brought down from Canada Master Bander Paul Prior, who excelled himself in getting the trainees out with nets open before dawn (well, before 6.00, anyway). Morning sessions generally lasted until 10.30 or 11.00 when nets were shut to avoid heat-stressing the birds. Afternoon lecture sessions covered theoretical materials as well as a review of practical questions which arose during the morning field session. The lectures took place on the cool verandah after a Sugar-Belly lunch. Subjects covered included determining age, sex, fat and moult of the birds and were of course reinforced in the morning netting sessions. We operated mist nets for a total of 506 hours and workshop participants (including Paul!) extracted 456 birds. We banded 185 resident birds and 131 migrants. The number of extractions also includes recaptured, newly-banded birds (47 residents and 58 migrants) and birds released without banding (34 residents (mostly hummingbirds) and 1 migrant. Black-whiskered Vireos (Vireo altiloquus; BWVI's or John Chewitt's) saved the day in some locations: resident birds seemed scarce in the clearings near the cockpit hills and tended to stay high in the canopy in forested areas. Thank heaven for migrants! It is not clear whether the BWVI's were just passing through the area, or whether they had displaced residents because the clearings were their preferred habitat. More research is needed and this could be a nice little project for a Masters student.
See:- Executive Summary, or Full Report
- WRC has received approval of a proposal submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with matching funds from The Nature Conservancy, to establish a permanent bird banding station. Stay tuned to the WRC website for updates as to when this activity will be implemented.
- May 20th: Mike presented an introduction to Cockpit Country Parks-in-Peril (CCPiP) Site Conservation Planning (SCP) process for Forestry Department senior staff. This intro is available on our SCP website.
- May: for those readers who have visited WGH (which means most of you) it may be of interest that an "era" has ended! We "gutted" the Great House kitchen, installed new plumbing, drains, and electrical wiring and we have tiled the floor. Susan is painting the ceiling as I write:- being tall is good!
- May 21st-24th: Susan participated in an "Island Efroymson Fellowship Workshop" in Hawai'i. The purpose of this workshop was for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) island programme participants to come together and improve the SCP method and practice. The next "Island Efroymson Workshop" will be held in Jamaica (last week in August)
- June 5th: we held a workshop for Forestry Dept (FD) to analyse their input to the CCPiP Biological Systems Workshop, which had otherwise been a "virtual" workshop implemented via the internet and using our dedicated website. Ten participants, including Kingston-based specialists and the local Forestry Rangers from the Cockpit Country perimeter were present and the high quality of the debate demonstrated the advantages of a "live" workshop over a "virtual" workshop. FD's inputs were incorporated into the SCP Workbook prior to the Stakeholders' Workshop (see below)
- June 10th: We normally carry out our monthly bat survey of Windsor Great Cave (WGC) around the time of the new moon. But flood waters made the path to WGC impassible, both before and after this date, especially while carrying the harp trap that we use to catch bats. Though our rainfall was relatively normal this year, the effects of high rainfall in the south were clearly visible in the water flow from the cliff, which was probably as high as we have seen since "Gilbert". Inside WGC, water levels rose to the very top of the "10-metre-drop", so that the whole of the southern passage and sump was flooded. We were able nevertheless to make several trips to the "top" entrance to WGC around this time, and were surprised to find large numbers (~50,000) of bats leaving the cave much earlier than we expected (around 45 mins before dusk) and in a very compact emergence lasting only 15 minutes or so before a distinct decrease in flow rate was discerned. We certainly plan to do more research at this top entrance: a long, collapsible harp trap is being mulled over.
Further news on bats: our "tame" Macrotus waterhousii, who lives over Susan's office, seems to be getting restive during the day: we have seen him several times flying around in the middle of the day. Is he finding it hot too? On the other hand, we seem to have an increase in the Molossus molossus population living in the space between the "zinc" and shingles over our living room. It must be well over 40 deg C up there. We keep meaning to set up a data logger and temperature probes to check this out.
- June 10th-16th: Susan led a Cave Survey team to conduct field surveys of five caves selected to sample a gradient of "close proximity to human settlements and accessible without specialized equipment" through "remote and accessible only with specialized equipment." as part of the CCPiP project. The main purpose was to a)identify stresses and sources of stress to cave communities; b)develop and prioritize threat abatement strategies c)to develop a Cave Fauna database and d)to develop a proposal to establish a long-term cave monitoring programme. The team consisted of Dr G. O. "Geo" Graening (freshwater ecologist and cave-invertebrate specialist from TNC, Ozark Highlands Office), Dr Shelley McGinnis (GIS expert), Guy Graening (database expert and experienced spelunker), WRC's own Susan Koenig and one of our founding members, Stefan Stewart, Cockpit Country cave specialist, who also brought the latest GPS equipment and external antenna. Incidentally, Stefan actually understands the different map datums (and I reckon that is correct usage of the plural, in this case!) and why Jamaica's grid references are unique! Which explains one of the reasons why we are finding discrepancies between GPS readings and Ja topographical maps of upto 100 metres. Anybody who is using GPS in Jamaica will find Stefan's explanation invaluable. Five caves were indeed visited, starting of course, with Windsor Great Cave, then going to nearby Home-away-from-home (unregistered but being surveyed by Stefan), then onto Dromilly Cave, Deeside Roaring River Cave, and finally Bristol Cave, near Freemans Hall. Stefan subsequently checked out Printed Circuit Cave at Rock Spring (locally known by the 'nicer', though less-descriptive, name of John Fowden) and Peterkin and Maldon School caves in the Maroon Town area.
Cave fauna collected will be identified by a team of experts assembled by Geo.
- June 14th: we held a "Meet the Biologists Dinner" for Paul Engeman of Henderson State University plus ten students. They had been on a course at
- June 18th-20th: WRC participated in the Stakeholder Analysis Workshop which is the second phase of the SCP process of the CCPiP programme. The first phase was the Biological Systems Workshop in which many of you will have participated. The Stakeholder Workshop analysed the the highest-ranked threats coming from the BioSystems W/shop and will develop and rank strategies to abate these threats. The workshop is to be continued on July 22 and 23.
- June 30th: Mike gave a "Cockpit Country" powerpoint presentation to the KiwanisClub at their Fun Day in Windsor. We had some problems with screen visibility on this sunny day, but the information was well received by the Kiwanis who have invited Mike to be a guest speaker at one of their weekly meetings.
And that's pretty well what we have been doing during this quarter.
Activities coming up in the Autumn quarter will include:
- Development and implementation of a training workshop for parataxonomists under the auspices of the CCPiP program; skill training we plan to offer includes: maintaining a proper field note book, map reading and orienteering with a compass and GPS; plant identification (minimally to family and using a new digital field key to accompany C.D. Adam's Flowering Plants of Jamaica created for CCPiP by Dr. Gerald "Stinger" Guala at the Fairchild Gardens); invertebrate identification (minimally to family); and bird identification.
- We shall continue our monthly Bat Survey for WGC
- July 22nd-23rd: we shall participate in the continuation of the SCP Stakeholder Analysis Workshop.
- Autumn: we shall participate in and help organise the third set of SCP workshops which will take place in three separate locations around Cockpit Country, probably Albert Town, Duanvale and Quickstep. These one-day workshops will bring the communities into the SCP loop.
- August 27th-30th: Susan will participate in another Efroymson Workshop, to be held at Villa Bella, near Christiana.
- September: Susan has been selected to spend four weeks doing intensive bird banding at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada in order to be ready for implementation of our Windsor Bird Banding Station which will complement both the CCPiP and the BLJ Important Bird Areas (IBA) programmes.
- We continue to upgrade our kitchen with new cabinetry and work tables. We are advised that we should wait till January to get the best price on a new, industrial-strength, 6-burner stove to resist Sugar Belly's depredations!
We hope also to build a 12ft verandah onto our Laboratory building, to keep some of the morning sun off (and so that researchers can invite us to drink their rum!)
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