"Searching for Shelley’s Crimsonwing finches amongst Africa’s Mountain Gorillas"
The Shelley’s Crimsonwing (Cryospiza shelleyi) is one of the rarest finches in Africa that are found in this dense Albertine Rift highland forest. The forest is also famous for gorillla tracking in Uganda.
The Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG), a non-profit organisation of enthusiastic birders based in South Africa, made Shelley's Crimsonwing a focus of attention for fundraising. The primary goal of the initial project is to successfully net, photograph and conduct a population census of Shelley’s Crimsonwing finches. To date only one known photograph of this elusive finch exists in the world. Also Benson Bamutura, an experienced Ugandan bird guide selected by RFCG as their head researcher, has only seen the bird once in his 8 year career. The RFCG is interested to find out why the bird is so rare.
The field work has been conducted in the two parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga Conservation Area. With permission from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and the Ugandan National Council for Science and Technology, a small team has been deployed to mist net and make observations pertaining to the species, gender, location, and time of capture. The team covered a wide spectrum of habitats within the two parks.
During the 6 months of fieldwork in Bwindi, two of the four crimsonwing species (the Dusky (C. jacksoni) and the Red faced Crimsonwing (C. reichenovii)) were regularly encountered and the Abyssinian Crimsonwing (C. salvadorii) sporadically. To date, and despite much effort, the targeted Shelley’s Crimsonwing (C. shelleyi) has remained elusive.
All captured crimsonwings are ringed, and details of the specimen recorded along with the ring numbers. When the same bird is caught in the net again, it may be assessed how far the species ranges.
ITFC provided backstopping for the project; the head researcher was based at the station, transport was made available when necessary and assistance given for data back up and dispatching email updates to RFCG. Requests for funds, equipment and supplies were managed by mobile communication between Benson in Uganda and RFCG directors Eelco Meyjes (Operations) and Simon Espley (Strategy) who are based in South Africa. The RFCG receives monthly reports from Uganda by post and the field data is then collated and formatted by Professor Ernst Kruger.
The capture method is non selective and the RFCG has built a photo gallery of the diverse species netted (see the RFCG website www.rarefinch.co.za)
ITFC recently received and distributed a fund-raising DVD about the project made by RFCG, as well as public awareness posters. Local as well as international awareness of the rarity of the Shelley’s crimsonwing finch is growing every day.
The RFCG is extremely grateful to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust for the funding provided.
The Rare Finch Conservation Group is a registered non-profit organisation. Should you wish to become a donor, contributions can be made to: The Rare Finch Conservation Group . Nedbank Account number 1933 198885, SWIFT NEDSZAJj Sandown Branch 193 305 South Africa. All contributions will be acknowledged on the RFCG website and in Africa Birds and Birding magazine (official media sponsors to the project).