In January 2015 a team of eight ringers travelled to the (Kartong Bird Observatory) in The Gambia to take part in their seventh ringing course. Ringing has been taking place at the West African country’s bird reserve since 1996 but a permanent ringing station was established in 2010. Six ringers from Suffolk, Roger Walsh, Patrick Barker, Chris McIntyre, Mike Marsh, Lee Gregory and Richard Tomlinson were joined by Mike Jackson from Yorkshire and Olly Fox from Wiltshire for two weeks of ringing African Birds and Western Palearctic migrants. Over the two weeks ringing activities were undertaken in woodland, scrub, wetland, reed bed and on mud flats and the beach and 1900 birds were caught of over 100 species including over 300 Western Palearctic Migrants with over 100 being Whitethroats.
A key element to the trip was to assist with the training of some of the local boys with their ringing training and bird ID skills. The five local boys working at the Observatory were awarded certificates to recognise their achievements.
As a group we were able to take out a large quantity of donated clothing, optics, bird books, stationary, cash donations and medical supplies very kindly donated by members of the Waveney Bird Club and many other people. The clothing is distributed by KBO ringer in charge Colin Cross and his wife Binta who live in Kartong to the people who they know really need it and can not afford to buy clothes for themselves. The optics and bird books are going to be divided between the KBO and a new childrens' bird club being established in Gunjur. Both causes will add to the development and education of Gambian boys and girls giving them to knowledge and skills to preserve Gambia’s wildlife for generations to come. The medical supplies were donated to the Kajabang Medical Post (more info here), a medical station set up thanks to charitable donations employing a local registered nurse providing medical services to the local community. The stationary all goes to the schools in Kartong and the money donated is going towards the construction and erection of Barn Owl Boxes in and around Katong providing a great link between a successful project underway in Suffolk and a new project in the Gambia. Barn Owls are persecuted in African countries due to mythological links to witches. This project will provide safe nesting sites and give Colin Cross the opportunity to go into schools to encourage Gambian children to protect their Owls rather than persecute them.