Watching the birds Angela Osborne
Stabroek News
February 22, 2004

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Guyana Amazon Tropical Birdwatchers (GATB) was founded on January 9, 2003 by Gajendra Nauth 'Andy' Narine after he was given the opportunity to be a tour guide to some Smithsonian Institution personnel, who came here to document Guyana's birds. The four-member team subsequently produced A Field Checklist of the Birds of Guyana (2000).

Narine told Sunday Stabroek that he had always loved birds, and had taken up bird-watching as a hobby because he felt it was fun, and at the same time a learning experience. He feels the birds and their environment should be protected. He would like to promote bird-watching as an activity in Georgetown, since he is already an operator in the tourism industry, which offers opportunities for bird-watching in areas like Region 9.

The mission of the GATB is to preserve Guyana's avifauna (birds) and natural heritage by stimulating interest in the environment and encouraging its protection.

Narine registered the group of which he is now the president, in May 2003, and it is run by an executive committee from its base at 77c1 Light street, Alberttown, Georgetown. The other members of the committee are Courtney Springer, vice-president; Abina Drakes, secretary; Adrian McKenzie, treasurer; Sean Henry, coordinator; and Carlton Naraine, assistant coordinator.

On October 7, GATB received $172,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Fund Micro Project Grant to document the birds of Georgetown, and to promote a community awareness programme about local birds. The group was able to purchase seven binoculars and a canon prima super 105 camera, to capture the birds on film.

Within 62 days the project was able to introduce 64 persons to the pastime of bird-watching in public places like the National Park, the Kitty to Kingston sea wall, and the Promenade and Botanical Gardens. In the Promenade Gardens, Narine said, they came across a group of boys with sling shots, whom they were able to persuade to desist from targeting birds. They introduced them to bird-watching instead, and as it transpired, the group proved very helpful in supplying the common names of Georgetown birds for documentation purposes.

All the activities of the group are documented and a record of the birds which have been sighted is kept. So far the group has documented 42 different species and 141 sub-species. Of the latter, thirty-six of the birds were uncommon while 100 of them were common. Five birds were left undecided because of the scarcity of data.

The activities of the group have been supported by Mayor Hamilton Green and Minister of Tourism Manzoor Nadir. So far the GATB has been able to accomplish most of the objectives in the proposal agreed with the EPA.

Narine stated that Guyana is a land of many birds: there are 72 species along with 736 sub-species, which are all recorded in the Smithsonian's book.

Birds, he said, were essential to human life because they ate the insects that caused damage to our crops and helped in the reproduction of new plants.

He expressed the hope that one day his group would be bigger so that he could persuade every Guyanese to develop an interest in bird-watching.