Recent news about the Society

  SHORTCUTS

January 2016

PanAfrican Ornithological Congress October 2016: WAOS participation

Malimbus Volume 37 Tables of Contents now available

Malimbus Volume 33 Full Text now available

 

Gérard Morel, 1925–2011

When thinking of Gérard Morel, two particular impressions come to mind, separated by 40 years. The first was when, as a doctoral student, I entered his laboratory at Richard-Toll, an air-conditioned oasis in the middle of stifling rice fields, at that time seething with birds. The second was during a recent visit to Senegal, when I heard with what deep admiration two of his former African collaborators spoke of him, as if their shared work had never stopped. Four decades is also the duration of the professional life which Gérard devoted entirely to birds and to Senegal, with which he persisted out of loyalty to the team that he had created and a desire to consolidate the knowledge acquired. Arriving by ship in 1953 to study Quelea biology, his first contact was Prof. T. Monod, then Director of the Institut français d’Afrique noire (IFAN) and he also benefited from the infallible support of Prof. F. Bourlière, for many years one of the central personalities of French ecology. On the independence of Senegal, he joined O.R.S.T.O.M. (now I.R.D.), which chose Richard-Toll in the north of the country for its main field station and its only one dedicated to ornithology, to be carefully constructed and managed by Gérard and his wife Marie-Yvonne until their departure in 1992. At that time, West African ornithology was poorly developed except in Nigeria, and the “two-volume Bannerman” was the only field guide for ornithologists in that part of Africa. Collecting birds for a reference collection was then considered indispensable for the study of an avifauna, and Gérard first devoted himself to training, systematically and meticulously, a team of African collectors and taxidermists, who maintain the skills acquired to this day. This was the opportunity to discover and determine the subspecies present in Senegal, but it was also the basis for two major publications: the first modern identification guide to the birds of West Africa (Serle, W. & Morel G.J. 1977, Collins, London; translated into French in 1979) and an authoritative checklist of the birds of Senegambia (Morel, G.J. & Morel, M.-Y. 1990, O.R.S.T.O.M., Paris). Gérard also tested newly developed methods for censusing birds (by quadrats, transects or points), thus providing the first calculations for Africa of the densities of breeding birds and migrants, and their relationships in a Sahel savanna. The biology, breeding and dynamics of granivores (Quelea, Golden Sparrow and Turtle Dove) also occupied him much during a period when their status was changing as a result of drought and conversion of land to agriculture.

MorelMorel

Two facets of Gerard Morel: at the 1994 W.A.O.S. meeting in the Netherlands (photographer unknown) and in his home at Richard-Toll, c. 1980 (photo: Peter Browne).

      Numerous researchers visited Richard-Toll to learn from Gérard or to co-author publications, not only from France (e.g. C. Chappuis, J. Dorst, R.D. Etchécopar, R. de Naurois, F. Roux) but also from elsewhere (e.g. R.E. Moreau, N. and E. Collias), resulting in invitations to the U.S.A and Rome (F.A.O.). All appreciated the Morels’ hospitality, their perfect organisation in the field and their culinary specialities, including warthog cold cuts, which I remember very well. Gérard naturally established close links with ornithologists working in Nigeria, such as R.E. Sharland and C.H. Fry, with whom he founded the West African Ornithological Society in 1979, of which he was Vice-President for nine years then President for 19, until 2006. He played an active role in our Society, including the creation of its web site and the organisation of W.A.O.S. meetings in Normandy and Council meetings at his home there. He participated actively in the Pan-African Ornithological Congresses since the first one, and never ceased to promote the work of French-speaking ornithologists and bilingualism, and foster the attendance of francophone Africans.
      There were great changes during the second half of the 20th century, in ornithology as well as for the birds of Senegal. But it is to quiet, persistent, rigorous and passionate individuals such as Gérard Morel that we owe today’s knowledge. I can personally testify, having lived through these changes in West Africa and elsewhere, to the contribution of such pioneers. Young ornithologists visiting Senegal today, perhaps making discoveries unthinkable in those days, or perhaps browsing the WAOS web site, may not be aware of the role of such predecessors. May they understand the extent to which people like Gérard Morel patiently opened the way for them and established an indispensable basis of knowledge, under difficult conditions and with equipment and techniques much less well developed than today. Who would accept these days to live 35 years in an isolated savanna village to document an avifauna so rigorously? We owe Gérard our thanks for having laid the foundations that enable us to advance the study and knowledge of the birds of West Africa.

Jean-Marc Thiollay
W.A.O.S. President

Introducing our new Webmaster

Ulf Liedén has agreed to take over the management of the W.A.O.S. web site and has already begun managing the site. Ulf is a Swedish national presently living in Germany. Inspired by his father, he has had an interest in plants and birds since childhood, first only looking at them, later photographing them as a serious amateur. He became involved with the birds of West Africa when his wife took a job in Niamey, Niger in 2007. Being a professional computer programmer as well, he ended up designing and managing the Niger Bird DataBase, which holds many of his own bird pictures. Ulf looks forward to managing the W.A.O.S. web site and building on the good work of his predecessor, Peter Browne. Council welcomes Ulf and joins him in thanking Peter for his excellent work on the site over the past seven years.

W.A.O.S. Council

 

Appeal for Abstractors (January 2011)

 Since soon after Malimbus was launched in 1979, we have been putting a record for each article (paper and short note) on the Ornithological Worldwide Literature (OWL) database. OWL is an indexed compilation of citations that pertain to ornithology and come from the periodic, worldwide scientific literature. Ornithologists around the globe access this important resource at no cost via the Internet: http://www.birdlit.org.

 The more details there are in the record the more likely that it will be found when searching the database, and the corresponding article thus taken into account by the researcher. Unfortunately the vast majority of the earlier Malimbus records in the database are very rudimentary and will only be found by searches for title of the article or authors’ names. To increase the chance of the article being found during searches – to get more hits - we need volunteers to add extra information to each record, especially an abstract, subject codes, keywords and species names. Since all the articles are freely available online on this website, there is no need to have copies of Malimbus to do this. Please contact the WAOS Webmaster Peter Browne () if you would like to help increase the value and usefulness of Malimbus in this way. 

 

BOB SHARLAND IN NURSING HOME

Message of 3 September 2010 from Roger Wilkinson, WAOS Vice President, about Bob Sharland (long time WAOS Treasurer and now Honorary Life Member) who recently had a stroke.

I spoke with Bob’s son, Peter, earlier this week who told me that Bob is now living in a nursing home close to where Peter lives in Newbury. Bob is much recovered but now much less active – he was still birding and plant hunting overseas when over 90 – Bob is now 93.

Peter tells me Bob would love to hear from anyone in WAOS. His address for anyone who wants to send him a card or short message:

Bob Sharland
Bayford Nursing Home
Rook Wood
Stock Cross Near Newbury
RG20 8LD
UK

New Treasurer and Membership Secretary for W.A.O.S.

 
Tim Dodman has agreed to take over this position on W.A.O.S. Council from Bob Sharland, who retires from it after 45 years of service to W.A.O.S. and its predecessor the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society. Bob has been the longest serving officer on Council, working as Treasurer since he helped to found N.O.S. in 1964. Once again Council extends its grateful thanks to Bob and has offered him Honorary Life Membership, which he has accepted. We wish Bob well in his retirement from this work. Click here for a tribute and list of his contributions to Bull NOS and Malimbus, which appeared recently in Malimbus (30: 83–86, 2008), to celebrate his 90th birthday.

 

Tim is a conservationist who first worked in Africa in 1988, helping to set up a national N.G.O. and nature reserve in Somalia. After gaining an M.Sc. in Resource Management in Scotland he returned to Africa in 1992, working for the W.W.F. Zambia Wetlands Project. While in Zambia he also led a survey of Africa’s least known parrot, the Black-cheeked Lovebird. However, Tim’s main experience is in wetlands, and in 1995 he joined Wetlands International (then International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau) to develop an Africa Programme. This included building up the African Waterbird Census, initiating a range of new projects, and setting up offices in Senegal, Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Tim lived in Senegal from 1998 to 2001, where he managed a pioneering project that provided support to all West African countries for wetland and waterbird conservation activities. He now works from home on a small Scottish island but remains an Associate Expert of Wetlands International and visits Africa frequently. Tim has published or co-authored a range of works relating to wetlands and waterbirds in Africa, including the IBAs of Guinea-Bissau, several African Waterbird Census reports, action plans for the West African Manatee and Black Crowned Crane and the new Atlas of Wader Populations in Africa and Eurasia, reviewed in Malimbus 31,2. He has also refereed several papers published in Malimbus. Refer to the Council page for further information. Council welcomes Tim onto the team and looks forward to working with him in the coming years.


 


Council has decided to nominate our retiring President, Dr Gérard
Morel,
Honorary President
.
We are delighted that he will continue to participate in Council and give us the benefit of his advice and assistance.

 
     
 

See below for appreciations of our retiring President and Vice-President

 

On Saturday 7 October 2006, a meeting of the Council of the West African Ornithological Society was held in Bréville-les-Monts, France. The main business of the meeting was to discuss possible replacements for several Council members, who had indicated their desire to step down or reduce their activities. Though not all replacements have yet been identified, the following nominations for Council positions have been agreed upon:

President: Dr Jean Marc Thiollay

Vice-President: Dr Roger Wilkinson

Secretary to Council: Dr Joost Brouwer

Further details of the Council meeting and the changes in Council can be found in the issues of Malimbus published in March and September 2007.

Summaries of the careers of our new President and Secretary are given below and there is other information on the Council page.

The new W.A.O.S. President, Dr Jean Marc Thiollay

Now just retired, Jean Marc Thiollay has worked all his professional life as a researcher, and then a research director, of the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS), at the University of Paris, first in the Ecole Normale Supérieure, then in the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle. After graduating from university, and many raptor studies in France and Europe, he spent six years in West Africa, 1967–73, studying the ecology of the avian community of a forest-savanna contact zone in Ivory Coast and the seasonal migrations of African raptors within West Africa (the topic of his Ph.D.). Thereafter, between visits to monitor the long-term dynamics of the bird population of the main study site in Ivory Coast, he worked in many tropical countries (especially Gabon, Uganda, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico and Colombia) with a special emphasis on French Guiana. His main interests were tropical raptors, and more generally rainforest bird ecology and conservation, the influences of habitat degradation, fragmentation, hunting and protected areas. During recent years, he has also repeated some of his former extensive raptor counts throughout West Africa to document the decline of some species (mainly eagles and vultures) over the last 30 years. Since 1962, he has published almost 200 papers in books or scientific journals. He has always been deeply involved in bird and nature conservation organizations both in France and internationally, and a regular attendant of ornithological and conservation congresses and meetings. As a result, he is a board member of several regional, national and international scientific or conservation bodies, but still manages to do much field ornithology at home (in eastern France) and during frequent travels with his wife Françoise to extend one of the highest life lists of the birds of the world.

The new W.A.O.S. Secretary to Council, Dr Joost Brouwer

Born in Indonesia as the son of a Dutch biology teacher and geography teacher, Joost Brouwer (1953) grew up birdwatching in various countries but opted for a research career in agricultural science.  During a five-year stint in Australia he was chairperson of the Conservation Committee of the RAOU (now Birds Australia), and initiated and edited the first edition of Threatened Birds of Australia.  The next five years he spent in agricultural research in Niger, in his free time helping Wim Mullié set up the annual Waterbird Census in Niger.  Since leaving Niger in 1994 Joost has coordinated the IBA chapter on Niger in Fishpool and Evans (2001), started the Niger Bird Database (20,000 records), and written the chapter on natural history in the recent Bradt Travel Guide to Niger.  He has been a member of the WAOS since 1990 and contributed a number of papers on the birds of Niger.  He presently runs his own consultancy on environmental and agricultural matters in developing countries.


Appreciation of the contributions of Gérard J. Morel and C. Hilary Fry to the West African Ornithological Society

Retiring W.A.O.S. President Gérard Morel has served 28 years on the Council of the West African Ornithological Society, nine years as Vice-President and 19 as President. This is the whole life of W.A.O.S. and he was present at its birth. Prior to that, the only group of ornithologists in W Africa was the anglophone Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, who realized that true coverage of the region would involve becoming a bilingual group. Gérard was one of the principal francophone ornithologists who helped bring this about. The Society’s journal, Malimbus, is a measure of the success of this effort. It has published, from the beginning, a mixture of English and French language pieces and all notices from the Society are in both languages. The same policy has been used on the Society’s website. Not only has Gérard encouraged a bilingual Society in principle, but he has also contributed to that end on a day-to-day basis by translating into French much material for Malimbus that was initially composed in English.

Gérard realized that the success of the Society depends in large measure on the publication in Malimbus of important articles on W African ornithology. While working at the ORSTOM Ornithological Station at Richard-Toll, Senegal, he made his personal contribution to this with many papers, some jointly with his wife Dr. Marie-Yvonne Morel. He has also encouraged, through his wide personal contacts, other ornithologists to publish in the pages of Malimbus and has exhorted his French-speaking colleagues to publish in French. He has also contributed numerous book reviews to the journal.

After his retirement in 1992, he and Marie-Yvonne took up residence in Normandy, France. They were then better able to assist in the organisation of biannual Society meetings and meetings of Council. They also continued a task they had begun in Senegal, to collect subscriptions to the Society paid in French francs and later in Euros, to alleviate the problems some members had in paying in pounds sterling.

They played an important role in the conception of a website for the Society. In 2002, Council realized that a website could contribute significantly to success of the Society and the Morels were able to obtain the services of their grandson, Julien Guyonet, to launch this endeavour in 2003. He was responsible for the striking graphics that adorn the main pages of the website, and he also set up the website on the server that is still used, costing the Society nothing.

Gérard and Marie-Yvonne Morel on the Normandy coast. Photo: P.W.P. Browne.

Retiring W.A.O.S. Vice-President Hilary Fry was, with Bob Sharland and John Elgood, a founder of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society (N.O.S.), first established in 1964. Hilary took on editorship of the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society while teaching at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and ably held this position whilst encouraging others to join and contribute to the Society and its Bulletin. On his leaving Nigeria in 1967 to take up appointment at the University of Aberdeen, Hilary resigned the editorship of the Bulletin, only to take it on again in 1974.

Having encouraged and solicited articles for Bull. N.O.S. from ornithologists in countries all over W Africa, it was a logical progression when in 1978 Hilary initiated a meeting of N.O.S. members and other W African ornithologists in Liverpool. This resulted in the West African Ornithological Society and its bilingual journal Malimbus. Hilary saw the society and journal through this important transformation and continued to edit Malimbus until 1985 when he moved to take on a new Chair at the Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.

Hilary is now best known for his mammoth work as editor and major contributor to the excellent multivolume standard work The Birds of Africa. This was an immense task ably accomplished and benefits all interested in African birds. He is the world authority on bee-eaters and, as well as the classic monograph The Bee-eaters (Poyser), wrote together with his wife Cathy the acclaimed Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers (Christopher Helm).

Hilary’s return to W.A.O.S. as Vice-President in 1997 was greatly welcomed and he held that position under Gérard Morel’s presidency until both recently retired in these capacities. As a Council member Hilary has always been constructive and sometimes challenging in his views and the Society has evolved and greatly benefited from his contributions. Council will be very different without him and we hope that in a less official capacity our Society may continue to benefit from his experience and foresight.

W.A.O.S. Council