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Student Notes: Shakeel Ahmed
Shakeel Ahmed — in Asian Vulture Crisis    Share
"Work as a field researcher in the Asian Vulture Crisis project has been an amazing experience. Before this project, I made so many visits to the college in Dera Ghazi Khan to learn more about birds. After my Masters Degree in Zoology, I was desperate to do something novel and adventurous in bird studies. My enthusiasm found a home on the 17th of November 2000 when I attended a workshop on vultures with lectures given by Dr Munir Virani and Cal Sandfort from The Peregrine Fund. I had never heard about the vulture disaster. I offered my services as a volunteer as a first step toward my new life.

I got the chance to work with ornithologists from other countries, and I learned a lot from them, including:

  • How to trap vultures with electrical equipment

  • How radio transmitters work, what they are used for, and how to fit a transmitter to these big birds.

  • How to wing tag the birds to estimate their movements

  • How to collect and gather the data in data sheets.

  • How vultures can be identified according to age.

  • How to use binoculars, telescopes and global positioning systems.

During this project, I have identified more then 200 birds including raptors, waterfowl and passerine birds. I have identified an endangered species near my field site, the Red-Vented Prinia. I have recorded its voice and made video film with my supervisor Dr, Aleem Ahmed Khan. Now I am learning how to write the voice of different birds in their natural rhythm.

In the winter, I would routinely ride to the field before sunrise on the project motor bike with my colleague, to conduct behavioral time budget data collection. I can’t explain the intensity of my shivering after traveling in the cold. My hands couldn’t even pick up a pencil to write on my data sheets, I was shivering so much!!

One afternoon I was focusing on a particular nest. A pair of adults and their chick were in the nest. The crops of the both birds were empty. Their chick was demanding food, so both tried, but neither could regurgitate any food to feed the chick. So one adult flew away in search of food while the other remained standing by the nest. Both the adult and chick were anxious, looking around with empty crops. It was near to sunset when the adult came back to his nest with full crop. He immediately started feeding; not only feeding the hungry chick but also the second adult as well .The vulture was dividing the food among both. I was smiling to see such amazing coordination between the birds. I enjoyed every minute of time budget data collection!

Almost two years of working on The Peregrine Fund’s Asian Vulture Crisis Project were full of learning skills, amazing experiences and adventurous moments.

Raptors study is my passion .This is all due to the Vulture Crisis project."

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