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The following is a press release from Mark Michael Ludlow RPA, PHD Candidate, and founder of the Nevis Ornithological Society.  Dated March 1, 2012.


Professor Robert E. Ricklefs, a world renowned Full Professor of Biology and Ornithology (author of 100’s of academic articles and books as well as the textbook Ecology, in its 7th edition), will be coming to Nevis with a number of other research colleagues, Dr. Steve Latta of the National Avery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a PhD student or a PhD Post-Doctoral Research Fellow or two in Professor Ricklefs’ University Laboratory, as well as myself, the 5thresearch person, Mark Ludlow, PhD Candidate, University of Wales, United Kingdom (I have a house on Oualie Bay, Nevis) from 8 April to 22 April to do ornithological research by specimen collection of blood samples from birds.

This involves catching birds (c. 500 – one at a time) with fine ‘mist’ nets, measuring them, photographing them, taking a single micro-drop of blood, and immediately releasing them unharmed. The blood samples are taken back to the University of Missouri in the United States for various genetic studies. Professor Ricklefs has the proper permits from the Nevis Island Government issued through The Nevis Historical & Conservation Society to capture and take blood samples and to bring those blood samples back into the USA.

Professor Ricklefs was originally contacted by Jim Johnson in 2008 about a Bullfinch that was photographed by Mrs. Molle of Nevis that might be a new species or new sub-species of bird possibly unique to Nevis (referred to on the Society’s Bio-Diversity website as the Nevis Bullfinch). This was all featured in an article in the NH&CS newsletter and is on the Society’s Bio-Diversity Website linked from the page on the “Extinct” Rodent Discovered on Nevis? Professor Ricklefs was not able at that time to conduct the expedition due to unexpected circumstances.

As a result of Jim Johnson’s death and the loss of his extraordinary memory and records, I, Mark Michael Ludlow of The Nevis Ornithological Society (The NOS), contacted Professor Ricklefs to see what if anything had come of it all, particularly since I too had seen and photographed this Bullfinch which Jim Johnson had referred to as the “Nevis Bullfinch”: It is larger, longer, darker, and has a bigger more robust bill than the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch species on St. Kitts. I have recently been given access to the bird collections at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. where I am undergoing some bird related training, and I could not identify this larger variant of Loxigilla noctis coryi (Lesser Antillean Bullfinch) from their collection. Professor Ricklefs also wants to address the question of this ‘odd’ Bullfinch when he comes to Nevis. The possibilities are interesting for Nevis:Possibly an endemic species or endemic sub-species unique to Nevis which might enhance ecotourism, but DNA tests from the blood drop sample are the only way to go. We must be carefully not to get ahead of ourselves on this. These are only possibilities but everything starts somewhere.

Mark Michael Ludlow RPA, PhD Candidate – 1 March 2012. END OF PRESS RELEASE.

NOTE: While a Scientific Permit has been received for research in Nevis, as of today, March 11, 2012, no authorisation for a permit has been received from the related Ministry in St.Kitts, but everyone is hopeful that all paperwork and requirements will be completed in the near future.

UPDATE, SATURDAY, 24, MARCH:: Great news! The scientific permit for St.Kitts has just been received and we are good to go. This promises to be an exiting time, and in addition to the benifits of the research, it is possible that a bird or birds that have never been recorded here can be caught & spotted, thus increasing the knowledge and heritage of our islands. And of course, who knows, maybe we can just determine if the St.Kitts and/or Nevis Bullfinch is still alive!


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