Janis Baumanis (4 May 1940 – 9 October 2006)

Very shortly after the INTERCAFE meeting in Slovenia in October 2006, we learned that our friend and colleague Janis Baumanis had died suddenly. He will be greatly missed by us all. Some time before REDCAFE began Janis did some biological work on my behalf - collecting eggshells and feathers for DNA analysis. He showed dedication, tenacity, cunning and a deep love of nature in his actions back then. His drive was to find out more about the natural world, and about birds in particular. I shall never forget this.


Janis Baumanis at the Pape Ornithological Station, Latvia, 1 October 2003.

A few days ago, Professor Janis Viksne, Head of the Laboratory of Ornithology, in the Institute of Biology where Janis worked told me more about our quiet friend and colleague.

Janis Baumanis was born near the town of Limbazi, in Latvia in May 1940, from 1948-1955 he attended primary school in Pale, before moving to the secondary school in Limbazi (1955-1959). Until 1964 he attended the Faculty of Biology at the Latvian State University before embarking on a year in the Soviet Army (1965-1966).

Between 1966-1969 Janis was a senior technical assistant, and later a researcher, in the Museum of Zoology at Latvian State University. He was then a post-graduate student in the Faculty of Biology until 1972. In 1975, Janis presented his dissertation "The bird fauna of fishponds and their role in reproduction of game waterfowl resources in the Latvian SSR" and received the scientific degree of Candidate of Biological Sciences (equalized to Dr. biol. in 1992). During this same period and beyond (1972-2006) Janis was a researcher, later a senior researcher, in the Institute of Biology of the Latvian Academy of Sciences (later under the University of Latvia).

Janis’ main scientific interests were threefold. First, birds at fish-ponds – a subject that had interested him since at least the mid 1960s. After presenting his dissertation, Janis spent every spring and summer at the Nagli fish-ponds in eastern Latvia. As well as counting nests and following their fate throughout the breeding season, these studies included such things as ringing incubating ducks and ducklings, and following the movements of marked broods.

Second, bird migration studies - these were carried out mostly in Pape, in the very SW of Latvia. Janis was amongst the pioneers who started bird ringing here in 1966. For the next 40 years Janis would spend every autumn at the Pape Ornithological Station. Activities here included trapping and ringing migrating birds, visual counts of migrants both in daylight and at night, mostly according to programmes coordinated between bird stations in the Baltic region. Janis also analysed ringing data for the international monograph "Migration of Birds of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia" (Moscow, Nauka; see 1989 and 1985 for Tufted Duck and Snipe, respectively).

Third, avifaunistics – a permanent interest of Janis. He was Chairman of the Latvian Ornithological Rarities Committee from its establishment in 1970s until 2000. He was also leader of the long-term research project "Dynamics of Latvian avifauna" from the mid 1990s, and the author of two field guides of Latvian birds - “The Birds of Latvia” (co-authored with P. Blums), Riga, 1969 and 1972, and “Birds in Latvia” (co-authored with V. Klimpins), Riga, 1997 and 2003.

Janis was also co-author of the Monograph "Birds of Latvia: territorial distribution and numbers” (Riga 1983), participated in collecting material for the Latvian Breeding Bird Atlas 1980 -1984 (issued 1989) and 2000 - 2004 (in preparation). Janis was undoubtedly a great expert in birds and especially their migration.

I am very grateful to Professor Viksne for this insight into Janis Baumanis’ long and tireless ornithological career. It is perhaps fitting that Janis died working at his beloved Pape Ornithological Station – a place where, like the birds he studied, he had returned to unfailingly during the autumn migration season for over 40 years.

Janis and I always spoke at REDCAFE and INTERCAFE meetings and every time we did, I learned something from him. I learned about nature - but more than that I learned about the generosity of human nature. I will never forget these lessons, nor the Latvian ornithologist who imparted them to me. Similarly, INTERCAFE will not forget Janis’ contributions either - farewell good friend!

Dave Carss, 2 March 2007

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