Tuesday 31 December 2019

Stanwell Moor - 30th December 2019

There have been no blog entries since the Kenya trip, not because we've been doing nothing, but because attempts on Staines Moor (at night) and a try for Red Kites have all been fruitless.

Today we set up eight nets at Stanwell and managed a few birds. We were most pleased with a large female Sparrowhawk. We don't seem to even see many Sparrowhawks these days. 

3 female, with a full crop

There were also two retrapped and one new Cetti's Warblers. Z957761 and Z371107 are both adult males. Z957761 was ringed as a juvenile on 14/10/2016. Z371107 was controlled at Stanwell on 28th December 2018 and was still present on 8th August 2019. This bird had been ringed on 26th August 2016 at Stanford Reservoir as a 3J.

Z371107 made a third appearance at the site,

Considering that this site is usually very good for wintering Chiffchaff, we were surprised that this species was not so much as even heard.

Total: 21 (8)

Sparrowhawk - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Wren - 1
Dunnock - 1
Redwing - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (2)
Goldcrest - 7
Long-tailed Tit - 2 (4)
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 3 (2)

Sunday 15 December 2019

Ngulia Lodge, Tsavo west National Park, Kenya ringing efforts 25th November to 5th December 2019

Ringing takes place at the lodge 10 days either side of the full moon. Catches are at their largest when mist envelopes the area at night and birds are attracted by bright lights. Undoubtedly the weather had changed the usual bird behaviour and this has affected our birding and potentially there may be differences in how the catching goes for ringing.

This stunning Martial Eagle was right next to the car. The crop is bulging and the remains of the kill appeared to be Dikdik.

Unstripped Ground Squirrel

The weather during our time in Kenya was unusual compared to previous years and a summary of the causes can be seen on the BBC News webiste https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50628420.

Our arrival just after 7pm coincided with the ringer's evening briefing - and cake - to celebrate 50 years since the project was started at the lodge. There was a chance to catch up on essential information about operations. After a little settling in the alarm was set for 5am. We opted only to be woken in the even that our help was needed.

My sunrise - the view from my position by the central 12m net.

There was no overnight mist and Malcolm Wilson and Charlotte left in the morning. There were quite a lot of Whitethroat and Thrush Nightingale, known locally as Sprosser but the numbers were swelled by Swallow and House Martin giving 274 migrants, ringed that day. We both ringed Chestnut Sparrow and Chris got White-winged Widowbird.

White-winged Widowbird

In the afternoon we did a drive for birds.

White-crowned Bushshrike

Tsavo Sunbird

Cape Buffalo

No overnight mist again. Five more left and some expected Kenyan ringers will not be coming. Ringers numbers are down. Chris and I ringed Little Swift. I also got White-winged Widowbird and Red Quelia.

Pangani Longclaw

An afternoon drive proved successful for Red-naped Bushshrike and Crested Guineafowl.

Crested Guineafowl, seen just as we returned to the lodge.

Verraux's Eagleowl - a visitor to the lodge after dark.

Again, no overnight ringing and we found we'd missed the Leopard that came at about 2am, after the beach/safari group at the lodge overnight had finally quietened down and gone to bed. There was a small influx of Whitethroat and I ringed Chestnut Weaver but numbers are still low without any significant night catching. Game drive in the afternoon.

Chestnut Weaver

D'Arnauts Barbet

Pale Chanting Goshawk

We were not called upon overnight as two hours of effort produced only 15 birds. Not much mist around the nets, although quite hazy down on the lowland. There was a better spread of species and more birds generally. There was a Didric Cuckoo for me and Lesser Masked Weaver for Chris. We went out for a drive at 10am, seeing Scaly Chatterers and African Emerald Cuckoo. Nice views also of Elephant, and a Leopard on the road back to the lodge. We finally  saw the Leopard come to the feeding station in the evening.

Lesser Masked Weaver

Didric Cuckoo

Lesser Striped Swallow

Our first Leopard at Tsavo

The Leopard that regularly comes for food at the lodge.

A bizarre day that started with a Greater Flamingo (a bird that must have been lost since there are no flamingos in Tsavo) and ended with a massive daily total of 1796 European migrants. This was our only big day total. Sadly night catching was a complete failure with the only mist occurring with bouts of heavy and persistent rain.

Not the best record photo of the Greater Flaming 
(with the sexy bald bloke) but the only one I have!

There had been mist the night before, but rain had twice forced the closure of the night nets and few birds were processed. Certainly, there was no need to wake ringers other than the core night team of four.

We were behind with setting the nets, due to the unprecedented Flamingo and everyone flushed birds as they took up allotted positions, then dropped and watched their nets. I was catching before the second pole was fully set. It was quite manic for a while. All the bags were used.

As the teams work three poles with birds awaiting processing can be seen in the background. These were mostly six 'o' clock birds.

There were two teams with seven ringers and two scribes. There were others to clear the nets. I personally ringed Rock Thrush, Upcher’s Warbler, Barred Warbler and Olive Tree Warbler. Chris did Little Swift, Upcher’s and Olive Tree Warbler. There was also Asian Lesser Cuckoo, Rufous Bushchat and Basra Reed Warbler.

Rufous Bushchat

Rock Thrush

Basra Reed Warbler - having finally seen one with such a slender bill,
it is actually quite different to Great Reed Warbler.

Lesser Asiatic Cuckoo

The fall was accompanied by thousands of Convolvulous Hawkmoths and they were everywhere. Later two nets were opened for Swallow and these remained open until 2pm. By late afternoons the Baboons had arrived to cash in on the feeding bonanza.

Yellow Baboon troupe

Convolulous Hawkmoth

 A great deal of birds around but heavy rain prevented us from opening until the time we’d usually think about closing. Even so, we were quite pleased with the daily total of 342. There were a few more Irania – and the Baboons came back in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they started sitting on the nets and had to be chased off by Dominic. I didn’t feel bad about leaving him to it as they do not take any notice of women, apparently.

Thick-billed Sparrow

Jacobean Cuckoo

Still no major night catching. It was extremely clear in the morning but catching was disappointing after there having been so much about. I ringed Lesser Striped Swallow and Chris did Variable Sunbird. The smell from the fall of moths were smelling pretty bad by now.

No change in terms of lack of night mist. We still haven't needed to be got up. There were some birds to catch, but we soon went to rounds. Jameson's Firefinch for both Chris and myself. A flock of Amur Falcons seen high over head. A Belgian March Warbler was controlled.

Jameson's Firefinch

Spot-flanked Barbet

Green-winged Pytilia

We did an afternoon drive with Chege and Dominic and saw more animals than birds, including Klipspringer and a very, very small Cobra. We went to the most recent lava flow where there are also volcanic ash cones of varying ages.

Five Klipspringer were seen in all

Crested Bustard

Orange-breasted Parrot

The last day and a bit of a let down as birds were scarce and our total only reached 84. We had taken nets down by 10am.

Our final drive produced the last tick of the trip, Hildebrandt's Francolin along with a rather showy Bateleur Eagle that gave plenty of photo opportunities. 

Cape Hare

Red and Yellow Barnet

Isabelline Shrike

Leopard cub resting up by the track

Abyssinian White-eye

Lilac-breasted Roller

This dead tree has provided a perch for all of the following over the span of our stay: White-naped Raven, Woolly-necked Stork, Maribou Stork, Verraux's Eagle Owl, Stripped Swallow, Black Kite, Red-winged Starling and Lilac-breasted Roller 

Superb Starling in the lodge grounds

During our drive a short sharp shower a few kilometres from the lodge brought down Sprossers, Nightingale, Olive-tree Warbler, Whitethroat, Marsh Warbler and Red-backed Shrikes. However, a quick check across the ringing site with binoculars, when we got back, confirmed the fall to be limited to the next slope only. 

We saw the lodge Leopard for the third and final time too.

The night watch had two nets up over night as there was mist and the lights had also been on, but there were no birds at all, so time for breakfast, goodbyes and an 8am departure.

Lights, mist - but no birds!

The final tally for birds seen during the entire trip reached 665!