Friday 31 January 2020

Gambia Training Project, Commencement of the Gambian Ringing Scheme part 4 - January 2020.

Day 17.

Plans to cover Tanji bird reserve SE were quickly set aside when time was lost due to a bread collection delay, plus, due to sickness and a late change of plan, we were starting with 50% of the trainees originally planned for. Instead we flipped the Saturday/Sunday planning and simply dropped the few fixed nets at Tanji eco-lodge.

We still caught 27 birds with plenty of weavers to go around for AJ, FC & JN who also joined us a little later on. Things quietened quickly and although we relocated to Kenebery Junction water tanks it was too bright with birds seeing the net and changing their routes in and out.

Day 18.

Tanji bird reserve SE gave us  around 30 birds to process today. There was our first Senegal Eremomela and Black-headed Weavers. We had three species of sunbird.

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (a small barbet)

Senegal Eremomela

Black-headed Weaver

Adult male Village weaver with traces of breeding plumage
on the head.

A brief meeting with some Dutch birders gave the trainees a chance to handle birds in front of a very small audience and even explain how one of the birds had been aged.  We made it a short day as a demonstration was scheduled between midday and 2pm in Banjul and we wanted to ensure that all trainees were home in advance of the march, in case of trouble.

Day 19.

Following the problems at yesterday's demonstration some of the trainee's were reluctant to leave home and we ended up telling those prepared to come out not to, as the driver didn't want to drive anywhere and turned off his phone. We were fairly certain that the trouble was confined to Banjul and decided to bird Brufut woods, just up the road from Tanji and also look at two other sites, the first for birds and dragonflies and the second as a possible ringing site - if we saw the driver. We dropped the eco-lodge nets, in case we ended spending the entire day at our accommodation but the driver turned up before 7am after the boss had a word with him.

We had a slightly later breakfast, taking the first three rounds of the day before closing. It was nice to get a couple of Eurasian Reed Warblers, Beautiful and Splendid Sunbirds.

Beautiful Sunbird male

Splendid Sunbird male

African Thrush

There were very few birds and it would have been disappointing with the full team.

Then, on to Brufut woods, just a remnant of what must have been there before all the clearance for farming and building. The main thing that we recalled, apart from the birding being disappointing was all the rubbish. That hadn't changed.

Cattle browsing the rubbish at Brufut.

There were more butterflies than birds in Brufut woods.

A second species to identify later

The water pots attracted a lot of Laughing Doves

Lavendar Waxbill, Black-necked Weaver, Village Weaver, Bronze Mannikin, Blue-spotted and Black-billed Wood Doves, Greater Honeyguide and Red-billed Queleas were seen at the Brufut water pots.

Driving to the ponds just outside Tanji we managed to find Painted Snipe at the water's edge just when we'd been told to look for it.

Painted Snipe

Another butterfly to research for its name

Finally, we had a look at some scrubby bushes, quite close to the lodge, down at the coast just after an area of market gardens. A reedy area was also found to hold some very shallow areas. This may be suitable to ring. So, tomorrow's rest day is cancelled as in effect we had that today and we'll be back at Tanji SE tomorrow.

Day 20.

Today we were joined by AS, FC, MS & BM at Tanji reserve SE. Even at this point in the training, we continue to encounter new species.

A ring is carefully fitted on an immature Lesser Honeyguide

BM processes a weaver  

FC gives the ring number while AS scribes

Day 21.

A slight change in location so a little clearance was needed today. We caught our first Common Nightingale among the handful of European migrants. The leading species over all was Yellow-crowned Gonolek (5) and one of the four Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters was a very obvious youngster.

Juvenile Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

The last 5 minutes before take-down time.

Day 22.

An unusually cool morning, followed by a windy day that was rather hot. Catching at Tanji SE was disappointing and we finished on just 8 birds.

Immature male Western Subalpine Warbler

There was plenty of time for a little photography when not checking nets or teaching the trainees.

Bearded Barbet

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Day 23.

An earlier start with 5 nets either close to the mangroves skirting the beach edge, or in the vegetation immediately behind and two larger mesh nets set by the lagoon for terns, gulls and possibly waders.

CL, FC and AS went paddling and set one full height and another two panel net. While DKL, MS, BM & AJ took care of the other nets. It was a good day with 25 birds processed. This included a retrap of the African Pygmy Kingfisher from 11 days before. The lagoon nets succeeded in catching several gulls and terns, but the combined weight was sufficient to break the central shelf string and the net failed to hold any. A single Caspian Tern was captured in the full height net on the subsequent round.

AS finally gets a chance to use large pliers to fit an 8mm ring.

Adult Caspian Tern

The bush nets also provided another new species. The Senegal Parrot was extracted by DKL, observed by AJ and ringed by FC. No ringers were harmed in the processing of this bird.

The tarsus was so short that none of our rings were suitable, instead a 9mm
steel ring was fitted on the tibia.

A full list of all species ringed by GRS throughout January will be published shortly.


Gambia Training Project January totals - January 2020

Ringing commenced on the 10th of the month.  The bulk of the ringing took place at Tanji bird reserve and eco-lodge, usually in the morning and on most days.

Totals: 456 (58 species)

African Pygmy Kingfisher - 1
African Silverbill - 1
African Thrush - 12
Beautiful Sunbird - 19
Black-billed Wood Dove - 21
Blackcap - 2
Black-capped Babbler - 2
Black-crowned Tchagra - 1
Black-headed Weaver - 4
Black-necked Weaver - 16
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - 9
Blue-spotted Wood Dove - 14
Bronze Mannikin - 5
Brown Babbler - 11
Caspian Tern - 1
Common Bulbul - 24
Common Nightingale - 3
Common Redstart - 4
Common Sandpiper - 1
Common Wattle-eye - 5
Common Whitethroat - 19
Didric Cuckoo - 1
Eurasian Reed Warbler - 15
Greater Honeyguide - 2
Grey-backed Camaroptera - 12
Grey-headed Bristlebill - 1
Laughing Dove - 7
Lesser Honeyguide - 2
Little Bee-eater - 8
Little Greenbul - 3
Little Weaver - 1
Melodious Warbler - 4
Northern Crombec - 5
Northern Puffback - 2
Orange-cheeked Waxbill - 2
Pied-winged Swallow - 1
Red-bellied Flycatcher - 1
Red-billed Firefinch - 49
Red- billed Quelea - 2
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu- 17
Red-eyed Dove - 4
Senegal Coucal - 1
Senegal Eremomella - 1
Senegal Parrot - 1
Senegal Thick-knee - 1
Snowy-crowned Robin-chat - 4
Splendid Sunbird - 5
Stone Partridge - 1
Tawny-flanked Prinia - 3
Variable Sunbird - 5
Village Weaver - 78
Vinaceous Dove - 1
Western OlivaceousWarbler - 5
Western Red-billed Hornbill - 1
Western Subalpine Warbler - 3
Yellow-crowned Gonolek - 17
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird - 2
Yellow Wagtail - 4

Friday 24 January 2020

Gambia Training Project, Commencement of the Gambian Ringing Scheme part 3 - January 2020.

Day 12.

A session to the south-east corner of Tanji reserve looked as though it may not go ahead at all when the driver failed to put the car into 4 wheel drive before ploughing the Pajero into soft sand. A little brute strength managed to free it, but instead of taking it easy he revved hard and in no time the rear nearside wheel was up to the axle in sand! So, plan A to drive to the area we reccied earlier was set aside and we carried the equipment to a place where we could see places to site four nets.

We were pleased to find a shady spot too and by the end of the morning had ringed 33 birds.

Immature African Pygmy Kingfisher

Immature Splendid Sunbird

AJ with Snowy-crowned Robin-chat

Other birds present included Tree Pipit, Common Nightingale and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. With the assistance of park rangers we had our vehicle back in an hour or so.

Day 13.

Back to Tanji Eco-reserve today for a modest 23 birds and a problem with monkeys. MS & AJ ended up stationed close to the nets to prevent the animals from approaching. New species for the day were Stone Partridge, Greater Honeyguide, Little Weaver, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Red-billed Quelea.

Adult female Greater Honeyguide

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Day 14.

Five nets up at Tanji Reserve (SE) brought a few more European migrants including our first Western Olivaceous Warbler.

Western Olivaceous Warbler

Amongst the Afro-tropical species were two Yellow-crowned Gonolek, a Tawny-flanked Prinia, 3 Beautiful Sunbird and some rather stunning adult Brown Babblers with the oh so striking orange eyes. There were Green Vervet close by in the trees and the nets closest to them needed very frequent monitoring.

Brown Babbler adult

We spent the afternoon inputting data and maintaining project funds records by the Tanji Eco-lodge drinking pool, and saw a few more beautiful birds.

Greater Honeyguide (immature)

Violet Turaco

After dark, for the fifth time since we arrived, we went down into the old quarry with a high powered torch to look for Nightjars. As occurred on the previous four nights, we were avoided by them, but did find and pick up a Senegal Thick-knee in the dried out pond.

Senegal Thick-knee

Day 15.

Tanji bird reserve (SE) again, this time further away from the large trees to reduce the risk of problems with monkeys. A large flock of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were in the area but only one was tempted into the nets, despite an 18m net being walked into a more open area. Again, there were new species for the trainees to experience, European migrants Blackcap, Common Redstart and Western Subalpine Warbler as well as Pied-winged Swallow and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird.

Male Greater Honeyguide

Pied-winged Swallow

Day 16.

A  change today as we had received an invitation for our novice ringers, who had not seen the Kartong operations before, to observe a morning with the team there. We attended with AS & AJ. They very much enjoyed seeing a large scale ringing operation and got the opportunity to ring a few birds too, instructed by one of Kartong's Gambian ringers who is just coming up to a permit upgrade.

Later, we took a walk along the beach to find the Northern Carmine Bee-eaters.

Two of  four Northern Carmine Bee-eaters seen

Followed, on the way back, by a detour to Bolong Fenyo community wildlife reserve. We were hoping to find waders that might be catchable at the lake. There were a few Spur-winged Plovers, and a Redshank. The large flock of gulls and smattering of terns looked very tempting, but commonsense prevailed and all four of us rejected the prospect of working close to the water, in the dark, with 20+ crocodiles in and around the lake. There were no waders on the beach to be forced up at high tide - even if there had been, we weren't working around that lake, especially not in the dark.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Gambia Training Project, Commencement of the Gambian Ringing Scheme part 2 - January 2020.

Day 6.

A very windy, hazy, disappointing day. Although the netting site is sheltered, the birds were very much absent. Perhaps due as much to the amount of dust in the air as the wind. Even large birds were rarely seen overhead. The sum total for our five hours in the field was 4 new and 2 retrapped birds. AS & CL did also go with a member of the park staff (who became the first person to make use of the first aid kit due to a thorn that went under a nail) to clear vegetation from around the leaking water tank across the road.

A potty solution to ring storage!

Day 7.

A much better day, in fact there were more birds from the first round than the entirety of the 14th. The morning provided a real mix that included several Village and Black-necked Weavers, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Grey-headed Bristlebill and Senegal Coucal in the 31 new birds.

AS with Senegal Coucal

MS with Grey-headed Bristlebill

Grey-headed Bristlebill

After a brief stop in the hottest part of the day, we set two nets at the water tanks where a leak has flooded the track to a nearby village and formed a temporary pond. We did a further 25, mostly various doves to finish the day on 56. Trainees took two nets down independently with no mishaps. 

Day 8.

With the option of switching to the tank pond we started at the lodge, then switched to the pond when catching slowed between 9 & 10am. Bird numbers failed to reach 30 but there were some nice species all the same. 

Immature female Didric Cuckoo

Immature female Common Wattle-eye

AJ & MS set a net by the pond at water tanks.

AS & BM set a second 9m, 5 panel net. 

The water tanks

In the afternoon the Eco-lodge nets were open for the last 90 minutes of the day. Only four birds were caught and Western Red-billed Hornbill was a new bird for us.

Day 9.

There was no ringing today. Chris and I travelled to Kartong, hoping to see the Carmine Bee-eaters, but failed as we didn't walk quite far enough along the beach. We did, however see some stunning birds, some not usually present around the immediate area where we're staying.

Abyssinian Roller 

Palmnut Vulture

African wattled Plovers

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in juvenile plumage

We also took the opportunity to check out a couple of locations that we may use for ringing in the coming weeks. In the evening we took a torch and walked a short distance from the lodge, finding two Long-tailed Nightjar.

Day 10.

A another very windy day with a lot of dust hanging in the air. The birds had quietened right down by 10am and only 14 birds were caught, but that did include two new species.

Black-crowned Tchagra

Adult female Northern Puffback

Common Wattle-eye male

Day 11.

An outing to Tujereng wetlands, although one small pond and some muddy patches were the last vestiges of any water that the area once held. However, that did at least mean that the crocodiles have moved out. Windy conditions were again against us, but we did catch a few birds ranging in size from Red-eyed Dove to Variable Sunbird.