Yes. It has happened – the dreaded totally clear, star-lit night at Ngulia when one wakes up every 1-2 hours and looks out of the window in the hope of seeing wisps of mist appearing from up the escarpment, the forerunner to thick mist and 100s of birds dropping out of the sky… but instead every time a crystal clear sky with the stars twinkling at you from the inky darknes. So at dawn (which, however is always stunning at Ngulia and almost more so on a clear night as the dark of night fades away from over the Yatta Plateau to the east) we opened the full compliment of nets – 19 to be precise equalling 267m of netting – but by 7a.m. had only caught 1 (yes, one) migrant – a Sprosser and in the hour between 7am and 8am just another two… This must be one of the quietest mornings I’ve had at Ngulia that I can remember!
However we were saved by Barn Swallows… At 6:30am I noticed small flocks of 5-6 birds hacking fast and direct to the south and during our earlier-than-usual breakfast there were a number swooping around over the short grass in front of the dining room feeding on the mass of moths that had been attracted by the lights in the night. So we duely switched on the cassette (yes, not MP3 player… the old endless cassette still holds its own at Ngulia!) with the song of Barn Swallow and put up the superfine nets in the night net rides and just three other single panels… and by lunch time we had ringed 213 swallows! Total for the day… 216 birds of two species.
We also caught a few nice Afrotropical species – the 8th White-browed Sparrow Weaver for Ngulia which is a species we will expect to catch a lot more of in the future as it has recently arrived as a breeding bird at Ngulia the past few years. The first one ringed was an odd wanderer in 1994 and no more until 2009 when three were caught, one in 2010 and two last year. Also a young African Paradise Flycatcher – which I had heard one calling around 4:30am out near the nets yesterday morning and is a well-known Afrotropical migrant.
Am sitting in the dining room in the afternoon typing this and keeping the baboons off our so(und equipment and just had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk zip past and land in the large Acacia in front of the lodge and then try for a weaver on the ‘owl’ tree before swooping off towards the back line. Otherwise very very few migrant raptors so far this year – a handful of Stepped Eagles and that’s it.
Graeme Backhurst (who started the ringing at Ngulia in 1969 but who has not been for the past 4 years) has just arrived which is great – with the boistrous British ringers who will make life more colourful yet(!) so the team will be up to its full compliment what with Bernard ‘Scopus’ Amakobe arriving later on the staff bus… Hopefully we’ll have mist tonight to keep them all busy…!