20th Nov. After the couple of hours sleep in the afternoon yesterday, the weather was hazy and the breeze was from the valley and after dinner the sky was overcast and it really felt like the mist was coming in soon. I had to organise a few things so didn’t get to bed till just before 10pm and was in a very deep sleep when the door was knocked and it was Hamisi at just 10:45pm saying the mist had come!! Sure enough it had – but was still not fully down and the moon was still up until midnight and I knew the birds would not be many while there was still moonlight so told him I’d sleep until then. Apparently the generators were switched off at midnight to change the oil and he then came to wake me at 00:20am only for me not to appear and he came and thoroughly woke me (!) at 00:45am at which point there was thick mist rolling in and it was definitely time to get the nets up. Once again the whole team were aroused and we caught steadily with the two nets until finally closing them at 04:15am to give us time to clear the birds we’d caught by dawn.
We set up two tables of ringers and were hammering through them – great diversity with Barred Warblers, Olive-tree Warbler, Iranias, many more Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, River Warblers etc… I was ringing with Andrew and Malcolm with Alex as scribe and it was about 04:30am that Andrew pulled a Thrush Nightingale out of the bag, was about to put a ring on its left leg and saw it already had one!!! Not only that but it was DULL - always an exciting moment as it isn’t going to be one of your recently ringed birds that has found its way back into the net – and not only that but it said “TBILISI (GE)” on it!!! Yes – a Thrush Nightingale ringed in Georgia (just south of Russia)!!! Our first ever ringed bird from Georgia and a huge exciting moment!! We will write and find out where and when it was ringed, but it was a first year bird going by the plumage so it must have been ringed this year – there will be some Georgian ringer who will be WELL stoked to have his/her bird caught in Kenya!
Dawn was thick with fog and we opened nets not being able to hardly see the end of them – but again the birds just sat still and it wasn’t really ever majorly hectic in terms of numbers of birds in nets. Perhaps with the more open habitat, they don’t move as quickly out of the thicker bush just behind the lights?? We had further highlights in the morning including the first retrap (a bird we have ringed ourselves) migrant from a previous year – a Common Whitethroat – and then in terms of species a beaut of a small Gambaga Flycatcher, an Afrotropical species which appears to migrate as there have been a few caught at Ngulia in the night (this will be the 10th) but for which there is still very little known about it, and a couple of Upcher’s Warblers – a specied from southern central Asia which has really decreased in numbers over the years. Right towards the end of the morning Andrew was doing an awesome job keeping track of the nets and extracting a load of shrikes (very painful to get out of the net as they can seriously draw blood!)…
…when two cuckoos flew into the nets – another Jacobin but then also a smaller, heavily barred cuckoo – an Asian Lesser Cuckoo and a lovely bird at that! Kane ringed that one and Chris (both from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, UK) ringed the Jacobin Cuckoo just before they left to head back to what they’d heard was snow and freezing temperatures back home. We’re down by two ringers therefore which will be a challenge – but David Gitau from the Nairobi Ringing Group is coming tomorrow so that will be a real help.
Final total for the day… 1,075 migrants and 9 Afrotropical birds – but the moment of the season has to be that one at 4:30am when Andrew produced the Georgian Thrush Nightingale – a real ‘HALLELUJAH!’ moment and the first in three years in fact.
Well Andrew and Alex leave tomorrow and I was to leave but am staying on til the end now – but my computer has been broken for about 3-4 weeks now and only operates in Safe Mode (we just don’t have computer technicians around Watamu who are good enough to deal with major issues… and I’ve not been able to get it to someone who does) which means I don’t have internet access so this will be the last blog before I get back to Watamu at the weekend. So more updates at that point but it’s looking good again tonight and the leopard has had his meat and a Spotted Hyena has just come to the waterhole and wandered off through the net rides – so it’s all looking good again!