Category Archives: Ringing recoveries


We thank God for the great partnerships that we as A Rocha Kenya enjoy with friends and other organizations that are as well cautious of the environment. We complement each other’s efforts and it is an honor to have such people who see what we see! Recently our friends from Nature Kenya led by Fleur Ng’weno visited us for a bird walk at our Karen plot, Karara in Nairobi. We are indeed grateful for the close network which has existed between us and Nature Kenya.


The day began with a short assembly for a brief introduction about the Karara premise especially the forest and the organization in general, and then the walk began. Initially, it looked disappointing a day for bird watching with showers of rain both impending people’s movements and keeping the birds away. The fact that we were doing bird watching on the thicker portion of the forest didn’t help the situation either.


Despite all this, Fleur’s bravery and charm kept us moving, and when there were no birds to watch, she had other stories about nature to tell us! She brought to our attention orchids and other epiphytes, the silver oak (Brachylaena huillensis) among other tree species.


The walk did bear fruits eventually and we ended up identifying 25 different species of birds including a pair of superb Hartlaub’s Turaco and a Cabanis Greenbul with a ring!

Jointly with the National Museums of Kenya, we have undertaken ringing on the site in the past and therefore this was quite a significant finding. We do pray for more partnerships and to able to undertaken more of these activities in the future!


Where was the Finnish Terek Sandpiper found in 2008??

In answer to Jimmy’s comment on it would be nice to know where the Finnish recovery was actually found, I had written this on my facebook profile at the time when we were informed about the recovery. I paste it here for your information:

I received an email from the Coordinator of the Ringing Scheme of eastern Africa saying:

“You’ll be glad to know, Colin, that your Terek Sandpiper, Ring no. “Nairobi A71968” was controlled, breeding, by Veli-Matti Pakanen at Kemi, Lappi, Finland (65.45N, 24.32E) on 21.06.08 (no biometrics supplied). Kemi is a small coastal town at the top end of the Gulf of Bothnia, just over 20 km from the Swedish border at Haparanda.

Apart from the intrinsic worth of this super control, the report also raises some important points. It is the first recovery/control of a Terek Sand affecting eastern Africa (as far as I know) and is also only the second recov/control from all the Kenya coastal ringing.”

This was indeed one of “my” birds but was in fact ringed by none other than my kid sister Bethan Harris when she volunteered with us on 20th November 2003 in Mida Creek. The distance in a straight line from Mida to Kemi is c.7,756km and it was 4 1/2 years later that it was found.

This is the FIRST recovery of ANY of my or our A Rocha Kenya birds since I started ringing in Kenya in 1994 other than c.10kms away! Very cool indeed.

This was THE night that the Terek was ringed at Mida – Beth is the one sitting in the door of the car.

The only other movement of a bird since then has been an African (or Eastern as it is now called) Golden Weaver which we caught at Turtle Bay Beach Club in July that had a ring on already which was put on it at our ARK centre, Mwamba, in 2008. It was an immature when we ringed it and now it is breeding in the Turtle Bay gardens, some 3km away along the beach.

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Volunteer ringing and an ancient brownbul

Hi, my name is Rehema Safari and I come from Watamu. I finished my ecotourism diploma in Air Travel and Related Studies Centre in Nairobi and came back to my home town and volunteer with A Rocha Kenya.

Being a bird enthusiast, I was very excited when I got to do the bird ringing training course while volunteering as I have never ringed birds before. This happens very early in the morning between five thirty and midday because it is the perfect time to catch birds. On one of the mornings when we were at Gede Plantations we got to ring over twenty birds including a white morph African Paradise Flycatcher which Alan was very keen on putting a ring on as he’s never had one in South Africa. He was so excited and spent the remainder of the day grinning from ear to ear.

Me with the Paradise Flycatcher

A Terrestrial Brownbul (ring number AA4334) was the highlight of the day being a re-trap with a ring not of A Rocha for Colin did not ring it and he has been ringing birds for years. We are yet to contact the original ringer of the bird and tell him the good news that his bird is still alive and we got to see it. I cannot wait for tomorrow’s ringing and see what happens next!

Terrestrial Brownbul AA4334

Ed’s note: We’ve heard back from the Ringing Scheme of eastern Africa (the EANHS) re. the Terrestrial Brownbul:

“Here is the ringing info:

1. Bird was ringed as Northern Brownbul – Phyllastrephus strepitans and not Terrestrial Brownbul.

2. The bird was ringed at Arabuko Sokoke Forest by the Spotted Ground Thrush Survey Project.

3. Date ringed 22.06.2003

4. Biometrics are: Age- F; Mass; 27gms; Wing – 80mm;”…this is interesting and in fact what I suspected when we caught it – that it was likely ringed as a Northern which is very similar. They are differentiated by the Terrestrial having a clear white throat that is more sharply demarcated from a brown breast – the Northern’s white throat merges gradually into the brown of the breast. Also Terrestrial has pinkish-purple legs whilst Northern has blue-grey legs. This was the only Terrestrial we caught in the plantations – all the others were Northern. Clearly the Spotted Ground Thrush Survey Project Team were hotter on Spotted Ground Thrush identification than plain brownbuls (not enough spots??!).

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Final tally for Ngulia ringing this year tops 20,000 – and a Sovenian Marsh Warbler to end on

Well… it has taken till now to finalise the tally for the number of birds ringed at Ngulia in the 2008 session. David has trogged through the 5 ringing books and reports 20,278 Palaearctic migrants ringed of which 59% were Marsh Warblers – an unprecedented number of them and by far the highest proportion we’ve ever caught of them. There were two days when we caught over 1,500 Marsh Warblers – the only other time in 39 years that more than 1,500 of a single species has been caught is once with Sprossers in 2005. It would therefore appear that Marsh Warblers are doing pretty well in Europe and Asia!

Below is a chart showing the daily totals together with the number of Marsh Warblers to show the high proportion of them. The two nights when we had no mist on the 2nd and 3rd Dec (c.f. the blog) show very clearly between the misty nights with high catches demonstrating just how variable the catching can be and dependant it is on the presence of good mist.


In contrast to the Marsh Warblers, we only caught one each of the following species: Eurasian Cuckoo, Eurasian Nightjar, House Martin, Rock Thrush, Great Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow Wagtail. The cuckoo, Blackcap and wagtail are not surprising to have only caught the one bird as they’ve never been a common species at Ngulia being either relatively low in numbers anyway (the cuckoo) or simply not a Tsavo species. Even the House Martin is not surprising as before we started seriously tape-luring them we never caught any – only the past 6-8 years have we tried using a tape and discovered there are often many around (and ringed several 100 in a day even!). But it is very interesting to note the lack of particularly the Rock Thrush. Whilst again not ever having been exactly a ‘common’ species we would certainly have caught significantly more than this. Around Watamu I have also noticed over the past 10 years that this species has drastically reduced in numbers – at the end of the 90’s we would see one on every 4-5th telegraph pole sometimes whereas I have not seen that number in many years. Could this be something related to the global climate change we are experiencing? It’s certainly something worth looking into further.

The other exciting news was on the very last morning / night when there were only 5 ringers left (David P, Alain, Raymund, Rachel & Scopus), they only put the night nets up and caught a mere 400 birds (an awesome catch for most ringers anywhere in the world however!!) amongst the first of which was a Marsh Warbler with a dull ring on it! This time it was from Slovenia and had been ringed in August this year as a young bird. The details for it were:

A.palustris, 1y/3, 69 mm, 12,7 g
Date: 01.08.2008
Place: Hauptmance, Ljubljansko barje, SLOVENIA
Ring. coord.: 45.59 N / 14.31 E
Ringer: J.Bricelj
Resultat: 128 days / 5,921 km / 157° / SSE

Not bad!! I’ve plotted this and the French bird on Googleearth and this is a snapshot of where they came from (it’s not too easy to pick them out but if you know were Slovenia is just below Austria you can see that one – the French one’s label is just below England…):

On that note I’d better stop and say HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you all!! Roni and I are away for two weeks in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Lesotho visiting friends, hopefully Rosalie in Watamu will continue to post news from Mwamba over Christmas which sounds like it’s going to be hectic but fun and we’ll be back in touch in the New Year!

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11gram Marsh Warbler flies 6,863kms from France to Kenya.

This is one of the most exciting moments for a ringer – firstly actually catching a bird wearing a ring that someone else has attached to the bird and particularly if that place was a long way from where you are. Secondly getting the information back about the bird – where it was ringed, when and by who… We had heard rumours that the French scheme can take ages to get ringing details back to you but this was certainly not the case with our Ap (Marsh Warbler) as we’ve already heard back from them.

These are the details of when and where and by who it was ringed:


The scheme then also gives you other details regarding time elapsed since being ringed and distance (in a straight line – clearly it would have flown further than this):

Elapsed time : 477 days strictly 1 year, 3 months, 20 days
Co-ordinates : 3°0′ S / 38°13′ E
Distance : 6,863 km

…not bad going for such a tiny and fragile creature!