It was Jan, Fransie and Andrew’s last night and at least Fransie stayed up all night in the hope of setting nets as soon as the mist came in… which it did but only at 4:50am and only for about 15 minutes – enough to catch 6 birds…! All nets were opened at dawn and a lot of ringers stood around appreciating yet another stunning dawn at Ngulia – but extracting very little from the nets! Only a handful were caught and a couple of Afrotropicals such that by 9am we had closed nets and were packing up by the pool.
Instead of ringing large numbers of birds, it was a day for UNbelievable falcon migration… at around 9:30am most of the team were down on the open patio in front of the lodge looking for raptors as is the custom and a flock of Amur Falcons were seen quite high up moving mostly west, if not slightly north of west towards the Ngulia mountains. Ian and David started counting them as we do and were joined by others of us… and we didn’t stop for about 2 hours!! The sky was literally peppered with falcons spiralling together in flocks of 200-1,000 birds with more joining them and all moving off the same direction only to be followed by more… and more.. and more! Other flocks were seen off the escarpment and also coming in over it heading north-west as well and later still more over the small hills directly in front of the lodge.
The total quickly rose to 9,000… 10,000 birds and still more were pouring through! Eventually a grand total of an extraordinary 26,000 birds were counted – by far and away the largest flock of Amurs ever recorded in Kenya. A wonderfully stunning sight to watch and pretty much the highlight of the whole season.
The swallow nets were put up on the lawn infront of the lodge while the falcons were pouring over and by lunch 35 had been ringed, but it was really a day for raptors with not just the falcons but we also had another (the same? – probably, in fact…) Eurasian Sparrowhawk, a migrant Black Kite ssp. milgrans, Steppe Eagle and late morning a beaut of an adult Crowned Eagle appeared over the hill in front and cruised at mid to low altitude right over the lodge giving stunning views – a species which we have rarely recorded at Ngulia, in fact as it is very much a forest dweller. We had one more Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture over to add to the smattering of vultures we’ve been seeing this year.
Fransie & Jan left not long before lunch giving Andrew a lift with them thus leaving us with three less competent hands to handle birds. Andrew took measurements and photos of the tripods for the lights so that we can try and make some new ones as these ones which have lasted probably 30 years (for one of them) can be retired – or put in a museum – since they are beginning to break up!
Later in the afternoon Chris took myself, Kevin and Peter up to the Kalanga spring where Ngulia gets its water from on the hill to the west and saw some great stuff – a small microcosm of coastal birds with Red-capped Robin Chats, Bearded Scrub Robin singing away, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Greenbul – and a Buff-spotted Flufftail calling from some long grass and bush just as we were leaving. Stunning views from there too of the valley and lodge.