Tag Archives: Clive Minton

FINALLY!! a Marsh Warbler wearing a ‘PARIS’ ring!

Conditions at night were good and we started ringing at 12:30am in near perfect mist. Nico, Mercy and Stallone left yesterday and David Gitau (‘DG’) and Felista Malaki came to take their place. DG took the midnight watch and woke us immediately as the mist was down and birds all over. We only set the one net and still caught 794 birds from it by dawn and needed three tables to handle the number of birds. The trees and bushes were literally heaving with birds – as seen in the picture here:

img_0214.JPG

At 1:30am Yoav came in from the one net with a triumphant: “we have a PARIS ring!!!”. Hallelujah and GLowRy!! As expected it was a Marsh WArbler (70% of all our recoveries are from Marsh Warblers!) and it was indeed bearing a dull and chunky ring with ‘MUSEUM PARIS’ and its number stamped into the soft aluminium metal. This is one of those moments that make it all hugely worthwhile.

This time no rain and conditions were perfect to open nets at dawn to catch birds… and birds we caught indeed. The mist persisted into the first hour or so of day and nets were laden with migrants from Europe and Asia.

first round at Ngulia

Clive, Bert and Alain at the cliff nets loaded with birds – don’t worry, that’s not quite the size and shape of Clive’s stomach – he’s stuffed his empty bird bags down his shirt for easy access for when he needs them!

We took it as it came but didn’t have time to play around with swallow nets and ended up with a very comfortable 2,465 birds that really didn’t ‘feel like’ so many as it all went so efficiently and effectively – all ringed and released by 11:30am. The remarkable thing was we didn’t open the back line at all except the 2 cliff nets & we didn’t put nets up for swallows;

Highlights: quite a few River Warblers in the night and then very few in the day catch which was odd; two Eurasian Rollers were caught in the first round in the mist – our first this year and part of the major movement of Rollers coming south down the valley and over the escarpment heading to Tanzania and beyond. Otherwise it was the usual species again, perhaps slightly more Sprossers that before.

Yoav ringing Roller  Yoav ringing the Roller

Rachel with roller

Rachel very happy being bitten by the Roller

I had been planning to do a Eurasian Roller survey in Tsavo while here at Ngulia since the A Rocha France project have got a major focus on the species (their study site in southern France has the highest recorded breeding density of Rollers in Europe).  As we were finished so soon I decided it was a good time to do this so Yoav, Nadav and Rachel joined me to do a 50km transect around the park counting Eurasian Rollers and also doing a “raptor road count” – recording all raptors seen from the road as you drive.

There were huge numbers of Rollers still moving through the park heading south and we found many groups of them spread out perched on trees along the road. Using Distance Sampling, I hope we’ll be able to estimate the density of them in the park today. The lighting was awesome with storms in the distance and that unbeatable African evening lighting causing the expansive and stunning landscape to glow.

img_0235.JPG

We saw a fair few Steppe Eagles, a pair of African Hawk Eagles as well as another adult + young and later a single juvenile, Brown Snake Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk and some more Amur Falcons. Of course we met Simon Thomsett and Laila in their funky Range Rover that Simon has done up for their trans-Africa raptor safari – great to see them again.

Barn Swallow caught with a piece of string tied around its leg… & over 800 birds in 30 mins

An odd night – the mist kind of came in at around 1:00am and there were birds around but it lifted after only about 10 minutes and there was just a low cloud. The catch rate was only c.30 in an hour until we turned the tapes on of the Marsh Warbler, Sprosser and Whitethroat song which then brought the birds popping out of the sky and into the trees and bushes. We caught and ringed 700 birds between 2:30am and 4:45am and expected good numbers at dawn.

In classic style, after opening the nets at 5:40am there weren’t hardly any birds going into the net… until 6am when the Marsh Warblers started to move – and move they did!! The nets were loaded and it was all hands on deck to get them out as fast as possible. This lasted literally for 20-25 mins so that by 6:30 it was pretty much all over – a good 800 birds, 95% of them Marsh Warblers, in just 30 mins!!

img_0058.JPG  Marsh Warbler – our commonest bird

We then had to ring them… but with two more ringers (from Israel) joining us last night, we had three tables of ringers going and we were able to get rid of them fast.

When we had the swallow nets up late morning, a large group of community members came through on a visit and were able to release a swallow and learn a bit about the amazing story of migration that these birds do – Clive Minton again was superb in sharing his enthusiasm for birds and migration as seen in the pic here:

img_0108.JPG

The crazy thing this morning tho’ was the swallow we caught with a piece of red binding twine / string tied around its leg. This is about the 4th swallow we’ve caught in 5-6 years with home-made rings on their legs… we’re still waitng for the guy who’s doing this to catch one of ours with an addressed ringand get in touch!

img_0105.JPG

Thicker mist brings in more migrants

Nico and Stallone did the early stint watching for mist last night – midnight to 2am. When my alarm went off again at 2am I sneaked an extra 6 mins of dozing as I could see through the window there was no mist but then took pity on them and climbed quietly out of bed so as not to disturb the others.

the scene before the mist and leopard have arrived… Setting the scene – leopard bait tree with leg of goat hanging from the top beam on the RHS. Spot light surrounded by moths on left.

I grabbed my laptop as I figured if there was no mist I could spend the time catching up on email and try and do this blog… well, I got about 20 mins of time as David Murdoch, one of the other ringers, appeared eager not to miss any action and Graeme was also hanging about ready to get things going. There was low cloud again and as with last night a few birds flitting across quite high with one or two perched higher in the trees. The mist started to spread out a bit more and there were definitely more birds flicking around at net level so at 3am on the dot I went and got the night nets and we started putting them up. About 10 mins after they were up the mist really came in for real and there was a flurry of activity with over 100 birds in about 30 mins and then it died down but came and went a bit until nets were taken down at 4:45am to give time to clear the night birds before the main rush of the dawn catch.

Graeme & David Murdoch extracting an Ap

David Murdoch (left) and Graeme at the net extracting an Ap or two…

The vast majority of night birds were Marsh Warblers Acrocephalus palustris – in fact we record them as ‘Ap’ in the book and they’re often referred to as this – and very few Sprossers Luscinia luscinia (“Ll”) and just a smattering of Whitethroats Sylvia communis (yes, you guessed it: “Sc”). Again a good number of River Warblers Locustella fluviatilis (actually all other species are less common and are abbreviated less: “L. fluv”) but not really anything else at all until the last bag which had two Willow Warblers in it Phylloscopus trochilus. We timed it better this time and Raimund (from Germany) and I managed to finish all the night birds by 6am and go and assist with extracting birds from the bush nets.

After shifting all the stuff up to the day ringing site by the swimming pool (at night we ring by the cocktail bar…) I headed down to the nets in still quite thick mist only to find people having cleared the main rush of birds which had then rapidly petered out leaving extractors standing around discussing the merits of mist and the lack of birds.

Stallone by mist nets in the mist  Stallone by empty mist nets (most appropriately named here!)

Scopus through the mist at 6am

Scopus by the mid line of nets through the 6am mist

As there now wasn’t much of a rush on getting the birds away due to no more being caught, it was possible for those who’d not done so much ringing this year so far to get their eye in. The Kenyan team manned the nets until 7:30am and then I was left on my own to patrol them keeping mongoose and baboons away and taking out whatever went in until almost 8:30. Very few birds caught but some quality stuff – Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis), Olive-tree Warbler (Hippolais olivatorum) and a single Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) sometime known as ‘Warden Gobblers’… We caught a few more Afrotropical species today including a male Variable Sunbird in spanking plumage – pictured here held by Clive Minton.

Clive Minton with Variable Sunbird

Clive’s is an extremely well-known name in ringing circles, particularly wader ringing as he has pioneered catching waders using canon nets (rocket-fired nets over flocks of roosting birds) and is very well known in Australia where he has now lived for 30 years. It has been great to finally meet him and his wife Pat and they are not only extremely well respected for the work they’ve done but also delightful to spend time with.

So things quietened down pretty fast today – by 11am it was all over. We normally switch on tape recording of swallows with nets on the lawn in front of the lodge after breakfast and have caught 800 swallows in a day there… but there were very few today and they only trickled in. However the final total for the day was more than yesterday and almost 1,000 – 940 to be exact. Again, a very reasonable result and puts the total for the season up to 2,670.