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:
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.
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.
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.
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.